Tag Archives: UAVs

Now Drones Are Coming For Us and Our Allies. This Could Have Been Avoided.

For the last 18 years, the United States has enjoyed a virtual monopoly on drone assassination warfare. Now, as predicted, other countries are starting to use unmanned aerial vehicles, as seen with the recent attack against Saudi oil refineries. This might have been avoided if the U.S. had not set such a terrible precedent.

How the Press Leads “The Resistance”

The Trump Administration is guilty of countless wrongdoing, including monstrous acts that no one cares about, at least not in the press. In the meantime, the media is obsessing over a meeting between a 2016 Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer, Donald Trump, Jr. and a number of other attendees.

Sometimes You Feel Like Electing a Nut

Democrats ridicule Republicans for their top two presidential frontrunners, the blowhard Donald Trump and the somnolent ignoramus and proto-fascist Ben Carson. But when you stop to think about it, how is the outwardly cool calm and collected Barack “Kill List” Obama less nutty than Trump or Carson?

A Theory of the Drone: Clarifying, Terrifying

Originally published by ANewDomain:

Without debate or even formal acknowledgment by the government that it uses unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to kill people overseas, drones will – or have, depending on your perspective – revolutionize war as we know it.


Written with breathtaking clarity from a perspective that blends politics, history and philosophy, A Theory of the Drone convincingly argues that armed drones are drastically altering relations between nations and individuals, and that it’s probably already too late to turn back.

I’ve been obsessed with drones since the Bush administration deployed them during the months after 9/11 over Afghanistan and Pakistan, where they have since killed thousands of people, the vast majority of them demonstrably innocent civilians who were not targeted, the remainder so-called “militants” who don’t fit the popular definition of a terrorist determined to attack America, but are merely guerrilla fighters trying to bring down the governments of American client states and allies.

Coverage of the Aviary, a drone research facility at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in my hometown of Dayton, Ohio that designs drones to mimic flight in the animal kingdom from hawks and hummingbirds down to bees and dragonflies, convinces me that we have only begun to scratch the surface of the unmanned flight revolution.

Even though I’ve read tons about drones, French philosopher Grégoire Chamayou blew my mind with his lucid observations about the political and psychological of armed UAV warfare. Whether or not you find the subject of interest, I can say with certainty that “A Theory of the Drone” will be one of the most important books you have ever read.

Because even if you don’t care about drones, drones care about you.

In combat, two or more adversaries clash violently. To be sure, there can be and often is a wide gap in manpower, training, and technology that all but assures the outcome. Nevertheless, combat entails risk to everyone who participates in it.

To cite an extreme sample, the pilot who dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima might have experienced an equipment malfunction that caused his plane to crash.

There was of course a vast difference in the risks taken by the Japanese residents of Hiroshima on the ground and Paul Tibbets, the pilot of the Enola Gay, but still, he did place himself in some physical jeopardy.

Drone warfare, on the other hand, is not combat between adversaries. Drone warfare, Chamayou points out, is the relationship between hunter and prey.

“Contrary to Cael von Clausewitz’s classical definition,” he writes, “the fundamental structure of this type of warfare is no longer that of a duel, of two fighters facing each other the paradigm is quite different: a hunter advancing on a prey that flees or hides from him. The rules of the game are not the same.”

He quotes George A. Crawford, author of a report on “manhunting theoretical principles” for a military university:

In the competition between two enemy combatants, the goal is to win the battle by defeating the adversary: both combatants must confront to win. However, a manhunt scenario differs in that each player’s strategy is different. The fugitive always wants to avoid capture; the pursuer must confront to win, whereas the fugitive must evade to win.”

This is huge.

Chamayou notes attempts by the military, including an attempt to issue combat medals to drone operators, to imbue these remote-control killers with the glory that follows the courage demonstrated by risk-taking.

But there is no risk-taking – none whatsoever. Not even psychological: despite media reports that drone operators could suffer PTSD, there is no evidence whatsoever that this is ever happened to a single one.

a-theory-of-the-drone-review-ted-rallAt worst, drone operators report being mind numbingly bored as they watch hour after hour of ordinary civilians walking around dusty towns in the Middle East and South Asia doing ordinary civilian things, and sometimes the surreal aspect of blowing people up at work and then coming home to your wife and kids every night in the American suburbs.

Eliminating physical risk, however, comes at a political cost to the country that uses drones to invade foreign airspace.

And notice how no one talks about sovereignty?

Classic counterinsurgency doctrine teaches that asymmetric warfare is a war for hearts and minds.

