14 April 2009
For nearly 30 years, Father Louie Vitale — a 76-year-old former Air Force navigator turned Franciscan monk and peace activist — has traveled to the remote deserts of the Southwest to demonstrate against … well, just about everything involving America’s military. He’s been thrown in jail for protesting the U.S. nuclear weapons complex, the wars in Iraq and the military’s interrogation procedures, to name just a few of his more than 200 arrests. But these days, Vitale (pictured, fourth from left) and his fellow activists have a new target in the mountains and deserts north of Las Vegas: America’s fleet of killer drones.
"We’ve been out there in that very desert, stopping nuclear testing, for over 30 years now," he tells Democracy Now. "All of a sudden, we noticed down the street … all of these drones." At first, he thought they were just practice drones. "Then we find out that they’re bombing and bombing and bombing in Afghanistan."
In Central Asia, the unmanned strikes on suspected militants have
become one of the most controversial elements of the eight-year campaign
against al Qaeda and the Taliban. Late last week, Pakistan’s prime
minister demanded that America hand over control of the
drones operating in his country to the Islamabad government. The
News of Pakistan accused the tele-operated aircraft of "perishing
But here in America, the unmanned attacks have gone on largely without protest. Even the professional activist types have largely ignored the robots and their military masters.
Last Thursday afternoon, however, Vitale and 13 other demonstrators marched into Nevada’s Creech Air Force Base, where the military remotely pilots the unmanned aircraft that fly over Afghanistan and Iraq. They sat down, and began to sing and pray — part of a 10-day vigil dubbed "Ground the Drones."
About an hour later, they were arrested by the State Police. At the activists’ behest, the cops then drove them to Las Veags for booking. "When we were released on Good Friday morning, we did what any normal Christian would do," Vitale’s compatriot, John Dear, writes. "We went back to the scene of the crime and continued to pray and speak out for an end to U.S. warmaking."
Dear then launches into a rather purple account
about his detention, release and return to Creech — just in time for a
"Stations of the
Pace e Bene]