We Have Drone Wars at Home: Punishing Free Speech, Letting Murder Off the Hook, Justice Denied
- 04 Dec 2012
- Written by Lisa Cerda
CERDAFIED - Brian Terrel, Ron Faust, and Mark Kenney are American hero’s. You may not know them but you owe them a debt of gratitude. They are among the many hero’s who go out and fight to keep government accountable for their actions. As members and coordinators of “Voices for Creative Nonviolence” they try to raise awareness of the brutal nature and frequent use of drones in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia.
On April 15th of this year, approximately forty people, mostly from the Kansas City Area, went to the Whiteman Air force Base and held a short rally just outside the bases gates and on the public right of way. They were met by the "Confrontation Management Team" as seen in this video.
Brian Terrel, Ron Faust, and Mark Kenney went to gates to ask directions to the administration offices to present the commanding officers with a petition or indictment as they liked to call it. They were taken into custody without resistance at the gate. At no time did they pose a threat. Their actions were legal and with in their constitutional rights. Civilians may approach the gate and may ask to speak to the commanding officers.
The indictment said in part, that they were charged “With crimes against peace & crimes against humanity, with violations of part of the supreme law of the land, extrajudicial killings, violation of due process, wars of aggression, violation of national sovereignty, and killing of innocent civilians … We appeal to all United States citizens, military and civilian, and to all public officials, to do as required by the Nuremburg Principles I-VII, and by Conscience, to refuse to participate in these crimes, to denounce them, and to resist them nonviolently.”
Brian Terrel believes that drones are “the assassin weapon of choice by the top administration acting as a private court.” He is concerned about our violations of foreign airspace to hunt down people accused of crimes only known to the administration … hunted down and killed.”
Charged with “unlawful entry of a military installation”, Brian Terrel and Ron Faust, went to court on September 10th, before Judge Magistrate Matt J. Whitworth of the US District Court, Western District of Missouri. Faust, a retired minister, received 5 years probation. Terrel received 6 months in a federal prision. Mark Kenney, who was tried separately, plead guilty and received 4 months in federal prison in Diluth, Minnesota.
Brian Terrel wrote a statement for the sentencing hearing on October 11th that is well worth the full read. In part, Mr. Terrel states, ”Mark Twain called free speech the “privilege of the grave,” a privilege never afforded the living save as an empty formality, not to be regarded seriously as an actual possession. “As an active privilege, it ranks with the privilege of committing murder: we may exercise it if we are willing to take the consequences. Murder is forbidden both in form and in fact; free speech is granted in form but forbidden in fact … Murder is sometimes punished, free speech always.”
They had a list of prestigious witnesses at their bench trial; Bill Quigley, Professor of Law, Loyola University of New Orleans, Colonel Ann Wright, who resigned her post to protest the Iraq war, and Ramsey Clark, former Attorney General under President Lyndon Johnson. However the judge refused to allow Ramsey Clark to speak, as the judge believed domestic law trumped international law in this matter.
On November 30th, Mr. Terrel began his sentence and he lamented,” I go in solidarity with the many friends working for peace, those around the US, Europe, Pakistan resisting the drones and my colleagues in Voices for Creative Nonviolence, some who are right now in Gaza and in Iraq and with Catholic Workers everywhere. I go in solidarity with prisoners every place, my heart especially hurting for friends I marched with in the streets of Bahrain last February who are now in prison there enduring torture and abuse that I will not be facing in my more privileged cage in Yankton.”
Sparked by a request from “Reprieve”, a charity based in the United Kingdom, Stanford / NYU conducted a joint study called "Living Under Drones, Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians" released in September 2012.
Following nine months of intensive research—including two investigations in Pakistan, more than 130 interviews with victims, witnesses, and experts, and review of thousands of pages of documentation and media reporting—this report presents evidence of the damaging and counterproductive effects of current US drone strike policies.
The study contradicts our government’s narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan. Touted as a “surgically precise and effective tool” that enables “targeted killing of terrorists”, with “minimal downsides or collateral impacts”.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that drone strikes killed 2,562 - 3,325 people in Pakistan. Civilians deaths ranged from 474 - 881, including 176 children, and also injured an additional 1,228 -1,362 individuals from June 2004 through mid September 2012.
Evidence suggests that US strikes have facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups, and motivated further violent attacks. As the New York Times has reported, “drones have replaced Guantánamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants.”
Evidence shows that rescuers are killed due to the practice of striking one area multiple times, making community members and humanitarian workers afraid and even unwilling to assist injured victims. The presence of drones, hovering 24 hours a day, traumatizes civilian men, women and children, creating anxiety and psychological trauma.
This report recommends that the US conduct a fundamental re-evaluation of current targeted killing practices, taking into account all available evidence.
The US should fulfill its international obligations with respect to accountability and transparency, and ensure proper democratic debate about key policies. The US should:
• Release the US Department of Justice memoranda outlining the legal basis for US targeted killing in Pakistan;
• Make public critical information concerning US drone strike policies, including as previously and repeatedly requested by various groups and officials: the targeting criteria for so-called “signature” strikes; the mechanisms in place to ensure that targeting complies with international law; which laws are being applied; the nature of investigations into civilian death and injury; and mechanisms in place to track, analyze and publicly recognize civilian casualties;
• Ensure independent investigations into drone strike deaths.
• In conjunction with robust investigations and, where appropriate, prosecutions, establish compensation programs for civilians harmed by US strikes in Pakistan. The US should fulfill its international humanitarian and human rights law obligations with respect to the use of force, including by not using lethal force against individuals who are not members of armed groups with whom the US is in an armed conflict, or otherwise against individuals not posing an imminent threat to life. This includes not double-striking targets as first responders arrive.
• Journalists and media outlets should cease the common practice of referring simply to deaths and should include acknowledgment that the US government counts all adult males killed by strikes as “militants,” absent exonerating evidence.
To date, the government has refused to provide necessary details on how the program works, how targets are chosen, or how legality and accountability are ensured, leading civil society groups repeatedly to request this information
There is little evidence that US authorities have engaged in any effort to visit drone strike sites or to investigate the backgrounds of those killed. Indeed, there is little to suggest that the US regularly takes steps even to identify all of those killed or wounded.
With the loss of homes and primary wage earners, burdened with enormous medical bills, mental health care, and hospital stays, women and children survivors who are amongst the poorest of the world, must rely on other local poor for charity to survive.
It is the back drop of these unimaginable conditions that humanitarian efforts take place. The voices of opposition to the existing war policies, particularly concerning drones, are all but silenced as they imprison the voices of reason around the world.
As Brian Terrel spends this Christmas in prison, wouldn’t it be nice if he was thanked for his personal sacrifice, by those who oppose the use of drones around the world. You may send him a card, at:
BRIAN TERRELL 06125-026
FEDERAL PRISON CAMP
P.O. BOX 700
YANKTON, SD 57078
(Lisa Cerda is a contributor to CityWatch, a community activist, Chair of Tarzana Residents Against Poorly Planned Development, VP of Community Rights Foundation of LA, Tarzana Property Owners Association board member, and former Tarzana Neighborhood Council board member.) –cw
Vol 10 Issue 97
Pub: Dec 4, 2012