Monday, April 30, 2018

Immediate Release: Newark Arts HS Students Protest War / All Out May 5

Contact: Tahir Flournoy 
#NJAntiWarAgenda 908-881-5275
Peace - A (pizza) party 12:30

On May 5, 11 am at the MLK Statue on MLK Boulevard, about 2 blocks from Arts High School, there will be a youth led “MLK Jam” rally against war.  This rally will be organized by youth, working together with the NJ Anti-War Agenda group and Peoples Organization for Progress and other peace and justice groups.  Unlike other anti-war protests that have been going on in Newark, the speakers at this rally will all be youths – from Newark and other communities.  This rally will also feature music, spoken word, and possibly other performance and visual arts presentations.  Opportunities are available for youths either from Newark or other area communities to make presentations of opposition to US warfare and also to perform music, spoken word, dance or present visual art as statements against US war.
Outside Arts HS as Korean ;leaders
announce peace

As part of the effort, around 50 students of Arts High School in Newark, on April 26, participated in a banner raising and sign holding event outside the school on MLK Boulevard in Newark.  The students held signs in opposition to US warfare and pledging their commitment to participate in the May 5 event.  Organizers of the event captured their participation as photos on an Instagram account called AntiWarYouth .  Participants were also given a letter inviting participation in the May 5 protest an a copy of the NJ Antiwar Agenda paper.

The banner the students were supporting was created by NJ AntiWar Agenda – an organization of groups and individuals that coordinates monthly antiwar protests in Newark and publishes a paper.  The banner states “Fund Newark’s Needs, Not War; US Out Now!”  It also provides details on this Saturday, May 5 antiwar protest.

The following are some Instagram pictures of the Arts High School students taking a stand against US warfare:

In a recent letter inviting youth individuals and groups to participate in the even, Arts High School Junior and antiwar organizer Tahir Flournoy stated:

We are calling for youth of Newark and area communities to participate because it is the youth being recruited into these wars to fight for a country that is not fighting for us back at home.  We of course also are not interested in having our lives cut short by nuclear war nor do we want US guns trained on the our sister and brothers - young people in countries throughout the world.

The solutions for our problems here at home can not be found in battle fields near and afar.  Some of the issues at home that are concerning to youth are lack of funding in schools, as well as allocation of funds in the government. The US government is spending close to $800 billion per year on warfare.   Flint’s water system only costs 50 million to fix and yet nothing has been done.  In some Newark schools we are also dealing with water just as toxic as in Flint.

We need free higher education and training, health care, opportunities doing meaningful work, benefits, livable wages, adequately available recreation opportunities, housing, potable drinking water, and a lack of violence including by the police often against youth members of our communities.”

One of the participants outside Arts High School was Rakhyriah Foster.  She states that instead of spending funds on war, “I think that’s the US money collected from taxes should go to public school because most parents can’t afford for their children to go to a charter or private school. I do think that cleaning up the toxic chemicals in Newark and Flint Michigan are important because this is the water that we drink and bathe in and it is unsafe.”  She stated further “I feel good that I took a stand. I have attended a protests before and I honestly think I would attend another protest.”

Tahir Flournoy, who organized the banner raising / sign holding event outside Arts High School stated of the activity. ”Giving oppressed children a chance to protest outside their school to me shows them just a little more of exactly how oppressed they are. Often times when the oppressed are surrounded by the oppressed, they don’t see it as being oppressed. It’s normal to them, so them being able to protest opens them up a little more and helps them want to get involved.

I do think it’s important to do because sometimes all a kid needs is to get that one spark of activism in them to start them on the rest of their journey. Sometimes they don’t have an outlet to know when and or where protest rallies and different things are going on, and us bringing the protest to them is a touchdown for all activists."

Tahir states that pizza will be provided at the May 5 event.

Those interested in speaking or performing, participating or supporting the May 5 event can call or text Tahir Flournoy at 852-754-6691 or through the following:

Facebook event
Via E-mail


Solidarity with The People’s Caravan for Peace and Justice in the Philippines

On April 25th, at the Stop The Killings Speaking Tour 2018 NJ event, many gathered to join ICHRP-US Northeast and Malaya Movement to call for an end to the state-sanctioned violence in the Philippines made possible in part by US aid. Henessa Gumiran, an organizer with Rutgers Against Campus Militarism delivered a solidarity statement in support of the Philippine people, condemning the involvement of US intelligence and its presence on campus.

The following is the solidarity statement given:
Rutgers Against Campus Militarism stands in solidarity with the Philippine people who organize against fascism and continue to resist the US-Duterte regime. US intelligence has perpetuated and aided the oppression of the Philippine people both historically and presently, and now has the direct and implicit support of universities, including Rutgers to do so. The involvement of US intelligence at Rutgers has been active since at least the 1950s, with active campus resistance to the presence of US intelligence since the 1980s. In January 2015, Rutgers received a nearly $2 million grant for the establishment of the CCIS or the Center for Critical Intelligence Studies, funded by the DIA, making Rutgers the only “Big 10” school to be federally recognized as an “Intelligence Community center for academic excellence.”

