Sunday, 28 April 2013

Ground the drones demo hits the headlines.

This is an eye witness account of the Ground the Drones protest last Saturday at RAF Waddington organised jointly by CND and Stop the War Coalition.    The remarkable aspect of a comparatively small demonstration was the degree of media interest which was intense judging from the TV crews on the ground and subsequent news bulletins.   There was prominent reportage on the main BBC news.    An interesting departure for official news outlets which have consistently blanked out news coverage of many anti nuclear and anti war protests over the last few years.    So why the sudden media concern?    This can best be answered by describing what drones are

Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles and are aircraft either controlled by "pilots" on the ground or autonomously following a pre-programmed mission  they are either used for reconnaissance purposes or armed with missiles and bombs.   Armed drones were first used in the Balkans War and then in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan by the United States.    In June 2008 the MoD confirmed that a British Reaper UAV had fired its weapons for the first time.    In May 2012 MoD reported  that British Reapers had undertaken 281 armed attacks in Afghanistan since 2008.   In July 2011 the MoD  was forced to admit that Afghan civilians had been killed in a British drone strike.

British Reaper drones will be controlled from RAF Waddington and it is likely that yesterdays march and rally will be a prelude to further such protests.   Will the British media sustain its interest as the obscenity of drone warfare in the coming months as their use filters through into the public consciousness.    What is also disturbing is the probable use of drones for domestic surveillance and thus a dramatic expansion of the power of the state  and a further erosion  of human rights.

The protest was conspicuous by the absence of young people and most of those present were either veteran peace campaigners or politicos from groups such as Counterfire, SWP, Socialist Resistance.and a small group of Marxist Leninists.    Trade Union banners and anarchist flags were nowhere to be scene.   Overall it was a pleasant afternoon out in the Lincolnshire sunshine but the rally on waste ground near the base was fairly perfunctory.    In a way the day was saved by the presence of the news media and hopefully future direct action will challenge the legitimacy of these pernicious war machines.

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