DES MOINES-Four children of the Ali Mohammed Nasser family were four, five,seven, and nine years old. Four children of the Mohammed Saleh Mohammed family were two, four, nine, and twelve years old. The Abdullah Mokbel Salelm Louqye family was larger but the age ranges were similar, although the youngest was only a year old. Two members of the Hussein Abdulah Awad family were also wiped out. They were one and two years old. All of the children were killed by US drones. All were from Yemen. The numbers of children killed by drone attacks in Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan are greater.
Early in 2013 The Iowa Air National Guard’s 132nd Fighter Wing at 3100 Mckinley Avenue in Des Moines began a transition program from maintaining and flying manned F-16 aircraft, to missions utilizing unmanned drones. F-16 fighter jets have not been piloted out of the 132nd Fighter Wing since 2013.
In response to the announcement of this new program, in June of 2013 dozens of peace activists walked the 200-mile distance from Rock Island, Illinois to the 132nd Fighter Wing to protest the announcement and to protest drone warfare. Although officials at the Iowa National Guard initially estimated that piloting under the new program would begin at the end of 2015, they now say they are ahead of schedule in their training.
Today soldiers and police at the Iowa Air National Guard Drone Base were forced to hear the 115 names of children who have been killed by drone warfare in Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq during the culmination of the annual week of actions. Veterans for Peace and Des Moines Catholic Worker groups called for an end to drone warfare and for an end to violence towards innocent victims. Jim Haber, peace activist from the San Francisco area used a loud speaker so that those in the area would hear the list of victims.
Meanwhile at the gates of the Base, seven peace activists attempted to deliver a letter of indictment to the Base Commander Colonel Drew DeHaes. These excerpts were taken from the letter:
March 17, 2014
Each one of you when you joined the United States Armed Forces or police, publicly promised to uphold the United States Constitution. We take this opportunity to call your attention to Article VI of the Constitution which states:
“This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under Authority of the United States, shall be the Supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”
This clause is known as the supremacy clause, for it actually creates the United States as a legal entity.
The Constitution says, in the supremacy clause, that, without exception, treaties shall be the supreme Law of the Land.
The indictment goes on to hold the US accountable for a 1945 United Nations treaty that was approved by 89 of 91 Senators and signed by President Harry S. Truman. Provisions in the treaty commit to “saving the future generations from the scourge of war” and that “all nations shall refrain from the use of force against another nation.”
Based on these commitments the specific charges against the US and the Iowa National Guard in the indictment read:
We charge that the Iowa Air National Guard of the United States of America, in Des Moines, Iowa, home of the 132nd Fighter Wing under command of Col. Drew DeHaes will soon be maintaining and deploying the MQ-9 Reaper robotic aircraft.
These drones will be used both in and out of combat.
Extrajudicial targeted killing such as the US carries out by unmanned aircraft drones are intentional, premeditated, and deliberate use of lethal force in violation of US and international human rights law.
It is a matter of public record that the US has used drones for targeted killings in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Pakistan with no legal basis for defining the scope of which areas where drones can and cannot be used, no rigorous criteria for deciding which people are targeted for killing, no procedural safeguards to ensure the legality and accuracy of the killings and no mechanisms of accountability.”
The letter and the messengers were met at the gate which closed when the group arrived thereby preventing them from entering the base after having previously informed base officials of their intentions. Still the group asked for permission to deliver their letter of indictment, but was denied entrance as a loudspeaker aired the signature warning of trespass and the demand for the exit of protesters commonly heard at other US military bases . Seven were arrested and loaded onto a police van. None was handcuffed but all were transported to the Des Moines Police Station where they were charged with criminal trespass and released with a scheduled court appearance later this month. Those arrested were Reverend Chet Guinn, 85 years old, a Methodist minister from Des Moines, Julie Brown, 36, a Des Moines Catholic Worker, Ed Bloomer, 67 years old, a Des Moines Catholic Worker and Veteran for Peace member, Ruth Cole, 26, a Catholic Worker from the Rye
House, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Steve Clemens, 63, a member of the Community of
St Martin & Veterans for Peace in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Michelle Naar, 57, of the Hildegard Catholic Worker House in Duluth Minnesota, and Elliott Adams, 67, former National Veterans for Peace President of Sharon Spring, New York.
Protest organizers say the Des Moines Air National Guard base is now one
of several major targets across the country for current and future peace movement
gatherings as the use of drones for assassination have increased under the Obama Administration following the Bush Administration’s “War on Terror” policies. Creech Air Force Base in Nevada and Hancock Air Base in New York are other major military units named for future mass mobilizations for peace and against drone warfare.
A St. Patrick’s Day gathering was chosen to recognize St. Patrick’s message that, “In Christ, there is no killing,” and to recognize the point in biblical history when St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland. Signs held by protesters depicted St. Patrick’s Day messages of peace but those arrested wore pictures of those killed by US drones. “We will continue the work to drive the drones and war makers out of Iowa just like St. Patrick drove the snakes out of Ireland,” said Julie Brown who made the decision to risk arrest this morning just days after she returned from occupied Palestine and witnessed herself drone activity in the airspace over Palestine.
Standing on the sidelines, Jim Haber who also read the list of victims announced over loudspeaker that, “We recognize that the slaughter of war always requires war makers to dehumanize the victims. Reliance on drones exacerbates the dehumanization because the technology allows war makers to kill a target without identifying clearly who the person is or what the person has done or is doing. Therefore we bring to this base the faces of several who have been killed as well as the desire of a young Afghan friend who says,
‘We want to live without war’.”
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said in a press release, “In a free society, few are
guilty but all are responsible.” If weaponized drones are flown from
this base, we, along with RPA crews share responsibility for
consequences including death of targeted victims and whatever trauma
is sustained by those who operate the drones.
“Iowa is known for being the Field of Dreams. This is making Iowa into
killing fields,” said Catholic Worker Frank Cordaro, an
organizer of the event. “This is making my neighborhood a legitimate war
target.” Others at the action agreed and insist that Des Moines be recognized as a legitimate war zone saying that the new drone program will put Des Moines increasingly on the radar of those who wish to cause harm to the US.
Chet Guinn, 85, a retired Methodist minister from Des Moines issued the statement, “As a pastor I’m opposed to war. Look at what it’s doing. It’s killing
children.” Guinn was holding the picture of a child who had been killed by a drone and added, “How can we be silent?”
“Our intention was not to trespass or block their gate, we asked them to come out and talk about this situation, and if we could talk to the people who are planning to train the soldiers,” said Michelle Naar who traveled to Des Moines from Duluth, Minnesota. She and the other six activists are now deciding whether they’ll plead guilty or not.
Officials at the Iowa Air National Guard Base refused to comment.
Refufia Gaintan/The Nation Report