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Drone Wars: US Ramping Up Unmanned Air Strikes and Domestic Surveillance
TRANSCRIPT AND SOURCES:
Welcome. This is James Corbett of The Corbett Report with your Sunday Update from the Centre for Research on Globalization at globalresearch.ca on this 10th day of July, 2011. And now for the real news.
Unmanned aerial vehicles are once again grabbing headlines as the UK government was forced to admit last week that an RAF drone killed four Afghan civilians and injured two others in an air strike in Helmsland earlier this year.
Expressing “deep regret” over the incident, a Defence Ministry spokesman said: “An ISAF investigation was conducted to establish if any lessons could be learnt from the incident or if errors in operational procedures could be identified; the report noted that the UK Reaper’s crews actions had been in accordance with procedures and UK Rules of Engagement.”
The incident is likely to renew debate about the RAF’s drone program, operated from the US Air Force’s Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. Just this March, the Ministry of Defence released a study of the issue that looked at some of the troubling questions that the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in warfare raise.
“It is essential that, before unmanned systems become ubiquitous (if it is not already too late) that we consider this issue and ensure that, by removing some of the horror, or at least keeping it at a distance, that we do not risk losing our controlling humanity and make war more likely.”
The report then goes on to ask if the US drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen in fact herald a new era of warfare, an era in which military intervention will be used simply because it can be done without any risk whatsoever to the attacker.
The US military and CIA under the leadership of Nobel peace laureate Barrack Obama is currently using aerial drones to carry out attacks in six different countries: Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, and now Somalia. Last month, Washington admitted using drones to commit assassinations of Somalis who it claims have ties to Anwar al-Awlaki, himself an American citizen who the Obama Administration has attempted to assassinate without a trial. It is uncertain who else is on the President’s list of American citizens whom he has unilaterally declared the right to kill, but his DoJ has successfully blocked any judicial oversight of the decision in the courts.
The use of drones are becoming more frequent in every theatre, and have begun to cause great consternation with erstwhile allies such as Pakistan, where the citizens and the government are increasingly protesting the drone strikes. From 2004 to the end of his presidency in January 2009, the Bush administration launched 46 drone strikes in Pakistan. Since taking over the White House, peace prize recipient Obama has launched 213 such strikes.
Now, reports are surfacing that the CIA is building a secret base at an undisclosed location that will be used for carrying out assassinations in Yemen. In justifying the move, an anonymous US official was quoted by the Los Angeles Times as saying that Yemen “is now the most capable, most imminent threat to the U.S.”
It is uncertain how a small nation of 23 million people in the Arabian Peninsula with a defense budget 1/300th the size of America’s could possibly pose any type of threat to the largest, most well-funded military in the history of the world, but the justification for the drone strikes have been made numerous times by various government officials.
In March of last year, Harold Koh, a legal advisor to the State Department made the case that the use of unmanned aerial vehicles against any nation it deems to be a threat is legally justified.
In April of this year, the White House approved the use of missile-equipped drones in NATO’s Libyan campaign. Since then, 42 drone attacks have been launched on Libya.
According to Global Research associate Mahdi Nazemroaya, who is in Libya on a fact-finding mission, the NATO bombing campaigns have struck mainly civilian targets and constitute more proof that the so-called humanitarian nature of the campaign is in fact a cover for a brazen war of aggression that is being enabled by a complicit lapdog establishment media. He joined The Corbett Report from Tripoli to talk about the situation on the ground last week.
Now, the US Air Force is developing new drone aircraft that can be launched from aircraft carriers, eliminating the need to secure and operate drone bases in foreign countries. The sea-based drones are likely to be deployed in Asia as a counter to an increasingly aggressive Chinese military presence in the region.
The fear is that the US’ aggressive use of drone strikes in multiple locations against countries with whom they are not at war is setting a dangerous precedent and spurring a new arms race. The Economic Times reported last Thursday that China is now ramping up its own research into drone technology, which it plans to sell to strategic partners like Pakistan, itself the victim of numerous American drone strikes.
More worrying still is that the use of drones by police forces across the US and the UK is being normalized as part of a process of incorporating unmanned aerial vehicles into domestic surveillance programs.
In 2007 the UK’s Merseyside Police demonstrated a UAV that it was preparing to use for its policing operations against “anti-social behaviour.”
In 2010, a local news station in Houston captured a secret test of a new spy drone to be used by the Department of Homeland Security to spy on American citizens.
In March of this year, the Miami-Dade County Police Department announced a new unmanned spy drone that is capable of looking into people’s homes.
Now, even the military itself is wondering whether the use of drone vehicles and the increasing push toward autonomous weapons systems that require no human input once they are launched is leading us toward a world of troubling new possibilities.
As the UK Defence Ministry report from earlier this year reads:
“we must be sure that clear accountability for robotic thought exists and this in itself raises a number of difficult debates. Is a programmer guilty of a war crime if a system error leads to an illegal act? Where is the intent required for an accident to become a crime?[...]There is a danger that time is running out – is debate and development of policy even still possible, or is the technological genie already out of the ethical bottle, embarking us all on an incremental and involuntary journey towards a Terminator-like reality?”