Veterans are among the most informed of just how horrible the war in Iraq has been; forced to endure debilitating conditions and often goaded into murdering innocents, they are best-placed to speak and dissuade new recruits from toeing the line and preventing a new generation of PTSD veterans from being created. Perhaps this is why veterans are among the poorest in the nation when they return home; cheap, disposable tin soldiers, who have been broken physically and mentally through the game that our leaders seem to enjoy. Once used up, they are hung out to dry… better they disappear than to serve as a warning to new recruits.
When veterans do get access to the resources needed to broadcast their views, a beautiful thing happens: forty-four veterans of the US Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines launch a campaign calling on drone operators to refuse to fly drone surveillance and attack missions. These veterans are working with KnowDrones.com to distribute a letter to modern-day drone operators. On top of that, they are airing a 15-second television commercial as part of their “Refuse to Fly” initiative.
The commercial has aired on CNN, Fox News, MSNBC and other networks in areas near drone intelligence and control centers, including: Las Vegas, near Creech Air Force Base; in northern California, near Beale AFB; upstate New York, near Hancock Air National Guard base, outside Syracuse; and the Air Guard base, near Niagara Falls. The paid ads were partially covered by members of “Veterans for Peace.”
The 44 veterans are calling on, “United States drone pilots, sensor operators and support teams to refuse to play any role in drone surveillance/ assassination missions. These missions profoundly violate domestic and international laws intended to protect individuals’ rights to life, privacy and due process.”
Some of the veterans include: former US Army Captain and CIA Official, Ray McGovern; former US Navy Lt. Barry Ladendorf, president of Veterans for Peace; and former US Army Sgts. Aaron Hughes and Maggie Martin, co-directors of “Iraq Veterans Against the War.”
Regarding the legality of refusing military orders, the group says drone operators are legally allowed to refuse the orders:
“Those involved in United States drone operations who refuse to participate in drone missions will be acting in accordance with Principle IV of the Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the Judgment of the Tribunal, The United Nations 1950,” that states:
“The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him of responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible.”
Nick Mottern, coordinator of KnowDrones.com, says the organizers feel, “it is perfectly legitimate to advise military people to stop taking part in illegal activity that has killed thousands without due process, is terrorizing thousands more and is wracking their own ranks with moral injury and PTSD.”
In response to the letter and campaign, an Air Force spokesman said drone pilots are acting within the law when flying missions:
“Our remotely piloted aircraft operators perform a critically important mission that contributes significantly to national defense,” Lt. Col. Christopher Karns said in an email to Military Times. “They are professional and comply with applicable law, policies, and adhere to very exacting procedures.”
According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), the CIA carried out 27 drone strikes in Pakistan in 2013 and 38 in Yemen, including the now infamous attack on December 12, 2013 that killed 15 people at a wedding. TBIJ estimates over 2,400 deaths in the first 5 years of the Obama administration.