In Medea Benjamin’s most recent book, “Drone Warfare: Killing By Remote,” she tackles what she considers to be the ethical issues connected to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) commonly known as “drones.”
As part of her national book tour, Benjamin will deliver a presentation on the subject Sunday (April 28), 7 p.m., at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Doors open at 6:15 p.m.
Representatives from New Mexico’s Peaceful Skies Coalition will provide an introduction to her talk.
Some people remember her as the Green Party candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2000, campaigning for a living wage, education, and universal healthcare. Others know her best for co-founding Code Pink, the woman-led peace activist group famous for theatrical tactics like coming to last year’s Republican National Convention costumed as giant pink vulvas to protest what they see as a pervasive anti-woman sentiment in the Republican party, or showing up at the Democratic Convention to oppose the Obama Administration’s military spending.
Not all agree with her politics, but few could accuse Benjamin of tip-toeing around the issues she feels are most important.
“I wrote the book because I saw that this (drone program) was a new way of waging war in the 21st century,” she said. “It was so dangerous because this technology is already proliferating and the example the U.S. is setting for the rest of the world is one where we can go anywhere we want, kill anyone we want — on the basis of secret information.”
Benjamin said that although there are many different ways that drones can be used, including commercial and potential humanitarian uses, she is concerned by their use by military and police forces. “It has great potential to turn us into a surveillance society where we’ll be watched 24 hours a day,” she said.
Another reason Benjamin cited for writing her book is to chronicle global opposition to the U.S. drone program.
“It’s very exciting to see in the last year a new movement to protest against drone killings overseas and the potential use of drones here at home,” she said.
Benjamin has traveled to Pakistan and Afghanistan to speak directly with those who have been affected by U.S. drone attacks. Throughout her book’s narrative, she weaves in stories from her encounters.
Asked if her there was anything in her early life that motivated her activism, Benjamin responded candidly.
“I grew up during the days of the Vietnam War,” Benjamin said. “In high school I had an older sister whose friends were being sent to fight and coming back wounded — physically or psychologically — or killed. I started to organize an anti-war group in high school. I learned anti-war songs and started working for an anti-war Congressman.”
Benjamin said the group Code Pink formed in 2002 in response to U.S. discussions preceding wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. While some view Code Pink’s actions as heroic, others find them offensive.
The activist group was recently in the news for their appearance at the Senate Intelligence Committee’s confirmation hearings for John Brennan who had been nominated to head the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein closed the hearings to outside observers in response to Code Pink’s disruption.
Brennan was subsequently confirmed to lead the CIA.
In response to the question, “Why were you there?” Benjamin answered, “We knew (Brennan) had been rejected by (President George W.) Bush because he was so high up in the CIA when they were using torture and indefinite detention. Now, four years later, he is also the mastermind of the drone program that has killed so many innocent people. We were amazed he was being considered and all these liberal Democrats were suddenly content to confirm John Brennan.”
Proponents of the Obama Administration’s military drone program argue that it is an effective tool against terrorist groups, and provides safety to U.S. military forces. Those who oppose the program argue that innocent civilians are killed, that the use of drones in areas without armed conflict violates international law, and that personnel trained to fly drones may suffer from psychological harm.
Advance tickets are $10 or $8 for youth 18 and under. Tickets at the door are $15, $10 for youth 18 and under.
For more information, call Robin Collier at (575) 758-9791 or visit culturalenergy.org for advance tickets.