As stated by the DIA, the mission of the Intelligence Community Centers for Academic Excellence is to: “Provide grants to competitively chosen universities and colleges to enhance the recruitment and retention of an ethnically and culturally diverse Intelligence Community workforce with capabilities critical to the national security interest of the United States.”

It is then clear that the ultimate goal of these centers is not to “provide students with essential knowledge related to the field of Intelligence Studies and enhance their understanding of different regions, cultures, and value systems that inform the effective
use of intelligence” as posited. Rather, the underlying initiative is to create a pipeline of direct recruitment into the intelligence community. This conditions students to act as proxy recruiters for US intelligence, and by extension, US imperialist violence, which of course is reinforced in countries like the Philippines, due to US political interests in maintaining the status quo of exploitation.

The center is headed by a former acting under secretary of DHS, the Department of Homeland Security, John Cohen. As we know, DHS is responsible for the inhumane treatment and denial of basic human rights to peace activist Jerome Aba. We should hold Rutgers accountable for sponsoring the presence of DHS and other US intelligence agencies on our campus, when such agencies have always and continue to be a threat to peace and inflict violence on both our local and global communities. It is time to demand that Rutgers terminate its ties to the intelligence agencies that actively preserve its complicity in state-sanctioned global violence, and we cannot do so without standing with peoples who are directly impacted by such.

And in the spirit of eternal solidarity with our motherland, I share with you all an excerpt of Ruby Ibarra’s "Us" featuring the spoken word of Faith Santilla:
So let it be known, if you don’t already
Pinays have always been part, and parcel, if not, imperative and critical to the struggle
Filipinas are no strangers to wielding our own power
Of all the privileges that exist in this world, none of which you may be a benefactor of
There is at least one you bear
And that is the privilege of having been born a Filipina
Your DNA contains building blocks made from the mud of over 500 years of resistance and survival
And when you are ready, sis, we’ll be right here
Thank you to all participating organizations and individuals for graciously speaking out against human rights abuses.




Tuesday, April 24, 2018

May 5th Youth Led Protest in Newark: MLK Jam The Stake for Youth in the Anti War Struggle

Newark Youth Taking a Stand for Peace (Pictures)

Dear friends of peace and justice,

On May 5th, youth around Essex county and beyond will come together in an effort to promote the anti war effort.  The event will be held in Newark at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr/ Blvd and Springfield Avenue at 11 am at the Martin Luther King Monument.  The event is a legal event and NJ Anti War Agenda has a legal permit for the sound system.  I invite all youth organizations, individuals, adults who work with youth and parents of interested youth to contact me as soon as possible to help make this event a huge success.

Youth and young adults will be performing dances, singing, essays, music, as well as art displays as well as speaking out against US war making.  If you might be interested in performing or speaking, please contact me - ASAP!  All are welcome to attend but this event will be youth organized and led and the presenters and performers will be youths.

We are calling for youth of Newark and area communities to participate because it is the youth being recruited into these wars to fight for a country that is not fighting for us back at home.  We of course also are not interested in having our lives cut short by nuclear war nor do we want US guns trained on the our sister and brothers - young people in countries throughout the world.

The solutions for our problems here at home can not be found in battle fields near and afar.  Some of the issues at home that are concerning to youth are lack of funding in schools, as well as allocation of funds in the government. The US government is spending close to $800 billion per year on warfare.   Flint’s water system only costs 50 million to fix and yet nothing has been done.  In some Newark schools we are also dealing with water just as toxic as in Flint.

We need free higher education and training, health care, opportunities doing meaningful work, benefits, livable wages, adequately available recreation opportunities, housing, potable drinking water, and a lack of violence including by the police often against youth members of our communities.

On May 5th, we will be saying NO to US wars abroad and no war at home in our communities.  We will demand money for the needs of Newark and other NJ communities - not for the profits of the multinational corporations that manufacture the weapons for war nor those extracting resources from the countries around the planet that are subject to US warfare.

If you are an artist, performer, someone who has something to say about opposition to US war, please contact us immediately and help us to make this event a large success.

Phone 852-754-6691

Tahir, lead organizer of 

MLK Jam: The Youth State in the Anti War Struggle
Saturday, May 5, 11 am - 2pm
MLK Monument, MLK Boulevard (Near Springfield Av), Newark NJ

Friday, April 13, 2018



Please click the links for the details and send all updates to or text to 908-881-5275 – also text there if you want to be informed of emergency and snap protests against US escalations – if this flares up – we will need to mobilize quickly and massively – the planet depends on this!

New York Region Spring Action Against Wars at home & Abroad

Sunday, April 15, 2pm NYC
Herald Sq, 34th St & 6th Ave., Manhattan, NY




Saturday May 5, 11 am - 1pm
MLK Monument 465 <MLK Blvd, Newark NJ

In formation - protest at IC CAE at Rutgers!
(Stipend available for organizer- call or text 908-881-5275)

Come back often for updates and keep sharing – the survival of our planet might depend on it!  Also - phone, text, old school methods of communications as well - we need to try people!


