War on the Environment
U.S. Arab Disconnect
Edward S. Herman
Billionaire Phillip Anschutz
GAY & LESBIAN COMMUNITY NOTES
The San Jose Project
Labor Must Play Its Wild Card
Obama's Jobs Proposal
Court Allows U.S. Citizens to Sue Rumsfeld
The Filthy RIch
"Soft Power" in the Middle East
The World of Drones
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The World of Drones
February 2012 will mark the 15th anniversary of the U.S. Space Command’s declaration of war on the world, namely its quest to achieve Full Spectrum Dominance of land, sea, air, and outer space by 2020, “to close the ever-widening gap between diminishing resources and increasing military commitments.” Commenting on the Space Command’s announcement, Rebecca Johnson of the UN Disarmament Commission observed that, “Notions of full spectrum dominance…are perceived as a security threat by countries that have no political desire or intention to threaten the
One of the many dangerous aspects of Full Spectrum Dominance is the U.S. Air Force’s Prompt Global Strike doctrine, which will give the
Following the exploitation of 9/11, the Pentagon and
It transpired that the system was not only going ahead (just the Unmanned Ground Vehicle component was being cut), but it was, in fact, being expanded. Renamed the Army’s Brigade Combat Team Modernization Initiative, the program actually involves the acquisition of more drones than previously anticipated, P.W. Singer noted in Wired For War, his generally enthusiastic study of robotic warfare. Furthermore, the principal contracts have been awarded to the Boeing corporation.
These, and other drones, are allowing the USAF to be able to achieve its ultimate goal, “to find, fix, track, target, and engage any moving ground target anywhere on the surface of the Earth.”
Ever since a Boeing-co-produced Hellfire missile was launched from a Predator drone in 2002, the human cost of drones has been exponential. “[A]long the mountainous eastern border of
According to the Foreign Policy Journal, the CIA’s program “extends further [than the military’s], reaching countries such as
In 2009, Kathy Kelly reported that 30 schools in
In January 2010, Bloomberg reported that the Pakistani government “said it doesn’t support
This would appear to be a gross underestimate when we consider that General Petraeus’s military advisor, Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, informed the New York Times that 714 people had been killed by drone operators in Pakistan from mid-2008 to mid-2009 alone, of whom 14 were “al-Qaeda” and/or Taliban suspects—meaning that 98 percent of the victims in that one period were civilians. (Kilcullen’s figure is compounded by other factors present in the New America Foundation study.)
In the first two months of 2010, at least 140 people had been killed in drone attacks. In that year, the
On March 17, 2011, the Associated Press reported that “Pakistan’s army chief [Ashfaq Kayani] strongly condemned a U.S. drone attack that killed more than three dozen people, saying the missiles struck a peaceful meeting of tribal elders near the Afghan border.… Kayani’s condemnation contradicted statements provided by Pakistani intelligence officials,” whom, the AP reported, had originally claimed that the “38 people killed and seven wounded in the attack were militants meeting to discuss sending additional fighters into
Drone attacks seem to be linked to a frightening new development in military/secret service assassinations: “nanotags,” or Radiofrequency Identification (RFID) chips. “I was given U.S.$122 to drop chips wrapped in a cigarette paper at al-Qaeda and Taliban houses. If I was successful, I was told, I would be given thousands of dollars,” a young man from Wiziristan confessed to the Taliban before being shot for treason. “I thought this was a very easy job. The money was so good so I started throwing the chips all over. I knew people were dying because of what I was doing, but I needed the money.” The
The New Yorker also reported “rumors that paid C.I.A. informants have been planting tiny silicon-chip homing devices for the drones in the tribal areas.” There are long-standing
Radicalizing “Our Little Paki Friends”
The grainy, monochrome, low-resolution images of buildings being vaporized seems to be part of the propaganda process of dissociation in the era of “clean wars.” The media rarely report who was in the given building and, when doing so, usually cite unchallenged military allegations that the victims were “al-Qaeda” militants or Taliban fighters. This is not surprising. USAF’s 46-year drone expansion plan stated in 2009 that the Air Force would seek to monopolize all of the information released to the media regarding drone attacks.
“In order to conduct a successful communication campaign, public affairs activities focus on three main areas of operation—Media Relations, Internal Information and Community Relations,” according to the detailed plan. “Additionally, communication strategies are executed at the senior levels of government by appropriate Air Force leadership to enhance leaders’ and lawmakers’ understanding of UAS [unmanned aerial systems’] current and future role.”
