US Congress Ignores Drone Attack Survivors in Washington DC


I don’t use this blog to wade into partisan politics, but I do pay attention to certain components of American politics, and in particular I care about our foreign policy. If you were to ask me right now, as an American, how many nations America is at war with, I’m not sure I could give you an accurate response. There are the official wars, and then there are the unofficial wars. I find all of them to be disturbing.

Launching drone missiles into other nations and killing their citizens – these are acts of war. If any other nation sent drone strikes into Austin, Boston, or Tuscon, killing residents there, it’s not hard to imagine how the US would react and how we would label such acts. However, there’s apparently a world of difference if we’re the perpetrators rather than the victims. The US may not officially be at war with Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, and Somalia, but our government under both George Bush and Barack Obama (and any hidden hands that order their steps) has been carrying out acts of war against these nations, and the American public is mostly silent.

Hundreds of civilians, including women and children, have been killed by American drone strikes. Others have lost body limbs. Even more people are afraid to step outside, walk to school, go to the neighborhood convenience store, etc. I’ve bookmarked a number of articles on this phenomenon, with eye-opening statistics and more, and I’ll probably include most of them in a future post.

In this post I’d like to share an article about a Congressional hearing on this issue that took place in Washington, DC at the end of October. I had read about this upcoming hearing, where US lawmakers could hear from drone attack survivors for the first time. I had read about the Pakistani lawyer representing these survivors being repeatedly harrassed by manufactured visa issues. And I had hoped that this hearing would be well attended, well publicized, and effective in turning the tide toward justice and compassion. Out of America’s 535 lawmakers (435 Congress representatives and 100 Senators), only five had the decency to attend:

In “historic” briefing, Rehman family gives heartbreaking account of drone killing of 65-year-old grandmother… to five lawmakers.

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer: October 29, 2013

The Rehman family waits to testify at the Congressional Briefing on drone strikes Tuesday, October 29. (Photo: @akneerudh/ Twitter)

Despite being heralded as the first time in history that U.S. lawmakers would hear directly from the survivors of a U.S. drone strike, only five elected officials chose to attend the congressional briefing that took place Tuesday.

Nabila Rehman, 9, holds up a picture she drew depicting the US drone strike on her Pakistan village which killed her grandmother. (Photograph: Jason Reed/Reuters)

Pakistani schoolteacher Rafiq ur Rehman and his two children—9 year-old daughter Nabila and 13 year-old son Zubair—came to Washington, DC to give their account of a U.S. drone attack that killed Rafiq’s mother, Momina Bibi, and injured the two children in the remote tribal region of North Waziristan last October.

According to journalist Anjali Kamat, who was present and tweeting live during the hearing, the only lawmakers to attend the briefing organized by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), were Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.).

Before the handful of reporters and scant lawmakers, however, Rafiq and his children gave dramatic testimony which reportedly caused the translator to break down into tears.

In her testimony, Nabila shared that she was picking okra with her grandmother when the U.S. missile struck and both children described how they used to play outside but are now too afraid.

“I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. Drones don’t fly when sky is grey,” said [13 year old] Zubair, whose leg was injured by shrapnel during the strike.

“My grandmother was nobody’s enemy,” he added.

“Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rafiq wrote in an open letter to President Barack Obama last week. “The media reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother’s house. Several reported the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All reported that five militants were killed. Only one person was killed – a 65-year-old grandmother of nine.”

“But the United States and its citizens probably do not know this,” Rafiq continued. “No one ever asked us who was killed or injured that day. Not the United States or my own government. Nobody has come to investigate nor has anyone been held accountable.”

He concluded, “Quite simply, nobody seems to care.”

You can watch a recording of the briefing below and here:

The purpose of the briefing, Grayson told the Guardian, is “simply to get people to start to think through the implications of killing hundreds of people ordered by the president, or worse, unelected and unidentifiable bureaucrats within the Department of Defense without any declaration of war.”

The family was joined by their legal representative Jennifer Gibson of the UK human rights organization Reprieve. Their Islamabad-based lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, was also supposed to be present but was denied a visa by the US authorities—”a recurring problem,” according to Reprieve, “since he began representing civilian victims of drone strikes in 2011.”

