Tuesday, April 16, 2013

No more massacres in Boston, or elsewhere in the world: let's end drone warfare and seek "the things that make for peace"

The tragedy at the Boston Marathon shows once again the heart-breaking futility of violence. I grieve for and with the families of those who were killed and wounded. I pray they will find the comfort and support they need during this difficult time.
There is no indication yet of who perpetrated this damnable deed, or why, but ultimately what matters is: what are we going to do to prevent such tragedies from recurring?
Typically, our government reacts to violence by instigating more violence, which simply perpetuates the cycle. Since 9/11, we have been conducting a "war on terrorism," using terroristic means; and the result has been more and more acts of violence in the world.
As our government goes about killing innocent people using drones and other means, it is inevitable that someone somwhere will seek revenge here in our homeland.
There is another and better way of responding to violence:  the way of Jesus Christ,  Gandhi,  Martin Luther King, and Badshah Khan, the Pashtun leader who became a champion of nonviolent resistance in Afghanistan. Instead of reacting to violence with violence, we seek to address the root causes of violence, and we refrain from validating violence by using violent means.
This week Orange Grove Meeting approved a minute on drones that could help to reduce one root cause of violence: our use of drones.
I am pleased that Friends are showing concern for this issue. The Jan-Feb issue of The Western Friend has an interview with Leah Bolger, Veterans for Peace national board member, who talks about drones. Friends Journal also published an excellent piece about drones by Joan Nicholson, who went on a delegation to Pakinstan with Medea Benjamin and others from Code Pink (it is included below). FNCL signed on to a letter by religious leaders calling for more transparency in the use of drones, tranferring their use from the CIA to the military, where there is more accountability. The AFSC is also working a piece of "model legislation" regarding drones that will be coming out soon.
Drones have become extremely popular among those who profit from war. Congress has a "drone caucus," consisting of elected officials who support drones as the new weapon of choice. This is not surprising since drones have become a big business here in So Cal, with drone factories in Monrovia and San Diego.
It therefore seems fitting for So Cal Friends to say "no" to drones and everything they stand for. As John Woolman once said, when we experience God's love and commit ourselves to the Light, we no longer can support the business of war. "To turn all the treasures we possess into the channel of universal love becomes the business of our lives..."

Minute of Concern regarding Drone Warfare
approved by Orange Grove Meeting, April 14, 2013

As Friends (Quakers) who believe there is "that of God" in everyone and therefore every life is sacred, we are deeply concerned about the proliferation of lethal unmanned aerial vehicles, commonly known as drones. The United States is leading the way in this new form of warfare where pilots in US bases kill people, by remote control, thousands of miles away. Drones have become the preferred weapons to conduct war due to the lack of direct risk to the lives of U.S. soldiers, but these drone strikes have led to the death of hundreds of innocent civilians in countries where we are not at war, including Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.
We urge our government to put an end to this secretive, remote-controlled killing and instead promote foreign policies that are consistent with the values of a democratic and humane society. We call on the United Nations to regulate the international use of lethal drones in a fashion that promotes a just and peaceful world community, based on the rule of law, with full dignity and freedom for every human being.

Recommended actions

We recommend that the Clerk of our Monthly Meeting send this minute to our elected officials and encourage Friends to do likewise. A copy of this minute will be sent to Quarterly and Yearly Meeting for its consideration.

Friends are also encouraged to read Medea Benjamin book Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control and to engage in study on how to address this concern.


Drone Warfare (From Friends Journal)

U.S. Air Force photo/Lt. Col Leslie Pratt
U.S. Air Force photo/Lt. Col Leslie Pratt

I was part of a delegation to Pakistan in October 2012 to address the issue of United States drone warfare. Several thousand Pakistanis, including small children, have been killed by U.S. drones and many others have been critically injured. During just one day of our visit, 18 people were killed by drones.
We heard from individuals whose family members had been killed. One of them, a bereaved Pakistani journalist summed up his view of the situation by saying, “The blood shed [sic] of Muslim people has no value.” He told us of the drone strike that destroyed his house, killing his 18-year-old son, his younger brother, and a stonemason who was in the village to work on the mosque. His son, a recent high school graduate, was working at his school because he wanted to encourage the community to value education. His brother had a master’s in English literature and had taught for eight years, trying to convey to students that education was more powerful than weapons. He left a grief-stricken wife and a two-year-old son.
We heard about the terror caused by the constant presence of drones in some areas. Pakistanis are afraid to attend gatherings like weddings, funerals, or business meetings. They know they will probably all be killed if their houses are targeted, and believe that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency views all young and middle-aged men as potential targets. (A new counter-terrorism manual for targeted killing operations explicitly exempts the CIA from having to follow the rules in its campaign of drone strikes in Pakistan for at least a year.)
When the Deputy Chief of U.S. Mission, Richard Hoagland, spoke with us, he maintained that very few civilians had been killed by drones. When he was asked about the second-wave and even multiple strikes that have been killing and wounding many rescuers, he stated that in recent years, there have never been deliberate strikes against rescuers. We urged him to investigate and provide a public report.
The day after a candlelight vigil with young people, we traveled toward the targeted areas of Waziristan with Imran Khan’s large peace caravan. We passed many people who expressed support by waving and giving the peace sign. At a rally, we stood on the stage with our banner “Stop Killer Drones.” Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin spoke; the crowd called out repeatedly, “Welcome to you! We want peace!”
Prior to the trip, the U.S. State Department had issued a warning that U.S. citizens would be in danger if they traveled to Pakistan. Our delegation was given a very warm welcome. We were showered with rose petals and given bouquets at the airport. Throughout the trip, we were warmly received and shown generous hospitality in spite of the country’s poverty. People understood that we believe their lives are sacred and that we are committed to working for peace and an end to the evil of drone warfare. It may be a long and difficult struggle, as the U.S. government seems intent on continuing the use of drone warfare in order to help control its access to natural resources.



  1. That last line "in order to control its access to natural resources" states the only short-sighted, stupid "ethic" of the US government. With that "ethic" mining corporations from the US and Canada with their short-sighted pursuit of oil and gold are destroying communities and their natural resources all over Latin America. These communities and their natural resources could be a sustainable source of wealth for local and global societies if promoted with wisdom and imagination. .

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