A 12-year-old Pakistani boy who lost his grandmother in a U.S.-led drone strike says he is afraid of the blue sky; he would rather see the gray sky because he knows then that the drones will not fly. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV'S), commonly known as drones, and particularly armed drones, are most effective when weather conditions provide for clear visibility, hence the better ability to hit identified targets. Drones aren't flown on overcast days due to cloud cover and lack of visibility.
The boy knows that gray skies are better than blue skies if he wants to survive.
Last month, I joined 150 colleagues in ministry at the first ever interfaith conference on drone warfare, which was held at Princeton Theological Seminary, to explore the immorality of drones. This precedent event organized by the Center For Peace Action brought together religious leaders, academics and activists from 22 states and 20 different religious traditions.
We came together to learn and become engaged as an interfaith community on the ongoing issue of U.S. drone strikes around the world. Following a weekend of presentations, discussions, interfaith prayer and deliberation, the conference adopted a set of policy recommendations to guide the faith community to address the critical issue of drone warfare.
The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that U.S. drone strikes have killed almost 2,500 people including hundreds of children, in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. That's not even including drone deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan.
This policy could hardly be described as "winning the hearts and minds" of citizens in countries that the United States considers to be of critical importance to international security.
Furthermore, I can't fathom any religious tradition endorsing or supporting this heinous behavior. It has been said that for every insurgent killed by a drone strike, you create at least two more insurgents. If you really want peace in the world, and you want religious traditions to work together to promote peace and justice in the world, then you cannot sanction hostile activity that will eliminate the lives of innocent people in their sleep or for whom there is no defense.
This makes about as much sense as "Who would Jesus bomb?"
As the only licensed mental health provider at the interfaith convening, I was also struck by the Sisyphus challenge that this policy will bring to helping military personnel and families recover from the ravages of over 14 years of endless war.
Previously, in 2006, Linda Bilmes of the JFK School of Government at Harvard University and Joseph Stieglitz, an economist at Columbia University, published their important book "The Three Trillion Dollar War." Both Bilmes and Stieglitz number-crunched and looked at the extrapolated costs over a 30-year period regarding what the fiscal cost would be for the Global War on Terrorism, including medical and mental health care and disability payments.
This was before the advent of drone warfare. This new form of mechanized, robotic and soulless killing threatens to unleash further economic, social, environmental and spiritual mayhem.
Together, the people of faith gathered in Princeton adopted the following policy recommendations: acknowledging drone strikes conducted, detailing the numbers of those who were killed (both intended victims as well as unintended collateral target victims), explaining official criteria for selection of persons targeted, disclosing all legal justification for authorization of strikes, and detailing the methods of investigating deaths.
The bottom line is that together, people of faith are now calling upon the U.S. government to pursue a negotiated global ban on semi-autonomous or autonomous weapons systems. This is the least we can do if we really want a world that will guarantee peace and justice for its citizens and that will promote hope for future generations.
During one of the worship services at this conference, Jewish liturgy refrain was heard: "Not in my name!"
Drone Warfare should not be endorsed by anyone's name, and it is anything but fiscally responsible, let alone human.
As a country, we need to move beyond our current mentality of being more concerned about deflated footballs then we are about the innocent victims killed in drone strikes in our name.
We need to help that Pakistani boy hope again and enjoy the blue sky, not only for him but for ourselves as well. When we stop drone strikes, in the words of the book of Deuteronomy, "we choose life and not death." We affirm that all human life is sacred, and that all human life needs to be respected, especially innocent human life, even if such innocents live in countries that the United States has problems with in terms of national security.
We need to be waging peace, not endless war. We need to be choosing life and not death and affirming our humanity.
Not in my name! Amen, Shalom, Salaam, Blessed Be.
Rev. Peter E. Bauer is a United Church of Christ minister. He is a member of the South Central Conference of The United Church of Christ. He is also a licensed mental health provider (LCSW-S, LMFT-S). He teaches as an adjunct professor in the Department of Social Work, College of Public Policy at the University Of Texas At San Antonio.