Last night I attended a screening of the veterans’ documentary WHAT I WANT YOU TO KNOW. After garnering the audience favorite award at last summer’s Maine International Film Festival the film attracted sponsors including peace organizations I belong to that worked to bring the film to more audiences here in Maine. Attendance at the November 13 screening in Brunswick was sparse — about 20 people — but an engaging discussion after the film was facilitated by veterans’ counselor Robyn Belcher.
Archival footage of the wars the U.S. waged in Afghanistan and Iraq following 9/11 was interspersed with contemporary interviews of multiple veterans of those wars. Organized loosely by chronology of the enlistees’ journeys from private citizens to imperial cannon fodder, the narrative arrived at moral injury — a final resting place where one veteran predicted he will still be dwelling decades from now.
The film’s theme is futility and the sensation that all the limbs and lives lost, plus the civilians terrorized or slaughtered, was for nothing. Several clips of a succession of U.S. presidents speaking conveyed the lies that combat veterans now believe they were told in the course of their enlistment.
There was no clear mission and, once in country, soldiers literally drove around in circles waiting for their turn to be blasted by an IED. They arrested the wrong men, they shot blindly into crowds of civilians, and in their view absolutely nothing was gained.
Ostensible reasons for being there i.e. bringing “democracy” or advancing the rights of women were quickly exposed as fraudulent. Insurgents had the support and loyalty of the people, and woe betide those who threw in with the occupying forces as interpreters only to be cast aside as the U.S. military departed. These acts of disloyalty contributed to the moral suffering described by veterans, and to the moral decay in evidence as soldiers whoop and congratulate themselves on shooting down from helicopters onto unarmed civilians.
The film has a tight focus but I thought there were some glaring omissions in the moral injury department. No discussion of rape except in the context of Afghan warlords and their exploitation of boys? Really? Who can forget the gang-rape and murder of 14 year old Abeer Qassim Hamza al-Janabi by U.S. Army soldiers who then killed her entire family in order to eliminate the witnesses.
And why was there no discussion of opium production in Afghanistan used to fund the war while driving an opioid epidemic in the West until the Taliban again eradicated it after the occupiers departed? Plenty of veterans have died of suicide by overdose in the intervening years.
Most of the audience discussion focused on damaged vets and how to help them help themselves. I have to admit that was not my focus as an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure in situations like this. Why not celebrate the fact that largely because of their suffering the will to enlist in the U.S. military is at an all time low? Even military families, traditionally the best source of volunteers, are telling their younger generations not to enlist. Decades of war for profit with dishonor have gutted what was once a proud military that believed in its mission (however deluded that notion might have been).
The U.S. imperial mission in Ukraine and now in Israel have been spectacular failures that the government and its obedient press are still lying about today. Those in the know understand that Ukraine could not beat or even weaken Russia, and that Israel cannot win against Hamas, Hezbollah, and Resistance coalitions coming together to fight them and their U.S. sponsor. Attacks on illegal U.S. military bases in Syria and Iraq are reported almost daily. Meanwhile hundreds of thousands in the U.S. and millions across the globe continue marching to demand an end to the genocide happening right now to Palestinians.
The long downfall in morale that began with the Vietnam War has proven far more enduring than freedom.
Amid the chaotic and embarassing retreat from Taliban-controlled Afghanistan came a drone strike on the Ahmadi family whose aid worker dad was transporting water in his car with little children aboard. “The Pentagon admitted Friday an airstrike in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Aug. 29 killed 10 civilians, including seven children, but not any terrorist planners as officials first claimed,” according to Military.com.
Now it is even more urgent to demand the use of flying killer robots be banned. A large group of dedicated activists return each year to the Nevada desert where U.S. drone operators sit in trailers and decide to kill entire families without enough information to evaluate whether or not those targeted actually pose a threat to security.
Weaponized drones are the real threat to security.
Here’s the organizers’ press release with detailed information on the week long protest.
PROTESTORS FROM 12 STATES CONVERGE AT CREECH AFB FOR WEEK OF PROTEST TO DEMAND AN END TO REMOTE DRONE KILLING, AND BAN ON KILLER DRONES
Kabul Killing of Afghan family, including 3 adults and 7 children, by U.S. Drone Last Month will be Memorialized
LAS VEGAS/CREECH AFB, NV – Anti-war/anti-drone demonstrators from the East and West coasts announced they are converging here Sept. 26-Oct. 2 to hold daily protests – which will include efforts to interrupt “business as usual” – at the U.S. Drone Base at Creech Air Force Base, an hour north of Las Vegas, Nevada.
U.S. anti-drone activists across the country will be holding solidarity protests at drone bases and in communities across the country during the same week, to amplify their common call for a ban on killer drones. Contact Nick Mottern for more info: (914) 806-6179.
In the aftermath of the horrific “mistake” from a U.S. drone attack on a civilian family in Kabul last month, that left three adults and seven young children dead, protesters are demanding that the U.S. cease its secret remote assassination program that they say is illegal and immoral.
Vigils every morning and afternoon during commute hours will take place with varied themes each day. See schedule below. Nonviolent interruptions of flow of traffic into the base are planned during the week to oppose the inherent abuse, illegality and injustice of the U.S. targeted remote assassination program. Rejecting the very nature of U.S. extrajudicial killings that has led to the death of thousands of civilians, protesters demand an immediate ban on all killer drones.
At Creech, U.S. Air Force personnel, coordinating with C.I.A. officials, are, regularly and secretly, killing people remotely using unmanned armed drone planes, primarily the MQ-9 Reaper drones.
Thousands of civilians have been killed and injured, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, and elsewhere, since 2001, by U.S. drone strikes, according to independent investigative journalism.
