US Drones Onward
More secret bases. More and better unmanned warplanes. More frequent and deadly robotic attacks.
The lessons of Hiroshima and Nagasaki belong always before us. The agony of those two cities must remain our dark beacon. Hiroshima/Nagasaki wasn’t so much about targets as about audiences. We – or rather, the very highest reaches of the US government – annihilated a couple hundred thousand nameless, unarmed, undefended human beings to warn the world: “Don’t mess with us; we run things now.” Thanks to its atomic prowess – showcased at H/N – for over 65 years the US has been able to hold the planet hostage.
“I see mothers with children, I see fathers with children, I see fathers with mothers, I see kids playing soccer,” Colonel Brenton said. When the call comes for him to fire a missile and kill a militant — and only, Colonel Brenton said, when the women and children are not around — the hair on the back of his neck stands up, just as it did when he used to line up targets in his F-16 fighter jet. Afterward, just like the old days, he compartmentalizes.
The Stone is a forum for contemporary philosophers on issues both timely and timeless. As the debate on the morality of the United States’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles (“U.A.V.’s,” also known as drones) has intensified in recent weeks, several news and opinion articles have appeared in the media. Two, in particular, both published this month, reflect the current ethical divide on the issue. A feature article in Esquire by Tom Junod censured the “ Lethal Presidency of Barack Obama ” for the administration’s policy of targeted killings of suspected militants; another, “ The Moral Case for Drones ,” a news analysis by The Times’ Scott Shane, gathered opinions from experts that implicitly commended the administration for replacing Dresden-style strategic bombing with highly precise attacks that minimize collateral damage. To say that we can target individuals without incurring troop casualties does not imply that we ought to.
“…it may be a surprise to find some moral philosophers, political scientists, and weapons specialists believe unmanned aircraft offer marked moral advantages over almost any other tool of warfare.” —Scott Shane, national security reporter for the New York Times, “The Moral Defense For Drones,” 7/15/12 First, one should never be surprised to find that the NY Times can ferret out experts to say virtually anything. Didn’t they dig up those who told us all that Saddam Hussein had nuclear weapons?
The flight time of the Stalker UAS has been improved by 2,400 percent using a wireless laser beam power system (Photo: Lockheed Martin) Image Gallery (2 images) Late last year, DARPA researchers upped the standard two-hour endurance of Lockheed Martin’s Stalker small unmanned aerial system (UAS) by a factor of four using a propane-fueled compact solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC). Now the flight time of the aircraft has been improved by a whopping 2,400 percent, with a test flight lasting more than 48 hours using a laser power system to wirelessly transfer power to the UAS from the ground. The indoor flight test saw the Stalker UAS modified to incorporate a Power Link system developed by Kent, Washington, based company LaserMotive.
The United Nation’s Human Rights Council in Geneva (UNHRC/ Flickr) The UN’s expert on extrajudicial killings has described a tactic used by the CIA and first exposed by a Bureau investigation as ‘a war crime’. Earlier this year the Bureau and the Sunday Times revealed the CIA was deliberately targeting rescuers and funeral-goers in its Pakistan drone strikes. Those controversial tactics have reportedly been revived . Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur, told a meeting in Geneva on June 21: ’Reference should be made to a study earlier this year by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism… If civilian ‘rescuers’ are indeed being intentionally targeted, there is no doubt about the law: those strikes are a war crime.’
Just before a midnight deadline on Wednesday, the government filed its legal brief responding to the ACLU’s Freedom of Information Act lawsuit seeking information about the legal and factual basis for the deaths of three U.S. citizens in targeted killing drone strikes last fall. (File Photo) Our initial reaction to the brief is here , but the government’s position is so remarkable that it warrants further comment. We filed this lawsuit on February 1, 2012, after the government responded to our Freedom of Information Act request by refusing to confirm or deny whether it had records about the legal authority or factual basis for the targeted killing of U.S. citizens.
A crew chief with the 432d Aircraft Maintenance Squadron performs a pre-flight inspection on an MQ-9 Reaper at Creech Air Force Base in June 2008. (Steve Huckvale/U.S. Air Force)
Many protestors resisted and nearly 200 were arrested. Journalists hurrying towards the park reported being illegally barred by police. The crews of two news-choppers--one each from CBS and NBC--claimed they were ordered out of the airspace over Zuccotti Park by the NYPD. Later, NBC claimed its crew misunderstood directions from the control tower. “NYPD cannot, and did not, close air space.
The US military has issued soldiers in Afghanistan with a new class of lightweight unmanned drone known as the Switchblade, which can be carried in a backpack and used on the battlefield in place of an air strike. The Switchblade, manufactured by the AeroVironment Corporation in Monrovia, California , weighs just under six pounds (2.7kg) and can be rapidly launched and sent over the nearest ridge to circle above the battlefield before being sent to zero in on the enemy – usually the chest or head of an enemy combatant. The weapon, which commanders have dubbed the “Flying Shotgun”, has been widely tested by the US Army, US Marines and US Air Force. It has proved so effective that AeroVironment has announced more than US$14m (£9m) worth of Switchblade systems and related engineering contracts in the past 10 months.
The U.N.’s human rights commissioner called for an investigation of civilian casualties in U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan yesterday, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the aerial attacks would continue. “Drone attacks do raise serious questions about compliance with international law,” the U.N.’s Navi Pillay told a news conference in Islamabad, according to AFP . It was the U.N.’s strongest condemnation yet of President Obama’s remote control war that has killed four top al-Qaida commanders in recents months and scores of bystanders. Chris Woods of the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ) reported this week that the CIA has resumed the practice of attacking rescuers who come to the aid of victims of the strikes as well as funeral goers who mourn them. The attacks were front-page news in Pakistan during Pillay’s four-day visit to the country.
Assassination Campaigns Do Not Win Wars, and They Create as Many Enemies as They Destroy As the US and its allies ponder what to do about Syria, one suggestion advanced by the protagonists of armed intervention is to use unmanned drones to attack Syrian government targets. The proposal is a measure of the extraordinary success of the White House, CIA and Defense Department in selling the drone as a wonder weapon despite all the evidence to the contrary. The attraction of the drone for President Obama and his administration five months before the presidential election is self-evident.
House Homeland Security Chairman Peter King (R-NY) on Sunday refused to confirm the existence of U.S. drone strikes in other countries, but later insisted that the unmanned flying machines were being used to "carry out the policies of righteousness and goodness." During an interview on CNN, host Candy noted that an analysis by the New America Foundation estimated that drone strikes have had an 17 percent civilian casualty rate since 2004. "Because I'm on the Intelligence Committee, I can't officially acknowledge that we have a drone program," King told Crowley. "I'm not concerned [with the casualty rate]. My belief is that when you're in war -- and we are in war -- the idea is to kill as many of the enemy as you can with minimal risk of life to your own people.
1917: Sperry Aerial Torpedo Toward the end of World War I, powered flight was in its infancy, the Wright brothers having flown their primitive biplane across the dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, a little over a decade earlier. But it was a time of stunning innovation. In 1917, Peter Cooper and Elmer A. Sperry invented the first automatic gyroscopic stabilizer, which straightens and levels out aircraft during flight, and unmanned flight was born.