Peace is Possible

fcnl.org      Peace Is Possible      12 May 2019

 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone….. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good…. All the commandments are summed up in this one rule:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love does no harm to its neighbor.

Romans 12:18,21; 13:9,10

Terror, 21st Century-Style

Emmet Hollingshead, Heather Brandon-Smith, Diane Randall, FCNL      May 3, 2019 

On May 3, faith groups including FCNL gathered in Washington, D.C. to demand an end to CIA drone strikes and a commitment from General Atomics, the company which builds the Predator and Reaper drones, not to develop lethal autonomous weapons systems.  The groups hold that CIA drone strikes are immoral, overly secretive, and ineffective as an instrument of counter-terrorism policy.

Drones have quickly become one of the primary U.S. counterterrorism weapons. Drones may distance U.S. troops from physical danger, but they are fraught with other moral risks. They lower the threshold for using lethal force, helping to keep the U.S. in a state of endless war.  Both the U.S. military and the CIA use drones as part of conventional fighting in war zones as well as to conduct targeted killings of terrorism suspects both inside and outside of battlefields.  Throughout 2017 and 2018, the U.S. conducted at least 238 drone strikes in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya, Somalia, Iraq, and Syria, all still justified under the 2001 Authorization of Use of Military Force that was passed just days after the attacks of September 11.

The CIA’s drone program remains largely secret. While the Obama administration took steps to transfer all authority for the U.S. drone program to the Department of Defense, the current administration has reversed course, expanding CIA drone use and reportedly establishing a new CIA drone base in Niger at a cost of over $100 million.

 

Drone warfare is ineffective as a long-term policy. Where drones are used, anti-American sentiment and retaliatory attacks increase.  When death and destruction fall almost silently from the sky with mere seconds of warning, communities associate the United States and the U.S. military with the destruction of their homes or the loss of their loved ones.  That makes them more likely to be sympathetic to terrorist propaganda and recruitment.  In addition to that increased risk of retaliatory attacks, the psychological trauma suffered by U.S. drone pilots has led to increased rates of occupational stress and suicidal thoughts.

The CIA’s drone program is particularly problematic because its secrecy prevents the U.S. public from knowing (a) where and how their government is conducting lethal operations, and (b) the true costs of war. Indeed, earlier this year the administration revoked one of the few reporting requirements covering CIA strikes.

The U.S. drone program also is setting a troubling precedent for how drone operations are and will be conducted by other nations. As of 2018, nine other countries have developed or acquired armed drones, with others rapidly developing their own programs.  In addition, non-state actors like ISIS are actively seeking to acquire armed drones and their underlying technology. This is not a roadmap to peace.

FCNL supports ending all drone warfare, but that will not happen in a single action. We should start by ending the CIA program and transferring all drone strike authority to the Department of Defense, which has a record of greater transparency and accountability.

  Sample Letter

 Sen. Todd Young    400 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.    Washington, DC  20510

               202-224-5623                            www.young.senate.gov

Sen. Mike Braun    B85 Russell Senate Off. Bldg.     Washington, DC  20510

               202-224-4814               www.braun.senate.gov

Rep. Greg Pence          222 Cannon HOB             Washington, DC  20515

                202-225-3021                www.pence.house.gov

 

Sen. ______________, Rep. Pence:

Over three administrations, the CIA has used drones to carry out secret wars without proper congressional oversight or public transparency.  In just 2017 and 2018, the US reportedly conducted at least 238 drone strikes in seven countries — all still being justified by the outdated 2001 and 2002 AUMFs — with many of them resulting in the destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, and other nonmilitary buildings and in the deaths of far too many civilian noncombatants.

Drone warfare has proven ineffective as a response to terrorism. Using drones creates blowback in local communities, which fuels anti-American sentiment and provides easy recruiting tools for terrorist organizations. Drones also cause psychological trauma to the US pilots who operate them.  And in the big picture, the CIA’s drone program is hiding the truth from the American people about its real cost and harm, thus unacceptably helping to keep the US in a state of endless war.

 I urge you use your influence in Congress to help gather support for ending the CIA drone program and transferring all drone strike authority to the Department of Defense.  I further ask you, as my voice in Congress, to support robust investment in nonviolent solutions to conflict, including diplomacy, institution-building, and humanitarian assistance.

                                                     Sincerely,