“The onus is now on President Obama and his Administration to bring this war out of the shadows and to give answers,” said Gibson.

Also present was U.S. filmmaker Robert Greenwald, who first met Rafiq when he traveled to Pakistan to interview the drone strike victims for his documentary Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars.  Before the briefing, Greenwald told the Guardian that he hoped the briefing “will begin the process of demanding investigation. Innocent people are being killed.”

The following clip from Unmanned was shown at Tuesday’s hearing:

John Hagee and Benny Hinn: Warmongering for the Wrong Kingdom


For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17). Those who follow Christ are citizens of God’s kingdom. One of its characteristics, says Paul, is peace. This truth and others concerning God’s kingdom seem to be completely lost on some of today’s most popular teachers, as we will see shortly. According to Jesus, His kingdom is also not earthly or political, not even observable by the human eye:

Once, on being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst [or ‘in you’]” (Luke 17:20-21).

John the Baptist and Jesus both preached the nearness of God’s kingdom during their time, repeatedly saying that this kingdom was “at hand” (e.g. Matthew 3:2, 4:17). In Mark 1:15, Jesus even prefaced His statement by saying “The time is fulfilled.” Did His assurance on this point reflect any time statements in the Old Testament regarding the kingdom? The writings of the prophet Daniel are most helpful in this regard. Daniel 7:13-14 pictures Jesus ascending to His Father and receiving an everlasting kingdom that would never be destroyed (“…behold with the clouds of heaven there came One like a son of man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom…”).

At this point, Daniel looks to a subsequent time when the saints would soon possess this kingdom forever (Daniel 7:18, 22, 27). This would occur following a time when “the fourth beast” would make war with the saints “until the Ancient of Days came” (verses 21-22). Many say that this has not yet happened. We know, however, that Jesus promised to come [1] in His kingdom [2] in the glory of His Father [3] with His angels [4] and in judgment while some of His disciples (Matthew 16:27-28) and some people among His larger audience (Mark 8:34-9:1) were still alive, i.e. in the first century AD. This timing is further substantiated when we see that Jesus, in the Parable of the Tenants, told the religious leaders of Israel that the kingdom of God would be taken away from them and “given to a people producing its fruits” (Matthew 21:43-45), i.e. the Church, or in Daniel’s words, “the saints of the Most High.” This was to take place in their generation, as Jesus outlined in great detail in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21).

Yet another indication of this timing can be seen clearly earlier in the book of Daniel, when he interpreted Nebuchadnezzar’s dream: “And in the days of those kings* the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, nor shall the kingdom be left to another people” (Daniel 2:44). [*Biblical scholars hold a virtual consensus that the four kingdoms in Daniel’s vision were Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. Since Rome was destroyed in 476 AD, we know that, for this prophecy to be true, the kingdom was set up before that time.] A first century fulfillment fits; a 21st century fulfillment doesn’t.

So the meaning of all this is that God’s kingdom is now fully present (and has been for many centuries), it is spiritual and not physical, and one of its characteristics is peace. Similarly, God’s people now belong to Jerusalem, not the earthly one, but rather the heavenly one. Observe what the author of Hebrews wrote to his first century audience:

But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…” (Hebrews 12:22). This truth does not await a future fulfillment, but again has been a present reality for the body of Christ for many centuries. An overview of Hebrews 12:18-28 equates the heavenly Jerusalem with [1] the new covenant (verse 24) and [2] a kingdom that cannot be shaken (verse 28), and contrasts it with the old covenant given through Moses at Mount Sinai (verses 18-21), represented by things that were about to be shaken and removed at that time (verses 26-27). This was accomplished during Israel’s great tribulation (67-70 AD), at which time God’s kingdom was also fully established and set up. This same comparing/contrasting of the two covenants (new and old), and the two Jerusalems (earthly and heavenly) can be seen in Paul’s great allegory of two women (Galatians 4:21-31). Most interestingly, two women are also pictured in the book of Revelation, [1] the adulterous harlot known as “Babylon the Great” and [2] the bride of Christ. One is thrown out, the other is chosen forever. The striking similarities between Galatians 4, Hebrews 12, and Revelation regarding the covenants, Jerusalem (above and below), and God’s kingdom are no coincidence.

