The concern that drones make armed attacks and military intervention more likely is often rejected by the military and the drone industry, who argue that the drone pilots are able to stand above the ‘fog and friction’ of the battlefield and to make dispassionate and rational decisions about whether or not to use ‘kinetic force’.
“We believe that there is credible, unchallenged evidence that the Secretary of State is operating a policy of passing intelligence to officials or agents of the US Government; and that he considers such a policy to be “in ‘strict accordance’ with the law”. If this is the case the Secretary of State has misunderstood one or more of the principles of international law governing immunity for those involved in armed attacks on behalf of a state and/or the lawfulness of such attacks; and his policy, if implemented, involves the commission of serious criminal offences by employees of GCHQ or by other officials or agents of the UK Government in the UK.”
So far the Foreign Office has yet to respond. Meanwhile drone strikes have continued in Pakistan and elsewhere over the past weekend.
Tariq was a good kid, and courageous. My warm hand recently touched his in friendship; yet, within three days, his would be cold in death, the rigor mortis inflicted by my government. And Tariq’s extended family, so recently hoping to be our allies for peace, has now been ripped apart by an American missile — most likely making any effort we make at reconciliation futile.
Two thousand miles west and Israeli drones fly constantly over Gaza with the latest strike killing seven members of Islamic Jihad. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz published an eye-opening interview this week with a ‘Lt Col Ido’ (his surname was withheld for security reasons) who teaches ethics to Israeli drone operators. The Lt Col says “When people are killed by mistake, we are tormented, and that’s how it should be… I’ve met some people who had a very hard time with it. Some coped, and others wanted to leave. I told them, ‘This is dirty work. Who would you like to have do it? We would all like to be professors.'”
The whole article, looking at how Israel uses drones for “everything from gathering intelligence in what the air force calls the “third circle” – namely, the Iranian sector and its satellites – to assisting fire-fighters in the Mount Carmel forest fire and guarding worshipers at Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus” is well worth reading. Israel is also about to deploy the giant Eitan drone for use in Gaza and Lebanon as Ynet news reports.
Fifteen hundred miles south of Israel is the Ethiopian city of Arba Minch from where, according to a recent report in the Washington Post, the USAF are flying Reaper drones over Somalia. While the US say the drones based in Ethiopia are for surveillance purposes only (the Ethiopian government are refusing to admit the drones are even in Ethiopia) US drones are undertaking strikes against al-Shabab in Somalia.
But it is not only the drones that are circling the globe. Resistance to the drones is growing and going global too. We have repeatedly reported on the anger in Pakistan against US drone strikes and the many protests taking place there, the latest of which saw some 2,000 people protests outside the Parliament building in Islamabad.
For the first time (as far as we know) anti-drone protests have also taken place in Yemen, with some extremely brave people coming together in Sana’a to protest the strikes there (see video below)
In the US, protestors have recently gone on trial following a civil disobedience action at the main entrance of Hancock Air National Guard Base on April 22, 2011, where 38 people were arrested at a die-in protesting the drones. The verdict will be handed down on 1st December (see http://www.upstatedroneaction.org/ for lots more info.
While many commentators have jokingly refered to the Terminator movies, the reality is that the virus isn’t that serious. While it is worrying that a so-called secure network controlling lethal weapons can become infected with a computer virus (and one that is apparently resisting attempts to delete it) it is seemingly a fairly common piece of malware that records keystrokes.
Much more serious is the ‘drone virus’ that has infected the body politic. Created in military labs by scientists looking for the quick, easy and profitable cure for the world’s security problems, the drone is now spreading virus-like around the world. Before the drone virus spread, the idea that nations could simply, publicly and illegally assassinate individuals and their families without causing outrage would have seemed incredible. Now we have been infected, the military can ‘take out’ targets of opportunity thousands of miles away before heading home for dinner with the kids. Now we have been contaminated by the drone virus, Presidents can command the killing of citizens without any charges being filed or indeed any due legal process. This is the real drone virus and we must find a way to cure ourselves.
Perhaps this piece, entitled ‘Drones and the Law’ from the Economist typifies the response. Mildly chastising Obama by arguing that drone assassinations should be carried out by the armed forces not the CIA – and suggesting that perhaps there could be secret court hearings to give the appearance of due process – the assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan is nevertheless described as “legitimate self defence”.
A notable exception to the supportive remarks of the drone virus infected press is a piece by Andreas Whittam Smith in the Independent. Whittam Smith seems to be immune to the drone virus. In the end, he says, the killing of al-Awlaki was murder. He is right.
In the UK, the Highlands and Islands Enterprise agency has proposed that the Hebrides be used as a place for testing unmanned drones. While the agency is headlining the fact that such drones would be used for civilian use, the proposal has presented to Peter Luff, UK defence minister and the testing range is currently being run by arm giant QinetiQ