Sunday, January 17, 2010

A protest outside the CIA against drone attacks

Around one hundred protesters, led by Cindy Sheehan as part of Peace of the Action, gathered near the entrance of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, VA.  There was an immense police presence, and crime scene tape was placed all around the empire’s spy agency.  The main entrance on Dolley Madison Boulevard was completely blocked off, but I suspect the spooks were still working hard in planning future drone attacks.  Some of us felt the crime tape was appropriate.  There were several speakers, and David Rovics provided song and music.  After the rally, many participants marched to an area behind the CIA where Dick Cheney lives.  They conducted a shut out of the Bush administration’s war crimes.  


Witness Against Torture continues its fast, and a number of the fasters, including Kathy Kelly, attended the rally.  Reflections at the CIA - January 16, 2010 Drone Attack Protest Kathy Kelly, Chicago, Illinois:

It’s a privilege to be with all of you, and I want to thank the organizers and Cindy Sheehan for the energy dedicated toward gathering us here today.

I’m here with the Witness Against Torture campaign. We’re on day six of a twelve day fast.  This weekend, celebrating the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s birth, we’ve been guided by his words.  One mantra for us, from Dr. King, urges us to develop tough minds and tender hearts.  Our speakers today have given us information we need to develop tough minds.  Together, we must nurture tender hearts.

The community gathered for the fast has grown over the past week.  This means, however, that as more people sleep on the floor of St. Stephen’s church, there is a rising cacophony of snoring.  Our good friend Fr. Bill Pickard suggested trying to hear the snores as an orchestra, when I told him I’d slept fitfully last night.

There is a young boy in Mir Ali, a town in North Waziristan, in Pakistan, who also lies awake at night, unable to sleep.  Israr Khan Dawar is 17 years old.  He told an AP reporter, on January 14, that he and his family and friends had gotten used to the drones.  But now, at night, the sound grows louder and the drones are flying closer, so he and his family realize they could be a target.  He braces himself in fear of an attack.

We’re told that we will be more secure if the CIA continually attacks the so-called lawless tribal areas and eliminates “the bad guys.”
In late May and early June of 2009, while visiting in Pakistan, a man from the village of Khaisor, also in North Waziristan, told us about his experience as a survivor of a drone attack.  Jane Mayer, writing in The New Yorker, mentioned that the people operating the drones and analyzing the surveillance intelligence have a word for people like him who managed to survive a blast and run away.  They are called “squirters.”  So, I suppose he would have been considered a squirter.

This man, at some risk to himself, walked a long distance and took two buses to meet with us.  Because of travel restrictions, we would not have been allowed to visit him in North Waziristan. His village is so remote that there are no roads leading up to it.  Five hundred people live there.  One day, three strangers entered Khaisor and went to the home of vigil elders. For centuries, villagers have followed a code of hospitality which demands that when strangers come to your door, you feed them and give them drink. It’s not as though you can point them toward a Motel 6 or a 7-11.  The strangers were welcomed into the home they approached and they left after having been served a meal.  They were long gone when, at 4:30 a.m. a U.S. drone, operated by the C.I.A. fired 2 Hellfire missiles into the home they had visited, killing 12 people, two of whom were village elders.  Children were dismembered and maimed. 

“What do people do?” I asked, “if you’ve no Emergency Medical Teams, if you’ve no roads?”  I was wearing a “tbutta” the long scarf that Pakistani women traditionally wear.  “You see your scarf,” my friend said.  “We wrap it around the wounded person, as tightly as we can, to stop the bleeding.” I could imagine the white scarf I wore becoming blood-soaked, in seconds. 

The CIA uses sophisticated technology, extensive education and a great deal of money to collect intelligence.  The drone surveillance produces picture images so vivid that when the CIA targeted a Taliban leader, Baitullah Mehsud, they knew that he was on the rooftop of his in-laws’ home.  His wife’s parents, both doctors, were tending him, and had inserted an IV into his arm, giving him fluids.  The drone attack killed all of them, and Mehsud’s wife.

The CIA made fifteen attempts to kill Baitullah Mehsud. In the fourteen previous attempts, people were killed who may not have been members of a Taliban group.  Some may have been family members of the murdered victim.  Baitullah Mehsud’s successor, Hakimullah Mehsud was known to be more violent and unpredictable and also media savvy.  According to speculation, the Jordananian suicide bomber who killed nine CIA agents, Dr. Al-Balawi, had gained credibility with those same agents by providing information about drone targets.  But, the information he supplied named political rivals of Hakimullah Mehsud, or people suspected of disloyalty or people considered to be expendable.  

But, with tough minds, we must ask why we are being told that the drone attacks are successful.

With tender hearts, let us mourn for the families, friends and community members of the nine CIA agents who were killed in the suicide bomber attack at a CIA base in Afghanistan.  Their arms will ache, longingly, for loved ones who will never return.  In the spirit that says everyone in, nobody out, let us realize their humanity.

The CIA asks “who are the bad guys” so that they can eliminate them. 

We are fortunate to be guided by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, who asked the same question, but Dr. King actually, earnestly wanted to understand the humanity of his adversaries.  At the time, he was speaking of the Viet Cong. He urged his listeners to try and understand how they are seen by their adversaries.  

We need tough minds and tender hearts to build a world where the United States will not be seen as a menacing, fearful force.  Let’s work toward a world wherein 17 year old youngsters won’t listen to low-flying drones and ready themselves to die.

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


"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



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