SF Bay Area

Shut Down Creech: 11 years of Resisting the U.S. Drone Assassination Program

These “Burma-Shave” signs were stretched along the highway during the first morning’s commute. 

By Toby Bloom

It Is No Measure of Health to be Well-Adjusted to a Profoundly Sick Society  Krishnamurti

In the middle of a global pandemic, and amidst growing racial and political turmoil within our country,15 activists from California, Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico converged at Creech Killer Drone Base just north of Las Vegas.  Most were members of CODEPINK and Veterans for Peace, the event co-sponsors. For one week, in the beautiful Nevada high desert, we became a united peaceful resistance to the ultimate in U.S. global terror & violence:  militarized drones.  One of the participants, Charles Withuhn from Chico, CA, shared the Krishnamurti quote.  It expressed our motivation succinctly:  We refuse to become “well adjusted” to the brutality and inhumanity of killing people around the world with computers and satellites.  (Click on the quote above for a discussion of Krishnamurti’s words.)

Background:  With each new U.S. administration, the covert drone killing machine expands in it’s global criminal activities.  On January 3 of this year President Trump set a very dangerous precedent when he allowed U.S. drones to kill one of Iran’s very top military figures, Major General Soleimani, along with at least 10 other Iranian and Iraqi military officers in Iraq and Yemen on the same day. The attack in Yemen failed to get it’s “intended target”  but killed another military official instead. Whoops!  Let us remember that the U.S. is NOT (yet) at war with Iran. Fortunately, Iran exhibited some restraint, but this unbridled U.S. covert violence puts the entire world at risk.  It has been speculated that these criminal drone attacks were orchestrated from Creech AFB, where the CIA orders our U.S. airmen to kill with drone missiles. It’s all so secret, who knows? So we gathered for a week to express our united outrage, refusing to adjust to these worsening acts of state terror.  Since the U.S. government habitually fails to use diplomacy to settle global conflicts, and chooses to keep us in a state of costly perpetual warfare, it is our hope that…”we will teach the soldiers that they must take control of and understand the consequences of their actions,” exclaimed Maggie Huntington.  As during Vietnam war, these ongoing wars will not end until the U.S. military organizes against war and REVOLTS!  (Watch for free this important documentary about military resistance in Vietnam:  Sir! No Sir! )  Using COVID-safe practices of social distancing and masks throughout the week, our twice-daily bannering along the highway during commute hours included varying themes aimed at military and civilian personnel.

Our ritualistic “funeral procession” to mourn the 6 million + already dead

Connecting the dots between Climate Disaster & Out-of-control U.S. Global Militarism:(Maggie, Chris Chase-Dunning, Toby and Ray Cage)

(Charles Withuhn & Fred Bialy)

A Solution to the Obscene Monetary Cost of War: Toby Blomé and Virginia Hauflaire (Phoenix)

Fostering higher levels of mindfulness: “Observation without judgement is the highest level of human intelligence.”  Krishnamurti (Charles & friends)

And with other vigils, we used a myriad of other signs and banners throughout the week delineating the many ways U.S. drone attacks are so revolting and intolerable:   Illegal, Immoral, Shameful, Cowardly, Unjust, Barbaric, Wrong, and Racist….  We knew we were stimulating deeper levels of thinking when two Las Vegas police officers walked up to us during our Drone Attacks Are… Burma-Shave highway demo” and one of them (a recent veteran himself) asked:  I can understand why you would describe drone attacks using most of those signs, but could you explain how drone attacks are “Racist.”  This opened a very lengthy and meaningful discussion, with both of them engaged fully in the conversation.  And, they pledged to watch the drone documentary, “National Bird.” in the near future.  This was a significant step forward, as one had in past visits responded that he “didn’t have time.”  In fact, the new police recruit from Chicago, (his first time at one of our protests), reported that he already searched the film on Netflix (the night before), and said he was impressed with it’s rating of 100%!!! ….Planting seeds of peace with every moment we can take. Then there was the young, very tall and very “buffed up” truck driver, who saw us on the highway one afternoon, when we were holding a banner that read:  Stop Global Tyranny No Foreign Bases No Drones. He pulled his humongous semi-truck off onto the shoulder as he passed us, got out of his truck, and came jogging jauntily down the highway to chat with us.  Pulling out a pen and pad, he asked what we were about and why we were there.