Keep up to date of anti war developments in NJ: 

Recent protests:

Saturday, April 14, 11am

Haddon Avenue and Cuthbert Blvd, Collingswood
Gather to protest Donald Trump's airstrikes on Syria and demand - NO WAR ON SYRIA
Raritan Avenue and Adelaide (just before the bridge), Highland Park, NJ
Emergency Protest Against U.S. Planned Attack on Syria

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Emergency Response to Possible US Attack on Syria - Newark NJ - MLK Monument

UPDATE: NJ AntiWar Agenda, Monday, 4- 7 pm (longer if it gets big) MLK Monument, MLK Blvd. Newark NJ

UPDATE!  Central Jersey Coalition Against Endless War calls for protest in Highland Park, Saturday, April 14, 11:30 am.  Details here.

At least 4 ways to protest the US attack on Syria in NJ / NYC

Please promote this widely as if all of our lives depend on it.

There are links to the events – please click them and commit and spread it further.

Organizers representing NJ Anti War Agenda, NJ Peace Action and the Peoples Organization for Progress have set up contingency plans for an emergency protest on the day of or next day after a US assault on Syria – that the US, France and UK are currently threatening.  Russia has vowed to defend against any such attack by shooting down any incoming missiles and attacking any vessel from which such missiles are being launched.  China has expressed support for Russia's position.  Any such attack could escalate into a major regional conflict and even result in the start of a nuclear confrontation.

The action will occur at the Martin Luther King Jr. Monument on MLK Boulevard In Newark NJ. 

If the protest occurs on a weekday, it will occur 4 – 7 pm at that location. If it occurs on a week end, it will occur 11 am  - 2 pm.

The duration of the event will be determined by many factors including number of participants, weather, the tone of the event, etc.  If we are successful in pulling together a massive response the duration could be longer.

We are encouraging all who have an anti-war agenda in the NJ area to either support, attend and participate in this event or organize similar events at other locations.

For details, call 908-881-5275, write to and join:

Please text to 908-881-5275 to confirm your plans to participate - assuming you do not have a schedule conflict.

The next monthly antiwar protest at this same site is scheduled for Saturday, May 5, 11 am - 1pm and is dedicated to the "Youth's Stake in the Antiwar Struggle" - please commit to participation now:

We also encourage all to attend and participate in this Sunday’s event in NYC:
New York Region Spring Action Against Wars at home & Abroad

Rally at Herald Sq and march to Trump Tower. This is the NY region mobilization called as part of national regional spring actions throughout the country. 

Join us! Share with Facebook friends. Spread the word.

With the recent escalation by the Trump administration of the wars in Afghanistan and Syria and threats to North Korea and Venezuela; huge increases in military spending and the threats of nuclear war; as well as increasing attacks on the rights of workers and communities of color and the dangerous growth of white supremacist forces, the time is now to return to the street to make our voices heard.

Additionally, Trump has now announce that he will hold a military parade to show off the might of the US military. This will clearly be seen as a threat by the entire world.  

This is part of nationally called regional actions that will take place around the country to challenge the war makers and defend humanity.

The future is in our hands.

For more information on the actions nationally, endorsers, planning mtgs, etc. please go here: 

  Anyone in Northern NY State should contact Corey McGrath for information about organizing protest to this escalation up that way.

Meanwhile - join our fight to stop the $2M war project at Rutgers University.

Protest from Wisconsin.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

We Want a Copy of the Rutgers Proposal for the IC CAE Funding and the DIA Contract

Our Facebook page Rutgers Against Campus Militarism     was recently contacted by a Targum reporter who had some excellent questions for us.  While I am not sure if there will be a Targum article – we thought it be best if we expand on the topics he was introducing – please enjoy the following replies that explore our concerns about the DIA funded Intelligence Community Center for Academic Excellence (IC CAE) and all of that Rutgers institution’s trappings:

What was the grant for and what does the center do?

For background, see links under the "Addendum" of this article including to a Targum article on the topic.

While the Targum has provided some background on the DoD funded war operation, we invite the Targum to join us in widening the inquiry of exactly how far this operation goes and exactly what Rutgers is on the hook for - to get the $2 million in war funding.  Specifically, we would like to see the complete proposal that Rutgers submitted.  That is important to see what Rutgers was willing to offer to bring this war operation to NJ.

We also need to get our eyes on the complete contract that specifies each and every commitment Rutgers has made to the US war effort and US intelligence operations and what exactly Rutgers is getting from the DoD for its willingness to compromise any principles regarding a free and open university where students from throughout the US and world can study without feeling the threat of a killing presence on the campus.

We hereby publicly request that Rutgers provide to us the proposal it submitted to the DIA and the complete agreement that it has put in place for the $2M funding of the IC CAE.


Some of the questions we would like to have answered include:

Is there in the agreement that Rutgers must invite National Security State into the process of defining best practices for balancing First Amendment Rights and the "fight against hate" or any other aspects of student conduct code?

Is there in the agreement, that Rutgers participate with US intelligence in data analytics of the social network behavior of Rutgers students and staff and other behaviors?

