Must Read — Medea Benjamin’s Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control

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Predator Drone Avenger

As Pakistanis celebrated the end of the holy month of Ramadan 13 people were killed from drone attacks over the weekend. In the time it’s taken me to prepare this draft five more people died from these attacks.

Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control

Medea Benjamin is leading a peace delegation to Waziristan next month. For anyone not familiar with the Waziristan region of Pakistan, it is considered a bastion of the Taliban and al Qaeda militants, it is also the home of many innocent victims of drone attacks carried out by the US military.

The delegates will be meeting with victims families. They will be arriving in Islamabad, traveling to Bannu where they plan on marching to Miramshah, the capitol of Waziristan. I encourage anyone interested in joining this urgent courageous effort to make contact as soon as possible.

We will meet with survivors of US drone attacks, lawyers who are representing drone victims and political figures. As citizen diplomats from the United States, we will join with people from the region affected by U.S. drone attacks, and call for an end to the killing.

I went to hear Benjamin speak last month at the Progressive Festival in Petaluma, California as part of her Drone Warfare book tour. Her talk was riveting and I decided to pick up a copy of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. Writing a book about drones is a bold undertaking and Benjamin nails it from the onset. Opening with the explosive expansion of the drone industry the book swiftly draws the reader in. It’s a really good book, she turns an otherwise potentially techie topic  into a suspenseful, often heart wrenching, fast paced journey. Benjamin is a great writer and this book is a must read. From the foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich:

Drone Warfare sketches out the nightmare possibilities posed by this insane proliferation. Not only can we can expect drones to fall into the hands of “rogue” nations or terrorist groups; we should brace ourselves, too, for the domestic use of surveillance drones and even armed drones at the Mexican border and possibly against American civilian protestors.

In anyone else’s hands, this could be a deeply depressing book. Fortunately though, Medea Benjamin is not just an ace reporter; she’s one of the world’s leading anti-war activists. Drone Warfare ends with the story of the global anti-drone movement, in which she has played a central role. At the end of this book, you’ll be inspired—and you’ll know exactly how to get involved!

The most challenging part of this review is choosing only one excerpt. Here goes:


The hubbub surrounding the drone killings of Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders like Baitullah Mehsud and Ilyas Kashmiri is notable because it illustrates the strategy and rhetoric that has gone into the elevation of drone warfare as the best possible solution to the strategic challenges posed by non-state actors hiding in remote outposts of the world. The intense focus on men like Mehsud and Kashmiri, who by any measure had a damnable lack of respect for human life, prevents any questioning of the tactics and their impact on less dastardly people—like innocent men, women, and children. “Don’t you want the bad guys to die?” is the question used to suppress those inconvenient, nagging doubts about drones and their hidden victims.

Unsurprisingly, there were many others dead than just these bad guys—the evil poster boys of Al Qaeda and the Taliban whose deaths made everything else seem justified and unworthy of debate. Slowly, despite the muzzled silence imposed on them by local security forces and the indifference of the media, the victims of drone attacks whose houses were felled and solitude destroyed by the constant buzzing of invasive aircraft flown by invisible operators thousands of miles away, began to speak.

One of them was Karim Khan, a resident of the tiny village of Machikhel, near Mir Ali in North Waziristan. On December 31, 2009, as most Americans were putting together their lists of New Year resolutions and gearing up for an evening of festivities to bid adieu to the first decade of the millennium, a drone strike leveled the hujra, or community space, located within the four walls of Karim Khan’s compound. Karim Khan’s family had used the space for years to organize the community for jirgas, or gatherings in which community members made decisions regarding issues that affected their tiny village, from pooling money for the medical care of an elderly relative to mediating a property dispute between brothers.

But there was not a jirga in process that evening. Indeed, Khan was not even in the village that night—he was hundreds of miles away in Islamabad. His brother Asif Iqbal and his eighteen- year-old son Zaeenullah Khan were home, though. They were chatting in the courtyard when a drone flew overhead, casting its dark, buzzing shadow over the hearths of the village of Machikhel. But that night it didn’t just hover above, watching the movements of the villagers below, as it had done on other occasions. No, this time it let loose a missile into the very heart of the village. When the chaos of the explosion dissipated, and the ever-encroaching darkness settled back over the rubble and the blood, Khan’s brother and son had been blown to bits.

