Sunday, October 31, 2010

The dangers of war by remote control

Johann Hari has written a valuable piece on the dangers of drone warfare in Afgha-Pakistan called Obama's Escalating Robot War in Pakistan Is Making a Terror Attack More Likely.

Imagine if, an hour from now, a robot plane swooped over your house and blasted it to pieces. The plane has no pilot. It is controlled with a joystick from 7,000 miles away, sent by the Pakistani military to kill you. It blows up all the houses on your street, and so barbecues your family and your neighbors until there is nothing left to bury but a few charred slops. Why? They refuse to comment. They don't even admit the robot planes belong to them. But they tell the Pakistani newspapers back home it is because one of you was planning to attack Pakistan. How do they know? Somebody told them. Who? You don't know, and there are no appeals against the robot.
Now imagine it doesn't end there: These attacks are happening every week somewhere in your country. They blow up funerals and family dinners and children. The number of robot planes in the sky is increasing every week. You discover they are named "Predators," or "Reapers" -- after the Grim Reaper. No matter how much you plead, no matter how much you make it clear you are a peaceful civilian getting on with your life, it won't stop. What do you do? If there were a group arguing that Pakistan was an evil nation that deserved to be violently attacked, would you now start to listen?
This sounds like a sketch for the next James Cameron movie -- but it is in fact an accurate description of life in much of Pakistan today, with the sides flipped. The Predators and Reapers are being sent by Barack Obama's CIA, with the support of other Western governments, and they killed more than 700 civilians in 2009 alone -- fourteen times more than the 7/7 attacks in London. Last month there was the largest number of robot plane bombings ever: 21. Over the next decade, spending on drones is set to increase by 700 percent.
This supposedly 'safe' (for the Americans) warfare is likely to breed greater antagonism to the US than has existed beforehand.

I have long thought that the argument that the US is making the world safe from terrorism by fighting the Taliban was a furphy. The reasons why the US are there are complex, but Al Qaida is a franchise and can simply shift to somewhere else disillusioned with the US in the Islamic world (e.g. Yemen).

Like Lyndon Johnson before him, Obama has some great ideas for American society, but he continues to be a war President, prosecuting outrageous acts against civilians.  

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