Faith-based organizations continue to express outrage at the Administration’s continued use of lethal drones, with a new letter addressed to President Obama being issued this week. This wave of faith-based mobilization was spearheaded by the Friends Committee on National Legislation, and the detailed letter raises several important moral and ethical issues related to the use of killer drones, including: 1) A threshold question: Is the U.S. at war? 2) If the U.S. is not at war, then other principles of human and civil rights must govern U.S. actions. 3) Targeted killings do not address the root causes of conflicts and thus will not end violence against the U.S. 4) The natural checks on lethal violence must be maintained. Read the letter here.
CODEPINK worked with a large coalition of faith-based communities to oppose the nomination of John Brennan as CIA director. Around the same time, the National Black Church Initiative (NBCI), a faith-based coalition of 34,000 churches comprised of 15 denominations and 15.7 million African Americans, issued a scathing statement about Obama’s drone policy, calling it “evil,” “monstrous” and “immoral.” The group’s president, Rev. Anthony Evans, exhorted other black leaders to speak out, saying, “If the church does not speak against this immoral policy we will lose our moral voice, our soul, and our right to represent and preach the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
As representatives of various faith-based communities, we are deeply concerned about the nomination of John Brennan to be at the helm of the CIA. As President Obama’s current counterterrorism advisor, Brennan is the mastermind behind the administration’s lethal drone program, which is killing innocent civilians abroad and sowing strong anti-American sentiment throughout the world.
Every week on “Terror Tuesdays” John Brennan and President Obama go over a “Kill List” and assume the roles of prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner by deciding who lives and dies at the receiving end of American drone missiles. People on this secret Kill List have never been charged, tried or convicted in a court of law, and are given no opportunity to surrender. Drone strikes kill not only their intended targets, but innocent people, including hundreds of children, something that John Brennan has previously denied.
Drones in the hands of the CIA keep the program veiled in secrecy. The lack of transparency and accountability violate the basic tenets of a democratic society. The drone program has expanded dramatically at the behest of Brennan, and if appointed director of the CIA he will have even more power.
Our drone policies reflect a shameful lack of regard for human rights and international law. The example being set by the United States that a nation can go anywhere it wants and kill anyone it wants on the basis of secret information is leading to a world of chaos and lawlessness. The CIA should be an institution designated for intelligence gathering, not covert killing programs. We urge the Senate to reject the nomination of John Brennan, redirect the CIA to its role of intelligence gathering, and implement strict regulations for the use of lethal drones.
As representatives of faith-based communities, we are deeply concerned about the proliferation of lethal unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones. The United States is leading the way in this new form of warfare where pilots in US bases kill people, by remote control, thousands of miles away. Drones have become the preferred weapons to conduct war due to the lack of direct risk to the lives of U.S. soldiers, but these drone strikes have led to the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in countries where we are not at war, including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
Some aspects that we find particularly disturbing include:
- The President and his aides draw up a Kill List in which they play the role of prosecutor, judge, jury and executioner. People on this secret Kill List have never been charged, tried or convicted in a court of law, and are given no opportunity to surrender;
- The labeling of all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants, thus justifying their murder, is an extreme and macabre form of profiling;
- Drone strikes kill not only their intended targets, but innocent people, including children, violating the sanctity of human life;
- Drone strikes violate other nations’ sovereignty (Pakistan’s elected leaders, for example, have repeatedly called for an end to the strikes);
- Drones in the hands the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command keep the program veiled in secrecy. The lack of transparency and accountability violate the basic tenets of a democratic society;
- Drones make killing more abstract, impersonal, antiseptic, convenient and “easy”;
- The Administration insists that because drones do not risk American lives, Congress need not be consulted, leading to a dangerous abuse of executive power;
- Drone strikes have replaced Guantanamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants. They fuel anti-American sentiment, radicalize local populations and perpetuate an endless cycle of violence.
- The example being set by the United States that a nation can go anywhere it wants and kill anyone it wants on the basis of secret information is leading to a world of chaos and lawlessness.
The world’s great religions teach us to cherish human life. This impersonal, risk-free killing of people on the other side of the globe runs counter to religious belief and the teachings of our traditions.
We urge our government to put an end to this secretive, remote-controlled killing and instead promote foreign policies that are consistent with the values of a democratic and humane society. We call on the United Nations to regulate the international use of lethal drones in a fashion that promotes a just and peaceful world community, based on the rule of law, with full dignity and freedom for every human being.
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