Friday, May 4, 2012

Know Drones Tour continues/Letter to pro-killer drones Dutch Ruppersberger

The National KnowDrones Tour ( with a large model bomber drone replica remains in Baltimore.  Help distribute literature outlining Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger's campaign donations from major drone manufacturers.  


     On Friday, May 4 from 5 – 6 PM, the drone tour will join the weekly silent peace vigil outside Homewood Friends Meetinghouse, 3107 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD 21218.  Afterward there will be a potluck dinner in the meetinghouse, followed by a DVD showing of "1984,” Richard Burton's last film.


 Below is the letter six of us took to Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger’s office.  We had an opportunity to speak with two staffers.


May 3, 2012


Congressman C.A. Ruppersberger

The Atrium

375 West Padonia Road, Suite 200

Timonium, Maryland 21093


Dear Congressman Ruppersberger:


We are writing to you as a member of the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus to ask you to use the power of your office and membership on the caucus to permanently end United States use of weaponized drones and drone surveillance.


  We are asking that you take this action because:


1.      Summary execution, which has become easier and therefore routine because of drone technology, denies those targeted the right to a fair trial, imposing the death penalty regardless of the laws of the nation in which the killing is conducted.  All this is a violation of international law and national sovereignty.


Further, the United States cannot look to international law for justification for drone killing even in Afghanistan based on the argument that drone attacks are being conducted in a combat zone because the United States invasion and occupation of Afghanistan are themselves violations of international law.[1]


The number of illegal killings is likely to grow dramatically given the US Air Force plan to increase drone sorties from the current average of 15 per day to about 70 a day in 2016, according to an April 5, 2012 report in


2.      Drone attacks and the constant aerial presence of attack drones and drone surveillance are creating political and armed resistance to the United States and its allies.  A December 2010 report by the Medical Association for the Prevention of War (Australia) notes that there is a concern about “the intense and growing grievance about armed drones among Afghani, Pakistani and other networks.  This includes extremist terrorist networks, and creating a hardening of enmity, coalescing around extremists, and increasing cycles of violence.  These concerns have stimulated the view that armed drones pose a unique danger.”[2]


3.      Drone surveillance is in itself a weapon of intimidation and terror, particularly since the people being watched fear they may be killed by a drone at any moment.


In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the sound of drone motors terrifies whole populations, some of whom take sleeping medicine and anti-depressants because they fear death from the sky. 


            The Global Hawk drone now has the capacity to monitor cell phone and texting

             messaging.   Constant visual and electronic monitoring on a global scale violates

            rights of privacy and respect for national sovereignty.


            Drone surveillance aircraft and airships are being developed that will stay aloft for

            years, according to a recent U.S. Air Force report, which described airships with

            “football field size radars” that would give “extreme resolution/persistence”.  The

            report discusses plans for three-dimensional urban mapping that would allow

            “low collateral damage strikes in urban areas.”[3]  One can envision whole sections

            of the globe being subjected to a drone-o-sphere of surveillance, informing attack

            drones and ground forces. 


           US law enforcement agencies have begun to embrace drones, and this trend will

           accelerate with the recent passage of legislation forcing the Federal Aviation

           Administration to develop rules that will enable drones to fly throughout U.S.

           The new law does not prohibit flying weaponized drones in US airspace or drone

           surveillance.  This is of grave concern given the tragic history of police killings    

            and misconduct in America’s low-income communities.


4.       Drones have imperfect “vision” resulting in the killing of non-combatants and friendly forces through misidentification.   In addition, contrary to official claims, drone weapons are not “precise” because drones use missiles and bombs, creating explosions, unlike a bullet, which inevitably kill untargeted as well as targeted people.


5.      Drone warfare, conducted by United States forces far distant from combat zones, offers the temptation of being able to wage war without suffering consequences in terms of loss of life, money and political capital.  However, systematic killing whether in conventional war or drone war does have consequences, as is evident in Pakistan, where a government possessing nuclear weapons is being destabilized, in significant part by drone warfare.


The apparent minimal political cost of using drones has inevitably resulted in a lack of interest in drone warfare in Congress and s further shift of power to conduct war to the Executive Branch and into specialized branches of the military and intelligence agencies that operate drones, such as the Central Intelligence Agency and the Special Operations Command.   Drone warfare technology has resulted in removing the conduct of war even further from popular control and giving extraordinary political and military power to a relatively few, unelected, people.


Admiral William McRaven, commander of the Special Operations Command, reports the New York Times, “wants the authority to quickly move his units to potential hot spots without going through the standard Pentagon process governing overseas deployments. Historically, the deployment of American forces overseas began with a request from a global combatant commander that was processed through the military’s Joint Staff and placed before the defense secretary for approval, in a cautious and deliberate process.”[4] 


But a substantial number of drone operations are outside the military chain of command, being in the hands of the Central Intelligence Agency or private contractors, particularly in areas where there is no military engagement or color of authorization for military action. 


The reluctance of Congress to monitor and control drone warfare increases the potential for violation of national sovereignty and the right of due process.


