Col. Ann Wright Presentation, Santa Fe

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And that leads me into the third and final thing that I’ll talk about, which is a type of weapons system called a drone, an unmanned aerial vehicle, which is now the weapon system of choice of the United States. We now have over 7,500 drones in our military establishment. We don’t know how many drones the CIA has. We now know there are more Air Force operators that are being trained as drone operators than we are training fixed-wing pilots in our Air Force. It’s big business, big business. We now have over 425 U.S. companies that are now building drones and drone parts. The United States is now selling drones all over the world. NATO has now bought $1 billion worth of drones from the United States, and on Monday [May 20] the president of the United States said, “We now will have a NATO drone fleet.”

The U.S. is not the only country that makes drones. Israel makes drones; Israel … just sold $100 million worth of drones to Russia. The United States uses drones in Afghanistan. It’s supposed to be the way to make sure that we don’t have any of our young men and women killed; that if we don’t have anyone in that cockpit, that we can do whatever we need to do by pushing a button 7,000 miles away at Hancock [Field] Air [National Guard] Base, where I was arrested last year with 38 other people to challenge the drones that are being fired from there. … Our military and our CIA say, “We are killing lots of militants. We are killing those people that are after the United States.” But now we find out there are women and children and old men that are of course part of the large numbers of people that are being killed.

We don’t know how many people have been killed by drones in Afghanistan. In Pakistan, we have a much clearer view because of an investigative service out of the U.K. that’s really been tracking this, and they’re tracking it because this is, in Afghanistan there is a declared war. There is a declared war, so supposedly you can use any system you want on them. You can bomb them with F-16s, you can drop buster bombs, you know, and it’s OK because it’s a declared war. It’s still killing lots of innocent civilians in Afghanistan, and engendering such hatred for the United States in the places these things are used.

In Pakistan there is no war declared at all. No war. That’s where the CIA, an ununiformed government agency, has been conducting drone strikes. And under the Obama administration, that’s where 95 percent of some 400 drone strikes in Pakistan have been done under the Obama administration. … Anywhere from 2,800 to 3,200 people have been killed in drone strikes there, including one 16-year-old kid who had come to Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, with the tribal elders who had been invited to come out of the tribal areas where most of these drone strikes are taking place and come to a conference about drones, so that journalists from all over the world could talk to them. Because journalists can’t get into that region. They are forbidden to go in. The Pakistani military will not let them in. So, these tribal leaders came out and talked about how many people had been killed and they had the names, they had photographs, they had everything, a real wrap-up on this.

And one of the people that came out, this young 16-year-old kid, who kind of became, because he was there and he had a story about his uncle that had been killed and a brother, a lot of journalists talked to him, and he was written about in The New York Times and several other newspapers. And when he went back into the tribal areas three days later, a drone targeted the van that he was driving or the truck that he was driving, and he and his cousin, 14-years-old, were killed by a drone strike. Now how would that, who knew who he was? I mean, we are supposed to know everything; those drones are surgical. We survey everything; we know everything. That’s the story we’re given. Well, if they knew who he was and they did that, because he had been talking about what had happened in his family, it’s a real different case, isn’t it? And if you think about the use of drones now to assassinate American citizens, to execute American citizens, three Americans, actually four Americans, have now been killed in Yemen.

Anwar al-Awlaki, a person who has talked about what America has been doing in the Middle East, and has been very critical about what the U.S. has been doing. And they say that his writings were things that encouraged Major Hasan out of Fort Hood to kill people there. I mean, there’s a lot of stuff to him, but do we actually go ahead and assassinate people just because of what that is or do we try to capture them and bring them to trial and present the evidence? [Awlaki] had been targeted twice; the United States had tried to kill him twice. His family though, actually his dad lives here in New Mexico, had asked the Center for Constitutional Rights to help put in a lawsuit to the U.S. government saying, “Wait a minute. You can’t extrajudicially assassinate people.” And while the case was … it hadn’t even been heard yet, the United States mounted another drone attack and killed him and another American, a young journalist named Samir. Two weeks later [Awlaki’s] 16-year-old son was assassinated in a separate drone attack. So, the use of drones against Americans, against people in undeclared wars, and these are the things that are so easy to use against us. You know, that’s part of it.

The blowback can happen to us very easily, where others say, if you use them on us, we’re going to use them on you. It’s very easy to build one of these small little drones and put explosives on them. So what we’re doing I think in the use of these drones is going to have massive blowback on us. The other aspect of this is the use of drones in civilian airspace, because this is such a big industry now. It is the big new industry for the military-industrial complex. The lobbying of Congress has been so successful, now the Congress has said by the year 2016, the FAA has to figure out how they can integrate 30,000 drones into commercial airspace, where we are flying in civilian airliners. We’re going to be having drones up there, many of these drones are half as big as an airliner we’re flying in, some of them are even bigger than that. These are unmanned aerial vehicles that will be operated from the ground. They already have a track record of having crashes, of running into other aircraft, of going rogue, of landing in countries where they probably shouldn’t, like in Iran, if you remember that. The stealth drone. So the drones are something we really, really need to be very, very watchful of and I would encourage you to write your congressmen and women about whether or not we will actually be using these as a weapon of assassination particularly. So, with that, why don’t I stop and whatever comments or questions you have I’d be glad to take. Thank you.

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