We Cannot Close Our Doors to the Victims of Terrorism

I want to talk to you about Paris, and about the genuine grief and terror and shock that tore through the Western world last Friday.

The shock of communities impacted by terror is palpable and the grief is overwhelming. Families, possibly families you know or belong to, are being torn apart by extremists. This is the waking nightmare of Paris, a nightmare which they share with so many others: families in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, Myanmar, Burundi – and so many other communities around the world. That grief is caused so often by the United States.

No one, in any area of the world, from the city of lights to the city of Damascus, should ever experience the loss of war – or the shock, panic, fear, anger and grief that stays with communities, long after the attack has ended.

And yet, the response to terror has been terror.

Already, there has been a sharp rise in Islamophobia throughout the Western world. In the U.S., 27 governors have said that Syrian refugees are not welcome. Let us be clear: these refugees are victims of terror, not its perpetrators. They are fleeing the same violence that grieves Paris, violence that they have experienced every day since war broke out in Syria in 2011. Those who police Islam in the name of “security” are missing a lesson in our own recent history: of the 750,000 refugees we have admitted since 9/11, not one has faced domestic terrorism charges.

Our response to terror cannot be to shut our doors to its victims.

The U.S. and France have also increased their bombing campaigns in Syria. While the goal is to wipe out ISIS, we know the impact of a war with no exit strategy: a rise in extremism, anti-US sentiment, and the availability of firearms, and domestically, a generation of soldiers lost or traumatized, and an economy burdened by endless war.

These are the lessons of U.S. military action in Iraq, which increased instability in the Middle East and bolstered ISIS. We cannot afford to make this mistake again. History is on the brink of repeating itself, and we must take action to prevent it.

There is hope. Today, there are many pieces of legislation that you can take action on to demand peace, and to fight terror with diplomacy and compassion. As Martin Luther King, Jr. famously said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

So we ask you, today, to be that light: write letters, make calls and ask your friends and family members to join you as you call on your Representatives in the House and Senate to represent your interests in peace and diplomacy.

For more information on all of the legislation we are supporting, scroll down to our past posts or click here or copy and paste this link:http://panys.org/WordPress/campaign/syria-conflict-refugee-crisis/


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We Can Do More Than #PrayforParis

The terror and grief that tore through the Western world is palpable. It is heavy and it will not lift until much more time has passed. The grief of families immediately impacted is nearly unimaginable by most of the world – but not all of the world.

Those best equipped to understand the trauma of Paris on Friday are the refugees coming from Syria. Facing similar terror, not one day but all days, they are fleeing their nation at great personal cost. All victims of terror have a place in our hearts and prayers.

And yet, the people who were asking us to #PrayforParis yesterday are turning their backs on the Syrian victims of terrorism today.

Today, 14 states (and counting) have announced that they will not accept Syrian refugees, following the Paris attacks.

Syrian refugees are fleeing the same violence that has shaken the Western world with the attacks in Paris. It is intolerable and unethical that, facing that violence, we will deny these families – suffering similar losses – a safe haven.

If you live in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississipi, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Ohio, Wisconsin or Texas, call your Governor’s office and demand better (and remind them that not accepting refugees is illegal).

Call your Senator and demand they pass the Middle East Refugee Resettlement Emergency Funding Bill (aka the Graham Leahy bill). Call your House Rep and demand additional funding for refugee resettlement in FY2016.

We cannot call for Peace in Paris – we cannot truly stand in solidarity with victims of terror – and in the same breath deny peace to other families impacted by that same violence, over and over and over.

Explosion after explosion after explosion.

Stand for ‪#‎peace‬ and tolerance – that is the best way we can fight violent extremism.

For more information on action you can take today, scroll down to our next post, or click here: Take Action for Syrian Refugees

‪#‎PrayforParis‬ ‪#‎PrayforBeirut‬ ‪#‎PrayforSyria‬ ‪#‎PrayforLebanon‬ ‪#‎PrayforLibya‬ ‪#‎PrayforSomalia‬ ‪#‎PrayforBurundi‬ ‪#‎PrayforIraq‬ ‪#‎PrayforAfghanistan‬ ‪#‎PrayforPeace‬


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End the Syria Conflict and the Refugee Crisis


Every day that the U.S. continues to bomb the Syrian people in a proxy war with Russia, every soldier we send into a battle with no exit plan, is a day that war is marching on. These are the days that send innocent Syrian families into a situation where they can stay and fear for their lives perhaps for the rest of their lives, or risk a perilous journey for the possibility of, one day, living without fear.

