Tag Archives: Drone warfare

Smart War Disinformation and the U.S. Military State, by Laurie Calhoun

Turns out that drone warfare is neither as precise or as morally antiseptic as advertised. From Laurie Calhoun at libertarianinstitute.org:

Drone killing has long been billed by the military as a cleaner, smarter way to conduct war. The standard marketing line has been that with drones it is possible to neutralize even elusive enemies such as factional terrorists while sparing the lives of innocent persons, and without sacrificing any soldiers at all. The most effective propagandist throughout the period when drone assassination was redefined as “targeted killing” and normalized as a standard operating procedure was John Brennan, who served as Barack Obama’s drone killing czar before being promoted to the position of CIA director in 2013. During the eight years of the Obama presidency, many politicians were persuaded (along with the president) to support the use of lethal drones by Brennan’s duplicitous depiction of the practice of remote-control killing. Even some who claim to oppose capital punishment, such as Senator Bernie Sanders, have sung the praises of lethal drones.

That drones are more precise and discriminate implements of war, which can be used “surgically” to eliminate the “cancerous” enemy, has been the reflexive response by pundits, politicians, and the pro-military populace alike to anyone who dares to suggest that the hunting down and killing of individual human beings without indictment or trial violates the most basic principles of a democratic republic. In garnering support for remote-control killing, lethal drone advocates have capitalized on a confusing equivocation in their characterization of the targets. The victims are said posthumously to have been combatants, when in fact during the intelligence collection leading up to the strikes, they were suspects said to be potentially complicit in future possible crimes.

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The Price of Conscience — Hale Sentenced to 45 Months, by Chris Hedges

As Orwell said, truth is dangerous in the empire of lies, especially to the truth teller. From Chris Hedges at consortiumnews.com:

Drone warfare whistleblower Daniel Hale was sentenced to 45 months in prison on Tuesday for telling the American people the truth.

Daniel Hale, a former intelligence analyst in the drone program for the Air Force who as a private contractor in 2013 leaked some 17 classified documents about drone strikes to the press, was sentenced Tuesday to 45 months in prison.

The documents, published by The Intercept on October 15, 2015, exposed that between January 2012 and February 2013, U.S. special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. For one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. The civilian dead, usually innocent bystanders, were routinely classified as “enemies killed in action.”

The Justice Department coerced Hale, who was deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, on March 31 to plead guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act, a law passed in 1917 designed to prosecute those who passed on state secrets to a hostile power, not those who expose to the public government lies and crimes. Hale admitted as part of the plea deal to “retention and transmission of national security information” and leaking 11 classified documents to a journalist. If he had refused the plea deal, he could have spent 50 years in prison.

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‘Thinking Machiavelli, Acting Mussolini’, by Alastair Crooke

Iran may not have nuclear weapons, but it never the less has upended war and geopolitical strategy in important ways that the US ignores at its peril. From Alastair Crooke at strategic-culture.org:

Earlier this month, the Lebanese al-Manar TV aired footage of Israeli bases in Upper Galilee, which were filmed by a Hizbullah drone. An Israeli base in Brannite and a command centre in Rowaysat al-Alam in northern Israel can be seen in the footage. According to Southfront, whose military expertise is highly regarded, Hizbullah now operates a variety of drones, some with combat capabilities. Reports suggest that Hizbullah has established a formidable stealth drone and smart cruise missile force (with support from Iran). The Russia-linked, military site, Southfront, concludes that today, the movement is better trained and equipped than many armies around the world.

Israel is convinced that, for the first time, that the ‘next war’ will not be limited to Lebanese territory; that its own borders will be violated; and that offensive combat forces will enter settlements and homes and clash with Israeli troops.

This is giant ‘chess’ – where a combination of armed drones, suicide drones and ‘smart’ missiles likely will predominate (rather than tanks, as in the 2006 war). In its evolving thesis of a new war with Hizbullah, Israel believes that all its airfields will be bombed with precision missiles. (And is therefore trying to get from the U.S., a few squadrons of the new generation F-35B jets that do not need long runways, so as to try to secure its air superiority in the face of a possible swarm drone or missile attack on its air defences).

This represents just one component to Iran’s transmutation of any Israeli or American ‘military’ option against Iran into a suicide ‘Red Pill’ for whomsoever might launch it. Quietly, while all the world was focussed on the ‘Big One’ (putative nuclear weapons), over the last four years, Iran has built a conventional ‘swarm’ and ‘smart’ (and virtually undetectable by radar) ‘ant’s hive’ of ‘micro’ weapons circling across the region – from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq to Yemen.

Although it is still to sink-in to European and American thinking (obsessed with the possibly now passé framework of the ‘Big One’ – the JCPOA), Iran quietly has inverted the calculus. It possesses the leverage now. And it has other trade options (through looking East) opening to it. Israel and its Gulf State ‘allies’, by contrast are on the defensive.

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Will Drones Push the Middle East Past the Point of No Return? by Jonathan Burden

Drones have already changed the face of warfare. From Jonathan Burden at globalriskinsights.com:

Will Drones Push the Middle East Past the Point of No Return?

Unmanned aerial systems (UASs) or drones, both armed and unarmed, have altered how states and insurgents conduct warfare in the Middle East. The widespread proliferation of these weapons, combined with the range of capabilities they confer and their potential to alter the logic of escalation between states, may cause significant inter-state conflict to occur. 

An increase in proliferation

Since the Cold War, the US has attempted to stop the spread of unmanned systems by pursuing a limited export policy. However, states in the Middle East have responded by either producing their own (Israel, Turkey and Iran) or by importing them (Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and the UAE). Perhaps the most troubling development is yet to come; in November the US Defense Secretary, Mark Esper warned that China was beginning to export drones with fully autonomous offensive capabilities. Although China’s policy has been described as ‘ask no questions’, it is constrained by its desire to avoid arming non-state actors and therefore legitimising separatist movements.

Further, declining costs of commercial drones, combined with some DIY ingenuity has meant that groups such as ISIS and the Houthis rebels have been able to field aerial support, a capability that insurgent-type groups have lacked in the past. ISIS allegedly use UASs as light bombers and as reconnaissance aircraft to help coordinate devastating suicide attacks, whilst the Houthis (with Iranian assistance) have used drones as aerial improvised explosive devices (IEDs) for targeted assassination missions. 

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