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

Six months of war in Iraq: Less ‘skin in the game’ mustn’t mean less scrutiny

Reaper-shellThis week marks six months since the parliamentary vote that committed Britain to a new war in Iraq. British and US air strikes continue to take place on a daily basis though now virtually unmentioned in parliament and the press.  In the past, national media poured over every detail of British military campaigns, evaluating progress, printing maps and eye-witness accounts, even having breathless reporters on the evening news counting aircraft out and counting them back in. In parliament MP’s questioned ministers and senior commanders in committee rooms while debating strategy from the back benches. By stark contrast today’s war in Iraq receives little such attention seemingly because it is being waged by strike aircraft and remote-controlled drones after politicians vowed not to deploy troops. With less ‘skin in the game’ it seems that war in Iraq is yesterday’s news. Read more

Drones aren’t just annoying toys. They’re still killing people too.

Originally published by The Guardian

arming predatorFor anyone concerned about the use of drones, or ‘remotely piloted aircraft’ as the industry insists on calling them, the nature of recent coverage has been somewhat perturbing. With the normalisation of the use of military drones, media interest has waned and reporters now seems far more interested in writing about toy drones landing on the White House lawn than the White House’s use of drones for targeted assassination. Just this week much ink has been spilt covering the arrest of an amateur pilot for thoughtlessly flying a drone near Parliament while the use of armed British drones in Syria – breaching absolute assurances by the Defence Secretary Michael Fallon against mission creep – has not received a mention. Read more

A snapshot of permanent war: drone strikes in the first six weeks of 2015

The use of armed drones to launch lethal strikes around the globe is rapidly becoming normalised. Despite widespread ethical, political and legal misgivings and the danger to global peace and security from the precedent that such strikes set, US, British and Israeli drones carried out numerous strikes in the first few weeks of 2015. Pictures of an apparent Chinese armed drone that had crashed in Nigeria also surfaced in a worrying sign of the further spread of such systems. Read more

The dirty consequences of our clean wars

Air strike on Iraq

Five years ago the suggestion that within a decade drone strikes would be taking place on a regular basis in multiple countries with little notice by the mainstream media or the general public seemed far-fetched to many. Today, with drone strikes being undertaken in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq and Syria, and no doubt Libya again too soon (and not to forget the regular sporadic bursts of Israeli strikes in Gaza) such a prediction looks a lot more likely, if not a certainty. Read more

‘Into the Fire: The dangers of redeploying British armed drones after Afghanistan’

Click to download

As NATO military operations come to an end in Afghanistan and the MoD faces a judicial review over its refusal to detail where UK drones will next be sent, Drone Wars UK is publishing a new briefing on the dangers of re-deploying UK armed drones.

The UK has used armed drones to undertake airstrikes since 2004, either in conjunction with the US or utilizing its own fleet of armed Reapers acquired in 2007.  And increasingly it seems the UK is  relying on its Reaper drones to undertake airstrikes, with Ministry of Defence figures showing the percentage of British airstrikes in Afghanistan undertaken by drones rising from 52% in 2009/10 to 82% in 2013/14.

Although the UK has committed to continue to operate its Reaper drones, due to air safety regulations they would simply not be allowed to fly in British airspace. So far the MoD have refused to reveal where their long-term home will be – locations in the Middle East or Africa are the most likely option – but it is difficult to be certain without Read more