Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Drone warfare: Easy and cheap

By Jim Winkler, National Council of Churches

Last summer my extended family gathered for a beach vacation. One afternoon as we were happily enjoying the sun and surf we realized a small drone, much like the one that crashed on the grounds of the White House this week, was hovering over us. For a couple of minutes we found it to be interesting but as the drone remained over us and it became clear the operator was particularly focusing on the women in our family we found it to be unnerving and intrusive. It is estimated some 15,000 consumer drone models are being sold each month in the US alone.

In Palestine, Pakistan, Yemen, and other places much larger, weaponized drones sometimes hover and emit a significant buzzing noise within view of those on the ground. Obviously, this is intended to frighten people. By now, thousands of people in a number of countries have been killed by US drones.

This past weekend, I attended an interfaith conference on drone warfare at Princeton Theological Seminary. We heard from numerous experts on international law, political and international affairs, and moral and ethical thinkers. Rev. Mike Neuroth, co-convener of the NCC Convening Table on Justice and Peace, also attended and moderated a discussion at the conference.

My sense is that drone warfare is demonic. In fact, the General Atomics MQ-9 drone, developed for the US Air Force, is known as the “Reaper,” the symbol of death. Drone warfare has an allure because it permits military and political leaders to say two things you never want to hear said about war: it’s easy and cheap.

Ironically, a 2009 secret CIA report concluded, “The potential negative effect of (High Level Target) operations include increasing the level of insurgent support...strengthening an armed group's bonds with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group's remaining leaders, creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter, and escalating or de-escalating a conflict in ways that favor the insurgents.”

In other words, if you terrorize a population by firing missiles at them from the sky which result in the deaths of thousands of bystanders, including hundreds of children, you can expect to drive more and more people into the ranks of your enemies.

The smart thing to do would be for President Obama to rescind the authority of the CIA and the US military to use lethal drones and to work with the international community to negotiate a treaty to ban autonomous weapons systems.

The interfaith drone warfare conference is one milestone on a long spiritual journey many people have been on as we confront what Martin Luther King Jr. referred to when he said, “We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

His words are as true today as they were in 1967. It’s time for us to get a move on and bring an end to war.

-- Jim Winkler is general secretary and president of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA. This reflection appeared in a recent e-mail newsletter from the NCC.

Source: 02/03/2015 Newsline

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