On Fri., Jul. 27, 2012, at 1:30 p.m., Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin will appear at King's Books in Tacoma to discuss her new book, Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control (OR Books, 2012), published in May. -- She is currently on a nationwide tour promoting the book. -- On Jul. 9, in Binghamton, NY, she was welcomed at City Hall by the mayor and her talk was announced on local TV. -- A few days later she spoke in Brunswick, Camden, Damariscott, and Belfast, ME. -- Her tour started over a month ago in California. -- In a review, Tom Hayden said: "After reading Medea Benjamin’s Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, I can only wish she will invest more time in writing and less time getting arrested, because there are so few activists with her gifts of research, analysis, and communication. But she wouldn’t be Medea without being arrested and pepper-sprayed on one front or another, because she is a true witness in both the Quaker moral sense and as a seeing journalist in the thick of things." -- Sure enough: last week, in an extensive KPBS-San Diego piece on the 58-member "Unmanned Systems Caucus" in Washington, D.C., that promotes drone warfare on Capitol Hill, Jill Replogle reported that in February Medea Benjamin disrupted a conference sponsored by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International -- the main drone industry group -- where Congressman Buck McKeon of California was speaking. -- NOTE: Along with Move to Amend Olympia and Veterans for Peace Chapter 34, United for Peace of Pierce County is a cosponsor of Medea Benjamin's appearance in Tacoma....
WHO: Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink & Global Exchange
WHAT: On her new book, Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control
WHEN: Friday, July 27, 2012 -- 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: King's Books, 281 St. Helens Ave., Tacoma, WA 98402
Book description: Weeks after the 2002 American invasion of Afghanistan, Medea Benjamin visited that country. There, on the ground, talking with victims of the strikes, she learned the reality behind the "precision bombs" on which U.S. forces were becoming increasingly reliant. Now, with the use of drones escalating at a meteoric pace, Benjamin has written this book as a call to action: "It is meant to wake a sleeping public," she writes, "lulled into thinking that drones are good, that targeted killings are making us safer." Drone Warfare is a comprehensive look at the growing menace of robotic warfare, with an extensive analysis of who is producing the drones, where they are being used, who "pilots" these unmanned planes, who are the victims and what are the legal and moral implications. In vivid, readable style, the book also looks at what activists, lawyers and scientists are doing to ground the drones, and ways to move forward. In reality, writes Benjamin, the assassinations we are carrying out via drones will come back to haunt us when others start doing the same thing-to us.
Move to Amend, Olympia
Veterans for Peace, Chapter 34
United for Peace of Pierce County
MEDEA BENJAMIN ARRIVES
News Channel 34 (Binghamton, NY)
July 9, 2012
An author and former Nobel Peace Prize nominee is in Binghamton on Monday talking about drone warfare.
Medea Benjamin's new book is called Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. Her visit is sponsored by Broome County Peace Action. Mayor Matt Ryan welcomed her to City Hall Monday afternoon. Benjamin's book looks at how the United States uses drones to kill people in a number of countries. She says using unmanned aircraft violates our values and morals and actually hurts the U.S.'s cause in foreign countries. "The drone strikes that are going on in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia are actually counter-productive. They actually radicalize the population, they drive more people into groups like the Taliban and al-Qaida and create more anti-American sentiment."
Benjamin also says by late 2015, U.S. air space will be opened up for drones. That will allow 30 police departments to use them for surveillance.
CODE PINK'S MEDEA BENJAMIN TAKES ON ISSUE OF U.S. DRONES
By Keith Shortall
MPBN (Maine Public Broadcasting Network)
July 12, 2012
Peace activist and Code Pink co-founder Medea Benjamin is on tour in Maine this week, talking about her latest book, which raises serious questions about the proliferation of unmanned drones in war and domestic surveillance. She spoke recently with Keith Shortall about the book, Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, and why she fears that the technology may come back to haunt the United States.
Benjamin says drones aren't actually new--they've been around in some form since the beginning of World War II. But she says they really took off after the terrorist attacks of 9-11, and now come in all shapes and sizes.
Political activist Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of Code Pink. She will talk about her new book, Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, tonight at 7:00 p.m. at the Curtis Library in Brunswick. She'll also appear tomorrow in Camden and Damariscotta, and in Belfast on Saturday.
MEET AUTHOR MEDEA BENJAMIN AT 7 P.M.
By Kathleen Martin
Sam Ramon (CA) Express
June 19, 2012
Meet Medea Benjamin author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, June 20 at the Walnut Creek Library (Oak View Room, 1644 Broadway, Walnut Creek).
