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Our Robotic Assassins

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Posted on Jun 30, 2011
U.S. Air Force / Tech. Sgt. James Harper

By Eugene Robinson

The skies over at least six countries are patrolled by robotic aircraft, operated by the U.S. military or the CIA, that fire missiles to carry out targeted assassinations. I am convinced that this method of waging war is cost-effective but not that it is moral.

There has been virtually no public debate about the expanding use of unmanned drone aircraft as killing machines—not domestically, at least. In the places where drone attacks are taking place, there has understandably been great uproar. And in the rest of the world, questions are being raised about the legal and ethical basis for these antiseptic missile strikes.

According to The Washington Post, a U.S. military drone fired missiles in Somalia last week in an attempt to kill two leaders of the Islamist group al-Shabab, which is tied to al-Qaida. The men apparently were wounded in the attack, the newspaper reported, quoting an unnamed senior military official.

Somalia thus joins Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Yemen and Libya as nations where remote-controlled drones are conducting lethal attacks. The strike was deemed justified by U.S. officials, according to the Post, because al-Shabab had become “somewhat emboldened of late” and was “planning operations outside of Somalia” against the United States or its allies.

The Obama administration has greatly increased the use of missile-firing drones, and it is easy to understand why. The unmanned aircraft can be flown above hostile territory—and used to locate, track and obliterate a target—without putting U.S. lives at risk. Since the drones are controlled electronically by human operators, they can be directed in ways that respond to changing conditions on the ground: If a fleeing target’s SUV turns right, the drone can turn right, too.

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Increased reliance on drone attacks is part of the administration’s long-range counterterrorism strategy. According to the New America Foundation, which tries to keep track, there have been 215 drone attacks in Pakistan alone since January 2009.

Since the program is supposed to be secret, officials use euphemisms when speaking about it publicly. John Brennan, President Obama’s counterterrorism adviser, said in a recent speech that “our best offense won’t always be deploying large armies abroad but delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us.”

The word “surgical” is used a lot to describe the drone program, although surgery is designed to save lives, not take them.

Why should officials even think twice about using technology that can kill our enemies without putting American lives in harm’s way? Plenty of reasons.

First, there’s the practical question of whether killing terrorists in this manner creates new ones. And in Pakistan, for example, the government has responded to public outrage by banning drone flights from an airfield that previously had been an operational hub, according to The Financial Times.

There is also a legal question. The Obama administration asserts that international law clearly permits the targeting of individuals who are planning attacks against the United States. But this standard requires near-perfect intelligence—that we have identified the right target, that we are certain of the target’s nefarious intentions, that the target is actually inside the house or car that the drone has in its sights. Mistakes are inevitable; accountability is doubtful at best.

Most troubling of all, perhaps, are the moral and philosophical questions. This is a program not of war but of assassination. Clearly, someone like Ayman al-Zawahiri—formerly Osama bin Laden’s second-in-command, and now the leader of al-Qaida—is a legitimate target. But what about others such as the Somali “militants,” who may wish to do us harm but have not actually done so? Are we certain that they actually have the capability of mounting some kind of attack? Absent any overt act, is there a point at which antipathy toward the United States, even hatred, becomes a capital offense?

It is one thing to assassinate known leaders of al-Qaida, a terrorist organization with which we are at war. It is another thing to use drones in Libya, against a regime that posed no threat whatsoever to the United States.

We urgently need to explore these issues, because the use of robotic aircraft—and, surely, robotic devices that operate on land and sea—will inevitably expand as the technology improves. And we need to relearn an ancient lesson: that no method of waging war is without risk or without consequences.

Eugene Robinson’s e-mail address is eugenerobinson(at)washpost.com.
   
© 2011, Washington Post Writers Group


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Night-Gaunt's avatar

By Night-Gaunt, July 11, 2011 at 3:43 pm Link to this comment

I don’t see the relevance of the difference beyond who will have access to that technology. Right now the major powers lead by the USA but eventually smaller groups will obtain them. Either through purchase or stolen or given or even constructed themselves. They will have a better chance getting and even modifying some of these robots to use themselves in time. As long as the reasons for their fighting to begin with is still extant they will continue. Living for revenge never ends.