I gave him our website link, he wrote it down, and we started out in friendly conversation. When we got on the topic of COVID-19, he began to brag about how he never wears a mask, and how the pandemic is exaggerated, etc.  At that point he was about 6 ft. from me.  When I asked if he had a grandmother and how old she was.  He said 90 something.  When I calmly asked him how he would feel if she died from COVID-19, he began to get very irate and agitated, voice getting raised.  Seems his personal civil rights were far more important than the safety of his grandmother.  He was no longer interested in talking with us, and stormed back to his truck.  I felt safer that he was gone.  Hopefully, he’ll at least check out our website. …You win some, you lose some.

Throughout the week, we asked the base personnel in numerous ways to join our side: (Charles Withuhn & Fred Bialy)

This included the always-present dove-decked Veterans For Peace flags that our Creecher veterans provided daily:  (Chris Knudsen & Dan Knox)

And the reflective and compelling sign that VFP member Dave Patterson so often displayed to help guide them to a better way.

Listen to Dave reflect about Shut Down Creech and the Sacred Peace Walk:

But ultimately, the week’s protest culminated in a “soft blockade,” on Friday morning, in order to fully express our strong opposition to U.S. drone terror executed from Creech AFB.  Nonviolent direct action to interrupt “business as usual,” for as long as possible, has always been a hallmark of our resistance at Creech Air Force Base. As our event implies, as long as drone murders are being executed from Creech, our goal is: SHUT DOWN CREECH! Due to the pandemic, however, none of us wanted to risk ending up in the Las Vegas jail this time, nor did the police want to have to take us there, as they already expressed to us earlier in the week.  We were informed days before that should we do any formal blockade of the entrance to the base, where hundreds of cars enter each weekday morning, that the police would give us a 2 minute warning BEFORE arresting us.  We two “old-time Creechers,” Maggie Huntington and myself, felt that we could rely on this info, and that the risk was low enough, as long as we left the entrance road within the 2 min. warning period. So, on the last morning, AFTER half of the 15 Creechers had already headed home the morning before, we arrived an hour earlier than usualBEFORE police and counter-protesters had arrived.  We set up our bright pink light brigade letters that spelled “NO DRONES” in the dark of the early morning, and vigiled for an hour, as traffic began to increase into the base.  Ultimately we took them by surprise with our “soft blockade,”since we usually do our official direct action on Wedneday.  With about 5 support folks standing by, Maggie and I stretched our long banner (“Stop Droning Afghanistan, 19 YEARS ENOUGH”) into the entrance road, and used coffins to fully block the 2 lane road into the base.  Using a megaphone, I solemnly began reading the names and ages of drone victims, many of them children, their names embedded on small pink paper drones.

SHUTTING DOWN DRONE KILLING!

As soon as our direct action was executed, a police car immediately blocked the entrance road in front of us, which caused a long line of vehicles to back up into the very long right turn lane on the highway at the base entrance.  We continued to read names of the drone victims, and expressed the many reasons for our peaceful direct action that day.  After some time, 2 more police cars drove up to our blockade from the back/base side, and ultimately the long formal “riot act” was read to us through the police loudspeaker.  Eventually, the beginning of our 2-minute warning was given, ordering us to clear the roadway.  Fred Bialy’s 3 short videos of our nonviolent action are recorded HERE : Before the 2 minute time ran out, we both exited from the highway. What was surprising to find out was that as we were walking away from our action, we observed that the traffic that had been directed to the north entrance gate, a mile away, was backed all the way down the hwy, almost to the entrance of the gate we were blockading. It appeared that the U.S. Air Force had been unprepared for our peaceful action. For that we were grateful.  It can be be said that, all told, our interference of the illegal and criminal drone acts being carried out at Creech AFB probably lasted for nearly a half an hour.  Pretty darned good for 2 middle-age peace-abiding women!  I can’t stop from imagining what we could do with the courageous actions of hundreds in some future SDC event?  To add to the success of the week, an excellent Common Dreams article written by Brett Wilkins reported on our work.   And because that article was carried on numerous other websites, including a Swedish and African one (World Beyond War), our efforts reached thousands.  (Media and video attached).

Most of the Creecher Crew, Fall 2020

We dearly missed two of our regular VFP Creechers this year from Utah, Gary Mesker and Ken Kohler, who, sadly, could not make it this time.  Gary hit it on the nail with his message of support to us: “Maggie’s words (referring to the Chinese Proverb) ‘To Know, and not to act, is not to know’ really rings true for me.  The Creechers put their beliefs into action.” Over the years, we have grown into one united Creecher Family.  It helps us to remember our connection to each other, to our greater human family, and to all living things on earth.  During the first 24 hours at the Goddess Temple, our base camp, I was greeted by an overwhelming number of desert animals, more than ever seen before in a 24 hr. period.  3 jack rabbits, a desert horned lizard, white-tailed antelope squirrel, 2 separate sightings of a great horned owl, “Princess Pepper” the temple dog, and finally, on the morning of our first vigil, as we loaded into our cars to head to Creech, a killdeer.  I had never seen a killdeer, a great horned owl, or a white-tailed antelope squirrel at The Temple before.  It felt like a good omen:  All the earth’s creatures stand with the Creechers! We hope you’ll consider joining us next year, Spring or Fall, and bring friends!

With much appreciation,
Maggie, Toby, Eleanor and Garett

SPECIAL GRATITUDES:

In closing, we would like to give special thanks to every “Creecher” who joined us this fall, during a more “risky” period of our country’s history, with pandemic and all.  Each one of you brought special “gifts” with you to help in the success of the overall week.  Huge gratitude to all who contributed to preparing meals, and helped with clean-up and other tasks.  Thank you to those who presented special “mini-workshops”: -Virginia Hauflaire & Shirley Tung:  Personal reflections on being “Non-White” in America, and how racism touches your lives daily.   -John Jerpe, with song and guitar:  Folk Music’s role in Activism -Caroline Davies, Introduction to ‘Sociocracy.’ -Pete Aronson, Reflections on Nukes, Mining and Indigenous Lands -Charles Withuhn, thru books and insight, How to Create Change by Lifestyle Changes, and an Introduction to the Peace Panel Project. A special thank you to our new “priestess,” Mary Clare Foeke, who went overboard every single day, to “accidentally” provide incredible hospitality to us all at the Goddess Temple, helping to rejuvenate us for “the next day.” And lastly a very very special thank you to Shirley Tung (Phoenix), who saw the importance of being at Shut Down Creech, and, at the age of 84, was willing to take the highest risk of all of us during this pandemic.

Shirley Tung……deeply grateful for your presence!

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CodePink is a women's grassroots-initiated, worldwide organization of women and men working for peace, social justice and a green economy. CodePink SF serves the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond.


 

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The national CodePink organization organizes for justice for Iraqis and to hold war criminals accountable. CodePink actively opposes the U.S. war in Afghanistan, torture, the detention center at Guantanamo, weaponized and spy drones, the prosecution of whistleblowers, U.S. support for the Israeli occupation of Palestine and repressive regimes.

Rooted in a network of local organizers, CodePink's tactics include satire, street theatre, creative visuals, civil resistance, and directly challenging powerful decision-makers in government and corporations. And, of course, wearing pink!