A small group of protestors lined up outside the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station on Wednesday. They were speaking out against the use of drones by the U.S. military, flown overseas and used in attacks while operated from domestic sites including the local air base.
The protestors, nearly ten in all, included a Vietnam Veteran and a clergyman. The veteran was Russell Brown, who served in Vietnam in 1966 and 1967. He said President Obama and Congress won't stop military actions overseas, so it's time to reach out to those in control of the drones.
"If we can communicate with the soldiers, and help them become aware, help them make the decision not to fight anymore, to refuse to fly their drones," Brown said.
As the protestors stood along the wide driveway leading in and out of the installation, cars came in and out. Some made eye contact, a couple of people waved but most inside the vehicles kept to themselves.
The Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station has struggled over the years to stay open, surviving numerous rounds of nationwide base closings. Last year, the Air National Guard's 107th Air Wing got a new lifeline by adopting drone operations. Protestors were asked about the jobs preserved at the base by the move.
"We need to give these men and women here another viable livelihood that is not requiring them to kill people, to get Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, to have increased blowback against us overseas, and it will come here," said Victoria Ross of the Peace Education Project.
Protestors were also asked to respond to the argument that using drones keeps American soldiers out of harm's way.
"If I'm standing here looking at you, and you shoot me and I shoot you, we're at least knowing what we're doing," said Reverend John Long, a Presbyterian minister and board member with the Western New York Peace Center. "When somebody kills somebody out of a drone, while they're sitting in Niagara Falls and the drone is in Afghanistan, they don't know. They know it's a box, they know it's a tank, they know it's a vehicle, they know it's a house, whatever it is. But they don't know what's inside it."
Protestors say while the drone operators may be pressured to obey orders, they do have the legal right under the Nuremburg Code to disobey a command deemed immoral, such as killing a human target.