Drones, Chamayou says, seem to solve the problem of the terrorist hydra whose death inspires dozens of his family and friends to take up the fight.

Chamayou writes:

An armada of hunter killer drones…can win that race and eliminate individuals at least as fast as new ones are recruited. The strategic plan of air counterinsurgency is now clear: as soon as the head grows back, cut it off. And never mind if, in a spiraling development of attacks and reprisals that is hard to control, the perverse effect of that prophylactic measure is to attract new volunteers … Never mind if the enemy ranks thicken, since it will always be possible to neutralize the new recruits as fast as they emerge. The cull will be repeated periodically, in a pattern of infinite eradication.”

Even if this doesn’t make your blood thicken, it should make your brain hurt: “The partisans of the drone as a privileged weapon of ‘antiterrorism’ promise a war without losses or defeats,” he writes. “What they fail to mention is that it will also be awarded the victory. The scenario that looms before us is one of infinite violence, with no possible exit; the paradox of an untouchable power waging interminable wars toward perpetual war.”

“Nobody dies – except the enemy.” That’s the argument proponents of drone warfare have sold, fairly successfully, to the American public. It’s understandable. Nobody wants to see their sons or daughters, or other American sons or daughters, coming home from battle in body bags.

The problem with this tribalist attitude, writes Chamayou, is that the rest of the world is paying attention. Drones broadcast: American lives matter, foreign lives do not. You can’t blame the foreigners for not liking us very much.

Especially when the US military and its allies in the media claim that drones are actually a humanitarian weapon due to their precision – he makes a mockery of this – and because it saves American lives. “The drone,” he scoffs, “does indeed save our lives.”

When you choose this lesser evil, he notes, you are nevertheless choosing evil.

Countries like the United States – spending billions of dollars for thousands of drones employed around the world – will become “drone states,” nations whose reliance on military technology abroad must inevitably lead them to apply them domestically, by law enforcement agencies in the cities and states.

One can easily foresee how police drones, which have already been acquired by numerous local law enforcement agencies and have taken part in the pursuit of criminal suspects on the lam, might be used to shoot and kill a dangerous fugitive.

Few people would complain about this use of armed drones on American soil.

What happens next is less a slippery slope argument than a logical prediction.

The US military and CIA often justify using drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan on the grounds that it’s too dangerous to send in ground troops to try to capture its targets.

Rather than send policemen into a hostage situation, drug den, or other place where a criminal suspect or someone wanted for questioning who might be considered armed and dangerous, the authorities might instead choose to use a so-called precision drone to blow the place up and eliminate the suspect entirely.

Although it happened during the pre-drone era, this isn’t unprecedented in recent history: Philadelphia police dropped military grade bombs on the headquarters of a radical political cult called MOVE in 1985, burning down 65 houses.

Eventually, drones will be used to crush domestic political dissent.

Unfortunately, we have forgotten so much of America’s basic constitutional rights and traditional political ethics that those who appeal to our better natures find themselves lecturing to us as though we were not particularly bright kindergartners. Having found myself there, I wish there were a better way. In the meantime, we need to digest Civil Society 101:

“In law enforcement, one should first try to capture the individual, giving him the possibility of surrendering and even, if possible, offering him that chance,” Chamayou writes.

How far we have devolved since 9/11!

Did, for example, anyone ask whether Osama bin Laden was given the chance to surrender? And when it came out that he was captured alive but wounded, and was then executed on orders from someone sitting next to the President of the United States in the White House Situation Room, did anyone but a few leftists care?

When someone like bin Laden is denied rights that until recently were widely considered universal, is only a matter of time before those rights erode and eventually vanish.

The armed drone, which unambiguously allows the state to kill anyone and everyone with impunity, without the slightest physical risk whatsoever, has set the stage for a future dystopian nightmare even George Orwell didn’t imagine.

Drone Nation Is Coming

Armed drone warfare has radically altered the nation of warfare. No longer are there multiple combatants. Now there is the hunter and the prey. It’s only a matter of time before drones are used the same way in the United States as they are used abroad.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: Game of Drones – New Generation of Drones Already Choose Their Own Targets


“The drone is the ultimate imperial weapon, allowing a superpower almost unlimited reach while keeping its own soldiers far from battle,” writes New York Times reporter James Risen in his important new book “Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War.” “Drones provide remote-control combat, custom-designed for wars of choice, and they have become the signature weapons of the war on terror.”