What are the arrangements for monitoring students, faculty, staff and visitors on campus, particularly those from countries where the National Security State is active, has operations, is in some sort of dispute or conflict with, is assisting police and military forces of or assisting corporate security of?

What are the relationships between the national security state agencies working through ICCAE and the Rutgers police / safety offices and officers?  With Rutgers faculty and Rutgers administrators?

 Why are some students opposed to it?

Rutgers University is weaponized in pursuit of the military objectives of the Department of Defense which counterposes the purpose of a university.

DoD objectives are counter to those of an academic institution and would tend to encroach upon freedom and pursuit of research and knowledge – instead it would attempt to direct that process toward propaganda in support of war objectives.

As we stated in our press statement for our protest of DIA involvement in a “Best Practices” forum on balancing “fighting hate” with preserving First Amendment freedoms:

“Right now, the world faces the very real danger of ultimate US war, and the US is threatening escalations in Asia, the Middle East, Latin America, and Africa. The nominee to head the CIA is a known torturer who destroyed damning evidence. The appointee as National Security Advisor is an extreme war hawk who has openly called for a US first strike attack on Korea. Homeland Security and ICE are continuing a crackdown, rounding up 1000s of immigrants and reportedly targeting those who are actively organizing opposition to repressive US immigration policies. The FBI is actively targeting Black activism under the rubric of “Black Identity Extremism.” The NSA is fully unleashed, gathering every bit of electronic data on people in the US and in the rest of the world.”

See more:

Is there a history of social inequality and surveillance?

The history of CIA, just one of the agencies, is well documented.  There is no way to do it justice in a newspaper interview.  We are organizing a panel discussion but even at that event, we will only be able to touch on the murderous criminal history of the CIA - not to mention all of the other involved agencies.  Indeed there could be not only a minor, but a major, dedicated to studying the record of CIA, NSA, DIA, DHS, ICE, FBI involvement in promoting repression, oppression and injustice.  We would like to invite all Targum readers to attend the forum and to follow the live feed we will broadcast from it.  Stay tuned for more details about that upcoming event.


Rutgers has been a site of complicity with the inherent violence of the Intelligence Community for decades. Due to the nature of classified information, we can only cite instances that have already been declassified, decades after the fact.

This in and of itself is cause for concern. Research funded by CIA money was conducted without the knowledge of researchers and the subjects of the research in the 1950s. This specific study on Hungarian refugees was used as part of Project MKULTRA, which was used as research for psychological/behavioral control tactics. This heralded the rise of IRB and the establishment of mandatory ethical research guidelines such that such covert intelligence strategies would be considered unethical moving forward.

However, the secrecy of the Intelligence Community cannot and is not, by nature, bound to these standards in the name of “national security.”

In the 80s, the head of the Rutgers Political Science Department had a secret contract with the CIA to study the disarmament movement in Europe.  He had an entire class engaged in research in support of that CIA objective, unbeknownst to the students that their research on the Europe disarmament and labor movement was being incorporated into a report for the CIA.

Around 2009, the CIA partnered with the FBI and New York Police Department actually operated a “safe house” in New Brunswick from which they were spying on members of the Muslim Students Association and other members of the Rutgers and New Brunswick Muslim community.

Since CIA is typically secretive in its relations with universities, faculty members and administrators, it can be assumed that such operations were more pervasive and what became known is likely just the tip of the icerberg.  Likewise, now with this public DIA financed project of the IC CAC, this public operations is no doubt a cover for more secretive dealings including widespread recruitment of faculty, administration and students.  It has been reported that current CIA and other intelligence operatives are coming to campus - ostensibly as guest lecturers - and students are getting internships including paid internships and “study abroad” opportunities - basically going to do intelligence field work as paid operatives.  

Why should students know about this?

Students should know about this, as this is contrary to what they are paying tuition for. Rutgers is a renowned research university, and that in part is why students from all over choose to attend. Research has and is being unethically conducted on our campus to propagate US imperialist violence as funded by the DIA; that this is the case is completely contrary to the integrity of our university as a research institution.

Foreign students in particular, should be aware that there are agencies operating on the campus that might be targeting their country, their friends and family back “home”, their freedom struggles and other political efforts that they might be sympathetic to - that their solidarity efforts with their own people could be of interest to these agencies, that Rutgers might even facilitate and assist in monitoring their communications on behalf of these nefarious agencies.

At the recent protest, there was a strong presence of Filipino students, for example - and the US Defense Department is directly supporting the death squad government of Duterte that is targeting activists of the movements for freedom from dictatorship, repression and US imperialism, movements that many in the US support.  It is a dangerous place now for these and other students from parts of the world where the United States is escalating tension, threatening warfare and participating in assassination, bombing and other forms of killing.

John Cohen, who is apparently the defacto CIA station chief of Rutgers University and the chief Rutgers counsel - Rutgers top lawyer - John Hoffman, presided over the part of the recent symposium aimed at setting the groundwork for defining “best practices” for fighting hate on campus and in the social media.  The fact that Rutgers and the DIA connected the two demonstrates that part of the plan is analyzing student social network participation - analysis of great interest to the intelligence agencies which targets movements around the world and domestically that some students are supportive of.  With the CIA history in assisting death squad operations and its nefarious ties to dictators and killers of every sort, this relationship of Rutgers literally puts the family members of students and even the students themselves when they travel back to their countries - literally in potential peril!