These drone massacres have, at times, resulted in the deaths of dozens of civilians with a single drone attack. To date not a single U.S. official has ever been held accountable for these ongoing atrocities – Yet, drone whistleblower, Daniel Hale, who leaked documents revealing the high rate of civilian casualties from U.S. drone strikes, is currently serving 45 months in prison.
“U.S. officials and military leaders exhibit total disregard for the value of human lives in the countries targeted under the so-called War on Terror,” said Toby Blomé, one of the organizers of the week long protest. “Over and over again, innocent lives are being purposefully sacrificed in drone strikes, in order for the U.S. to continue its ‘counter-terrorism campaign,’” said Blomé.
“The Ahmadi family drone massacre that occurred in Kabul last month is not an example of accidental mis-judgement. It is an example of an ongoing reckless pattern of abuse whereby the U.S. assumes the right to kill a person on suspicion alone, just in case that person may be a threat, while also sacrificing everyone else who happens to be in the area,” Blomé added.
Organizers say that the only reason the truth about this recent drone tragedy was exposed is because it took place in Kabul, where investigative journalists were available to scrutinize the event. For 2 weeks after the incident U.S. military had insisted that they killed an ISIS affiliate. The evidence proved otherwise. Most drone strikes are underreported and not investigated because they occur in remote rural areas, far from international media.
Participants of the week-long protest are calling for a complete ban on killer drones, an immediate end to the targeted killing program, and full accountability for the innocents killed, including reparations to the surviving victims of U.S. drone strikes, past and present.
“Given the murder of 10 innocent people in Kabul, including seven children, we know that the U.S. drone program is a disaster,” said organizer Eleanor Levine. “It makes enemies and it has to end now.”
Demonstrators are also calling for the immediate release of Daniel Hale the drone whistleblower who exposed the criminality of the drone program. The documents leaked by Hale revealed that in many cases, up to 90% of those killed by U.S. drones were not the intended target. Demanding a pivotal shift toward justice, Shut Down Creech participants declare: “Arrest the war criminals, not the truth-tellers.” Mon, Sept 27, 6:30-8:30 a.m.DRONE FUNERAL PROCESSION: Dressed in black with white “death masks,” activists will process down the highway, in a solemn death march, carrying small coffins with the names of the countries that have been the primary targets of ongoing U.S. drone attacks that have led to high civilian casualties. (Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan and Libya)
Mon, Sept 27, 3:30-5:30 p.m. “DRONE ATTACKS ARE…” Participants will hold large bold signs with varied descriptive words to demonstrate the failure of the U.S. Drone Program: ILLEGAL, RACIST, IMMORAL, BARBARIC, CRUEL, FUTILE, WRONG, DISGRACEFUL, etc.
Tues, Sept.28 , 6:30 – 8:30 a.m.THE DRONE MASSACRE MEMORIAL: A long series of banners will be stretched along the highway, each one highlighting details of past U.S. drone massacres, including strikes that have hit wedding parties, funerals, schools, farm laborers and mosques. Statistics on civilian deaths are included on each banner. This time, the horrific tragedy of the Ahmadi family killed in a Kabul neighborhood will be added to the historical record.
Tues, Sept 28, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. THE WAR IS A LIE; To demonstrate the concept that the “first casualty in war is the truth,” a series of signs will convey examples: Presidents Lie, Congress Lies, Generals Lie, CIA lies, etc. The messages will conclude with banners calling on more critical thinking: Question Authority; Resist the Lies They Tell…Resist the Wars They Sell; Truth-teller and Drone Whistleblower, Daniel Hale, will be featured: “FREE DANIEL HALE.”
Wed, Sept 29, 6:30 – 8:30 a.m.GO BACK, WRONG WAY! A nonviolent, peaceful action will be planned to “interrupt business as usual” and to resist the illegal and immoral activity that takes place at Creech Killer Drone Base. Details will be available later in the week. NO MORE DEATHS! Other nonviolent acts of resistance may be planned at other times during the week.
Wed, Sept 29, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m.ALTERNATIVES TO WAR;A series of signs will offer alternatives to the military working at Creech AFB: Doctors NOT Drones, Bread NOT Bombs, Housing NOT Hellfire Missiles, Peace Jobs NOT War Jobs, etc.
Thurs. Sept 30, 6:30 – 8:30 a.m. “CREECHERS FOR THE PLANET”; In a playful approach to connect the very serious global problems of climate crisis and environmental devastation with militarism, participants will dress in their favorite “Creecher Costumes” (Creature Costumes) and/or hold large animal puppets, while holding educational signs “connecting the dots”: U.S. Military #1 Polluter, War is Toxic, End War for Climate Justice, U.S. Military = #1 User of FOSSIL FUEL, War in NOT Green: PROTECT EARTH, etc.
Thurs. Sept 30, 3:30 – 5:30 p.m. TBD: Creech AFB may or may not have a vigil. Stay tuned for updates. A Las Vegas Anti-drone Street Theater Action planned at the Fremont Street Pedestrian Mall (4:00 – 6:00pm) in Las Vegas. Details to come later.
Fri. Oct. 1, 6:30 – 8:30 a.m.FLY A KITE, NOT A DRONE; In a colorful display of beautiful kites in the sky, participants will hold their final demonstration of the week, focusing on the positive benefits of alternatives to war, where all sides win. The central large banner: DIPLOMACY NOT DRONES! The vigil will also honor the Afghan People, who have been forced to live under the terror of U.S. drones for 20 years, with immeasurable human losses. The U.S. has “officially withdrawn” it’s troops and closed it’s bases in Afghanistan, the most droned country on earth; however, the drone strikes are expected to continue under Biden’s unspecified “Over the Horizon” policy. Another large banner will declare: STOP DRONING AFGHANISTAN: 20 YEARS ENOUGH!