Saturday, April 20, 2013

An Invitation: Awaken to Drones!

“The people of the United States would be horrified if they actually understood how many innocent people are being swept up in the maw of these wars. So people are just permitted to sleep. And its going to be very disturbing for the American people when they awake from the slumber to look out upon a world where there’s carnage everywhere that’s created by our nation without any legal process, without any constitutional basis and without any articulated justification.”
Dennis Kucinich, "US Drone Program Is ‘Vigilantism Conducted by Robots’"

“I have been asleep. Where have you been?
Is there any justification for this kind of killing: either killing by cross or
drone? When will we awaken and cry out about the horror of it all?
And once we reach that place of gut-felt anguish,
what will we do about it?”
Susan Soric from her Call to Confession

People across the globe who the US has deemed terrorists awake to drones hovering overhead every day. The noise is incessant and so is the killing---targeted or suspected. Some report that we are killing up to one person per day. So while the rest of the world remains awake or is on constant alert, Code Red, we in the United States, the country that now has thousands of drones (increased 40 fold since 2000) are asleep. Some might say we have been drugged by the illusion that anything and everything is permissible for the sake of our security (or another country’s resources). Others would say the use of drones keep our soldiers safe, out of harms way--- minimalizing causalities. Soldiers can go to work and kill from the safety of an air force base 8,000 miles away from the “enemy combatants” then return home and have dinner with the family. Still others might say, “We didn’t know.” But a growing number are beginning to wake up and say, “No, this is wrong. It’s against international law. It’s against our Constitution. It’s extrajudicial killing. It’s morally wrong.”

Wherever you are on this continuum we invite you to wake up and join us in theological conversation or dialogue about the use of drones for warfare and surveillance. A few of us here in the Chicago area from a variety of faith and spiritual backgrounds have begun to wake up and talk about the horror of it all. We are beginning to question our country’s use of drones instead of due process, our President’s Kill List, the naming of all men above 18 years of ages as “enemy combatants.” It’s made some of us go back and study Just War theory again, dig deep into our sacred texts, examine our consciences. It’s brought us together and made us want to reach out to you.

This blog is a project of Protest Chaplains of Chicago and an extension of our conversation online, an open letter, an invitation for those of you who are just waking up or are insomniacs to join us in a study that will guide and lead us to take actions to stop this warring madness, to ground the drones.

The participants in this conversation include:

Betty Benson
Pat Chaffee
Jack Gilroy
Jack Lawlor
Rev. Loren McGrail
Joe Scarry
Newland Smith
Susan Soric
Meghan M.M. Trimm

Elizabeth (Betty) I. Benson is a member of Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ in Chicago. The Elizabeth I. Benson Award was created in her honor, and she was the inaugural recipient of the award on June 26, 2004. This award is given to a person who works tirelessly and faithfully for social justice in the Chicago area and beyond, while simultaneously shunning personal recognition of their efforts. The awardee receives a magnifying glass, which symbolizes Betty’s unceasing commitment to magnifying the injustices in our world to a level where other people not only are made aware of them, but also are inspired and moved to work in solidarity with others for justice. Learn what Betty Benson will be writing about.

Pat Chaffee has been active in human rights work since 1982. She was director of the Michigan Interfaith Committee on Central American Human Rights (MICAH), and a staff member of the Central American Refugee Center in San Francisco. She has traveled with human rights delegations to Nicaragua, El Salvador, Colombia, the West Bank, Gaza, and Pakistan. She is available for presentations on Pakistan at this time. Learn what Pat Chaffee will be writing about.

Jack Gilroy is a full time human rights/peace activist and former Prisoner of Conscience for the School of the Americas Watch. Gilroy’s two novels of young men who refused to be part of the United States military, "Absolute Flanigan" and "The Wisdom Box", received gold medal awards by OMNI Center for Peace & Justice. He is also the author of The Predator, part of a dramatic trilogy about moral challenges and conscience, especially related to war and violence. Gilroy was arrested during the October, 2012, "Hancock 10" protest, in which he and others the blocked the entrance to the drone command center near Syracuse, New York. See Irish-Americans and War and Drones and Friends of Franz Jagerstatter.

