Chasing After the Wind

by Berry Friesen

Berry fAt a July 24th gathering of seventy Mennonite World Conference attendees in the rotunda of the Pennsylvania capitol, participants read these lamentations about weaponized drones.

It has been said drones are very precise, that compared to other weapons they kill few people and cause little damage.  It has been said they are inexpensive to deploy and pose little risk to our own personnel.   It has been said that weaponized drones are a more moral way to conduct warfare, a less violent instrument of foreign policy.

But we say terror cannot be defeated by terror.  We raise our voices to lament the false morality of weaponized drones, this “chasing after the wind” (Ecclesiastes 4:1-4).

  1. We lament the innocent lives snuffed out by drones—the wedding guests, the men assembled to solve local disputes, the families gathered for food and fellowship.
  • It has been said few innocent civilians are killed, but this is a lie, a lie facilitated by assuming all men of military age are militants, even though there is no evidence they are militants.
  • The great majority of those killed are not on a kill list and the governments that kill them do not know their names. A study of drone strikes in Yemen found that in an effort to kill 41 identified individuals, 1,147 unidentified individuals were killed. That’s 28 unintended killings for each intended killing.
  1. We lament the massive disruption to family life, work, education and daily activities caused by the constant presence of weaponized drones. Communities are traumatized by anxiety. Children stay in-doors, imagining it is safer there. Neighbors avoid attending to those injured by a drone attack, knowing that a second attack often follows the first. Families avoid the funerals of loved ones, afraid that a drone will attack the mourners.
  1. We lament how weaponized drones have radicalized targeted communities, driving more men and women into violent resistance. An enemy of 1,000 may suffer 5,000 deaths from drones, but 10,000 will stand ready to take their places.
  1. We lament how the deployment of weaponized drones erodes the rule of law. A nation may not violate the sovereignty of another nation by crossing its borders and killing its citizens, yet this is exactly what weaponized drones routinely do.
  • This is justified by the “imminent threat of terrorism,” but this is only playing with words. In today’s world, the word “terrorist” has been politicized and simply means “enemy,” nothing more and nothing less. The phrase “imminent threat” simply means “armed and angry,” which is the natural consequence of living under the constant threat of drone attacks.
  • Predictably, nearly all governments are rushing to acquire this new killing capacity. Nearly two dozen nations already have it, and within a few more years, most will have it.
  1. We lament how weaponized drones are making violence and killing easy, thus subverting more peaceful and enduring forms of foreign policy. The difficult work of building a stable international order brick by brick, of moderating national goals in the pursuit of international peace, is swept aside by the quick-fix of targeted killing.
  1. We lament the moral injuries to those conducting drone attacks. They work in an environment where innocent men, women and children are “bug splat,” body tissue rent asunder and strewn across the landscape. We lament that this terror-producing activity is coming to Pennsylvania via a kill command center at Horsham, and that, as we speak, young men and women are being trained at Fort Indiantown Gap to carry out these atrocities.
  1. We lament the callousness of our own consciences, our reluctance to pay attention to the suffering caused by weaponized drones.
  • Against the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, we have valued the lives of our own countrymen more than the lives of those living in far-off places. We have regarded their lives as cheap and our lives as precious, their terrorism as evil and our terrorism as good.
  • Against the witness of history and the skepticism of our own traditions, we have swallowed hook-line-and-sinker the deceptions of governments and the distortions of the media. We have failed to remember that those who want war always manufacture our consent by twisting the facts into a righteous cause.

These are our lamentations. As God is our help, may we find courage and strength to resist these sorrows, this chasing after the wind.

Berry Friesen lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and is part of the East Chestnut Street Mennonite congregation in that city. He blogs at www.bible-and-empire.net.

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