Khan did not know of their deaths until it was almost morning, when a ringing cell phone at his bedside delivered the news. He rushed home to lift the biers of his beloved brother and son, burying their bodies—on New Years Day, 2010—in the dry cold soil of the village they had loved. News reports alleged that the target of the drone had been Haji Omar, a Taliban commander. But the villagers insisted that Haji Omar had been nowhere near the village that night. The tragedy that forever scarred the lives of Karim Khan’s family was the product of a mistake.

While the American public hears stories about evil militants like Ilyas Kashmiri and Baitullah Mehsud, it doesn’t hear the stories about victims like Asif Iqbal and Zaeenullah Khan.

Indeed, Asif Iqbal was not a militant or even a militant sympathizer, but a schoolteacher. After receiving his masters in English literature from the National University of Modern Languages, he had returned to work as a schoolteacher in the adjoining village of Dattakhel. It was a post he had held for eight years, teaching children with whatever meager resources he could muster. For nearly a decade he had weathered threats and school closures enforced by the Taliban, and smiled through the restrictions placed by Pakistani security forces. Iqbal bravely confronted the myriad challenges of educating a population riven by war, arguing for the distant benefits of education against the instant power of firearms.

This educated man who had put his faith in the promise of the future was now dead, the target of a faraway aggressor he would never know, an aggressor who would face no punishment for pressing the “fire” button without looking long enough, without checking and double checking the target. Iqbal left behind a young family. His bride of three years was now a widow so distraught that she could not speak for weeks after the attack. In her lap was Mohammad Kafeel, a two-year-old boy who would never remember his father, save for the worn, fingered photographs shown to him by his mother, a single newspaper clipping describing the attack, and the memories told to him by old uncles and cousins.

Also murdered that night was Karim Khan’s son, Zaeenullah Khan, a recent graduate from high school. The boy had returned to the village inspired by his young uncle and got a job as a guard in the same modest school. Like his uncle, he was determined to convince the community of the value of education. He died close to his mentor that night, leaving behind hundreds of students with scant chance of resuming their education—young people now mired in hatred for the drone that had killed their teacher, aching for revenge.

A third man died that night, too, a chance visitor to the hujra in Karim Khan’s compound. He was a stonemason who had traveled to the little town to work on the village mosque. Too tired after the day’s labor to return to his own home miles away, he had been welcomed—with the traditional hospitality—as a guest in Khan’s home.

The casualties from the attack on Machikhel village that night would have slipped into the same murky abyss as hundreds of nameless, faceless casualties of drone attacks, labeled with the sterile inhumanity of “collateral damage,” but for the fact that Karim Khan was a journalist.

After burying the bodies of his son and brother that grim, gray January, he vowed that they would never be forgotten. Over the next year, he gathered victims’ families from all over North and South Waziristan, the detritus of drones pushed out of the world’s moral narrative, their suffering unseen, and their plight invisible before the gigantic imperative of killing terrorists.

In November 2010, Khan won his first small victory. With the help of an Islamabad-based human rights lawyer named Shahzad Akbar, he sent a legal notice to the American embassy in Islamabad, detailing the wrongful deaths of his brother and son, and accusing the CIA of grossly violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in its targeting and killing of innocent civilians.

A few weeks later, close to the first anniversary of the attack, Karim Khan spoke outside a police station where he had just lodged a complaint, asking that the CIA Station Chief in Islamabad be forbidden from leaving Pakistan until he answered to the charges against him. “We appeal to the authorities to not let Jonathan Banks escape from Pakistan,” Khan implored, standing on the station steps. His lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, said that his client had learned of Mr. Banks’s identity, normally kept secret, through local press reports. A local Pakistani newspaper had also reported that the Station Chief’s name was not on the roster of diplomats slated to receive diplomatic immunity, and claimed that he should be made to answer for the atrocities inflicted by the CIA drone program on innocent Pakistani civilians.

