Selling Weapons and Killing Children in “The Drone Wars”

As yesterday afternoon brought the news of yet another crippling blow being dealt to the Al Queda network once spearheaded by the now-deceased Osama bin Laden, it may behoove us to stop and consider the means by which this network is being systematically eliminated.

According to, “Monday’s strike represented the third such deadly attack [by CIA drone] in as many days and the 21st suspected U.S. drone strike in Pakistan this year.”[1] Now admittedly, on the surface of things, this would appear to be good news for the American people.  For as has been widely reported, drone strikes have been so effective that internal memos recovered from Bin Laden’s compound suggest that “drone-launched missiles were killing al Qaeda operatives faster than they could be replaced.”[2]

But is that all there is to the story? 

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, United States drone strikes have killed upwards of 3,145 individuals around the world.  Of those 3,145 people, as many as 830 are reported to have been civilian casualties, with 175 of them being children.  What’s more, these statistics do not take into account the collateral injuries that are a direct result of these strikes.[3]

Now, just a little over one week ago, Reuters News Agency is reporting that President Obama is preparing to notify Congress of plans to sell specialized “weaponization kits” to Italy – kits that would arm the Italian fleet of MQ-9 Reaper drones.  If the plan proceeds forward, this would make Italy the third nation to possess US-manufactured drones, raising the question as to whether the US is potentially destabilizing the world through the sale of advanced weapons technology.  At present, Turkey has already announced its interest in purchasing drone technology through the United States, and in the words of one congressional staffer:

“If you sell armed drones to Italy, you will very likely make a decision that any member of NATO that wants them can also get them.”[4]

While the United States maintains that the “purchasers of U.S.-made military systems must agree to a strict set of ‘end-use’ conditions

Shakira, currently being treated by doctors in the US, is a victim of US drone strikes.

designed to limit the system to approved uses such as self-defense and United Nations missions,” it must also be noted that the United States has used this technology at least once in the targeted assassination of a U.S. citizen. According to an internal memo obtained by the Washington Post, the Obama administration justified the use of drone technology in the killing of U.S.-born Anwar al-Awlaki because capturing him was not considered to be feasible or expedient.[5]  So to suggest that the United States will monitor the foreign use of drone technology rings a bit hollow given the fact that this administration has seen fit to use drones to assassinate one of its own citizens.

As Christians and/or as citizens of the United States, these developments force us to ask several questions:

  1.  Does the protection of the American nation from potential threats justify the killing of innocent children and/or civilians?
  2. Does the sale of this technology likely lead to greater worldwide stability, or does it create a new arms race of sorts, as foreign nations eager for drone technology reach out to Israel, Russia and China, all of whom possess similar weapons?
  3. During the Bush administration, there was a tremendous outcry against the indefinite detainment and interrogation of suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay.  Do those on the political left truly view waterboarding as a greater threat to human rights than the targeted assassination of` foreign terrorists that often leads the loss of innocent life alongside the intended target?
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4 Responses to Selling Weapons and Killing Children in “The Drone Wars”

  1. Greg says:

    In the past, I was very hawkish relative to preemption. And on paper, it is still likely more viable than just sitting around and dying a death of a thousand cuts…

    However, watching that “Navy Seals” movie changed my attitude a bit. I asked myself “would I feel safer knowing that teams of navy seals were trying their best to preemptively eliminate threats?”, or “would I rather a host of badass angels taking care of business?”

    Angels win, hands down.

    The single best national defense that we could do for ourselves is a nation wide revival and widespread repentance of our wickedness. And we let God care for the rest.

    • Hey Greg … Got a question for you. This year, in my Biblical Theology class, we spent a day or so discussing the notion of corporate/systemic sin. And as I was writing this article up, I kept thinking back to that discussion; and I find myself wanting to press into this.

      Do you think that the citizens of a democratic republic bear moral guilt for the actions of their leaders? Clearly, in a dictatorship, the citizen has had no real voice to speak of and thus, no realistic means for bringing about functional change.* Thus, when Dictator X chooses to go on a rampage, the citizens of are somewhat protected from the charge of complicity.

      But in a democracy, things are very different; and there are only three possible roles we could have played. (1) We could have directly elected the individual into office by the use of our own vote. (2) We could have complacently sat back, failed to vote, and thus allowed the individual to be elected into office by others. (3) We could have voted for “the other guy,” who likely acts in an immoral fashion while in office. In all three cases, our actions directly lead to someone else being empowered to act in a sinful manner? Accurate? Not accurate? What do you think?

      * Obviously, the Arab Spring is challenging this contention, as do the events in Tianamen Square and the events surrounding the various plots to assassinate Hitler. Nevertheless, the general principle stands that citizens in a dictatorship have very little access to real power.

  2. lamehousewife says:

    Did I hear somewhere that they are putting these drones in our own skies as well?

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