British Aerospace, Plowshares, Drones and the Celtic "God of Thunder"

Ciaron O’Reilly
It was over a decade since Chris Cole and I had been at the gates of British Aerospace (BAE) Warton in Lancashire, England. That was back in the day when BAE were making their money from butchering East Timorese.

But our history with BAE goes way back before that. When those of us in the ANZUS Plowshares were released from U.S. prisons in 1992, following our New Year’s Day ’91 disarmament of a B52 Bomber and a year in custody, the F.B.I. had so much repsect for private property tha they gave us our hammers and boltcutters back! We shipped a set to Chris in England and on January 6th. 1993 he made his way into BAE Stevenage where he carried out £475,000 damage to BAE weapon systems. After two trials and 6 months in jail, BAE slapped a high court injunction on him. BAE later had Chris imprisoned for another 6 months under the terms of the civil injunction for writing a leaflet encouraging people to blockade BAE. But when Chirs was freed the British police returned the ploughshares hammer to him.

The hammer was passed on to four women, the “Seeds of Hope Ploughshares” who went to BAE Warton in January ’96 and disarmed a Hawk Fighter ready for export to Indonesia.

Following the July ’96 acquittal of the four women, we set up a community with East Timorese refugees in Liverpool and carried out sustained nonviolent resistance at BAE Warton. BAE struck back hitting 13 of us with high court injunctions and placed a spy in the Liverpool Catholic Worker.

They also ran a number of spies in the more moderate “Campaign Against the Arms Trade”.

So there was a lot of history with BAE as we headed north along the M1. The plan was 4 hours on the road, four hours vigiling outside the factory and four hours back to Oxford.

We were being drawn back to BAE Warton by the unveiling of the companies latest hi tech development in death dealing – “Taranis”. Apparently the weapon of choice these daze for government sanctioned assassination and untold collateral damage on the extremities of empire is the drone.

To paraphrase Pulp Fiction “If you absolutely have to kill every mother on the block to get your target, the drone is for you.!” The drone takes alienation at the point of production (of corpses and orphans) to its logical conclusion by removing the pilot. The guy presently pushing the button to unleash the U.S. hellfire missiles on to their unsuspecting victims on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border is a half a world a way in an air conditioned office/vault/bunker in Florida or Nevada. British forces in Afghanistan are presently using American Reaper and Israeli surveillance drones, but not for long! British Aerospace, always one for with an eye in the death dealing market, has spent £143 million developing the “Taranis” and this unveiling at Warton was about BAE’s “continued drive to convince the British Ministry of Defence to invest in the next generation of unmanned aircraft.” (Daily Mail)

Taranis, named after the Celtic god of thunder, is different from the UK’s current drones as it is designed not to be flown remotely from the ground via satellite, as current unmanned drones are, but rather programmed pre-flight to carry out its mission, whether intelligence, surveillance or armed strike. To make the aircraft ‘more stealthy’ i.e. invisible to radar, the drone’s bombs and missiles are carried internally.

So our humble effort at Warton last Monday was to break the consensus of silence and state a physical “no” to Defense Minister Howarth, BAE, Taranis, imperial wars and the policy of assassination and collateral damage on the empire’s extremeties.

Standing there at the gates of BAE Warton with our home made banners watching a stream of limos and sports cars reminded one of the film “Ironman” without the subplot of redemption and also of the many victims this factory has produced throughout the world.

Meanwhile in the U.S. good friends including Kathy Kelly, Fr. Louie Vitale OFM, Fr. Steve Kelly SJ and Fr. John Dear SJ are being taken before the Nevada Courts for their resistance at Creech Air Force Base to the U.S. drone wars on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border.
(Saormheáin Éireann Iúil 19, 2010)

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