As a pastor and a psychologist, I feel it is my duty to strive to understand how my government’s policy treats both the soul and mind of Americans and people around the world. Ensuring that our government considers the humanity of the people it governs or comes into conflict with is the only way to impose a semblance of morality to our government’s actions.

It has become apparent to me – and to many people of faith and good conscience – that morality and humanity are seriously lacking in the U.S. program of drone warfare, a program that the best estimates say has killed over 2,500 people around the world.

It is not difficult to see how U.S. drone strikes dehumanize the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen. Because they are operated from remote locations, and employed in a manner that sidesteps traditional rules of engagement, drone warfare enables the United States to increase our operations overseas – including increasing the risk of the loss of innocent life – while jeopardizing far fewer American lives.

In military slang, a drone killing is often referred to as a “bug splat,” with the distance between victims of the attack and those who order them allowing for nearly total dehumanization of the man, woman or child who has just died. The logic inherent in this type of warfare is that the lives of others are somehow less valuable, less worthy, less human than our own.

What is less obvious is that this is not all fun and video games for the drone operators. Increasingly, drone operators report extreme trauma after a “kill” with a drone under their control.

As a psychologist, it is easy for me to see why the trauma is so great. A drone operator may observe a family for weeks or months. They watch the “target” playing with his children, visiting with family or caring for an elderly relative. Despite drone warfare’s promise of highly targeted killing, its victims are often noncombatants whose only crime may be that they are loosely associated with a group that is hostile to the U.S.

Drone operators may be aware of this collateral damage but be powerless to stop it after an order has been given. And if one of those children gets in the way of the strike, the trauma is magnified. The healthy human psyche is not hardwired for such a cat-and-mouse game of death.

This is a pattern reminiscent of the nuclear arms race, and one we have seen in countless other instances. Drones ask us to sacrifice the sanctity of each human life – our own and our enemies’ – on the altar of technological advancement and the shaky promise of greater security.

Beyond the moral implications of lethal drone use, we face a harsh political reality. The chaos, anger and resentment that the drone program creates around the world do not make us more secure. In fact, they do quite the opposite. The drone program is dangerous foreign policy.

As a participant in the first Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare, I recently had the privilege of gathering at Princeton Theological Seminary in New Jersey with 150 religious leaders, academics and activists from 22 states and 20 different religious traditions.

As people of faith and conscience, we have an obligation to challenge drone warfare and to advocate for a U.S. foreign policy that is in line with our moral codes. Drone warfare as it is currently practiced must be challenged by all people of good faith and conscience.

The conference ended with a consensus statement and a list of policy recommendations on drone warfare. Along with my colleagues in Princeton, I call upon people of faith to rise up in a moral voice on this issue.

We call upon the Obama administration to halt all lethal drone strikes and to make an accounting of past strikes.

We call on Congress to commission an independent study on the impact of lethal drones on drone operators, targeted persons and affected communities to determine the full consequences of drone use.

We call for a conversation that can lead us to a national consensus on just peace, turning the resources used for drone development toward alternative measures for addressing terrorism and war.

We do not need newer and more sophisticated killing machines. We need more humanity. Please join me and religious leaders from across the nation in pressing our government toward a more just and lasting peace.

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