‘Drones are counterproductive, make US more hated’

The four anti-drone activists standing trial in California this week for attempting to deliver a letter to an Air Force commander are heroes and should be recognized as such, author and anti-war activist David Swanson told RT.

The demonstrations attempted to hand deliver a letter to the commander of Beale Air Force base which asserted that drones are illegal and that US President Obama and US military personnel do not have the authority to use them. A number of similar trials are also in progress or will being soon. David Swanson, the author of “War is a Lie,” said the American public is now starting to pay attention.

RT:Do you think that these trials could actually work in favor of the anti-drone movement because it does give them a platform doesn’t it to send out their message?

David Swanson: Well it’s thus far a very limited platform on drones unfortunately. We have had people serving six month prison sentences; we’ve had people facing horrendous charges for exercising their first amendment rights. This is ongoing activity across the country and it’s noticed in the local media but there’s a virtual blackout in the national media in the United States. You would have no idea this is happening. There’s an extensive protest resistance movement against these drone murders and unfortunately most Americans don’t even know it’s happening, they don’t even know what the drones are being used for much less that they are being protested. This past weekend up in Syracuse, New York you had people making the most eloquent statements upholding the rule of law to a judge in a court and you had the rest of the city at the Syracuse University basketball game or going home to watch the Super Bowl. So there is a platform but it needs to grow.

RT:What are the actual legal grounds for charging these protesters? Because they say they were demonstrating peacefully.

DS: Well they have been demonstrating peacefully but it’s a question of where exactly they were standing and how many of them and whether they were asked to leave three times. The commander of the military base, Hancock air base outside of Syracuse, New York, has a restraining order against a group of people committed to nonviolence who have engaged in nothing but nonviolent demonstrations on a street against illegal war-making. He has a restraining order to protect himself from them and they are charged with trespassing and they can potentially be charged quite seriously for violating that order. It’s an infringement on First Amendment rights, it’s an outage but these people are quite courageous and quite committed and are not about to stop.

Protesters hold signs and chant slogans outside the White House in Washington on April 13, 2013 during a demonstration against the use of dones against Islamic militants and other perceived enemies of the US around the world. (AFP Photo / Nicholas Kamm)

RT:You mention they are very committed, we can all see that, but exactly why are they against these drone strikes? Why is this any worse than any other military action?

DS: Well it’s not but it’s the same as any other military action and it’s less known. We had a big discussion in congress just recently about whether to impose new sanctions on Iran and blow up the negotiated deal with Iran. Back in September we had a big discussion whether to send missiles into Syria. When these missiles go kill innocent men, women, children, infants in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia there is no discussion. There is no debate it just happens under the radar and there’s a little blurb the next day saying militants were targeted. Nobody knows what that means or who they were and good reporting has shown that many, many innocent people who had done absolutely nothing wrong have been killed by these drones which are counter-productive in their own terms. They are making the United States more hated. A couple of weeks ago the United States overwhelmingly won a survey in 65 countries as the nation that is the greatest threat to peace on Earth. So there is the moral question, there’s the strategic question, there’s the financial question. These are struggling towns in upstate New York and California and elsewhere and all of this money is going into a program of killing.

RT:We’ve seen protests in America, we know there’s protests around the world. Do you think that there’s any chance the American government will scale backs its use of drones?

DS: Well of course there’s a chance or we wouldn’t be doing this. Just as there was a chance to stop the sanctions bill on Iran and stop those missiles from going into Syria, the military machinery is not invincible. Things can be changed and the tide is turning, people are beginning to learn even in the United States that what is being done in their name with their money and in other nations like Germany and Brazil and Venezuela are pushing back against the very idea of weaponized drones, which of course go against the idea of the United Nations or the Kellogg-Briand Pact or any of the treaties that these protesters are citing so beautifully in their testimony in court.

RT:Thanks very much Mr. Swanson for giving us your thoughts.