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Veteran campaigner to launch RAF Waddington protest

By Lincolnshire Echo  |  Posted: September 02, 2011

'TRYING TO KEEP PEOPLE ALIVE':  Helen John, a founder of the Greenham Common protest, pictured, is launching a demonstration at RAF Waddington against its expanding role   in the use of unmanned military aircraft

'TRYING TO KEEP PEOPLE ALIVE': Helen John, a founder of the Greenham Common protest, pictured, is launching a demonstration at RAF Waddington against its expanding role in the use of unmanned military aircraft

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A FOUNDER of the Greenham Common protests is heading for RAF Waddington to demonstrate against its expanding role in the use of unmanned military aircraft.

Retired midwife Helen John, 73, a veteran of the 19-year campaign against cruise missiles which began in 1981, launches the Lincolnshire demonstration tomorrow.

She and others are protesting over Waddington's involvement in the Reaper drones, which are deployed in Afghanistan.

The aircraft, which are used for surveillance and are armed with 500lb laser-guided bombs and Hellfire missiles, are remotely controlled by pilots on the ground.

According to the website directactionstation.com, the Waddington peace protest is "a highly visible campaign against the UK's use of armed drones against unarmed civilians, often women and children".

Ms John, jailed ten years ago for cutting a hole in the fence of the Menwith Hill air base in North Yorkshire as she protested against a proposed American missile defence system, accuses the military of training assassins.

"I spent my entire working life trying to keep people alive," said Ms John, of Otley in West Yorkshire, who stood against Tony Blair on a No Star Wars ticket in the 2001 general election in the Sedgefield constituency.

"It's absolutely unforgivable that young men are being trained to operate these drones remotely in criminal assassinations – it is an insult to humanity.

"This is all happening for oil. The USA and Britain decide they want oil but are not prepared to pay for it.

"I know we will probably take a lot of flack for protesting. Local people have great respect for the RAF.

"I have respect for people who put their lives on the line, but this is not what is happening."

In May this year the Echo reported that a new Reaper squadron will be formed at RAF Waddington, taking over the squadron number of the disbanded No 13 Tornado Squadron.

Crews from 39 Squadron, which has its headquarters at RAF Waddington, have been piloting the unmanned aerial vehicles for several years from Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.

But 13 Squadron's new role next year will be the first time covert missions over Afghanistan will be controlled from the UK.

Ministry of Defence spokesman Squadron Leader Bruno Wood pointed out that Reaper was not an automated system.

He said: "They do have the capability to deploy weapons but only when commanded to do so by the flight crew.

"The rules of engagement are exactly the same as for manned conflict aircraft.

"We operate Reaper in strict accordance with international humanitarian law, also known as the law of armed conflict.

"Reaper is saving lives in Afghanistan."

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  • Mr_Sneer  |  November 15 2011, 7:42PM

    Well, that was worth reviving the story for. Thanks.

  • ukjazzer  |  November 15 2011, 4:25PM

    "Afghanistan has oil? Must have missed that one." Actually, vast amounts of mineral wealth have been found in remote regions of Afghanistan. Including Oil. You honestly believe our troops are dieing to protect the local Afghans from the Taliban ? And not the Yank Oil Corporation Profits ? Get REAL ! Do you honestly believe we went to the Falklands 30 years ago to protect a few hundred sheep farmers ? And NOTHING to do with the vast oil reserves in the Southern Antartic ?

  • ukjazzer  |  November 15 2011, 4:17PM

    Yes, Afghanistan does have oil actually. In remote regions vast amounts of mineral wealth have been found. You honestly think the only reason we are there is to fight the Taliban ?

  • FreedomSpeech  |  September 04 2011, 7:46PM

    "I served in the military for 6 years. Did you?" I can't help but roll my eyes when I read or hear this particular argument. I've never played football for England, but I don't feel that disqualifies me from commenting on their performances. And I'm not an actor, but I confidently predict that Keanu Reeves is unlikely to be joining the R.S.C. or winning Academy Awards any time soon.

  • vpire  |  September 04 2011, 7:40PM

    I do not believe for a seccond that your served in the military Bob, if you did, you would certainly know the real reasons for these wars. Pilotless drones are a good idea, as their primary role is certainly not what this woman is claiming. The fact is, these drones would save more lives on both sides. I would also like to make the point that this daft bat and her benefit claiming band of losers demonstrating on Greenham common against the only weapons that stopped America & Russia eradicating life on earth in the cold war. It was nuclear missiles carried by Victors and Vulcans that eventually forced both sides to stop being so stupid thus saving all our lives, and this idiot woman goes and protests about it. Look, we need these 'weapons' Our troops need all the help they can get especially with the rubbish equipment they are provided with. I just hope that the DSS go to the rally to catch all the benefit cheats.