This situation was exacerbated by U.S. military engagement in the region and the instability we have caused.

But there is hope. Today, there are several bills and letters in the House and Senate that are working for peace, and we at Peace Action New York State are asking our representatives to share this cause with us.

Take Action for Syria 2

We Are Working Against US Military Action in Syria
Opposing escalation in Syria/Authorization of the Use of Military Force

  1. Ask Senators Gillibrand and Schumer to Co-Sponsor S.2239 – Sen. Tom Udall’s anti-escalation in Syria bill.The bill aims to stop escalation in Syria by “prohibiting the obligation or expenditure of funds made available to the Central Intelligence Agency, the Department of Defense, the National Security Council, the National Security Agency, or any other U.S. agency or entity involved in intelligence activities for the purpose of, or in a manner which would have the effect of, supporting military or paramilitary operations in Syria.
  2. Thank New York Representatives Crowley, Hanna, Rangel and Slaughter for Supporting Diplomacy and Peace – They each signed a House letter on Syria/Iraq “Deepening Entanglement” and Lack of Authorization for the WarThere was a bipartisan letter with calling on Speaker Ryan to Bring Authorization on the Use of Military Force to House Floor for Debate and Vote given the “deepening entanglement” in the conflict.

We Support the Resettlement of Syria Refugees
Join us in asking the House and Senate to Act with Urgency as We Face the Worst Humanitarian Crisis Since World War II

  1. Ask Senator Schumer to Co-Sponsor S. 2145 and Thank Senator Gillibrand for Supporting Syrian Refugees – The Middle East Emergency Refugee Resettlement Act (aka the Graham/Leahy bill) would increase funding for refugee resettlement. Senator Gillibrand is already a co-sponsor.The Graham/Leahy bill would provide $1B in emergency funding for the resettlement of refugees. It would allow up to 100,000 refugees to be resettled in the U.S. over two years. Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict, the U.S. has only resettled 1600 refugees.
  2. Ask Your House Representative to Sign the Rep. Vargas Letter – The letter calls on refugee aid to be increased in the FY2016 budget.We must provide adequate resources for the long-term transitional assistance of refugees in order to begin to meet the need stemming from the conflicts exacerbated – and started – by U.S. military warfare.The letter asks for increases to the budgets of departments that deal directly with the entrance and resettlement of refugees, including: US Agency for International Development’s International Disaster Assistance Account, the Department of State’s Migration and Refugee Assistance and Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Accounts, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement’s Refugee and Entrant Assistance Account, and the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, for the Refugee, Asylum and International Operations Directorate Account.

We Call for an Immediate End to Military Action in Syria and for the Diplomatic Resolution of This Crisis.
All U.S. military action in Syria exacerbates the unparalleled humanitarian crisis, and puts us on the precipice of a conflict with another nuclear power: Russia. 

  • Ask Your House Representative to Co-Sponsor H. Res. 508 – This legislation calls for the Diplomatic Resolution of the Syria crisisThe resolution, introduced by Representative Himes, asks the President to “use the full authority of his office to convene international negotiations intended to stop the civil war in Syria.”Representative Himes is a leader of peace in the House, having said:

     “Every additional bomb that falls or soldier who joins the fight adds to that escalating instability and violence. The only way to bring about an end to the problem is to engage all of the states that have influence and interests in Syria to find a peaceful, diplomatic solution.”

    Current NY Cosponsors: Clarke, Yvette [D-NY9], Rice, Kathleen [D-NY4].


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Guest Speaker Series: Kate Alexander

The wro

As part of our ongoing work with student chapters, we have invite peace practitioners and advocates into conference calls with our team of student organizers from 10 universities across New York state. This is an opportunity for the next generation of peace activists to hear from a wide range individuals working in the peace building field and better understand the career opportunities within and challenges facing peace work domestically and abroad.


