The Conference on Drone Warfare was held at Eden Theological Seminary on Friday, June 8, 2018, co-sponsored by Eden Theological Seminary and the Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare. It was attended by about 30 people of faith. It explored why many people of faith believe that the use of lethal drones should be limited or ended.
The presenters included:
Bishop Richard E. Pates, Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Des Moines and former chair of the International Justice and Peace Committee of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Matt Hawthorne, policy director, National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Washington, DC
Rev. Dr. David Greenhaw, president, Eden Theological Seminary, St. Louis, Missouri
Michael McPhearson, national executive director of Veterans for Peace
Dr. Maryann Cusimano Love, Associate Professor of International Affairs, Catholic University, Washington, DC
Two films produced by the Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare for congregations were also screened: Moral and Safe?: War, Peace, Drone Warfare and the Religious Community and a 30 minute version of the documentary, National Bird. Information about the films can be found at www.interfaithdronenetwork.org
During the conference, several concerns were expressed about lethal drones, including:
1. Because lethal drones are so easy to use, it is tempting to expand warfare into non-war zones thereby increasing the likelihood that the U.S. will resort to war.
2. Though it is possible to kill terrorist leaders with lethal drones, drones cannot kill an extremist movement. In fact, the opposite is likely – drone attacks increase the determination of the terrorist and increases the number of extremists. There is an expression that says “Kill a terrorist; create ten more.” Drones do not kill violent ideology; they generate hatred and mistrust of America.
3. Though the number of civilian casualties, including children, may be smaller than those resulting from the use of other weapons, the weapon is not as precise as the government claims.
4. Drones are proliferating. More than 80 countries currently have lethal drones. It is increasingly likely that lethal drones will be used against the U.S. The world urgently needs strong international agreement banning or limiting the use of lethal drones.
5. The use of drones is not transparent. The U.S. government has kept much of this program secret. There is a disconnection between what Americans know and what the government is doing. It is difficult for Americans to publicly criticize drone warfare because they have very little information. When information has been made public because of litigation, policies have changed.
6. The use of drones directly harms attempts to promote human rights and the rule of law by violating international human rights law.
7. Terrorist groups, like ISIS, now use lethal drones.
8. Though drone operators cannot be killed or physically wounded, they are often damaged psychologically and some have been diagnosed with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
About the Interfaith Drone Network
The Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare grew out of two developments: the formation of the DC-based Interfaith Working Group on Drone Warfare with many faith groups participating in spring 2014; and the first Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare in January 2015 at Princeton Theological Seminary, facilitated by the Princeton-based Peace Action Education Fund. The Network is continuing the work in the faith community, seeking to deepen understanding and bring significant spiritual insight to that emerging major issue.