Jack Lawlor was ordained as a Dharma Teacher by Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh at a Transmission of the Lamp Ceremony at the Plum Village monastic center in southern France in 1992. He is a co-founder of Lakeside Buddha Sangha, a 21 year-old meditation community in Evanston. Jack collaborated with Ven. Thich Nhat Hanh in publishing "Friends on the Path; Living Spiritual Communities" in 2002. Jack has served as President of the Buddhist Council of the Midwest and on the National Board of Directors of the Buddhist Peace Fellowship. Learn what Jack will be writing about.

Rev. Loren McGrail is a minister with United Church of Christ and Coordinator of Protest Chaplains of Chicago. She started at Andover Newton Theological School on September 11, 2001 and has been active in peace making in her ministry ever since. In addition to a Masters in Divinity from ANTS she has a Certificate in World Mission and Ecumenism from Boston Theological Institute in recognition for her work on Muslim and Christian dialogue in Egypt and her field work at the multi faith Peace Abbey in Sherborn, Massachusetts. She has worked as a hospital chaplain and parish minister. She spent three months with the World Council of Churches Ecumenical Accompaniment Program in Palestine and Israel and with Global Missions of the United Church of Christ. She coordinates the Middle East and Southeast Asia Task Force at Wellington United Church of Christ where she is a member. She is seeking a call that allows her to use her creativity and passion for justice and peace. Learn what Loren will be writing about.

Joe Scarry is an IT consultant and antiwar activist based in Chicago. He is a member of St. Luke's Lutheran Church of Logan Square, and is a participant in the ELCA's Peace Not Walls initiative, as well as numerous local other activist groups. He is currently working to spur the development of a nationwide network of grassroots anti-drones groups. His blog is Scarry Thoughts. Learn what Joe will be writing about.

Newland Smith is a member of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship's Palestine Israel Network and Committee against Political Repression; member of the Chicago Faith Coalition on the Middle East; President, Anglican Theological Review; Convener, Diocese of Chicago Task Force on the Legacy of Slavery. Retired five years ago as the Librarian of Seabury-WesternTheological Seminary. Deputy to the past nine General Conventions of the Episcopal Church. Current efforts center around advocacy against and reading about the connection of war and poverty and peace with justice for Israelis and Palestinians. Learn what Newland will be writing about.

Susan Soric is a writer, journalist, and theologian. She graduated in May of 2012 with a master of divinity degree from Chicago Theological Seminary in Chicago. Susan holds a master of theological studies from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL, and a master of arts degree in performance studies and the interpretation of literature from Northwestern University, also in Evanston. A member of Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ in Chicago, Susan pursing a call to ministry—both chaplaincy and parish work—and is seeking ordination in her denomination. Susan, her partner Claire, and their 20-month-old daughter Isobel, live in Chicago’s West Ridge neighborhood. Learn what Susan will be writing about.

Meghan M.M. Trimm is a member of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, a founding member of DePaul’s Nonviolent Living Project and a founding member of Protest Chaplains of Chicago. She will graduate from DePaul University with a Bachelor’s degree in Peace Justice and Conflict Studies in June 2013. Currently, Meghan works as an activist/peacemaker and nonviolence trainer in Chicago’s rich anti-war/anti-drones community. She is also beginning grassroots organizing in the campaign for women’s liberation in the Catholic Church by founding an organization called Sophia. All of Meghan's work is an exploration of the relationship between spirituality and activism. Learn what Meghan will be writing about.

Breaking the Silence: Syracuse NY April 26, 2013

Catholics, people of all faiths, agnostics and atheists, are invited to speak to the silence of the Diocese of Syracuse on the issue of assassination by drones. The Roman Catholic Chancery, the main office of the Syracuse Diocese, is a short distance to the Hancock Air Force drone base.

On Friday, April 26th at 11AM, people will gather in front of the chancery, just a block south of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception 259 Onondaga St. Syracuse, NY 13202.

Open microphones will be available for anyone to break the silence for Bishop Robert Joseph Cunningham, now in his fifth year as Bishop of Syracuse.

Organizers of the event, Friends of Franz (Jagerstatter) have requested Bishop Cunningham and hundreds of Catholic Bishops in the United States to speak out in opposition to war and assassinations. Their silence has been deafening. It’s time for the people to speak out. More information? Call 607 321 8537

Meet 11AM April 26th in front of the Roman Catholic Chancery in Syracuse

In 2007, Catholics who spent much of their lives opposing militarism were shocked to learn that the Roman Catholic Church announced the beatification of Austrian Catholic, Franz Jagerstatter. Jagerstatter had refused to go to war with the Nazis. In 1943, he was arrested, imprisoned, put on trial and beheaded. His parish priest, his Bishop and his village did not support his actions. There was silence. Before he was executed, Jagerstatter wrote: “If the Church stays silent in the face of what is happening, what difference would it make if no church were ever opened again?”

