As part of the “War on Terror,” the US military has conducted missions involving unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as “aerial drones,” since late 2001.
The War in Afghanistan saw heavy use of these first military drones, especially for assassination missions. Since then, their utilization by various governments around the world has exploded and diversified. Drones are increasingly replacing manned aircraft due to reduced risk and lower costs. This paradigm shift in the waging of war may seem like a great advancement, but like most military technologies, drones have a dark side.
The most disturbing aspect of drone operations is the distressing lack of concern for so-called “collateral” damage. US drone attacks have resulted in numerous civilian deaths in multiple countries with which the US is not even at war, including Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen. According to Pakistani authorities, during a three-year period from 2006 to 2009, drone strikes killed 687 Pakistani civilians, while only killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda members during the same time period. That is not “collateral damage;” it is a blatant disregard for human life.
Even more shocking is the number of children killed in drone strikes: 176, according to the latest reports. Drone strikes have claimed more than eight times as many innocent children as the Sandy Hook shooting, and yet we hear nothing about these ongoing atrocities. The mainstream media must not think that brown children in foreign countries matter to Americans. terrifyingly, in an article for the “Military Times,” Army Lt. Col. Marion Carrington justified the killing of children, stating that “in addition to looking for military-age males,” the US military is “looking for children with potential hostile intent.”
Is it really any mystery why the United States has so many enemies? Every innocent the US kills in the “War on Terror” provides ample provocation for family and friends of the deceased to take up arms. Who are the real terrorists: the devastated fathers seeking revenge for dead children, or the warmongering, imperialist government killing those children? The inevitable result of this continuous blowback is war in perpetuity–exactly what the war profiteers in government desire.
More frightening for us back in the US is that drone use is no longer reserved to theaters of war and anti-terror campaigns. A provision of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 allows domestic government agencies to acquire and use drones for various purposes, including surveillance and law-enforcement. Hundreds of drones are already lurking overhead. There are no privacy protections in place regarding the use of drones in America. “Authorities” may initiate drone surveillance on anyone without a warrant, nor even probable cause.
The lack of civil liberties in this domain becomes scarier still when one considers the surveillance capabilities of the latest drones: they can read the text on a milk carton from 60,000 feet! In addition to this stunning optical resolution, the military-industrial complex can outfit these drones with “hack packages,” allowing them to digitally eavesdrop on electronic communications (i.e., cellphones, WiFi, etc) without detection. Perhaps most alarming, manufacturers are already equipping their drones with “less-lethal” weapons, such as rubber bullets, mace sprayers, and tear gas launchers. Protest-busting drones will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on what little freedom of speech remains in this country. There are even plans to equip domestic drones with lethal weapons systems, similar to their internationally deployed cousins. How long will it be before Americans are victims of deadly drone strikes?