Weeks after the 2001 American invasion of Afghanistan, Benjamin visited the country. There, on the ground, talking with victims of the strikes, she learned the reality behind the "precision bombs" on which U.S. forces were becoming increasingly reliant. Now, with the use of drones escalating at a meteoric pace, Benjamin's book is meant to be a call to action.
"It is meant to wake a sleeping public," she writes, "lulled into thinking that drones are good, that targeted killings are making us safer." Book sale and signing following presentation. Suggested donation $15 general, $12 Peace Center members, $5 for students with ID. Call 933-7850 or visit www.mtdpc.org.
MEDEA BENJAMIN'S GOOD WAR ON PREDATOR DRONES
By Tom Hayden
The Peace and Justice Resource Center
May 30, 2012
After reading Medea Benjamin’s *Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control*, I can only wish she will invest more time in writing and less time getting arrested, because there are so few activists with her gifts of research, analysis and communication. But she wouldn’t be Medea without being arrested and pepper-sprayed on one front or another, because she is a true witness in both the Quaker moral sense and as a seeing journalist in the thick of things.
Her new book should be in every activist’s backpack and handed to every member of Congress and military affairs reporter. Besides having a direct impact, it will increase the legitimacy of, and broaden the impact of Code Pink for having policy acumen.
Of particular interest is Benjamin’s assessment of the prospects for an anti-drone movement, based on interviews in several countries, including veterans of the anti-land mine campaign of the late 1990s, and recent efforts to create oppositional networks, especially in Europe. Here in the U.S. she describes two efforts at building loose umbrella coalitions since 2009. These are the seedlings from which strong trees grow.
Unlike the view of many who think Predators and Reapers are harbingers of a Brave New World, I think they are better analyzed as weapons chosen for their lethality, invisibility, and low-taxpayer costs by governments in retreat, like ours in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Wars simply not won by platforms in the sky.
As was proven during the Central American wars, thousands of Americans can be mobilized for peace or solidarity even when U.S. casualties are low and taxpayer costs hidden. Some are mobilized for moral or religious reasons, others out of rage at our government’s secret killings, still others from a sense that there will be blowback. We already see dedicated American networks of activists protesting and being arrested at the remote locations where the drone strategy is carried out. Millions of Pakistanis regularly take to the streets, their energy fueling the potential presidential campaign of Imran Khan, which Benjamin mentions (p. 185). And of course, mainstream journalists inevitably are drawn to uncover state secrets.
And while Benjamin does not describe them as allies, her cause has powerful supporters in the ranks of Long War counterinsurgency strategists like David Kilcullen. They see drones as antagonizing local civilian populations in places like Pakistan, and steering Pentagon policy and funds away from their preferred alternative, counterinsurgency. As a result they continue to blow the whistle on drones and civilian casualties in Afghanistan and Pakistan, through their outlets like the Long War Journal and New America Foundation.
As military strategies, both counterterrorism and counterinsurgency are headed for gradual defeat in Afghanistan and Pakistan. As most of the Western troops leave, drones will cover their tracks in blood, keeping insurgents from suddenly seizing power, and serving to protect military and political reputations.
As Leon Panetta famously said, drones “are the only game in town,” but the White House, Justice Department and Pentagon already “acknowledge that they worry about public perception” (New York Times, May 29, 2012). And Benjamin has only just begun.
Barack Obama, the current villain in her narrative, is doing a favor by beginning to open a “public conversation” about this hitherto taboo subject. Now there is no excuse whatsoever for Congressional silence, which Benjamin scathingly condemns. One of her keenest revelations is about the fifty-member “Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus,” that influences key defense committees to ensure the flow of drone contracts to their home districts. Apparently these politicians are trying to avoid branding as The Predators Caucus. But it seems only a matter of time before Congressional liberals open their eyes to citizen pressure for transparency and accountability concerning drone warfare.
Benjamin is encouraging a vital discussion about strategies and tactics, not defining a single correct demand for the rising anti-drone movement. But there is one option she leaves out, which might be unifying across a broad range of ideologies and parties. The new drone warfare should be subject to an expanded version of the existing 1973 War Powers Act.