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By Anarcissie, July 10, 2011 at 5:39 pm Link to this comment

I don’t think remote control is significant, except in that the U.S. drones are an inspiration to less well-heeled terrorsts, because similar devices can be constructed relatively cheaply.  Machines which autonomously seek out ‘enemies’ would be quite another matter, since they could turn on their makers.  There are two different meanings of ‘robot’ at work here.

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By Night-Gaunt, July 10, 2011 at 3:45 pm Link to this comment

What exactly is the diversion I have been doing that you speak of Anarssisa? We do not speak of 1950’s fantasy here. Only the latest known aspects of robots and armed RPV’s in combat fielded by the US military.

http://wiki.ask.com/Military_robot

Dr. Nicola Tesla created the remote control devices in the 1920’s. The Soviets had a “tele-tank” and the Germans had one for detonating mines in the 1940’s. Technology has come a considerable way since then.

n 2009, academics and technical experts attended a conference to discuss the impact of the hypothetical possibility that robots and computers could become self-sufficient and able to make their own decisions. They discussed the possibility and the extent to which computers and robots might be able to acquire any level of autonomy, and to what degree they could use such abilities to possibly pose any threat or hazard. They noted that some robots have acquired various forms of semi-autonomy, including being able to find power sources on their own and being able to independently choose targets to attack with weapons. They also noted that some computer viruses can evade elimination and have achieved “cockroach intelligence.” They noted that self-awareness as depicted in science-fiction is probably unlikely, but that there were other potential hazards and pitfalls.[13]

Some experts and academics have questioned the use of robots for military combat, especially when such robots are given some degree of autonomous functions.[14] The US Navy has funded a report which indicates that as military robots become more complex, there should be greater attention to implications of their ability to make autonomous decisions.[15][16]

Depending on what is devised and passes the testing phase they will be most useful in very dangerous situations, send in the robot first, and also as a force multiplier.

I’d say one of the biggest decisions will to give them a survival preservation impulse or not. So far no but it could open the way for possible ‘problems’ in the future.

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By Anarcissie, July 10, 2011 at 7:43 am Link to this comment

Night-Gaunt, July 9 at 9:11 pm:

‘Some would rather divert the discussion to such medieval ideas as “noble fighters” even if the concept hasn’t been in vogue for centuries. ...’

Well, I’m not very interested in the good old science-fiction fantasy of autonomous machines gone wild.  It was a staple back in the 1950s.  But deprecating (not autonomous) drones as ‘cowardly’ is quite popular and it seems to reflect an idea that warriors ought not be cowardly, that is, it places a value system on different modes of warfare which appears to elevate courageous and therefore noble warriors.  Agreed, it does not seem very relevant to the reality, the facts; this was exactly why I raised the question.

Not too far from this question is another: the headline, and many comments here and elsewhere, seem to propose that assassination is bad.  But if you’re going to kill people, why not kill the bad guys’ leaders instead of their foot soldiers?  In any case the drones don’t seem to be so good at this—often a lot of people who happen to be in the neighborhood when they do one of their assassination numbers are killed instead of the target.

You could also explain why your diversion is better than my diversions.  It seems to me the autonomous machines thing has gotten kind of tired through overwork.

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By Night-Gaunt, July 9, 2011 at 9:11 pm Link to this comment

Some would rather divert the discussion to such medieval ideas as “noble fighters” even if the concept hasn’t been in vogue for centuries. It really is a nonsense idea and irrelevant to the discussing here or war in general. However the concept is used in the abstract to make our soldiers into valiant warriors because we are the “good guys” and such so they can’t be “evil” can they?

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By Anarcissie, July 9, 2011 at 8:21 pm Link to this comment

I’d like to raise an issue here.

The drones have been widely decried as ‘cowardly’ and the like.  Does this mean you all still believe in noble versus ignoble war, like some old fellows from the Middle Ages with their honor and their battle-axes?  I’ll concede that glorious single combat of that sort might be more aesthetically pleasing, but it doesn’t seem to be morally any better than popping someone off with a commando raid, bin Laden style, or blowing them up with a missile fired from a drone.  Please explain.

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By Night-Gaunt, July 9, 2011 at 7:03 pm Link to this comment

At least so far they have not programmed any of the robots for self preservation. But they will.

