From Vietnam Veterans Against the War,

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Protesting the Slaughter of Innocent Civilians

By Louis DeBenedette

Elliott Adams being arrested.

Elliott Adams, of Sharon Springs, New York, along with the Hancock Drone War Crimes Resisters, was found guilty of disorderly conduct. Adams is a 67-year-old former VFP President and member of VVAW.

On Friday, February 7, Town of DeWitt Court Judge David Gideon found 12 of the 17 Hancock Drone War Crimes Resisters guilty of disorderly conduct. They had gone to Hancock Air National Guard Base near Syracuse, NY, on October 25, 2012, to bring a "Citizens War Crimes Indictment" to the base and symbolically block the gates. Their nonviolent action had called for an end to drone warfare and the slaughter of innocent civilians.

The Judge decided to send a message, saying, "At some point this has to stop." The judge gave the defendants the maximum sentence — 15 days in jail (starting immediately) and a $250 fine with a $125 court surcharge. He also imposed a two-year Order of Protection, prohibiting the defendants from going to the home, school, business or place of employment of Col. Earl A. Evans, Commander of Hancock's mission support group. Considering that the defendants had never met or knew of him before their arrest, it is clear that the intent is to keep people away from the base. Defendant Rae Kramer stated, "No person on the base was intimidated by us, that is clear. But the end result is to deprive me of my first amendment rights."

In sentencing statements, the defendants spoke from their hearts. Some reaffirmed their legal duties as citizens to stop war crimes. Clare Grady said, "We went there to stop the war crimes." James Ricks hoped the judge would "sentence us to community service to investigate the war crimes they are committing at the base."

The defendants are part of the Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars. These activists seek to educate the public and Hancock Air Base personnel about the war crimes being perpetrated in Afghanistan with the MQ-9 Reaper Drone piloted from Hancock Air National Guard Base. We came to the base as members of the Catholic Worker and veterans' communities, along with other activists from upstate New York, who join together for regular nonviolent resistance to war and injustice at the base. We are raising a call against the use of remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) commonly known as drones. 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, according to reports from Elliott Adams.

Further actions in the movement's efforts came on Saturday, April 5, when best-selling, award-winning journalist Jeremy Scahill spoke in Des Moines, Iowa. Scahill is a National Security Correspondent for The Nation. He has reported from Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, the former Yugoslavia, and elsewhere across the globe. He delivered a speech on drone warfare and the changing face of US foreign military occupation at the Iowa Air National Guard base in Des Moines. Elliott Adams, along with six other activists, was arrested for trespassing and disorderly conduct. Adams stated, "we want to live without war." Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said, "In a free society, few are guilty but all are responsible. If weaponized drones are flown from these bases, 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." The Iowa Air National Guard's 132nd Fighter Wing is in the process of transitioning from maintaining and flying a fleet of F-16s to missions involving remotely piloted aircraft.

Judge Amul R. Thapar also sentenced Greg Boertje-Obed, a Vietnam-era veteran, Megan Rice, an 83-year-old Roman Catholic nun, and Vietnam veteran Michael Walli on Tuesday, February 18, 2014 in federal court in Knoxville, Tennessee. The three were convicted in May 2013 for their nonviolent action called "Transform Now Plowshares" at the Y12 Nuclear Weapons Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee, on charges of depredation of property and sabotage. The sentencing included five years for Boertje-Obed and Walli, and three years for Sister Megan. All are currently serving out their sentences in federal prison.

Louis DeBenedette is a longtime activist and member of VVAW. He is also our Ithaca, NY VVAW Contact.

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