Army Chaplain Resigns over Drone Wars

The U.S. government’s reliance on drones to sustain perpetual war in the Mideast is meeting resistance from some assigned to carry out and justify these tactics, including a U.S. Army chaplain who resigned in protest, writes Ann Wright.

By Ann Wright

U.S. Army Reserve Chaplain Captain Christopher John Antal resigned from the U.S. Army Reserves on April 12 in opposition to U.S policies regarding militarized drones, nuclear weapons and preventive war. Antal stated he could not serve as a chaplain for an “empire” and could not “reconcile his duty to protect and defend America and its constitutional democracy and his commitment to the core principles of his religious faith including justice, equity and compassion and the inherent worth and dignity of every person” with policies of the United States.

His letter of resignation stated that he resigned because he could not support “unaccountable killing” through the U.S. armed drone policy and the Executive Branch claiming “the right to kill anyone, anywhere on earth, at any time, based on secret evidence, in a secret process, undertaken by unidentified officials.”

A Predator drone firing a missile.

A Predator drone firing a missile.

Antal also cites his opposition to the U.S. nuclear weapons policy calling it a policy of “terror and mutually assured destruction that threatens the existence of humanity and the earth.”

In his letter of resignation, Antal refuses to support the U.S. policy of “preventive war, permanent military supremacy and global power projection” in what he calls “imperial overreach through extra-constitutional authority and impunity from international law.”

From September 2012 through February 2013 Chris Antal was an Army chaplain to a signals battalion supporting the 3rd Infantry Division at Kandahar Airbase in southern Afghanistan. While his unit did not have operational responsibilities for drones, Chaplain Antal saw drones launch and land where he gave services for military personnel killed in Afghanistan and whose remains were being transported back to the United States.

Additionally, he was concerned about the use of drones after hearing about a drone attack in which a grandmother had been killed while picking okra in a field near her home in the region around the military base.

On Veterans’ Day 2012, identifying himself as an Army chaplain in Afghanistan, he posted “A Veterans’ Day Confession for America” on the Unitarian Universalist site, A Quest for Meaning, in the form of a poetic testimony.

Antal wrote, “We have sanitized killing and condoned extrajudicial assassinations … war made easy without due process, protecting ourselves from the human cost of war./We have deceived ourselves…denying the colossal misery our wars inflict on the innocent.”

Rev. John Antal, who resigned as an Army chaplain in protest of drone warfare and other aspects of America's perpetual wars.

Rev. John Antal, who resigned as an Army chaplain in protest of drone warfare, nuclear weapons and other aspects of America’s perpetual wars.

He had delivered this sermon during a worship service of military personnel and contractors who had freely gathered for a service in the Unitarian Universalist tradition at Kandahar Air Base.

Antal’s commanding officer was informed about his article, told him “you make us look like the bad guys” and “the message does not support the mission.” The commander said he had lost confidence in Antal and had him investigated, grounded from travel and officially reprimanded by a letter from a general officer at Division level.

Antal was sent back to the U.S. with a “do not promote” evaluation and discharged from active duty. Antal challenged the punishment through New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and her congressional inquiry resulted in his re-activation and promotion to Captain in the U.S. Army Reserve.

The Rev. Antal spoke on March 30 at the Veterans for Peace symposium “Inside Drone Warfare: Perspectives of Whistleblowers, Families of Drone Victims and Their Lawyers,” held at the University of Nevada Las Vegas Law School with military and CIA drone whistleblowers. The symposium was held during the week of vigils called “Shut Down Creech 2016” at Creech Drone base, 60 miles outside of Las Vegas.

During his talk at the symposium, Rev. Antal said the U.S. Army had changed its policy on the duties of chaplains to silence dissent on military policies that concern speaking with a “prophetic voice” and on issues of “moral turpitude.”

