Last week, Friday, I took a train from the Hawthorns park and ride station, just out of Handsworth, changing at the next station down, Galton Bridge, for a train to Shenstone, near Lichfield. One more change at Aston and I was soon there. At Shenstone there was already a gathering in the car park, including the organisers of a vigil, members of the local Methodist Church and a number friends and acquaintances concerned about the issue we had assembled to confront – peacefully of course!
Just three minutes walk down the road is a factory, an unassuming building on an industrial estate. The place didn’t seem active at all as there was no sign of movement within. At the site 40-50 people gathered on the narrow grass verge with assorted placards pointing out the results of what was being manufactured here.
UAV engines seems innocuous enough except when you realise UAV stands for “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” or drones, one of the latest developments in global warfare. Here operators sitting at a safe distance from their target play what look like a computer game to strafe their target. In reality it includes the killing of people, men, women and children alike. Civilians in Pakistan, Somalia,Yemen and Afghanistan are among the recipients. The perpetrators include the US, the UK and Israel, who are prominent in the development, manufacture and use the weapons significantly against the people of Gaza. The section on their products leaves no doubt of the intended use: “one trip lethal UAVs”.
The Palestinian was prominent on the vigil. The hour-long programme consisted of remembering the victims of drones, as well as those associated with their use. Prayers and thoughts were interspersed with 10 minutes silence ended with the sounding of a bell. When the Church leaders took a letter to hand in to the company the door remained firmly closed. The place appeared empty without a sign of movement through the windows. Only a police vehicle stood in front. Eventually a police officer came across to speak to the leaders.
The vigils are held regularly every 3 months or so. Concern about wars and the use of indiscriminate and sophisticated weaponry attracts increasingly widespread concern.
A week of action to “Ground the Drones” is taking place between 1st and 8th October 2012. The US has made much about the accuracy of such weapons and that leaders of the Taliban and al Quaeda can be targeted. The cloak of secrecy makes this hard to verify. Independent reports suggest that the toll of innocent bystanders is high. Their use without the consent of sovereign states where they are used has become the focus of unrest. Possible the anger aroused is counter productive to the decision to deploy them in the first place!