Despite the devastating effects the drone program has had in the Middle East and North Africa, the Pentagon has announced its desire for a vast expansion of the drone war. It has also announced a $3 billion plan to double the number of drone squadrons to 16 for spying and military missions. It comes as the Pentagon has intensified airstrikes supposedly against terrorist targets in Iraq and Syria. Those strikes, according to transparency group Airwars, have instead killed some 1,000 civilians thus far.
Notwithstanding the global blowback, the Pentagon says it has hired civilian contractors to fly MQ-9 Reaper drones to help track suspected militants and other targets in global hot spots – a previously undisclosed expansion in the privatization of once-exclusively military functions.
The Pentagon also claims its “civilian pilots” are not allowed to pinpoint targets with lasers or fire missiles. They operate only Reapers that provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, known as ISR. This is far from the truth. There are no limitations on what they can do and certainly the contractors are combatant pilots.
According to corporate media, the US Air Force is facing a shortage of drone operators and weapons, and right now, “100 percent of the time, when an MQ-1 or MQ-9 crew goes in, all they do is combat.” What’s more, some Pentagon officials and military lawyers contend that civilians are part of what the Air Force calls the “kill chain,” a process that starts with surveillance and ends with a missile launch. This ignores the consequences of the drone war and indeed violates international law barring civilians from taking part in any armed conflict.
Then again, who cares as long as someone somewhere makes some big money. With fewer operators available to fly missions, let alone serve as instructors, the demand for private-sector services is on the rise. The big money is in the training of Predator and Reaper aircraft pilots and sensor operators, not only in the United States but also in Europe as more “allies” are purchasing the aircraft.
So forget about the frequent doses of propaganda and soothing assurances from Team Obama and mainstream media that make only occasional forays once or twice a year into reporting that is critical of the drone program. The powerful reality is this:
As long as the self-censoring mainstream media continue to ignore, downplay and under-report the drone war, much of the world community will remain under-informed or ill-informed about what the US drone strikes are doing to the innocent civilians and bystanders in the Middle East and North Africa.
Another powerful reality is that the War Party’s self-defeating strategy is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world. The War Party knows that, but still keeps on lying publicly about the effectiveness of its targeted killing program.
In a nutshell, the human costs of armed drone use are startling. It highlights chronic flaws in Washington’s decision-making process behind the non-transparent strikes carried out in multiple countries. It also shows that the program, which in some ways is a limited version of Bush’s global War on Terror, warrants an immediate international inquiry at the United Nations