6.      Drone warfare makes it easier to enter wars and exit wars not only because of the apparent “low cost” but because the farther distant soldiers and air crews are from actual combat the less chance there is that they will put a brake on war because of their normal human emotions of empathy and war weariness.  Drone warfare is entering a new realm of inhumanity with the development now underway of drones that will attack autonomously once targets are programmed into their control computers.  The relentlessness of war by machines with minimal human involvement is a terrifying prospect. 


7.      Drones have been accident-prone.  The Congressional Research Service reports that accident rates for drones have been higher than manned aircraft although the rates have declined as individual drones are improved. [5] Nevertheless, there is a high potential of drone accidents as new models are developed.  This problem will magnify in the United States as more and more drones enter U.S. airspace.


8.      There is the potential also for “enemies” to capture drones electronically. This is particularly frightening given the plans of the United States to develop a drone bomber that can carry nuclear weapons.


9.      Drones are a disproportionate use of force against opponents armed with much less sophisticated and powerful weapons.


10.  Armed drones and surveillance drones are used primarily against people who are struggling for self-determination in low-income countries or regions that have a history of repression and gross exploitation.


11.  Fifty nations now possess drones, and it is certain that drones will be used against the United States.  Given the relative newness of drone technology, now is the time to ban the use of drones for attack and surveillance.


12.  Drones have become the cutting edge of United States foreign policy, a policy that arguably has as its primary goal the maximization of profits for transnational corporations.  This condition has existed since the founding of the nation and was powerfully explained by Marine General Smedley Butler in 1935 in his book War is a Racket; he described himself in the military as “a high class muscle man for Big Business.”


            Martin Luther King Jr. said in his prophetic 1967 speech “Beyond Viet Nam”:


           “This need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the

            counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala.  It tells why

            American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Cambodia and why

            American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels

            In Peru…Increasingly, by choice of by accident, this is the role our nation has

            taken, the role of those who make peaceful revolution impossible by refusing to

            give up the privileges and pleasures that come from the immense profits of

            overseas investments.”


Examples of drone use in support of transnational goals include Afghanistan, where secure pipeline and electrical line routes and access to mineral deposits are sought, and Yemen, where the United States is fighting a war to suppress a movement that is seen threatening by those now controlling Saudi Arabian oil.


            The drones, engendering a false sense of United States military superiority, not

            only increase the amount of gross human suffering but postpone the time when

            transnational corporations must reach equitable agreements for resources.  Such

            agreements have greater stability and economic predictability and may

            incorporate national wishes to conserve national resources, which have positive

            environmental impacts.


             Thus drones are the latest military advance to not only increase suffering but

             to destabilize national and regional economies, and in the case of oil, the global

             economy and contribute to the gross exploitation of resources.


13.  Your constituents in Maryland’s 2nd Congressional District have paid about $5.58 billion in federal taxes to support the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars since 2001, according to the National Priorities Project (NPN)[6].


NPN estimates that $5.58 billion would provide two years worth of groceries for each of your constituents.  Or, it would pay the salaries of 35,830 elementary school teachers for a year.


In FY 2013, the Obama Administration is budgeting $2.6 billion for drones; this is part of $26 billion spent on drones since 2001, according to the Congressional Research Service[7]


The Baltimore-Towson unemployment rate is 6.9 percent, less than the national average but still too high.  The jobless rate is dramatically higher among people of color.  A 2007 report by economists at the University (Amherst) finds that defense spending creates less jobs than spending for such other non-defense work such as health care, education, mass transit and construction for home weatherization and infrastructure.  For example, spending on education created over 100 percent more jobs than defense spending and higher wages and benefits.[8]


In “Wired for War,” a book on robotic warfare, P.W. Singer observes: “…we have to start questioning into what exactly we want to invest our society’s collective intellect, energy, drive and resources.”



   We would like the opportunity to discuss our concerns more fully with you in person.


  In any case, please respond to the points that we have raised and let us know whether you will act on our request that you act to end US drone attacks and drone surveillance.




Max Obuszewski

Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore


There were five other signers to the letter.


 Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] Go to


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


[1] Marjorie Cohn, “Obama’s Af-Pak War is Illegal”, MWC News, 21 December 2009.


[2] “Robotic Warfare in Afghanistan and Pakistan” pg. 2, Medical Association for Prevention of War, Australia (MAPW). December 2010.

[3] “Remotely Piloted Aircraft-Future Air Force Science and Technology”, Dr. Mark T. Maybury, Chief Scientist, United State Airforce, September 27, 2011.

[4] “Admiral Seeks Freer Hand in Deployment of Elite Forces”  New York Times, February 12, 2012.

[5]U.S. Unmanned Aerial Systems” pg. 17, Congressional Research Service, January 3, 2012.

[6] – National Priorities Project.

[7]U.S. Unmanned Aerial System”, Jeremiah Gertler, Specialist in Military Aviation.  January 3, 2012

[8] “The U.S. Employment Effects of Military and Domestic Spending Priorities” page 6, by Robert Pollin and Heidi Garrett-Peltier, Department of Economics and Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) University of Massachusetts.  October 2007.

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