What does/can Rutgers do to ensure fairness and safety?

First off, Rutgers should release to the public the complete offering proposal it made to the Pentagon seeking this blood money and the complete contract it has with DoD without hesitation or unnecessary red tape.

Rutgers should terminate the ICCAE.

Instead, Rutgers should set aside $2M for an equally equipped operation to train opponents of US war to coordinate opposition to the dangerous moves currently being taken that endanger the collective safety of our world.

If the student body is silent as University resources are dedicated to the US war effort through this DIA contract and the ICCAE, that makes the student body complicit with the US escalations of warfare and the fast step toward ultimate warfare - nuclear warfare - which ends up destroying the planet.  Concerted action of the students, faculty, staff, community and the disarmament and antiwar movement to end this Rutgers complicity is necessary.


From: Bob Witanek 
Subject: DIA Proposal and Contract Information Request
Date: Apr 8, 2018 12:13 AM

Brian Ballentine 
Chief of Staff, Office of the President

Dear Chief Ballentine,
I hereby publicly request that Rutgers provide the proposal it submitted to the DIA and the complete agreement that it has put in place for the $1.95M funding of the IC CAE.

If you can please advise of the proper method, to which university office, through which this request can be successfully fulfilled it is greatly appreciated.

Bob Witanek, CC '82

Monday, April 2, 2018

Willow Grove: Drones from Home (Easter 2018)

Willow Grove Park opened in 1896 on 130 idyllic acres, just fifteen miles north of Center City Philadelphia in the small town of Willow Grove.  In the similar spirit of Coney Island, it offered Philadelphians an opportunity to get out of the city, via trolley car, and enjoy amusements, rides, food, and music—most famously, John Philip Sousa’s band would play there every year.  As middle class and suburban life evolved outside of Philadelphia in the early 1900s, so did Willow Grove Park.  Cars replaced trolleys as the means of transportation, and Easton Road became more built up and developed.  Still, "Life [was] a lark in Willow Grove Park," as its slogan attested.  As an early teen in the 1960s, my mom walked to Willow Grove Park two or three times a year.  She and her best friend Kathy would get unlimited rides on “Abington Hospital Day.”  Pop Pop’s company had its picnics there every summer.  Now though, the amusement park and most of the willows and groves are gone.  It closed in 1975, and seven years later, the Willow Grove Park Mall opened in its place.  A 1991 low-budget local history documentary about the park proclaimed of the shopping mall:  “A vast, glittering monument to modern times rises on the site of old Willow Grove Park.”
            Six miles north on Easton Road, before reaching the Bucks county line, sat the Naval Air Station-Joint Reserve Base, which shared a name with the park/mall/town: “Willow Grove.”  Technically in Horsham Township, Willow Grove was a fixture in Bucks-Montgomery life.   Before my lifetime, my mom and her other best friend Edna drove onto the base when they were seventeen—security was more lax then—looking for jobs.  (They did not get hired—they weren’t even sure what type of jobs they were looking for.)  None of my mom’s family or my nearby dad’s family worked at the base, but plenty of local residents did.  Finally, there was a large parking lot off Easton Road adjacent to the base, where local teenagers would go to “watch the submarine races,” i.e. make out in cars.  Everyone had his/her way of supporting the troops. 
            In my childhood in the early 1990s, trips from the hinterlands of Chalfont to Mom Mom’s in Hatboro or Nana’s in Warrington meant driving along the edge of the Willow Grove base.  A few people we grew up with worked there.  Mr. Ganter did for a time.  Mr. Armstrong completed some of his reservist duties there, and his connection landed us the base pool for our 8th-grade graduation party, which was pretty cool.  My family never attended the annual air shows, but we heard them and appreciated them from afar.  We had as much respect and knowledge that most non-military families had, both towards Willow Grove and the military in general.
            In eighth grade, when I started to hear the call of Uncle Sam to serve and, in particular, to serve in the navy, I took slightly more interest in Willow Grove.  But for the most part, I didn’t think much of it: it was the base we drove by; occasionally, we’d see a plane; we, the U.S., probably needed it; and we, the U.S., probably used it for good.  Life simply went on, on the way to Mom Mom’s house and, later, on the way to what I thought would be an illustrious naval career.
March of my senior year of college, I chose the USS Cardinal in Manama, Bahrain as my first duty station.  The day before graduation, I was commissioned an Ensign.  Therefore, I was officially in the navy and on the navy payroll.  So, I had to find “stashed Ensign” duty to keep me occupied and accountable until I reported to the Cardinal in June.  I called up our neighbor Mr. Witowski, who was a Lieutenant Commander at the P-3 squadron at Willow Grove, and he helped stash me there.  
Willow Grove, then, holds a special, odd place in my heart.  It was my first duty station of sorts.  My responsibilities in those three weeks there involved sitting by a phone that maybe rang once, organizing some paperwork into accordion file folders, retrieving squadron hoagies from Silvio’s Deli, slowly making my way through The Brothers Karamazov (to be finished three months later), working out, and playing basketball.  That P-3 squadron seemed to play a lot of basketball.  In those three weeks, my mom actually started working at Willow Grove, in Mr. Ganter’s office.  Forty-seven years later, she finally landed that job on the base.  We were a very cute and very green navy-mother-son duo: she the new civilian, I the freshly minted Ensign, getting lunch together at Lancers’ Diner across the street.  
I reported to the Cardinal in Bahrain to start my less than illustrious naval career.  Several months later, the navy moved our crew to Ingleside, Texas to take over the USS Pelican instead.  In 2005, the same Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) commission that recommended closing Naval Station Ingleside recommended that Willow Grove be closed as well.  Local residents near both stations reacted with similar sentiment to the closure announcements: roadside signs, petitions, and town hall hearings to “save the station; save the jobs; our nation needs it to be safe (particularly post-9/11).”  (In reality, the BRAC commission, comprised of no doves, was probably right.  President Eisenhower, no dove himself, warned against this type of civilian economic dependency on military bases and industry, but that is another story for another blog entry).  In September of 2011, Willow Grove did shut down as a joint Navy-Marine-Air Force base, but the Pennsylvania Air National Guard soon took it over, and it is formally called the Horsham Air Guard Station today.  Most folks still refer to it as Willow Grove.
In 2016, Willow Grove become one of the country’s twelve drone command centers.  The command center remotely flies unmanned MQ-9 Reaper Drones, which themselves are based in and fly across the Middle East (the particular locations, missions, and any potential strikes directly connected to Willow Grove are not disclosed).  In addition to the pilot and the sensor operator, these drones—made by General Atomics at $14 million apiece—require a large support team at Willow Grove:   
A mission commander, a mission intelligence coordinator, an intelligence supervisor, and a weather specialist make up the rest of the team's key members. It takes 140 people to deliver "actionable information" for each [combat air patrol]….
The MQ-9 Reapers, typically armed with four Hellfire missiles, can gather intelligence and provide surveillance for the better part of 24 hours, hovering over a targeted area from up to 50,000 feet. When directed, the drone can strike a target with the weapons. Each drone has a range of 600 miles to 800 miles.