But America’s monopoly on death from a distance is coming to an end. Drone technology is relatively simple and cheap to acquire — which is why more than 70 countries, plus non-state actors like Hezbollah, have combat drones.

The National Journal’s Kristin Roberts imagines how drones could soon “destabilize entire regions and potentially upset geopolitical order”: “Iran, with the approval of Damascus, carries out a lethal strike on anti-Syrian forces inside Syria; Russia picks off militants tampering with oil and gas lines in Ukraine or Georgia; Turkey arms a U.S.-provided Predator to kill Kurdish militants in northern Iraq who it believes are planning attacks along the border. Label the targets as terrorists, and in each case, Tehran, Moscow, and Ankara may point toward Washington and say, we learned it by watching you. In Pakistan, Yemen, and Afghanistan.”

Next: SkyNet.

SkyNet, you recall from the Terminator movies, is a computerized defense network whose artificial intelligence programming leads it to self-awareness. People try to turn it off; SkyNet interprets this as an attack — on itself. Automated genocide follows in an instant.

In an article you should read carefully because/despite that fact that it will totally freak you out, The New York Times reports that “arms makers…are developing weapons that rely on artificial intelligence, not human instruction, to decide what to target and whom to kill.”

More from the Times piece:

“Britain, Israel and Norway are already deploying missiles and drones that carry out attacks against enemy radar, tanks or ships without direct human control. After launch, so-called autonomous weapons rely on artificial intelligence and sensors to select targets and to initiate an attack.

“Britain’s ‘fire and forget’ Brimstone missiles, for example, can distinguish among tanks and cars and buses without human assistance, and can hunt targets in a predesignated region without oversight. The Brimstones also communicate with one another, sharing their targets.


“Israel’s antiradar missile, the Harpy, loiters in the sky until an enemy radar is turned on. It then attacks and destroys the radar installation on its own.

“Norway plans to equip its fleet of advanced jet fighters with the Joint Strike Missile, which can hunt, recognize and detect a target without human intervention.”

“An autonomous weapons arms race is already taking place,” says Steve Omohundro, a physicist and AI specialist at Self-Aware Systems. “They can respond faster, more efficiently and less predictably.”

As usual, the United States is leading the way toward dystopian apocalypse, setting precedents for the use of sophisticated, novel, more efficient killing machines. We developed and dropped the first nuclear bombs. We unleashed the drones. Now we’re at the forefront of AI missile systems.

The first test was a disaster: “Back in 1988, the Navy test-fired a Harpoon antiship missile that employed an early form of self-guidance. The missile mistook an Indian freighter that had strayed onto the test range for its target. The Harpoon, which did not have a warhead, hit the bridge of the freighter, killing a crew member.”

But we’re America! We didn’t let that slow us down: “Despite the accident, the Harpoon became a mainstay of naval armaments and remains in wide use.”

U-S-A! U-S-A!

I can see you tech geeks out there, shaking your heads over your screen, saying to yourselves: “Rall is paranoid! This is new technology. It’s bound to improve. AI drones will become more accurate.”

Not necessarily.

Combat drones have hovered over towns and villages in Afghanistan and Pakistan for the last 13 years, killing thousands of people. The accuracy rate is less than impressive: 3.5%. That’s right: 96.5% of the victims are, by the military’s own assessment, innocent civilians.

The Pentagon argues that its new generation of self-guided hunter-killers are merely “semiautonomous” and so don’t run afoul of a U.S. rule against such weapons. But only the initial launch is initiated by a human being.” It will be operating autonomously when it searches for the enemy fleet,” Mark Gubrud, a physicist who is a member of the International Committee for Robot Arms Control, told the Times. “This is pretty sophisticated stuff that I would call artificial intelligence outside human control.”

If that doesn’t worry you, this should: it’s only a matter of time before other countries, some of which don’t like us, get these too.

Not much time.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)


Fun with Dangerous Drones

The Federal Aviation Administration reports a surge in the number of near-midair collisions between small privately-owned drones and commercial planes and other aircraft. Disaster is inevitable, but maybe this development could lead to something positive.

SYNDICATED COLUMN: American Drones KIll 28 Innocent People for Every “Bad Guy”


Not sure what to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend? If you’re American, be thankful there’s no God. Because if there were a Supreme Deity, and His take on personal accountability resembled Judeo-Christian mythology in the slightest, he would smite your oblivious apathetic ass for failing to overthrow a government responsible for something as evil as Obama’s drone war.

