Drones becoming weapons of choice

Drones are male honeybees. They develop from eggs that have not been fertilized, and unlike worker bees whose stinger is a modified egg-laying organ they cannot sting. It’s ironic that our pilotless drones are named after them. For those unmanned planes with their explosive-bearing missiles have killed and maimed many.

By now Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster against drones in the Senate is well known. But the Senator’s filibuster was limited to the use of drones killing American citizens on American soil. (The Attorney General’s eventual position in response to the filibuster was “no,” we can’t do that except if the citizen is engaged in actual combat on American soil. Then he or she would suddenly be toast.)

Senator Paul was not addressing the use of drones overseas, but shouldn’t we also be troubled about them? Ben Emmerson, the United Nations specialist on human rights, said Pakistani officials told him they have not consented to drone strikes in Pakistan and confirmed that US drones had killed at least 400 civilians. Interestingly, the Pakistani Foreign Secretary had previously told the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs that 80 percent of a total 3,000 people killed in drone attacks were terrorists. That still leaves 600 non-terrorists I think the Foreign Secretary’s estimate was a tad self-serving.

The Senate is also concerned about the increased use of surveillance drones over the United States. Unmanned planes launched by law enforcement agencies raises serious privacy issues. Such drones have cameras that can zoom in and eavesdrop on innocent citizens. Do we want the police looking in on our private lives from the sky?

But back to weaponized drones. There is talk of using them in Syria. The introduction of drone strikes by the United States inside Syria, according to Rick Rozoff from Stop NATO, an organization opposed to global militarism, would mark a dangerous escalation. Up to now the United States has been reluctant to become militarily involved in Syria.

We have also been using drones in Yeman. In that country in 2011 a drone strike killed three Americans including the radical Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awalki. Besides, other nations are developing their own drones. China and Iran, for example, and Israel, which is probably using them in Gaza. Where will it end? This technology has outstripped our international laws on war.

In spite of media attention, many are ignorant about the United States’ use of drones in undeclared wars around the world. People are also unaware that these assassination weapons are being controlled far away, for example, out of Hancock Field near Syracuse, NY.

People killing other people is not new. We’ve been doing that since Cain killed Abel. “Cain rose up against his brother Abel and killed him. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Where is Abel your brother?’ He said, ‘I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?’ And the Lord said, ‘What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground’ ” (Genesis 4: 8-10).

But Cain killed Abel face-to-face, one on one – probably with a club. Today we can kill from afar without even seeing the face of our victim – or victims. Modern drone technology makes it possible for us to kill scores with one push of a button. We humans have become very proficient killers.

The United Nations needs to develop international laws regulating drones, but don’t hold your breath. The United States by far has the most drones and will be reluctant to cooperate. Drone policy in the United States is secretive and murky. Who’s in charge? The Department of Defense, the CIA, the White House? It’s all cloaked in secrecy. In the meantime drones go on killing.

Or don’t we care because the victims are Pakistani, Afghans or from Yeman? Here’s what the Lord would say to us today about drones. “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood (and your sister’s) is crying to me from the ground” (Genesis 4:10).

The answer to Cain’s sarcastic question in Genesis is, “yes” we are our brother’s keeper even when our brother is not an American.

Daniel O’Rourke lives in Cassadaga. His column appears on the second and fourth Thursday each month. A grandfather, Dan is a married Catholic priest. His new book, “The Living Spirit” is a collection of previous columns. To read about that book or send comments on this column visit his website