Kate Alexander joined PANYS as our Student Outreach Coordinator in August 2015. Prior to joining PANYS, Kate worked in Bosnia and Uganda with leading transitional justice organizations addressing the gross violations of human rights during the Srebrenica genocide in Bosnia and various conflicts in northern Uganda. In northern Uganda, she published a policy brief on missing persons as a result of the conflict and made recommendations for the draft transitional justice policy. In Bosnia, she worked with the American prosecution team directly on a complex Srebrenica genocide case.

Having worked in both localized and internationalized structures for international justice, Kate spoke to the student organizers about international justice and its structural challenges.

AFTER CONFLICT, the communities impacted by warfare are encouraged to pursue justice, to seek out the perpetrators of war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide, and to condemn them. This started in the aftermath of World War II with the development of the Nuremburg Tribunals to prosecute Nazi war criminals.

In the words of U.S. attorney Robert Jackson, a member of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Lead Prosecutor for the U.S. at Nuremberg:

“The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating, that a civilisation cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated.”

Different countries have taken different approaches to transitional justice and the punishment of these crimes, which include crimes of war, crimes against humanity and genocide. The most internationalized approach has been very western: trial in a court system, followed by a sentencing procedure if the accused is found guilty. South Africa pioneered a different approach. With a goal of capturing a full and accurate history of apartheid South Africa, the government created a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. The Commission differed from a tribunal in that, if perpetrators came forward and spoke the truth about all they had done and all they know about what had happened under apartheid and offered a full apology, they would be forgiven by the judicial system.

Both systems, however, failed to meet the needs of their most marginalized citizens – in particular: they failed women. And this is because every system we create to protect human rights is limited by the biases of where it operates + who enforces their law.

I worked in Bosnia with the War Crimes Chamber in the office of the American prosecution team on a genocide case. While there, I also contributed to sentencing research – I looked at every completed war crimes and genocide case to see trends in sentencing research.

– – – – –

Trigger Warning: Sexual assault

One case in particular struck me: a woman was raped repeatedly during the Srebrenica genocide. Her rapist actually admitted to it – but he also promised to care for their child. And, she had consented to sex with him prior to the conflict. Although he had admitted to raping her, the fact that she had previously consented to sex with him and that he now promised to care for their child was considered “extenuating circumstances” and he was eventually acquitted.

– – – – –

Bosnia is contending with sexism not only in daily life, but in the court system. As you can see, a woman defied cultural norms and spoke up about what had happened to her during the conflict – and instead of a human rights institution protecting her, it shunned her. She was denied justice because of the sexist reasoning of a male judge operating in a deeply patriarchal society.

Women in South Africa can relate. Although the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission had the explicit purpose to capture the full and accurate history of apartheid South Africa – they did not capture the history of women. The commission was based in Cape Town and women, lacking the social support or economic ability to travel into the city, were wildly underrepresented in its proceedings from the beginning. It took years of advocacy from womens rights groups for the court to recognize it needed to do more to hear women’s voices. Finally, they set up just 3 courts in rural areas of South Africa to hear from women. However, they lacked the technology and infrastructure to protect women from being outcasts of their community if the spoke up about what happened to them during the conflict. As a result, many women spoke about what happened to their husbands or children, but could not speak about their own experiences.

We will never have a full history of what happened to women in apartheid South Africa, and that is because the commission reflected the bias of those who created and enforced it.

Recognizing the limitations of human rights mechanisms is the first step towards changing them so they can fulfill their mandates. The second step is to look at best practices: remote courts to reach marginalized populations. Other courts have used witness protection measures, including: transportation of witnesses between the court and their home, disguising the face and/or voice of the witness. NGOs are doing even more significant work, meeting with families in small groups in their communities to document what happened during the conflict and to better understand what happened to them during the conflict.

To prevent reprisals and violent retribution, we must secure a peace that is representative of the desires of the local population. We cannot do that without reaching out to them to create transitional justice mechanisms that meet their needs and are able to hear, without bias, the stories of even the most marginalized members of the conflict affected society.

To join the PANYS Student Network, please contact Kate Alexander at kate@panys.org

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William Sloane Coffin, Jr. Peacemaker Gala

Thank you to everyone who joined us on Tuesday for the 2015 William Sloane Coffin, Jr. Peacemaker Gala! A special thanks to Vincent Intondi, Rev. Dr. Herbert Daughtry and Rev. Sekou for your work to build a peace movement, and to Binghamton University Peace Action and all of our student chapter for carrying that work forward.