Drones from Willow Grove?  Yes, the other, deadlier “captive flying machines.”    
I was surprised and upset when I heard this news.  My surprise, however, was admittedly irrational.  It was an operating base after all, despite BRAC.  Willow Grove had supported combat operations and wars in the past, while I rode by it on the way to extended family holidays and dinners.  Now, drones happen to be the weapon of choice.  That’s what militaries and national guards do—fly them, shoot them.  All those hoagies and all that basketball does eventually, sometimes lead to a “kill.”  Furthermore, I had spent eighteen months on the USS Cowpens—a ship that had fired 37 missiles during "shock and awe" over Baghdad in 2003.  I played in the war games with South Korea practicing for the invasion of North Korea.  I was in the Persian Gulf for a brief time.  In short, while I was not in combat, I was much more directly, morally entwined in the questions of the war machine at that navy stage in my life.  And as a participant, an officer no less.  But County Line Road?  Across from (the short-lived and now gone) Happy Times go-karts and arcade games?  Catty-corner from Saint Joseph’s Church and Saint Joseph-Saint Robert School?  On the way to (now gone, but longer-lived) Nana and Poppi?  This drones news hit close to home.  All that other stuff I did was on those gray ships in that past, non-illustrious life.  On southern or foreign bases.  And drone bases—they’re supposed to be in Nevada or upstate New York, or if you had to put one in Pennsylvania, somewhere in the middle or out west.  But here?  On the way to (now gone) Mom Mom and Pop Pop?  From where (now gone) Mr. Armstrong worked?      
In a hypothetical situation, perhaps the drone is the most appropriate weapon.  “Bad actors” do exist.  I believe people can do evil things.  If the drone can stop an evil or harmful act, without putting a pilot or a foot soldier (or in the potential civilian context, a cop on the beat) at risk, should not then the drone be the weapon of choice, albeit a last resort?  Is not that even better than P-3’s, than guided-missile cruisers (like the Cowpens), and than infantrymen?  What is the big deal with drones then?
Through one fictional mission, the British film Eye in the Sky (2015), starring Helen Mirren and (the now gone) Alan Rickman, brilliantly and sharply explores the morality of drone warfare and of air warfare and targeted killings in general.  While certainly not pro-drone, the film to my surprise was not explicitly anti-drone either.  It makes the viewer wrestle with the moral quandary, and viewers may leave with different judgments on the film’s outcome.  
The movie thus does a very a good job of delving into the morality of the moment.  In a similar way, my ROTC leadership classes presented particular film clips and case studies that made us think.  For example, "Should Samuel L. Jackson's character in Rules of Engagement have killed the unarmed POW in order to get the North Vietnamese commander to call off the ambush on Tommy Lee Jones' platoon?"”  It is a worthy question, and my ROTC classmates landed on different sides of the debate.  What Eye in the Sky and my ROTC classes did not do, though, was provide historical context leading up to the moment.  There is the morality of the moment, but not much discussion of the morality of the historical context leading up to it.  That is not a knock on the film—that wasn’t Eye in the Sky’s job.  However, that might be a knock on my ROTC classes—I think that was supposed to be their job.  If you zoom out and ask the morality questions of U.S. involvement in Vietnam in the first place, does not that then necessarily color our response to the Samuel L. Jackson moment?  We did not do too much zooming out in ROTC.  We tend not to zoom out much in the general public discussion either.
Take Syria, for example.  In the news, you are presented with two bad options, if you are even paying attention: a, take out Bashar al-Assad and go for regime change, or b, let him continue to kill thousands in Syria.  You are then either a “hawk” or an “Assad-apologist” depending on your answer.  There is little to no context.  True, policy makers have to make hard decisions between bad choices at the end of some days, but context matters.  The fierce journalist Mehdi Hasan, known for his interviews on Al Jazeera’s Up Front and now with The Intercept and his new podcast Deconstructed, gave the best summation I’ve seen of the debate over Syria.  While good people of conscience may disagree here and lose sleep over Syria, it is the mad fools without consciences and emperors without clothes who call for missile strikes while eating "the most beautiful piece of chocolate cake you've ever seen" and who sleep all too easily afterwards.   In another Intercepted podcast on war and historical context, Jeremy Scahill and historian Nikhil Singh have a conversation that’s worth quoting at length:
JS: And in this country, there’s a media culture that dictates that you have to accept two primary factors in order to talk in a reasonable or responsible way about war. The one hand, you have that the U.S. motive is always based on some benign interest — that it’s a humanitarian intervention or it’s to stop a despot or a dictator from threatening world stability or it’s that a particular country is pursuing a weapons of mass destruction program, and then the other factor that I’ve noticed that needs to be present is you have to agree, if it’s not already natural to you, to a self-induced amnesia about how we ended up where we are, like in Syria today, in Iraq today, in Iran, in Somali, all these countries — Pakistan — around the world that the United States has played an active role in creating the conditions we see today. It’s like you erase all of that and only talk about the narrow question that officials in the U.S. pose: Is it right or wrong to try to stop country x from pursuing weapons of mass destruction?....
NS:To any way challenge the notion that the U.S. is a benign, world-ordering power is to break from a kind of a ideological sort of monolith. I mean it’s not even just a consensus, it’s kind of a, it’s really the equivalent of what we used to condemn as you know, Soviet, ideology….
JS: This is part of the point I’m getting at, we can have that [moral debate] conversation about World War II if you don’t start the history of World War II at ’39. Is there a such entity, as al Qaeda, that does want to kill Americans, Westerners et cetera? Yeah, there is.  I would love to have the conversation about: How do we take away the motive or the justifications that these people use to their own base to justify their acts of violence. But it requires a real reckoning with American history. And that’s what’s not allowed.