Some America Catholics, so disturbed by the failure of American Catholic leaders refusing to break the silence on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, went to the beatification in Linz, Austria. When they returned, they began to write a series of letters to American Catholic Bishops asking them to speak out against the wars we were waging. After six logical, well crafted letters of respectful Christian requests to speak out were sent over a two year period to over 300 Bishops, the group calling themselves, Friends of Franz (Jagerstatter) waited for some answers. There was one response from a Romanian Catholic Bishop John Michael Botean of Ohio. It was the only letter and a letter of support for our work.

When drone warfare began under the Bush Administration and then escalated under the leadership of President Obama, Friends of Franz researched the issue, wrote United States Catholic Bishops calling upon them to speak out in opposition to drones. A play that focused on drone warfare out of Syracuse, NY and performed at churches and universities, letters were written to editorial page editors.

Some members of Friends of Franz worked through St James Catholic Church in Johnson City, NY to petition their Bishop of Syracuse, Robert J Cunningham, to speak out in opposition to death dealing drones operating just a few miles from his chancery office in downtown Syracuse. Drones fired via satellite from Hancock Air Force Base in Syracuse assassinate supposed ‘enemies’ in places such as Afghanistan and Pakistan and perhaps other areas. The St James Johnson City Peace/Justice folks asked Bishop Cunningham for a meeting. He did not respond over a two year period to our letters but finally a meeting was arranged. Bishop Cunningham said we need to know that drones save us from invading other nations, from having boots on the ground. Additionally, he said that we should know that many of the people working at Hancock Drone base are Catholic.

Bishop Cunningham was asked if he could make a moral decision on the killing use of drones. He said he could not at this time. The meeting was a year ago and no response has come from the chancery.

Juan Cole, distinguished Professor of Middle East Studies at Michigan University, notes that the Bureau of Investigative Journalism states that ‘At least 400 civilians have been killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan.’ In fact, the Pakistani government figures are about the same as the Bureau’s own findings. A United Nations report indicates 2200 hundred people have been killed including at least 400 civilians. The report says: “The US drone campaign in Pakistan involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of its sovereignty.”

On Friday, April 26th, at 11AM, Friends of Franz will gather outside of the Syracuse Diocese Chancery to call on Bishop Cunningham to break his silence on war and the active participation of Catholics in the killings waged out of Hancock Air Base in the Diocese of Syracuse, NY. An open microphone will be available for Catholics to speak their views.

"A time comes when silence is betrayal."
Rev. Martin Luther King, Riverside Church, April, 1967
(Speaking out against the Vietnam War).

Friday, March 29, 2013

"The Predator" in Chicago - Good Friday, 2013 - "A Passion Play for the Drones Era"

"America is addicted to war."
Marie Shebeck as antiwar activist Kelly Mcguire.

"I had hoped you’d go to one of the military academies."
Jay Becker as Major Jennifer Golden, drone pilot, and
Sarah Latham as her daughter, Ella.

"And I thought I had a discharge from the Air Force culture."

"Ella, it’s not like I’m in your face."

"As we move away from boots on the ground
and pilots in the air, drones will overtake
all forms of military spending.
We’re into a new era of defense."
Rosalie Reigle as Senator Barbara Lewis

"We want to break the silence of Catholic Bishops,
but we feel that our more important goal is to get
the word out to the people -— especially young people."
Playwright Jack Gilroy discusses The Predator.

Chicago Presentation of "Passion Play for the Drones Era"
Kicks Off National Campaign of Actions

Performance Ties Drones Killing to
Good Friday Observance

In Chicago on Good Friday, 2013 (March 29), a cast consisting of long-time Chicago antiwar activists was joined by a NY playwright (and defendant in actions against US drone bases), Jack Gilroy, on Friday for one of the events kicking off a month-long campaign of anti-drones events across the country.

