Predator drones sanitize
killing on the cheap compared to manned aircraft and ground troops.
Teams of remote warriors work far from, and at times, closer to battlefields.
Drone pilots operate computer keyboards and multiple monitors. Sensor
staff work with them. They handle TV and infrared cameras, as well as
other high-tech drone sensors. Faceless enemies nearby or half a world
away are attacked. Virtual war kills like sport.
At day's end, home-based operators head there for dinner, relaxation,
family time, then a good night sleep before another day guiding weapons
with joysticks and monitors like computer games.
Dozens of drone command centers operate worldwide. Dozens more are planned.
Pentagon and CIA personnel run them. Some are bare bones. Climate-controlled
trailers work fine. They operate effectively anywhere. They maintain
constant radio contact with command centers.
Others are sophisticated command and control centers. Two operate at
CIA's Langley, VA headquarters. Nevada's Creech and Nellis Air Force
Bases near Las Vegas have others. Plans last year called for Nellis
operations to be moved to Florida's Hurlburt Field Special Operations
Domestic bases also operate from command and control centers in California,
Arizona, New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Missouri, Ohio, New York,
and perhaps elsewhere. Eventually they could be anywhere.
Washington plans escalated surveillance and predator drone operations
at dozens of global sites. Expanding them to hundreds is likely. The
Pentagon and CIA are tightlipped.
Currently, around one in three US warplanes are drones. One day perhaps
they'll all be unmanned. Sanitized killing is cheap and efficient. Rule
of law principles and other disturbing issues aren't considered. Secrecy
and accountability go unaddressed.
Last September, the Washington Post headlined, "US assembling secret
drone bases in Africa, Arabian Peninsula, officials say."
Pentagon and CIA officials plan aggressive campaigns against "al-Qaeda
affiliates in Somalia and Yemen, U.S. officials said."
Ethiopia is home to one installation. Al-Shabab fighters are targeted.
Another is based in the Seychelles. Since September 2009, Air Force
and Navy MQ-9 Reaper drones operated there.
Called "hunter-killers," they're equipped with Hellfire missiles and
satellite-guided bombs. Operational secrecy suppresses details of planned
Besides elsewhere, drones are used in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya,
Iraq, Somalia, and Yemen. Among other locations, they operate from Djibouti.
The CIA is building "a secret airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula
so it can deploy armed drones over Yemen."
More on Yemen below.
On July 1, 2011, Aviation Week headlined "Drone War," saying:
"There is an unofficial but lethal drone war taking place over Pakistan,
Yemen and Libya that has expanded the area of operation for U.S. forces
beyond Iraq and Afghanistan, with no real acknowledgement from the government
that anything extraordinary is happening."
"The undeclared conflict on these three fronts might be the first Drone
War, and warfare has never seen anything like it."
The article asked if unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) increase the threshold
for war in more places because logistics are simpler and US lives aren't
Using them also provides intelligence. Aircraft can stay airborne 24
hours. Multiple crews operate them. Offsite calm away from battle zones
aids concentration, decision-making, and overall efficiency.
The Air Force Academy's class of 2011 was its first with graduates planning
to specialize in drone operations. Army enlisted personnel do it along
with trained pilots handling takeoffs and landings.
Unmanned platform killing is expanding. Targets include countries where
technically America isn't at war. Victims and families know otherwise.
On June 14, 2011, the Los Angeles Times headlined, "CIA plans drone
strike campaign in Yemen," saying:
Obama authorized escalated counterterrorism strikes against alleged
Al Qaeda threats to America. A secret CIA regional base will target
them. An unnamed US official was quoted, saying:
"There's no question that we're trying to look at a lot of different
ways to make something happen in Yemen."
