Recently at American University, I had the opportunity to attend a panel discussion and Q&A regarding US-targeted drone strikes and their impacts both in the US and abroad.
We had two amazing guest speakers, Chris Woods and Ann Wright. Chris Woods is a London-based investigative journalist specializing in conflict and national security issues. For many years he was a senior producer with the BBC’s Panorama and Newsnight. He most recently established and led the Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s drones team.
The second speaker was Ann Wright, a (Retired) Colonel who spent 29 years in the U.S. Army and Army Reserves. She was State Department official for 16 years, serving in the U.S. embassies of Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Grenada and Nicaragua. She resigned in 2003 in protest of the then-impending invasion of Iraq. In 2009, she co-authored, Dissent, Voices of Conscience.
“The majority of those killed in drone strikes are Pakistani, with estimates ranging from 1,600 to over 2,600 during the period 2004-2011, but these numbers are difficult to verify given the remote location of the strikes. Most of those killed are considered militants, but inevitably there were also civilian casualties. The Taliban and extremists claim much higher civilian casualties and have used drone strikes as a recruiting tool. These strikes have undoubtedly fueled anti-American sentiment, particularly among the Pakistani populace, and increased tensions between the U.S. and the Afghan and Pakistani governments.”
– U.S. Catholic Bishops Conference Office of Justice, and Peace and Human Development
The two guest speakers argued that U.S. drone strikes are not only illegal, but immoral and should stop. The more we use drones, the greater the likelihood that we are creating enemies. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Office for Justice, Peace and Human Development states that “these strikes have undoubtedly fueled anti-American sentiment.” The Obama Administration continues to be silent about the number of casualties, and the targets. There is a lack of transparency as the Administration refuses to inform the public about the details of drone operations.
Chris Woods and Ann Wrights argued for Congress to be more involved in oversight of drones operations. That is where faith-based advocacy, like that done by the Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach, is needed to urge the public to pressure their officials in Congress to force President Obama to reveal casualties from covert U.S. drone strikes.
Columban Fathers condemn the use of military force, especially against civilians. Most recently, the Columban Fathers spoke out against the violence and destruction in Gaza. We mourn the loss of many innocent lives, especially children. We pray for the families who lost their loved one and the countless injured due to bombings (Columban Fathers leadership statement on the violence in Gaza, 2014).
The CCAO rejects any use of “brute force over diplomacy or militaristic and aggressive approach.” We
are committed to calling for peace, justice and care for Creation for the people with whom Columban missionaries live and serve. We stand against the use of drones by our government in the killing of civilians.