The Chicago event, a play entitled The Predator, about a drone pilot, her teenage daughter, a peace activist, and a U.S. Senator, was offered in conjunction with the 33rd Annual 8th Day Center for Justice Good Friday Walk for Justice. The play was staged at Grace Place (637 S Dearborn,Chicago), and was co-produced by the American Friends Service Committee, the White Rose Catholic Worker, and the No Drones Network, all based in Chicago.

"In fact, the idea of presenting The Predator in Chicago on Good Friday was inspired by last year's Walk for Justice," said Joe Scarry, coordinator of the No Drones Network. "Last year at Station 9 -- Execution -- representatives of Voices for Creative Nonviolence explained that the cross was Empire's weapon of choice for executing people, and that if Jesus were among us today he would probably be executed by a drone strike."

The Chicago production of The Predator was co-sponsored by Voices for Creative Nonviolence, as well as by the Antiwar Committee and Chicago Area Peace Action.

As reported on March 27, 2013, in The Guardian ( ), Barack Obama's drones programme will be the target of a month-long series of protests dubbed "April Days of Action" by participants. "We're excited to have multiple events in Chicago -- including this dramatic production as well as a major protest on April 6 of Chicago-based Boeing Corporation's killer drone program -- to help kick off this national campaign," said Joe Iosbaker, of the Antiwar Committee.

Events are planned for Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, DC, Atlanta, Dayton, Ft. Wayne, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Des Moines, Seattle, Tucson, San Francisco, Sacramento, San Diego, Honolulu, as well as in dozens of other locations, including many of the communities that host the estimated 100 drone basing sites in the U.S.

The Predator is available for free download on the Pax Christi website.
Groups are encouraged to mount their own productions!

You can listen to the Chicago performance of
The Predator on WBEZ Chicago's Chicago Amplified.

For more information on The Predator, see
"How Communities Are Using the Play The Predator to Question Drone Warfare ".

Chicago Production of

by Jack Gilroy


JAY BECKER as Major Jennifer Golden, her mother
ROSALIE RIEGLE as Senator Barbara Lewis
MARIE SHEBECK as Kelly Maguire, a peace and justice activist

and introducing SARAH LATHAM as Ella Golden, a college student

Produced by Marie Shebeck, Molly McQueen, and Joe Scarry

Related posts

The Predator challenges us with the question: What do we think about "Just War" Theory? In the introduction to the play, Gilroy says, "This play hopes to quicken the moral juices of Jesuit students who have been taught it’s okay to go to war and kill as long as you have good reasons provided by your country’s leadership." As the antiwar activist says near the end of the play, "No war is just."

(See How Communities Are Using the Play "The Predator" to Question Drone Warfare )

Reviewer Stephen Holden has written in The New York Times that Good Kill "makes a persuasive case that our blind infatuation with all-powerful technology is stripping us of our humanity . . . "

(See "Good Kill" Will Have EVERYONE Talking About the "Invisible" Drone Wars )

Grounded raises tough questions. I was hoping that the play would challenge the idea that killing people with drones is good. It's a reflection of the seriousness of this work that that is just one of the issues it raises; others include our society's willingness to destroy the people who we employ to "serve" ("serve our country," serve us in general), our culture's worship of violence / use of force, and the consequences of pervasive surveillance.

Leveling Up is the creative work that demonstrates just how thoroughly America's new ways of warfare have become intertwined with the other dominant strands in our culture.

"By turns comic and appalling, Unmanned dramatizes the lives of two drone operators in a remote desert in the American Southwest—one, a retired male fighter pilot who is terrified to fly; the other, a young female gamer who has never flown. This sets the stage for an exploration of the bizarre and disturbing profession of the military drone “pilot” and the ways in which technology has radically altered contemporary life and warfare."

Friday, December 28, 2012

Opening the Aperture: Targeting the Holy Innocents

“Herod is going to search for the child and destroy him…”
Mathew 2:13
“I’m looking for children with potential hostile intent…”
Lt Col Marion Carrington

It is Christmas time 2012. It is that time of the year when we celebrate the birth of a particular child in manger and lift up children everywhere. However, in the Catholic and Anglican calendar December 28 is also the Feast of the Holy Innocents or Feast of the Martyrs. The church commemorates this day as a way to remember the children Herod ordered murdered because they were a threat to his throne, his imperial power. He ordered his troops to kill every male child under two years old thus the slaughter of the innocents.  Though we name and some remember this Feast Day, the US Catholic bishops’ Conference omits verses 16-18 from Mathew’s gospel describing the massacre. Too bloody?  Too much like the present killing or targeting of children? Cultures of death can never stand cultures of life?

