Churches challenge Foreign Secretary on U.S drone strikes

by Richard on October 5, 2012

Churches support Drone Action Week

The Methodist Church, the United Reformed Church and the Baptist Union of Great Britain have called on the Foreign Secretary to distance the UK Government from the United States Government’s practice of using missiles to target individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism.

Church leaders have expressed their anxiety over the humanitarian and legal implications of the CIA-operated drone campaign, arguing that it contravenes protections established in international law and is inciting radicalism and violence. Today the three Churches wrote to the Foreign Secretary, asking him to confirm that the UK would not permit the rules of war to be used to support targeted killings of individuals suspected of committing terrorist crimes.

Steve Hucklesby, Public Issues Policy Adviser for the Methodist Church in Britain, said: “The United States drone strikes have killed around 3,000 people in Pakistan. Whole communities are living in fear of the drones flying overhead. The U.S administration is, in effect, attempting to rewrite international law in order to justify their action. This imperils us all. It potentially sets a precedent for any government to declare war on groups of individuals on the basis of a perceived threat that such individuals might present. All governments have an obligation to persuade others to uphold international law. Our own government cannot wash its hands of this responsibility while it is in a military alliance with the United States in the region.”

Frank Kantor, the Secretary for Church and Society of the United Reformed Church, said: “There is a legal requirement under international law to identify all casualties that result from drone strikes, under any and all circumstances. We therefore call on the UK Government to comply fully with this legal requirement, releasing information on the number of fatalities and publishing a summary of all investigations into civilian casualties.”

Tomorrow (Saturday) a group of people will walk from the Elbit Factory in Shenstone, Shropshire, where drone engines are manufactured, to the RAF base in Waddington where the RAF plans to base UK drone operators next year. The seven-day walk (October 6 to 13) will pass by the Thales Watchkeeper Drone Plant in Leicestershire where the aircrafts’ bodies are manufactured. The Revd Bill Anderson, Methodist District Chair for Birmingham, will be one of the people walking to raise awareness about the UK’s use of drones. “As Christians we are committed to pursue the path of peace,” said Bill. “This is a difficult path and made all the more difficult if our forces are perceived as invisible, disengaged and remote. I hope that in each of the places we stop along the walk, we will gather people together who might want to talk to us about why we are walking. That way we can raise awareness about the illegitimate use of drones.”

At the 2012 Methodist Church Conference in July, Methodists agreed that the government should urge the U.S to discontinue the practice of targeting suspected members of terrorist organisations with drones. The United Reformed Church also supported this position at their General Assembly over the summer. Although the Baptist Union of Great Britain has not had an opportunity to debate the use of drones yet, Stephen Keyworth, the BUGB’s Head of Faith and Unity, is very supportive of raising the issue with the UK Government. “This is an ethical issue of our time that we must respond to,” he said. “The use of armed drones seems to be seductive to governments as the innocent are not supposed to get hurt. From numerous examples this is clearly not the case and their regular use must be reassessed.”

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }


geoffff 10.05.12 at 4:55 pm

No intelligent rational democratic society opts for war if it can be avoided. This is especially so if they are liberal societies where women have unfettered participation in the decision making processes.

These societies make mistakes. Sometimes these are grave. But that is something else.

This is why it is unthinkable for secular democratic countries to go to war. There has never been a case in history of a war between secular democracies. The closest is the American Civil War but given that there was no female franchise and on one side 2/3 of the population owned the other 1/3 it too does not qualify.

It should go without saying that the deployment of military force by Western countries is a matter of some passing consideration. It is not tossed around with the snags on the BBQ . It is a leftist delusion that it is..

This is not to say terrible mistakes are never made. But again that is saying something different. Besides the worst mistakes of the last century were Chamberlain’s.

Once in a war there can be only one humane objective . End it. As quickly and cleanly as possible.

Or at least keep the enemy suppressed at the least cost to the folk without the guns on the ground .

And the lives of the brave men and women of the country’s defence forces on the ground and in the air

Pacifists will be appalled at any military method but there can be no ethical objection to a developing technology that is already a degree of magnitude advanced in terms of its impact on extremist insurgents with the least possible impact on people not in the fight.

It’s expensive. It uses ground intelligence as well as what’s in the air. But AQ and the other insurgent death cults hate it especially their leaderships. They have no difficulty sending others to the paradise they condition them from childhood but they are not suicidal themselves..

The best way of attacking terrorist attacks on civilians is to make the practice as suicidal as possible. It is especially effective with jihadist martyrs. They fear that last flash from the sky more than any.


Richard 10.05.12 at 5:58 pm

The world in your head is a complete mystery to me geof. I don’t even know where to start…


Kim 10.05.12 at 6:38 pm

No intelligent rational democratic society opts for war if it can be avoided.

(1) Ergo, the US is not an “intelligent rational democratic society”. Or the statement is false. Tertium non datur.

(2) And it’s not only pacifists that will be appalled at this remark from the Dark Side, so too will any just-war thinker.

(3) But too much said already. I don’t want to legitimise such toxic comment. So I’m done here. Richard, please, if Geoffff wants to fling shit, let him do it in his own house.


geoffff 10.05.12 at 7:00 pm

Yours too Richard.

I am so sick of the debates on whether Iraq or Afghanistan or whatever were moral mistakes. The US is not an evil country that opts for war where it sees peace. . This anti-Americanism, as if American wars are unique and happened in a vacuum where all other parties were innocent, is frankly disgusting .

It is bigotry and it is no less less ugly because this anti-American shit is being flung by a former American. I’m not in the slightest bit surprised to see that it is utterly intolerant of opinions it does not like. .


Richard 10.05.12 at 7:26 pm

>> “I am so sick of the debates on whether Iraq or Afghanistan or whatever were moral mistakes”

Me too. Because they were, beyond any doubt.


geoffff 10.05.12 at 9:28 pm

Whatever Richard.

Thank you for the space for a profoundly different point of view by the way. Not everyone does that.


Richard 10.05.12 at 10:47 pm

Thank you, geof. I take it that you accept that implying I ban contrary opinions was, in fact, a lie. I’m sure you’ll be repeating the admission elsewhere.


geoffff 10.06.12 at 12:43 am

No because I never implied that <snip>…</snip>

[Richard adds: I beg to differ, but we can leave it at that. I've done you the favour of removing the rest of the comment. I'm sure you didn't mean to take the thread off-topic.]


Daphne Anson 10.06.12 at 8:16 pm

Geoff is quite correct - in contrast to the situation involving totalitarian regimes, no democracy has fought a war with another democracy.


Richard 10.07.12 at 7:25 am

I’m not sure that’s entirely true Daphne.


Earl 10.08.12 at 6:38 pm

Re: Drones. Those who make the decisions are not going to unring this bell. Think … crossbows, submarines, etc.


geoffff 10.09.12 at 2:58 am

Earl is exactly right.

The war technology will keep on spiralling with all the genius of our kind until something in us has changed. With respect I thought that was where your profession comes in.

Liberal democracies never choose war. This is proven by anyone who needs to even think about it by the fact that there has never been a war between them and that such a war is unthinkable.



Richard 10.09.12 at 8:43 am

You appear to be saying that whatever weapons we can make, we should make. Needless to say, I disagree. Your contention that “liberal democracies never choose war” is fatuous. Even the contention that liberal democracies never choose war between themselves is contentious, but in this case it is irrelevant.

I’m surprised at the degree of interest that you’re taking in this blog. By my count, nine of the last ten posts at your blog have been about something posted here. Isn’t that a bit weird?


geoffff 10.09.12 at 10:38 pm

No Richard. I am saying that whatever weapons we can make we will make until something about else has changed. And you’re not helping.

You know the routine Richard. I will answer your question here but likely those who wish to see it rather than the clipped version you prefer to engage will have to go to my blog.

There is no mystery about my interest. Don’t take it personally because it is not. You count the posts because you think this is about you. I’m hoping that your readers will read the posts and see that it is not. Even less is it about me.

I look at your blog and it is just like a thousand others. The obsessive almost insane focus on Israel and the “Palestinians” to the almost complete exclusion of any interest in the bleeding human condition anywhere else in the world.

Is there is anything on your blog about the Darfur genocide or the atrocities in Tibet, Sri Lanka, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, the Caucasus, Afghanistan and a hundred other places ? Is there anything on your blog about the plight of asylum seekers who put their lives in grave danger to get away from these places? Anything about African asylum seeker robbed raped and left to die in the Sinai or used as bait to ambush Israeli soldiers who go to their aid?

Here’s a comment by someone who also has been counting posts on a CNN thread about the drone incursion in Israel a couple of days ago picked up by Israellycool.

Apparently the count is over 4000 now.
As Judge Dan says:

“The article has, at the time of this post, 3669 comments, and as expected, a fair amount are off topic, anti-Semitic or conspiracy theories. The disproportionality between any Israel related topic and other, far worse events, is mind boggling.

“4 killed in Bagdad attack is fit for just 4 comments, and the continuous slaughter in Syria has made people indifferent.

“Mention Israel in a title, and you’ve got yourself a winner”

I think that’s a bit weird.

Here’s a recent post by Sydney Anglican priest explaining why he initially accepted an offer to address an Al Quds antisemitic rally.

“Some months ago I was invited to attend the Al Quds rally in Sydney and to say a few words in support of our Palestinian sisters and brothers. I readily accepted the offer as I feel that there is no group of people in the world today who have suffered so brutally as have the Palestinians people in this generation. Indeed, I take every opportunity I can to express my concern for their suffering and my prayers for an end to the 45-year-long Occupation of their land.” [my emphasis]

I think that is pretty weird. Sick weird.

And yesterday you published an overtly and undisguised antisemitic smear on your moderated blog on the same thread where I have been banned for saying antizionism is antisemitism.

I think that you did this because the moral structures that the West frames Israel and the “Palestinians” has so badly decayed that you and other guardians of the moral order are unable to recognise naked antisemitism when you see it.

That’s the weirdest thing of all.

That’s why antizionism is the new antisemitism.


Richard 10.09.12 at 10:50 pm

At the risk of appearing childish: Whatever.

But despite my little blog being ‘just like a thousand others’, this is the one you single out for your attention. I’m deeply touched.

I’ve been blogging a long time now so yes, most of those other subjects you mentioned have come up in one way or another. The funny thing is, Israel/Palestine wasn’t a subject I blogged about much until very recently, and that was more about an attempt to clear up some misunderstandings about a decision that the Methodist Conference had made. I’ve never claimed to be very systematic about my blogging. I don’t even necessarily post about what’s most important to me: I blog about what catches my attention. But I repeat what i’ve said elsewhere: I challenge you to justify your claim that my posting about Israel has been obsessive. Do the work. Go through my archives (all the way back to feb 2002 and justify your claim with something other than your imagination.


geoffff 10.10.12 at 5:09 am

Not childish at all Richard. I use the word all the time.

I did scan survey your blog a while back but only the last few years and my focus is almost entirely confined to politics. I take no interest in pastoral or religious topics except to the extent that they inform opinion on Israel and its conflict over the land with Arab Muslims.

I can see why you feel this is a small part of what you do. Yet when you do turn your attention to the state of the world the matter of Israel and “Palestine” looms huge like a trick mirror in a carnival maze. It is out of all proportion and is as unbalanced as your apportionment of the blame that that you splash around liberally but mainly on one party.

The Western and especially the liberal/left’s focus on the plight of the “Palestinians” almost to the point where all other people in the region most of whom are in far direr straits are ignored. The resolute determination to overlook who and what are really to blame for the misery of the “Palestinians” so as to blame Israel alone. The near hysterical attacks on Israel from the left always spilling over into attacks on the legitimacy of the state and the people with naked antisemitism in its crudest forms always always just one click away if that.

This is sinister. There is no question about it.

But you are right about something and it would be churlish for me not to say so. There are many blogs out there that are far worse and increasingly the mind is closing. They have no interest at all in any other point of view. It has become a matter of faith. Also I think you and your readers are more important than perhaps you realise. Christians are too important to be left to the likes of Stephen Sizer and Fr David Smith both of whom I am certain are very nice men. They always are.

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