Over 100 people of all ages met with bright banners and placards, at the entrance to Parc Aberporth on Monday September 9th. They were there to protest against the part that Wales is playing in the development of ‘remote killing machines’ or drones. They had come from far and wide because they understood that drones, operated in the same way as computer war games, make war more dangerous and more likely.
The protest and vigil was organised and supported by Drones Network Cymru and other local and national organisations (including Bro Emlyn Peace and Justice Group, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Pembrokeshire Peace Group, Cardigan and North Pembrokeshire Amnesty International, War on Want, CND Cymru, Bridgend CND, Cymdeithas y Cymod, Aberystwyth Peace and Justice Network and Cymdeithas y Cymod). Individuals and groups had travelled from Cardiff and Abergavenny, Knighton, Carmarthen, Aberystwyth and south Pembrokeshire to speak out against the development of drones at ParcAberporth.
The effect of drones on civilian populations in Palestine
A representative of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign talked about the effect of drones on civilian populations in Palestine. Movingly, others read out the names of some of the hundreds of children already deliberately killed by drone attacks. Moving songs were sung by Maggie Nicols, Street Choirs Côr Gobaith (Aberystwyth) and Côr Cochion (Cardiff). Poems by local poets and Waldo Williams’ Y Tangnefeddwyr were read. Protestors listened to speakers who explained the horrors of this particular form of remote warfare, conducted like a computer game. But this is no game; the victims are real people and there is no ‘reset’ button. Mark Williams MP (Ceredigion) sent a message of support to the protest.
Parc Aberporth built in 2003-4 as a testing site for drones
Parc Aberporth was built in 2003-4 as a testing site for drones. It cost the tax payer over £21million. 1000 jobs were promised; today there are not even 50 employed on the site and three quarters of the business units remain empty.
A 500 square mile drone testing airspace over parts of Pembrokeshire, Ceredigion, Carmarthenshire and Powys has been permitted by the Civilian Aviation Authority. Currently Qinetiq is testing and teaching ‘Watchkeeper’ drone targeting and surveillance use to the British army as well as those from overseas.
Use of drones to extend the surveillance state
Military drone manufacturers are looking for civilian uses for remote sensing drones to expand their markets and this includes the use of drones for domestic surveillance. Drones will no doubt make possible the dramatic expansion of the surveillance state. With the convergence of other technologies it may even make possible machine recognition of faces, behaviours, and the monitoring of individual conversations.
Welsh Armaments ‘Expertise’ praised
On the same day of the protest at Aberporth, Drones were being highlighted at an armaments marketing ‘fair’ in London – more on the CAAT website. Economic Minister Edwina Hart had visited the arms fair, praised Welsh marketing of drone technology and is actively promoting drone development in Wales.
A Sustainable Future?
Those present had turned out because they are concerned that the acceptance of drone warfare could make war more likely in the future – if perpetrators believe it will be ‘less dangerous’ for its own combatants.
One speaker wondered how our Assembly Government could square the assembly’s aspiration for a ‘Sustainable Wales’ with the development of weapons of war. She commented : “It beggars belief that anyone could be under illusion that activities here are of any genuine benefit to the civilian populations of Blaenannerch, Aberporth, Cardigan, Ceredigion; Wales or anywhere in the world.”