A video of the full event is available below or you can click here.

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Take Action for Syria

Take Action for Syria 3As long as the U.S. is bombing Syria to fight IS in a proxy war with Russia, more people will be forced to flee their homes. End the war, and we can end the humanitarian crisis.

Sign Our Petition Today: Click Here to Take Action

Need more educational + activist resources on the Syrian crisis? We are collecting resources here and will update this list with new information and tools as they become available.

Resources on the Syria Crisis

Poems: Poetry is a Witness to the Suffering Wrought by Syria’s Civil War

Videos: Syria Film Collective Offers View of Life Behind a Conflict

Video: One Syrian Family’s Journey to Europe

Video: Militarization of Hungary/Serbia Border

Video: US Response to Syria Refugee Crisis By the Numbers

Individual Stories: Syria Conflict: Refugees Fleeing Conflict, In Their Own Words

Timeline of Crisis (Dating Back to 2011)

Map: One Refugee’s Journey to Europe

UNHCR: Stories, Images, Videos from the Refugee Crisis

Game: UNHCR Online Game Against All Odds (How to Survive as a Refugee)

Comic Book: Story of Ebrahim, a Teenage Refugee

Films + Discussion Resource Guide: An American Tail, The Terminal + Other Films

Solutions to the Crisis: Amnesty International Recommendations

News Articles

We Must Stop the Country’s Economy from Being Dependent on War

U.S. + Russia Agree to Air Safety Measures for their Warplanes over Syria

Syria Conflict: Thousands Flee Aleppo Offensive

Secretary of State Kerry: Cllimate Change made the Syria conflict far worse

NPR Asks the Experts: Has the Situations in Syria Become a Proxy War?

Amnesty International Report: U.S.-backed Kurdish forces ‘Committing War Crimes Against Syrian Civilians’

Susan Rice Blames Climate Change for Conflict in Syria

U.S. Weaponry is Turning Syria into Proxy War with Russia

World War III Could Be 30 Seconds Away as Attacks on ISIS Stepped Up

Russia Intensifies Air Strikes

Assad Forces Make Significant Gains

The Syrian War is Forcing Girls in Jordanian Refugee Camps to Become Child Brides

When War Comes Close to Home

Fear of the Peace: Why Assad is Not the Main Obstacle to Peace in Syria

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Why Tony Blair’s Iraq Apology Matters

Blair Guilt

There was a lot of news on the Iraq War this past week. First, leaked memos from Colin Powell to George W. Bush showed that British PM Tony Blair had committed to military action in Iraq alongside the U.S., even while publicly saying the UK was pursuing diplomatic solutions.

Now, we have an apology from PM Blair, not only for the faulty intelligence that led to the war – but a recognition that the war contributed to the rise of ISIS.

The fact that Blair – an instigator and strong proponent of the Iraq war – has admitted that the intelligence leading to the war was faulty, is pretty remarkable. Not only did he apologize for the flawed intelligence, Blair also apologized “for some of the mistakes in planning and, certainly, our mistake in our understanding of what would happen once you removed the regime.”

Which is the politician’s way of saying: our intelligence for justifying the war was lousy, we didn’t understand what we were getting into, and we didn’t understand the long-term impact of the war in destabilizing the entire region.

That last part is so important – by connecting the Iraq war to the rise of ISIS, Blair recognized that war has long-term impacts that we cannot foresee. And by connecting the Iraq war to ISIS, the biggest threat to peace and security today, he is making a compelling case to end all wars, namely: war has long-term consequences that are nearly unpredictable, and those consequences can be – and have been – violent, extremist, and with a severity and a threat to peace that is beyond comprehension at the time the war begins.

That is a strong case against militarism.

To read more on Blair’s apology, check out this article: http://www.cnn.com/2015/10/25/europe/tony-blair-iraq-war/

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House Speaker Paul Ryan Would Be Bad for Peace

paulryanblog post

On Tuesday, October 20th, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that he would seek the House Speaker position if the Republican party would unite behind him.

The House Speaker is second in the Presidential line of succession, after the Vice President, and sets the schedule for voting in the House.


