Forty-four veterans of the US Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines have launched a campaign calling on drone operators to refuse to fly drone surveillance and attack missions.
The veterans are working with KnowDrones.com to distribute a letter and airing a 15-second television commercial as part of the “Refuse to Fly” initiative.
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The commercial has aired on CNN, FoxNews, MNBC and other networks in areas near drone intelligence and control centers, including Las Vegas near Creech Air Force Base, in northern California near Beale AFB, upstate New York near Hancock Air National Guard base outside Syracuse and the Air Guard base near Niagara Falls.
The paid ads were partially covered by members of Veterans for Peace.
The 44 veterans who signed the letter are calling on “United States drone pilots, sensor operators and support teams to refuse to play any role in drone surveillance/ assassination missions.
These missions profoundly violate domestic and international laws intended to protect individuals’ rights to life, privacy and due process.”
Some of the veterans include former U.S. Army Captain and CIA official Ray McGovern; former U.S. Navy Lt. Barry Ladendorf, president of Veterans for Peace; and former U.S. Army Sgts. Aaron Hughes and Maggie Martin, co-directors of Iraq Veterans Against the War.
Regarding the legality of refusing military orders, the group says drone operators are legally allowed to refuse the orders.
“Those involved in United States drone operations who refuse to participate in drone missions will be acting in accordance with Principle IV of the Principles of International Law Recognized in the Charter of the Nuremberg Tribunal and the Judgment of the Tribunal, The United Nations 1950,” that states:
“The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him of responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible.”
Nick Mottern, coordinator of KnowDrones.com, says the organizers feel “it is perfectly legitimate to advise military people to stop taking part in illegal activity that has killed thousands without due process, is terrorizing thousands more and is wracking their own ranks with moral injury and PTSD.”
In response to the letter and campaign, an Air Force spokesman said drone pilots are acting within the law when flying missions.
“Our remotely piloted aircraft operators perform a critically important mission that contributes significantly to national defense,” Lt. Col. Christopher Karns said in an email to Military Times. “They are professional and comply with applicable law, policies, and adhere to very exacting procedures.”
Lt. Col Karns also questioned the 6,000 deaths being touted by KnowDrones.com. It is difficult to know exactly how many civilians have been killed under the U.S. drone program since official numbers are not recorded, however Senator Lindsey Grahamestimated that 4,700 people have been killed.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the CIA carried out 27 drone strikes in Pakistan during 2013, and 38 in Yemen, including the now infamous attack on December 12, 2013 that killed 15 people at a wedding. TBIJ estimates over 2,400 deaths in the first 5 years of the Obama administration.