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Response from Kevin James

Discussion Question: U.S. Drone Strikes Against American Citizens?

U.S. drone strikes against American citizens have been in the news for some time time now. Certainly Attorney General Eric Holder's admonition last week that the president has legal authority to order a targeted strike against an American citizen located within the United States has brought the discussion much closer to home. International terrorism, which often has roots or ties to religious fundamentalism, is the likely target of such proposed force. Is this exertion of executive power merely typical of contemporary civil rights & due process, or is it, as Senator Paul suggests, "an affront to the Constitutional due process rights of all Americans."

Aside from the political hypocrisy over drone strikes (the Republican party started them and would use them with gusto today if they were in power) prevalent in the debate, drone actions upon U.S. Citizens without a means of trial by jury reveals how degrading the policy has become to America’s sense of moral high ground. Our nation was viciously attacked by a small band of zealots exploiting our liberties and openness. We denounced this diabolical and murderous action in no uncertain terms. The world wept with and for America. But the scale and scope of Americas response with its black and white categorization of her enemies (you are either for us or against us), along with the self promotion of our right to invade other sovereign countries only on suspicion of being one of the “against us” (Iraq), has brought American’s moral high ground into question among her world neighbors, and she has largely lost their sympathies.

Video push button war has created a moral morass. Is the defense of one’s homeland done at all costs, sacrificing liberty for security? Rule of law for situational ethics? The use of drones are the poster child of such losses of liberty and dignity. The remote controlled spy/assassination machines have been used with such moral abandon that America has been degraded in the process. No more can we claim a moral high road. We have proved that might doesn’t make right.

The use of drones, either on American citizens or American enemies, is fraught with moral dilemmas. But most of all it has degraded us as a nation. Surgical strikes have proven effective, but at a high cost of innocent human lives (you know, collateral damages). Every button pushed on locked in targets may vaporize an enemy combatant pledging death to America, but it also evaporates any sense of dignity for the country’s character.

Drones are not just a legal question. They have brought to the forefront a legitimate and broader debate about the character of our government and its citizenry. America may see herself occupying a special “god given” role in world affairs, but she is sadly mistaken in believing drone strikes are divine retributions for a just cause. Drones have lowered us to the level of those hateful and blind zealots that took our country’s innocence from us, not only in the collapse of the towers, but also in the crumbling of our constitutional values.

Photo of Kevin James

Author: Kevin James

Associate Director of Public Affairs & Religious Liberty for the Southern Union of Seventh-day Adventists

Mr James's constituency encompasses Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee.  His primary responsibility is to provide assistance to church members who seek Sabbath accommodation in the workplace, and in that function has led numerous individuals through the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) claims process. Mr. James is an ordained minister, and prior to his work with the Southern Union, served as local church pastor for over 20 years.

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