While many contingents in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade on Jan. 21 spread the positive message of peace, World Can’t Wait Hawaii (WCWH) was in protest mode. Two dozen citizens, many of them children, rallied to raise awareness of Hawaii’s role in drone warfare with the premiere of their replica of the MQ-9 Reaper military drone.
“The replica was built by a guy in NYC (Nick Mottern, [knowdrones.com]),” said Liz Rees of WCWH. One-fifth the size of those used by the United States Air Force, Navy, CIA and Customs and Border Protection, the replica was acquired through donations and intended to show the community (and President Barack Obama, during his winter vacation here) that these 66-foot wingspan, unmanned aerial vehicles do more harm than good by causing the deaths of civilians in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and other countries. This comes at a time when John Brennan, President Obama’s nominee for the new director of the CIA, has been under heavy scrutiny for the agency’s secrecy and use of drones and their effects in the Middle East.
WCWH also says that the U.S. military employs the machines illegally: According to the UN Charter, the military must only use drones as self-defense against imminent threats.
On Oahu, the RQ-7B Shadow drone is used at Wheeler Army Airfield, and the RQ-11B Raven at Marine Corps Base Hawaii at Kaneohe Bay. Neither is weaponized, but Big Island resident Jim Albertini, who has a drone replica of his own, told the Weekly he suspects that the Pohakuloa Training Area has constructed a drone-training airfield to use Predator and Reaper drones.
WCWH has started a petition to the U.S. House of Representatives to end the use of all drones, Hawaii’s involvement, and Rep. Colleen Hanabusa’s membership on the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus, a group that aims to educate people on the value of drone usage. “Every time someone signs that petition, an email is sent to Hanabusa and [Gov. Neil] Abercrombie,” Rees said.