“You’d be hard pressed to find a Pakistani anywhere in the world, regardless of class, education, or citizenship, who does not object to the U.S. drone strikes that have killed hundreds of innocent civilians in Pakistan since President Barack Obama took office,” Business Week reported, adding that, “It would also be difficult to find a Pakistani who does not object to the government in Islamabad allowing the strikes to continue.”
Liaquat Ali Khan reported in CounterPunch that, “In a case filed with the Pakistan Supreme Court,” a petition read: “The Americans, like in [former Pakistani President] Mus- harraf’s time, have also been given a free hand by President Zardari and fundamental rights of the (indigenous) people are being violated daily in tribal areas and (in northern areas of) Dir, Swat, and Chitral. A large number of (indigenous) people have migrated from these areas and suffered tremendous losses with no hope of returning to their homes because of
In their analysis of the overall death toll in
The BBC went on to explain how, “Missile attacks by
The BBC concluded that, “
More recently, Reuters reported “mounting resentment from Pakistanis who decry the government for bowing to
Kathy Kelly reported in the Huffington Post, “The drones feed hourly intelligence information to
Likewise, Le Monde Diplomatique confirmed that, “The drones worsen the resentment of Pakistan’s people: Public opinion, which already views its government as corrupt, sees drones as an attack on the legitimacy of national power. While most of the world gives more credit to Obama than to his predecessor, his ratings in
Furthermore, Business Week reported that the hometown of the failed Times Square bomber, Faisal Shahzad, “is close to the Pakistani region where the militants are now being targeted by
Human Rights Watch noted in its annual global report that, “Anti-U.S. sentiment deepened markedly in Pakistan in 2009 due to perceived U.S. violations of Pakistani sovereignty through aerial drone strikes in the tribal areas that killed hundreds of civilians and persistent rumors, denied by Pakistani authorities, that personnel from the private military company Xe Services ([formerly] Blackwater) are conducting covert operations in Pakistan,” concluding that “Substantial sections of Pakistani society, particularly opinion makers and the media, blamed U.S. behavior for the surge in militant attacks in the country, even as they expressed broad support for the government’s fight against the Taliban and affiliated groups.”
Drone resistance is proving difficult, with “a Pakistani court up[holding] the dismissal of a petition against
Le Monde Diplomatique highlighted the “economic reality” of murdering people with robots. “It costs $2.6m to train a
There is something familiar to intelligence analysts, which does not seem to penetrate much mainstream or even antiwar analysis, namely that a destabilized
These “chessboard” games, as British colonialists used to refer to the ruining of people’s lives, have an extra, potentially terminal potency in today’s nuclear weapons-armed world—as Liaquat Ali Khan, and others, have pointed out. As trade barriers are lowered for nanotech and other highly dangerous technologies, the human race is pushed to what Martin Rees, one of the world’s leading astrophysicists, cautioned in his book Our Final Hour?, namely humanity’s “fifty-fifty” odds of surviving the next ninety years “without a serious setback.”
A few years after Rees’s warning, a U.S. Navy-commissioned study into robot ethics noted parenthetically that “civilian computer systems have failed and raised worries that can carry over to military applications.… Thus, it is a concern that we also may not be able to halt some (potentially-fatal) chain of events caused by autonomous military systems that process information and can act at speeds incomprehensible to us, e.g., with high-speed unmanned aerial vehicles.” Likewise, the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD), a couple of years later, predicted that by 2040, “the increased complexity of networks are likely to increase the risk, and the impact of catastrophic systems failure [emphasis in original].”
These highly dangerous systems are due to become even more hazardous as human beings are put “out of the loop,” to use the military parlance, by autonomous systems. According to USAF’s drone expansion plan, “Increasingly humans will no longer be “in the loop,” but rather “on the loop”—monitoring the execution of certain decisions.” However, the U.S. Navy-commissioned study noted that, “One of the few near-certainties in the development of military robots is that keeping a human in the decision-making loop is going to seriously degrade battle efficiency,” meaning that safety is an institutional flaw of the military.
Humanity’s greatest challenges were perhaps best laid out in a futures study by the MOD, published a few years prior to the one cited above: “Many of the concerns over the development of new technologies lie in their safety, including the potential for disastrous outcomes, planned and unplanned.” We may wish to take note of the word planned. “For example, it is argued that nanotechnology could have detrimental impacts on the environment, genetic modification could spiral out of control and that AI [artificial intelligence] could be superior to that of humans, but without the restraining effect of human social conditioning.” The MoD concluded, “Various doomsday scenarios arising in relation to these and other areas of development present the possibility of catastrophic impacts, ultimately including the end of the world, or at least of humanity.”
Tim Coles is a writer and filmmaker whose articles have appeared in Z Magazine and Peace Review.
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