In April of this year at the Woodrow Wilson Center John Brennan made the case for a change in our counterterrorism policy from ‘imminent threat to ‘significant threat’ which essentially means we can go after or target anyone who we think might do something against the US interests.  The aperture for the use of lethal force widened.
In his speech in Oslo accepting the Nobel Peace Prize he said, “Where force is necessary, we have a moral and strategic interest in binding ourselves to certain rules of conflict. And even as we confront a vicious adversary that abides by no rules, I believe the United States of America must remain a standard-bearer in the conduct of war. That is what makes us different from those whom we fight. That is a source of our strength.”
In early December Lt. Col Marion Carrington told the Marine Corp Times that children as well as “military-age males” had been identified as potential threats because they were being used by the Taliban to assist in attacks against Afghan and coalition forces. “It opens our aperture” said Carrington, to “looking for children with potential hostile intent.”
The aperture has indeed been opened even further, 178 children were killed by drone strikes this year. All significant threats?  All children with potential hostile intentions?
“Herod is going to search for the child and destroy him.” We are going to search for the child and blow him or her up. Are we prepared to say that such violence visited upon these children this year is somehow the price of freedom we are fighting for? Is this the new standard that America wants to put forward to the world? Is this not the old standard, killing children because they are a potential threat to established power?  Are we any different from our terrorist enemies who use children to kill if we target children who might have hostile intent?
If the prince of peace has really come and the birth of Christ is a proclamation that God’s peace and justice will be victorious then we need to begin to act like it were so, we need to begin to expose the false charges of threats---imminent or significant and begin to unmask militarism for what it is. We need to face our own Herods and demand that this aperture be closed.
One way is to refuse the move from imminent to significant threat that allows for lethal force against children. The other way is to call on the US House of Representatives to debate and pass Rep. Dennis Kucinich’s bill that calls for more transparency regarding U.S. drone strike policy.
Watch’s new video below to learn about the children who have died. The video names some of the children who have died in these strikes and the American policies that have been created to cover up these civilian casualties:

Friday, December 14, 2012

How Communities Are Using the Play "The Predator" to Question Drone Warfare

by Joe Scarry

"The Predator" is a play by Jack Gilroy that is being used by groups around the country to explore issues related to drone warfare and the larger questions of the militarization of our society.

The play revolves around a college student and some questions she is beginning to raise about her country's conduct in the world, and what her own response should be. The other characters in the play are: the student's Air Force officer mother, a U.S. senator, and an antiwar activist.

"As we move away from boots on the ground
and pilots in the air, drones will overtake
all forms of military spending.
We’re into a new era of defense."
Rosalie Reigle as Senator Barbara Lewis
in The Predator, March 2013 in Chicago.
Questioning War

Fundamentally, "The Predator" challenges us to question war and what we think about war.

Do we have a true appreciation of war? Have we really thought about the "defense" activities of our own government?

As an antiwar activist character in the play says, "The truth is that we have a Department of War, not Defense," and the "enemy" is "the indigenous people of any region where we decide we have interests." We are asked to think about "the indoctrination of home, school, media and government." The college student explains that she has come to realize, "I’d been duped."

Going a step deeper, the play asks:
  • What do we think about militarization of schools?
  • What do we think about having an economy that benefits from militarization?
The play turns on the question of whether the student will pursue Peace Studies or participate in ROTC. (Or, as the it's-all-good Senator suggests, do both!)

And, remembering perhaps that our morality is seldom far from our pocketbooks, the Senator suggests, "As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I have an opportunity to bring this work to my good people of Syracuse and other regions of New York. There is a huge growth of industries engaged in the design, production, and testing of unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles. . . . Our economy may be in trouble but the drone industry is hot." In contrast to the views of the Senator, the antiwar activist's suggestion that we "develop technology that is life-giving, not death-giving" feels like the sun coming out from behind a dark cloud.

And then there is the specific problem of those "unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles," or drones, The play takes its name from the "Predator" drone. Is there something in particular about drones that we need to pay special attention to? Consider the contrast between two descriptions of civilians killed by drones -- "collateral damage":
"In our attempt to destroy evil, accidents can occur."