What would a Ryan speakership mean for peace?
It would mean peace would never be on the House agenda. Here’s why:

Rep. Ryan has served as Ways and Means Chairman since January 2015 and, since 2011, has been the principal architect of Republican budget proposals. These proposals have left untouched or even increased defense spending, while maintaining tax loopholes for the wealthy. And who is paying for the tax loopholes and defense spending? The poor – in the U.S. and around the world.

Here are some of Rep. Ryan’s previously proposed budget cuts:

Fiscal Year 2015 Proposed Budget:

Fiscal Year 2014 Proposed Budget:

  • Military retirement benefits would be cut to a level that is below the consumer price index for the cost of living
  • Proposed cuts to foreign aid – specifically the transportation of food aid to in-need communities internationally – would mean as many as 2 million more poor people would suffer from hunger and malnutrition.
  • GAVI, PEPFAR and other life-saving global health programs would have a 13% budget cut.
  • Head Start, child care, K-12 education, job training, and domestic violence prevention would have their budgets significantly reduced.
  • The maximum amount for Pell Grants would have froze, despite rising tuition costs, and the number of students eligible for Pell Grants would be reduced. Pell Grants offer low-income students a chance to get the higher education they need to get ahead, and about two-thirds of the recipients are women.
  • Large new tax cuts would be created for the wealthiest individuals and corporations by reducing the top tax rate for wealthy individuals from 6 percent to 25 percent and for corporations from 35 percent to 25 percent.

FY 2013 Proposed Budget:

  • Eliminates Feed the Future, President Obama’s signature food security initiative to help developing nations improve their agricultural production and raise nutrition levels so they are, in the long run, less dependent on foreign aid.
  • Eliminates USAID and put all development programs under the Millennium Challenge Corporation, despite USAID and MCC having different development strategies which are both necessary.
  • Overall, cuts the foreign affairs budget by 10% from FY2013 – and foreign affairs budget would continue to shrink until 2016, when it would be only $38B.
  • Boosts military spending, actually providing $30B more to the military than what President Obama had requested.

The “Ryan Budgets” date back to FY 2012. Every budget he has curated has had the same signature: balancing the budget on the backs of the poor and elderly, at home and abroad, while protecting tax loopholes for the wealthiest Americans and promoting inflated defense spending.

This is not a partisan issue. Republicans have expressed serious concerns over Ryan’s draconian budget cuts. President Reagan’s budget advisor David Stockman called Ryan’s FY2013 budget “devoid of credible math or hard policy choices.” And several Republicans support foreign aid funding. GOP speechwriter Michael Gerson on Meet the Press stated that cuts to foreign aid “would cause misery for millions of people on AIDS treatment. It would betray hundreds of thousands of children receiving malaria treatment.”

A slashed foreign affairs budget has disastrous implications for peace.

As a recruitment tactics, terrorist organizations offer impoverished families food and shelter. For families struggling to survive, the choice is an easy one to make. By cutting food aid, we’re making that choice easier.

In the long term, development is essential for peace. Development means education, health, food, energy – it means security in daily life so no one has to resort to armed violence to survive.

Moreover, it is our moral obligation: the rise of ISIS and of unbearable living conditions in the Middle East can be traced to U.S. military engagement in the region. We must recognize and address the long-term impact of the wars we fight if we’re ever going to treat peace as a strategic policy decision.

And most importantly – foreign aid saves lives, in the short term and long term. Child mortality has declined by 60% since 1960. Extreme poverty has been reduced by almost 50% since 1990. The maternal mortality rate dropped by 45% between 1990 and 2013. People are living with HIV instead of dying from AIDS.

All of this is being achieved with less than 1% of the U.S. budget being spent on foreign aid. We cannot balance the budget on these programs, so why does Rep. Ryan always proposing cutting their budgets?

In the U.S., we have the means and the opportunity to save lives by moving the money from military spending to development assistance.

If you have the tools and opportunity to save a life – let alone thousands – aren’t you obligated to? Rep. Ryan doesn’t think so.

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Guest Speaker Series: Erin Jessee on Promoting Local Narratives in International Work

As part of our ongoing work with student chapters, we have begun inviting peace practitioners and advocates into conference calls with our team of student organizers from 9 universities across New York state. This is an opportunity for the next generation of peace activists to hear from a wide range individuals working in the peace building field and better understand the career opportunities within and challenges facing peace work domestically and abroad.