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By ZZZ, July 8, 2011 at 6:01 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Oh! What goodies we have!
When I first saw the Terminator movie, I jest at the script writer.  No human is that stupid enough to hand the decision of employing the weapon of harm to machines.  Well… my apology to the Terminator’s script writer, looks like we do have people that stupid running this nation.  No wonder this nation is going to shit!  I guess when you reach the top, there’s no way to go but down!  Founding Fathers would weep in their graves!

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By Night-Gaunt, July 8, 2011 at 1:51 pm Link to this comment

You can bet that the planning generals and their corporate sponsors like it to be asymmetrical. Even so they want to sell weapons to others so that can stimulate the need for new R & D in order to build and field weapons superior to those they sold. Something that can take down F- 16s and F-18s.Then of course the need to use the ordinance so that more can be built and sold to keep the Death Market going. A daisy chain of war, subjugation and killing. A never ending cycle.

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By GoyToy, July 8, 2011 at 7:08 am Link to this comment

I thought we were a people who did not believe in shooting someone in the back. Killing by remote control amounts to the same thing.

COWARDS

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By gerard, July 4, 2011 at 8:46 pm Link to this comment

The main problem raised in this discussion is the problem of taking unfair advantage of “the enemy.”
Even in prize fights, care is taken to match the weights and abilities of the contestants—a tradition of fairness acknowledged so consistently in sports and civil relations that to act otherwise arouses disdain.

It is disdain that comes to the fore in the use of weapons of mass destruction against innocent millions, or of “sneak” attacks against “enemies.” Such attacks rebound to the disadvantage of the perpetrators, ultimately if not immediately.

True, war has become more and more exclusively a contest between unequal sides—for example, the Taliban (a small number of fanatics against an entire “civilization” (if you can call us civilized).
In such unequal balances, a certain amount of free-floating sympathy inevitably accrues to the smaller
constuency, right or wrong.  IMO, it is the tendency of the U.S. to acquire and use overwhelming force and techniques that minimizes our ability to gain meaningful “victories” or “win hearts and minds.” Instead, we are piling up resentment and scorn on all sides.  It appears from world news that almost nobody “wants” us to win, and too many would actually rejoice if and when we “get our come-uppance.”  This is truly regrettable, IMO, as we are no worse than any other killers except that due to our overpowering wealth and the blind self-conceit it can buy.

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By Night-Gaunt, July 4, 2011 at 1:55 pm Link to this comment

Its about gaining power and through that power more will flow including rebuilding the USA into some kind of theocratic corporate empire. And at this rate they are almost there. All it takes is one more catastrophic economic down turn. Which we see that the more obvious Republicans are working toward and the less obvious Democrats who are helping them. So we are on the last few minutes of the bomb ticking. We only just found out one had been placed and set. Time isn’t on our side.

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By morongobill, July 3, 2011 at 6:54 pm Link to this comment

Who the hell amongst us wants this empire building to continue? Did anybody go into the ballot box last time and say to yourself, I’ll vote this way because he’ll keep adding on to the empire.

It ain’t about democracy, or freedom or other pablum, it is about expanding our control and hegemony over the whole world- and these remote control assassins are perfect angels of death.

I agree with the person who said earlier, they are coming to Amerika, it’s just a matter of time. Of course, they’ll probably use them on some of our brown brothers and sisters in this hemisphere first.

If that really is the plan, they better start up about 20 more factories, because there aren’t enough right now to win it all, or kill them all.

Happy 4th, may the empire apologists here choke on it.

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By Night-Gaunt, July 3, 2011 at 3:41 pm Link to this comment

I’m just waiting for them to use these “miracle” weapons right here for the same reasons using the same logic. First it will be for Black ops surveillance and later killings. Then open surveillance then later open killings. It is just a matter of time.

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By Inherit The Wind, July 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment

wit

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By Inherit The Wind, July 3, 2011 at 3:40 pm Link to this comment

nit

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By drbhelthi, July 3, 2011 at 6:09 am Link to this comment

Factually “challenged” and morally bankrupt.
Quack! Quack! Quack!  InheretTheWind

An excellent self-description for InheretTheWind.
The constant source for nonsense, racist propaganda and disinformation typically provided by the NAZI element of the C.I.A.

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By Inherit The Wind, July 3, 2011 at 6:04 am Link to this comment

The deaths caused by “Kamikaze”-types among the indigenous of the Mid-East is nil
********

Yet again the Quack shows his racism and anti-Semitism as the lives of those snuffed out by suicide bombers counts as NOTHING to him.  That’s what “nil” means.  The thousands dead don’t count because they are the “wrong” kind of people.  Racism and eugenics at its worst.

Factually “challenged” and morally bankrupt.
Quack! Quack! Quack!

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By drbhelthi, July 3, 2011 at 1:41 am Link to this comment

F.A.A. regulations control the weight and size of radio-controlled, model airplanes as well as where they may be flown.  Of course, applicable FAA Regulations are observed or disregarded by the USGOV & USMilitary in accordance with decisions of the “leadership.”

The deaths caused by “Kamikaze”-types among the indigenous of the Mid-East is nil, compared to the deaths caused by the unwarrented quasi-genocide initiated largely by the family Bush.  The concept of attacking the Taliban in order to “free” Moslem womanhood is a nice sounding farce.  Overtaking the oil and natural resources of the Mid-East, as one function of world domination, has been repeatedly revealed by former insiders, such as John Stockwell - and numerous other former C.I.A. agents and operatives. 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3ioJGMCr-Y

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By Lafayette, July 2, 2011 at 10:22 pm Link to this comment

THE LOONEY LEFT

ER: I am convinced that this method of waging war is cost-effective but not that it is moral.

Then ER must believe that a kamikaze strapping C4 to one’s body, hiding it, and walking into a crowd of innocent civilians to blow them up is “moral”?

Get real, ER, and come down off your high moralistic horse. We are involved in a treacherous war of terror involving civilians as well as combatants.

We shouldn’t be involved in that war? We should walk-away at all costs? Which is tantamount to leaving the Taliban to reimpose their regime and start yet again trampling the rights of women and young girls? Even to the point of executing Afghani women without a fair trial?

From where do you get your sense of moral values? The Looney Left?

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By Anarcissie, July 2, 2011 at 6:25 pm Link to this comment

Radio-controlled model airplanes and rockets have been around for many, many years.  There is no particular upper limit on their size except, of course, the resources and intentions of the builders.

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By drbhelthi, July 2, 2011 at 9:53 am Link to this comment

How hard will it be to mount a Stinger on a small servo-controlled plane
and use it against us or our allies? = Inherit The Wind

It would be near impossible for the Taliban to do, without the aid of the
U.S. companies who produce the Predator-type drones. 

Based on the pattern established by the GHWBushSr entourage, continued by
“Barack Hussein Obama”, another possibility is even more predictable. 
Furtive elements of the USMilitary, or C.I.A. operatives, will furtively
implement the idea presented by Inherit The Wind, blame attacks on the
U.S.Military on “Iranians in the Iraqi resistance,” and use the
disinformation to support an increase in Iraq of U.S.Military presence.

Also, to support an overt invasion of Iran, instead of the continuous,
destructive subterfuge, engaged in by USGOV operatives, secretly operating
within Iran.

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By drbhelthi, July 2, 2011 at 9:02 am Link to this comment

“How hard will it be to mount a Stinger on a small servo-controlled
plane and use it against us or our allies?” @ Inherit The Wind

While this is a possibility, other possibilities, based on the history
of the USGOV, are as equally predictable.  Take for example, the
deliberate sales of weapons to mexican drug cartels, by the Dept. of
Justice, under the guise of “catching them using the weapons-”.

The brilliant leadership of the DOJ might begin selling predator
drones to the pakistani or afghani leadership, or its C.I.A. employees
in “Al Qaida,” under the guise of later catching them in use against
the U.S.Military.  That is, if the DOJ has not already secretively
done the deal, similar to the secrecy involving the illegal gun sales
to mexican drug cartels.

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By Inherit The Wind, July 2, 2011 at 7:59 am Link to this comment

“War should not be an easy thing”

This is a hard statement to disagree with but OTOH, one should remember that war is not a boxing match.

While going to war should only be the final, last-ditch option, going to war at the wrong time, with the wrong preparation, or for the wrong reasons is criminally stupid.  I can’t think of more immoral statements than those used by Donald Rumsfeld about the Iraq War. The first was that Iraq had better hard targets than Afghanistan, and the second when asked about inadequate equipment, commented that you have to fight the war you’re given.

While Sun-Tzu would have no problem with the use of drones, he would find Rumsfeld’s views insane and totally at odds with the teachings of “The Art Of War”.

Sun-Tzu argued that the GREATEST battlefield victory is one that’s so convincingly won before it starts, that it never even starts and the enemy concedes the battle and either surrenders or flees.  Barring that, the battle is STILL won before it starts, and done so by picking the battlefield and all the tactical advantages ahead of time.

And Sun-Tzu’s most important dictum is the first: War is the path to SAFETY or catastrophe.  Therefore, one must conclude that ANY war that doesn’t lead to safety, inevitably leads to catastrophe.  The Iraq war had no ability to enhance our safety, therefore….

The real problem with drones is not in the drone technology itself, but in the use and mis-use of those drones.  Yes, you can kill a critically important enemy quite “surgically” with one. But you can also assassinate political rivals, voices of dissent and create terror.  How long will it be before the Taliban and Iran have such technology?  Is it really so far away?

Hell, homeowners can control their sprinklers and their fridge via the Internet from the other side of the world. Web cams are used for everything from video calls to live porn sites.  And remote control toys are sold in every Toys’R'Us.  How hard will it be to mount a Stinger on a small servo-controlled plane and use it against us or our allies?

Our misuse of Predator technology opens the door to justification of its use by those we fear.

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By Railbird, July 2, 2011 at 6:50 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

In 2009 Op/Ed for the LA Times, P.W. Singer,  director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at the Brookings Institution and the author of “Wired for War” wrote: “These are just the first generation, the Model T Fords, compared with what is coming next.”  Since then we have perfected drones that look like harmless little birds.

http://tinyurl.com/6j9eekv

In a PBS Frontline documentary titled “Fighting for Bin Laden” the nonchalant observations of Robert Grenier, (Dir., CIA Counterterrorism Center, 2004-06) on drones offered these clues to your decendents future:  “The calculus is really a very simple one. It’s trying to kill people before they kill you. It’s as simple as that. Now, it may have the knock-on and potentially intended effect, you hope, of discouraging further militancy. When people see others, you know, going up in a puff of smoke, you know, one hopes that that will induce people to go home and sit out the fight.”

There has already been discussion of using drones along the U.S./Mexico border and drug dealers in Mexico are sometimes referred to as terrorists. 

Orwell described your descendants future: “War is Peace, Freedom is Slavery and Ignorance is Strength.”

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By pundaint, July 2, 2011 at 6:38 am Link to this comment

War should not be an easy thing

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By Anarcissie, July 2, 2011 at 6:35 am Link to this comment

johnnyfarout—I was thinking more of the class of those who are being targeted for selective assassination by the present effort, rather than generic slaughter.  (The latter will present certain political problems I don’t think the American ruling class wants to deal with at present.)  Once the assassins have popped off all the easy cases, they will be left with the difficult cases, who will be much harder to kill and will be able to train their replacements—to ‘reproduce’, so to speak.  It’s evolution in action.

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By April M., July 2, 2011 at 5:54 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Look up the Creech 14. They were arrested trying to stop the drones & they used Urgency for a defense. Also I protested outside a 3 day conference that was about arming small drones. Congress is passing a law to allow them in our airspace- but only small ones.Soon we will reap what we have sown.

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By tedmurphy41, July 2, 2011 at 2:51 am Link to this comment

It’s “playstation war”, but then no-one ever worried about the fate of the ‘adversary’ in these “games”!!
Has the euphemism, collateral damage, now left the American language? It was the use of a specific expression which inferred an instance or isolated occurrance which should not be given serious consideration, unless it happens to refer to American casualties, then it’s an outrage.

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By Rodney, July 1, 2011 at 4:44 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Nobody in America cares because most of the people we are killing are muslims. If the drones were used by foreign countries on America world war three would start.

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By johnnyfarout, July 1, 2011 at 4:21 pm Link to this comment

I couldn’t resist:
http://youtu.be/5CMzko3ThnM

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By NZDoug, July 1, 2011 at 3:52 pm Link to this comment

Hey,
Icandealwithhippies.
“From an unknown and distant planet, came a wing-ed warrior,
nothing was sacred, nothing was safe, as the Hellion uttered its battle cry
SCREAMING FOR VENGENCE!”
Amazing that we can find a prophet in Robbie Halford.
You can find your god anywhere, even in a gutiar.
But I digress, we will find our Hellion just around the corner, Im sure.