While the accusation by the family of drone victims against a CIA agent made headlines in Pakistan, Karim Khan did not win that round. Jonathan Banks, if that was even his real name, was allowed to leave the country. But in the ensuing days and months, Khan’s work organizing the families of victims slowly began to bear fruit as local politicians in Pakistan and international human rights organizations like the UK-based legal services group Reprieve and the international rights organization CIVIC began to look more deeply into the issue.

In October 2011, the Pakistan-based Foundation for Fundamental Rights, with the help of the British legal group Reprieve, brought a group of elders and drone victim families from North and South Waziristan to Islamabad. Called the “Grand Waziristan Jirga,” it gathered over three hundred fifty villagers, including over sixty drone victim families who lived on the Pakistani- Afghan frontier to meet with Westerners for the first time to offer their perspectives on the shadowy drone war being waged in their region. The jirga ended with a call from the Pakistanis condemning all forms of terrorism, including the CIA-operated drone strikes.

In the group was Tariq Aziz, a shy sixteen-year-old boy who had been trained by human rights lawyer Shahzad Akbar in basic photography to document the devastation caused by the strikes in his own and adjoining villages. Tariq had a personal motivation: eighteen months earlier, his cousin Anwar Ullah had been killed by an unmanned drone as he drove his motorcycle through the village of Norak.

Tariq also had plenty of firsthand experience with drones. Neil Williams, a British investigator with Reprieve who was at the tribal meeting, recalled having asked Tariq if he had ever seen a drone. “I expected him to say, ‘Yes, I see one a week.’ But he said they saw ten or fifteen every day,” said Williams. “And he was saying at nighttime, it was making him crazy, because he couldn’t sleep.”

When the meeting ended, Tariq returned to his village in Waziristan, encouraged in his documenting efforts by the activists and journalists who vowed to publicize the plight of Waziris. But neither he nor the foreigners he met with could have imagined that the first documentation of drone deaths after their gathering in Islamabad would be that of Tariq himself.

Three days after the meeting, Tariq, together with his twelve-year-old cousin Waheed Rehman, went to pick up his newlywed aunt. When the two boys were just two hundred yards from her house, two missiles slammed into their car, killing them both instantly.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, their deaths marked the 174th and 175th child casualties of CIA drones.

Tariq Aziz was the youngest of seven children, growing up dirt poor along the hardscrabble border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. His father had left years ago, working as a driver for a sheikh in the United Arab Emirates, sending money to his family whenever he could. His cousin Waheed was equally poor, his family relying on the boy’s monthly salary of $23 as a shop assistant to make stretched ends meet.

Thanks to the fateful meeting in Islamabad days before, the death of these boys—unlike other drone victims never mentioned or mourned beyond the village—was reported in newspapers around the world. American lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, who had just met the boy in Islamabad, wrote a compelling New York Times Op-Ed. “My mistake had been to see the drone war in Waziristan in terms of abstract legal theory—as a blatantly illegal invasion of Pakistan’s sovereignty, akin to President Richard M. Nixon’s bombing of Cambodia in 1970,” Stafford wrote. “But now, the issue has suddenly become very real and personal. 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.”

A US official acknowledged to ABC News that the attack was not a mistake—the CIA had chosen this target because the two people in the car were supposedly militants. Pratap Chatterje, a journalist at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism who met Tariq at the Islamabad meeting, was dumbfounded. “If this sixteen-year-old was indeed a suspected terrorist, then why wasn’t he arrested in Islamabad?” Chatterje asked. “It would have been very easy to find him at the hotel and arrest him.”

On November 4, 2011, two days after the attack that killed the boys, the Wall Street Journal reported on a dispute within the Obama Administration regarding drone attacks, saying that many key US military and State Department officials were demanding that the strikes be more selective while CIA brass wanted a free hand to pursue suspected militants. The dispute led to an independent review of the program during the summer of 2011—a review in which President Obama himself was involved. According to the Journal, the CIA agreed to make a series of “secret concessions,” including giving the State Department greater say in strike decisions; informing Pakistani leaders in advance about more operations; and suspending operations when Pakistani officials visited the US.

Too bad there were no Pakistani officials visiting the US when Tariq Aziz and Waheed Khan were driving to their aunt’s house.


