Thu, 31 Jan 2013 05:51 CST
Acclimatization: Cover of upcoming Time Magazine
In absolute disregard for both the US Constitution and international law, US drones are currently killing civilians, including women and children1, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Uganda and the Philippines. Thousands have been killed, and tens of thousands more terrorized, by fleets of remote-controlled ‘drone’ aircraft.2
For those living in these drone-infested regions, the reality they experience on a daily basis is horrifying. In the dark future envisaged in the science fiction Terminator movies, human decisions are removed from strategic operations once an artificial intelligence (AI) called ‘Skynet’ takes control. In real life we have the conscienceless Military-Industrial Complex – run by humanoids in the CIA, Pentagon, British Ministry of Defence, US and UK Government administrations and weapons manufacturers – working together to develop a war machine that has removed all semblance of humanity from combat operations. In the movies we’re invited to excuse Skynet’s creators because it is no longer under their control. In real life, terminator drones are programmed to ‘double-tap’ their targets, a euphemism for deliberately targeting rescuers attempting to drag victims from rubble in the aftermath of the initial drone strike. The predictable result, is that for every “terrorist” killed in Pakistan 49 civilians are murdered also .
10,000 Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) aka drones are said to be currently in service around the globe, “protecting Western civilization from terrorists”. A thousand of these are armed and most of them are American-operated. It is reported they have killed more non-combatant civilians than died in 9/11 (and that’s just the ‘official estimates’). While military personnel cuts have shrunk the sizes of standing armies, ‘theaters of operations’ have expanded. In the US, the ‘FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012′, has seen the Federal Aviation Administration, NASA and other agencies work towards the total integration of commercial drones into US airspace. Ethical and privacy concerns are simply swept aside while the proliferation of drone technology is driven by the greed of powerful defense contractors.
Obama Loves Death-Dealing Drones
The assassination of 16-year old US citizen Abdulrahman Al-awlaki
Michael Boyle, who was on Obama’s counter-terrorism group in the run-up to his election in 2008, writes that Obama abandoned his pledge to restore respect for the rule of law following the Bush administration. What we have now instead is a commander-in-chief with a secret kill list who thinks it’s OK to just terminate anyone he suspects ‘might be a terrorist’.
He said Obama “has been just as ruthless and indifferent to the rule of law as his predecessor… while President Bush issued a call to arms to defend ‘civilisation’ against the threat of terrorism, President Obama has waged his war on terror in the shadows, using drone strikes, special operations and sophisticated surveillance to fight a brutal covert war against al-Qaida and other Islamist networks.”
Drones have enabled the Obama administration to continue Bush’s war on terror more cheaply and in a more publicly palatable manner. By changing the rhetoric and strategy, and assisted by a silent and obedient media, Obama’s drone war gets little public attention. Earlier this year the White House won a court case to keep its reasons for drone killings of Americans secret. The case referred to the 2011 drone assassinations of Anwar al-Awlaki, Samir Khan and al-Awlaki’s teenage son, Abdulrahman al-Awlaki – all US nationals.
Economist John Aziz said Obama’s lack of transparency regarding drones makes him a member of ‘Drone Club‘; the first rule of Drone Club being that you don’t talk about it. Obama claims that the drone strikes are conducted on a very rigorous basis:
1. “It has to be a target that is authorized by our laws.”
2. “It has to be a threat that is serious and not speculative.”
3. “It has to be a situation in which we can’t capture the individual before they move forward on some sort of operational plot against the United States.”
4. “We’ve got to make sure that in whatever operations we conduct, we are very careful about avoiding civilian casualties.
5. “That while there is a legal justification for us to try and stop [American citizens] from carrying out plots … they are subject to the protections of the Constitution and due process.”
And yet, as Wired notes:
At least two of those five points appear to be half-truths at best. In both Yemen and Pakistan, the CIA is allowed to launch a strike based on the target’s “signature” – that is, whether he appears to look and act like a terrorist. As senior U.S. officials have repeatedly confirmed, intelligence analysts don’t even have to know the target’s name, let alone whether he’s planning to attack the U.S. In some cases, merely being a military-aged male at the wrong place at the wrong time is enough to justify your death.