Once the issue is open to conversation, no one can make the case for secret Executive Branch warfare with any credibility. This is not like the early Cold War period when the secret government, mainly the CIA, carried out coups, assassinations, and secret wars with impunity. Or, if you like, it actually might be very much like the opening rounds of the Cold War. In either perspective, that Cold War rash of bloody conspiracies eventually crashed because of resistance, awakenings, exposes, scandals, and whistleblowers. We are still living with the toxic debris, in Guatemala, Cuba, and, of course, Iran. In time, however, cumulative public opinion caused the Congress to pass the War Powers Act, imposing for the first-time limits on the Executive’s war-making prerogatives. It was a flawed and compromised War Powers Act, but it gave rise to a new Congressional willingness to exert an oversight, approval and funding role for the legislative branch of government. Nixon and Kissinger were infuriated at the rebuffing of their imperial presidency.
But now the Obama administration is narrowly interpreting the War Powers Act as applying only to something it calls “sustained fighting,” which it defines as the “active exchange of fire with hostile forces,” and/or the direct deployment of ground troops. In Libya, the Pentagon claimed the right to “occasional strikes by unmanned Predator UAVs against a specific set of targets.” The Pentagon’s budget language for Libya even asserted the right to “find, fix, track, target, and destroy regime forces.”
None of these presumed rights are protected by the language of the War Powers Act, which apparently never was designed for prolonged counterterrorism strategies, certainly not ones involving drones. If I am wrong, let the White House release the legal briefs in which the constitutionality of their Libya campaign was debated.
The point is that this new age of warfare is altogether lacking new rules, which is where activists, Congress members, national security intellectuals, and journalists could be engaged to have an impact.
Benjamin might start the discussion by drafting her own proposal for amending the War Powers Act. Then, time allowing, she can go back to jail.
THE DRONE MAKERS AND THEIR FRIENDS IN WASHINGTON
By Jill Replogle
July 5, 2012
SAN DIEGO -- You’ve probably heard of the Congressional Black Caucus, or perhaps the Progressive Caucus. But what about the drone caucus? Officially, it’s the Unmanned Systems Caucus.
Primarily, the caucus advocates for drones -- those pilot-less planes infamous for their role targeting insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They’re used as a spy tool in Iran, a drug-fighting tool in Mexico, and an anti-smuggling tool along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Many of the most successful drone manufacturers are based in Southern California and elsewhere around the southwest.
The drone caucus -- like the technology it promotes -- is becoming increasingly important in the nation’s capitol as the government looks to unmanned vehicles to help save money on defense, better patrol the country’s borders, and provide a new tool to U.S. law enforcement agencies and civilians.
“It’s definitely a powerful caucus,” said Alex Bronstein-Moffly, an analyst with First Street Research Group, a D.C.-based company that analyzes lobbying data.
“It’s probably up there in the more powerful caucuses that sort of is not talked about.” And, he says, caucus members are well placed to influence government spending and regulations.
“You have members that are tapped into sort of key places," he said. “You also have members who have been around for a long time."
The caucus is co-chaired by 10-term Congressman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, a Republican from Southern California who also chairs the House Armed Services Committee. He shares the drone caucus chair with Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar of Texas.
The caucus includes eight members who also sit on the House Committee on Appropriations, which largely controls the government’s purse strings.
Many of the drone caucus members are well supported by the industry they endorse. According to Bronstein-Moffly’s data, the 58 drone caucus members received a total of $2.3 million in contributions from political action committees affiliated with drone manufacturers since 2011.
Twenty-one members of the drone caucus are from border states. These members collected around $1 million in campaign contributions from top drone manufacturers during the 2010 and 2012 election cycles, according to campaign finance data collected by the Center for Responsive Politics and analyzed by Fronteras Desk and Investigative Newsource.
[CHART: DRONE CAUCUS MONEY. Top 5 drone donors to drone caucus members from border states, 2010-2012: COMPANY, AMOUNT: Lockheed Martin Corporation, $214,500; The Boeing Company, $205,000; Northrop Grumman Corporation, $149,000; General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, $141,150; General Dynamics, $137,750. Donations from drone companies to drone caucus members from border states, 2009-2012: REPRESENTATIVE, AMOUNT: Buck McKeon (R-CA), $124,500; Jerry Lewis (R-CA), $108,000; Ken Calvert (R-CA), $106,500; Silvestre Reyes (D-TX), $97,000; Duncan Hunter (R-CA), $96,225; Brian Bilbray (R-CA), $54,500; Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), $52,500; Darrell Issa (R-CA), $45,000; Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), $43,500; Trent Franks (R-AZ), $34,500; Mike Conaway (R-TX), $33,000; Pete Olson (R-TX), $32,500; Henry Cuellar (D-TX), $32,400; Michael McCaul (R-TX), $30,500; David Dreier (R-CA), $16,000; Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), $16,000; Gene Green (D-TX), $8,000; Blake Farenthold (R-TX), $4,000; Elton Gallegly (R-CA), $2,000; Paul Gosar (R-AZ), $1,000; Steve Pearce (R-NM), $1,000; TOTAL $938,625. Source: Center for Responsive Politics, Investigative Newsource, Fronteras Desk.]
