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Moral Corrosion of Drone Warfare

By       Message Ray McGovern     Permalink
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From youtube.com: THE PREDATOR American unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) used primarily by the United States Air Force {MID-142048}
THE PREDATOR American unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) used primarily by the United States Air Force
(Image by YouTube, Channel: Warthog Defense)
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Required by court order to appear before a judge in Syracuse, New York, on July 12, some out-of-towners had already arrived there when the court granted the prosecution's last-minute request for more time to prepare its case against us, the Jerry Berrigan Brigade, for our nonviolent witness against drone warfare on Jan. 28, 2016. A trial date is likely to be set in a month or two, or perhaps three (so much for our Sixth Amendment right to a speedy trial).

Back in January 2016, we stood behind 30 larger-than-life-sized wooden silhouettes of Syracuse peacemaker Jerry Berrigan, who died at age 95 on July 26, 2015.

A widely loved and respected educator, Jerry -- like his brothers Dan and Phil -- was himself larger than life. Even in his early 90s, Jerry could be seen braving the elements, witnessing against the extrajudicial killings enabled by Hancock drone base in Syracuse.

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Jerry was asked at one point if there were anything he would change in his life. "I would have resisted more often and been arrested more often," he said.

On Jan. 28, 2016, we -- the Jerry Berrigan Brigade -- brought images of Jerry to the gates of Hancock as a tangible reminder that this is where he would have been standing that day, putting his body on the line to say a clear, physical "NO" to killing. Jerry's widow and daughter were there with us, cheering us on.

Most Americans are blissfully unaware that, from states-side drone bases like Hancock, drone "pilots" -- with a push of the joystick, a click of a mouse, or simply a keystroke -- can incinerate "suspected terrorists," on the other side of the globe WITHIN THREE SECONDS.

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Thanks to a media that is heavily influenced by what Pope Francis (speaking before Congress in 2015) called the "blood-drenched arms traders," it's largely a comfortable case of out-of-sight-out-of-mind. However, the more the killing is hidden, the more we feel a moral imperative to bring the killing out into the open and appeal to the consciences of U.S. citizens -- including those of drone "pilots" many of whom have moral qualms about what they are being ordered to do and end up with bad cases of PTSD.

Many of us protesters -- Catholic Workers and Jewish grandmothers alike -- take our cue from anti-war activist Rabbi Heschel, who braced us all with this admonition: "When injustice takes place, few are guilty, but all are responsible. Indifference to evil is more insidious than evil itself."

Rabbi Heschel got that right. And Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. reassured us that "the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice." But how long and how to make it bend?

Seventeen-plus months since our Jerry Berrigan Brigade witness at Hancock, we cannot avoid wondering just how long it will take for our case to find justice. Nor are we sure what kind of "justice" will befall us. Whatever it is, though, it will be a small price to pay, when one considers the price paid by families who slip into the crosshairs of drone-fired Hellfire missiles.

Some well-meaning soul suggested we consider apologizing -- a notion far from our minds. Were we to issue an apology, it would be patterned on the one given by Jerry Berrigan's brothers Dan and Phil and the others of the Catonsville Nine, who burned draft cards with homemade napalm 50 years ago at the height of the war in Vietnam:

"Our apologies, good friends, for the fracture of good order, the burning of paper instead of children, the angering of the orderlies in the front parlor of the charnel house. We could not, so help us God, do otherwise. For we are sick at heart, our hearts give us no rest for thinking of the Land of Burning Children."

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Good Friday Witness, 2017

"Justice" is likely to be meted out more quickly to those of us who decided that Good Friday this year would be a fitting time to honor the memory of innocent victims of Empire, given what happened to Jesus of Nazareth when he challenged Empire. This time nine nonviolent resisters, including from Upstate Drone Action and Catholic Worker, were arrested at the main entrance to Hancock drone base witnessing against Hancock's role in drone killings.

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Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, the publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. He was an Army infantry/intelligence officer and then a CIA analyst for 27 years, and is now on the Steering Group of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). His (more...)
 

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