Creech Air Force Base: Drones as American Terrorism

by Allison Stalberg

Indian Springs is just an hour’s drive from the glowing lights of Las Vegas. It’s where Creech Air Force base sits in the Mojave Desert. From the side of the highway, anyone can see both the attack and surveillance drones flying around.

Under the desert sun, I joined “Veterans for Peace,” “CODEPINK” and “Voices for Creative Nonviolence” for their second national protest against killer drone operations everywhere. While the protest lasted a week, I was only there from March 30 to April 2.

Our tents were based directly across the highway from Creech. We called our space “Camp Justice.” At our peak, one hundred people from 20 states participated in the protest and 25 were intentionally arrested for civil disobedience. We shared our desert space with an RV, “Camp Freedom.”

The RV provided shelter to the small number of counter protestors.

The community of protestors included key people that I spoke to such as Ann Wright, a retired United States Army colonel and former U.S. State Department official. She resigned from the diplomatic corps in 2003 in opposition to the war in Iraq.

“They call (Creech) the premier drone base in the world,” Wright told me. “It’s important for us to be here right now to say ‘We think these drones are ineffective as far as ensuring our national security.’ They in fact cause problems for our national security because of the blowback from the use of these in those countries.”

I also learned a great deal from Brian Terrell, a member of “Voices for Creative Nonviolence.” Having visited Afghanistan more than once, his insight was important.

“This area around here, these mountains look so much like the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan, and this area was chosen deliberately for the training of the airman here with flying these killer drones because the scenery looks so much like Afghanistan and Pakistan,” Terrell said. “It’s chilling me to see the drones flying around here in the terrain that looks so familiar to me.”

Each morning and afternoon, I joined the protestors as we picked up signs and stood in vigil while Creech employees came and went. The protest went far beyond just holding signs however.

Perhaps my most surreal action was taking grave markers and staking them along the roadside. We wrote the name of a child killed by a drone strike on each marker, along with their age and their location. The ages ranged from 1 to 19-years-old. It took an entire box to contain the markers, hundreds of headstones made of poster board. One protestor said she liked the care I took to place a flower on each grave and surround it with rocks so the dry wind would not blow them away. Desert sand covered my hands by the time we ran out of stakes for the still full box of grave markers.

The counter protestors got along fine with our camp. In fact, one of our people from “Camp Justice” even went on a joy ride with “Camp Freedom” up the nearby mountains. The relationship was respectful and ideal. In comparison, some people that drove by us were incredibly rude.

One person rolled their truck windows down and blasted “Proud to be an American,” while driving past all the children’s graves. A man in an RV shouted, “Get a life.” Passerbys flashed their middle fingers. I even witnessed one driver step on the gas instead of his breaks, nearly hitting a protestor crossing the street.

Our messages were also well received by some. People sometimes flashed peace signs or honked in approval. In fact, honks and peace signs definitely outweighed the hateful gestures and comments.

Teenagers and children played a big role in the protest. In the early morning hours, they performed a skit about “double tapping.”

“The double tap is a tactic that the U.S. military uses,” explained Wright. “When (an attack drone) strikes an intended target—to die, to be executed, and then when people come in to see what happened, ‘Why was his house blown up?’ ‘Why was his car blown up?’ “The people who come in to see what has happened, a second missile hits them. For sure the people who are coming in to help are innocent civilians. They are just coming in to see what happened to their dancer put a rose in front of each man in the militant line. Then they opened the grave to reveal dolls of dead children, hugging them before the sounds of a drone kill them as well.

The children were the most inspiring.

They told me that since children across the world were getting killed, then chil neighbor, to a friend. This double tap has killed thousands, thousands of innocent civilians.”

A group of youths dressed as angels.

They carried a grave across the street with roses followed by the angel of death holding a photo of a dead child killed by a drone. One girl danced in the lead, dropping roses as she crossed the highway. A line of police waited for the children. The dren of the United States should take a stand. One even got arrested on purpose. She lay limp in front of the policemen and I watched four men carry her away. We all cheered for her. “What a brave girl,” said someone behind me. “Brave soldiers not!” The excessive use of police force was jaw-dropping. I counted 20 police cars, a prison bus, and a contingent of mounted horses.

Protestors planned to get arrested. We all wrote an attorney’s number for jail support on our skin. Half of the protestors got trained on site to take notes and videos to make sure no abuse happened between the policemen and protestors.

While most protestors were returned from jail after a whole day, Terrell was kept for the entire weekend. Apparently the police looked him up and found a way to keep him longer by giving him a charge from last year’s protest. While he stayed in a cell with no bed for his civil disobedience, I reflected on the things he told me.

“We are fighting wars in more countries now than we were during World War II, and most people don’t even know about it,” Terrell said. “The drones can work as cell towers and see what websites you’re visiting, who you are calling, and they can decide, just like Facebook can decide, what to try to sell you; they can decide that someone is a danger to the United States based on people’s internet traffic. These are poor people who will lend their cellphones to each other, to their mothers, their kids, their grandparents. Many people killed on the flimsiest bit of evidence.”

Chris Knudson with “Veterans for Peace” told me that the success rate of the drones is 2 percent, leaving the 98 percent as innocents killed by the United States. To those innocents, we are the terrorists.

At night, I did not get to see the desert stars because the Airforce Base shined bright lights on “Camp Justice.” I lay in my tent knowing that the people currently in the base were the ones killing people overseas, as it was daytime in Afghanistan and Pakistan. I hope the innocent civilians of Pakistan and Afghanistan know somewhere across the world, people are standing up for them. !