Why we are walking across Upstate NY to protest drones

By Jack Gilroy, Syacuse.com.

To the Editor:

A year ago, I was an inmate at Jamesville Penitentiary near Syracuse. My crime was lying down for less than 30 seconds in the entrance road to Hancock Killer Drone base in Syracuse. I received the longest sentence (three months) of anyone who protested drone warfare being conducted from Upstate New York.

On Wednesday, Oct. 7, some members of Upstate Drone Coalition (including myself) began a 160 mile walk from Hancock’s 174th Attack Drone Force in Syracuse to Niagara Falls Killer Drone base.

Why walk?

We hope to educate people along the way that Upstate New York is a war zone. Killer drones fired from Hancock and Niagara Falls via satellite hit Afghan people perceived to be our enemies. No charges are brought against these suspects. No arrest or court hearings or even interrogation–just extrajudicial death and no declared war involved.

We walk because we want the public to know the truth of our crimes against foreign people. Investigators of these civilian killings are well documented by Stanford University Law School, New York University Law School and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London. All report that our drones armed with bombs and Hellfire missiles have killed thousands, including untold numbers of innocents. Victims who are all too frequently killed as they attend weddings or funerals or at a bus stop or simply in a market shopping.

Morality and legality aside, just basic pragmatic reasons for the killings are stupid. Imagine how American people would react to our citizens killed by missiles fired from foreign unmanned vehicles–drones. In fact, a leaked CIA document released by Wikileaks found “clandestine drone and assassination program was likely to produce counterproductive outcomes including strengthening the very extremist groups it was designed to destroy.”

We walk to illustrate money made from endless wars encouraged by people and corporations feeding on fear and money. On our way to the drone base in Niagara Falls we will come close to the largest arms dealer in the world, Lockheed Martin (area factories in Liverpool and Owego, N.Y.).

The Hellfire missile used on Reaper and Predator drones “flown” from Hancock and Niagara Falls are manufactured by Lockheed at its Orlando, Florida facility.

We walk to illustrate money made from endless wars encouraged by people and corporations feeding on fear and money.

We walk to try to encourage our fellow countrymen to find alternatives to manufacturing weapons of death and to get back to life-giving industries and services that once made us proud. We need to admit shame, not pride, that our major export is weapons of death and destruction.

Pope Francis addressed the combined lawmakers of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate and said: “we have to ask ourselves: Why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict suffering on individuals and society? Sadly, the answer, as we know it, is simply for money, money that is drenched in blood–often-innocent blood. In the face of the shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade.”

The Chinese have learned well the former success of the United States in world trade. As the Chinese government invests in peaceful work around the world gaining contracts to build railroad systems and seaports in Africa, Asia and Latin America, the United States stays addicted to arms building and trading. The city of Boston awarded a huge subway contract to China. The Chinese hope to use Boston as a model for many other cities around the nation and world.

We walk to encourage Americans to re-start where we once stood tall: the world leader of life enhancing products and services. It’s time to give up our addiction to weapon making and to imitate the Chinese who profit from life giving industries.

We walk to say: Stop the killings. End our addiction to weapons. Find alternatives to the arms trade.

We walk to end a shameful and culpable silence. We want to wash the blood from our hands. We know it is our duty to confront the problem–to stop drone killings, to slow down and eventually end the arms trade.

Jack Gilroy

The writer is a retired high school teacher and a veteran of both the U.S. Army Infantry and the U.S. Navy.

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