Chris Antal: A Resignation of Conscience
Sam Trumbore | Jun 09, 2016

bts_revantal_2Unitarian Universalist minister and military chaplain Rev. Chris Antal, a former intern in our congregation, has resigned from the Army as a protest against U.S. military policy. Below is a copy of his letter which outlines his reasons:

“Dear Mr. President:

“I hereby resign my commission as an Officer in the United States Army.

“I resign because I refuse to support U.S. armed drone policy. The Executive Branch continues to claim the right to kill anyone, anywhere on earth, at any time, for secret reasons, based on secret evidence, in a secret process, undertaken by unidentified officials. I refuse to support this policy of unaccountable killing.

“I resign because I refuse to support U.S. nuclear weapons policy. The Executive Branch continues to invest billions of dollars into nuclear weapons, which threaten the existence of humankind and the earth. I refuse to support this policy of terror and mutually assured destruction.

“I resign because I refuse to support U.S. policy of preventive war, permanent military supremacy and global power projection. The Executive Branch continues to claim extra-constitutional authority and impunity from international law. I refuse to support this policy of imperial overstretch.

“I resign because I refuse to serve as an empire chaplain. I cannot reconcile these policies with either my sworn duty to protect and defend America and our constitutional democracy or my covenantal commitment to the core principles of my religion faith. These principles include: justice, equity and compassion in human relations, a free and responsible search for truth, a commitment to the democratic process, and the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

“Respectfully submitted,

“Christopher John Antal”

Rev. Antal does not reject the use of drones as a weapon of war in this letter. He does reject the policy that governs their use. That policy sanctions their use unilaterally by the Executive Branch of our government without oversight by another branch of government.  He rejects what he believes to be an overreach of authority to wage global war guided by the President without authorization by Congress. The attack on 9/11 has set up an endless war on terrorism that knows no borders or limits. President Obama, while striving to reduce our troop deployments has substituted drones to continue the fight.

The morality of drone strikes is powerfully explored in the movie, Eye in the Sky. In the movie, a terrorist safe house is identified. Through clever video penetration of the building, a scene unfolds with suicide bombers being armed for an attack.  The drone can stop that attack which would likely kill many people but a little girl sits outside the house selling bread. The drama unfolds thousands of miles away as the ethics of endangering her life vs. preventing a suicide bombing are argued at the highest levels of government.

This is the new world of warfare we have created with our sophisticated technology. On the one hand, had a fighter jet been scrambled to drop a bomb on that house, many more would have been killed by the explosion that could only be roughly estimated in the targeting process. But with the powerful cameras on the drones, we now know exactly who might be injured or killed by a missile fired from the drone.

Even more challenging is the targeting process itself. When someone is accused of a crime, they are arrested and have an opportunity to defend themselves in a trial. In the case of a drone strike, the Executive Branch is judge and jury without a trial as the suspect is assassinated. And we’ve seen cases of drone targeting being manipulated by war lords to settle scores with rivals that have nothing to do with a threat to our national security. Even if there is no collateral damage done, the innocent can still be wrongly killed through this process of high tech assassination. And the price tag on such a killing is probably in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

So today I praise Rev. Antal’s courage to speak out that I expect will have negative repercussions for him. But within Unitarian Universalism, he will be respected and honored for standing by his conscience and doing what he believes is right. In that way, he has been faithful to our religious tradition in his action.