Some of those companies are among the biggest contributors to drone caucus members. The political action committee of San Diego-based General Atomics is among the top three all-time campaign contributors to California Congressmen Brian Bilbray, Ken Calvert, Jerry Lewis, and McKeon.
General Atomics is the company that supplies and maintains the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s ten Predator drones.
In the last two election cycles, General Atomics’ PAC has given more than $140,000 to drone caucus members in border states, according to our analysis.
A PAC affiliated with Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman, the defense firm that makes the Global Hawk drone, gave close to $150,000 to 16 drone caucus members representing districts in California, Texas, Arizona, and Nevada. (A Global Hawk drone owned by the U.S. Navy crashed in June in southern Maryland.)
Campaign donations could increase between now and the November elections.
Most of these contributions, along with lobbying dollars spent advocating for drones, come from big, established players in the defense industry, like Northrop Grumman. But some smaller drone makers, and even universities and cities, are spending money in the Capitol to lobby on drone-related legislation and regulations.
Southern California-based AeroVironment, which supplies the U.S. military with most of its small drones, has spent more on lobbying each year from 2007 to 2011 than during the previous five years combined, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics.
New Mexico State University has lobbied on several drone-related issues, including “nuclear detection utilizing unmanned aerial vehicles,” according to lobbying disclosure forms. It’s also lobbied on the establishment of new unmanned aerial test sites to be established in the U.S., according to Bronstein-Moffly.
The FAA will select six sites around the country to test how to safely fly drones alongside manned airplanes in U.S. airspace. The university already tests drones for the government at its Las Cruces site.
For its part, the drone caucus helps convince the government that unmanned vehicles are a smart investment. The Obama administration has said drones, and other advanced technology, are key to creating a cheaper, more effective military, with fewer troops on the ground.
In February, President Barack Obama signed a law making it possible for police and fire departments to operate surveillance drones over U.S. skies. Under the same law, the likes of real estate agents and news organizations will soon be able to fly their own drones.
As the Federal Aviation Administration drafts the rules for domestic drone use, members of the drone caucus can throw around some weight.
“They can hold hearings, generate publicity and put public pressure on the FAA,” Bronstein-Moffly said.
But where they really hold sway is in appropriations.
Since 2005, the federal government has awarded at least $12 billion in contracts for drones and drone supplies and maintenance. That includes at least $270 million for U.S. Customs and Border Protection's drone program.
Of course, not everyone is excited about the rise of drones. In the U.S., there are privacy concerns. With their use abroad, there are moral ones.
Speaking in February at a conference sponsored by the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International -- the main drone industry group -- Congressman McKeon was interrupted by anti-war activist Medea Benjamin. Conference organizers promptly cut the sound system.
Benjamin was escorted outside, where she joined a group of protesters denouncing the killing of suspected foreign insurgents by U.S. military drones, and the use of taxpayer money to fund drones to patrol the U.S. border.
“This is another example of a big business trying to create a niche for itself,” Benjamin said. The activist published a book earlier this year called Drone Warfare.
“It’s overspending the taxpayer’s dollars and I think we’re going to see everybody, the border patrol, the police department, everybody wants to get in on these fancy toys,” she said.
Even among the industry’s biggest customers, like the CBP, there are now some questions being raised.
A report from the agency’s Inspector General released in late May found its drone program was poorly organized and wasn’t completing its mission.
Speaking at the same industry conference earlier this year, CBP official Mark Borkowski indicated the agency would be cautious when considering purchases of new technology.
"We're interested in new technology but we have a baseline problem first," said Borkowski, who’s the Assistant Commissioner for CBP’s Office of Technology Innovation and Acquisition.
He said the agency needs to do testing to evaluate costs and benefits before it buys new gadgets.
Still, drone makers are looking toward a profitable future. The Teal Group, an aerospace and defense consulting firm, expects the worldwide drone market to almost double over the next decade.
--Ryann Grochowski from the Investigative Newsource and reporter Sam Greenspan contributed to this story.