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Covering Ground to Ground the Drones


On June 8 Chicago-based Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV), will kick off their Covering Ground to Ground the Drones protest, to bring awareness of the use of drones in warfare.


The peaceful walk will take place on Saturday, June 8 and end on June 23, near Rock Island Arsenal, Ill., where drones are made and stored. Day walkers and overnighters will cover 190-5 miles, between 12-17 miles a day, and finish in Des Moines, Iowa.


Featured at the event will be speakers Brian Terrell, a Voices activist who recently served a 6-month prison term for nonviolent civil resistance at a drone base. Kathy Kelly, who served in the Afghanistan War, will also make an appearance.


Walkers are encouraged to donate $5 a day or $25 for food. Shelter will be provided by VFCN organizers, although it is recommended to prepare in advance for possible hotel expenses.


The 2009-founded "Ground the Drones" campaign is run by VCNV in partner with organizations such as Foreign Policy in Focus and Pax Christi USA. It is a “campaign of awareness about and resistance to the US military’s use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs/drones) in warfare in Afghanistan and Pakistan,” according to its website


Drone use in warfare


Beginning in 2004 and continuing on to the present, stories of covert US drone missions, targets and casualties in Yemen, Somalia and Pakistan have surfaced in the media.


One story, reported by the New York Times earlier this spring, was of an al-Qaida-linked Pashtun tribesman, Nek Mohammed, the US's first drone target in Pakistan.


The CIA sought Mohammed for heading an al-Qaeda training camp and urged the Pakistani government for his capture. After a failed military coup and two attempted assassinations on Pakistani President Musharraf, Pakistani government officials secretly allowed the US to carry out the drone operation.


A Predator drone missile struck a mud compound, where Mohammed and several others were staying in June 2004. Among the casualties were two boys under the age of 18.


Several years later, two American citizens were killed by drones, triggering US public outcry for their right to receive US trials. The men, Anwar al-Awlaki, an al-Qaeda major propagandist and strategist and Samir Khan, editor of a jihadist online magazine, were taken down a few months after Bin Laden was killed in 2011.


According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, in Pakistan alone, there have been a total of 369 drone strikes, with estimates of up to 3,540 casualties. Some 884 were reported to have been civilians and up to 197 reported were children.


Domestic drone use


Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's) also have been used domestically by Custom and Border Protection and SWAT operations for drug and immigration surveillance, according to Drones Watch.


Furthermore, Congress is pushing Federal Aviation Administration to open up public airspace for private and commercial drone use by 2015. They are also urging for quicker licensing procedures to allow government bodies, such as homeland security and law enforcement, to fly drones in U.S commercial airways.


State legislatures have fought back, saying the use of drones violate the Fourth Amendment's mandate against unreasonable searches and seizures, and intrude everyday privacy. As of this year, forty-three states have introduced 96 bills and resolutions related to UAV's, and six states have passed legislation to prohibit or limit the use of  UAV's. 


A map of states that have introduced or enacted related legislation can be found on the National Conference of State Legislatures website.


Activism and resources


The ideas of "remote-controlled" warfare and its legitimacy have unsettled many, causing protests, dispatches of envoys and the formation of nonprofits dedicated to prohibiting drones in warfare.  


Get involved by joining and Voices for Creative Non-Violence’s “Down the Drones” campaign.

Learn more about drones' uses and their effects at the Stanford Law School’s website “Living Under Drones,” and the Bureau for Investigative Journalism's site. Or read Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, by Medea Benjamin.


Related articles:


"America's Killing Machine," 13 April 2013, The Economist


"A Secret Deal on Drones, Sealed in Blood," 6 April 2013, The New York Times


"Drone Strikes: A Candid, Chilling Conversation With Top U.S. Drone Pilot," 15 May 2013, Huffington Post


"US drone attacks are further radicalising Pakistan," 2 June 2013, The Guardian



Watch related videos posted by the Stanford Law School, BBC and Reuters: