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Another Voice: Drone strikes take a terrible toll in innocent lives

By Cynthia Lehman and The Rev. Justo Gonzalez

We are writing to call for an immediate and complete moratorium on weaponized drones throughout the world. President Obama’s announcement of the accidental deaths of Giovanni Lo Porto and Warren Weinstein is just the latest in countless deaths of innocent civilians – men, women and children – by drone strikes.

While we are grateful that the president acknowledged and apologized for the tragedy of the deaths of the Italian aid worker and the U.S. government contractor, our nation has neither acknowledged nor apologized for the deaths of all of the other victims who were assassinated by U.S. drones. All lives matter, and that is the central problem of drone operations.

The president claimed that “The operation targeted an al-Qaida-associated compound, where we had no reason to believe either hostage was present … No words can fully express our regret over this terrible tragedy.” (Emphasis added.)

The truth is that we can never be certain who is in the target zone of any drone strike. Even though drones spent a week watching this compound, it is obvious that drones cannot see everything in the area.

People killed by these drones are victims of illegal drone activities, violations of the rules of war, our Constitution and our international treaties.

The visibility of the deaths of these two men is a wake-up call to the military and to our government as a whole.  Their deaths will have been in vain if we continue this criminal practice.

The senseless and heinous deaths caused by weaponized drones are problematic for many reasons: 

• Every time we kill an innocent person we create horror, fear, anger and the desire for revenge. We create new terrorists.

• Our cavalier attitude toward the deaths of non-U.S. citizens is unforgivable.

• The soldiers who make these strikes are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder because there is no true personal safety in being “out of range” when you kill an innocent person. That action hurts their souls.

• The first time someone from another country or from within our country attacks us with drones, we will be highly indignant and believe we have been badly treated.

Yet we are the ones who started this latest arms race. We will complain when it comes back to haunt us, but we will have only ourselves to blame. We don’t want our children to have to live with that threat.

The time to do something about this horrendous policy is now. Not one more death. Not one more. Place a moratorium on all weaponized drones.

Cynthia Lehman is coordinating board chairwoman of the Western New York Peace Center. The Rev. Justo Gonzalez is executive director.