President Obama, Stop the Drones!

I am a supporter of the president. However, the ever-increasing use of drone warfare has got to stop. It’s gotten out of control, and the president seems virtually unaccountable for it.

This week, the highest ranking official yet voiced concerned over the use of drones:

Gen. James E. Cartwright, the former vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and a favored adviser during Mr. Obama’s first term, expressed concern in a speech here on Thursday that America’s aggressive campaign of drone strikes could be undermining long-term efforts to battle extremism.

“We’re seeing that blowback,” General Cartwright, who is retired from the military, said at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “If you’re trying to kill your way to a solution, no matter how precise you are, you’re going to upset people even if they’re not targeted.”

Go back and re-read that last sentence. Let’s take one issue at a time.

If you’re trying to kill your way to a solution.” Do you get that a military general is accusing a (Christian) civilian president of being too violent?!? That alone should take our breath away.

You’re going to upset people even if they’re not targeted.” Huh, no shit. When people get mistakenly bombed by virtually invisible, silent, unmanned aircraft, it tends to piss them off. Good to know.

I am no peacenik. But I am damn sick and tired of neverending wars in places where we have so little to gain and so little chance of success. The Obama administration continues to use a hazy definition of being “engaged in combat” to use drones against “enemy combatants.”

Some have blamed the media for not asking enough questions; media critic David Carr blames Congress for being “remarkably incurious” about the drone program. I blame the American people. I blame myself.

It is time for those of us who share the faith and the politics of the president to demand that he order a moratorium on drone strikes. Then he should engage in a transparent conversation with the American people — primarily through our representatives in Congress — about the use of drones.

Then let’s get out of Afganistan, and stop making up wars to fight.

This week I re-read one of my favorite novels, The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I was once again reminded about the unwinnable shithole that was the Vietnam War. You’d think that we would have learned our lesson on that one. It seems we haven’t.

  • Larry Barber

    The lesson that the TPTB learned from Vietnam was not to use draftees to fight their foreign adventures. Yes, these adventures have been one disaster after another, but disasters can be very profitable, which is the true mark of whether these adventures are successful or not.

  • http://www.gspres.com Steven Kurtz

    Tim O’Brien’s book is, from my point of view, essential reading. Just like Life of Pi, it makes the enormous point that the narrative you choose to tell, to live, to believe, makes all the difference – and yet how do you tell a story that is “true” – that coveys the deepest meaning? Is our narrative the “myth of redemptive violence” (a la Walter Wink)? If not, do we have a compelling alternative narrative? If so, we need to be announcing it – not in the package of therapeutic spirituality but of radically alternative vision of human flourishing on a global scale with God as a character in the story and a murder at the hands of those who believed they could kill their way to a solution as the central drama. Thanks for your emotional appeal Tony!

  • http://culturemonk.wordpress.com culturemonk

    Tony, I fully agree with you.

    One point though, Is Obama really the one making the decisions on drone use?

    I know the president is commander in chief and all that rubbish…..but I’ve been of the opinion for some time that the federal government is a machine that no, one man operates.

    Take for instance the bubble bursting in 2008….the same group of bozos have been running the FDIC since Carter. Sure the names change occasionally, but Carter, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, Bush 2 and now Obama seem powerless; they all keep reinstating the same bloody people!

    The machine moves forward and nobody seems able to stop it.

    I worked for 2 congressmen back in the day and after a couple years working in politics I became convinced the whole thing is one wild horse and no single person holds the reigns.

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      Maybe his finger isn’t on the button, but he could stop the drones if he wanted to.

  • http://gravatar.com/cwgmpls Curtis

    Even more scary than the military operations the U.S. currently engages in are the ones nobody has any knowledge of, that happen daily. Put on enough political pressure, and the drone strikes will just go covert, or start being covertly carried out by U.S. puppet governments that are immune from U.S. political pressure.

    There is a reason why candidates say one thing with regard to foreign policy before an election, and then sharply change their tune after they are debriefed about what is really going on that nobody else knows about. In a way, being able to complain about drone strikes is a luxury. If we know all of the covert things going on, drone strikes would probably seem a triviality.