While the number of those killed and their grieving families is in the thousands, the ripple effects of drone warfare have affected millions.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani

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23 Responses

  1. Annie Robbins
    August 20, 2012, 2:04 pm

    i would just like to add, i meant it completely when i wrote “The most challenging part of this review is choosing only one excerpt”. as i was reading it i started folding back pages for later review knowing i was planning on adding an excerpt. but there were so many places .. so many corners of the pages folded back there was no way..the section of the book, towards the beginning documenting the growth of the industry was mindblowing for me. the part about nevada and the personnel (chapter 5 “pilots without a cockpit”) ..the killers who watch and wait. the military UAV program..the cia..the “clean” death. medea walks the walk, she doesn’t just talk and write about it. you have to read the book to get it. we have to wake people up.

    and as i was doing a search for a drone graphic yesterday these news stories popped up about the latest drone deaths over ramadam.

    and one more thing. i mentioned earlier i had a visitor from gaza visit me recently, a young student. as we were enjoying a few minutes in the sun on the back deck a neighbor from across the street, the leaf blower started up and she said ‘drone’. can you imagine living like that? from the excerpted text

    recalled having asked Tariq if he had ever seen a drone. “I expected him to say, ‘Yes, I see one a week.’ But he said they saw ten or fifteen every day,” said Williams. “And he was saying at nighttime, it was making him crazy, because he couldn’t sleep.”

    how can people live like this?

    • Hostage
      August 22, 2012, 12:05 am

      [JURIST] UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Ben Emmerson told reporters on Sunday that the US government must allow an independent investigation of the legality of its drone strike policy. The US has received heavy criticism recently for its use of drone strikes to attack targets in the War on Terror [JURIST news archive]. Emmerson criticized the US for its policy of defending the legality of drone strikes in general while declining to officially confirm that it is responsible for recent attacks. He said the US must expose its program to international scrutiny [Independent report] in order evaluate the legality of the strikes, which some have argued violate the sovereignty of foreign states and are potential war crimes. Emmerson said it was impossible to evaluate the legality of the attacks until the US acknowledged their existence and allowed an investigation into their use. . . . . .

  2. Kathleen
    August 20, 2012, 2:57 pm

    Have heard Medea speak numerous times and interacted a bit with her. An intelligent dynamo. When she sinks her teeth into an issue she does not let go. She will admit that she has gotten involved in the I/P issue late in the game but the fact is she has gotten involved in a huge way. She is brilliant, dynamic and oh so sincere. If I could afford to I would follow her intentions where ever she goes. Remarkable person with courage and smarts (Dr. Marcy Wheeler has been focused on the drone issue for quite some time) She is another dynamic woman with an especially keen intellect. Another dig in deep kind of individual. Would love to see these two on the same panel discussing Obama’s drones, how many killed etc

  3. Kathleen
    August 20, 2012, 3:02 pm

    Annie last night over at Huff Po they had a front and center story linking to the Politico about a Congressman as well as staff who the F.B.I had been following their actions in Israel while on a “privately paid for excursion” to Israel. Now that story has moved down the page at Huff Po. I challenged them about focusing on getting naked in Israel issue and asked why the illegal settlements issue never makes it front and center at HUff Po (that comment did not make it up..back to their old ways of not allowing themselves to be questioned about that critical issue) But one of the things that I said that did make it up is why no one is asking about these “privately paid for excursions” to Israel. Thought this was not supposed to happen after the Ney/ Abramoff pay to play scandal. Thought there was legislation passed to block privately paid for excursions to any foreign nation. Now we know that anything having to do with Israel trumps all rules has been “normalized” Just wondering if you might be interested in that story?

    • Annie Robbins
      August 20, 2012, 4:12 pm

      kathleen, when you linked to politico yesterday i shot off an email to he knows about it. it’s not something i am personally choosing to cover. thanks for all your heads up.

      • Kathleen
        August 20, 2012, 9:06 pm

        I think I sent something to Phil also. Chris Matthews is talking about this tonight. Amazing no one talking about how that private funding was supposed to have stopped after the Ney/Abramoff hanky panky

      • Kathleen
        August 20, 2012, 9:22 pm

        Chris Matthews just said he has gone on a few of these privately paid excursions to Israel trips

  4. ColinWright
    August 20, 2012, 5:02 pm

    I think one of the most worrisome aspects of drones and such is that they reduce the risk of aggression and oppression.

