After ten years, time to ground Britain’s drones

The imminent defeat of ISIS in Iraq should see British drones grounded.  But will they continue to launch strikes in what is becoming a perpetual war?

An armed British Reaper drone

This month (October 2017) marks ten years of British Reaper drone operations.  Acquired on a  temporary basis as an ‘Urgent Operational Capability’, the UK began operating armed drones in Afghanistan in October 2007 after having three delivered directly to Kandahar airport. A decade later the Reapers have been in continuous use and are now deemed a ‘core capability’.  Having already tripled the number in service, the government are in the process of increasing the fleet up to 26 as the new, updated version of Reaper (re-branded by the British government as ‘Protector’) are delivered over the next two – three years. Read more

Einsteinian insanity: momentum grows to bomb Libya again

NATO bombing of Sirte, Libya in 2011
NATO bombing of Sirte, Libya in 2011

Despite the catastrophic effects of the 2011 military intervention, momentum seems to be growing among western governments for further air strikes in Libya, this time against ISIS.

When asked by the Telegraph last month if Libya could be the next target for British military intervention, a British Government source said: “Things are moving in that direction. We are taking it one step at a time.”  Military sources subsequently briefed the media that US and British Special Forces were in Libya gathering intelligence to prepare for a possible deployment of up to Read more

Dannatt defends drones but ignores the real issues

General the Lord Dannatt defends use of armed drones
General the Lord Dannatt’s essay defends use of armed drones

Amidst its reporting of the horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, The Telegraph published an essay on Saturday by Lord Dannatt, the former head of the British army.  In ‘Drone attacks are a vital part of modern warfare’ Dannatt addresses those who feel, as he put it, “a nagging sense of unease” about the drone targeted killing of Mohammed Emwazi aka ‘Jihadi John’.

The essay, using the drone strike on Emwazi as an example, attempts to justify in a broad way the use of armed drones in general as well as their use for targeted killing beyond the battlefield. Read more

Cameron further commits the UK to drone wars

David Cameron visits RAF Waddington and Coningsby - Credit BBC Radio Lincolnshire
David Cameron visits RAF Waddington and Coningsby – Credit BBC Radio Lincolnshire

A year after the UK doubled its drone fleet David Cameron visited RAF Waddington today to signal further commitment to – and spending on – drones and special forces.  The Prime Minster told the media that he had asked Defence Chiefs to look at how to do more to counter the threat posed by ISIS including spending more on “spy planes, drones and Special Forces.”  Cameron insisted that “in the last 5 years, I have seen just how vital these assets are in keeping us safe.”   He also, according to reports, suggested that the new Aircraft Carrier, Queen Elizabeth could be used to deploy drones in the future. Read more

Blurred lines: Drones, the UK and the slippery slope to permanent war

Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ)

This week’s Guardian revelation that documents leaked by Edward Snowden show apparent GCHQ support for US drone targeted killings in Yemen demonstrates once again how drone technology is eroding our ability to draw the line between being involved in war or not.

Last week I took part in a discussion in parliament on the impact of drone technology. I was pressed by one of the participants on our contention that drones and the concept of remote, risk-free warfare is lowering the threshold for use of lethal force: “We just don’t accept this,” I was told, “where is your evidence?” Read more

Think drone technology is not really the problem? Think again

reaperIn response to my recent Guardian opinion piece on the waning coverage of the military use of drones, a number of below the line commentators made the oft-levelled aside that ‘drones don’t kill people, people kill people.’  Tech writer Kelsey Atherton weighed in on twitter too arguing that drones themselves aren’t the problem, rather it’s how they are used that is the issue (see Kelsey’s Storify of our brief debate here). In a similar vein, academic Stephanie Carvin argues in ‘Getting drones wrong’ in the most recent issue of International Journal of Human Rights, that scholars and researchers should avoid “the magpie-like distraction of the ‘shiny object’ that is the drone” and instead “focus on the larger issues at stake.” Read more