Last week, even as the last of the Hancock 38 were sentenced in upstate New York for protesting U.S. drone attacks and thus "standing on the side of our human family," the Obama administration was launching no less than three investigations into the crime of U.S. soldiers burning books at Bagram Air Base - or three more than the number of investigations launched into the hundreds of civilians killed by our murderous and ill-conceived drone attacks. What is wrong with this picture?
Drone Strikes? What’s To Feel Bad About?
“Three major investigations were under way on Wednesday into the Koran burning at Bagram Air Base by the American military last week, the event that plunged Afghanistan into days of deadly protests…” So begins a New York Times report.
To read the New York Times you’d think the only American offence that truly riles people up after ten years of war is book burning. It’s certainly the only offense that’s so far merited “three major investigations.”
“There’s been real blowback from the burning of the Quran, but there has also been real blowback from the killings from continued drone strikes,” says Ann Wright, a former State Department diplomat and retired Army colonel who stood trial this week for protesting US drone attacks.
Wright’s riled up. So is Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain, Wajid Shamsul Hasan. Just last week, Hasan warned Britain to stop the American “Drone Wars” that, he said, are slaughtering hundreds of its innocent civilians, or else the nuclear power “has the means” to retaliate. The British Sun quoted Hasan as saying that his country’s relations with America are at their lowest ebb.
A nuclear power threatening retaliation unless US robo-killings cease? “Three major investigations” into drone attacks might not be too much.
The CIA claims that since May 2010, drones have killed more than 600 militants and not a single non-combatant. Recently the British-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism concluded after a long investigation that that is simply bunk. According to the Bureau, at least 45 civilians were killed in 10 drone strikes on the Pakistan/Afghanistan border region during this past year alone. Between 282 and 535 civilians, including 60 minors, have been credibly reported as killed as a result of drone strikes since US President Barack Obama took office.
Most damning, the Bureau reported that at least 50 civilians have been killed in follow-up strikes after they rushed to help the wounded. More than twenty other civilians were killed in strikes on funerals.
Clive Stafford-Smith, the lawyer who heads the Anglo-US legal charity Reprieve, believes that such strikes ‘are like attacking the Red Cross on the battlefield. It’s not legitimate to attack anyone who is not a combatant.’
Wright, with Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence and other activists were sentenced Wednesday for their participation in a symbolic ‘die-in’ at the main entrance to Hancock Air National Guard Base in upstate New York.
“From Hancock, they are flying killer drones over Afghanistan and Pakistan, and killing civilians” explained fellow defendant, Judy Bello of the Upstate Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars. The 174th Fighter Wing of the New York Air National Guard are stationed at Hancock, the target of annual Earth Day protests, including last year’s at which more than 38 protestors were arrested for lying in bloody shrouds in the street at the base gate.
Kathy Kelly wrote this week (right here in CounterPunch) “Drone warfare, ever more widely used from month to month from the Bush through the Obama administrations, has seen very little meaningful public debate…. An expanding network of devastatingly lethal covert actions spreading throughout the developing world passes with minimal concern or comment.”
How about one “major investigation” – just to start?
Judy Bello, a retired firmware engineer, brought and prepared the “bloody” sheets that the protestors wore April 22. The defendants wore them again this Wednesday in a crowed upstate court.
“I have friends from Pakistan; I’ve been to Iran several times, I don’t think we should be out there killing people with robots and calling it a war. If other countries were to play by the same rules that we play by – they could logically attack someone they think is a pilot, right here in his SUV as he’s taking his kids to baseball practice.”
Maybe if the next drone attack killed a child with a Koran actually clutched in her hand, the President would be forced to apologize and we might see a major investigations. Maybe the Coalition could work some Korans into their protest. Just a thought.
On Wednesday Wright and Kelly joined Bello and the rest in pleading no contest to the charges. They face fines of $250 and court fees of $125. Most intend to redirect their fines to The Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers. To see their video: http://vcnv.org/2-million-candles-to-end-the-afghan-war
LAURA FLANDERS is the host of The Laura Flanders Show coming to public television stations later this year. She was the host and founder of GRITtv.org. Follow her on Twitter: @GRITlaura.