International peace activists starting a walk today said Sunday that the use of U.S. military drones should be discontinued because the unmanned aircraft kill innocent people and antagonize other nations.
In preparation for the walk, activists associated with Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence addressed the issue of drones Sunday afternoon at the Sisters of Humility Magnificat Chapel, 820 W. Central Park Ave., Davenport. About 60 people, including 12 who will join Covering Ground to Ground the Drones, attended the gathering.
Longtime peace activist Brian Terrell, who is a founder of the Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker Farm in Maloy, Iowa, spoke about the history of drones and addressed his recent incarceration. He was released May 24 from a federal prison in Yankton, S.D., for protesting the U.S. drones program at Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri.
He referred to President Barack Obama’s recent comments about drones. “There is a narrative that he wants us all to swallow,” Terrell said, adding that the White House’s message is that drones can help keep soldiers safe and pick out the “bad guys.”
“The narrative is absolutely false,” Terrell said. “It’s a total lie. This technology, even though we know about it, it’s so far-fetched. … We’re told a lot of lies about this technology.”
He described the drones as little flimsy planes that “look like models.” Soon, he said, “They’re going to be committing these crimes from at an airport in Des Moines.” That, he added, will make the airport a military target.
On Wednesday, he said, the new prime minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, said there will be “absolutely no drone attacks.” On Friday, “against the express wishes” of their country, the United States launched a drone attack.
He shared parts of a transcript between drone pilots and special ground forces. Drones, he said, use infrared cameras. “What they see is heat,” he said. “The CIA is saying they don’t even know the identity of a quarter of the people they have targeted.”
“Hezbollah has drones. Even our own drones have been commandeered,” Terrell said. “Violence will be met with violence. And drones will be met with drones. This is a very dangerous game that we are playing. This is not a (political) party thing. It’s systemic.”
From 1979-1986, Terrell was part of the Catholic Worker community founded by Chuck Quilty in Iowa. He said he was happy to be back in the Quad-Cities.
Kathy Kelly, an Illinois peace campaigner who just returned from Afghanistan, said it is her “wonderful privilege and task to talk about Pakistan.” She talked about a man whose brother, killed by a drone attack, was “a teacher, and he taught his students that education is a more powerful weapon than arms.” She said the man spoke to her about “gathering pieces of his brother’s body for burial.” The missiles used in drones, she said were made by military contractor Lockheed Martin.
“Drones really are the vehicle. It’s the missiles that kill,” said Sister Pat Chaffee, who went to Pakistan in October 2012 to visit the families of drone victims.
British peace activist Maya Anne Evans was on hand to discuss Britain’s role in using drones. She said the use of drones is breeding terrorism.
The activists want to draw attention to how Illinois and Iowa factor into the controversial use of drones. Earlier, the activists have said the Quad-Cities is connected to drones because engine components are made at the Quad-City Manufacturing Lab, a nonprofit research group on Arsenal Island.
An official with the lab, however, told the Quad-City Times that it isn’t producing drone technology, and the work it did do was to make only a small number of prototype parts earlier this year so its partners could experiment.
The walkers plan to arrive June 21 at Sussman Theatre, Drake University, Des Moines, for an event from 6-9 p.m. sponsored by the Middle East Peace and Prosperity Alliance. On June 22, they will be at a Summer Solstice gathering at Strangers and Guests Farm in Maloy.
On June 23, the group will continues its Des Moines presence at a peace rally at the National Guard Base and a Catholic Peace Ministry event at 3 p.m. at the Friends Meeting House.
For more information, visit the group's website, vcnv.org.