Report on Women Against War Meeting on Drones with Congressman Chris Gibson, June 2, 2014

We had a very productive meeting with Congressman Gibson on June 2nd focusing on US drone warfare.   We started off with 15 minutes of presenting our case against militarized drones:  Priscilla Fairbank wove quotes, statistics and examples into the argument that the drone program is actually expanding hatred and enemies of the US. Marcia Hopple documented the horrendous impact on civilians, quoting good research. Hazel Landa moved Gibson by framing the issue of breaking international law as something about which she feels responsibility to her grandchildren. Nancy Rothman documented the corporate profits made from drone warfare and the undue influence of their lobbyists in Congress. Maud Easter pushed Gibson on what specifically he would be willing to do in Congress to gain Congressional control over and limit the burgeoning drone wars.

This expanded into a lengthy and productive back and forth – our scheduled half hour became an hour! We were pleased overall with the commitments Gibson made, his frankness, and his understanding of the issues involved:

· On Congressional power over the drone wars: We thanked him for voting yes on the recent Schiff amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act which would have required expiration this year of the legislation being used to defend legally the expanding drone program, the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. Since that did not pass, one of our “asks” was that he become a co-sponsor of the HR2324, Sunset to the Authorization of Military Force Act, the Schiff legislation that has the same effect – he responded that he just had!

· Help in recruiting additional co-sponsors for HR2324: In response to our request that he recruit colleagues to join him in co-sponsoring HR2324, he suggested meeting with the 5 of us again on July 28th  to identify together possible prospects for him to approach, based on his review and our review of relevant voting records – e.g., those who voted against the recent Schiff amendment and those who have supported other efforts Gibson has initiated to re-assert Congressional control over war-making, members of the New York Congressional delegation, etc. We committed to review these lists in advance, and Maud will contact FCNL staff in DC  for their advice. Gibson also hoped we would use our broader national network to encourage identified prospective co-sponsors to sign on.

· On documenting drone-caused deaths: He agreed to review and consider co-sponsoring another Schiff bill, H.R.4372, The Targeted Lethal Force Transparency Act, which requires public information on drone-caused deaths.

· Gibson believes the military use of drones depends on the specific situation. He thinks they could be needed as support to troops in close combat, but is concerned about targeting based on observations from on far and is concerned about civilian deaths. He did co-sponsor HR1083, the No Armed Drones Act, to prevent drones being used as a weapon domestically. We need to talk with him more about this.

· Gibson talked extensively about his concern that the country is too quick to take military action, that the constitutionally required Congressional debate on military action is lacking. He viewed the House leadership, including both Boehner and Pelosi, as unlikely to allow hearings on drones, as unwilling to support efforts to rein in drone use and to force greater transparency and Congressional accountability. He doesn’t trust the joint intelligence committee to review adequately the CIA and other intelligence activities, including CIA drone warfare. He mentioned the influence of the Unmanned Systems Caucus with 21 House members and the House Drones Caucus with more than 50 members. He shared with us his previous efforts to rein in the intelligence and military community including:

Ø On Syria, his co-sponsorship with democrat Garimundi of H Amdt.162 to  HR 1960, the NDAA for 2014, to remove its bellicose language (his amendment was defeated in committee, but the language was stripped in conference –see Daily Kos article: ).

Ø His introduction of HR383, the War Powers Reform Act, which would require Congressional debate on war-making, as happened on Syria. He urged us to encourage other Congresspeople to become co-sponsors.

Ø His vote against the recent HR 3361, the USA Freedom Act, the revision and expansion of the Patriot Act.

Ø  His vote, as 1 of only 19 Congresspeople, against HR4152  which supported US providing military hardware and training to Ukraine without requiring any advance plan.

Lobbying visit to Representative Paul Tonko on March 7, 2014.

On Friday, March 7, 2014 a delegation of four members of the Beyond Afghanistan/No Drones Project met with Representative Paul Tonko [NY district 20] for an hour long session dealing with drone policies. Some of the things that we discussed included civilian deaths, the need for increased transparency and accountability,  ongoing  violations of human rights and International and Constitutional law in the current deployment of weaponized and surveillance drones and drone assassinations and the role that the military, industrial, Congressional complex plays in drone acquisition, procurement and use.

We were joined by Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence who provided first hand,  passionate witness from her many extended visits to Afghanistan.

In addition to Representative Tonko himself we were joined in Albany by Sean Shortell, District Director for Congressman Tonko. Brendan Larkin, Paul Tonko’s legislative aide for foreign and military policy issues participated from Washington, DC via Skype.

For the use of others who might want to lobby, write Op-eds, letters to the editor or blogs we wanted to share our Talking Points and links to background information for each point.  Feel free to use these in your own work.


Call for Spring Days of Action to End Drone Killing, Drone Surveillance and Global Militarization!

