11 March 2010

Drone dangers

Hello good people.
I got a very good comment on the last post here. While I just made mention of the obscene amounts of money that are being wasted on the idiotic wars of choice we are stuck in today, the commenter brought up another reason to be very angry about the current messes. 
The topic of this post will attempt to address that concern. As I said in my reply to his comment, this topic needs its own posting. So, here goes.
One of the very huge dangers we have created for ourselves regards the use of drone aircraft to carry out air strikes in Iraq and in particular, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
These "pilots" who fly the drones "fighting" the war from the comfort of air bases right here in the good old US of A. They drive to the base and clock in to start their shift, fly the mission, and can be safe at home in time for their evening meal. A good part of the air war in Afghanistan and Pakistan is being fought by remote control. While the drones have very sophisticated cameras and sensors, there is still a big risk of "pilot error" in targeting just who or what they are shooting at or bombing. True, there is pilot error when the plane is flown by an actual pilot, so any error of this sort is not native to the remote controlled air craft.
What IS bothersome, frightening in fact, is that by using remotely controlled air craft to carry out the air strikes, we making war more like a video game. The "pilots" who fly these drones only see the video screen in front of them. They do not see the surroundings the same way a real human pilot would.  The entire operation is very much like a video game that one might play at home on any of the current gaming platforms.
There is the worrying bit. By removing the "fighter" from the actual combat arena, we have taken the element of personal danger out of war. By making it so very easy to drop bombs on a target, with no personal danger to the pilot, it becomes just another video game. War made very easy. Too easy in my opinion. As we make war less dangerous and easy, we also make war much more likely.  
Why not bomb any country at any time? If there is no personal rick to the pilot, we make it all too easy to just bomb any where, at any time.  Wars are very messy, nasty, brutish affairs. Just ask anybody who has been in a war. They will tell you it is noisy, dirty, confused, and frightening. Wars are messy folks. 
As we make it safer to bomb a target, we make it easier for the leaders to just send a drone off to bomb anybody they decide to bomb. After all, there is no pilot who could be shot down and/or captured, so the risk is very minimal.
Wars should never be this easy. War should always be the very last resort, and then only for defense.  By using these remote controlled vehicles to fight wars, we are making it way too easy to fight more useless wars.
Unfortunately, I see no way to stop the use of drones. I do agree that using them for surveillance is a good idea. But, as soon as the brass saw how that worked, it was a very small step for them to put bombs on the drones and use them for air strikes. 
In my personal opinion, the only way to end the use of the drones to fight wars is to stop having wars. We are currently involved in three wars of choice. Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. We were lied to in order to drum up support for the first two. We just "needed" to add Pakistan as the Taliban were crossing the Afghan/Pakistan border, so bombing parts of Pakistan was just a "natural" progression of the Afghan war. Or so we have been told. 
The stated "goal" of invading Afghanistan was, or so they said in 2001, was to kill or capture bin Laden. Well, that didn't work out very well. The Taliban had even offered to hand him over to the US before we began our bombing and invasion IF we would provide evidence that he had been behind the 9/11 attacks here. For whatever reason, our "leaders" refused this offer. Why? I have no idea. Maybe we did't/don't have any real proof that bin laden was the force behind the 9/11 attacks. 
In truth, the Taliban have never threatened the USA. They have no air force, no navy, and basically no means of sending a large force to attack us. Also, for the most part, the Taliban are Afghans. Yes, there are some foreign fighters who side with the Taliban, but basically, they Taliban are Afghans, and as such, they will continue to have the support of many of their fellow citizens. In some respects, the Taliban are not unlike the old Minutemen of the American Revolution. They are fighting on home soil for their land and families. We are the "red coats" in their country. Much as we were in Vietnam and Iraq.
The best thing to do, is to stop the wars and bring our troops home. We call it the Department of Defense. OK, then close the over 700 US bases on foreign soil and bring those troops home also. Let them defend America for a change. We could station them at the ports and borders here. Then they would be actually defending America.
The use of drones to fight our wars is making war all to easy. Fewer casualties this way. The pilots even get to be home in time for the evening meal and have time to watch TV with the family. By making war so easy to fight, we insure that we will continue to have more useless damn fool wars of choice.
Just my 2 cents worth.
semper fi


John T said...

