Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Drone Wars

BBC Radio 4 - Sunday 25 September - 1:30pm (and Methodist Conference)
Pilotless drones armed with missiles and bombs are the next big thing in war-fighting. This 30 minute programme on BBC Radio 4 explores the ethical dilemmas of these new weapon systems that give us the capacity to kill soldiers or militants with no risk to our own troops.

The UK is using pilotless aircraft in to target militants in Afghanistan. Each aircraft is controlled by three operators who, in 2012, will based at an airbase in Lincolnshire.  From a distance of thousands of miles they identity targets and fire missiles. In a telling interview the radio 4 programme talked to one such operator who describes how he has to learn to cope with killing a group of militants in the morning (with his joystick and fire buttons) and then go home to his family for supper.

The US use of pilotless drones in Pakistan is particularly disturbing. Rt Revd Humphrey Peters, Bishop of Peshawar addressed a Methodist Conference debate on armed drones and described the turmoil that these attacks are causing to communities in northern Pakistan. In his estimation, for every terrorist killed, 15 to 20 civilians die.

The Radio 4 programme concludes that the use of remote killing machines raise new ethical issues that need to be examined. Methodist Conference has asked us to undertake such an examination and the Baptist Union of Great Britain and United Reformed Church have asked to be a part of this. We will meet with experts in the field and plan to publish a report in the Spring of 2012. If you would like to know more or contribute, contact me at hucklesbys@methodistchurch.org.uk.