Monday, 13 June 2011

{EOB} Drones: Death and Destruction

WRITER | Ayesha Zee Khan
The UAV’s or “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” were used earlier in the WWI as aerial torpedoes an early version of today’s cruise missiles, however a large scale production of these unmanned aerial vehicles took place in the WWII. The United States did use a prototype UAV called Operation Aphrodite in World War II. It was an attempt to use manned vehicles in an unmanned mode. Later, the drones were used in the Cold war days, the first such drone was the ‘Firebee’ drone, a jet propelled by an engine made by Ryan Aeronautical Company. They were initially used heavily over Communist China in the 1960s, the Vietnam War (they were used extensively in reconnaissance and combat roles), and Operation Iraqi Freedom (2007). The Hunter and the Pioneer, which are used extensively by the US military, are direct derivatives of Israeli systems. The Pioneer was used in the Gulf War which brought good results (according to the American armed forces). Over the past few years; Israel has been responsible for much of the development that has happened in the UAV sector.
The Predator, an Advanced Technology Demonstration Project, demonstrated its worth in the skies over the Balkans. Some of the current versions of the Predator are loaded with Hellfire missiles for attack purposes. Another popular UAV is the Global Hawk. This is a jet powered UAV that was used effectively in Afghanistan. It operates at around 60,000 feet, and carries a wide range of sensors. UAVs that are in use and under development are both long-range and high-endurance vehicles. The Predator, for instance, can stay in the air for around 40 hours whereas; The Global Hawk can stay in the air for 24 hours. The dramatic increase in the development and use of drones across the US armed services reflects what will be an even more aggressive effort over the next 25 years, according to the new Military report.
The jump in Iraq coincided with the buildup of U.S. forces in 2008 summer as the military swelled its ranks to quell the violence in Baghdad. But Pentagon officials said that even as troops begin to slowly come home this (2008) year, the use of Predators, Global Hawks, Shadows and Ravens will not likely slow. In Afghanistan and Iraq, the use of drones expanded in the year 2010. In 2011, the US Air Force plans to fly as many as 50 drones, or combat air patrols in the war zones, and by 2013 that number will jump to 65, say Air Force officials.
In April 2011, Unmanned aircraft have proven to be powerful weapons in Afghanistan and Iraq and their use have expanded to new areas and operations each year of those conflicts. Some drones are used for surveillance and some, are armed and have been used to hunt and kill militants.
According to Robert Fisk, an international analyst; Al Qaeda was created in the Middle East due to the injustices done on the common people by the puppet governments of the West. Whereas in the west; Al Qaeda flourishes on the hypocrisies and lies of the governments there. Similarly, the attack and invasion of Afghanistan in 1980 with the Soviet war in process the Arab fighters (Mujahedeen) brought in by the CIA have to be destroyed by America now.
“The Year of the Drone” 2009 killed five actual militant leaders in Pakistan whereas 700 innocent civilians died due to the drones. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, in the year 2010, as many as 957 innocent persons became victim of US drone attacks. With such a massive civilian toll and so little to show for it, it is no wonder that Pakistani people have been up in arms over the continued strikes.
In Pakistan, Taliban showed reaction over the drone attacks by suicide bombings in the cities and towns across the country; killing thousands of civilians. Heavy death toll of civilians and security personnel and a huge loss of life and property put resentment into the hearts and minds of common people. The Government’s tacit condolences and protests proved to the Nation that the political leaders had been bought by the US.
There was a halt in the drone strikes while code named Raymond Davis was in Pakistani custody. As soon as he was acquitted (by using the same Sharia law the West hates) a thank you note by the Americans came in the form of drone strike on the 17th March 2011 in the Pakistani area of North Waziristan where; 40 people died, most of them believed to be civilians and tribal elders meeting to sort out a local land dispute.
According to the Pakistani foreign office, “Drone attacks have become a core irritant in the counter-terror campaign. Pakistan has taken up the matter with the US at all levels,” it said. Pakistani foreign secretary Salman Bashir had lodged a “strong protest” with US Ambassador Cameron Munter, it added.
There is a strong contempt that is felt within the Pakistani active civil society, lawyers, students and the literary circles that there should be an end to this never-ending war that the US has pursued in this part of the region. The drone strikes have led to massive fear in the people of Waziristan and around 800,000 people have been displaced. Schools, hospitals in FATA and Khyber Pakhtun Khwa have been destroyed and the infrastructure in that area is totally damaged.
The tourism industry has totally collapsed particularly in these areas whereas rest of the country too is about to face the same dilemma and that factor has directly and utterly caused a great loss to the country’s economy.
The writer is a bilingual freelance columnist and an active civil society member based at Lahore.

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