The blessings of God belong to those who are His by faith in His Son Jesus, and not according to ethnicity, another truth lost on some of today’s most popular teachers who insist that ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people. Paul couldn’t have been more clear about this (e.g. Galatians 3:16-29).

Enter two of America’s most influential teachers and televangelists, John Hagee and Benny Hinn. In this incredibly sad and disgusting video clip, John Hagee, hosted by Benny Hinn, openly prays (see the 1:05 mark) for God to lead the United States into war against “the enemies of righteousness” (apparently Iran), for the alleged benefit of Israel:

Keeping in mind that peace is one of the traits of God’s kingdom, recall Jesus’ famous and powerful words in the Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God” (Matthew 5:9). PJ Miller well points out the excellent commentary on this verse by Albert Barnes (in 1834):

Those who strive to prevent contention, strife, and war; who use their influence to reconcile opposing parties, and to prevent lawsuits and hostilities in families and neighborhoods. Every man may do something of this; and no man is more like God than he who does it. There ought not to be unlawful and officious interference in that which is none of our business; but without any danger of acquiring this character, every man has many opportunities of reconciling opposing parties. Friends, neighbors, people of influence, lawyers, physicians, ministers of the gospel, may do much to promote peace. And it should be taken in hand in the beginning. “The beginning of strife,” says Solomon, “is like the letting out of water.”

I’m not sure if it’s possible to more blatantly contradict Jesus’ teaching on being peacemakers than what we see in this video. Furthermore, Iran should not be considered the enemy of God’s people who live in America or Britain. Yet, even if we could (hypothetically) say that Iran fills this role, we come face to face with these very powerful words of Jesus, also found in the Sermon on the Mount:

But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you, and persecute you.”

Unless I’ve missed something in the news, how is Hagee so confident that the United States WILL go to war? He says this twice, at the 1:33 mark and again at the 1:55 mark in this video. The way he prayed this “prayer,” one would think he was a close presidential advisor equipped with key inside information that most don’t yet have. His use of the phrase “against the enemies of righteousness” implies that the whole of the United States is righteous and outsiders are not. The angels of heaven even allegedly go before the US army, and Britain’s army as well (2:00 mark).

Just as John Hagee seems to care nothing about the Christian Palestinian population (instead “favoring” mostly unbelieving Jews**), he also implicates the Christians in Iran with his warmongering schemes that would result in their demise, if he could have his way. According to some, Iran is quietly experiencing its greatest revival ever in terms of people coming to Christ:

John Hagee is warmongering instead of seeking peace, and he’s doing so for the wrong kingdom, one that is earthly instead of heavenly, visible instead of spiritual. The Christian Zionist movement he so openly represents is also deeply concerned with (in a distorted way) the wrong Jerusalem, again the earthly one instead of the heavenly one. My hope is that blatant displays of disobedience to God’s word like this will cause even more people to question and turn away from Christian Zionist theology.

John Hagee and others who hold to futurist, dispensationalist teachings tend to believe and proclaim that this generation is ripe for worldwide judgment, that we’re on the precipice of great doom and destruction and decline, that we’ll soon see the end of world history, etc. I believe this generation is pivotal for reasons that are quite the opposite. Many are awakening to the truth that God’s kingdom is already fully established, and that His people are called to advance it in peaceful and spiritually powerful ways. If this generation of God’s people turns away from the doomsday message of teachers like John Hagee, and instead embraces the truth of the New Testament and walks in the realities of the New Covenant established by Christ, great things can happen in the near future and in generations ahead of us. May it be.

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**John Hagee, who many might think deeply cares for Jews, raises millions of dollars to bring them to Israel, where, according to his teaching, two (2) out of every three (3) Jews will one day soon be slaughtered in a tribulation that is greater than anything the Jews experienced in 67-70 AD or during the Holocaust of the last century.