by Paul Balles
As technology allows machines to make their own decisions, warfare will become bloodier – and less accountable. –George Monbiot
Following 9/11, the development and use of drones has been a major military goal for both the U.S. and the U.K.
A prime justification for the use of drones has been that they are responsible for the deaths of many alleged terrorists.
Skimpy media coverage in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times argue that there are legal justifications for drone attacks as legitimate counterterrorism operations.
The Daily Mail Online reports that “the UK Army was accused of covering up almost 150 airstrikes on the Taliban by unmanned drones.”
The arguments against drones in public warfare have so far been based on claims about international law, domestic law, and the accuracy of drones. The Pentagon presently has about 7,000.
Ralph Nader argued that “The fast developing predator drone technology… is becoming so dominant and so beyond any restraining framework of law or ethics, that its use by the U.S. government around the world may invite a horrific blowback.”
Coming soon are hummingbird sized drones, submersible drones and software driven autonomous UAVs. The Washington Post described these inventions as “aircraft [that] would hunt, identify and fire at [the] enemy–all on its own.” It is called “lethal autonomy” in the trade.
Since the beginning of the drone war in Pakistan in 2006, there have been approximately 50 civilian casualties for every one militant casualty.
Another source shows up to 2,100 civilians have been killed over the course of 283 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004. No more than 330 militants have been killed in those strikes.
Writing in the Guardian, George Monbiot says “With its deadly drones, the US is fighting a coward’s war.”
Reveals Monbiot, “As a report last year by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism showed, of some 2,300 people killed by US drone strikes in Pakistan from 2004 until August 2011, between 392 and 781 appear to have been civilians; 175 were children.”
In November 2011, a US drone strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Another strike in Afghanistan in 2011 killed two American troops.
This event received a bit more news coverage, essentially because of the complaints that came from the Pakistani government.
Ann Wright, a former State Department diplomat and retired Army colonel said: “There’s been real blowback from the burning of the Quran, but there has also been real blowback from the killings from continued drone strikes.”
Tom Englehardt says, “In Pakistan, a war of machine assassins is visibly provoking terror (and terrorism) as well as anger and hatred among people who are by no means fundamentalists. It is part of a larger destabilization of the country.”
The Pentagon has been making it a practice to kill innocent civilians by remote control and then lying about it.
Kathy Kelly tells the story of an Afghan mother who tells her son that his father was killed by an American bomber plane, remote-controlled by computer.
The survivors ask why? “They kill people with computers and they can’t tell us why.”
Drone warfare, ever more widely used from month to month from the Bush through the Obama administrations, has seen very little meaningful public debate.
The victims of that remote warfare are going to look only at who is responsible for these deaths by drone.
Not only is it causing untold suffering to the victims, it is also the most effective recruiting agent for the very “militants” the US and UK claim to be targeting.