Before Newtown, we passively endured many multiple murders by deranged men, in malls, movie theatres, and college campuses. What has finally moved us this time were the little children.
Powerful feelings of anger, vulnerability, powerlessness, and sadness seem to have focused our minds on doing something about the millions of assault weapons and other guns freely swimming in our national sea. We are all mourning with the victims and their families. It is unbearable to think of those 20 little bodies lying on the floor of their primary school, especially after learning that each was chewed up by 3 to 11 bullets; or of the unspeakable misery of those parents having to bury their children. Many could not look upon the bodies of their children because of the damage caused by the high velocity bullets emanating from the assault weapon used.
The President gave a wonderful speech at the Newtown memorial service last weekend. He said, “we are left with some hard questions”; that “every parent knows there’s nothing we will not do to shield our children from harm”; but that we haven’t done a good enough job keeping our children safe; that “we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everyone else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.”
No, we are not doing enough, and “we will have to change.” “If there’s even one step we can take to save another child or another parent or another town from the grief that’s visited on Tucson and Aurora and Oak Creek and Newtown and communities from Columbine to Blacksburg before that, then surely we have an obligation to try.” “Are we really prepared to say we are powerless in the face of such carnage?” “Are we prepared to say that such violence visited upon our children . . . is the price of our freedom?”
It is because of the simple truth of those words of our commander in chief, and the importance of the questions he raises, that we must now, in the midst of our pain here at home, reflect upon and talk about drones. Our drones. The drones that have become our weapon of choice in our wars abroad. The drones that this same President wields. The drones that can kill children.
At least 178 children, as young as three years old, have been killed in Pakistan and Yemen by our drones.
I know that President Obama does not intentionally target children, or innocent women, or men, for that matter. Indeed, he claims that the drone strikes are precisely targeted to avoid “collateral damage.” But after the deaths of 178 little kids, he – and we -- must be conscious of the fact that there is a substantial likelihood that more children will be chewed up and obliterated by the future drone strikes he authorizes in our name.
The killing of these innocents by our drones is therefore done knowingly, and we are all morally responsible for them.
Some of the hard questions raised are these. Can the President’s words in Newtown and his deeds with drones be reconciled? Does our responsibility for not killing children or permitting their killing stop at the water’s edge? Are the Pakistani and Yemeni children just theirs, or are they ours, for whom we also bear responsibility, when it comes to their lives and limbs?
People all over the world have expressed their anguish over the loss of Newtown’s children. In our globalized, interconnected world today, do we all share responsibility for keeping children safe in one global “community?”
Don’t the Pakistani and Yemeni children, and their anguished parents, belong to that community? Are we prepared to say that the price of American freedom is the violence and carnage we visit upon these children? I am not, not after Newtown.
If, Mr. President, “they are all our children,” then “we have to change.” We will have to stop the drone strikes and fight our enemies with other means. Hew to the spirit of your words in Newtown, and as part of the action to be taken in response to the horror we have