"Their bodies, carbonized, were fully burned. They could only be identified by their legs and arms. One body was still on fire when we got there."
The play is all about the detachment from the consequences of violence that drone warfare epitomizes.

Personal Decisions

How should a person define "duty" and "responsibility"? The mother in the play is certain that she is pursuing a life of duty and responsibility by being a drone operator. "My whole life has been devoted to keeping the peace," she says, and finds solace in the notion that, "For me, I shall do my duty and have faith that my God and my country are ordering me to do the right thing." However, she faces the devestation of hearing her daughter say, "I can’t support your mission any longer," and of hearing the antiwar activist say of U.S. casualities, "They died in vain."

Moreover, the play poses the question: what should we think when we see people engaged in acts of dissent? As the Air Force officer mom confesses, "When some peaceniks did a die-in at the Creech Air Force base back in 2009, I never would have guessed my own daughter would have taken their side."

The Faith Connection

The playwright is particularly interested in the impact of faith traditions -- particularly the Roman Catholic Church -- on views of nation, society, and war.

Specifically, the play challenges us with the question: What do we think about "Just War" Theory? In the introduction to the play, Gilroy says, "This play hopes to quicken the moral juices of Jesuit students who have been taught it’s okay to go to war and kill as long as you have good reasons provided by your country’s leadership." As the antiwar activist says near the end of the play, "No war is just."

More broadly, the play poses the question: does our faith come to our aid when it is time to respond to the problems of war and violence? Perhaps the most eerie testimony comes from the Air Force mother: "When Cain killed Abel, the arms race began. Making weapons is part of our nature, because self-preservation is the rule."

Learn more about how people are challenging the myth of "just war" on the World Beyond War website.

"The Predator" is available for free download on the Pax Christi website.

Read more about the playwright, Jack Gilroy, and the story of his work against drones in Drones and Friends of Franz Jagerstatter.

Recent performances of "The Predator":
Chapel Hill, NC: Elders for Peace Stage "The Predator"

Columbus, GA: School of the Americas Watch - Ann Wright, the first US diplomat to resign her job when the war on Iraq began, took the role of the activist in The Predator when it was presented at the Columbus Convention Center, on November 17th, 2012, just a short distance away from the new drone operation at Ft. Benning.

Wittenbeg, OH: Wittenberg to Perform Gilroy's "The Predator" September 16

Washington, DC: during the November, 2011, Ignatian Family Teach In at Georgetown University

Syracuse, NY: Pebble Hill Presbyterian Church

Syracuse, NY: St Lucy's Church - a performance in which Kathy Kelly took a reading role, when she was in town facing charges for an anti-drones action at the Syracuse drone base

Syracuse, NY: part of a Spring, 2012, workshop in a peace studies conference at Syracuse University

Related posts

In Chicago on Good Friday, 2013 (March 29), a cast consisting of long-time Chicago antiwar activists was joined by a NY playwright (and defendant in actions against US drone bases), Jack Gilroy, for one of the events kicking off a month-long campaign of anti-drones events across the country: a performance of Gilroy's play, The Predator.

(See "The Predator" in Chicago - Good Friday, 2013 - "A Passion Play for the Drones Era")

In the fall of 2007, a friend, Bernie Survil of Greensburg, PA, and a Catholic priest who worked for decades among the poor of Central America, called to say that he was going to Linz, Austria for the beatification of the Austrian Catholic peasant, Franz Jagerstatter, guillotined during the Third Reich for his refusal to bear arms for Hitler. Would I please go along for this momentous occasion?

(See Drones and Friends of Franz Jagerstatter )

My trial will be one of the first jury trials for this so called ‘crime’ of speaking out against killer drones. If convicted, I was told by the Judge to expect to be sentenced to the Jamesville Penitentiary for one year . . . .

(See You're Gonna Put This Guy in Prison? Really?? )

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Drones and Friends of Franz Jagerstatter

[Jack Gilroy previously wrote a two-part meditation on the experience of Irish-Americans and War, including the role of Catholic education in attitudes toward war, and the part played by Irish-Americans in resisting drone warfare and other violence, and in perpetuating it. Here he explores how socially conscious Roman Catholics relate to the tradition of war resistance within the Church, and how that is leading some of them toward anti-drone activism.]

by Jack Gilroy

In the fall of 2007, a friend, Bernie Survil of Greensburg, PA, and a Catholic priest who worked for decades among the poor of Central America, called to say that he was going to Linz, Austria for the beatification of the Austrian Catholic peasant, Franz Jagerstatter, guillotined during the Third Reich for his refusal to bear arms for Hitler. Would I please go along for this momentous occasion?