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By johnnyfarout, July 1, 2011 at 3:50 pm Link to this comment

http://youtu.be/PdYflISHfHQ  quad helicopter drone


I want to speak to this idea that a “target class will simply adapt”. In the video of this drone flying around an office; granted, it is on the large side and a bit noisy and not weaponized, but in this day of quadruple expansion quotients, I’d say this is already a mega-contract for some bunch in silicone valley who do know how to weaponize these, and other flying devices. There are hundreds of videos of remote aircraft online that show astonishing maneuverability, and speed, which would be a devastating combination if done in an attack from hundreds, or thousands of miles away, by satellite and/or other means. Imagine clouds of these killers humming in over the horizon and swarming on the battlefield, or in a room at a palace, or an assembly of small town yokels deciding not to endorse the war lord’s pet project, or even send their eldest daughters and sons to the convoy motoring out of town, manned by mean and savage mind controlled troops (raised on TV and home schooled 23 at a time). But hey…everybody needs a job and you gotta’ take the work that’s available, and if that’s remote piloting drones into farming villages and taking out their elders who object to god knows what…like who cares anyway, then so be it…a man/woman gotta’ have a paycheck. What does it have to do with religions? Why nothing at all: everything is a tool for the victory around the corner… Victory has nothing to do with bravery or morals or honor, and everything to do with winning…tiger blood winning! The Pentagon doesn’t need the draft…just millions of cheap quad or octo-quad helicopter drones, and the grunt personnel can pull back to green base cat shit one and fill the night sky with buzzing death …and victory will be ours. There will be no adapting to death, or our hard won victory! The slogan of the US Imperial Army: “Everyone must submit and everyone must die.”

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By drbhelthi, July 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm Link to this comment

“There are no words to describe the hideous mental state of people who conceive and implement weapons like this.” = grokker,June 30

Your statement is a very decent, abbreviated start.

It can all be traced back to the Dulles brothers and other NAZIs in the US, 1945.  They initiated “Operation Paper Clip” which falsified family histories of Werner von Braun and 199 other NAZI “rocket scientists,” issued them falsified U.S. Passports and secreted them into the U.S.  Begun in 1945, repeated until 1952, a total of about 2,000 NAZIs and family members were illegally imported into the U.S.A. to D.C., Ft. Bliss and Huntsville. 

Werner von Braun, responsible for the deaths of about 2,000 polish slave laborers in his rocket works in Peenemuende, Germany, should have been tried with colleagues at the Nuremburg War Trials.  His sidekick, Hubertus Strughold,M.D., murdered Jewish and other prisoners in the extermination stalag in Dachau, Germany, with oxygen and heat deprivation experiments. Yet, von Braun was elevated to hero status in the nazified N.A.S.A.  Worse yet, Strughold was elevated to Chief of Space Medicine, N.A.S.A., and a special day in Texas named for him.

The initial V-2s have been quite refined into much smaller, radio-controlled death vehicles.  And how many expensive, worthless trips into space have extensively-refined V-2s made?  Even though the alleged trip to the moon has been revealed by previously hidden videos to have been a USGOV/NASA farce, the costs to the American taxpayer are very real.  As are the costs of the wars initiated by the GHWBushSr entourage, accelerated by the Kenyan who uses the name, “Barack Hussein Obama.”

The NAZIs who created the C.I.A. and who have overtaken the U.S.A. have turned the former United States of America into one huge farce.  Increasingly repeatedly comes to mind the spontaneous remark of an U.S. agent in the late 1970s: “Russia would do the world a favor to lob a 6-meg into D.C.”  I am not convinced that she was right. Neither am I convinced that she was wrong.

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By IcanDealwithHippiesbutThisGuy?, July 1, 2011 at 1:30 pm Link to this comment

TDoff - Brave New World is already here.
Let’s just hope these drones don’t go all Terminator
on us!

LocalHero - that’s a step too far buddy. Military
personal are just doing their job, soldiers don’t call
the shots, just make them. Most of them are just
trying to make a living for themselves and their
families. It’s a machine like any other machine, and
they are the people that keep it greased. I honestly
pray for their safety and security, and hope that they
make it home so they can come back to this warzone and
fight for us. It’s not like the typical grunt is
getting everything he/she needs - so much wasteful
military spending thus so much of our money is wasted.
It’s so deep it’ll make your head spin. The shot
callers don’t care about any of us at all, the shot
takers do.

NZDoug - Priest \m/ How about some Electric Eye?!

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By Anarcissie, July 1, 2011 at 1:08 pm Link to this comment

I doubt if drones are going to prove all that effective against particular targets, that is, as assassination devices.  The target class will simply adapt.

However, they seem like ideal weapons for those terrorists who want to hit ‘soft’ targets, that is, noncombatants in undefended spaces.  As they say, anyone who can make a cake can make a bomb, and hundreds of thousands of people at least know how to make little airplanes and rockets.

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By MentallyStunted, July 1, 2011 at 12:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

LocalHero and gerard, it’s great that we live in a free society where I am able to
comment to such emotionally intelligent and mentally astute academics. I’d like
us to remember the BRAVE British who faced the American Revolutionaries
standing in formation against the cowardly men who hid behind trees to fight
their oppressor. Is today’s battlefield merely a matter of degrees of bravery and
cowardice? Who is brave, the soldier in the armored vehicle with every modern
technological device, or the freedom-fighter/terrorist with the AK-47 and a
prayer? Is it bravery or cowardice when an individual drives an explosive laden
vehicle into the midst of civilians? Who is brave, the citizen protesting a corrupt
government or the armed soldier who mowed them down? At least the soldiers
were present and didn’t send a drone! I’m having a hard time differentiating
the ethics of any stand off weapon; from artillery, to a missile strike, to a
manned bombing, to a drone attack. In none of these instances is there a
shared risk of loss of human life. Perhaps the ethical answer is to abandon all
technology and return to swords, as arrows are a stand off weapon. All I can
hope is that you would bless the U.S military with your bravery and intellect so
that you can show the rest of us the way. And I hope you get the opportunity to
show your bravery in Somalia or one of the other peaceful nations that have
been the victims of the cowardly drone attacks. And, you may want to thank a
vet for your ability to post comments on this site.

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By norry, July 1, 2011 at 12:45 pm Link to this comment

Having ‘god’ on your side is very important when you are a murdering cowardice bully, because it obviously negates that pesky clause in the 10commandments “Thou shalt not kill”.

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By gerard, July 1, 2011 at 10:02 am Link to this comment

EJH:  Thank you for what you said. It’s interesting how that idea/belief comes to my mind so often.  Probably not because of historical truth but because of childhood faith.

My grandparents were grateful immigrants from the war-torn, poverty-stricken ranks of central Europe.  Grandpa was an indentured servant to earn his passage money. They were inordinately grateful, and though devoutly religious, I doubt they were sympathetic to the “Indians” on “their” borders. There are so many kinds of “truth” that it is often impossible to draw the line, especially within the living moment.

But yes, I have read “People’s History” (appreciatively) and also I see a little seven-year-old kid in Sterrett Woods picking violets for the “Milk and Ice Fund” to be given to “poor kids” whose parents could not afford to keep milk in “ice-boxes” in the summertime. She and all her classmates believed in their hearts that the justice of having ice in your ice-box was the same as that justice they pledged allegiance to every schoolday morning, and that it was immutable—somehow, somewhere.

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mackTN's avatar

By mackTN, July 1, 2011 at 7:29 am Link to this comment

These are excellent questions about the use of drones as replacements for
troops.  Here again, our laws have not kept pace with technology.  If we can
send drones into sovereign countries, why can’t other countries send drones
into our airspace?  And if another country did send drones into our airspace,
wouldn’t we consider such an act a declaration of war? 

I don’t like killing by remote control.  Unless you have video that a person or
persons is hacking a population to pieces should a murder without trial be
considered.  That’s what we’ve been taught…but apparently that thinking is no
longer au courant.  The administration covers itself by getting a COALITION of
Nato countries to agree to the murder—then it’s okay. 

Drones are not exceptional technology.  Pretty soon everybody will start using
them and we’ll have an international drone buildup to contend with along with
nuclear weapons. Who is the U.S. to be the sole nation to police the world with
drones?  (Can they used domestically?  Perhaps to save on staffing police
forces, we’ll use drones to police the streets.)

Can of worms?  Most important in this piece is about the lack of debate.  As a
citizen, a govt stakeholder, I’m feeling increasingly left out of the
decisionmaking in my govt.  (That’s a wildly hysterical understatement.)  Why
should I feel this way after having elected the most transparent administration
ever?