Excellent point Charlie.

One of the many reasons this shall continue is, this is what we do.

This is our export economy, war.

I'm certain if everything came up roses in the middle and south Asia there would be another "challenge" to our way of life elsewhere. Maybe those dastardly socialists in South America?

There are too many high rollers making billions who have way too much influence over our government for this to stop.

The people are too hypnotized or suffering to notice any problem with what is unraveling in front of their eyes.

What kind of person can sit at a screen and kill another human (countless collateral deaths) and then stop by McDonalds for a Happy Meal for Johnny?

What have we become?

RealityZone said...

Charlie, Excellent.
We have become everything that we hated and stood against.
We used to say " life is cheap, meaningless for those people over there". Well we have put a fire sale on other peoples lives. As long as they are over there, and we are over here. As long as they are not white. As long as our soldiers do not have to see the white of their eyes. War can nmot be made impersonal. It is the most personal event in history.

Yet we never learn.

RealityZone said...


Please read this.
Some people think Globalresearch.ca is too radical. I think it is just fine. lol.

ebrke said...

I'm sure I even remember hearing this pushed by some government mouthpiece as a "positive" for the war in Afghanistan--drones would mean fewer of "our boys" in harm's way. I didn't buy the morality of it then, and I don't buy it now. As Charlie says, war is hell, which is why wars should never be fought unless there is absolutely no other alternative and then never in a cheap and easy way.

john francis lee said...

I remember my shock at the idea of one man beheading another on television. The MSM was all over it as well : proof that "we" were up against something truly demonic... inhuman!

Let's perform a little thought experiment, as Albert Einstein used to say.

One man kills another by chopping off the other's head with a sword. I have never seen it. I imagine "the other" is bound, unable to move or escape. I imagine there is a fountain of blood erupting from the headless neck after the act is done, drenching the place of execution and perhaps the executioner in blood. That's if the executioner is "good". If he doesn't end up hacking away at a living body for long seconds, or minutes, or...

One man kills "the other" from his Barca-Lounger in Nevada. "The other" is on the other side of the world. In fact "the other" is most likely "the others". The executioner may or may not "stay tuned" to see what happens after he clicks the mouse button. He may kill a few, or dozens of people. He "knows" nothing whatsoever of his victims.

I maintain that the first man is human and the second inhuman, and further that the entire society of the second is inhuman. It is inhuman because it has detached consequences from truth, thus enabling a whole society to lie to itself and to acquiesce to its foundation in death, in murder, in crimes against humanity.

The first man makes no mistake about what he is about or what he has done. Some men, most men I hope, would be incapable of doing what he does.

The second man makes every mistake about what he is and what he is about. Most men, I fear, are capable of doing what he does.

And the second MO enlarges the possible scale of murder from one-to-one to one-to-millions, for what is the difference to the executioner as the power of the ordnance increases?

We live in a democracy. Make no mistake. We are a nation of war-criminals.

It doesn't have to go on.

There are 233 days remaining 'til election day, 2010 in the USA. We may peacefully and non-violently rid ourselves of 435+34=469 of our 537 most deadly enemies on 2 November... or not.

Up to us.

Bryan said...

This is a very scary post as are the comments that follows. I am on the same page as everyone here seems to be---when war is made so easy, and with no real emotional consequences or dangers for its practitioners, we are in very very dangerous territory.
Charlie---thank you for reminding readers of this blog that the Taliban made an offer to the US---if we offered proof that bin Laden was behind 9/11, they'd turn him over. For some reason, we turned this down, as you said.
I think the reason, at least in part, is that fighting this war was never really about bringing bin Laden to justice for 9/11. That was the excuse used by our government to go to war with that part of the world. I don't have any evidence about why they wanted to do that, but can make a pretty good guess that energy resources played a pretty large role in that desire.
Anyway, thank you as always for your clear-headed blog.


