The Afghanistan War Comes Home to Philadelphia
(This article originally written for and published by Counterpunch Magazine)
Maple Glen, PA war zone -- Although I have been a journalist now for 40 years, I have, by design, never sought an assignment as a war correspondent. The idea of dodging enemy bullets, avoiding mines, and of course “friendly” fire, has never appealed to me. And yet, even as President Obama is claiming to be having second thoughts about the drone slaughter he has been overseeing from the White House, I find that I am now a war correspondent in a combat zone in spite of myself.
A month ago I learned, courtesy of my congressional representative, Republican Pat Meehan, that my neighborhood, the Upper Dublin and Horsham area of Montgomery County, PA, is being made into a front-line battle zone in the Afghanistan War.
Not that Rep. Meehan put it that way. No. His announcement was that Montgomery and Bucks County were going to get 250 new jobs thanks to a decision by the Pentagon to set up a new piloting facility for killer drones at the currently mothballed Willow Grove Naval Air Station. This new drone piloting facility, like the ones in Nevada and upstate New York, will be flying drones not from the Willow Grove facility’s huge airfield, but in Afghanistan, Pakistan and wherever else America is fighting the so-called War on Terror.
With this decision, the war has literally come home. Two miles from my house, to be exact.
According to a report in the Lansdale Patch, a local weekly, the US Air Force “has chosen the Pennsylvania Air National Guard's 111th Fighter Wing, located at the 238-acre Horsham Air Guard Station, adjacent to the shuttered Willow Grove air base to take on a new Remotely Piloted Aircraft mission.”
Effective October 1 the Air Force will have established, in already existing buildings on the currently unused base, a ground-control station for the MQ-9 Reaper. This is one of the two drones (the Predator is the other) that have been responsible for most of the drone killings during the Obama administration’s over four-year expanded use of drone warfare, and that has, according to the organization Drones Watch, been responsible for the documented deaths of over 172 children.
Col. Howard “Chip” Eissler, commander of the Pennsylvania National Guard’s 111th Fighter Wing, which had been flying A-10 Warthog ground attack jets from the base on training runs for years until the base was shut down, issued a press release saying, “This is an exciting time for our wing, and our airmen are energized to embrace this new mission.”