Erin Jessee joined our student organizers to discuss the importance and challenges of promoting local narratives in international advocacy and field work. For example, peace is an international topic for many U.S. based activists, but it has daily life implications for people living in Syria, the Ukraine, Iraq, South Sudan, etc. How can we make sure their voices are heard in our work?

Erin Jessee is an oral historian and cultural anthropologist who has worked with NGOs building peace all over the world.  She uses oral historical and ethnographic methods to study transitional communities, particularly post-genocide Rwanda, Uganda and Bosnia-Herzegovina. Her research interests include mass atrocities, nationalized commemoration, symbolic violence, transitional justice, mass grave exhumations, and the ethical and methodological challenges surrounding qualitative fieldwork amid highly politicized research settings.

Q: How have you promoted local narratives in your own work?
A: I started as a forensic anthropologist, working at international crime scenes to do the work of, for example, exhuming mass graves after the Rwandan genocide. I found in that work that the longer the process went on, the more despondent the community became. It became emotionally scarring and the idea of this serving justice just was no longer true. I started working out from that to look at the war crimes and genocide events that led to these mass graves and other evidence of community destruction and the community factors that led to these incidences and how they were handled by the community

Q: What is the importance of prioritizing local voices in international work?
A: I’ve done a lot of work as an oral historian collecting the memories of community members in field interviews, where I don’t just ask about their memories or experiences or definitions of justice as it relates to one conflict or one moment. I ask them to speak about their lives, in their entirety however they choose to speak about it with me, so I can understand why they might recollect a particular memory, or why they define justice a certain way. We have to preserve these memories in order to better understand and document conflicts, to understand our own history and to inform policy.

Q: How do we preserve local voices as their input moves from field research to advocacy at the local and international level?
A: Advocacy organizations can include the documented experiences of local populations in the materials they publish, or circulate appendices or other complementary materials specifically that include the voices of local populations. Apart from that, working in partnerships with local organizations is essential to representing diverse voices in international advocacy and making sure that local voices are influencing policy decisions that will impact their lives dramatically.

Q: How did you get started in the field and what advice would you give to students interested in doing peace work?
A: I bounced around a bit and kind of fell into this work. 5-10 years in, many people in this work hit a kind of emotional wall, where they are just too exhausted from being underpaid or not paid for their work. In this work, you’re often expected to work for free, especially in the beginning of your career. There is this sense that you have to earn a job by doing unpaid internships, which assumes a real economic privilege.

Addition from Kate (Student Outreach Coordinator): Be aware of fellowship opportunities on your campus. I never would have had the opportunity to work in Bosnia without funding from my own undergraduate institution. Also, if you do this work – take care of yourself first. You may develop a dark sense of humor or find other ways to “self-care” – but you need to take care of your own well-being before you can help others.

Q: Who do you share your field work with to influence public opinion or policy?
A: I publish a lot of my work in academic journals, which in a small way, can influence academia and coursework in this field to better prepare students for this kind of work. But the best way to publish your work – to influence policy and public opinion – is in the media. An op-ed I did for Al Jazeera got 100 times the readers of a similar article I had published in an academic journal.

To join our Student Network, contact PANYS Student Outreach Coordinator Kate Alexander at kate@panys.org

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U.S. Drone Wars Revealed: Leaked Documents Show Immoral and Illegal Action in U.S. Drone Policies

A classified report and slides on the U.S. drone wars have been leaked to The Intercept by a Whistleblower. They give unprecedented insight into the failures and immoral actions of U.S. drone policy. You can read detailed reports on these documents here: https://theintercept.com/drone-papers

Below are the highlights from the incredible reporting by The Intercept journalists – including Peace Action of New York State’s 2014 William Sloane Coffin Peacemaker Honoree Jeremy Scahill.

“Drones are a tool, not a policy. The policy is assassination.”

