Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org
Tucson, AZ – On the morning of the Feast of Holy Innocents, December 28, about 15 peace activists gathered outside the gates of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson, Arizona to commemorate and grieve the contemporary slaughter of innocents. The group held signs calling for an end to drone warfare. An Arizona Air National Guard unit based at Davis-Monthan since 2007 operates armed Predator drones used by U.S. military in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
John Heid, a Tucson Quaker and Catholic Worker, read this statement to the group. The names of children killed by U.S. drones were then recited.
Holy Innocents Drone Vigil 12/28/12
“I saw men, women and children die during that time. I never thought I’d kill that many people. In fact I thought I couldn’t kill anyone at all.”
former drone operator Brandon Bryant
The U.S. carried out 333 drone strikes in Afghanistan in 2012 alone – more than the entire number of drone attacks in Pakistan over the past eight years combined.
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is the staging site for the 214th Reconnaissance Group of the Arizona Air National Guard, a Predator drone unit. Personnel of the 214th have conducted more than 3,000 sorties since 2007 and provided more than 55,000 flying hours of combat mission support from Tucson.
The U.S. military has begun to use the term “harvest” to describe the killing done in this push-button combat of drone warfare. Recently the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in Britain documented 178 children among over 900 civilians killed by U.S. drones in Pakistan and Yemen alone.
Why is there such an aversion to acknowledging the human cost? Our drones are harvesting their children. These revelations are too much to bear sitting still.
“They had their whole lives ahead of them, birthdays, graduations, weddings, kids of their own.” Thus said President Obama at the memorial service for the 20 children killed in a Connecticut school two weeks ago. The president added: “We’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this.”
Today, December 28th, on the Commemoration of the slaughter of Holy Innocents, we embrace President Obama’s exhortation on behalf of the children by coming to Davis-Monthan AFB to call for a change of heart, of policy and practice. Cease drone operations immediately on behalf of the children and all victims of this warfare including U.S. drone pilots who are increasingly being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress syndrome. Our plea is for an end to all warfare. May we pursue peace by peaceful means.
After the reading this statement John Heid, Gretchen Nielsen and Jim Marx met with the security people at the gate to request a meeting with the person in charge of the drone program. The request was refused and Tucson police were called. They arrested Heid when he refused to leave. He was charged with trespass and released from jail at 11 p.m. that evening.