“Father, forgive them . . .”

by Harold A. (“H.A.”) Penner HA Penner

Apparently what the military gave up following the 2005 round of base closures—the former Willow Grove Naval Air Station in suburban Philadelphia—it takes back in 2013!  (“Willow Grove gets drone base”—Intelligencer Journal/New Era, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, March 20, 2013)  The Pennsylvania state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs announced on March 19 that the Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 111th Fighter Wing, located at Horsham Air Guard Station, will take on ground control for the MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial system starting Oct. 1.   How can these incomprehensible decisions be made in a so-called democracy without the input of its citizens?

Seemingly without weighing the implications, this new mission is being sold to the public as adding a total of 250 military and civilian jobs all of which will undoubtedly help the local economy.  While jobs are sorely needed, are these the kind that taxpayers want to underwrite?  Couldn’t the former air station be transformed into other, more humane, purposes such as housing that would provide both jobs and accommodations?  And how can we live with the apparent reality that we have to kill people God created in order to keep our economy going?

It is incredibly naive to think that placing drone operators in Horsham will help fight the war on terror!  Two 2012 reports clearly negate that assumption.  One is “The Civilian Impact of Drones” from the Columbia Law School and Center for Civilians in Conflict that can be found here   The other report, “Living Under Drones” by the Stanford and New York University schools of law states that “In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the U.S. safer by enabling ‘targeted killing’ of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false.”

Drone Pic

Photo by Ann King-Grosh

These reports are rare instances of speaking truth to power.   While many Americans view the use of predator drones as necessary for security or spreading democracy, much of the rest of the world views them as inflicting a hideous campaign of terror against mostly innocent people.  Who is perceiving this correctly?

When we support the current predator drone program of the U.S., we are enabling and empowering an out-of-control government that depends on its military and covert operations to visit bin Laden-like horror on combatants and civilians alike, day after day and night after night.  Predator drones indiscriminately kill them, traumatize them, derange their lives and destroy their families, hopes and dreams, all without due process!

Let’s refuse to participate in these  fear-mongering, murderous and devastating activities that perpetuate themselves in a never-ending, all-devouring cycle in which our country’s military-industrial complex is making obscene profits!

How revealing of our concerns and fears it is to read that “the Reapers won’t actually be located on the base”—the operators will be located in Horsham but the planes will not be landing or taking off from its runways!  What comfort!  Given the incredible pace of drone technology development, (check out http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2281403/U-S-Air-Force-developing-terrifying-swarms-tiny-unmanned-drones-hover-crawl-kill-targets.html), the military will be hard pressed not to launch from the Willow Grove base the “tiny, unmanned drones” currently being built.   They’ll be able to perch in trees outside our doors or hover at our windows 24/7 to watch us and take us out if deemed necessary!

If that diabolical eventuality emerges and those who challenge our militarized national security state are labeled “terrorists” and become drone targets, where are they to go?  What are they to do?

And what can we do in the meantime?  Since the base currently has a hiring freeze, let’s hope that sequestration will stop the new drone operation at Willow Grove from going ahead.  And, before it’s too late, let’s support the passage of the Religious Freedom Peace Tax Fund bill in the U.S. Congress!  Our very lives depend on it!

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