The phrase speaking with a prophetic voice and issues of moral turpitude was eliminated from the 2015 version of the Chaplain regulations. While the 2015 regulation charges chaplains to speak “with candor as an advocate to confront and support resolution to challenges and issues of the command,” what happened to him when he spoke with candor demonstrates that the Army does not want chaplains speaking truth to power.

The 2009 Regulations for Chaplains states: “3-2  Chaplains, in performing their duties, are expected to speak with a prophetic voice and must confront the issues of religious accommodation, the obstruction of free exercise of religion, and moral turpitude in conflict with the Army values.”

The 2015 version states: “3-2  Chaplains, in performing their duties, are expected to speak with candor as an advocate to confront and support resolution to challenges and issues of the command.”

Currently, Rev. Antal is a minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Rock Tavern, New York, is the convener of Veterans for Peace Hudson Valley Chapter 177, and chaplain at the Philadelphia VA Medical Center. He is married and has five children.

Following is Chaplain Antal’s letter of resignation:

April 12, 2016

MEMORANDUM FOR Commander-in-Chief, The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20500

THRU U.S. Army Resources Command, ATTN; AHRC-OPL-P, 1600 Spearhead Division Avenue, Ft. Knox, KY 40122

SUBJECT: Resignation in Protest

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 tie, 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 weapon 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 ad 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 wither 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; and the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

Respectfully submitted,

Christopher John Antal

Ann Wright served 29 years in the U.S. Army/ Army Reserves and retired as a Colonel. She served 16 years as a U.S. diplomat in U.S. Embassies in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia, Afghanistan and Mongolia. She was on the small team that reopened the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan in December, 2001. She resigned from the U.S. government in March, 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq.

image_pdfimage_print

18 comments for “Army Chaplain Resigns over Drone Wars

  1. Druid
    May 15, 2016 at 17:52

    Bravo!

  2. Vic Pittman
    May 15, 2016 at 12:22

    Is there anything more ridiculous than Christian chaplains in the military? Assuming that Christianity is based on the teachings of Jesus Christ, it takes just a minimal amount of study to realize that one can be a soldier or one can be a Christian, but there is no way in hell one can be both at the same time.

  3. incontinent reader
    May 14, 2016 at 14:08

    When America has women of the character and experience of Ann Wright and others to lead the country, why is it wasting its time on crooks and villains like Hillary Clinton and her ‘apparachicks’, who keep making the same mistakes, committing the same crimes and advocating for more of the same?

  4. dan hanchrow
    May 13, 2016 at 14:05

    Huzzah Reverend!

  5. May 13, 2016 at 04:22

    Huxley and Orwell would not be surprised at the technical terror let loose in the skies. The Chinese curse, May you live in interesting times, applies to the U.S.A Heaven help us all, Jack.

  6. SFOMARCO
    May 13, 2016 at 02:05

    You’re soldiers of God you must understand
    The fate of your country is in your young hands
    May God give you strength
    Do your job real well
    If it all was worth it
    Only time it will tell

    In the morning they return
    With tears in their eyes
    The stench of death drifts up to the skies
    A soldier so ill looks at the sky pilot
    Sky pilot…..sky pilot
    How high can you fly
    You never, never, never reach the sky

    — Eric Burdon & the Animals

    • May 15, 2016 at 17:47

      my name is itchy an I am a u.s. veteran u.s.c.g. an also a minister of the great spirit whom created all life I agree with the mr.antal whom resigned from the army he so correct with his princeipals an morals I am also a father with two children an I never want them to join the military because they are all I have we must try to stop the drones an all war for profit thank you for common sense an wisdom in a blind world

    • May 15, 2016 at 22:22

      SFOMARCO, I had the same thought–Bingo! Those chaplains who are not persuaded by Rev. Antal fall into that category of “sky pilots.”

  7. Regina Schulte
    May 12, 2016 at 20:53

    I am fully grateful for Rev. Antal’s public declaration against the seemingly endless war-making the U.S. government continues to engage in. And, it is my opinion also, that the use of drones to kill is an outrage of the highest order. Are we now among the worst terrorists in the world? Are we proliferating “the killing fields” around the globe in order to dominate other nations? Would that we had more Rev. Antals to speak out and give witness to the violence that
    our nation is inflicting on others.