Four of us traveled together to Austria. All of us were practicing Catholics: two priests, one former priest, and myself, a lay Catholic. We were pleasantly dismayed, maybe shocked, that the Catholic Church, an institution that for almost 1700 years partnered with militaries around the world and accepted and sometimes encouraged Catholics to take up arms and fight for their fatherland, would bestow such an honor upon a man who steadfastly refused to fight! This has been especially true in Germany, Austria, Britain, Australia/New Zealand and the United States.

We knew that Catholics were unlike peace church members who refused to train to kill. Catholics were those who often led the charge to prove their love of country by dying for their country. And now, the Vatican is putting one man who refused to render to Caesar as a candidate for possible sainthood? Amazing!

A small group of members of Pax Christi, an association that started in Europe after World War II to focus on ending war, met in a classroom of Johann Kepler University in Linz. The Americans among the group decided to bring back to the United States the spirit of courage and conscience that Franz Jagerstatter displayed in his refusal to fight for the Nazis.


On the way home from the ceremony in Linz (and a visit to the village where Franziska Jagerstatter, the widow of Franz, still lives), John Dear SJ, who had previously written about Franz Jagerstatter, penned a fine piece for National Catholic Reporter: "Blessed Franz Jagerstatter".

Fr. Roy Bourgeois said he would work to do a video on Franz, and by 2010 did that with Franz Jagerstatter: A Man of Conscience, with Martin Sheen as the voice of Franz.

We contacted Orbis Publications and requested that the letters and writing of Franz Jagerstatter be translated and published in the United States. Robert Ellsberg, editor, agreed. (See Franz Jagerstatter: Letters and Writings from Prison, based on the work of Austrian writer, Erna Putz.)

One of our Friends of Franz members wrote a play, Franz Jagerstatter—Render to Caesar? - free for download on the Pax Christi website.

With the leadership of Bill Privett of Buffalo, NY, Friends of Franz put together a web site -- Franz Jagerstatter: People For Breaking the Silence -- that we invite people to use. The submission of articles to the web site is not only welcome but encouraged.


Attempting to move United States Catholic Bishops to take a firm moral stance to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Friends of Franz meet monthly in an upstate NY lake house to plan strategy. Letters to Catholic Bishops were crafted by Bill Privett of Buffalo with input from other Friends of Franz members. Over several years six letters were sent to over 300 Catholic bishops respectfully requesting them to take a strong stand on war and the preparation for war. Friends of Franz received just one response, a postcard acknowledging the receiving of one of our letters.

Some members went to Baltimore for the annual Catholic Conference of Bishops meeting hoping to make contact. We were not admitted inside but learned that the large dinner gathering for the Bishops was sponsored by the United States Military. Only Bishop John Michael Botean of the Romanian Catholic Diocese of Canton, OH, found the grace to walk up to the peacemakers and engage in conversation. He has proved to be the one friend we are proud to know.

Friends of Franz did other actions to inform Bishops when we embarked on a 40 day fast during Lent in 2009. Some folks camped on cathedral steps (Syracuse, NY), and others gathered in mass in Des Moines, IA, with prayer, signs, petitions. In New Orleans, LA, Friends of Franz supporters waited in sack cloth and ashes for the Bishop as he proceeded into the cathedral for Ash Wednesday Mass. His assistants were given our literature but we received no response from Bishop Alfred Hughes.


Obviously frustrated but not defeated, we have spent over two years trying to arrange a meeting with the Catholic Bishop of Syracuse. In June of 2012 we did get to hear out the Bishop of Syracuse on the issue of drones. We had sent the Bishop letters and also got to him through one of his diocesan priests. Our strategy was not to preach to him about drones being triggered just a few miles away from his office in downtown Syracuse (Hancock Air Base), and often ending in assassinations thousands of miles away. We simply asked him his view on the use of drones.

Bishop Robert Cunningham told us that he’d been reading the literature we sent to him on drones and other publications as well. He said he was not ready to make a moral decision on drones. He said he respected our views and admired our attention to this issue of drones and noted that drones keep our soldiers away from foreign places and that is good. He also said that many Catholics work at Hancock Air Base. And drone manufacturing does supply work for people in the area. (For instance, Lockheed is in Syracuse.) We pressed him to take a moral stance but he held off making a commitment.


