US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Rand Paul's filibuster and our nation's drone program

By Elizabeth Lefebvre | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

Rand Paul took to the Senate floor yesterday morning and spoke for nearly 13 hours to filibuster John Brennan’s CIA nomination. Though it’s unlikely that Paul’s takeover of the Senate will do much to impede Brennan’s nomination, Paul’s words did draw some more attention to our country’s drone program.

Much of the Kentucky senator’s talk focused on the issue that the administration has not explicitly stated that it would not use a drone strike to kill a noncombatant on American soil.

In case you missed the coverage or weren’t able to stick around for all 13 hours, The Atlantic has provided a helpful “CliffNotes” version highlighting the main points from the filibuster. Among the sound bytes, Paul says:

The problem is that the drone strike program is often not about combatants. It is about people who may or may not be conspiring but they're not in combat. They're in a car, they're in their house, they're in a restaurant, they're in a cafe. If we're going to bring that standard to America, what I'm doing down here today is asking the president to be explicit. If you're going to have the standard that you're going to kill noncombatants in America, come forward and please say it clearly so we know what we're up against. 

However, Paul does admit that he doesn’t visualize Obama using drones to wantonly kill innocent citizens like an evil tyrant:

 I don't think the president would purposely take innocent people and kill them. I really don't think he would drop a Hellfire missile on a cafe or a restaurant like I'm talking about. But it bothers me that he won't say that he won't.

It’s true that the administration has been less than forthcoming about the controversial program, which has come under scrutiny for killing noncombatants overseas. Additionally, this week we have heard of the findings of Dr. Peter Schaapveld, a clinical and forensic psychologist who traveled to Yemen last month to study the effects of drone strikes on children. Schaapveld said of his research:

What I saw in Yemen was deeply disturbing. Entire communities – including young children who are the next generation of Yemenis – are being traumatised and re-traumatised by drones. Not only is this having truly awful immediate effects but the psychological damage done will outlast any counterprogramme and surely outweigh any possible benefits.

The administration will surely have many questions to answer about drones – both Rand Paul’s about the program at home, and from others about the program at large.  

Flickr photo cc by Doctress Neutopia