Why People of Faith Oppose Drones

There has been much sensationalistic coverage recently about a drone strike that killed the leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. Many have succumbed to the temptation to celebrate this death without stepping back and evaluating precisely what the larger drone war has accomplished. Recently, I joined nearly 30 of my fellow faith leaders to take on that exact issue. In a world of division, it is remarkable when people of diverse perspectives can agree - particularly people of diverse faiths. That is why I am proud to have joined my friends of faith in speaking with one united voice to express our common concerns with the U.S. government's use of drone warfare.

From a range of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish perspectives, we jointly signed a letter urging the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress to halt its policy of lethal drone strikes. Despite the range of our different belief systems and ideas about warfare, we found that we shared many of the exact same questions and concerns about the drones program that led us to send this letter. Here are a few of those concerns.

First, we share a concern about the number of drone strike victims. The intrinsic value of human life is a key principle of our various beliefs. As the body count of both intended and unintended targets rises, we observe with alarm the ease with which warfare and killings have been expanded by the availability of this technology. Despite the U.S. government's refusal to acknowledge most of its strikes, independent reports have been staggering. From the death of a grandmother in Pakistan to the bombing of a wedding convoy in Yemen, the deaths by drone strike feel arbitrary and senseless. Instead of traditional battlefields and uniformed armies, today's wars increasingly look like killer robots flying into civilian communities to take a life in an everyday community. This transformation threatens the values we hold so closely by making killing so available.

Second, we are alarmed by the secrecy of the drone wars. Targets are chosen and killed in secret. Secret government officials decide who lives and who dies. Rarely do we find out who died, or why. The power to send machines into homes and communities to strike and kill is an enormous power. That enormous power currently invites misconduct and abuse because it is not accompanied by accountability. This secrecy is unacceptable and immoral. It prevents meaningful opposition and accountability, and allows unchecked killing power to continue indefinitely.

This leads to a final common concern, which is that the drone wars are not only immoral, but that they don't work. Across the spectrum of faith and belief, we jointly observe the failure of drone strikes to bring true peace and security. This is evident from the fact that the traumatic and arbitrary presence of drones in communities has vastly increased extremist recruitment. This is evident from the increasing chaos in Yemen, and the spread of violent extremism across the globe.

More than anything else, drone strikes actively work against the potential for just, lasting peace. The kind of peace that involves political stability, economic opportunity, and restorative justice is impossible to reconcile with global, endless drone wars. That kind of security requires attention to the root causes of violence and turmoil, addressing the human needs that lead to extremist actions, and investment in political and economic structures that topple extremist movements and promote justice and opportunity.

We hope that the Obama administration and the U.S. Congress answer our letter. More than that, we hope that they address our concerns by acknowledging the failures of the drone wars, and the moral mandate to try something new.