Sunday, 1 July 2012

Attack of the Drones

The last thing you will ever see ...

Under President Obama, the USA has massively increased its use of killer drones - unmanned, remotely piloted aircraft that seek out and destroy targets with aptly named Hellfire missiles at no risk at all to their operatives. The USAF is now training more drone pilots than "real" pilots, taking its warfare in countries like Yemen, Pakistan and Afghanistan to a new level. And France, UK and USA waged a massive drone war in Libya, taking out an entire regime without a single loss of a pilot - but with many casualties and massive damage left across the fields and deserts of Cyrenaica. Indeed, so complete was the destruction of key Libyan infrastructure, that one NATO commander complained that "It's getting more difficult to find stuff to blow up."

Historically, war has been limited to some degree by the fact that all combatant sides face the risk of casualties. This is what has led, ultimately, to humans seeking to avoid war - but with that element at least superficially removed, what constraint remains, what limits will not be broken?

America has now killed hundreds, possibly thousands, of women and children in supposedly focussed drone assaults to take out supposed (and sometimes real) terrorist targets, killing on an indiscriminately wide scale that in any other context would be decried by the USA itself as an act of terror, a war crime. Their actions are indeed illegal under international law, but the US abrogates itself of signing up to international law, just as it demands everyone else should observe it. The consequences are to turn both it and its British and other allies into pariahs, creating tens of millions of enemies among the vulnerable and poor by depending on brute force to ensure their continued supremacy, until the day comes, of course, when that will no longer be enough. The unending War on Terror is indeed a war of terror, and its unlimited span a self-fulfilling prophecy, a recipe for endless conflict. One of the types of drones is called the Reaper - and indeed, Obama and Cameron and co may want to reflect on the old saying that you shall reap as you sow...

And this is just the beginning. Many nations are now developing robot armies that, in ten or twenty years time will make drones look like stone age weapons - and the bad news for Obama is that, having set this precedent, it won't just be America and its satellites that will have these armaments. As we stand on the threshold of planetary destruction, we are letting our leaders sleepwalk us into armed oblivion. The Age of the Terminator beckons.