We then arrive at fictional or actual just war scenarios where we side with Helen Mirren (fire) or with Alan Rickman (don’t fire), but we only should get to make those decisions if we have considered all the facts, including the facts of history.  That requires homework, which we haven’t done.  Citizens could debate the merits of these drone strikes, but that requires knowledge and awareness, which we don’t have. 
Much of the latter is by design: Our drones operate in a semi-secret, quasi-legal arrangement between the military and the CIA.  The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has exhaustively tracked our drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan—the last being the only country that we are actually at war with, albeit not constitutionally-congressionally declared.  The Bureau reports that, since 2004, there have been 4,737 strikes, killing between 7,361 and 10,677 (between 737 and 1,551 of them civilians, and between 242 and 335 of them children).  Many of us critics on the left side of things were quieter in the eight years with Obama at the helm.  The case for a just war or at least more just actions seemed more feasible sans Bush and Cheney, but under Obama’s watch, we launched a total of 542 strikes.  Many of us unfortunately outsourced our critical thinking and democratic dissent and trusted the hitherto shoddy legal framework with our favorite constitutional lawyer president.  In some "double tap" operations after the initial strike, the drone comes back to fire upon those who have come in to help the injured.  Any military-aged male in a strike zone was considered a combatant. Now, that already shoddy legal framework and moral slippage is in the small hands of the small-minded reality-show host president, ripe to continue on with the strikes and even let the CIA run looser on their end of the deal.
 In that clean hypothetical, history-began-yesterday drone strike debate, the drone would be the weapon of choice, so as not to put one’s own soldiers at risk.  But that is also precisely the problem with drones.  I would not argue for U.S. military boots on the ground in any of the countries we are or are not at war with.  I certainly would not argue for the merit of one U.S. military or civilian death.  But in a democracy, the potential loss of life of any of our citizens is supposed to give us pause and cause for reflection in any war or action: Is it just? Is it worth the risk of life?  Without that check on the powers that be, they go on with the drone strikes, moral slippage slides even more, missions “creep,” and we drive right by the base on County Line Road, going on with our lives without having to give much thought.  With these new weapons, there is the new luxury, or danger, that the military members themselves don’t have to give it much moral thought either.  The targets are thousands of miles away from Willow Grove, and the screens are reminiscent of video games.  The military even admits that younger people of the "video game generation" are targeted for recruitment.  Perhaps even straight out of the defunct arcades at Happy Times.
As the article above from the local Intelligencer says, “It takes 140 people to deliver ‘actionable information’ for each [Combat Air Patrol].”  But in a purported democracy, it takes millions of more people—sometimes deluded, often distracted, and usually in the dark—to consent to these operations.  To return to my question: that’s the big deal with drones. We take them for granted.  
There are courageous people, however, who are making sure we do not take this warfare for granted.  They are the "drone whistleblowers," and at great risk to themselves, they wrote to the Obama administration:
We came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay. This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.
And despite the video game feel, post-traumatic stress disorder is real.  One of these whistleblowers, Brandon Bryant, describes a particular strike as seen from the operators’ booth:
Yeah, it’s pixelated, but, I mean, you could—you could see that it was a human being, and you could see that—what he was doing, and you could see the crater from the drone—from the Hellfire missile, and you could see probably the body pieces that were around this guy….You know, it’s the femoral artery, so he could have bled out really fast. It was cold outside, you know, wintertime. It seemed like forever to me, but we—as the Predator drone can stay in the air for like 18 to 32 hours, and so they just had us watch and do battle damage assessment to make sure that—to see if anyone would come and pick up the body parts or anyone really cared who these people were. And we watched long enough that the body cooled on the ground, and they called us off target….Well, you know, the clinical definition of PTSD is an anxiety disorder associated with witnessing or experiencing a traumatic event. And it’s such a blanket term that so many people are like, “Oh, you can’t get PTSD from this or that.” And it’s a widely—it’s a wider phenomenon than I think a lot of people realize.  And my deal is more moral injury, like think of it—think how you would feel when—if you were part of something that you felt violated the Constitution. And, I mean, I swore an oath, you know? I swore to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. And how do you feel if, like—you can’t use “I obeyed orders” as an excuse. It’s “I obeyed the Constitution, regardless of lawful or unlawful orders.” And lawful orders follow the Constitution. And that, that’s the hardest part.  And I was really unprepared for—for it. I tried to get out multiple times and do a different job, and I was consistently told that it’s the needs of the Air Force come first, and so I did it. I buckled down, and I did it. I did the job. I did it as best as I could, because I was scared that someone would come in, and they wouldn’t do it very well. And I—I mean, I paid a spiritual and mental price for that. And I think that’s something that people really discount, because I didn’t take any physical injury through it.
In time, we remember the things and people in our land—from our home—that are now gone: the forests, the Lenni-Lenape, the farmland, the amusement parks, our (perceived) innocence, John Philip Sousa and “Stars and Stripes Forever” (songs of our (perceived) innocence), the willows, the groves, the willow groves, the larks, the strip malls on County Line and Easton Roads, the navy base, the jobs on the navy base, probably soon the Willow Grove Park Mall, Pop Pop, Mom Mom, Mr. Armstrong, Nana, Poppi.  Some of these we simply remember, fondly or less fondly.  Some we mourn.  Some we reclaim and redeem.

