submitted by Fr. Bill Pickard, Pax Christi NE Pennsylvania


On February 13, 2013, Ash Wednesday, nine individuals were arrested while blocking the entrance to the Hancock Aircraft Base, Syracuse, New York. Hancock is the National Reaper Maintenance Training Center for drone aircraft strikes. We noted: “The Reaper strikes and the U.S. killer drone policies have taken the lives of thousands in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. These strikes are illegal and immoral. Under international law and agreements – which the United States has signed – the killing of civilians; extrajudicial murder; violating another nation’s sovereignty and violation of due process are all illegal acts.”

The mission Support Group Commander, Col. Earl A. Evans, requested and received from the DeWitt Town Court, a precedent-setting and unheard of protection against abuse order against the nine peaceful protesters. Currently, 20 nonviolent citizens have received this order. Needless to say, we are bewildered by the request and the Courts acquiescence to it, not merely for its demeaning implications, but for its as yet unknown legal ramifications.

The United States Catholic Bishops’ state in paragraph 32 of the pastoral letter, the Challenge of Peace:  … “We are saying that good ends cannot justify immoral means. For example, defending one’s country or protecting freedom does not justify the use of weapons which kill indiscriminately and threaten whole societies. We fear that our nation and world are headed in the wrong direction.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. refers to laws that are just and unjust: “One may well ask: “How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that ‘an unjust law is no law at all.’ ”

Pope John Paul II once exclaimed: “On my knees I beg you to turn away from the paths of violence and to return to the ways of peace. …Violence only delays the day of justice. Violence destroys the work of justice. …Do not follow any leaders who train you in the ways of inflicting death. Love life, respect life, in yourself and in others. Give yourself to the service of life, not the work of death.…Violence is the enemy of justice. Only peace can lead the way to true justice.”

At the time of arrest, we declared: “We come to Hancock Air Base in the name of all victims who have suffered and died from United States drone strikes and their grieving families. It is time for all people of faith and conscience to demand an end to the use of killer drones. We come to Hancock Air Base this Ash Wednesday to repent for the actions of our government and to ask God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of the people we daily terrorize with these weaponized drones. Lent is a time to repent – literally change our minds. It is a time to remind ourselves of Jesus’ radical non-violent message of love. It is a time for people of faith and conscience to oppose drone warfare.”

Those arrested include:  Bill Frankel-Streit, Trevilians, VA; Nancy Gowen, Richmond, VA; Ellen Grady, Ithaca, NY;  Linda LeTendre, Saratoga Springs, NY; Father Bill Pickard, Scranton, PA; Matt Ryan, Ithaca, NY; Mary Anne Grady, Ithaca, NY; Carmen Trotta, New York, NY, and Jim Clune, Binghamton, NY.

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