On November 30, Nathan Johnson at the Yankton Press & Dakotan interviewed Catholic Worker Brian Terrell of Maloy, IA, who was sentenced to 6 months in Yankton Federal Prison Camp for his protest against drone warfare at Whitehead Air Force Base in Missouri. And despite Johnson’s failure to mention that, when the New America Foundation says that “CIA drone strikes in Pakistan alone have killed an estimated 1,932 to 3,176 people since 2004. Of those, 1,487-2,595 were reported to be militants,” “militant” is defined as “any military-age male” (really), it’s a pretty solid piece. I wanted to share some of Brian’s own words about some of the peculiarities of drone warfare:
“What makes drone warfare particularly eerie to me — and ironically, acceptable to a lot of Americans — is that it is so easy,” Terrell said. Soldiers can man a drone 7,000 miles away in Afghanistan from an Air Force base in the United States.
Still, Terrell said the impact of war can still be felt by the soldiers. Traditional fighter pilots could drop their bombs and not even be around long enough to see a plume of smoke, he stated. “The drone operator sees the attack in real time from thousands of miles away but has intimacy with the fighting that no pilot has ever had before,” Terrell said. “No pilot before has dropped a bomb and seen body parts fly. Now that is happening.”
After a day’s work, these soldiers will go home to their families.
“That’s a very difficult thing psychically, emotionally and spiritually for these, mainly, very young people,” Terrell said. “This is not combat killing. It’s assassination. You find this person going about their business. You may track them for days. They are going shopping, to prayer, a funeral or a wedding.” …
“The challenge of this is, we have the technology to kill at long distances,” he said. “There is an Arab proverb that says that a true prophet is a person who can love at long distance. I think what the American people desperately need is, while we have this technology to kill people who are very far away and strange to us, to be at least as ready and work just as hard to figure out how we can love the people who are so far away.
“I think our best ethical, moral and religious energy needs to be put toward loving these people. Otherwise, we’re just making the world a much more dangerous and scary place.”
I had the opportunity to meet with Brian and his wife Betsy at Emmaus House the night before he turned himself in (Thursday 29 November), a meeting I will describe in greater detail in an essay later this week. For now, though, especially with SD’s own Ellsworth AFB on tap to serve as a drone command center, South Dakota and the world need more people who are prepared to “love long distance” as Brian is.
–Tom Emanuel is the Executive Director of the SDPJC