Friday, 28 September 2012


Clive Stafford Smith wrote this in the Guardian 25/9/12

“Living Under Drones, a new report from Stanford and New York universities, was a difficult piece of fieldwork – I was with the law students in Peshawar as they tried to interview victims of the CIA's drone war. But it has made an important contribution to the drone debate by identifying the innocent victims of the CIA's reign of terror: the entire civilian population of Waziristan (roughly 800,000 people).
Until now, the most heated dispute has revolved around how many drone victims in the Pakistan border region are dangerous extremists, and how many children, women or men with no connection to any terrorist group. I have been to the region, and have a strong opinion on this point – but until the area is opened up to media inspection, or the CIA releases the tapes of each hellfire missile strike, the controversy will rage on.
However, there can be no sensible disagreement over certain salient facts: first, the US now has more than 10,000 weaponised drones in its arsenal; second, as many as six Predator drones circle over one location at any given time, often for 24 hours a day, with high-resolution cameras snooping on the movements of everyone below; third, the Predators emit an eerie sound, earning them the name bangana (buzzing wasp) in Pashtu; fourth, everyone in the area can see them, 5,000ft up, all day – and hear them all night long; fifth, nobody knows when the missile will come, and turn each member of the family into what the CIA calls a "bugsplat". The Predator operator, thousands of miles away in Nevada, often pushes the button over a cup of coffee in the darkest hours of the Waziristan night, between midnight and 5am. So a parent putting children to bed cannot be sure they will wake up safely.....

....So little changes. Current RAF doctrine tells us, euphemistically, how "the psychological impact of air power, from the presence of a UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] to the noise generated by an approaching attack helicopter, has often proved to be extremely effective in exerting influence …" Perhaps they mean "terror", as described by David Rohde, a former New York Times journalist kidnapped and held by the Taliban for months in Waziristan. Rohde, quoted in Living Under Drones, describes the fear the drones inspired in ordinary civilians: "The drones were terrifying. From the ground, it is impossible to determine who or what they are tracking as they circle overhead. The buzz of a distant propeller is a constant reminder of imminent death."

I hope that this report reminds us all what the US – with British support – is doing to the people of Pakistan. Maybe then there will be less surprise at the hatred the drone war is engendering in the Islamic world – and a chance that we will reconsider what we are doing.”

It is astonishing that anyone with half a brain should wonder why the west is hated in so many parts of the world. It has very little to do with crap inflammatory propaganda movies and far more to dealing out death in such an arbitrary way. It does not help when death and suffering are reduced to ‘collateral damage’ either. The use of ‘bugsplat’ is indicative of an attitude that renders human beings as sub-human. This is what the Nazis did to demonise the Jews. They were called ‘untermenschen’. And we know where that lead to. 

It is disgraceful that a man with a reputation for being clever (and holder of the Nobel Peace Prize) should utilise weapons which creates many more enemies. Perhaps he too is in the pockets of the arms dealers? Or is he following in the footsteps of so many ‘world leaders’ - think Blair and Bush - who suffered from little willy syndrome?

No-one in Britain should be under any illusion that this technology is exclusively American. We have spent £2billion acquiring our own, including the grimly named ‘Reaper’ drone. We have budgeted another £2bn to buy and maintain some more. 

All this has been slipped under the radar with very little analysis or policy discussion. 

It is time for a very heated debate.

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