Blessed Franz we pray for the Bishops to find the grace and courage you had knowing death would be your fate.

Our focus will continue to be militarism. Our Friends of Franz play, The Predator, is just one of our efforts to educate the general public about drones. Ann Wright, the first US diplomat to resign her job when the war on Iraq began, took the role of the activist in The Predator when it was presented at the Columbus Convention Center, on November 17th, 2012, just a short distance away from the new drone operation at Ft. Benning. Ann thinks the play is very good and hopes it can be used around the country. It has played in a number of venues but as a reading. Several critics note that the play would be even better if memorized rather than read. Friends of Franz hope that college campuses take on the play and perhaps have street theater on campus and community to promote the play. The play can be downloaded from the Pax Christi website: The Predator.

Ten of our of our Friends of Franz members have been arrested at the Syracuse, NY, drone facility: Mary Snyder, Jim Clune, Dick Keough, Bernie Survil, Mary Ann Grady, Clare Grady, Jack Gilroy, Mark Scibilia Carver, Vickie Ross and Jerry Berrigan. The Upstate NY Coaltion to Ground the Drones and End the Wars and Friends of Franz would like to see new faces on the line at Hancock where the upstate drone committee is successfully doing Gandhian Waves. Gates to the Hancock drone base have been blocked numerous times in the past year and a half. Just recently, the base commander was able to get an order of protection from peace activists who cannot be found 100 feet from the base commander. We, of course, are committed nonviolent activists and neither the Base Commander of the Attack Team nor any of his associates are in danger from us. Apparently, we have to be careful of who is sitting next to us in a diner or pumping gas at a public station. We could be arrested for endangering the leader of the Hancock Attack Force. Friends of Franz would like to see an order of protection given to the families in countries where drone Hellfire missiles are fired.

Friday, November 30, 2012

I Dream of Pakistan

A Creative Writing Piece on the Drone War in Pakistan and the Hope of Nonviolent US Resistance

By Meghan M.M. Trimm

I am in a dream. I see an SUV hit a biker, with a child carrier. It was an Arab-looking man with a baby on the back of his bicycle. I hear wailing -- an infant’s cries. The father’s skull is cracked on the pavement. He is dead. The streets around him are paved in red. All around me I notice my neighbors going to work, mowing their grass, sipping tea on their front lawn, but there is no one scrambling to aid. I have the stunning realization that I am the only person in this world who knows what is happening. I try to yell for help, but there is no sound like someone pressed the mute button.

The woman who was following them is in shock -- the mother. She puts down her bike, shaking, and falls on her knees. I can see the blood of her husband seeping into the threads of her burka around her knees. She hasn’t even cried yet -- her face caught in an agony that cannot yet bear sound. I feel compelled to move, but I am rooted to the ground until the spreading bodily fluids reach my sneakers. Suddenly I am in full motion, dashing to the baby carrier. The child’s arm is crushed between her seat and the pavement by the weight of her father. She is bleeding from her head with cuts around her mouth and eyes. She landed in broken glass. I feel shame for the trash thrown in the streets of my careless city. I want to lift her out of there and give her comfort, but I know I could do more harm than good if she has an injured spine.

The mother is screaming, she is moving toward her lost husband on her hands and knees. She does not feel the glass, or if she does she doesn’t care. I feel I can do nothing. I am on my knees holding the infant’s hand.

The blood covering the streets is seeping up into the neighbors’ yards. It reaches beyond this invisible scene, creeping up and soaking the lawn, drenching the lawn furniture; it reaches my neighbors' hands. I look on in amazement as they go about their lives unnoticing. How can they not see they have blood on their hands!? I feel angry and helpless.

The SUV, with tinted windows, backs up and attempts to drive past. I have found my purpose. Without thinking I step into its path. The engine roars at me like a mad beast, but I know I have to stay. Scrambling my phone from my pocket I call for emergency care.

As I stand there waiting in the path of the beast I feel a tug on my jeans. I look down and see the child. She has grown into a 3 or 4 year old now. She looks up at me with sparkling piercing happy eyes. When I meet her gaze, I am awake.

Her Name is Peace
by Meghan M.M. Trimm