Operation Ramstein: Former German Teacher Tries To End US Drone War

Yemenis walk past graffiti showing a US drone. Photograph: Yahya Arhab/EPA

Yemenis walk past graffiti showing a US drone. Photograph: Yahya Arhab/EPA

A federal administrative court in the German city of Leipzig is expected to rule on a lawsuit filed by former teacher Wolfgang Jung, who wants Berlin to shut down Ramstein air base that lies at the heart of the Pentagon’s highly controversial drone war in the Middle East and Africa.

Jung maintains that Washington’s drone campaign violates international and German law, because its main victims are civilians. If Leipzig court rules against him, Yung is determined to present his case at the Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe, Yung’s lawyer Peter Beker told RIA Novosti.

The Ramstein air base “plays a crucial role” in the US targeted killing campaign, Jung saidin a press release. The facility hosts a satellite relay station that sends signals to the drone and back to its operator overseas.

“Ramstein is absolutely essential to the US drone program,” former drone pilot Brandon Bryant said last year. “All information and data go through Ramstein. Everything. For the whole world. Also for the CIA operations.”

An unnamed source confirmed this assessment in an interview with the Intercept: “Without Ramstein, drones could not function, at least not as they do now.”

International humanitarian organizations have condemned US drone strikes as violating international law. Moreover, leaked documents released last October revealed that drones are extremely inefficient when it comes to eliminating needed targets. For instance, during a five-month-long drone campaign in Afghanistan, 90 percent of people killed were unintended targets.

Ramstein’s role in the US drone war was exposed in 2013, causing public outrage in Germany, but US and German politicians have tried to downplay the base’s significance.

A similar case was filed in Germany in 2014; the court dismissed it in May 2015. Nevertheless, Yemeni nationals, who filed the lawsuit, consider the ruling to be a victory, because it marks “the first time Germany’s role in US drone strikes has been acknowledged in court,” the Intercept reported.

Ramstein is home to the US Air Forces in Europe — Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA). More than 16,000 US servicemen, civilians and contractors are assigned to the base. The base is part of the largest US military community overseas.

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