When the audience sit on the edge of their chairs, listening in to the strenuous debates between the politicians, the military, and the legal advisors whether they have the justification to engage with the drone attack on a secretive terrorist gathering in Nairobi, Kenya with the possibility of fatally injuring a civilian girl, they are also viewing the portrayal of the inner battle of western conscience in the most dramatic form. The voice of the military that advocates to proceed with the mission contradicts to that of the moralists in a way almost similar to how cartoons would portray an argument of the angel and the devil on our shoulders – except they are both good and evil at the same time. Perhaps most of us would resonate with the third voice – the minister who has the final authority to say ‘yay’ or ‘nay’. And, he simply doesn’t know what to do!
The argument from the side of the pro’s is simple. “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few or the one.” Mr. Spock said that to Captain James T. Kirk in The Wrath of Khan, prophesying his own sacrifice to save the entire starship Enterprise and everyone else on-board. To the military, the sacrifice of the one girl is justifiable to prevent fatal attacks by suicidal bombers in a crowded market or a shopping mall. However, the matter is much complicated when it is not about self-sacrificial heroism but that the life of a young girl! Even more, that decision is being made by people sitting comfortably in an office far way from the scene sipping coffee. The side of the con’s wants to deal with the now and immediate. What sits in front of their eyes is real. The life of the girl links to her father and mother. She studies; she plays; she works around the house; and she sells bread that her mother bakes. She’s a real person. And, frankly the concern for her life resonates with our Christian values that God sees every life as precious! The drone pilots, the character Angela Northman, the sergeant who followed orders to falsify the CDE (Collateral Damage Estimate) all weigh in to this side of the argument, making the inner battle of conscience as fierce as the battle outside.
We all know how the movie would end. The director is like walking us through the process, giving us the context to tell ourselves that we had to do what we did. “We had to pull the trigger” – we tell ourselves. “We had to do this for the lesser evil.” In choosing to sacrifice this girl, we have also chosen to kill off a part of us. Something inside us died. Perhaps it was part of our morals or perhaps it was our sensitivity to other lives. The moralists seemed to have made their point. But, then, Alan Rickman says this at the end: “Do not tell a soldier he does not know the cost of war.” He ensures us that “What you have seen today is horrible, but the scene of a suicidal bombing is much worse.” And, so, the debate continues.