  • mike helbert

    Perhaps one of the most insidious corollaries to the use of drones is the dehumanization of the targets. (Ok, like war in general doesn’t already do that.) But, my point is one of taking their faces away and putting in a computer monitor. There was an episode of M.A.S.H. way back when in which a bomber pilot ended up at the 4077th. He had been living in a world where he flew to a target and released his payload. He never even considered that real people were about to die. It was while in the hospital that he got to see the real faces of his victims. Ok, it was T.V. But, the point is valid. We can destroy life without ever considering the humanity of the victims.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jake.litteral Jake Litteral

    The Anti-War left is nowhere to be found. Libertarians are the only ones that have been consistent with anti-war and non-interventionist policies. That’s why I’m Libertarian not Democrat. We’ve been talking about shit like this for a long time.

    • http://improvfaith.wordpress.com Joe Paparone

      Jake, it is simply untrue that “The Anti-War left is nowhere to be found.” Kudos to Rand for his filibuster (despite his remarkably narrow concerns over the use of drones on citizens within the US), but you might consider democracynow.org or wagingnonviolence.org or codepink4peace.org or seriously the list just goes on and on.

      I’ll grant that libertarians have the corner on non-intervention. Justice and peace oriented lefties aren’t opposed to intervention, many of us just think it shouldn’t involve shooting people.

  • Mich

    The central issue is the President is waging a private war on individuals outside the authorization of Congress. Also, the legal justification for drone strikes is shaky at best, but again it has not been submitted to Congressional or Judicial review. It’s just one more instance of the breakdown of democracy. Why isn’t Congress or the Courts intervening? Why isn’t the Press reporting? Why aren’t citizens protesting? Because the “War on Terror” trumps every other interest, including the common good.

  • http://www.billsamuel.net/ Bill Samuel

    You’re no peacenik. But you claim to be a follower of the Prince of Peace?

    So now I understand why you are a supporter of Obama. Like you, he believes an evil means can produce a good ends. How do you reconcile that with the Gospel?

    Do you really believe God made a world in which war was necessary? Isn’t this the key demonic fallacy. The world is not good, so doing evil is fine.

  • http://mrhackman.blogspot.com Andrew

    I want out of all of these countries, but I have failed to see why so much focus is on the drones. What am I missing? Do missiles off a live piloted fighter kill differently than a virtually piloted fighter?

  • http://mikesnow.org Michael Snow

    C.H. Spurgeon: ‘“..the truth as to war must be more and more insisted on: the loss of time, labour, treasure, and life must be shown, and the satanic crimes to which it leads must be laid bare. It is the sum of all villainies, and ought to be stripped of its flaunting colours, and to have its bloody horrors revealed; its music should be hushed, that men may hear the moans and groans, the cries and shrieks of dying men and ravished women….”
    http://spurgeonwarquotes.wordpress.com/

    • http://www.billsamuel.net/ Bill Samuel

      Good quote. Serious thinkers look at the reign of God which Jesus talked about it and find it a challenge to our whole way of thinking. Tony Jones seems more interested in being a cool pastor who says “shit” than in confronting the reality of empire in the light of Jesus’ teachings. If you want a pastor from Tony’s neck of the woods who seriously grapples with these issues, check out Greg Boyd. Boyd isn’t into being cool like Tony. He is interested in grappling with what it means to be a Christian while within a worldly empire.

  • http://twitter.com/drewsumrall Drew Sumrall (@drewsumrall)

    The drones won’t stop until people care about the issue. I’ve brought this topic up a few times on the show, the interest/response is non-existent. Similarly, you write about Rob Bell and get 150 or so comments–drones, a dozen…

    • http://tonyj.net Tony Jones

      Depressing, isn’t it?

    • chuck

      Why would people care? Seriously, what reason is there for them to care. They are in no way affected personally by the use of drones in far places with funny names and they don’t even like the people that are killed by them. It is not unreasonable to believe that if they see pictures of the bodies their reaction is, “Good!” and then they go on and do whatever it was they were doing.

  • Nathan

    Welp, if you read around the blogosphere, a bunch of Christians are even raising a “christian apologetic” for the Iraq war. Drones are horrible, but they’re toleration is a symptom of a deeper bankruptcy in American Christianity around issues of nationalism, non-violence, and the deepest kind of compromise that they can’t see through their sanctimony over abortion, and gay marriage.

  • Tim Webb

    Politicians, even godly ones like President Obama, don’t learn from shitholes (see, I can swear too!) like Vietnam… they only learn enough to win the next election. That’s why there’s no increased gun control, no solution on Social Security, no more taxes on the wealthy, etc.

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  • Jeff Weskamp

    Sun-Tzu stated in his book Art of War that there has never been a protracted war that benefited the nation that waged it. He believed that a war should accomplish a specific objective, and the general must achieve that goal as quickly as possible.


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