Report, The Electronic Intifada, 25 January 2010
The New York Times has all but confirmed to The Electronic Intifada (EI) that the son of its Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner was recently inducted into the Israeli army.
Over the weekend, EI received a tip suggesting this had been the case and wrote to Bronner to ask him to confirm or deny the information and to seek his opinion on whether, if true, he thought it would be a conflict of interest.
Susan Chira, the foreign editor of The New York Times wrote in an email to The Electronic Intifada this morning:
“Ethan Bronner referred your query to me, the foreign editor. Here is my comment: Mr. Bronner’s son is a young adult who makes his own decisions. At The Times, we have found Mr. Bronner’s coverage to be scrupulously fair and we are confident that will continue to be the case.”
The Electronic Intifada also wrote to Clark Hoyt, the public editor of The New York Times, to confirm the information and ask for an opinion on whether this constituted a conflict of interest, but had yet to receive a response.
Bronner, as bureau chief, has primary responsibility for his paper’s reporting on all aspects of the Palestine/Israel conflict, and on the Israeli army, whose official name is the “Israel Defense Forces.”
On 23 January, Bronner published a lengthy article on Israel’s efforts to refute allegations contained in the UN-commissioned Goldstone report of war crimes and crimes against humanity during its attack on Gaza last winter (“Israel Poised to Challenge a UN Report on Gaza“).
As’ad AbuKhalil, a frequent critic of Bronner’s coverage, blogged in response that “The New York Times devoted more space to Israeli and Zionist criticisms of the Goldstone report than to the [content of the] report itself” (The Angry Arab News Service, “Ethan Bronner’s propaganda services, 25 January 2010)
Bronner’s pro-Israeli bias reporting on Israel’s attack on Gaza last year was also criticized by the media watchdog Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) (See “NYT and the Perils of Mideast ‘Balance’,” 4 February 2009).
The New York Times’ own “Company policy on Ethics in Journalism” acknowledges that the activities of a journalist’s family member may constitute a conflict of interest. It includes as an example, “A brother or a daughter in a high-profile job on Wall Street might produce the appearance of conflict for a business reporter or editor.” Such conflicts may on occasion require the staff member “to withdraw from certain coverage.”
After Israel’s invasion of Gaza last winter, Israeli military censors banned local media from printing the names of individual officers who participated in the attack for fear that this could assist international efforts to bring war crimes suspects to justice. This followed the publication of a number of soldiers’ personal testimonies in the Israeli press describing atrocities they had seen committed by the Israeli army in Gaza.
The Times’ treatment of Bronner sets an interesting precedent. Would the newspaper’s policy be the same if a reporter in its Jerusalem bureau had an immediate family member who faced Bronner’s son across the battlefield, as a member of a Palestinian or Lebanese resistance organization?
It would appear that despite the highly sensitive nature of Palestine/Israel coverage, and the very high personal stakes for Bronner and his son that could result from full and open coverage of the Israeli army’s abuses of Palestinians, The New York Times does not consider this situation to be a problematic case. It had not even disclosed the situation to its readers — until now.
Aletho News | January 25, 2010
World Wildlife Fund* is renowned for being a phony green organization whose primary role is influencing environmental regulation so as to protect corporate interests. The Rockefeller Brothers Fund has provided WWF grants with the aim of “Combating Global Warming”. WWF became a focal point for IPCC critics after it was revealed that the IPCC report’s erroneous assertion of Himalayan glaciers being threatened by global warming was sourced from a WWF publication.
As per the IPCC’s statement of principles, its role is ‘to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis, scientific, technical and socio-economic information – IPCC reports should be neutral with respect to policy’. However it has now been reported that the report relied heavily on literature that, rather than being scientific or neutral, was in fact sourced from the WWF. Donna Laframboise writes:
AR4 is the shorthand name for the 2007 Nobel-winning IPCC report. When one types “WWF” into an AR4 search box dozens of references are returned.
For example, a WWF report is cited twice on this page as the only supporting proof of IPCC statements about coastal developments in Latin America. A WWF report is referenced twice by the IPCC’s Working Group II in its concluding statements. There, the IPCC depends on the WWF to define what the global average per capita “ecological footprint” is compared to the ecological footprint of central and Eastern Europe.
Elsewhere, when discussing “mudflows and avalanches” linked to melting glaciers, the oh-so-scientifically-circumspect IPCC relies on two sources to make its point – an apparently still unpublished paper delivered to a conference five years earlier (Bhadra, 2002) and a WWF document.
Similarly, the only reason the IPCC can declare that “Changes in climate are affecting many mountain glaciers, with rapid glacier retreat documented in the Himalayas, Greenland, the European Alps, the Andes Cordillera and East Africa” is because a WWF report makes this claim.
