Peace Matters Index
selection from paper publication
- War without end
- Under watchfull eyes
- Educating for peace
- Well dressing
- What will we be remembering
For the clearest picture of the US drone activity in Pakistan go to pitchinteractive
Far too often the ping of the phone in my pocket announces the arrival of a message that tells me where and how many people have been killed just a few hours earlier by the latest US drone strike. I have an app for that!
On November 3rd 2002 six people were killed in Yemen by a US Predator drone. This was the first publicly confirmed targeted killing by the US outside the battlefield since Gerald Ford implemented a ban on political assassinations in 1976. At least 4700 people have been assassinated this way since.
Several years ago, reflecting on US foreign policy, Josh Begley designed the Drones+ app to show where the US was targeting people. Apple rejected the app saying that it was neither useful not entertaining. Josh argued that surely Americans had a right to be informed about the playing out of US foreign policy. Not an argument that cut much ice. Quite what Apple's precise objection was we don't know but two years later it finally agreed to allow the app into its iTunes store provided the word 'drone' did not appear in its name or description. It is now available as MetaData. A satisfactory title for Begley since the US targets on the basis of metadata. You may ask why I want to receive such updates; I have no simple answer to that and often ask myself the same question when the phone calls my attention to yet another assassination. I look at the screen and see the location and the number killed. But far away from my 'connected' vantage point in Yemen, Pakistan or Somalia another wave of hatred is making its way towards the US as, in all likelihood, more 'innocent' bystanders than any putative terrorists are wounded or killed with devastating repercussions on families and friends. Collateral damage. Who cares? Does any moderately intelligent, moderately informed person really think that this multi-million pound long-distance assassination is going to solve anything?
What do I gain by knowing that somewhere another 'terrorist' or bystander has had their life extinguished or an unborn child did not get to see the light of day?
Not sure but the phone ping in my pocket tell me many things. It tells me that the good men and women at General Dynamics in San Diego (5th largest weapons manufacturer) have scored another success. Their ingenuity and labours have delivered a Hellfire missile produced by the good women and men at Lockheed Martin (world’s largest weapons manufacturer) who can beam with pride at striking another blow for freedom at the cost of a few unknown lives.
It reminds me that Barack Obama who, after wrestling the authority to fire Hellfire missiles from the CIA and trying to keep it from the Pentagon, began personally approving every single drone strike against suspected terrorists and said he would taken 'full moral responsibility’ whatever that means, for the deaths it causes. It tells me that the toilers in the monster that is the National Security Agency have honed in on a target from the US 'kill list' after a complex analysis of electronic surveillance - a thoroughly unreliable tactic that inevitably results in the deaths of people mostly not on the 'kill list'.
US drone strikes, or assassinations as we should probably call them, will soon be reaching their 12th anniversary and over 4700 people have been killed this way. Most since Barack Obama came into office.
Do I really want to have such close knowledge of the actions of the well- paid, air-conditioned air force pilots in the desert a few miles from Las Vegas? It certainly does not brighten up the day but for now it serves a constant and incessant reminder of why the PPU is here. Amid the high cant of the WW1 anniversary and the forthcoming remembrance period when the corporate might of the British Legion will be signalling its support for the way of the gun we should (must?) take every opportunity to challenge the clichés about heroism, nobility and necessity of armed force which should by now be so exhausted that they will fall over at the slightest challenge.
David Cameron has just unleashed the might of Britain's ancient Tornado jets (the more modern and grotesquely expensive Eurofighter Typhoon cannot be fitted with the required missiles despite development costs of some £35 billion) to follow in the US slipstream to bomb Isis in Iraq. A disappointed news announcer noted that the planes had returned without firing any missiles. But what luck for the air force. Plans for scrapping a squadron of these heritage jets has been cancelled and given new opportunity for more mayhem as once again, despite all evidence to the contrary, those whose sclerotic hands weigh heavy on the levers of power apparently only see the world in grainy monochrome. Whether it is lack of will or the corruption of a political process in which organised interests vastly outweigh the public interest that prevents the development of a more nuanced political and diplomatic strategy is for debate. It will take “quite a long time” to rid us of Isis, Cameron noted. People will believe impossible things if they are given the right incentives to do so and dismiss anything that threatens their position.
Just like the covert drone attack the more visible 'air operations' sow seeds of distrust and hatred and are strategically useless (except to financiers and weapons-makers of course) and counterproductive. 'We were bouncing rubble with billion-dollar missiles,' noted Colin Powell, American’s most senior military official at the time of the first Gulf war. Bombing has not been decisive in any recent conflict and probably not since Hugh Trenchard terrified the natives in Somaliland in 1920.