Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), or ‘drones’ have completely changed the face of military engagement. Although potentially useful for peaceful applications, drones primarily remain under control of the military industrial complex. The US Air Force used approximately 3,500 drones during the Vietnam War (codename “Red Wagon”), in order to limit pilot casualties.
Israel was the first to use surveillance-capable drones, and is the largest manufacturer to date, the Jewish Press notes. UAVs have become progressively ubiquitous, with Reaper and Predator models operating in 60 bases around the world; largely at AFRICOM’s Camp Lemonnier in Djbouti and Ramstein Air Force Base in Germany.
Newer drone models use autonomous AI system, and Boston Dynamics, DARPA’s subsidiary drone program, has been engineering anthropomorphic and zoomorphic models since 1982. Aerospace regulations have become problematic as demand for drones increases, pushing Congress to pass 2012 PL 112-095 in 2012.
An Intercept article leaked top secret intel that America covertly used Ramstein as the command centre of its drone program, further straining diplomatic relations between the US and Germany. Der Spiegel analysts believe that the Bundestag could try the US for war crimes, in addition to halting all collaboration with American intelligence services. Laura Poitras’s documentary CITIZENFOUR notes that the CIA and Pentagon have placed 1.2 million people on a secret watchlist, using Ramstein as an extrajudicial slaughterhouse under the executive authority of the POTUS. Drones are additionally used by the NSA with real-time monitoring capabilities from all points around the world, increasing illegal surveillance activity against major foreign powers such as Russia, Iran, and China, provoking large-scale blowback.
Drones also threaten international security, fueling terrorism by killing innocent civilians. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism documents that in Afghanistan, Yemen, Pakistan and Somalia, a total of 415 airstrikes have occurred to which 3,949 people were killed; of those 962 were civilians, 207 children, 1,722 civilians, and 38 Westerners, including 2 al-Qaeda hostages in Pakistan. Across the MENA region, especially in Iraq and Syria, this has strengthened factions of al-Qaeda and Islamic State (including AQAP, LIFG, and al-Jabrat al-Nursra) by recruiting surviving victims, including those of double-tap strikes. To date, Amnesty International’s report “Will I Be Next” carries some of the most extensive research on the impact drone strikes worldwide. Furthermore, Salon and other publications have leaked a memo from Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle that drone pilots are suffering from PTSD and burnout after killing unnamed targets, and are quitting in record numbers, setting back the MQ-1/9 program.
Our ALLRIOT campaign wants to hammer home the danger this technology poses to global security if it remains on its current path. It does not make pilots safer, nor does it reduce civilian casualties. It pours fire onto the global terror recruitment network and poses serious cybersecurity concerns. American, British, and French drones constantly violate Syrian and Iraqi airspace, further deteriorating the peace process. It’s time to dismantle drone operations and demilitarize our skies; for the sake of international peace and stability.