Just as the new year began, the US war machine’s ultimate killing device reportedly nailed 19 people in Pakistan where drones kept hovering in the skies all most all the day long creating panic and harassment among the residents in North Waziristan.
(Illustration found here).
And President Obama’s ‘other surge’ has been in drone attacks in the Af-Pak theater.
As of December 17, Predator and Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles and precision-guided bombs carried out 113 strikes against Islamist militants in Pakistan, double the number in 2009 and more than the total number of raids conducted in the previous six years, according to a tally by the independent New America Foundation.
The covert bombing raids are backed up by a clandestine CIA-run paramilitary force of 3,000 Afghans, reportedly carrying out sensitive cross-border operations in Pakistan.
Unlike the nine-year-old conflict in Afghanistan, the drone war has steadily expanded with little US public debate while American officials avoid openly discussing the CIA raids.
“By the old standards, this would be viewed as a war,” Peter Singer, author of a book on robotic weapons, “Wired for War,” told a congressional hearing in March.
“But why do we not view it as such? Is it because it is being run by the CIA, not by the military and thus not following the same lines of authority and authorization?” he asked.
“Is it because Congress never debated it?”
Drones are also getting an upgrade — the US Air Force announced over the weekend that a new pilot-less aircraft, the Gorgon Stare, with nine video cameras mounted onboard (instead of just the current one) enabling it to view an entire town and to “see everything.”
“That really only comes from human intelligence or boots on the ground,” said Army Col. Steven A. Beckman, the former intelligence chief for coalition forces in Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.
“We can get the 3-D geo-intelligence that tells us what every building, what every street looks like in Marja,” he said at the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation conference in New Orleans in November. But such intelligence needs to be “underpinned by a degree of local knowledge . . . to enable us to maximize that.”
Beckman called full-motion video “the crack cocaine of our ground forces” – but often, he said, it’s a technology that is poorly utilized.
And via those video games — a perfect setting.
Lt Col Matt Martin, who as a virtual pilot has logged 1600 hours of flying drones – also called Predators – from his control room outside Las Vegas, says UAVs have turned modern warfare into a high-tech video game.
‘I’m seeing that action. And after doing that for five or six hours and to step outside and realize you’re not there, that is kind of surreal,” says the former pilot who now trains drone pilots.
‘War is not sport. The purpose of war is not or it shouldn’t be to achieve the emotional satisfaction of its participants. It ought to be to achieve a certain objective,” he quoted as saying.
Read Jane Mayer’s most-excellent piece on how the US drone war is conducted here.
Despite all the problems, some people have taken to the drones.
“Drone attacks have become quite popular with the local population because these are spot-on and there are lesser chances of killing innocent people,” says Jehangir Alam, professor of political Science at the Government College in Mardan, one of 24 districts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The Pakistan National Assembly expressed strong concern over the drone attacks Dec. 28, and asked the U.S. government to stop these strikes immediately.
But locally not everyone takes the official Pakistani position.
“Drones are an extremely popular weapon,” Hameed Akhtar a local journalist in Miramshah, North Waziristan tells IPS. “The local population is quite satisfied the way they are fired.
“Militants are passing sleepless nights due to fear of drone attacks,” he said. “They are on the run. Everyday three to five drone aircraft come hovering over the North Waziristan territory, and fire missiles when they find their target.”
Who’s to say?
War is killing.