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Graphic New Veteran-Sponsored Ads Are Asking Drone Pilots Not to Fly

A group of military veterans is calling for an end to US drone wars by airing graphic anti-drone ads on TV.

by Arijeta Lajka
Apr 10 2015, 4:45pm

Photo by Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

A group of anti-drone US military veterans want to put an end to American's campaign of drone strikes in foreign countries, and they're now taking the fight to prime time by directly calling on Air Force pilots to stop the destruction through a series of graphic television spots.

The ads, produced by KnowDrones.com and sponsored by the Veterans Democratic Club of Sacramento County and the Sacramento chapter of Veterans for Peace, is thought to be the first anti-drone campaign to be shown on US television. The spots advocate against the US drone strikes that have taken place in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, and refer to the strikes as an "immoral law." The spots are currently airing in Sacramento, which is near Beale Air Force Base.

"We reached a point where we understand the president and Congress are not going to stop these attacks, which we consider to be illegal and immoral," Nick Mottern, coordinator of Know Drones, told VICE News today.

The two 15-second television ads, now airing on Comcast in Northern California communities and in the Las Vegas area since March, provide a glimpse of the aftermath once drone pilots pull the trigger. One of the ads, which has been in rotation only after 10pm, presents images of dead and mutilated children and civilians in the midst of rubble, along with messages stating, "Drone killing violates law and morality" and "Drone pilots. Please refuse to fly. No one has to obey an immoral law." A second version of the spot, in which images of the mutilated children are edited out, is shown between 5am-9pm daily. The activists plan on airing the ads in areas near drone operation centers throughout the US.

"It's executioner's work or assassin's work," Mottern said. "I think the more we raise these issues of conscience, people will definitely be thinking much more about what it is they are actually being called on to do."

The anti-drone ads are running on popular cable channels including AMC, CNN, Comedy Central, ESPN, Fox News, HGTV, and a Comcast Bay Area sports channel.

"If you're a fan of Mad Men, Giants games, or Fox News, there's a good chance you'll see it," Cres Vellucci, president of the Veterans Democratic Club of Sacramento County, told the Sacramento Bee. There are also efforts amongst supporters to raise more money for the ads within the next month so the ads can air in New York and New Mexico, Vellucci told reporters.

Mottern expressed concern over the fact that the images of the wounded children are only being shown after 10pm. Not showing the images "deprives them of understanding the human cost for this type of war or any kind of war," Mottern said.

"It's very important for people to see these images for them to have an emotional understanding of what's going on," Mottern said. "I just thought that was a very telling thing about when those images could or couldn't appear on TV."

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVS), more commonly known as drones, are controlled by aircraft pilots in remote locales. Drones, which are often used for military missions that are deemed too risky, have been a highly controversial part of US foreign policy for years. Equipped with cameras, listening devices, and missiles, drones can hover over a target for hours, while the pilot can view proceedings on the ground via a video monitor, then strike instantly.

Although Mottern never operated as a drone pilot, he served in the Vietnam War — "purely out of ignorance," he said. He said that he feels that the US government deceived him, and his experiences have now encouraged him to be more critical of military policy.

"What I saw in Vietnam was a lot of corruption — really a place where we shouldn't have been at all. It took me a number of years to understand that and to understand that the government totally lied to me and to other people about our purposes," he said.

"I see the same thing going on right now. I feel that people in the military are being very much misled by our leaders and certainly this would include people flying these drones...the consequences are horrible for people in other countries" he added.

Although the US government insists drones are more precise in targeting suspected single people or groups of perpetrators, in what are referred to as "targeted killings," the strikes frequently kill unintended bystanders — sometimes children and other innocent civilians. Drones have killed thousands of people under the Obama administration, and in May 2013, the US president publicly recognized "civilian casualty" incidents during the State of the Union address as "heartbreaking tragedies."

Related: Leaked Documents Show the US Used Drone Strikes to Target Afghan Drug Lords

Follow Arijeta Lajka on Twitter: @arijetalajka

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