Saturday, June 2, 2012

Political Discourse from a Moving Vehicle by Cindy Sheehan

Robby Diesu and Cindy Sheehan at Smithsonian Drone Exhibit

Political Discourse from a Moving Vehicle


The Drone O'Bomber

There is a common misperception that California is a “liberal” state—of course there are liberal to radical pockets, but most of the state is just pro-established, conservative, politics.

In general, you will find a bastion of the center-left in San Francisco where “pragmatism” really means, “I like the status quo, so don’t mess with it;” and center-right to far right leanings can be found in the central valley and near any one of our numerous major military bases housed in the Golden (for war profiteers) State.

According to, California has three Army installations, 13 Marine bases and 22 Coast Guard bases. California is home to over 212 thousand service members that directly make their living off of war-making and preparing for more war-making.

This past week, I joined about 20 fellow activists at one of the Air Force bases located just north of Sacramento, Beale AFB in Marysville. Beale AFB houses the apparatus for piloting the Global Hawk Drones. (And the U2 spy plane that kept noisily circling our evening teach-ins and candlelight vigil).

Global Hawk drones are surveillance drones that identify targets to be bombed by either manned aerial vehicles or the equally deadly and immoral, Hellfire missile equipped, Predator or Reaper drones. In fact, Northrup-Grumman, the maker of the Global Hawk just sold five of them to NATO at a cost of 1.7 billion dollars. Why does NATO need drones? Because in Libya NATO (read US military human drones) had to rely on the US for its drones to provide intelligence for which civilians would be killed in Libya—and Northrup Grumman really could use a couple more billion dollars.

Who hasn't been told to "Get a job" (my answer always is, Peace is my job) while out holding protest signs? The reason that I began this article with a brief political analysis of California, is because of the “scholarly wisdom” that was screamed at us while we were protesting at Beale with our signs opposing the use of robotic warfare—I want to answer this "wisdom" here in this forum, since the cars were driving too fast to debate the issues while we were standing there near the entrances to the base. 


Political discourse in this country is at an all time low, but intelligent discourse is practically non-existent. 

The above shout goes well with another dichotomy present at Beale.

While we were out protesting the use of robotic warfare under the hot central valley sun, a few of the cars of the anti-drone activists were proudly sporting this bumper sticker: “OBAMA 2012.”

Of course, Barack Obama has elevated the use of drones dramatically over the Bush regime and he is even using them to pursue his assassination program, which the regime is not only NOT ashamed of, but bragged about it to the New York Times. You can be sure, if it were a McCain/Palin regime expanding the drone program, “Liberals” and would be out in force protesting it.

There were a couple Liberals at the protest, but they are good people who hate war but don’t seem to understand that their president is as bloodthirsty as the one before him and the one that will come after him. In fact, most so-called Liberals have been very silent on Obama’s wars and war crimes. Most of us baking in the sun, if we thought we were anything, would call ourselves, "Peacemongers" and would stand in the hot sun (in Crawford, Texas or Marysville, Ca) no matter who is president and resent being lumped in with the iced-latte, sweat-free crowd.

“There are no drones at Beale”

Indeed, a few of the brighter bulbs in the package yelled that one. Of course, the very definition of robotic warfare is that it is remotely controlled. "Hey geniuses," the drones are out in the field in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and coming soon to your own town!

“Drones save lives of US servicemen”

Not only does that little tidbit reek with the stench of American exceptionalism, but also I don’t even think it’s true.

Try to imagine that you are an18 year-old US infantryman stuck on a remote base in Eastern Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border. Your entire day could vacillate between deadly boredom and the fear that an Afghan troop or other indigenous employee could turn his gun on you. Would you really believe that the goofballs in California, or Nevada, or Langley, Va, who are sitting comfortably in air conditioned, safe surroundings and dropping Hellfire missiles on your neighbors are making you safe? Just like torture and Shock and Awe, people don’t like to be murdered or imprisoned or they don’t like to see these things happening to their loved ones and tend to want to excusably fight back.

We who desperately want peace, not just to save the lives of US service members, but, more importantly, to save the lives of innocent men, women and children who don’t deserve to be killed for corporate greed, need to realize that most Americans just don’t give a damn about the innocents (and they are all innocent, aren’t they? We are occupying their countries) and this must be our most urgent appeal:

Every single human being on this planet has the exact same existential imperative as the other.

Just because one is American, or rich, or white, or Christian, all of the above, or whatever, that does not make his/her life more valuable than anyone else’s and I know this is a very, very difficult concept for most Americans to grasp.

The day of the protest, May 29th, would have been my son’s 33rd birthday if he weren’t killed in Iraq over eight years ago. I am often attacked for my opposition to the drone program by some Scholars who say, “What are you, an idiot? If the US used drones in Iraq, your son would still be alive.”

I would trade my own life 1000 times for my son’s but I would not be willing (and he wouldn’t either) to trade it for any innocents—and that’s what the drone program does: it keeps the pilot safely ensconced thousands of miles away from the carnage he/she wreaks, while exposing the most vulnerable ones to instant death.

Robotic warfare (and we learned the use of ground based drones is even more prevalent than that of air based ones) keeps the average American even more removed from the cost of war and we have seen an escalation in apathy as we also witness the escalation of robotic warfare. 

The people in the countries targeted by US/Corporate Imperialism are on the front lines and in the trenches dodging this robotic death and the very least we owe them is to be in solidarity with their struggle for the basic human right: life. 

Relaxing in the shade
Cindy (left) Pamela (right)
Photo by Zohreh

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