Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Drones of War or Doves of Peace?

by Rev. Loren McGrail

How do you stop terrorism America?
Stop participating in it!
Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism.
Well, there really is an easy way. Stop participating in it.
Noam Chomsky

How do we stop participating in acts of terror? One way is to wake up to the fact that our country has been involved in extrajudicial killing for years-- at least for ½ century without drones. From the U.S. Phoenix Program in Viet Nam to assassinations in Latin America throughout the 1980s, we have been involved in covert CIA and Special Forces targeted assassinations. One way is to call into the question whether any war can ever be said to be just. One way is to call into question the rationalization that drones are more precise and safer forms of waging war or killing. One way is to begin to name the illegality of “double-tap strikes” where rescue workers are killed or the immorality of “signature strikes” where people at weddings or funerals are targeted. It means to begin to question the legitimacy of just war theory for countering terrorism. It means being horrified that our President has a “kill list” or personally names individuals to be “targeted” including a 16 year old American citizen. It means really looking at the carnage of war--- the mangled corpses of schoolchildren killed in Afghanistan, mothers scratching through rubble heaps in Yemen looking for body parts. It means listening to the stories of people bombed or terrorized living under drones. It means counting everyone even those our government says are “military combatants” in the body count. It means calling into question the very idea of proportionate collateral damage.

There are many legal and constitutional questions surrounding the use of drone warfare. Over the past few months many people have begun to write about many of the issues I have just named. Reports and studies are coming out from respected institutions like Stanford and New York. Websites have sprung up across the country to track both the strike counts and the rising global resistance movements. In addition, people are risking jail terms to put the use of these killer drones on trial while still others are marching insolidarity in northern Pakistan to say not all Americans support these drone attacks, to say we stand with you in your suffering.

What is striking to me, as a faith leader, is how few are the voices of our faith leaders. Awake to Drones began as an attempt to bring these voices forward from a variety of traditions to question killing and the use of drones for war making and surveillance.

As a Christian minister I will be exploring over the next few months on this blog some of these same questions and concerns through the lens of my faith. I will explore these issues from my reading of what scripture has to say and through deeply held beliefs about what it means to be human, to follow a man who calls us to follow the path of nonviolence and who was brutally murdered by empire. Finally, like the late great Abraham Heschel, I believe that “God’s presence unites us, and God is present wherever man is afflicted, and all humanity is embroiled in every agony wherever it may be.” Thus, I believe God is in agony over each and every death and desires us to seek nonviolent solutions to our problems. I also believe that international law and human rights are frameworks that we should use instead of violence. America participates in terrorism when it violates these laws and resorts to violence.  It becomes the very thing it seeks to counter and it inspires or creates new militant resistance thus perpetuating the cycle of the violence it seeks to stop.

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