– Jeremy Scahill

1. Without Indictment or Trial, and on the basis of knowingly faulty intelligence, the U.S. President is Giving Orders to Assassinate Individuals Deemed “Worthy of Execution”

  • The first drone strike was conducted in 2002 – but the White House did not release guidelines and procedures for drone strikes until May 2013.
  • Military and CIA drone operations must be approved by POTUS, however the CIA operations have less stringent guidelines for POTUS authorization.
  • Officially, military targets for drone strikes outside of active conflict zones must present a continuing and imminent threat to U.S. forces. However, in practice, drone strike targets outside of active conflicts must only present ‘a threat to U.S. forces or interests’.
  • Individuals targeted for drone strikes are put on a “kill list” and are dehumanized immediately – analysts refer to them as “selectors”. In the eyes of the special operations community, as described by the whistleblower: “They have no rights. They have no dignity. They have no humanity to themselves. They’re just a ‘selector’ to an analyst. You eventually get to a point in the target’s life cycle that you are following them, you don’t even refer to them by their actual name.”
  • Intelligence on individuals selected for the ‘kill list’ is summarized on what are referred to internally as ‘baseball cards’. That information is bundled with operational information.
  • On average, is takes 58 days for the President to sign off on a target and 60 days for the U.S. military to carry out the strike. There is no recourse if the target ceases suspicious activities within those 60 days.
  • Some strikes do not target a specific individual, but instead are authorized due to suspect behavior. Meaning: we do not have intelligence on who will be killed. These are known as “Terror Attack Disruption Strikes” and their use entirely undermines statements that the U.S. kills mainly “high value” targets.

2. Drone Strikes are Promoted as a More Precise, Less Costly Alternative to Troop Deployment, Authorized Only for “Imminent” Threats – But They Are Used Much More Frequently, With Knowingly Unreliable Intelligence

  • Drone strikes are reliant on SIGINT – or signals intelligence – to identify and ultimately hunt down targets. SIGINT includes metadata from phones, computers and communications intercepts. These methods are frequently described within the intelligence community as “inferior” “poor” and “limited”. Yet, this data amounts to more than half of the intelligence used to track potential targets in Yemen and Somalia.
  • The Whistleblower noted that you can be tracking a suspect’s phone or computer for months, and then realize too late that the phone or computer you were tracking actually belonged to their mother.
  • Surveillance flights are limited by fuel – meaning that drones can spend half their air time in transit, and not enough time conducting actual surveillance or verifying the SIGINT.
  • In the leaked report, this faulty and inferior intelligence is referred to as”technical hindrance to efficient operations”. This terminology completely dehumanizes the impact of poor intelligence – the deaths of innocent people, including U.S. citizens, in drone strikes.
  • Even the leaked report acknowledges that insufficient intelligence has made it difficult to achieve positive identification of targeted individuals and to guarantee minimal civilian casualties.

3. Every Drone Strike Permanently Costs Intelligence in the Region

  • During a drone strike, there is typically no one on the ground to collect intelligence after the strike: to gather the target’s laptop or paperwork, to collect the phone on his body or to capture suspects and ask questions. Yet, this information is invaluable for identifying future targets.
  • By the U.S. government’s own admission, killing suspected terrorists hampers intelligence gathering.

4. Civilian Deaths from Drone Strikes are Incalculable and Insignificant to the “Success” of Drone Strikes for Policy Makers

  • Between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Only 35 were intended targets. Less than 25% of the number of people killed were on the kill list. During one five month period of the operation, nearly 90% of people killed in airstrikes were not intended targets.
  • Unintended casualties of drone strikes are presumed to be terrorists until proven innocent – they are referred to by the military as an “Enemy Killed in Action”, which is why military reported civilian casualty rates are so low.
  • According to the whistleblower, U.S. government statements minimizing the number of civilian casualties are “exaggerated at best – if not outright lies.”
  • The scores of unnamed people killed in the hunt for jackpots, and the intelligence opportunities lost by failing to capture targets alive, do not appear to factor into the calculation. The apparent success rate, in other words, depends solely on killing targets , and ignores the strategic and human consequences of killing large numbers of bystanders.

“This outrageous explosion of watchlisting — of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them ‘baseball cards,’ assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield — it was, from the very first instance, wrong.”

– The Whistleblower

What can I do?

A coalition of international and national advocacy organizations are pushing for Congress to launch an immediate independent inquiry into the Obama administration’s drone strikes overseas. You can call your Congressional Representative and demand this investigation into U.S. drone policy.


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