Drone attack over Afghanistan, probably controlled from Hancock AFB in New York State

Drone attack over Afghanistan, probably controlled from Hancock AFB in New York State

Hot off the presses is this call for spring days of action to call attention to weaponized and surveillance drones. The document was compiled by Nick Mottern in collaboration with many other anti-drone activists. Women Against War will be responding through their Beyond Afghanistan/ No Drones Project and you are welcome to join us. Nick also invites new organizations to sign on as endorsers. I will add his email about this at the bottom of the announcement.


Today we issue an international call for Spring Days of Action – 2014, a coordinated campaign in April and May to:

End Drone Killing, Drone Surveillance and Global Militarization

The campaign will focus on drone bases, drone research facilities and test sites and drone manufacturers. The campaign will provide information on:

1. The suffering of tens of thousands of people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Gaza who are under drone attack, documenting the killing, the wounding and the devastating impact of constant drone surveillance on community life.

2. How attack and surveillance drones have become a key element in a massive wave of surveillance, clandestine military attacks and militarization generated by the United States to protect a global system of manufacture and oil and mineral exploitation that is creating unemployment and poverty, accelerating the waste of nonrenewable resources and contributing to environmental destruction and global warming.

In addition to cases in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia, we will examine President Obama’s “pivot” into the Asia-Pacific, where the United States has already sold and deployed drones in the vanguard of a shift of 60% of its military forces to try to control China and to enforce the planned Trans-Pacific Partnership.  We will show, among other things, how this surge of “pivot” forces, greatly enabled by drones, and supported by the US military-industrial complex, will hit every American community with even deeper cuts in the already fragile social programs on which people rely for survival.  In short, we will connect drones and militarization with “austerity” in America.

3. How drone attacks have effectively destroyed international and domestic legal protection of the rights to life, privacy, freedom of assembly and free speech and have opened the way for new levels of surveillance and repression around the world, and how, in the United States, increasing drone surveillance, added to surveillance by the National Security Agency and police, provides a new weapon to repress black, Hispanic, immigrant and low-income communities and to intimidate Americans who are increasingly unsettled by lack of jobs, economic inequality, corporate control of politics and the prospect of endless war.

We will discuss how the United States government and corporations conspire secretly to monitor US citizens and particularly how the Administration is accelerating drone surveillance operations and surveillance inside the United States with the same disregard for transparency and law that it applies to other countries, all with the cooperation of the Congress.

The campaign will encourage activists around the world to win passage of local laws that prohibit weaponized drones and drone surveillance from being used in their communities as well as seeking national laws to bar the use of weaponized drones and drone surveillance.

The campaign will draw attention to the call for a ban on weaponized drones by that has generated a petition with over 80,000 signers.

And to continuing efforts by the Granny Peace Brigade (New York City), and others to achieve an international ban on both weaponized drones and drone surveillance.

The campaign will also urge participation in the World Beyond War movement.

The following individuals and organizations endorse this Call:

Lyn Adamson – Co-chair, Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
Dennis Apel – Guadalupe Catholic Worker, California
Judy Bello – Upstate NY Coalition to Ground the Drones & End the Wars
Medea Benjamin – Code Pink
Leah Bolger – Former National President, Veterans for Peace
Canadian Voice of Women for Peace
Sung-Hee Choi – Gangjeong Village International Team, Jeju, Korea
Chelsea C. Faria – Graduate student, Yale Divinity School; Promoting Enduring Peace
Sandy Fessler – Rochester (NY) Against War
Joy First
Bruce K. Gagnon – Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
Holly Gwinn Graham – Singer/songwriter, Olympia, WA.
Regina Hagen – Darmstaedter Friedensforum, Germany
Kathy Kelly – Voices for Creative Nonviolence
Malachy Kilbride
Marilyn Levin and Joe Lombardo – Co-Coordinators, United National Antiwar Coalition
Tamara Lorincz – Halifax Peace Coalition, Canada
Mickie Lynn – Women Against War
Nick Mottern –
Agneta Norberg – Swedish Peace Council
Pepperwolf – Director, Women Against Military Madness
Lindis Percy, Coordinator, Campaign for the Accountability of American
Bases  CAAB UK
Mathias Quackenbush – San Francisco, CA
Lisa Savage – Code Pink, State of Maine
Janice Sevre-Duszynska
Wolfgang Schlupp-Hauck- Friedenswerkstatt Mutlangen, Germany
Cindy Sheehan
Lucia Wilkes Smith – Convener, Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) – Ground Military Drones Committee
David Soumis – Veterans for Peace; No Drones Wisconsin
Debra Sweet – World Can’t Wait
David Swanson –
Brian Terrell – Voices for Creative Nonviolence
United National Antiwar Coalition
Veterans for Peace
Dave Webb – Chair, Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (UK)
Curt Wechsler – Fire John Yoo! (A project of World Can’t Wait) – San Francisco, CA
Paki Wieland, Northampton (MA) Committee to Stop War(s)
Loring Wirbel – Citizens for Peace in Space (Colorado Springs, CO)
Women Against Military Madness
Ann Wright – Retired US Army colonel and former diplomat
Leila Zand – Fellowship of Reconciliation