Letter to Senators and Representatives regarding Wisconsin drone base

June 2012

TO:  U.S. Senators Herb Kohl and Ron Johnson and

U.S. Representatives: Paul Ryan, Tammy Baldwin, Ron Kind, Gwen Moore, Jim Sensenbrenner, Tom Petri, Sean Duffy, and Reid Ribble

FROM:  Members and Friends of the Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars

DATE:  June 25, 2012

RE:  Wisconsin’s Drone Training at Volk Field and Fort McCoy

CC:  Lt. Col. Jackie Guthrie, Public Affairs Wisconsin Army and Air National Guard

The undersigned Wisconsin citizens write in opposition to the training of military personnel to engage in drone (UAV) warfare at Camp Williams/Volk Field and to the building of a new facility for this purpose.  At a time of drastic cuts in federal and state budgets, why approve an $8 million, 10,298-square-foot building at Volk Field to provide training, maintenance, operations and storage space for the RQ-7 Shadow 200 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle?

In the spring of 2011, the Wisconsin Network for Peace and Justice (WNPJ) held a Lobby Day to oppose this facility and forty Wisconsin organizations sent an Open Letter to the Governor, President of the State Senate, Speaker of the State Assembly, Members of the State Legislature, Chair of the State Building Commission, the Adjutant General of the Wisconsin Department of Military Affairs and the Wisconsin Air National Guard at Volk Field asking them to stop the funding for this drone training facility.

Because the training facility is a joint state-federal project members of both WNPJ and the Madison Pledge of Resistance also met with or contacted many of you with the same message— No To Drone Warfare!  However, training drone pilots and camera operators has begun at Volk Field (and is expanding to Fort McCoy) and at this point we understand the training facility is also under construction.  

In response since December of 2011, we have held monthly vigils at the gates of Camp Williams/Volk Field.  Over 100 people have come to these vigils from all parts of Wisconsin.  Thus in March of 2012, we reorganized as the Wisconsin Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars in solidarity with like minded groups in Nevada, New York, Missouri, Washington, DC, California, Illinois, and Maryland.

Before each vigil we sent a letter to Commander Ebben asking to meet with him to share our concerns about a Wisconsin military base being part of this country’s illegal drone warfare.  We received no acknowledgment that the letters were even received so in April seven individuals crossed into the base to try to deliver a letter to the Commander.  They were arrested by the Juneau County Sheriff and face charges of disorderly conduct for nothing more than exercising their constitutional right to petition for redress of grievances.

Our grievance is over the illegality of drone warfare which is a violation of both U.S. and international law according to law professor Bill Quigley.  Christof  Heyns, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, challenges the  U.S. use of drones in a recent Report to the UN Human Rights Council.

[See http://www.nationofchange.org/blogs/Bill%20Quigley and http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=11516&LangID=E]

Therefore we have to again strongly demand an end to our country engaging in the targeted assassinations of people in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia.  As citizens we take seriously our duty under the Nuremberg Principles to try to prevent our government from violating international law.  As elected officials you should do nothing less.

In addition, the current practice of unrestrained drone warfare actually makes us less safe because the remote control killing of mostly innocent civilians in other countries creates more insurgents who want to retaliate against the United States.  So we must ground these illegal, immoral, and ineffective drones!

As your constituents we look forward to a reply,

Bonnie Block at bblock@charter.net and Joy First at joyfirst5@gmail.com