    Think about what makes us as people not cut in front in line, not take whatever we want without paying for it, etc. Well, sure there are ethical precepts and conditioning –but there’s also the reasonable fear that this behavior may provoke a violent response. The obvious benefit is outweighed by the unknown but considerably greater risk. We’d rather wait another five minutes than risk possible humiliation. After all, if you were certain that there wouldn’t be any visible objection, can you really be sure you wouldn’t just walk to the head of the line at the DMV?

    History suggests similar reasoning on the part of state actors. If there’s some reasonable balance of power — if yeah, the US could eventually subdue and incorporate Mexico, but only at the cost of tens of thousands of dead and uncounted expenditure of treasure — then it doesn’t happen.

    On the other hand, whenever a state develops an approach that makes victory apparently both assured and relatively painless, there is always an explosion of aggression: Rome, the Mongols, Nazi Germany.

    This struck me when I was considering colonial expansion. In earlier periods — up to about 1800 — European powers may have been superior militarily, but the difference wasn’t overwhelming. Military expeditions were risky, and quite likely to end in defeat. Aggression tended to be undertaken only piecemeal. Morocco — however fractured and backward — was able to stand off European probes in her direction. Digesting Algeria was a prolonged and expensive process for the French. India remained a conglomerate of more or less independent states.

    Come the later nineteenth century, and all the advances that made it both easy and relatively safe to conquer all and sundry, and almost everything was promptly overrun. ‘For we have got the Maxim, and they have not.’

    You got your machine guns, you got your quinine pills, you got your steamships. It was a cinch, it wasn’t dangerous, and it happened. The British converted India into a bureaucratic appendage of the motherland. The Russians lanced effortlessly into Central Asia. Africa was divided up among the great powers. China, Iran, Southeast Asia — all reduced to exactly whatever status the European powers found most convenient.

    The conquest of Rhodesia, Omdurman, Wounded Knee, The Hereros in German Southwest Africa, the suppression of the Boxer rebellion — the tail end of the nineteenth century presents a spectacle of European powers handily — and almost effortlessly — crushing all opposition, imposing their will in exact detail. It wasn’t hard anymore.

    In this era, where we can kill virtually without risk, what will restrain us? It won’t be like Viet Nam, where the weekly body count eventually drove us to leave. Whatever our motives, we can now painlessly exert sovereignty — and what’s going to keep us from doing it?

    Our moral scruples?

    • OlegR
      August 20, 2012, 6:10 pm

      /On the other hand, whenever a state develops an approach that makes victory apparently both assured and relatively painless, there is always an explosion of aggression: Rome, the Mongols, Nazi Germany./

      Neither Rome (At the beginning) nor the Mongols or Nazi Germany had any kind of approach that made their victory to appear assured or painless.

      /In this era, where we can kill virtually without risk, what will restrain us? It won’t be like Viet Nam, where the weekly body count eventually drove us to leave. Whatever our motives, we can now painlessly exert sovereignty — and what’s going to keep us from doing it?/

      What kept you thus far ironically, nukes.

      • NickJOCW
        August 20, 2012, 10:01 pm

        Oleg, Colin is raising a philosophical question about human nature and the tension between a nisus towards unethical behaviour and any restraining cost. A philosophical proposition has to be universal and while it can be illuminated by reference to specific examples, once identified it must be free from them. You may disagree with the implication of his question, in which case the response is either that his restraints are illusory or they do not exercise the influence he suggests, but Rome, Nazis and nukes have nothing whatever to do with it.

      • ColinWright
        August 20, 2012, 11:30 pm

        OlegR says: “Neither Rome (At the beginning) nor the Mongols or Nazi Germany had any kind of approach that made their victory to appear assured or painless.”

        And Rome (at the beginning) was rather cautious and circumspect. But dating from about her victories over the Macedonians, it became very clear she had an unbeatable system, and she began to force the pace at an ever-accelerating rate until she had pretty much run into the geographical boundaries of her world.

