Another week of anti-war protests in Creech has ended; activists swear not to give up


Steve marcus

Garett Reppenhagen, left, executive director of Veterans for Peace, and Chris Velazquez of Philadelphia demonstrate at the Fremont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas on Thursday, September 30, 2021. Members of Veterans for Peace, CODEPINK and Gamers for Peace participated in protests last week against US military drone strikes.

Garett Reppenhagen’s father is a Vietnam War veteran. His two grandfathers fought in World War II.

Reppenhagen followed his path in the military, serving as a sniper in the US military and touring Iraq before being honorably demobilized.

Somewhere along the way, he said he realized there were better ways to solve problems than to wage expensive wars. The Denver resident, 42, who visited Las Vegas last week, is now an anti-war advocate and the executive director of Veterans for Peace, a global group of veterans campaigning for the dismantling of the war economy. It aims to reduce and eventually eliminate nuclear weapons and has 140 chapters around the world that work on this cause.

“We believe that we must use all diplomatic efforts and make sure they are exhausted before we send troops into danger, before we engage in military aggression that ends up killing many innocent people,” Reppenhagen said.

Veterans for Peace and CODEPINK, a women-led organization working to end US wars and militarism, held daily protests last week outside Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs to urge the United States to stop use drones for surveillance or air strikes. Reppenhagen was among the demonstrators.

Most remote drone attacks are carried out from Creech, a base about 75 miles from Las Vegas that the groups would like to see closed.

“I think people in Vegas should know what’s going on under their noses,” Reppenhagen said. “The army is always at the service of our democracy. We deserve the right to have a voice and to control what happens.

Protesters said the August 29 drone strike that killed 10 civilians, including seven children, as part of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan was a call to action. The Pentagon said it believed that at the time of the attack, the targeted car contained a known threat from ISIS. Since then, however, the Pentagon has backed down and now calls the strike a “tragic mistake.”

“This is an eye opener for the American people and others around the world,” said Eleanor Levine, organizer of CODEPINK. “It happened in Kabul, so people witnessed it and heard about it.”

In 2019, 600 pilots and 350 sensor or camera operators are working an average of six airstrikes and 1,000 combat hours from Creech each day, according to CBS News. The Pentagon reported in 2018 that 499 civilians were killed in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen as a result of military actions the previous year and 169 were injured in US airstrikes. 450 other civilian casualties for this year “remained to be assessed”.

Since the start of the war on terror in the aftermath of the September 11 terrorist attacks, it is estimated that between 910 and 2,200 civilians have been killed by 14,040 confirmed drone strikes in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

Tracking civilian deaths from airstrikes has been difficult since the Trump administration revoked an Obama-era executive order requiring the United States to disclose civilians and fighters killed outside of areas of the United States. war.

Some of these civilian deaths are likely unintended consequences of carrying out strikes on military targets, said Barry R. Posen, national security expert and professor of political science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Others can be mistakes like the strike that killed the family in August.

Additionally, drone strikes could thwart U.S. long-term goals in the fight against terrorism, Posen said, especially when a population experiences sustained attacks. When civilians are killed by drone strikes, surviving relatives, friends and community members can become sympathetic to anti-American causes.

“The different peace organizations will tell you that we have probably done a lot more than we admit,” Posen said. “(But) the US military has a high standard for accepting the argument that they made a mistake.”

While the term “drone” has been widely adopted, the military prefers the term remotely piloted aircraft, or RPA. Technology. Sgt. Emerson Nuñez, spokesperson for Creech, said Creech was one of the many bases that operated the MQ-9, also known as the Reaper, which can be equipped with laser-guided bombs, air-to-surface missiles Hellfire and Sidewinder air-to-surface missiles. – air missiles.

The Reapers have a wingspan of 66 feet long and 36 feet long, according to manufacturer General Atomics. They can be operated at a number of bases as the aircraft is linked by satellite and launched from other air bases around the world, Posen said.

“It’s a strange thing to think about,” Posen said. “A person eats breakfast, goes to the base, to the command center, or whatever else they use. And then they take off from a plane in the Middle East.

And as long as the military continues to fly drones out of Creech, anti-war groups will continue their movement, Reppenhagen said. He said the groups had participated in protests twice a year in Creech for the past 12 years.

Despite attempts by protesters Thursday to disrupt traffic, Nuñez said “the base is operating under normal conditions and supporting the rights of assembly and freedom of expression.”

Metro police, who are monitoring the area outside the Air Force base, said an arrest was made during Thursday’s protest in Creech. Toby Blomé, an organizer of CODEPINK, has been accused of making a false statement and obstructing a public official, Metropolitan Police spokesman Misael Parra said.

“The soldiers were caught with their pants down,” Blomé said. “It’s just our way of saying it’s unacceptable.”

A smaller group of anti-war activists gathered on the Fremont Street Experience on Thursday, reading poems, chanting anti-war slogans and speaking with visitors to the popular tourist corridor.

Help veterans

Veterans for Peace is working to do more than shut down the drone program and educate the public about the cost of war, both financially and emotionally. He also works to help veterans and victims of wars.

Reppenhagen, who previously worked as a lobbyist in Washington for anti-war causes, said he also wanted to be an ally of military personnel facing trauma.

On Friday morning, the last day of the protest, Reppenhagen said protesters handed out donuts to those entering the base. There was a QR code on the napkins that took anyone scanning it to a website with links to military tips and other resources.

According to Creech’s website, 4.3% of drone operators show symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. That’s below the range of 4% to 18% of personnel returning from the battlefield who could suffer from PTSD, depending on the post.

“I know firsthand the hurt feelings that come with serving as a member of the service,” said Reppenhagen. “There is guilt and shame in killing innocent people. These drone operators find themselves in a very difficult situation every day trying to accomplish their mission and do their jobs.

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