from Pax Christi International

pcilogonewThe increased use of Remotely Piloted Air Systems (RPAs) – also called unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) or drones – has inaugurated a new phase in modern warfare and is raising grave moral and legal questions that deserve immediate attention. Pax Christi International has given serious consideration to different perspectives on this issue and is persuaded that the use of these armed unmanned vehicles as weapons should be prohibited.

1. Pax Christi’s opinion refers specifically to the use of RPAs (or UAVs) as weapons and does not preclude their deployment for some non-military, non-human surveillance purposes such as the monitoring of power or gas lines, infrastructure inspections, air quality management, resource monitoring, communication or broadcast services or monitoring human rights abuses. Although not the focus of this statement, concerns about the invasion of privacy using drone technology for human surveillance, including civilian purposes such as law enforcement or border control, must be taken very seriously.

2. According to advocates, the use of robots and unmanned systems increases the safety of civilians during military operations. Despite U.S. government claims that drone operators can distinguish an al Qaeda terrorist from innocent civilians, recent studies present significant evidence that US drone strikes have killed hundreds of civilians and injured many more. Furthermore, the 24-hour-a-day hovering by drones over communities unable to protect themselves in any way has terrorized men, women, and children; caused tremendous anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities; and disrupted essential community activities such as school and tribal dispute-resolution efforts. Evidence in a recent Stanford Law School/NYU study suggests that U.S. drone strikes have undermined U.S. relationships in the region, especially with Pakistanis, facilitated recruitment to violent non-state armed groups and motivated further violent attacks. Furthermore, a serious lack of government transparency about drone strikes hampers ongoing monitoring and public accountability.

3. Some of the most serious questions about the use of lethal drone technology relate to the rule of law. The U.S. government has failed to make public the legal basis for its program of targeted assassinations and is setting dangerous precedents for other governments, including repeated likely violations of other nations’ sovereignty. To execute people without due process or an opportunity to surrender should violate the moral and legal sensibilities of people who claim to believe in the value of every human life and the right to a fair trial. The legality and morality of killing weak targets (or every last potential “enemy”) outside of a war zone is itself highly questionable.

4. Furthermore, the objectification of targeted human beings and their remoteness is likely to lower the threshold for using armed violence to resolve conflicts. In the near future, the option of fully autonomous drones or “killer robots,” capable of making their own decisions about killing without a human operator “in the loop” are expected to be seen on the battlefield.4 Killing by remote control is deeply offensive to Pax Christi’s belief in active nonviolence that is committed to taking on violence rather than inflicting it on others.

5. Pax Christi International continues to emphasize the need to deal with security threats in non-military ways. The use of drones in armed conflict, because they are relatively low in cost and exact few military casualties, will likely increase the move to war and military intervention. We believe that international cooperation in criminal investigations; the arrest and trial of suspected terrorists; investment in human development, jobs, and education; plus dialogue, diplomacy and compromise are more effective routes to sustainable peace and inclusive security and reflect more accurately the kind of people we hope to become.

6. Pax Christi International, in opposing the use of RPAs or drones as weapons, believes that they lower the threshold for resorting to violent force to resolve complex conflicts. In particular we oppose the use of lethal drones for targeted assassinations on what could become a battlefield without borders.

7. Pax Christi International calls on the United States and other governments using drone technology for counterterrorism purposes to cease immediately the use of lethal drones for targeted assassinations; to ensure transparency and accountability related to the use of lethal drones; and to demilitarize counterterrorism strategies.

8. We call on the United Nations to develop binding legal standards based on the principles of international law for the production, use and proliferation of RPAs or drones and to prohibit the use of fully autonomous “killer robot” drones.

9 thoughts on “DRONES: Pax Christi International statement on drones

  1. Thank you Pax Christi. A long awaited but well written piece. My only concern is the very guarded note about the morality of using drones. I believe you could have been stronger: “The legality and morality of killing weak targets (or every last potential “enemy”) outside of a war zone is itself highly questionable.”
    I believe a simple comment saying it is out right morally wrong would have worked better. There is no acceptable ‘questionable ‘ question about killilng innocent people. For Christians, for killing anyone.

  2. May we become creative in devising means for peace, rather than developing malicious instruments of violence.

  3. Killer drones are the perfect device for ethnic cleansing or, indeed, any type of cleansing. The more impersonal war becomes, the easier it is to wage it. The US has no claim to higher moral ground for anything. We prosecute wars of aggression, we assassinate enemies as we wish…the use of drones is appalling on any level. Stop now!

  4. As the technology of war escalates our voices have to raised. War itself is dehumanizing and the use of drones dehumanizes our society all the more. The life and dignity of all people must be protected as well as judicial justice. “Violence is contrary to the Kingdom of God; it is a tool of the Antichrist. Violence never serves humanity, but dehumanizes,” (Benedict XVI)

  5. Perhaps Pax Christi should return to the Good News about Christ to first determine if Jesus is violent or nonviolent before staking out a position on drones. If Herod the Great had drones like Herod Bush/Clinton/Bush/Obama, there would have been no gospel in any case. How many holy families have been killed in 20+ years of unjust wars with all kinds of unjust weapons and such scant objection from Pax Christi’s bishop members? It is apparently meaningless for a bishop to be a member.

  6. This is late, but welcome. Christians should never remain silent re war crimes committed by any government, especially our own. False security is no security.

  7. I found this page by search engine on the internet that led me first to your Pax Christ blog site on ‘STREET THEATER SIMULATIONS OF DRONE ATTACKS’ at:
    I find that blog site highly effective for raising consciousness and conscience (fostering so-called ‘conscientization’) on this issue, and suggest that you link to it here. As prompted by the blog site I have phoned my congressperson via the U.S. Congressional hotline at 202-224-3121, and intend to continue cyber-activism on this issue on Facebook and elsewhere. Thank you for serving with me, in this regard, the ‘Prince of Peace,’ our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! –The Rev. Theophus “Thee” Smith, PhD; Emory Univ. Religion Dept.; Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, GA USA

    1. Rev. Smith, please consider downloading and printing out the drone play under local resources on this Pax Christi web site. It could be played or read at Emory. It has raised excellent response at Syracuse University, Georgetown, Wittenberg and other venues including churches. The play is The Predator. Just four chairs and four women needed to get people thinking about the moral and legal questions of unmanned assassination vehicles being used by the United States government. Drones fly. Kids die.
      Jack Gilroy

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