In April, 14 Christians were arrested at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, from where drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan are guided, in the first major U.S. public protest against combat drones. “These crews in Nevada actually guide the drones that kill 10 to 100 civilians for every ‘high-value target,’” organizer Jim Haber told Sojourners. “We’re obviously creating more enemies than we’re killing.” Between January 2006 and April 2009, 60 cross-border drone strikes from Afghanistan into Pakistan killed 14 suspected terrorists, along with 687 civilians.
Since 2005, pilotless aerial systems, or “drones,” originally developed for intelligence gathering, have been used as combat weapons. Drone operators at Creech AFB take 12-hour shifts, watching the close-up aftermath of each attack, then return home to Las Vegas. “The base chaplain told me that they are having problems helping the drone operators handle issues with their missions and that they are affecting their families,” Franciscan Louis Vitale, who was arrested at Creech AFB, told Sojourners. “Drone squadron commander Col. Chambliss told a journalist that he needed more chaplains and psychologists to help the crews cope, particularly the sensor operators who are new in the military and about 19 years old.”
Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced in April that the 2010 defense budget calls for fielding and maintaining 50 Predator-class drones.
President Obama’s 2010 military budget represents a 62 percent increase in drone capability over the current level and 127 percent from a year ago.