Abe Bird said...

OK folks, if you don't like your drone toys, why don't you give them to the naughty nasty extreme Islamic fighters that are dying to have some to play with and bomb on mother America?

Playing too much with phony moral codes, gives power to the any moral Islamic enemy.

john francis lee said...

Meet Lt. Col. Chris Gough: Killing by Drone and Proud of It

' I talked to Lieutenant-Colonel Chris Gough of the 432d Wing that has an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Battlelab equipped with lots of laptops with attendant joysticks. He was in the ballroom at the Waldorf and like others at the meeting was upbeat. After all, Defense Secretary Gates’s new defense budget— “Aircraft Investment Plan, Fiscal Years (FY) 2011-2040,” paints a booming sector.

' In just ten years, the planners foresee U.S. taxpayers shelling out seven times more than they have been on drones as the numbers ordered increases six-fold.

' There’s also secret work ahead on an intercontinental nuclear/conventional bomber drone which will cost another couple of billion dollars.

' Northrup Grumman’s X-47C which increases the weight of the bombs able to be carried from five tons to 110 tons also looks interesting.

' However, Mark Kassner, Deputy VP of Northrop Grumman Integrated Systems was keen to stress the civilian uses of the drones - Internet shopping and delivery. Imagine the skies full of these unmanned aircraft delivering groceries and furniture to your garden or apartment building roof.

' Proliferating it certainly is. The White House is considering sending them to the Somalian government. Texas Governor Rick Perry wants them deployed on the border with Mexico. Pakistan is developing one. Israel is developing more and more of them.

' The ratio of civilian to military deaths in wars has been steadily rising and we can expect it to continue. '

You can go to the article and read the Lt.Col's. pro-drone propaganda if you'd like. It's slick... it's sick.

Anonymous said...


See this excellent piece on drones in Waziristan today in the NYT.
Could this be a turn-around in the success of the drones? (The jury is out.)

john frqancis lee said...

What do you mean by success...

' A stepped-up campaign of American drone strikes over the past three months has... cast a pall of fear over an area that was once a free zone...

' The drones, operated by the C.I.A., fly overhead sometimes four at a time, emitting a beelike hum virtually 24 hours a day, observing and tracking targets, then unleashing missiles on their quarry, they said.

' By all reports, the bombardment of North Waziristan, and to a lesser extent South Waziristan, has become fast and furious since... late December.

' In the first six weeks of this year, more than a dozen strikes killed up to 90 people suspected of being militants, according to Pakistani and American accounts. There are now multiple strikes on some days, and in some weeks the strikes occur every other day, the people from North Waziristan said.

' The strikes have become so ferocious, “It seems they really want to kill everyone, not just the leaders...” civilians are being killed, too.

' In public, the Pakistani government opposes the drones, citing a violation of sovereignty... however, the Pakistani intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence, has provided important intelligence for targets...

' Two of the government supporters said they knew of civilians, including friends, who had been killed... they said, they are prepared to sacrifice the civilians... “On balance, the drones may have killed 100, 200, 500 civilians,” said one of the men. “If you look at the other guys, the Arabs and the kidnappings and the targeted killings, I would go for the drones.” '

...the complete acquiescence of the American people to assassination campaigns by the CIA against "suspected militants" in league with satellite "intelligence agencies" in other countries in direct defiance of the will of those countries' citizens and governments?

The complete Israelization of the United States of America?

Put me down as 100% opposed.

Peter said...

Is it not just a matter of time until others acquire this technology and then use it against the USA?

john francis lee said...