When asked by journalist Ben Swann whether his sanctioning of extra-judicial killing (killing without trial or due process) is legal, Obama brushed his question aside by deferring to ‘national security’:
Rise of the Domestic Drones
Back in the US, at least ten law enforcement agencies already have drones for surveillance purposes. Soon the largest local law enforcement agency, the NYPD, will be added to that list. Drones have already been approved by courts for assisting in arrests of citizens on US soil. The FAA has received at least 60 applications for drone deployment in the US and this month alone approved 348 drones for domestic use, mostly for monitoring illegal immigration along the Mexican border, but drones will soon be used to monitor cities nationwide.
Commercial drones are being developed for a wide-range of applications. They can be fitted with a number of remote sensors such as electromagnetic spectrum, biological, gamma ray and chemical sensors. Applications include telecommunications, weather forecasting, maritime monitoring and construction. Using GPS, drones can be used for the transportation of food, medicines and equipment. Aerial surveillance is a major area for use in policing, journalism, security, photography and movie-making. Other applications include search and rescue, oil and mineral exploration, researching inaccessible areas and environmental support. (See this infographic for more details).
Congress has mandated that US airspace be fully opened to drones by September 2015. The FAA said its “chief mission is to ensure the safety and efficiency of the [national air space], as well as people and property on the ground.” The agency “recognizes that there are privacy concerns”, but acknowledged that it does not require drone operators to follow any privacy guidelines.
In the UK, defense firms, police forces and fire services have permission to fly small drones. Organisations seeking approval include the BBC, the National Grid, universities and video golf marketing that provides fly-over videos of golf courses. UAVs are also being considered to monitor crowded events in Britain, such as concerts and festivals, as soon as the aerial units become cost-effective. In addition, the European Commission has allocated 260 million pounds ($412 million) for the ‘Eurosur’ project, which also includes a surveillance plan to patrol the Mediterranean coast with UAVs.
Killer Drone Technology
Since the first killer-drone strike in Afghanistan in 2002, there has been a rapid increase in drone technology developments and the number of drones in operation. The most popular is the Predator MQ-1 equipped with Hellfire missiles. With a cruising speed of 85 miles per hour, the 360 Predators currently deployed have a range of 770 miles each and can stay airbourne for 24 hours at altitudes of 25,000 feet. Each drone costs $4 million to build, millions more to operate and in total the Predator program has cost at least $2.38 billion. Drone operations are conducted from an estimated sixty bases around the world.
© The Mail Online
Revolutionary: Taranis, Britain’s latest pilotless combat aircraft, will make is maiden flight in the next few weeks
The UK is also actively pursuing ways of making drones as lethal as possible. The world’s largest arms manufacturer BAE systems has developed a ‘superdrone’ named Taranis for the British MoD. Equipped with a customized Rolls-Royce jet engine rather than a propeller, Taranis can deliver deadly payloads, missiles that can be launched with or without human intervention, and will be able to fly from British bases at high speed to attack targets in theaters worldwide, beginning in Mali next month.
The Pentagon also wants more autonomous drones powered by jet-engines with longer ranges that can be run without human intervention. Defense contractor Northrop Grumman is reportedly developing nuclear-powered drones capable of carrying more missiles or surveillance equipment and flying over more remote regions of the world for months at a time.
The U.S. Army, together with Boeing, is deploying three new unmanned “Hummingbird” in Afghanistan. With “vertical take-off and landing unmanned aerial system” (VTOL-UAS), they spy from an altitude of 20,000 feet and are able to scan 25 square miles of ground surface at a time.
The ‘upward falling payload’ (UFP) program is a DARPA project to construct deep sea bases in ‘contested’ areas, from which UAVs would be launched to the surface when needed for “strategic humanitarian intervention.”
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