Church of the Brethren general secretary Stanley J. Noffsinger and On Earth Peace executive director Bill Scheurer are among a number of American faith leaders to sign a letter to President Obama expressing “grave concerns” about the United States’ lethal drones policy. The letter follows on the recent drone strike killing of US citizen Warren Weinstein. The letter was put together by an interfaith working group on drones that includes staff of the Church of the Brethren Office of Public Witness.
The letter follows in full:
President Barack Obama
The Office of the President of the United States
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Northwest
Washington, DC 20500
May 15, 2015
RE: TARGETED LETHAL DRONES PROGRAM
As senior leaders of our respective denominations and faith groups, we write to express our grave concerns about America’s lethal drones policy. The recent news of US citizen Warren Weinstein’s inadvertent death by drone strike is disturbing and shows the deadly risks of drone warfare.
As people of faith, we share common values from our diverse traditions which broaden our concerns beyond national security objectives and national borders. We believe in the intrinsic value of all humanity and creation, compelling us to work for the common good of all people through the principles of love, mercy, just peace, solidarity, human dignity, restorative justice, and reconciliation. The US practice of utilizing unmanned aircraft for targeted killings is contrary to shared values, which guide us, our faith communities, and most Americans.
Our concerns center first on the thousands of deaths, both intended and unintended, that have resulted from lethal drones technology. Despite the prevailing notion that drones are precise, the recent tragedy involving the death of a US citizen demonstrates this is not the case. Indeed, such tragedies seem to happen frequently. Because the US government rarely acknowledges its drone strikes or reports the intended and unintended deaths, our best knowledge of victims come from non-governmental organizations and journalists. The estimates of widespread casualties are devastating and morally unacceptable to us.
Additionally, the depravation of due process to citizen targets and the Administration’s unaccountable creation and control of a secret “kill list” are alarming to us, and counter to our notions of human dignity, participatory processes, and rule of law.
A second cause of concern for us as faith leaders is the secrecy and lack of accountability that surrounds these targeted drone strikes. The power to decide who will live and who will die has become lodged squarely in the Administration’s hands with the wide-ranging 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force. With that unchecked power, the Administration has secretly selected targets and conducted strikes without publicly disclosing these activities, explaining their basis of legality, reporting who was killed, or if unintended victims were compensated. This unaccountability prevents the public and their elected representatives from having the ability to meaningfully oppose the policies or fully understand what is being done in our name.
A final concern is our firm belief that drone strikes do not make us safer, but instead lead to perpetual destructive conflict and extremism. Rather than simply taking the place of human bodies in a conflict, drones actually expand conflict by taking us into combat where we otherwise would not go. They enable reliance on warfare as the first resort.
This ever-growing warfare has increased fear in communities, aided recruitment of extremist groups and failed to eradicate terror or bring about security. Effectively combatting extremism requires nonviolent, creative strategies, including sustainable humanitarian and development assistance, and policies and programs that address the political, economic and social exclusion that fuel radicalization. Several organizations, many of them religious, are pursuing such strategies around the world. These efforts deserve more attention and support, but resources instead are consumed by the endless drones war.
We join together as leaders of faith communities to urge a halt to lethal drone strikes, accountability for past strikes, and a negotiated agreement holding the international community to the same standards.
cc: United States House of Representatives, United States Senate
Bill Sheurer, Executive Director, On Earth Peace
Carole Collins, Director of Finance and Operations, Alliance of Baptists
Diane Randall, Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation
Dr. Sayyid M. Syeed, National Director, Office for Interfaith & Community Alliances, Islamic Society of North America
Gerry G. Lee, Executive Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
J Ron Byler, US Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee
Jim Higginbotham, Co-Moderator, Disciples Peace Fellowship
Jim Winkler, President and General Secretary, National Council of Churches
Joan Diefenbach, Executive Director, NJ Council of Churches
Kavneet Singh, Secretary General, American Sikh Council (Formerly World Sikh Council–America Region)
Mark C. Johnson, Executive Director, Center and Library for the Bible and Social Justice
Rev. Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches, USA; Chairperson, National Council of Churches of Christ, USA
Rev. Dr. Ken Brooker Langston, Director, Disciples Justice Action Network
Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society, United Methodist Church
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Rabbi, Beyt Tikkun Synagogue; Editor, Tikkun Magazine; Chair, Network of Spiritual Progressives
Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, Ph.D., Director, Department of Multifaith Studies and Initiatives; Associate Professor of Religious Studies, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College
Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (USA)
Sandra Sorensen, Director of Washington Office, Justice and Witness Ministries, United Church of Christ
Scott Wright, Director, Columban Center for Advocacy and Outreach
Shan Cretin, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee
Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director, NETWORK: A Catholic Social Justice Lobby
Sr. Patricia J. Chappell, Executive Director, PAX Christi USA
Stanley J. Noffsinger, General Secretary, Church of the Brethren
The Rev. Sandra Strauss, Director of Advocacy and Ecumenical Outreach, Pennsylvania Council of Churches
Very Rev. Carl Chudy, SX, Provincial Superior, Xaverian Missionaries in US
Very Rev. James J. Greenfield, OSFS, President, Conference of Major Superiors of Men
Very Rev. Michael Duggan, MM, US Regional Superior, Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers
*Denominations listed for affiliation purposes only
— This letter was contributed to Newsline by Bryan Hanger, advocacy associate at the Office of Public Witness. For more about the work of the Office of Public Witness, go to www.brethren.org/peace/office-public-witness.html .