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Protesters Rally Against Militarized Drones in Des Moines

PHOTO: A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Reaper has the ability to carry both precision-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson/U.S. Air Force.
PHOTO: A MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle prepares to land after a mission in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Reaper has the ability to carry both precision-guided bombs and air-to-ground missiles. Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson/U.S. Air Force.
September 10, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa - The 132nd Fighter Wing of the Iowa Air National Guard is coming under an attack, of sorts, today with a rally from protesters opposed to the use of militarized drones. The mission of the fighter wing had always been manned aircraft, but those F-16 jets were a victim of budget cuts and the mission of the airmen was shifted to include a piloting-and-control center for weaponized drones.

Ed Flaherty, director Iowa Chapter 161 with Veterans for Peace, says that could turn the "Field of Dreams" into the "Killing Fields."

"Especially in light of the way in which these drones have been used in the last 10 years, which is to kill people," Flaherty says. "Sometimes combatants, sometimes civilians, and oftentimes in countries we're not at war with."

Today's rally will be at the entrance to the base, at Des Moines airport. The base was also the site of an anti-drone protest this past spring, where seven people were arrested.

Flaherty says Medea Benjamin, co-founder of the peace group Code Pink, will lead the event. Many may remember her from making waves during an event in May of 2013.

"President Obama was speaking about Guantanamo, about foreign policy, about drones and Madea asked some very intelligent but unwelcome questions, and was removed by the security guards," Flaherty says. "But President Obama said, 'Listen to what that woman has to say.'"

In addition to speaking at the rally at the Iowa Air National Guard base, Benjamin will appear later today at a drones symposium at Grinnell College.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA