I don’t know what you’ve been thinking and feeling in the last month, but if you are anything like me, you have been stunned and extremely disheartened by Barack Obama’s expanding air war in Iraq and the pro-war propaganda campaign that has infected television and radio news in the US.
I have had to ask myself whether the focus of our work as US counter-drone war organizers on stopping drone attacks, on banning drone attacks and drone surveillance is still relevant in the face of the eagerness and determination of the United States government to dramatically enlarge its engagement in wars in Iraq and Syria while continuing the war in Afghanistan and subsidizing relentless Israeli attacks on Palestinians.
The Obama War Model
Last Friday, September 5, the President clarified things for me when, in a press conference at the Wales NATO meeting, he committed the United States to an all out war against the Islamic State (IS, ISIS, ISIL) that will depend on the use of drones for surveillance and assassination.
The war model, he said, will be the drone campaign that the United States has been conducting in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) of Pakistan, a campaign focused totally on assassination.
Here is what the President said:
“You can’t contain an organization that is running roughshod through that much territory, causing that much havoc, displacing that many people, killing that many innocents, enslaving that many women. The goal has to be to dismantle them.
“And if you look at what happened with al Qaeda in the FATA, where their primary base was, you initially push them back. You systematically degrade their capabilities. You narrow their scope of action. You slowly shrink the space, the territory that they may control. You take out their leadership. And over time, they are not able to conduct the same kinds of terrorist attacks as they once could.”
What the President chooses to ignore in this war plan is that the US drone attacks in Pakistan have been a major factor in creating Pakistan’s extremely deadly, chaotic political condition. And, of course, the US drones have killed in Pakistan, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, between 416 and 951 civilians, including 168 to 200 children.
The New, Improved Drone Slaughterhouse
Given greater urgency of the United States and some European governments to eliminate the IS, one can imagine that the level of drone killing across Iraq and Syria will far exceed what has been happening in Pakistan.
In its drone use against IS in the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Fallujah and other urban areas, the US will almost certainly use Israeli procedures developed for drone use over Gaza, where drones harass the population, assassinate and direct bombing by piloted aircraft.
The use of drones now underway in Iraq and envisioned for Syria takes US drone use beyond assassination and relatively narrow use in ground support that has occurred in Afghanistan and Libya, into wide-ranging, systematic use as a key component of US war fighting against people who have no modern air defenses. This follows the lead of Israel in drone use, and is predicated on ignoring the rights to privacy of hundreds of thousands of civilians as well as their right to freedom from fear and right to life.
The US and Israeli are learning about how to use a technology that is well-suited to attempts to control oil and other resources in less developed countries without politicians having to face the pesky problem of sending in troops.
Living Near Auschwitz
For us in the United States, this will mean an increase in the number of drone execution that will triggered daily from the dark, air-conditioned buildings in at least 19 drone control bases across the United States, including the new drone control centers in: Des Moines, IA; Horsham, PA; Battle Creek, MI; Niagara Falls, NY and Hurlburt Field, FL. All the communities near these bases will, consciously or unconsciously, feel the emotional burden of the killing that is going on.
The larger scope of drone war will also put more pressure on Air Force drone pilots who are already facing serious morale problems because of the surge in drone attacks under Obama.
What Does This Mean for Us?
For we who have fought to stop drone killing for several years now, I believe the Obama drone war plan challenges us to discuss what steps we can take to:
2. Educate as well as protest.
3. Undertake more coordinated actions, including civil resistance, boycott and outreach to drone operators.
Nick Mottern is the coordinator of the kNOwdrones.org project.