December 20, 2011 § Leave a comment
There’s a great report out today about drones. It appears that drones aren’t exactly better or more efficient than other forms of warfare. According to the report, based on analysis done by the United States Air Force and provided to TomsDispatch.com, there have been no fewer than 13 crashes of Predator drones in 2011 alone. The most recent crash of the Predator drone in Iran has received a lot of attention, but it appears that these drones crash routinely in the Afghanistan-Pakistan area without getting the same kind of attention. These crashes are expensive for the U.S. military, often costing $2 million per crash.
Another expense is the tremendous cost of maintaining the many air bases that drones are housed and operated out of. The report notes that there are as many as sixty bases that are involved in the U.S. global drone operation.
And of course, there is already plenty of evidence that drones are not effectively targeting militants, with thousands of innocent children, women, and men being killed or injured as a result of drone strikes.
So why bother with the drone campaign? Why would the U.S. persist in pursuing a strategy that is neither cheap nor effective? Well, the answer is quite simple. The U.S. continues to use drones because they perpetuate the illusion that war is a cheap, precise, and bloodless game, without any victims. The most important victim that the U.S. is concerned with is, of course, the U.S. soldier. With unmanned drones, soldiers can be in the safety and comfort of their home base in Nevada and pilot the drone without any risk to them. Just like a video game. But the American public, sensitized by the ugliness of the Vietnam War, doesn’t care to see brown people suffer either. That’s why there is a virtual news blackout of war victims in U.S. media. And now, with drones, it’s easy to convince oneself that drones target only bad guys, and spare everyone else. This is the big lie that has become so useful to U.S. foreign policy, and why the drone program is not only here to stay, but is expected to grow manifold in the future.
This is the lie we must fight to expose.
December 5, 2011 § Leave a comment
The Washington Post carried an article yesterday about the terrifying effect of the use of drones by Israel in Gaza. Yes, drones are terrifying. They kill but their terror spreads well beyond their lethal effect. For the people who are targeted, the use of drones is a chilling constant reminder that the aggressor is everywhere, and can strike at any minute, at anyone, any time it wants to. Frustratingly, the story is about Israel’s use of drones, and essentially ignores the fact that the U.S. is the most prolific user of these deadly weapons. But the article does note:
…the most enduring reminder of Israel’s unblinking vigilance and its unfettered power to strike at a moment’s notice is the buzz of circling drones — a soundtrack also provided by American drones over Pakistan’s tribal areas and, increasingly, parts of East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. The U.S. drone war is largely invisible, carried out in remote regions sometimes beyond the boundaries of America’s battlefields. U.S. officials are reticent to discuss the program, which President Obama has reliedon more than his predecessor to kill enemies [emphasis added].
That’s right. Barack Obama has relied more heavily on a covert, illegal, and deadly program than George W. Bush – you know, the guy that we all love to hate, the one who illegally invaded Iraq to the chagrin of not just nutty third world people but even Europeans! When you couple this with the explicit policy of the Obama administration that it is legal to assassinate U.S. citizens without charges and without a trial (as it did with Anwar Awlaki in Yemen, again using drones), it may actually be the case that Barack Obama actually has much greater contempt for U.S. and international law than did George W. Bush.
Given that Barack Obama came to office vowing to improve relations with the rest of the world, the fact that he has relied so heavily on a military strategy designed to inculcate fear (without gaining much military advantage) is stunning.