Whereas in the original centuries of the Church’s history conversion to discipleship required the renunciation of violence and participation in war, after Constantine established Christianity as the imperial religion theological
justification reflection became required for the Church.
Credited to St. Augustine of Hippo, what developed over the centuries was a set of criteria for determining when it is appropriate for those in authority to go to war (just ad bellum) and what moral restraint should be shown in the waging of war (jus in bello)– what’s known today as the Just War Tradition.
While I would argue, along with many in the military, that the President’s program of drone warfare violates jus ad bellum, I think it’s a clearer case for how drone warfare exemplifies exactly the sort of violence jus in bello is meant to avoid.
The two traditional criteria for jus in bello are “discrimination” and “proportionality.”
War is moral, says the Christian tradition, only if civilians are never intentionally targeted.
Extreme care must be taken even to avoid “accidental” civilian deaths, what in contemporary parlance was once euphemistically called “collateral damage” but now in the age of drones called “bugsplat.”
Proportionality in this context points to the just war claim that even in a justified war fought discriminately, one should use only the level of force necessary only to achieve one’s legitimate objectives. Restraint should be shown not just to civilians; even enemy soldiers are neighbors who must not be killed unnecessarily.
Behind the jus in bello criteria then are two fundamental convictions rooted in the Christian faith:
1. Because war is a sin- even when it’s necessary and just- then it is better to die than to kill wrongly.
2. Because it’s better to suffer or die than to cause unjust suffering or death, any warfare that is executed invisibly or secretly is inherently immoral.
Citizens must know the sacrifice what we ask our fellow citizen soldiers to make in our name, and we must also know who is sacrificed in the name of justice, peace, security…you name it.
Because we believe we’ve seen God in the face of Christ, Christians must always insist to see the faces of our enemies killed in war because, even there, God takes flesh.
Indeed any person who worships in the name of one who himself was an innocent victim of the State should feel solidarity with all innocent victims of violence.
I bring all this up because A) it’s almost Holy Week and B) I came across an art installation that is thoroughly Christian in sentiment if not conviction. It perfectly shows how prophetic art can be and Christians should be.
This is from the website:
In military slang, Predator drone operators often refer to kills as ‘bug splats’, since viewing the body through a grainy video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed.
To challenge this insensitivity as well as raise awareness of civilian casualties, an artist collective installed a massive portrait facing up in the heavily bombed Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan, where drone attacks regularly occur. Now, when viewed by a drone camera, what an operator sees on his screen is not an anonymous dot on the landscape, but an innocent child victim’s face.
The installation is also designed to be captured by satellites in order to make it a permanent part of the landscape on online mapping sites.
The project is a collaboration of artists who made use of the French artist JR’s ‘Inside Out’ movement. Reprieve/Foundation for Fundamental Rights helped launch the effort which has been released with the hashtag #NotABugSplat
The child featured in the poster is nameless, but according to FFR, lost both her parents and two young siblings in a drone attack.
The group of artists traveled inside KPK province and, with the assistance of highly enthusiastic locals, unrolled the poster amongst mud huts and farms. It is their hope that this will create empathy and introspection amongst drone operators, and will create dialogue amongst policy makers, eventually leading to decisions that will save innocent lives.