Open Letter to Secretary John Kerry

Helen Schietinger

1623 Kennedy Pl NW

Washington DC 20011


12 March 2015


Secretary of State John Kerry

U.S. Department of State

2201 C St NW

Washington DC 20520


Dear Secretary Kerry,


I am the woman who spoke to you from the audience at the March 11th Senate Foreign Relations Committee Hearing on AUMF.  You were asking for congressional authority to demolish ISIL or DAESH.  You made it sound as though you have an explicit military target that can easily be bombed into obliteration.   

When my Code Pink colleague challenged you, saying the American people are tired of endless war and don’t want to kill more innocent people, you invoked the specter of terrorists beheading journalists and burning a pilot alive.  We’re all horrified by these atrocities.  That’s why Americans like us are speaking out against the devastating violence perpetrated by the United States that fuels hatred against our country.  U.S. drone strikes — supposedly “surgical” in nature —  don’t simply behead, they blow bodies into scattered pieces of meat that families do not recognize as human unless they know a beloved person was standing there before the blast.  Go speak to the traumatized villagers who have survived our attacks, as Americans in Code Pink have done.  

I reiterated in the hearing that the United States is killing innocent people, especially with drones.  Drones aren’t like guns; they don’t hit one person:  a drone fires a missile that explodes on the ground in a powerful blast that obliterates everything and everyone nearby.  Hellfire missiles burn people alive.  According to Micah Zenko of the Council on Foreign Relations, 500 drone strikes outside Iraq and Afghanistan have killed 3,674 people including 473 civilians.  To assassinate the Taliban commander Qari Hussain in Pakistan, the U.S. deployed a total of 6 drone strikes over a period of months.  The last drone fired the missile that finally killed Hussain, but by then 128 other people, including 13 children, were also obliterated.

In a BBC interview you claimed, “The only people that we fire a drone at are confirmed terrorist targets at the highest level after a great deal of vetting that takes a long period of time.  We don’t just fire a drone at somebody and think they’re a terrorist.”   (BBC, May 28, 2013;  To be clear, we are talking here about extrajudicial assassinations, which are condemned as human rights violations when conducted by other countries, and which, until recently, were only conducted covertly by the U.S. government. Now I hear you defending this outrageous practice without even acknowledging that it always results in a significant number of civilians being killed as well.

Secretary Kerry, this is the U.S. military force that has spawned hatred, resistance, and retaliation.  The image of victims that ISIS has dressed in orange jump suits — to mimic the U.S. detainees imprisoned and tortured for 13 years at Guantanamo — is seared in the minds of Americans.  That message is clear: human rights violations by the United States will not be forgotten.  So rather than using the abomination of terrorist tactics to justify using military might, I suggest you hold up examples of successful diplomacy to defend your continued negotiations with Iran.  Counter the ravenous appetite of the hawks for an ongoing military fiasco.  The solution to terrorism is not brute force.  

You said in your testimony that Americans are united in this effort.  You’ll never get a united front of Americans to support the barbarity of military force.  We who believe that diplomacy is the only way to peace in the world will continue to oppose the drumbeat of war.  As my sign said:  There is no military solution.


Helen Schietinger, RN

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