In time, we also should remember, mourn, redeem, and reclaim the things and people that are now gone “over there.”  Especially because we have consented to their destruction.  In fact, before we even do that, we have to at least name the dead and recognize that this warfare is happening in the first place, in our name.  Whole bodies and homes and communities destroyed.  Willow Grove and the towns that surround and support it are forever linked to the towns and villages in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan.   
“In a free society,” Rabbi Heschel reminds us, “some are guilty, but all are responsible.”
This Saturday—Holy Saturday, the day before Easter—Brandywine Peace Community will resume its demonstrations in front of the Willow Grove base from 12 noon to 2pm.  (Speaking of Eisenhower and the military industrial complex earlier, Brandywine also resumes its “IGNITE PEACE...Prayer for the Love of Humanity” in front of the King of Prussia’s Lockheed Martin on Good Friday from 12 noon to 3pm.)
Certainly, there are many other ways to dissent and to repent.  But, on the way to get an early seat across the street at Saint Joseph’s Easter Vigil mass in this, the "United States of Pontius Pilate", give a stop, or a honk, or a moment of reflection for Willow Grove. 
It will indeed require all types in this peace movement.  Veterans and non-veterans.  Even active-military resisters and active-military thinkers.  Workers at the Willow Grove base and (lower-wage) workers at the Willow Grove mall.  We on this side of the Atlantic and they "over there" in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, and Afghanistan.  Pacifists in principle and pacifists in effect.  The religious and the secular.  People against all war and drones and people against endless war.  People who, at the least, want fewer drones and less war.  Libertarians who, at the least, want constitutionally limited war and drones.  In general, fans of this democratic experiment who, at the least, want to shed light on and then debate the merits of these drones.  People who, at the least, don’t want drones in the hands of Trump and now John Bolton.  We can come together like Mike Lee on the right and Bernie Sanders and Chris Murphy on the left did when they almost stopped fueling the Saudi war in Yemen.  People who aren’t sure what they think and who just want to learn more.  
It will take all these companions together—no longer strangers and sojourners.