Drones and Democracy

' The social worker recalled arriving at a home that was hit, in Miranshah, at about 9:00 p.m., close to one year ago. The house was beside a matchbox factory, near the degree college. The drone strike had killed three people. Their bodies, carbonized, were fully burned. They could only be identified by their legs and hands. One body was still on fire when he reached there. Then he learned that the charred and mutilated corpses were relatives of his who lived in his village, two men and a boy aged seven or eight. They couldn’t pick up the charred parts in one piece. Finding scraps of plastic they transported the body parts away from the site. Three to four others joined in to help cover the bodies in plastic and carry them to the morgue.

' But these volunteers and nearby onlookers were attacked by another drone strike, 15 minutes after the initial one. 6 more people died.One of them was the brother of the man killed in the initial strike.

' The social worker says that people are now afraid to help when a drone strike occurs because they fear a similar fate from a second attack. People will wait several hours after an attack just to be sure. Meanwhile, some lives will be lost that possibly could have been saved.

' The social worker also told us that pressure from the explosion, when a drone-fired missile or bomb hits, can send bystanders flying through the air. Some are injured when their bodies hit walls or stone, causing fractures and brain injuries.

' Exasperated by the neglect and indifference people in Waziristan face, especially those who say they have nowhere to hide, the journalist and social worker began firing questions at us.

' “If the US had good intelligence and they hit their targets with the first strike,” Safdar asks, “why would the second one be necessary? If you already hit the supposed militant target, then why fire again?”

' “Who has given the license to kill and in what court? Who has declared that they can hit anyone they like?”

' “How many ‘high level targets’ could there possibly be?”

' “What kind of democracy is America,” Safdar asks, “where people do not ask these questions?

' Reliance on robotic warfare has escalated, from the Bush to the Obama administrations, with very little significant public debate. More than ever before, it is true that the U.S. doesn’t want our bodies to be part of warfare; there’s also not much interest in our consent. All that is required is our money.

' But, you get what you pay for in the U.S.A. The social worker and the journalist assured us that all of the survivors feel hatred toward the United States. “It is a real problem,” said Safdar, “this rising hatred.” '

john francis lee said...

The Revolting Drone Operators

' CIA officers "are very upset" with the drone strike policy, Addicott said. "They'll do what the boss says, but they view it as a harmful exercise."

' "They say we're largely killing rank and file Pakistani Taliban, and they are the ones who are agitated by the campaign," he added.

' Because the drone strikes kill innocent civilians and bystanders along with leaders from far away, they "infuriate the Muslim male", said Addicott, thus making them more willing to join the movement. The men in Pakistan's tribal region "view Americans as cowards and weasels", he added.

' Addicot said the CIA officers expressing concern about the blowback effects of the drone policy are "mid-grade and below".

' They learned about the impact of drone strikes on recruiting by extremist leaders in Pakistan from intelligence gathered by CIA and the National Security Agency, which intercepts electronic communications, according to Addicott.

' They have informed high-level CIA officials about their concerns that the programme is backfiring, Addicott told IPS.

' "The people at the top are not believers," said Addicott, referring to the CIA. "They know that the objective is not going to be achieved."

' A military official involved in counterterrorism operations told Landay the drone strikes were a "recruiting windfall for the Pakistani Taliban".

' The CIA operatives' opposition to the drone strikes programme extends to Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and Sudan, all of which now have confirmed deaths from drone strikes, according to Addicott.

' Within the administration, it appears that the logic behind the programme is that it has to be seen to be doing something about al Qaeda. "The argument I get from people associated with the programme," said Micah Zenko, a fellow in Conflict Prevention at the Council on Foreign Relations, "is the same as the one [CIA Director Leon] Panetta gave last year."

' "Very frankly," Panetta declared May 18, 2009, "it's the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership." '

To recap
 1. the robo-killers are operating in at least 4 countries in Africa, Asia, and the Middle East.
 2.CIA trigger fingers are against their own robo-killing on the grounds that it is "ineffective".
 1.the robo-killing trigger fingers are "mid-level and below" in the CIA.
 3."mid-level and above" in the CIA don't believe that the robo-killers are effective either.
 4.the "administration" knows that the robo-killer operations are ineffective as well.
 5.the "administration" continues the robo-killer operation because of its "public relations value" with Americans and admits they are just too lazy to come up with an alternative.

