May 20, 2017 (18 min) Cover’s Frank Cordaro’s speech and arrest at DMCW & VFP “Stop the Killing / Honor the Dead Arms Forces Day” Witness at the IA Guard Drone Command Center in DM ….
“Frank Cordaro of the DMCW tells some historical and present context of the U.S. done, killing machine, before being arrested at the Iowa Air Guard Drone command center. Every school child should learn this history, as well as every parent” intro & video by Roger Routh
CORRECTION! At the beginning of my talk, I miss spoke, identifying the reading from the book of Isaiah, instead of Ezekiel. I correct myself midway through the text explanation. FC
“Stop the Killing, Honor the Dead, Shut Down this Place” by Frank Cordaro
(May 20th speech by FC before arrest at IA National Guard Drone Command in Des Moines)
When we started this campaign, we called this an Ezekiel 33 “Watchman” witness. Ezekiel is one of my favorite prophets. He was a priest of the First Temple. He only became a prophet after he was kicked out of Jerusalem and lead into captivity in Babylon. Prophecy was like a second profession for him. He was a contemporary of the prophet Jeremiah, the last prophet in Jerusalem before the Babylonians destroyed it.
Poor, crazy Ezekiel, dragged into captivity into Babylon and, once there, started to have visions. He wrote of them in an “apocalyptic way.”
Ezekiel 34:1-3: “The Word of the Lord came to me. ‘Son of Man speak … When I bring the sword against a land … and the people select one of their own as Watchman for them. And the Watchman sees the sword coming against the land, he should blow the trumpet to warn the people.”
The Des Moines Catholic Worker community has been a kind of Watchman for the city of Des Moines on the issues of war and peace for the past 40 years. It’s probably because we are pacifist and we Catholic Workers have been protesting US-led wars for over 80 years nationally and 40 in Des Moines.
And it’s very personal for me too. I grew up on the south side of Des Moines and this airport is just blocks away from the neighborhood I grew up in. I started my criminal peace record in 1977. I did a blood spilling at the Pentagon with the folks at Jonah House, Phil Berrigan and Liz MacAlister. And I got 30 days for my witness.
At my trial, before sentencing I pled for my home state of Iowa. I told the judge that even though we were low in the states receiving military dollars, and we had no military bases in Iowa, Iowa would not survive a nuclear war because Offutt Air Force Base and the Strategic Air Command headquarters, just outside of Omaha, were across the Missouri River from Iowa. I told the judge should a nuclear war happen, Offutt would a prime target of the Russians, and Iowa would not survive. That was back in 1977.
I remember telling Phil Berrigan after getting out of jail and on our way back home, “You’re lucky; you live in Baltimore. You can just get in your car and come down to DC and protest. I live in Iowa. There ain’t nothing going on in Iowa. No place to protest.”
Phil looked me in the eye and said, “Frank, you’re wrong. Every place in this country, every community is being militarized.”
My God! I just did not understand what he meant at the time.
In the 1980s, I spent a good deal of my resistance time at Offutt AFB. That’s when the Nuclear Weapons policy was M.A.D.: Mutual Assured Destruction. And SAC, the Strategic Air Command headquarters, was based at Offutt. This madness – M.A.D. – was our country’s second nuclear weapons policy.
Does anyone know what our first nuclear policy was?
Answer: “Use them, while you got them.” Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan! We used them. And nobody else in the world had them.
We were the first to use nuclear weapons, to cover up the real way we won WWII, through the indiscriminate bombings of all the major cities and population centers in Germany and Japan. We dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, then claimed their use, necessary to save lives! And these A-bombings won a war already won through the bombing of all the major cities in Germany and Japan. Our unchallenged A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki helped covered up all this real history in plane sight.
Only when the Russians got the bomb in the 1950s did we change our nuclear weapons policy to M.A.D. That’s what our nuclear weapons policy was up until the late 1970s.
Over the last 40 years, I have crossed the line at Offutt many times. The last eight times I crossed, the Federal Government deemed fit to send me to prison for six months, for each line crossing. So, I have been a student of the progression of our war-making ways over the last 40 years. And a lot has changed!
In the 1980s this country went from a nuclear deterrent policy of M.A.D. to a “winnable nuclear wars” policy, and a whole new way of fighting wars took shape, which has brought us here today.
After the fall of the Soviet Union, Offutt changed from hosting the SAC headquarters to being the home of STRATCOM. U.S. warmakers moved our national security focus from nukes to Space, with satellites and computers. And that has changed everything!
Every weapon system we have now can be connected to space. And with this added dimension of space, every weapon system has the ultimate high ground over any would-be enemy.