In a section on coral reefs and mangroves, a WWF report is the IPCC’s sole reason for believing that, in “the Mesoamerican reef there are up to 25 times more fish of some species on reefs close to mangrove areas than in areas where mangroves have been destroyed.”
When the IPCC advises world leaders that “climate change is very likely to produce significant impacts on selected marine fish and shellfish (Baker, 2005)” it doesn’t call attention to the fact that the sole authority on which this statement rests is a WWF workshop project report (see the “Baker” document below).
All told, an extensive list of documents created or co-authored by the WWF is cited by this Nobel-winning IPCC report:
- Allianz and World Wildlife Fund, 2006: Climate change and the financial sector: an agenda for action, 59 pp. [Accessed 03.05.07: http://www.wwf.org.uk/ filelibrary/pdf/allianz_rep_0605.pdf]
- Austin, G., A. Williams, G. Morris, R. Spalding-Feche, and R. Worthington, 2003: Employment potential of renewable energy in South Africa. Earthlife Africa, Johannesburg and World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Denmark, November, 104 pp.
- Baker, T., 2005: Vulnerability Assessment of the North-East Atlantic Shelf Marine Ecoregion to Climate Change, Workshop Project Report, WWF, Godalming, Surrey, 79 pp.
- Coleman, T., O. Hoegh-Guldberg, D. Karoly, I. Lowe, T. McMichael, C.D. Mitchell, G.I. Pearman, P. Scaife and J. Reynolds, 2004: Climate Change: Solutions for Australia. Australian Climate Group, 35 pp. http://www.wwf.org.au/ publications/acg_solutions.pdf
- Dlugolecki, A. and S. Lafeld, 2005: Climate change – agenda for action: the financial sector’s perspective. Allianz Group and WWF, Munich [may be the same document as "Allianz" above, except that one is dated 2006 and the other 2005]
- Fritsche, U.R., K. Hünecke, A. Hermann, F. Schulze, and K. Wiegmann, 2006: Sustainability standards for bioenergy. Öko-Institut e.V., Darmstadt, WWF Germany, Frankfurt am Main, November
- Giannakopoulos, C., M. Bindi, M. Moriondo, P. LeSager and T. Tin, 2005: Climate Change Impacts in the Mediterranean Resulting from a 2oC Global Temperature Rise. WWF report, Gland Switzerland. Accessed 01.10.2006 at http://assets.panda.org/downloads/medreportfinal8july05.pdf.
- Hansen, L.J., J.L. Biringer and J.R. Hoffmann, 2003: Buying Time: A User’s Manual for Building Resistance and Resilience to Climate Change in Natural Systems. WWF Climate Change Program, Berlin, 246 pp.
- http://www.panda.org/about_wwf/what_we_do/climate_change/our_solutions/business_industry/climate_savers/ index.cfm
- Lechtenbohmer, S., V. Grimm, D. Mitze, S. Thomas, M. Wissner, 2005: Target 2020: Policies and measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the EU. WWF European Policy Office, Wuppertal
- Malcolm, J.R., C. Liu, L. Miller, T. Allnut and L. Hansen, Eds., 2002a: Habitats at Risk: Global Warming and Species Loss in Globally Significant Terrestrial Ecosystems. WWF World Wide Fund for Nature, Gland, 40 pp.
- Rowell, A. and P.F. Moore, 2000: Global Review of Forest Fires. WWF/IUCN, Gland, Switzerland, 66 pp. http://www.iucn.org/themes/fcp/publications /files/global_review_forest_fires.pdf
- WWF, 2004: Deforestation threatens the cradle of reef diversity. World Wide Fund for Nature, 2 December 2004. http://www.wwf.org/
- WWF, 2004: Living Planet Report 2004. WWF- World Wide Fund for Nature (formerly World Wildlife Fund), Gland, Switzerland, 44 pp.
- WWF (World Wildlife Fund), 2005: An overview of glaciers, glacier retreat, and subsequent impacts in Nepal, India and China. World Wildlife Fund, Nepal Programme, 79 pp.
- Zarsky, L. and K. Gallagher, 2003: Searching for the Holy Grail? Making FDI Work for Sustainable Development. Analytical Paper, World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Switzerland
Yet just last week Australia’s Climate Change Minister Penny Wong had this to say about the IPCC report:
“The Fourth Assessment Report represents the international consensus on climate change science. All reports of the IPCC are subjected to extensive expert and government review.”
It seems that the WWF’s position papers (and its agenda) have become the holy writ of modern science, Nobel prize included.
By The Anti Press | January 22, 2010
On January 19, Spanish newspaper ABC, a newspaper of record in Spain, published a story entitled “Chavez Accuses US of Causing Earthquake in Haiti.”
