Brian Terrill: Fwd: from today's Yankton newspaper
- From today's Yankton Press and Dakotan, attached photo by Beth Preheim
of me and Betsy walking away from the prison is with it.
love to all, Brian
Former Yankton Inmate Fights Against Drone Use
*By Nathan Johnson nathan.johnson@...
<mailto:nathan.johnson@...> | Posted: Friday, June 7, 2013 10:30
During a six-month sentence at the Yankton Federal Prison Camp, Brian
Terrell watched as America�s secretive drone war became more visible to
In fact, on May 23 � the day prior to Terrell�s release � President
Barack Obama spoke frankly about the nation�s use of drones and the need
to use their lethal power sparingly.
Terrell was sentenced last October in a district courtroom in Jefferson
City, Mo., to six months in federal prison after being convicted of
trespassing at the Whiteman Air Force Base near Knob Noster, Mo.,
earlier in the year. He and two others were arrested during the
nonviolent action during which they sought to speak with military
officials about drone strikes.
Terrell, who resides in Maloy, Iowa, is a Catholic Worker and
co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
Speaking with the Press & Dakotan via telephone, Terrell said he doesn�t
believe the president really wanted to deliver that speech.
�It was a response to pressure from people in the United States and
around the world,� Terrell stated. �I think what President Obama wanted
to do was keep discussion of the drones on how it�s this great new
technology, our soldiers are kept out of harm�s way and the machines are
very precise. As long as you keep the conversation there, it is going to
be very popular. But because of actions such as the one that put me in
Yankton � and actions across the world � these objections are being made
and questions are being asked. I really feel that this activism has had
a positive result.�
Six months in Yankton�s prison was a test of patience, Terrell said. In
a dispatch written during the final weeks of his sentence, he described
�frequent shakedowns, random frisks ... and strip searches, separation
from family and friends, severely limited visits, intercepted mail and
interrupted phone calls, incessant noise and overcrowding, petty rules
However, Terrell said he never felt in danger, and he even managed to
lose 40 pounds while at the institution through diet and exercise.
�I was in a place where I could get fresh air and sunshine. The judge
could have put me in a jail where that wouldn�t be the case,� he stated.
�I could have some discretion as to who I spent time with. I found good
company and conversation and made friends. I�m grateful my time was
�It was a time of deep prayer and thought,� he added.
After taking some time to adjust to life outside prison, Terrell is
ready to resume his activism against drones.
He will join fellow Voices for Creative Nonviolence members for a walk
through Iowa to protest drone warfare. The group will walk approximately
190 miles from the Rock Island Arsenal (where drone and bomb parts are
made and stored) to the Iowa Air National Guard Facility at Des Moines
Airport, the planned site of a new drone command center.
The U.S. Air Force and the CIA both have drone programs. Drones have
been utilized in Libya, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen.
According to the New American Foundation, the CIA drone campaign began
in Yemen in 2002 and in Pakistan in 2004.
The civilian and �unknown� casualty rate from drone strikes in those two
countries has fallen steadily over the life of the program, the
foundation reports. The casualty rate in Pakistan for civilians and
�unknowns� � those who are not identified in news reports definitively
as either militants or civilians � was around 40 percent under President
George W. Bush. The number has come down to approximately 16 percent
under President Obama.
It is estimated that between 258-307 civilians have been killed by drone
attacks in Pakistan. Figures were not available for Yemen.
�We have drones over Pakistan 24/7, and they don�t want them,� Terrell
said. �They are a sovereign nation. It will come back at us. It�s a very
dangerous game. What I see cracking is the perception that has existed
until recently that this is just a safe, clean and new way to make war.�
He cited the case of Brandon Bryant, a former Air Force drone operator
who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder as an example
of how the drone war�s impact hits home. Bryant told NBC News this week
that he is haunted by the fact that he participated in missions that
killed more than 1,600 people.
�The idea that our soldiers can work a shift in an air-conditioned room
in front of their computer with bathroom breaks and meals at home with
their families sounds very good,� Terrell said. �But it�s all very false.�
Terrell said he doesn�t feel like his time in prison was a waste and
will continue taking part in nonviolent direct action.
�We�re not trying to necessarily win or vanquish someone. We�re trying
to win hearts,� he said. �I do think that my own sacrifice, which is
very small, might have an effect on some people. But I think most of
those are the people ready to be affected. People can still think I�m a
crackpot. That�s OK. I�ve accepted that. But I want the killing from
these drones to stop � all war to stop � and economic justice to be
served. I believe what I�ve done has had beneficial effects, and I feel
good about it.�
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