Reprinted from Consortium News
Leading the charge against the U.S. "drone war" -- now a key part of the Pentagon's forward fighting strategy -- is an unlikely individual, Colonel Ann Wright, who spent most of her adult life as a diplomat, working in the U.S. State Department.
Colonel Wright reopened the U.S. embassy in Kabul in 2001. But in 2003 she took an action that would transform her life. She resigned her position in opposition to the then-impending U.S. invasion of Iraq. Since then, she has become a full time global peace activist.
She also is one of the most vocal and convincing opponents of U.S. drone policy, a collection of activists who call themselves Creechers because -- for seven years -- they have marched on Creech Air Force Base, also known as Creech Drone Base, in the Nevada Desert, just 60 miles outside of Las Vegas, Nevada. Creech is a key part of the extensive and expanding U.S. drone war operation, which launches lethal drone strikes half a world away.
The protests are spearheaded by Code Pink and are always peaceful, but militant and intense. They consider the U.S. drone war, supervised directly by President Barack Obama, as an ongoing war crime. They do not consider this hyperbole. They say it is a clear-cut case of the slaughter of hundreds of innocent civilians, with many fleeing women and children among the victims.
We caught up with Colonel Wright on her way to an anti-drone symposium at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Law School entitled "Inside Drone Warfare: Perspectives of Whistleblowers, Families of Drone Victims and Their Lawyers." The symposium would include people who were formally a part of the United States Drone Program. Among them, Christopher Aaron, a former counter-terrorism officer for the CIA's drone program, and Shawn Westmoreland, who was with the U.S. Air Force's drone program.
DENNIS BERNSTEIN: Set the Scene. As a former diplomat, somebody who spent a good deal of time in the military, what brings you and Code Pink to Creech for the seventh year in row? What's at the core for you?
COLONEL ANN WRIGHT: Well, it's this weapons system. The weapon system that the president of the United States is using as kind of his personal assassination tool.
He has become the prosecutor, the judge, the jury, and the executioner of people around the world, who the United States intelligence agencies have identified as people who are doing something that is against U.S. interests. And we certainly know that our intelligence community is not infallible, and they've made lots of mistakes.
We also know for a fact that the drone program kills lots and lots and lots of people who are no threat to the United States. In fact, many of us through Code Pink, Women for Peace, and Veterans for Peace, have traveled to the areas where the United States has used these drones, in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Yemen.
And we've talked with the families of some of the victims of these drone strikes and we know, for a fact, they are not militants, not all of them. Some of them, maybe. But there is a huge number of people that are called 'collateral damage' by our country, as they kill them.
DB: So, just to keep a human face on this: Tell us more precisely about one or two of the people who you met during your global journey against US Drone use.
AW: Yes, well, we've had lengthy talks with a man named Fizel from Yemen, whose family was killed. In fact, you can probably hear a drone overhead now. I don't know if you hear it in the background.
DB: Just a little bit.
AW: You don't hear these things so much. But they're flying very low here at Creech Drone Base because the trainee pilots are practicing piloting them. And they come in for "touch and goes," so you can hear them here, whereas in Pakistan, Afghanistan and other places, they are usually flying quite high.
You may be able to hear a little buzz, but you don't hear it like you do here. And then the next thing that you hear is a Hellfire missile being fired, or exploding as it hits a family, a wedding party in the case of Fizel from Yemen. And we've had him and some other members of his family come to the United States to speak about what happened, about how this mistake could happen to a wedding party.