DRONES KILL CIVILIANS AND RADICALIZE YOUTH… THEY ARE DEADLY, COSTLY AND COUNTERPRODUCTIVE
TODAY’S PROTEST AT RAF WADDINGTON (27TH APRIL, 2013)
I have never been one to run with the crowd which is just as well as when I wrote an article back in May 2011 warning of my concerns regarding Britain’s increasing use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, (UAVs) also known as drones, few were listening http://blog.approximatetargetfilm.com/drones-over-pakistan-the-british-connection/
Drones can kill indiscriminately and as a victim myself of another form of government “collateral damage” I am only too aware that delays in campaigners accepting social responsibility and taking appropriate action costs lives. Politicians will not act without us showing them evidence alongside pressure from their constituents.
Today, anti-war protestors, members of the Stop The War Coalition, CND, The Drone Campaign Network and War on Want marched from Lincoln to RAF Waddington to protest against the use of drones operated from British soil. This is not the first national protest against drones, I joined fellow protestors from Imran Khan’s PTI (Tehreek-e-Insaf) party a few months ago outside the US embassy in London. Several of us gave speeches to draw attention to the deaths of civilians in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan. There have been other anti-drone protests previously at RAF Menwith Hill with a demonstration there today organised by the Campaign for Accountability of American Airbases http://www.caab.org.uk/
PROTEST OUTSIDE US EMBASSY 2012
PREVIOUS PHOTO ALBUM OF UK ANTI-DRONE PROTESTS CAN BE SEEN HERE: – http://blog.approximatetargetfilm.com/drones-photos-of-anti-drone-activism-uk/
As I wrote back in May 2011, “drones have been used over the past decade as part of the “war on terror”. Their function is for both surveillance and missile attacks to deplete the strength of insurgent groups and the focus is targeted killing of members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Many of these drones (with names as such as Predator and Reaper) are launched from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, US, and British operators have for some time worked alongside American allies.”
At that time I learnt that drone operators were to be relocated back to Lincolnshire and on 25th April, 2013, the RAF announced that it had commenced supporting troops in Afghanistan with “armed intelligence and surveillance missions” using Reaper drones remotely piloted from RAF Waddington in Lincolnshire. As the Telegraph reports, “the drones take off and land under the guidance of pilots on the ground in Afghanistan but the pilots in Lincolnshire take over once they’ve reached a suitable height.” The Ministry of Defence argue that, “UK Reaper aircraft are piloted by highly trained professional military pilots who adhere strictly to the same laws of armed conflict and are bound by the same clearly defined rules of engagement which apply to traditionally manned RAF aircraft.”
CAMPAIGN POSTER AND VICTIMS OF DRONE STRIKE, PAKISTAN
A Guardian report (Feb 2013) examined the sharp rise in US drone strikes in Afghanistan last year stating:-
The UN mission in Afghanistan (Unama) said 506 weapons were released by drones in 2012, compared with 294 the previous year. Five incidents resulted in casualties with 16 civilians killed and three wounded, up from just one incident in 2011.
Georgette Gagnon, the head of human rights for Unama, said it was the first year the UN had tried to document civilian casualties from drones.
The US air force central command also recorded an increase, giving the numbers of weapons released by drones as 243 in 2009, 277 in 2010, 294 in 2011 and 494 in 2012.
Britain is now following suit. I speak to people in drone affected areas of the world on a daily basis, the message from many is that drones kill civilians and radicalize youth… they are deadly, costly and counterproductive…
VICTIMS OF DRONE STRIKES
In a letter to the Guardian (26th April 2013) a coalition of anti-drone protestors from a number of organizations write that:-
The protest at RAF Waddington comes amid British plans to double the number of remote-operated Reaper aircraft from five to 10, with the number of British drones strikes continuing to rise. The UK has launched at least 365 drone strikes in Afghanistan since 2008, but due to the secrecy surrounding Britain’s drone wars, we have no idea of the impact of these strikes on the ground.
The government is also funding the development of new drones at BAE Systems and leasing Israeli drones for use in Afghanistan, while awaiting the completion of a new British surveillance drone called Watchkeeper. The Watchkeeper contract was awarded to Israeli company Elbit and its partner company, Thales UK
PROTESTORS RAF WADDINGTON 27th April 2013
BBC VIDEO OF PROTEST TODAY
At a European Parliament hearing on drones yesterday, MEPs called on the EU to take action on transparency, accountability and arms exports. As Reprieve, Legal and human rights organization highlighted in a press release also on Friday 26th April 2013: –
MEPs Sarah Ludford and Ana Gomes called for a European Parliament Resolution on the issue of drones, and suggested that the United States and Europe conduct a hearing on drones in the context of the Trans-Atlantic Dialogue. Ms Gomes called for EU governments and institutions to speak out against the U.S.’ current interpretation of international law. Some MEPs also suggested that drones needed to be included in the EU’s arms export controls.
War on Want senior campaigns officer, Rafeef Ziadah spoke to the media of the need to ban drones before it was too late stating, “drones, controlled far away from conflict zones, ease politicians’ decisions to launch military strikes and order extrajudicial assassinations, without democratic oversight or accountability to the public.”
Ironically, earlier this week peaceful drone protestors in the US received jail sentences whilst those who authorize and carry out targeted killings remain free with very few restrictions on their actions, which are carried out in secret with little accountability http://warisacrime.org/content/jail-sentences-drone-base-protesters Chris Nineham, vice-chairman of the Stop the War Coalition, echoed the concerns of others claiming that drones were being used to continue the “deeply unpopular war on terror” with no public scrutiny.
As protestors marched to Waddington today, another gathering was being held in Yemen with victims of US drone strikes telling their stories to Reprieve. Those giving evidence reminded the world that, “every US drone creates 10 Qaeda fighters” and “we cannot discuss development or building a new state while we still suffer from US drones.” It seems with UK drones now operating from RAF Waddington the same could be argued regarding the impact of UAV’s over Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Another point to consider, today the Taliban announced its annual spring offensive Khalid bin Waleed (RA) “named after the title of a companion of the Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) and one of the greatest military commanders in history.” Those of us that have campaigned for several years against drones and speak to all sides of the “war on terror” know that as long as strikes continue drones will be a major obstacle with regard to peace talks in the region. http://tribune.com.pk/story/541269/afghan-taliban-announce-start-of-spring-offensive-to-defeat-western-invaders/
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.