In March 2012, after returning from Yemen, Nation magazine contributor
Jeremy Scahill headlined "Washington's War in Yemen Backfires," saying:
Washington is "doubling down on its use of air power and drones, which
are swiftly becoming the primary focus of Washington’s counterterrorism
"For years, the elite Joint Special Operations Command and the CIA had
teams deployed inside Yemen that supported Yemeni forces and conducted
unilateral operations, consisting mostly of cruise missile and drone
Lots of civilians are killed. At anti-regime rallies, "prominent conservative
imams deliver stinging sermons denouncing the United States and Israel."
US policy enrages tribal leaders. Resistance grows stronger against
it. Washington's belligerence "backfire(d) by killing civilians" and
for violating Yemeni sovereignty. Angry people strike back. In a heavily
armed country, America's alleged threat is stronger.
Yemen's a gun culture. On average, people own three, including automatic
weapons like AK-47s and heavier arms. Moreover, they're prone to direct
action. Threaten them and they strike back. They're mostly ordinary
Yemenis against imperial America's intervention. In self-defense, they
Perhaps Obama officials want it that way in more combat theaters than
Yemen to justify waging permanent wars. America needs enemies. Peace
and calm defeats its imperial agenda. Killing civilians may work as
On April 25, 2012, the Washington Post headlined "White House approves
broader Yemen drone campaign," saying:
Al Qaeda suspects are targeted. Obama's authorization lets Joint Special
Operations Command (JSOC) and CIA personnel "fire even when the identity
of those who could be killed is not known, US officials said."
In June 2011, counterinsurgency advisor David Kilcullen told Congress
that drone strikes kill militants 2% of the time. Others are noncombatant
civilians. He explained that these operations "lose the population (and)
the war." He also raised issues of legality.
UAVs were first used in Vietnam as reconnaissance platforms. In the
1980s, Harpy air defense suppression system radar killer drones were
employed. In the Gulf War, unmanned combat air systems (UCAS) and X-45
air vehicles were used.
Others were deployed in Bosnia in 1995 and against Serbia in 1999. America's
new weapon of choice is now commonplace in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Libya, Somalia, Yemen, elsewhere abroad, and domestically for law enforcement
and surveillance. Escalated domestic and foreign use is planned.
Along with satellites and other technologies, Big Brother plans a global
presence to spy and kill. International law isn't considered. Neither
are constitutional and US statute laws. Rogue states do what they please.
They answer to no one and don't say they're sorry.
CIA Director General David Petraeus urged easing the rules of engagement.
Anything goes is policy. It always was, but now it's more official.
Princeton University Yemen specialist Gregory Johnsen worries about
"a dangerous drift." He said policymakers "don't appear to realize they
are heading into rough waters without a map."
The greater the number of drone kills, he explained, the more recruits
Al Qaeda gains. What does Washington plan in response, he asked? Is
another war coming, he wonders?
On April 20, Yale Law Professor Bruce Ackerman headlined his Washington
Post op-ed "President Obama: Don't go there."
Before Obama's authorization, he said permitting expanded UAV strikes
"break(s) the legal barrier that Congress erected to prevent the White
House from waging an endless war on terrorism."
Ackerman, of course, knows legal barriers haven't deterred presidents
from waging lawless wars since Korea in 1950. WW II was the last legal
Since 2009, Obama waged drone war on Yemen and other countries besides
officially designated war theaters. He also authorized special forces
death squads in dozens of countries worldwide.
Post-9/11, Congress gave Bush a blank check to wage war. It approved
the Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) for "the use of United
States Armed Forces against those responsible for the recent attacks
launched against the United States."
It was used to wage war on Iraq. It's still in force today. Obama's
2010 National Security Strategy "reserve(s) the right to act unilaterally
if necessary to defend our nation and our interests."
In other words, to wage preemptive or proxy war, including with nuclear
weapons. Making the world safe for capital may destroy it. Mutually
assured destruction (MAD) was reinvented in new form. Who knows what's
A constitutional lawyer, Obama knows right from wrong. Nonetheless,
he's waging lawless permanent wars, plans more, and not just against
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge
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