Dirty Wars: It's Time to Pick Sides

October 8, 2013


This post is part of a series written by Amnesty USA’s National Youth Program Coordinator Kalaya’an Mendoza from the road of the Game of Drones tour. Follow the tour on Tumblr and take action to prevent extrajudicial killings with drones and other weapons.

By the time the stragglers reached the auditorium at the Ithaca College showing of Dirty Wars, everyone was packed shoulder to shoulder in their seats, a solid mass of people talking excitedly and straining to get closer to the screen. I saw one young woman squirm through the crowd to find one of the last empty seats, wedging herself between two others.

A quiet slowly settled across the room and the film began, Jeremy Scahill’s voice carrying through the auditorium. The faces of children who have lost mothers and uncles and grandparents to U.S. strikes with drones and other weapons flashed across the screen. The film details the raids and strikes that characterize President Obama’s deadliest and most secret game: the Game of Drones.

The young woman I’d noticed just before the film started told me later that she was deeply affected by seeing Dirty Wars. A grad student, she had come to the screening out of curiosity. After seeing the movie, she decided she wanted to do more. She realized that she had a choice: she could stay complacent and comfortable with her new knowledge, or begin the difficult journey to seek a more accountable government. She chose to act. After our die-in on campus the next day under the grey skies and our model drone, she said to me, “I feel like an activist. I feel like my actions can make a difference.”

The success of this stop on the Game of Drones tour was never guaranteed, and in fact it seemed in jeopardy from the start. Just as we unloaded the model drone, the skies opened up. We scrambled to disassemble the drone and pack up the metal base as lightning flashed across the sky. By the time we were safely back in the car, I was soaked through to the bone, my soul and my spirit grown cold as I wondered whether anyone would brave the torrent and come to that evening’s event.

The faces of children who have lost mothers and uncles and grandparents to U.S. strikes with drones and other weapons flashed across the screen.
Yet just moments later, we were received with enormous grace by Ute Ritz-Deutch, a fierce activist and Amnesty USA member leader, whose hard work and preparations changed the course of the week. Leader of the Ithaca Amnesty International USA Local Group, and Area Coordinator for the state of New York, Ute was born in Germany during the Cold War and committed herself to rights activism early in life. During that time, she saw how important it is to stand up and be counted every day among those who reject injustice and governmental abuses.Ute lives her values every day by organizing side by side with other Amnesty members throughout the state, and in coalition with other groups and organizations.

This week was no different. Ute called on Amnesty members to join her in organizing the Ithaca community to fight back against the Game of Drones, connecting with campus and community groups and mobilizing enough people to pack the room to watch Dirty Wars. She helped lead the post-screening discussion that deepened the resolve of so many to join this fight. It’s leaders like Ute who make Amnesty USA strong. We can use that strength to demand accountability and reform from the U.S. government for a drones policy that has resulted in the deaths and injury of thousands.

We have so much more work to do. In the last few months, we’ve seen a sharp escalation in drone strikes, with a media estimated 40 deaths in strikes in Yemen in August alone. Now is the time for us to rally, and that’s exactly what we’re doing.

As we continue on this tour, our voices are only getting louder as we grow stronger. I need you now to help amplify our call. Find a Local Group near you. Start a student group on your campus. Join the movement. Help us end this Game of Drones.