By Larry Fisk, Guest Columnist
Over 40 people gathered at the Main Gate of Camp Ripley Sept. 15, to oppose drone warfare, drone surveillance, war spending and threatened military strikes on Syria. The action was sponsored by the Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace and Little Falls Partners for Peace. Participants, including Army and Navy veterans, and came from the communities of Central Minnesota and as far away as the Twin Cities and Fargo, N.D.
These organizations oppose war as an instrument of foreign policy and demand that the U.S. government obey international law which makes war illegal unless one country is attacked or under imminent threat of attack by another country. For over a decade these groups have opposed the U.S. wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, “wars of choice,” as Congressman Rick Nolan has called them.
They see soldiers as victims of war and advocate full funding for the medical, psychological, educational and social support soldiers need while welcoming soldiers and veterans into the peace movement.
Though Post Commander St. Sauver expressed support for our First Amendment rights in a Record column, the post tried to move the demonstration away from the main gate to across Highway 115, employing state troopers in an unsuccessful attempt to convince protesters to relocate.
Soldiers have often told us they have gone to war to protect our speech rights. Actually, none of these wars have been about rights or about defense. Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya did not attack the United States or threaten our rights.
Colonel St. Sauver pointed out that the Camp’s drones (unmanned aircraft), though tools of war, are non-weaponized and fly only over the Camp’s 81 square miles. However, just as Camp Ripley has trained combat soldiers and support personnel who have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan and some of the 800 U.S. military facilities in countries around the world, those trained in drone technology will not stay here flying aircraft within Camp Ripley’s perimeter. They will diffuse throughout the military and, perhaps, intelligence agencies (the FBI and CIA and police agencies have drone programs) and may participate in both military operations and domestic surveillance.
In grim application of this technology, drone operators with joysticks in the U.S. assassinate people in Sudan, Pakistan and Yemen. Drones terrorize civilians and have killed hundreds of innocent men, women and children.
Until we eliminate all militarized drones and ban drone surveillance which (like cellphones, email and license plate readers) can be used to track and control our people, drones will be a threat to world peace, to domestic privacy and to our civil liberties.
According to the National Priorities Project the cost of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq to Morrison County taxpayers is $70 million, for Crow Wing County $195 million — over one quarter billion dollars pulled from two rural counties to destroy other societies instead of building our own.
Money spent on the military and the destruction of war creates far less employment than education, healthcare, infrastructure, sustainable energy and other constructive investments.
A sad consequence of war has been the high rate of domestic violence among military families. During the demonstration, referring to “Domestic Violence Awareness Month,” the lighted sign at the Main Gate of this facility which trains Americans in the violence of war, ironically displayed the message “Violence is Never the Answer!”
Larry Fisk is a resident of Fort Ripley.