Everyday, it seems, I read tweets and news snippets announcing that, “Obama launches drone attacks on Pakistan” or Yemen or Iran. And every time, I struggle to reconcile my conception of the man I voted for with the man who is responsible for these distant, unmanned attacks.
People who study international affairs or foreign policy say, “Jessica, this is not new.” They look at me plainly. Unfazed. And I look at them feeling childlike, wondering, “Why does anybody have to die?”
But we hear about it everyday. People dying – whether from illness, malnutrition, violent crime, or war – it happens. But unless we really watch and internalize the news or unless it’s happening to us, there is an instinctual tendency to hide from painful truths. This doesn’t make us horrible humans. Rather, it is most likely a sign that we’re sensitive beings. To feel the weight of all the violence and injustice in the world would be too much. And it is a privilege, after all, to remain ignorant, because then that means it isn’t happening to you.
This is why it’s important for people to remind us of all the things we don’t want to be reminded of – like drone attacks authorized and launched by the United States… by our President.
A faithful friend of mine has a great Twitter feed – part politics, part humor, part sports, part cultural criticism. He also diligently remarks on Obama’s weekly (and sometimes daily) drone attacks. And when I scroll through my feed I am reminded that Barack Obama isn’t perfect. Let’s look at some examples of drone use in 2012, shall we?
1. On March 17, 2011 a drone attack killed at least 40 members of a Wazir tribal Jirga in northwest Pakistan. They were not the intended targets.
2. Only hours after winning his reelection this November, a U.S. drone strike landed in Yemen killing terrorists who could have instead been captured and put on trial.
3. From December 25th to January 4th, the United States launched 6 drone strikes on Pakistan killing a total of 35 people.
It is true that many of the intended victims or “targets” as they’re commonly called (in an obvious attempt to dehumanize) are known terrorists. Some of them have killed U.S. Citizens. Some of them have been involved in plots that threaten United States national security. But as a Christian and as a human, I am against the death penalty; and this seems to me like execution without a fair trial.
John Brennan, Obama’s nomination for CIA Director, said this in April: “There is nothing in international law that bans the use of remotely piloted aircraft for this purpose or that prohibits us from using lethal force against our enemies outside of an active battlefield, at least when the country involved consents or is unable or unwilling to take action against the threat.”
Okay, so it’s legal. But is it right? I acknowledge the complexity of international military policy, but my heart of hearts says no.
And more practically, you have to wonder how much resentment is building up overseas for America’s use of these missiles? People around the world, our enemies and our allies, feel strongly against The United States’ use of drones because the practice has all the hallmarks of American arrogance. That is, The United States has the power to shoot, fly, and/or bomb anywhere in the world without risking the lives of its own soldiers.
If John Brennan is approved as CIA Director, these drone attacks aren’t likely to stop. Rather, the use of drones will continue and probably even expand.
So here I stand as a Christian and as someone who voted for Barack Obama. It’s hard for me to acknowledge that the person I helped elect, for reasons that are numerous and have much to do with the betterment of this world, is dropping drones upon drones upon drones. For their use and for the deaths they cause, I lament.
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