  • Bob_Ovett  |  September 04 2011, 2:09PM

    'Supporting the Troops' does not equate to blindlely agreeing with every single piece of work the military does. It's more than possible to 'Support The Troops' and disagree with UK government military policy. I disagree with the war that took place in Iraq, I disagree with the war taking place in Afghanistan. Does that mean I don't support the troops? Of course not. I support the troops, I support them as much as I support the teacher, the nurse and the firefighter. What I don't do is get a sense of (un)righteous indigination every time someone criticises UK defence policy. If you read the article (something most people don't really bother to do on this forum) you'll see that the protestors are protesting against the pilotless drones. They don't appear to be there accusing everyone in CS95 of being the butcher of Basra. I'll wait for the invevitable insults to be thrown my way for daring to disagree with the 'unsilent majority' but before you hack me down just chew on this, I served in the military for 6 years. Did you?

  • lincolnsar  |  September 03 2011, 8:37PM

    well said andy 612. yes there will be a smell of weed up at waddington during this protests , mainly paid for by us tax payers . go home dolites . the working or former tax payers who have retired amongst you please do get your point across in between your work schedule . xxx

  • dysentry  |  September 03 2011, 8:11PM

    @Spradicant Did i state that you have no freedom of speech? Typical that nothing has been taken yet someone tries to state that it has been attempted. Do you live in the UK? If yes then the military has given you that freedom! if No then your comments mean less than the flatulance of a frenchman. The feathers are that of a coward sir. the Tarring and feathering is the means of a bully, as you suggested the tarring I presume you know more about it than I. The silken glove is a challenge, but I feel by you stating it is violence and the overblowment of others statements that the challenge would be filled with lies upon your part. This women has been protesting since 1981! so she retired at 43 did she? spent her life saving lives has she? or sponging off the taxpayer whilst she goes on her moralistic crusade? just a thought. You sir have the right to speak and I respect that right, but not always the content. Why has she not took her wagon to London and protested there? She is less welcome than I think you realise, not because people support the military, more a case of they do not care for her and do not wish her in the county.

  • dysentry  |  September 03 2011, 7:57PM

    @sporadicant Did I state you have no freedom of speech? or did I state the ability to spout? and if you live in the UK or have lived in the UK you have had this ability under the protection of the UK military! we do not live in a dictaeorship or under martial law.

  • Andy612  |  September 03 2011, 1:58PM

    @sporadicant Pitiful. I see from your profile you purport to be Jo Public - presumptious in the extreme and demonstrates exactly the type of person you probably are. If we're taking dictionary definitions let's look at your nom de plume - sporadicant. Seems to be a play on sporadic; one dictionary definition of which is "appearing in scattered or isolated instances, as in a disease" - seems fitting to me. As to the other part - "cant" I can only imagine you mis-spelled it and should have used the vowel that occurs 4 later in the English alphabet! Personal attack over - I do actually respect your view and your right to vociferously vocalise it, and I reserve my right to form an opinion of you based on what you say. Just to be clear, the interesting point is that you feel that all those serving in the armed forces, even those that refuse to perform duties involving issues they don't believe in, are trained murderers. The basic understanding you demonstrate quite clearly you lack - is the purpose of and how the armed forces actually exist, function and operate. As an insider I can say I've spent by far the largest part of my military service defending people and things, not attacking; and I've actually spent more time supporting civil authorities/powers and aid agencies in emergency situations and disaster relief worldwide than I have spent overall in combat operations. Enjoy your stay at Waddington - I hope it heaves it down! Amazing how those at Greenham Common, Lakenheath etc lost their passion every time the heavens opened. Please give my regards to Ms John and thank her for taking time out of her retirement - comfortable as it is on the proceeds of the book and DVD etc deals that have occurred on the back of her 2nd career as a 'Peace Campaigner' - to raise awareness of this important issue. I do hope it is all worthwhile and she eventually gets the Nobel Peace Prize she was nominated for last year - after all, the whole point of this protest seems to be about bulking up her CV and raising her profile just when it is needed to serve her own ends. Enough said on my part - no more from me on this subject I'm afraid.

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