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By TDoff, July 1, 2011 at 7:22 am Link to this comment

Why only six countries? Crank up the predator production lines, wherever they are (China? Taiwan? Israel?). Let The Empire’s Predators circle the globe. No nation (except Israel) should be immune from the US predator patrol. All government officials, worldwide, should be aware they are subject to assassination by The Empire, 24/7/365. That should keep them in line.

And once the world is cowed, The Empire can increase it’s internal predator patrols, to stifle the first sign of discontent among it’s populace of unemployed, homeless, medically deprived citizens.

The Brave New World is coming.

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By Ron_B, July 1, 2011 at 7:16 am Link to this comment

Just like the pollution from our greedy corporations, this to shall come back at us with a vengence.
- and, yet, we will stand outraged and bewildered when it does.

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EJH's avatar

By EJH, July 1, 2011 at 6:41 am Link to this comment

gerard - I enjoy your comments.  I agree with you 99%
of the time.  You have a beautiful way of looking at
things.  You are quite eloquent.  I adore you.

But I wish you would get over the idea that America
used to be better in the past or that is was a special country.  Your country never was
about “liberty and justice for all”, nor was it ever
the “light of the world”.  That was all American
propaganda.  Please read A People’s History of the
United States (of course, I am sure you already have).

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PatrickHenry's avatar

By PatrickHenry, July 1, 2011 at 4:56 am Link to this comment

In private industry the minute these predator drones started flying a man with a handful of layoff checks would be turning pilots into cash.

Cancel the B-2’s, F-35’s KC-135 tankers, they are now obsolete.

Whether or not a man is in the cockpit raining death and destruction upon the masses is a mute point.

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Billy Pilgrim's avatar

By Billy Pilgrim, July 1, 2011 at 4:46 am Link to this comment

We are an empire. We can do whatever we want. Obama is
no different than Bush.

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Mike789's avatar

By Mike789, July 1, 2011 at 4:30 am Link to this comment

Localhero states ~ “Just putting on a uniform identifies the wearer as an emotionally and mentally stunted individual.”

This is a shallow, dispicable statement. I reckon you are a psychologist that can access the mental state of an entire gamut of peoples from a cozy distance? Even a cursory assay of the demographic dispells this absurd notion.

I personally find the statement offensive.

When I first came to this site a couple of years ago it offered at least measured responses from its commentators. Admittedly, the core of this idea has persisted, but it has deteriorated and the well has been soured with immature drivel.

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THX 1133 is not in the movie...'s avatar

By THX 1133 is not in the movie..., July 1, 2011 at 3:45 am Link to this comment

grokker, June 30 at 7:49 pm Link to this comment
There are no words to describe the hideous mental state
of people who conceive and implement weapons like this.
=============================
Yeah, true enough! And in my lifetime too; who’d a
thunk?

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LocalHero's avatar

By LocalHero, July 1, 2011 at 3:44 am Link to this comment

Is anybody the least bit surprised that our military embraces the MOST cowardly tactics available?

Just putting on a uniform identifies the wearer as an emotionally and mentally stunted individual.

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By NZDoug, July 1, 2011 at 12:19 am Link to this comment

Metal Gods-Judas Priest
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jac80JB04NQ
Like cancer, the rot begins within.
Cool, eh..

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By gerard, June 30, 2011 at 8:43 pm Link to this comment

In Robinson’s critique, the question of cowardice is never mentioned.  Yet that is an obvious question concerning the use of drones and all such robotic
weapons which attack unfairly in the sense that the risk of loss of human life is not shared, but is all on one side.  The same issue presents its ugly face in the use of weapons of mass destruction, of course, or the use of overwhelming force as in the case of Israel against Palestine.  As war grows more “advanced” it becomes more cowardly, one-sided and despicable.  Will human beings descend finally to a subhuman status where “anything goes” so far as violence is concerned?  Or will they pull themselves back from the edge of perdition in time to remain human?  It’s a gamble, and every single individual American is involved in the decision. 

The United States was once a bastion of “liberty and justice for all,” and the “light of the world,” now fallen into universal disgrace—the most powerful, but arguably at the same time the most merciless nation on earth.

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By grokker, June 30, 2011 at 7:49 pm Link to this comment

There are no words to describe the hideous mental state of people who conceive and implement weapons like this.

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