        The Mongols certainly didn’t pause much once they’d discovered they could overrun empires. Khwarizm was very shortly followed by Persia, Northern China, Iraq, and Kievan Russia.

        The Nazis naturally had no notion of just how successful they were going to be. However, when France fell with almost bewildering speed, they swiftly adjusted their expectations. The conquest of Russia was supposed to take six weeks. Such expectations were one reason they attempted it.

        Naturally, there is much else to be said about the above examples. However, my point is that aggression — particularly unrestrained aggression — is partly a function of the ease with which it is believed it can be undertaken. If the 1967 War had been a bloody struggle for Israel, lasting for six months and costing her 10% of her population of military age, it’s doubtful if she would have invaded Lebanon in 1982. One thing that’s kept Israel from repeating her 2006 invasion of Lebanon is how costly it was the last time.

        And that’s where the drones come in. If it becomes possible to practice aggression at no human cost to the aggressor, it logically follows that aggression will become more commonplace.

      • NickJOCW
        August 21, 2012, 4:19 am

        It’s the reason Iran bruits about its defensive capabilities, and why others insist upon the global consequences of an attack. A propos, I found this in Aljazeera.

        The widespread propaganda machinery of the pro-Israeli lobby notwithstanding, everybody around the world knows that the US and its regional allies have no case against Iran and are putting pressures on the Islamic Republic over the nuclear issue first to appease Israel (and nothing ever appeases Israel enough) that does not wish even the illusion of a military parity in the region so it can continue to steal more of Palestine with total impunity, and second to divert attention from the unfolding democratic uprising in the region. In alliance with Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, Israel is hell bound to divert these democratic revolts to their own benefits. Neither Israel nor, a fortiori, Saudi Arabia have the moral or the normative (or the political) wherewithal of dealing with open-ended democratic uprisings in the region. Their picking on Iran is part and parcel of a grander strategy to turn the Arab Spring to their benefits. They will fail

        The paragraph is nestled in a typical expatriate diatribe against the priorities of the Iranian leadership.

        As for drones, I fear they are just the latest advance in killing capability like gunpowder, machine guns and bombs.

      • ColinWright
        August 21, 2012, 7:31 pm

        Nick says: “As for drones, I fear they are just the latest advance in killing capability like gunpowder, machine guns and bombs.”

        At the risk of beating the point to death, drones have the ominous virtue of offering total impunity to the operator. He can kill at no risk whatsoever.

        This is important. Even if the risk is disproportionate –even if Israel can kill four Hezbollah fighters for every IDF soldier killed — the risk is still a deterrent.

        It’s really like why one stands up to bullies. If the bully knows he can abuse you with impunity, he will. He enjoys it. If he knows you will fight, even though he knows he will win, he will go looking for another target. You are imposing a cost, and he doesn’t want to pay it. He starts bothering you, and you may suddenly give him a bloody nose. He’ll then beat the crap out of you — but that won’t do his nose any good.

        So he’ll pass you by — unless he’s actually got some kind of grievance he imagines to be justified.

        Ditto with drones. If we can kill any time we like without cost, inevitably we will.

  5. gracie fr
    August 20, 2012, 6:01 pm

    Israel has been involved in drone technology from the beginnings of IAF research and development to the whiz and blur of their deployment as a “preemptive” measure to kill “terrorists” before the said terrorists take action. From 2008:

    Israel is at the forefront of the drone technology that is increasingly being used in hotspots around the world. The unmanned craft provide a deadly and cost-effective alternative for armies to target enemies, without risking their own pilots’ lives and reducing civilian casualties in heavily populated areas.
    They are guided by remote control from the ground. Because of their small size and relatively low speed, their low-yield missiles can be aimed precisely. The use of drones is shrouded in secrecy, and Israeli defense officials refuse to comment publicly on whether they are being used in airstrikes in Gaza. However, Israeli officers in private conversations have confirmed use of the weapons.