There are 151 days remaining 'til election day, 2010 in the USA. We may peacefully and non-violently rid ourselves of 435+34=469 of our 537 most deadly enemies on 2 November... or not. Up to us.

john francis lee said...

America Detached from War

The bottom line is that we the people are allowing this to happen. We all know that it will continue and grow unless we put an end to it. Our political machine is a drone itself.

Yet we do... nothing.

john francis lee said...

The Worst of Times, the Best of Times

' Counter-insurgency means drones that kill civilians and do the Taliban no end of good. But drones mean jobs in jobless America. As Laura Flanders pointed on the F Word on Grit TV the Wisconsin National Guard is planning to build a new $8 million base for unmanned drones. Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri is to be a drone base control. In South Dakota, Rapid City's nearby Ellsworth Force Base also recently won a drone contract.

' In none of these places was there much of anything but joy at the news. "There was great news for Ellsworth Force Base and for the Rapid City community," declared the local Black Hills Fox Channel. Missouri Congressman Ike Skelton said he'd worked for a year to win the Predator. The Rapid City Journal editorial page was ecstatic: "Ellsworth and its many supporters have done Rapid City and South Dakota proud..." '

john francis lee said...

Thanksgiving of the Drones
' We now see video gamers as judge, jury and executioner. They play God, courtesy of a video link. The world has been brought some curious and sometimes evil wonders by modern technology, but the techno-killers who slaughter with the click of a mouse represent the ultimate degradation of what we like to call civilization.

' Some little techno-dweeb, looking at a screen in an air conditioned office, is the final assessor of life or death for hundreds of people in Pakistan. Then, having killed them, the assassin goes off duty and has supper and sleeps well at night. Thanksgiving of the Drones.

' And none of these strikes ever kill women and children. Of course they don’t – because we are told they do not by the same people who told us that the recent killing of a woman hostage was “almost certainly caused by a suicide vest held near her by one of her captors.”

' These liars are the same as those who told us only a few years ago that “We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction; he’s determined to make more.” They have a policy of lying until they’re found out and hoping, almost always correctly, that when their deceit is detected, then everyone will have forgotten the incident about which they lied deeply, deliberately and totally dishonorably.

' It’s all a rerun of the Johnson and Nixon Presidential bombing and lying to save America from destruction by evil communists.

' The Bush bomber handed over to the Obama bomber, to win the ‘War on Terror’ to save America from destruction by evil Islamists.

' Johnson and Nixon ordered mega-deaths by bombing, and lied about their illegal barbarity, and didn’t care how many people died in their ferocious onslaughts. Half a century later, the bombs continue to hail down, killing at the whim of those who command their carnage. Cambodia collapsed into bloody revolution and genocide. Presumably that’s what Obama wants for Pakistan. '

Half a century later... think about that. I was in my teens and twenties during Vietnam. Tacitly I had assumed that my country and I had grown up together, that that sort of monstrous mistake was behind us.

Come now to realize that, no, there was no mistake... that's what my country 'does for a living'.

john francis lee said...

Drone attacks victims left helpless: CIVIC
' ISLAMABAD: At least 2100 civilians were killed and various others injured during 2009 in the ongoing war on terror, drone attacks and activities against the terrorists, according to a report released by a US non-government organization.

' According to the report by Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), the bereaved families of these people have been left helpless without any proper succor provided to them.'

charlie ehlen said...

I saw that and it is a crime.
Well, according to "us" every one that "we" kill with these drones is either a "terrorist" or a "militant" or a "militant sympathizer". "We" always only kill the "bad guys", except when we don't, and then, "we" mostly offer them a few nearly worthless dollars for their loss.
War is the most pornographic thing we humans have ever devised.