  8. Bill Bodden
    May 12, 2016 at 18:49

    See also: American Imperialism’s Military Chaplains by Rev. William Alberts – http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/07/24/american-imperialisms-military-chaplains/

  9. tomw
    May 12, 2016 at 16:00

    As a disabled combat veteran of the Vietnam war and a PC-USA minister, I find the change in regs by the military regarding the duties and freedom (now non-freedom) of the pulpit especially disturbing. If the Pentagon is to employ religious representatives “endorsed” by various communions(or denominations) and then muzzle them on issues of moral turpitude, they are then removed from fulfilling their own (or at least the PC-USA’s) calling. This seems to me one more step towards embracing a state religion which brings with it a “god” who endorses whatever the state chooses. How is this different from Islamic extremism?

    • Shafiq
      May 14, 2016 at 22:30

      Tom, I’m a Christian professor in Pakistan and I was moved by your post. Last night after leaving Pentecost Mass, I was thinking that we become so caught up in rhetoric, policy, law and other human devices to the exclusion of the true source of truth and power. For too long the voices of people of faith and clergy have been silent, or at least muted, and allowed great evil to hold sway. Religion is losing its hold in the US, in large part because it has become irrelevant at best and an accomplice to wickedness much of the time. It is time to call the faithful back to Jesus’s message of truth and peace and emphasize its relevance to public policy. Morality is fractal; it applies on all scales, and what is sinful for an individual does not become virtuous when done by a nation.

  10. Mary
    May 12, 2016 at 14:37

    Rev. Antal gives me hope that these immoral, inhumane, illegal, unconstitutional and insane policies can be challenged. He follows in the footsteps of Rev. Martin Luther King, the Berrigans and anyone who works for and believes in the sanctity of human life, of all life. The grave problems of our world are crying out for real solutions. There must be another alternative to killing, to perpetual war.

    Mary

  11. Zachary Smith
    May 12, 2016 at 13:56

    I suppose this is the part which bothers me the most.

    The 2009 Regulations for Chaplains states: “3-2 Chaplains, in performing their duties, are expected to speak with a prophetic voice and must confront the issues of religious accommodation, the obstruction of free exercise of religion, and moral turpitude in conflict with the Army values.”

    The 2015 version states: “3-2 Chaplains, in performing their duties, are expected to speak with candor as an advocate to confront and support resolution to challenges and issues of the command.”

    Sneaky rewriting of the rule books seems to be happening everywhere. The US Army manuals have been modified to permit some of the worst tortures – the ones which don’t leave any marks on the body but destroy a person’s mind.

    Then there is the campaign within the US Courts to ‘modify’ what the US Constitution means. A recent example:

    “Former police officer locked in solitary confinement for 7 months after not handing over his passwords”

    In other words, the Fifth Amendment doesn’t mean a thing if you can locate some dishonest court officials.

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/morning-mix/wp/2016/04/29/fifth-amendment-battle-former-police-officer-has-been-locked-in-solitary-confinement-for-7-months-after-not-handing-over-his-passwords/

  12. dfnslblty
    May 12, 2016 at 13:31

    Bravo!
    ¿Where are the other chaplains? *person who is appointed to provide spiritual leadership and counseling to members of an institution….
    thankyou Ann Wright for reporting and for your leadership

  13. Con Dassos
    May 12, 2016 at 13:27

    Come on! This isn’t a religious act. This is common sense. Congratulations Mr Antal. And to others planning the same…. DO IT, DO IT WITHOUT ANY FEAR, NOW!!

    • Rikhard Ravindra Tanskanen
      May 12, 2016 at 18:15

      As an atheist, I thank you.

  14. dahoit
    May 12, 2016 at 12:06

    The ultimate provocative act,standing up for religious precepts in a time of atheism.

Comments are closed.