    Droes have been easily sold to Congress and the Pentagon, because they do not put troops in harm’s way:

    UAVs are ideal systems to support the emerging joint character and the asymmetric nature of warfare.”17 Unmanned systems can operate in environments contaminated by chemical, biological, or radioactive agents. They can also operate in other environments denied to manned systems, such as altitudes both lower and higher than those typically traversed by manned aircraft. The long endurance of some RPAs and UAVs provides sustained support for more efficient time-critical targeting and other missions requiring greater persistence than that provided by manned aircraft or passing space systems.18 Small UAVs provide a unique capability to get close to a target and provide the “bird’s eye view.” Their small size, quiet propulsion systems, and ability to feed information directly to Battlefield Airmen enhance the combat effectiveness of our forces. …

    However, the legal issue of drone use remains a thorny one in international law, but here too Israel led the way with a High Court ruling in 2006 condoning “targeted killing” as a legal means of self defense
    From targeted assassinations by helicopter gunship pilots to missiles fired from an unmanned drone was unfortunately an easy hop skip and jump…
    For a brief history of done use:

    • gracie fr
      August 20, 2012, 6:22 pm

      (First source is from an article by Ashley Goetz March 04, 2008 for written the Saint Paul Minnesota Daily)

  6. Clif Brown
    August 20, 2012, 6:20 pm

    I bought Benjamin’s book at a talk she gave locally. I was disappointed to see a low turnout and mostly elderly people. For entertainment, a singer gave us his composition, “Protest Songs are Dead”. But Media is a dynamo and shows up everywhere, seeming to be about 3 or 4 people in one. I told her that Code Pink’s creativity is wonderful. The skits they put on in public are nothing if not attention getting.

    Per the drone issue. I think we are in a fairly brief window of unchallenged drone operation during which it appears to be a magic weapon. Nobody gets killed except for people who are expendable in the view of the administration. With lots of folks like Dick Cheney at the top, that includes a very large number of people. But drones fly slow and usually low (the remark about a lawn mower sounding like a drone is proof).

    With freely available remote controlled “omnicopters” and such which can be carried in a large attache case, eventually drones will be brought down by home-made counter-drones. Conceivably, even a fly by wire system would work that would overcome electronic countermeasures by drones.

    Whatever comes along will provide the latest replay of a response to any technology. As in the past, the counter-measure will cost a fraction of that of the weapon it is designed to destroy, as we’ve seen with the IED’s.

    The result is one country spending billions with no end in sight and the opposition spending hundreds or thousands to keep the dollar hemorrhage going. It can’t go on indefinitely. The old standard of who is winning is becoming as out of date as the idea that war has a beginning and end.

    Remember all the sympathy of the world (even from Hezbollah) after 9/11? That sure is a distant memory and drones have put a definitive end to it.

  7. Citizen
    August 20, 2012, 6:26 pm

    Nothing will keep us from doing it, unless the war designers are wrong, and eventually our leaders realize we need to revive the Military Draft.

  8. Kathleen
    August 20, 2012, 8:44 pm

    The U.S. MSM will cover how many Syrians Assad’s regime has killed but certainly not how many people Obama’s drones have killed. They will not touch this story. Not the so called liberal Rachel Maddow either

  9. Kathleen
    August 20, 2012, 9:20 pm

    Over at Emptywheel’s
    On the Questions of Drones, First Responders and Collective Punishment in Pakistan
    Posted on August 20, 2012 by Jim White

  10. NickJOCW
    August 21, 2012, 4:57 am

    You could view drones as ultra advanced versions of the doodlebugs Germany sent over London. It’s eerie to be reminded of the sounds and the sleepless nights. The sound would stop and then there was quiet, like that between lightening and thunder, while you held your breath before the thud of an explosion. They said if you could hear them they had passed over. When I was six, my mother failed to board an overcrowded bus in the Charing Cross Road and walked home. The bus was hit. Must each generation learn it for itself?

    • Kathleen
      August 21, 2012, 8:20 am

      “must each generation learn for itself” And even during that generation we do not learn. Thought the lessons from Vietnam would have been learned. But no those who study war only got better. No draft, Bush, Wolfowitz, Feith administration pelting out lies about WMD’s that the MSM repeated without question, little news about what was going on in Iraq, no counting of their dead, injured, displaced. Millions of us marched, lobbied, were arrested before that invasion but the MSM did not show those at home what was really going on. Oh they learned all right. How to kill and create chaos more efficiently so that the majority of Americans can keep their heads in the clouds about what their government is doing

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