Disturbing facts about drone strikes leaked

Juan Salamanca / Contributing Writer

We in the west are blessed with the luxury of holding death at arm’s length. We typically do not worry about it when we look towards the blue sky.
A child in Yemen looks towards the cloudless sky and trembles, for death can come swiftly and mercilessly.

From any moment, an American MQ-1 Predator drone, rendered invisible by its 50,000-foot operating altitude and small size, can fire an AGM-114 Hellfire missile that lands with an explosive impact that lives up to its namesake.

This is the reality that many children in the world-spanning battlefield of the Global War on Terrorism, or the Overseas Contigency Operation, face.

With boots-on-the-ground operations being politically unfeasible post-Iraq war, drones are the signature tool of its counter-terrorism program. Their mission: targeted killings.

For most of its existence, the program has operated under a totalitarian logic that would make the Stasi blush.  According to the Washington Post, it is justified by a secret legal rationale, targets anywhere in the world are to be selected by secret authorities from a secret kill list and the criteria for inclusion is also a state secret. The operation is then vetted in a secret process.

The administration released a document in 2013 detailing some of the procedures of approving a lethal force operation but it presents very little detail of the process.

Until recently, that is.

This past October , The Intercept received a cache of secret documents from an anonymous source revealing the process and results of the drone program. What it reveals is startling.

Washington has always held the lives of civilians killed during war in deep contempt. It is well known that collateral damage in drone strikes has been referred to as “bugsplat” and yet the documents show that any life vanquished by an American drone is a victory to the eyes of the military machine.

The documents indicate that anyone killed in a drone strike, even if not directly targeted, are classified as Enemies Killed in Action. The label is deeply misleading as the Pentagon puts forth little effort to verify the identities of those killed.

The label is only removed if posthumous evidence emerges to prove the innocence of those killed, meaning that even if you actually are not combatant against the United States, you are presumed guilty.

Worse still, nine out of the ten people killed by American drone strikes are classified as EKIAs, meaning that those killed are overwhelmingly civilians.

The Intercept’s source states that US statements that minimize civilian casualties are “[exaggerations], if not outright lies.”

The anger over the sheer amounts of civilians killed in a drone strike creates more anti-American militants vowing vengeance, and the more of those that exist, the more drone strikes are conducted to stamp them out, which kills more civilians, and so on and so forth. The drone program will essentially perpetuate itself.

The intelligence apparatus behind the program is Orwellian in its scope. Thousands of people are watchlisted and given numbers and code names. Their movements are tracked based on making calls to certain countries.

With little intelligence gathering by humans, the verification that these phone numbers are actually connected to terrorist organizations is sketchy.

If you’re a Pakistani abroad and you call your mother one too many times and make an ill-timed trip to your home country, then you and your family might get struck with an American lightning bolt.

And perhaps, what is most chilling about the drone program, is not necessarily anything revealed in the documents, but the way it is talked about.

The program of systematic murder is simply seen as a regular feature of foreign policy. The President even cracked a joke about murdering the Jonas Brothers with a drone.

It is talked about as if it were an entitlement from a social program, a mere transaction. The victims are denied their foundational humanity; white blobs on a computer screen cut to bits, charred and eviscerated into a black and red mass, a sacrifice to the altar of American freedom.  

No presidential candidate is even remotely considering ending it.

Seen as neat little doohickeys to entertain enthusiasts and kids with, the normalization of the drone into our culture pushes us ever further into the abyss, making it less likely that Americans will speak out about them.

The media will give little thought to it; weeks have passed since The Intercept has released these documents and all anyone seems to want to talk about is the absurd horse-race of a presidential campaign for an election that is well over a year away.

There are no practical limitations to the drone program. You are at the whim of military bureaucrats.

If you are even remotely considered a suspected enemy of the United States, anywhere on the planet, beware.

If you’re not, well, you better hope you’re not anywhere near one.

[Image from Flickr]

3 Comments on "Disturbing facts about drone strikes leaked"

  1. What’s with the DJI Phantom toy drone in the picture, when you’re referring to a full sized pilotless aircraft with WINGS? Jeez, enough demonizing the small RC quadcopters, already. Typical media bullshit, spewing the same old regurgitated crap to scare the mindless and hurt growing industries.

    Your article would have more merit if you were depicting a real Predator Drone.

  2. I knew that the DJI Phantom is bad for the RC hobby, but until now I did not see it as THAT bad.
    We must stop the DJIhad before it’s too late. Ban Phantoms!

  3. I knew that the DJI Phantom is bad for the RC hobby, but until now I did not see it as THAT bad.
    We must stop the DJIhad before it’s too late. Ban Phantoms!

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