Written on: January 6, 2014
Reading the book Drone Warfare by Media Benjamin (Verso, London), again shocked me by our relentless national obsession with war. Benjamin, the co-founder of CODEPINK and GLOBAL EXCHANGE, presents in vivid detail the moral implications of drone use.
Drones, of course, are the ultimate action-at-a-distance weapons, allowing the aggressor to destroy targets anywhere, particularly in Pakistan and Afghanistan, while the aggressor remains hidden in a bunker in Nevada. These weapons snatch billions of dollars from the United States economy while at the same time they continue to fill the financial coffers of several of America’s largest corporations, such as Lockheed, Boeing, Nothrup Grumman, and General Atomics. Many of the country’s premier technology companies are involved in drone research.
Two drone facts are paramount. First, in defiance of international and American laws, the United States now has a program of targeted assassination justified as a ‘war on terror.’ Second, the drone industry has continued to expand to the point that fifty nations currently possess such devices.
The use of drones or UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) began in the 1930s when the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Soviet Republic used them for anti-aircraft targeting exercises. In World War II and in the Korean conflict, unmanned crafts were used as guided missiles. In Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Libya, drones were used as intelligence gathering devices. Drones provided support for ground troops, patrolled the skies searching for suspicious activity, and conducted targeted killings of suspected militants. At the present time, the United States carries out these operations in both ‘declared’ and ‘undeclared’ wars. In some instances, Congress approves these activities. At other times, President Obama exercises the power he believes he possesses, directing the Central Intelligence Agency and private contractors to carry out “extra-judicial assassinations.”
Clearly, there are arguments both for and against the use of drones even in the harsh reality of armed conflict. “For us, drones mean death,” said Hamdi Shaqqura of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, in an interview conducted by the Washington Post (December 3, 2011). Shaqqura explained that between 2005 and 2011, drones had killed 825 innocent civilians. Nabil al-Amazi, a father of eight and a mechanic in the Gaza strip, was quoted in the article. He said, “You can’t sleep. You can’t watch television. Your kids are constantly saying, ‘They are going to hit us.'”
Arguments and actions for the use of the hunter-killer drones, named the Predators and Reapers, as well as the surveillance Golden Hawks, come from the United States Air Force in the person of Lieutenant Colonel Larry Gurgainous who noted that “the demand far exceeds the Defense Department’s ability to provide these assets.”
Drones proved useful after the ostensible United States withdrawal from Iraq in December 2011. Following the withdrawal, drones continued to fly through Iraq’s sovereign airspace where they were operated, not by the military, but by the US State Department, the arm of the government associated with diplomacy, not drone use.
The battle will continue between the users of drones and the victims as well as the financial winners and losers. Many are now speaking out against the senseless killings.
CODEPINE, Global Exchange, and other peacekeeping groups are joining together to make the issue known — innocent people are dying, soldiers are developing a “Playstation” mentality of excused annihilation. The President and the CIA are illegally and secretly naming and targeting individuals without the assistance and knowledge of the US three-tiered system of government.
Each of us needs to take greater responsibility regarding this heinous activity. We need a vigorous debate and sustained activism around the technology of drones, the profound negative impact their use has on the reputation of the United States, the ethical dimensions of the issue, the serious proliferation of drone warfare in our world, and ultimately, the present and future security of every nation on the globe.
As a Congregation Committee for Peace, we will continue to keep you informed regarding this important moral issue.
Written by Sr. Rose Mary Cauley, GNSH