My friend and member of Shalom House, Candace McKinley, wrote a brilliant response on a list serve we mutually read. Someone was defending drones as the lesser of two evils and being sympathehetic about the imagined plight of the president who was making hard decisions. I thought her reply was so great I asked her if I could repost it. She said yes.
I do not think that is accurate to describe drone warfare as the lesser of two evils as if there are only two choices for action. What about relying on traditional intelligence gathering? What about trials? Or even working on rectifying the causes of terrorism–reversing US policies that have propped up dictators, destabilized legitimate governments, built military bases all over the world, and harmed local economies? Perhaps instead of striking out blindly in fear and in hate after 9-11, our government could have instead acted rationally: gathered intelligence on who perpetrated 9-11 and why; changed our policies; gone to the international community; answered the question of “Why do ‘they’ hate us?” honestly and not with the pointless lie of “Because they hate our freedom.”
Targeted killings using drones are problematic for many reasons. Legally, there is the issue of violating another country’s sovereignty, attacking other countries without a formal declaration of war, assassinating individuals without trial, killing US citizens without due process. But there is also a deep moral issue.
[Our friend] makes a good point. Imagine if we were on the receiving end of another country’s drone program. What if Venezuela decided to make targeted strikes against American citizens who they believed were actively involved in terrorist acts against their country that endangered the lives of its citizens and aimed to destabilize and overthrow their government? Their “accurate” drone strikes result in massive harm to personal property of civilians and collateral damage–the loss of life to civilians, including many women and children. Imagine attending a wedding to celebrate the union of two of your family members along with 150 friends and family members. It a celebration on Lemon Hill in Fairmount Park. The wedding reception is cut short when a drone opens fire on the crowd, killing most of the 150 guests. Seeing the explosion, bystanders and ambulances race to the scene to aid the victims. Another round of bombing greets the rescuers.
Venezuela thought the gathering was suspicious and had some intelligence that an American agent known to be involved in the planning of anti-Venezuelan government attacks might be in attendance. Soon, people no longer attend block parties, outdoor concerts, dragon boat races on the river, street fairs or large farmers markets for fear of drone attacks. You don’t want to look suspicious.
You go out to the grocery store to pick up some milk and eggs for breakfast the one day. You return home a half hour later to find your house in flames. Your home destroyed by a drone attack. Pieces of your spouse and children scattered among the burning wreckage. Your home happened to be next door to the home of a man suspected of donating to an anti-Venezuelan cell.
The above two scenarios may seem overly dramatic, but they are the reality for too many people living in Pakistan and other countries where the US engages in drone warfare. Over 4,700 people have been killed by US drones. Also, the idea that other nations could use drones–armed or unarmed–against the US is not so farfetched. The US no longer has the monopoly on drones. Israel is the largest drone exporter and China is into the business of drones as well. Again we reap the whirlwind.
This Saturday, Shalom House members attended a talk by Medea Benjamin, co-founder of CODE Pink in Bethlehem, PA. She spoke about drone warfare and CODE Pink’s efforts. Around the room was a string of names and ages written in careful black script noting over 100 Pakistani children killed by drone strikes. Listening to her tell us about CODE Pink’s recent delegation to Pakistan and the stories told by those living under drone warfare, I couldn’t help but imagine myself in their shoes. What would it be like to live in constant terror? To have your community torn asunder? To feel powerless to stop the killings or to even have your story heard? To be on the receiving end of the capricious vengeance and violence of a country thousands of miles away who feels that it has the right to bomb you and your family? To be given no justification or explanation for the attack beyond lip service?
I think the moral question of drone warfare, in deed of all warfare, can be answered in one line: Do to others as you would have them do to you. And for us who are Christ followers: Love one another. Even more so, love your enemies.
I don’t think it is too much to ask our governments to do the same or to hold them to the same standard. Governments are going to act in what they perceive is their best interest without us making excuses for their actions. Especially since we live in a democracy where our votes and voices are supposed to have meaning, why not demand that our government not kill in our name?
During the month of April, there are going to be a number of protests, forums and actions around drones. On April 13 there will be a big rally and march in DC organized by ANSWER and on April 26-28, there will be a forum, protest and rally in Syracuse, NY at a drone base. I’ll share a calendar of local and regional forums and actions later this week.
Below are some links to some resources about drones. Check them out for more information about the US drone program.
Drones Watch: A Coalition Campaign to Monitor and Regulate Drone Use
Infographic: Drone Strikes under Obama
Bureau of Investigative Journalism: Covert Drone War
I add an article about drone support in our own back yard.
Horsham command center for drones wins support.