On Wednesday evening in the School of Law at the University of Las Vegas, a seminar was held about drone warfare.The featured speakers included former Air Force and CIA drone program representatives, lawyers representing drone strike victims anfd their families, and a former army chaplain who witnessed the drone program first hand in Afghanistan.
Cian Westmoreland is a former drone pilot who spoke about what it was like to work in the system, how the atmosphere was so inhumane and callous. He spoke about the 'moral injury' to himself and his peers who worked as drone pilots.
Christopher Aaron was a former CIA analyst charged with working in the CIA drone strike program who spoke about how his exposure to children being killed with villagers being referred to as 'sheep' finally caused him to quit.
Chris J. Antal is a Unitarian minister who heads a congregation in NY and is also an army chaplain. He served from 2012-2013 in southern Afghanistan. He counseled many soldiers who have incurred moral injury. He participated in sending the war dead home in flag draped coffins. He spoke about seeing the drone flights and wanting to know more, he asked questions of his peers. His questions were rebuffed. He witnessed how struck he was by the fact that dead U.S. soldiers received great recognition and were treated as human lives lost, while those killed through drone strikes were anonymous and unrecognized.
Chris went on to tell the story of how he eventually gave a sermon in which he publicly confessed the multiple horrors of drone warfare. He spoke how the army regulations used to encourage army chaplains to speak to the moral terpitude of their superiors and how after his service the regulations were systemtically changed and that provision was struck. Eventually his sermon was published on a website by his friends back home. He was then soon contacted by an army colonel lawyer and told that he could not say such things. He was ordered to remove the sermon from the website, which he did. His story continued and is fascinating but alas it is too long for this report!
Shelby Sullivan from Reprieve is an attorney representing the victims of drone strikes, many of whom are dead. She did say that their organization has had better success overseas in their litigation work as there exists oversight and accountability whereas in the U.S. there no oversight authority to appeal to. In the United States basically the executive branch of government has oversight over itself.
Marjorie Cohn, an attorney and head of the National Lawyers Guild, spoke about the documents released and reported by the Intercept last winter about the secret drone program. She spoke about the signal intelligence and its faultiness used as the basis for targeted killings.
Finally, Brian Terrell, co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Non-Violence, spoke about his experiences as a long-time protestor of militarism in general, and of drone warfare, in particular.
The event was unique and the speakers assembled constituted a one of a kind event in documenting drone warfare and its impacts on both warriors and victims. The seminar was filmed and will be made available after editing.
The Las Vegas Sun published an article about the evening at At UNLV, whistleblowers call for accountability in military drone program