Even for the few of us who have been paying close attention to what the U.S. government is doing in Pakistan and other targets of “targeted killing” campaigns carried out by the CIA and Air Force, a new study by the human rights organization Reprieve contains new revelations about drones that are shocking and appalling.

As the UK newspaper The Guardian reports, targeted killings are anything but: “even when operators target specific individuals – the most focused effort of what Barack Obama calls ‘targeted killing’ – they kill vastly more people than their targets, often needing to strike multiple times.”

One example is Qari Hussain, who was a deputy commander of the Pakistani Taliban. A Hellfire missile fired by one of Obama’s Predator drones blew up Hussain on October 15, 2010. To the president, this was a success.

What the White House doesn’t say, however, is there were five previous drone attacks against Hussain. All five failed, killing scores of innocent people. “For the death of a man whom practically no American can name, the U.S. killed 128 people, 13 of them children, none of whom it meant to harm.”

The 128-civilians-to-one-militant death ratio doesn’t even address the legality of targeting Hussain himself, in violation of a 30-year-old executive order banning political assassinations, not to mention the longstanding American political tradition prohibiting such actions. All drone assassinations are illegal, but the sloppiness of this program is insane.

As the French anti-revolutionary leader François de Charette said at his trial, you can’t make an omelet without breaking a few eggs. Even by the glib standards of such warmongering bastards, however, Obama’s willingness to slaughter countless innocents in his quest to terminate a terrorist needle in a tribal area haystack places him among history’s more bloodthirsty turds.

Al Qaeda leader Ayman Zawahiri has survived two drone attacks that killed 76 children and 29 adults.

According to Reprieve’s analysis as of November 24th, 1,147 people were killed in attempts to kill 41 men.

“Drone strikes have been sold to the American public on the claim that they’re ‘precise,'” Jennifer Gibson of Reprieve told the Guardian. “But they are only as precise as the intelligence that feeds them. There is nothing precise about intelligence that results in the deaths of 28 unknown people, including women and children, for every ‘bad guy’ the U.S. goes after.”

Reading the Guardian report, it’s difficult to know whether to cry for the dead or laugh at the incompetence of American drone operators:

“Some 24 men specifically targeted in Pakistan resulted in the death of 874 people. All were reported in the press as ‘killed’ on multiple occasions, meaning that numerous strikes were aimed at each of them. The vast majority of those strikes were unsuccessful. An estimated 142 children were killed in the course of pursuing those 24 men, only six of whom died in the course of drone strikes that killed their intended targets. In Yemen, 17 named men were targeted multiple times. Strikes on them killed 273 people, at least seven of them children. At least four of the targets are still alive. Available data for the 41 men targeted for drone strikes across both countries indicate that each of them was reported killed multiple times. Seven of them are believed to still be alive. The status of another, Haji Omar, is unknown. Abu Ubaidah al-Masri, whom drones targeted three times, later died from natural causes, believed to be hepatitis.”

That’s what will win the war on terror: dirty water.

As a frequent critic of U.S. government policies, I’ve sometimes worried that Obama might sic one of his killer air robots on me. Thanks to Reprieve, I feel relieved. Even if Obama targets me, after all, it’s likely I’ll be reported killed multiple times while remaining alive and well…while hundreds of random people walking the streets get blown up willy-nilly.

Obama’s remote-control drone murderers are the embodiment of evil in the 21st century: careless, alienated, remote, bloodless. They also symbolize contemporary political culture: arrogant, corrupt and stupid.

Check this out: “A Reprieve team investigating on the ground in Pakistan turned up what it believes to be a confirmed case of mistaken identity. Someone with the same name as a terror suspect on the Obama administration’s ‘kill list’ was killed on the third attempt by U.S. drones. His brother was captured, interrogated and encouraged to ‘tell the Americans what they want to hear’: that they had in fact killed the right person.”

Every single day — even as you read this — American drones are stalking and killing innocent people in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and elsewhere. They’re doing this in your name, using weapons systems you paid for. Yet you’re still allowed to walk the earth, totally unsmoten.

Be thankful there’s no God — or that his intel is as lousy as the CIA’s.

(Ted Rall, syndicated writer and cartoonist, is the author of the new critically-acclaimed book “After We Kill You, We Will Welcome You Back As Honored Guests: Unembedded in Afghanistan.” Subscribe to Ted Rall at Beacon.)


I Want to be a Drone President

It’s easy to criticize President Obama for continuing and radically expanding President Bush’s program of targeted assassinations using unmanned drone planes. But let’s face it. Everyone knows what they would do with those drones if they got the job.