Time and time again, news stories of heavy civilian casualties have surfaced – largely innocent women and children slaughtered or injured – after reports of attacks by armed UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) that roamed the skies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Lebanon and Gaza.
Most recently, UNICEF expressed serious concern about the systematic air and missile attacks wreaking havoc in Sadr City
by the U.S. military in its relentless pursuit of insurgents. The Iraqi
government declares almost 1,000 people have died so far – 60% of them are women
and children. Prior to the UNICEF report, USA Today gave an account that the U.S. military record showed “an unprecedented
number of air strikes by unmanned airplanes in April to kill insurgents”. The
Pentagon has increased use of armed drones to deal with the escalation in
fighting in Baghdad's district of Sadr City as well as in Basra.
As for Afghanistan, very few attempts at compiling annual
estimates of insurgency-related civilian deaths have been made. As civilian
casualties mounted, criticism on the conduct of air war was published in a Reuters piece,
indicating that the Americans and NATO in Afghanistan are "hooked on air power."
On June 2, 2007, a UN
report shows "the number of [civilian] deaths attributed to pro-government
forces marginally exceeds that caused by anti-government forces” — basically
acknowledging U.S. and NATO-led forces to be responsible for a growing number of
civilian deaths. Evidently, precision airstrikes that were supposedly targeting
Taliban insurgents in residential buildings ended up time after time killing
innocent civilians based on inaccurate information assessments. In an emotional
speech last year, Afghanistan
President Hamid Karzai dabbed away tears as he spoke about the cruelty
imposed on his people "as too much" and that Afghanistan couldn't stop “the
coalition from killing our children.”
Under the guise of waging a ‘war on terror’ against the
Taliban, the U.S. military supported by Pervez Musharraf has increased Predator
strikes in the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan, causing outrage in Pakistan.
One such incident resulting in civilian deaths drew criticism from Amnesty
International with a letter to U.S. President Bush, stating that “a pattern
of killings carried out with these weapons appeared to reflect a US government
policy condoning extrajudicial executions.” On April 8, 2008, the Daily
Times reported that the United States has finally promised to curb
airstrikes by Predators against suspected
insurgents in Pakistan with the new civilian government as part of $7
billion aid package sent to Congress for approval.
Although drone attacks haven’t been covered much by
mainstream media, we know that the Predator MQ-1, armed with AGM-114 Hellfire
missiles, was deployed to Afghanistan in October 2001, providing intelligence
and a strike capability in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. It was
not until October 2007 that United States Air Force first deployed the MQ-9
Reaper (technically advanced hunter/killer) to Afghanistan, where it is being
used for precision strikes. And we know that the U.S. military is still
using MQ-1s for surveillance and bombing raids in Sadr City and Basra as
reported in occasional crashes.
The fact that MQ-1s have been playing a significant role in
air operations since 2001 could explain the high rate of casualties among
helpless civilians, as these unmanned drones are
controlled remotely from military bases in the United States. It's obvious
that Afghanistan and Iraq for several years have been used as the testing ground
for the U.S. Pentagon trying to perfect its hi-tech robotic war weapons at the
expense of thousands of innocent human lives. Undoubtedly, the growing use of
armed drones has certainly raised serious ethical and legal issues.
As for the unreported news on Israel’s
drones used in Lebanon war in 2006, the Israeli Air Force stated that it had
focused its efforts on suppressing Hezbollah’s rocket launch capabilities.
However, Human Rights Watch claimed otherwise in its report –
pointing out high civilian casualties were due to “Israeli tendency to treat all
people and buildings associated with Hezbollah, however vaguely, as legitimate
Israel's notorious violation of human rights is globally
known for its brutal conduct in Gaza , committing genocide – killing and maiming
women and children before our very eyes. However, a few articles have exposed
Israel’s dreadful use of UAVs in its attacks against the Palestinians. In the
intensifying and ongoing assault on Gaza, Palestinians say Israel's pilotless planes have been
a major weapon in its latest offensive in Gaza.
Worse still, the announcement of future ambition to turn a
UAV into a thinking killer machine takes man one step closer to making a sci-fi
horror into reality. The BAE Systems is working with the British military
staff and scientists to develop Taranis – a jet designed with a bat-wing to be
able to think for itself, independently tracking and destroying aircraft and
targets. First flight trials are scheduled to take place in 2010.
By accepting these drones to carry out battles against
people makes the process of killing another human being so eerily impersonal,
like the deaths of so many innocents have become nothing more than statistics.
In conclusion, a battle waged between machine against man only guarantees one
thing – a high loss of precious human
(First published on UniOrb.com, May 10, 2008)