Today the mission of STRATCOM is to maintain a “Global Strike Force”
And in this post-9/11 era, the weapons of choice for the US Empire’s Global Strike Force are unmanned drones! We know for a fact that US drones kill hundreds of women and children every year during the Obama presidency. Obama dropped a bomb at a rate of one every 20 minutes in his eight-year tenure. In 2016, Obama dropped a record-setting more than 26,000 bombs, all of them connected to space and the US Drone Command mission, now taking place. right here on the south side of Des Moines. One of our signs reads “War Zone,” and indeed, the Iowa Air National Guard 132nd Wing is just that.
Today is Armed Forces Day.
(Frank holds a poster with fallen Iowa soldier’s face on it.)
This poster is of a young guy named Kenneth Nalley. He died on May 26, 2003, when a heavy equipment transporter crossed the median and struck his Humvee in Iraq. At the time, he was 19 years old. He enlisted in the Army for a five-year hitch, just a month after graduating from high school. He was known by almost everyone in town because he had worked for three years at the Hamburg Oil full-service gas station, where he pumped fuel, changed oil, fixed tires and did other chores for motorists, according to the Des Moines Register.
Kenneth is one of the 93 Iowans who have given their lives in the post-9/11 US-led wars in the Middle East, according to the Register. Now almost everybody universally says these wars were wrong. We peaceniks knew they were wrong at the time and now the pendulum has swung all the way to the Right, and even President Trump now calls them “bad wars.”
However, when Americans put their lives on the line, even for bad wars, we honor them. That is what Armed Forces Day is all about.
Today, we call this our “Stop the Killing, Honor the Dead, Shut Down this Place” witness.
Why? Because these National Guard soldiers are not really warriors, not in the same way the 93 Iowans were, who gave their lives in these recent US-led wars in the Middle East. These drone operators are not putting up any real sacrifice for their efforts. There is no risk of life for them. Sure, as human beings, they are being damaged, no doubt. For when you kill a human being, it damages you.
But this is a way of killing that has no nobility, no warrior risk involved. These drone operators are computer geek warriors. They sit at computer terminals. They kill from space and go home at night. This kind of killing is not right, even if they are only killing the “bad guys,” but we know they don’t just kill the bad guys! They end up killing women and children too!
And if you are not convinced by Obama’s record, listen to what President Trump’s drone policy is for the Middle East.
(Frank plays a Dec. 2016 recording of President Trump saying on national TV that to defeat ISIS “When you get these terrorists, you got to take out their families!”)
Drone operators are not true warriors. They do not risk their lives in any sense of the word. They are at best assassins from space, at worst, killers of women and children.
And I have to ask myself where have the religious and moral voices in Des Moines been regarding this issue, that today’s U.S. led drone warfare, with its hometown war-zone command centers, is taking place, right here on the south side of our city, blocks away from where I grew up?
And as a Catholic, I’ve witnessed total amnesia when it comes to the Social Teachings regarding war and peace in the American Catholic Church, and especially in my own Diocese of Des Moines. There are no more Bishop Dingmans!
On the issues of war and peace, US Catholics are more American Nationalist than they are Roman Catholics. The US Catholic Bishops proved this back in March of 2003 when Pope JP II sent his Cardinal Sec. of State to Washington DC to tell President Bush publicly that if the USA went to war with Iraq without UN backing, this US-led war would not only be unjust and immoral, it would be illegal too! Pres. Bush ignored the Pope and went to war. And the US Bishops said nothing! The story was buried and lost in the 24/7 US news cycle and forgotten.
When I asked Bishop Pates if he agreed with the Pope on the 2003 US-led war on Iraq at the time, he said, to my surprise, “Yes!”
Dumbfounded, I then I said “REALLY? Then why didn’t you say anything at the time?” Bishop Pates said, “We did, collectively with our statements from the US Catholic Conference of Bishops in Washington DC.”
“Dear Bishop, we did not hear those statements!” I pleaded, “Why didn’t you bring this message back to your diocese? Why didn’t you let any Catholics in the military in your diocese, who might agree with the Pope and believe it was a bad war, that you would give them support in their efforts to be Catholic conscientious objectors!?!”
Bishop Pates said, “I did not want to confuse our Catholic military personnel.”
Dear friends, if a Catholic bishop cannot speak clearly about war to his own people, our Church is no longer following Jesus. When it comes to war and peace, the US Roman Catholic Church is more American Nationalist than they are Roman Catholics.
And we are not the only ones! Every Christian denomination in this country has bowed down and blessed these wars.
A week after the 2003 war started, Jim Wallis of Sojourner magazine spoke at a worldwide gathering of Baptists in England, and he reported that not one major national Christian denomination in the world supported the US-led war on Iraq, except in the USA! And he asked the question that all US Christians of all denominations must ask ourselves: “Since when did God become pro-rich, pro-war and pro-USA?”