Saturday, 23 April 2011

DRONE WARS: now destroying a Third World country near you!

Drone wars is a video game that children play online.  However, it is also a new type of autonomous weapons' system warfare that the US and UK have been visiting on Muslim countries - Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and now Libya. The real kind of Drone war is carried out like a video game, because it is impersonal, computer-guided that destroys pre-programmed targets. Often included in those targets are innocent civilians - women and children among them that the Pentagon dismisses as 'collateral damage', accidentally killed for the higher cause of freedom and democracy!

Last week, Obama approved Drone warfare against Libya, just as Sen. John McCain was visiting the rebels in Benghazi and calling for more US military aid, military training, and air support in the civil war that could end if Gaddafi accepts the latest deal that Russia and Greece have proposed, or it could go on for months or years. Meanwhile, an average of a dozen people are killed every day in Libya and more than 100 wounded; numbers that will rise sharply with the introduction of Drone warfare. In the future, Drone war may be approved to hit targets in other countries that the US wants to have regime change; and from such small wars larger ones explode.

Although Drones can identify objects as small as a basketball from 20,000 feet in the air, the history of drone warfare is one of indiscriminately killing, thus making it controversial with legal scholars and analysts who see war crimes committed behind the veneer of techno-war. The Pentagon insists that the unmanned drones will help defeat Gaddafi's forces by targeting rebels "nestling up against crowded areas".

They said the same in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. In short, the US has been prepared to accept 'collateral damage' casualties in Libya, as a Pentagon spokesperson candidly admitted:  "Now you have the intermixing of the lines, so it's very difficult to pick friend from foe. A vehicle like the Predator (drone) that can get down lower and get IDs helps us."

UK, US, and France, 'the crusading trio', leading this war have stated that they are not currently interested in ground forces deployment, given that there is no popular support for the NATO campaign in Libya that has gone as wrong for the 'crusading trio' as it could have so far. US and UK that use Drones hope for a techno-fix to a political problem, or at least a techno-fix that generates profits for defense contractors and keeps the public focused on a foreign enemy instead of the huge economic and social problems at home.

That the US opts for military solutions to political problems is an old story and it has its apologists, some arguing from an ideological perspective, others from a political, and defense contractors from a practical self-interest one. Are drones the latest form of US-NATO warfare against the Third World whose cheap labor and natural resources the rich nations want at gunpoint?  Human rights groups have repeatedly argued that innocent civilians have been indiscriminately killed by Drones.

After dozens of civilian casualties in Pakistan, many in that country have called on the air force to shoot down Drones, while others have asked that Pakistan block NATO supply routes from Pakistan to Afghanistan. Just as the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan have turned decidedly against the US, partly because of Drone warfare, so have the Iraqis and so will the Libyans that the 'crusading trio' claims it wants to help establish democracy.

Drone warfare is largely a CIA operation, but to blame the agency would be a mistake. Drone warfare is a political decision and one backed by the companies involved - General Electric whose profits were up 77% in the last quarter, Northrop Grumman whose profits whose stock price has doubled since Obama took office, and General Atomics, originally a division of General Dynamics and one of the most significant defense contractors in the world. By 2012, the Pentagon will have more than 8000 Drones as part of its arsenal to maintain a 'military' world order and secure energy and other raw material resources to keep the market economy healthy. Of the top six nations supplying 74% of the weapons in the world, the US accounts for just under half of that percentage,, followed by Russia, Germany, UK, China and France.

The defense contractors are making enormous profits by providing a new type of Stars Wars technology for the US and other countries are responding to the political decision that TERRORISM is the new enemy requiring new means of combat. In the past five years, the history of Drone warfare in Iraq and Afghanistan has demonstrated beyond any doubt that the political problems remain and actually made worse by employing military solutions. Moreover, the US and other countries have used terrorism as a pretext to impose their hegemony abroad and to maintain conformity at home among their own citizens.

Legal scholars have debated Drone warfare, given that it is intended to preemptively destroy enemy targets - namely rebels along with non-combatants that may be in the way - before the rebels have the opportunity to strike. In short, this is a case of killing 'the enemy' before it has acted, and not in the course of actual combat.
There is also the question of non-combatants (those who are computer-guiding the Drones) participating in war without the privilege of combatants violating the law by killing.

Are non-combatants engaged in techno-war immune from prosecution and where is the line drawn between combatants and non-combatants? Finally, there is the question is what constitutes a 'war zone', and is it a war crime to intentionally plan to kill innocent civilians by having a very broad and loose definition of war zone and operational means carried out by unmanned Drones? Stay tuned! Drone wars may be coming soon to yet another Third World country near you, killing civilians by remote control just like a video game, but always in the name of freedom and democracy!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have thought about this for a long time now. Less so from the standpoint of the carnage caused now than from the standpoint of what unintended consequences will likely result from both the technology and the carnage. There is always a counterbalancing force that arises to new military technology. And new technologies spread. I shudder to think of the fleet size of drones China can set against ours, or what use terrorists will make of micro-drones, or as life imitates art, the robot wars that will come against people who resist government, or what heights of surveillance will come about domestically from hovering drones that can peek into our windows, our speeding cars or as we walk in our cities. We embrace industrial technologies thinking not one prudent thought that might slow down our march into madness.