Richard Van Dellen: Threat of drone attacks isn't making U.S. more secure

The U.S. Defense Science Board, a civilian board, was established in 1956 to advise the Department of Defense. In a report on Sept 23, 2004, this board stated: "Muslims do not 'hate our freedom,' but rather, they hate our policies."

These policies include the "war on terror" and the more recent tactic of lethal drone attacks.

According to the website of Rep. Betty McCollum, who represents Minnesota's Fourth District, during the past decade, the CIA has conducted hundreds of lethal drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia against terrorists or suspected terrorists. Estimates provided by journalists and nongovernmental monitors cite as many as 771 civilians killed, including 200 children.

Concern over these drone attacks led three local groups — The Social Justice Committee of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Rochester, Rochester Friends (Quaker) Meeting and the SE Minnesota Alliance of Peacemakers — to send a letter to Rep. Tim Walz, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Al Franken on June 12. In that letter, we called upon our government to immediately stop all U.S. drone strikes and targeted killings.

We also asked that our government comply with the following four requests from a group of 10 civil and human rights organizations that sent a letter to the president on April 11:


• Publicly disclose key targeted killing standards and criteria.

• Ensure that U.S. lethal force operations abroad comply with international law.

• Enable meaningful congressional oversight and judicial review.

• Ensure effective investigations, tracking and response to civilian harm.

Additionally, 30 national religious leaders sent a letter to President Barack Obama on April 16, opposing the lethal use of drones, contending that, "Targeted killings do not address the root causes of conflicts and thus will not end violence against the U.S."

On April 23, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a public hearing about the U.S. drone program. Farea al-Muslimi, a Yemeni writer and activist, spoke movingly about a drone attack on his village the week before. He had spent a year in the United States and had returned to his country to share his positive experiences in the U.S.

He said, "What Wessab's villagers knew of the U.S. was based on my stories about my wonderful experiences there. The friendships and values I experienced and described to the villagers helped them understand the America that I know and love. Now, however, when they think of America, they think of the terror they feel from the drones. … What the violent militants had previously failed to achieve, one drone strike accomplished in an instant. There is now an intense anger against America in Wessab. This is not an isolated incident. The drone strikes are the face of America to many Yemenis."

He reported speaking to many victims of U.S. drone strikes, including: a mother in Jaar who had to identify her innocent 18-year-old son's body through a video in a stranger's cellphone; a father in Shaqra who held his 4- and 6-year-old children as they died in his arms; and another strike that killed 40 civilians.


The "war on terror" and these drone attacks are military solutions that are counterproductive.

In contrast, nonviolent methods do work. In their 2011 book, "Why Civil Resistance Work's: the Strategic Logic of Nonviolent Conflict," Erica Chenoweth and Maria Stephan analyzed 323 violent and nonviolent efforts to bring about social and political change and found to their surprise that nonviolent resistance was twice as effective as violent revolution in bringing about regime change or ending occupations (53 percent to 26 percent). The nonviolent campaigns were more likely to establish democracies and protect human rights, and less likely to lapse into civil war than their violent counterparts.

As 1946 Nobel Peace Prize winner Emily Greene Balch said, "There is no way to peace. Peace is the way."

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