Yeah, of course this is what passes for a jobs program from a lifelong Republican toady like Pat Meehan, who doesn’t even wipe his ass without checking with his betters. Why the hell would we (or any other town, for that matter) want this walking bad karma here? Dave Lindorff writes:
Although I have been a journalist now for 40 years, I have, by design, never sought an assignment as a war correspondent. The idea of dodging enemy bullets, avoiding mines, and of course “friendly” fire, has never appealed to me. And yet, even as President Obama is claiming to be having second thoughts about the drone slaughter he has been overseeing from the White House, I find that I am now a war correspondent in a combat zone in spite of myself.
A month ago I learned, courtesy of my congressional representative, Republican Pat Meehan, that my neighborhood, the Upper Dublin and Horsham area of Montgomery County, PA, is being made into a front-line battle zone in the Afghanistan War.
Not that Rep. Meehan put it that way. No. His announcement was that Montgomery and Bucks County were going to get 250 new jobs thanks to a decision by the Pentagon to set up a new piloting facility for killer drones at the currently mothballed Willow Grove Naval Air Station. This new drone piloting facility, like the ones in Nevada and upstate New York, will be flying drones not from the Willow Grove facility’s huge airfield, but in Afghanistan, Pakistan and wherever else America is fighting the so-called War on Terror.
With this decision, the war has literally come home. Two miles from my house, to be exact.
According to a report in the Lansdale Patch, a local weekly, the US Air Force “has chosen the Pennsylvania Air National Guard’s 111th Fighter Wing, located at the 238-acre Horsham Air Guard Station, adjacent to the shuttered Willow Grove air base to take on a new Remotely Piloted Aircraft mission.”
Effective October 1 the Air Force will have established, in already existing buildings on the currently unused base, a ground-control station for the MQ-9 Reaper. This is one of the two drones (the Predator is the other) that have been responsible for most of the drone killings during the Obama administration’s over four-year expanded use of drone warfare, and that has, according to the organization Drones Watch, been responsible for the documented deaths of over 172 children.
Col. Howard “Chip” Eissler, commander of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 111th Fighter Wing, which had been flying A-10 Warthog ground attack jets from the base on training runs for years until the base was shut down, issued a press release saying, “This is an exciting time for our wing, and our airmen are energized to embrace this new mission.”
Two-person military teams control each Reaper from a virtual cockpit, with one serving as pilot and the other as a sensor operator. The drones, which carry deadly high-density explosive Hellfire missiles, would not be flying locally, but rather in war theaters or on missions in countries where the US is not at war, but where the Obama White House deems “enemies” to be located.
Left unsaid in the hoopla over the supposed 250 new jobs (only 75 of which would be full-time), is what it means to have combat personnel responsible for killing operating in a densely populated suburb of a major city like Philadelphia.
“I’ll get back to you on that,” a press spokesman for Rep. Meehan said, when I asked him about whether the congressman had thought about the security issues involved in locating a drone piloting operation in Horsham. He never did return the call, or a second one leaving a reminder message.
John Braxton, a leading local peace activist and founding member of US Labor Against the War (USLAW), said “We need jobs, but we need jobs for a sustainable world, not drone piloting jobs. I’m sorry to learn that our region has to play a part in illegal and immoral operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” He added, “Morality aside, it certainly doesn’t make sense to put one of these operations in a populated area. If someone decided to retaliate against the drone strikes here, it could cause a lot of injuries and deaths.” Braxton also speculated that while the Pentagon is stressing that no drones will be flying locally from the base’s airfield for domestic purposes, “These things do tend to get out of hand once they get started.”
Charles Rossi, president of the Philadelphia chapter of Veterans for Peace, said, “This is really sad. One of the things that bothers me is that they’re bringing this operation into a very populated area. That’s a major mistake. It’s a terrible, terrible idea. I’m not surprised that Pat Meehan thinks it’s great, but what a lousy idea!”