In Drones We Trust

Arthur M. Lerner, Obl. OSB

JJ Harrison/CC

Over the past two and one half centuries our killing technology has expanded at an alarming rate, but sadly our theologies and morals have failed to keep pace. Our latest development is our capacity to kill more people from an increasing distance with unmanned armed drones.
Christians have typically lagged behind in condemning the targeted killing of innocent men, women and children. And so I ask you – is it wrong to kill by remote control? If you are not cringing at this prospect, then bear with me as I lay down some recent facts. Jesus was the victim of targeted torture and killing. Theologians such as John Howard Yoder, Walter Wink, and Rene Girard have shown the targeted killing of Jesus on the cross unmasked the unjust violence of the state and throughout the last two millennia the USA has targeted and supported assassination of many so-called puppet states we killed blindly in the name of American justice. You are either with us or against us. The US military complex budget is more than 90% of the next 20 countries put together. Each drone can cost up to 10 to 20 million and just recently, the Pentagon released figures for drone buildup with the USA having more than all industrial countries together.
America’s use of unmanned predator drones to kill people by remote control only reinforces enduring hatred of our country on the part of defenseless people, especially Pakistan, Yemen and Afghanistan.
The US Air Force and the CIA operate predator drones thousands of miles away from the targets. There is no possibility of making human contact with the enemy and fully realizing the human cost of the attack. A technician can sit in front of a screen while being entirely insulated from the thing he or she is doing. This method of fighting reduces people on the ground to a condition of absolute helplessness, because they cannot fight back against unmanned drones.
The history of Christian “just-war” is scattered with weapons that kill at a distance, from archers, cannons, airplanes, and now drones. But the moral question is not the distance but the taking of lives.
So the US and other industrial countries think the key to moral wars is smarter weapons and better, more sophisticated technology instead of better people.
Does the improved weaponry make resorting to war too easy? If we look at drone warfare with the just-war theories, are civilians protected from the attack and is the destruction minimal? Supporters agree that we are “taking out” many top al-Qaeda leaders with no loss of American lives.
Understanding the deadliness of drone attacks is difficult. The Obama Administration said last year the 20 innocent civilians had been killed by drones, however, the New America Foundation study of CIA’s drone attacks from 2004 to 2009 concluded that 830 to 3,000 individuals were killed, of which about 32% were civilians.
Recent reports in the NY Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal have described a “kill list” that President Obama carries on his person at all times – something similar to baseball cards – comprised of enemy terrorist suspects whose execution the President alone has the authority to order.
It has also been exposed that Obama has a “priest” – the current CIA director – by his side to guide him. Someone has to do it! Someone must have the fortitude and moral spin to use this kill list, especially with the number of murderous invasions, occupations of Islamic countries and support of brutal tyrannical regimes in which our government engages. There would be no need for a “kill list” and “priest” if America stopped plundering other peoples’ lands and killing their citizens.
Maybe it is time to change our motto from In God We Trust to In Drones We Trust.  And for those of us who live by the message of the Prince of Peace, it’s time to say yes in the biggest, boldest possible way and by that we say no to violence on all levels. We say no to the bombing of innocent people we say no to a military complex run amok, no to torture in the name of national security, no to an empire that places weapons, bombs and drones over human dignity. It’s saying yes to the wonderful, frail face of human nature, no to war. For us it’s still In God We Trust, for this is the challenge we face. Are we willing to really consent to our own lives, to pour forth, to give ourselves entirely to a merciful and loving God?
Photo: by Flickr user Mike Miley under CC-BY-SA license