The story was quickly picked up by websites around the globe — most quoting Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez as saying the U.S. used a new tectonic weapon to induce the Haitian earthquake. This was, according to Chavez — “only a drill, and the final target is destroying and taking over Iran.“
Within the actual story, ABC noted that the information came from an obscure opinion post on the website of a Venezuelan state television channel, VIVE Television. The post referenced a supposed Russian military report on American seismic weapons.
All quotes subsequently attributed to Chavez regarding Haiti and earthquake weapons were in fact direct quotes from this web posting — none of which was ever uttered by Chavez.
Spurred on by the international attention being received by its first story, ABC posted a second article on January 20 under the banner “The Secret Weapon to Cause Earthquakes” in which it cites Chavez as having blamed the US for razing Haiti.
By the time the story had run its course, it had been covered with varying degrees of accuracy by corporate news channels, foreign outlets eager to accuse the U.S. of another evil deed, and conspiracy websites happy to have their ideas officially validated.
In the end, it serves as one more reminder to those who prefer truth over ideological delusion: there are some subjects for which the myths of journalistic standards will still be displayed — stories about the government of Venezuela are not one of those subjects.
By Ahmed Moor | January 24, 2010
I want to focus attention on an issue that hasn’t gotten enough press. The Mubarak regime is building a subterranean steel wall on the border with Gaza. Conservative estimates put the depth of the wall at 18 meters (nearly 60 feet). The BBC reports that American engineers designed the wall panels, which were constructed in America.
30-meter-deep holes are being bored into the ground on the Palestinian side of the wall. Egypt will pump salt water from the Mediterranean Sea into the earth to destroy the tunnels – the lifeblood of the besieged Gazan Palestinians. Soil quality will be degraded and the Coastal aquifer, Gaza’s source of potable water, may well be destroyed.
The deranged Obama-Netanyahu-Mubarak cabal seems to be possessed of a biblical rage. Dare to defy the divine edict? We will crush your men, women and children underfoot. Refuse to starve? We will raze your cities, poison your wells, and salt the earth. Their grandiosity – think of it, they’re building an 18-meter-deep steel wall (!) for 11 kilometers – beggars belief, and beggars Gazans.
Protests have erupted across the Arab world and Europe targeting Egyptian embassies and consulates; I attended one yesterday in Beirut. But the Egyptian regime isn’t responsive to popular pressure, so a group of activists here in Lebanon have begun a movement to draw attention to the Egyptian company assembling the wall – Arab Contractors. Our hope is that as details emerge, other companies can be targeted. I reported on our first press conference for Electronic Intifada…
Ahmed Moor is a Gaza-born Palestinian-American freelance journalist living in Beirut.
Foreign Office says it is ‘not liable for acts and omissions’ of administration after alleged abuse of Mau Mau suspects
Afua Hirsch | The Guardian | January 25, 2010
The government is invoking an obscure legal principle to dismiss claims of torture and rape by the British colonial administration in Kenya, campaigners claimed.
The Foreign Office has said four elderly Kenyans alleging that they suffered serious physical and sexual abuse at the hands of the British during the Kenyan “emergency” of 1952 to 1960 should not be allowed to proceed with their claim because of the law of state succession.
The government argues it is “not liable for the acts and omissions of the Kenyan colonial administration”, claiming the Kenyan government was now responsible for events that took place while Kenya was a British colony. But a cross-party group of MPs will this week publish an open letter demanding an apology and the creation of a welfare fund to help the alleged victims through old age.
Allegations that the British abused suspected Mau Mau fighters have continued since the Kenyan government lifted a 30-year ban on membership in 2003.
The organisation, which came into being to oppose colonial rule in Kenya, remains a sensitive issue because of the violence suffered by Kenyans. The British government recently acknowledged that suffering was experienced “on both sides” during the Mau Mau uprising in what experts said was the first recognition that the UK was also to blame.
A Foreign Office spokesman said the emergency period caused great pain on all sides, and marred progress towards independence.
But the government is refuting liability for the case, in which the claimants describe allegedly being castrated, sexually assaulted and beaten during their detention by the British and say they are still suffering consequences.
The case could open the way for up to 12,000 Kenyans to seek redress. It was filed at the high court last year. Daniel Leader, a lawyer at Leigh Day, representing the claimants, said: “One … was castrated for supplying a cow to the Mau Mau.”
“The nature and scale of this abuse was unparalleled in modern British colonial history. The claimants are among the poorest in Kenyan society, and they still live with injuries from that period.
“Historians have been through the public records, and the use of systematic violence was authorised at the highest level in London,” Leaderhe said. “We have the documents to prove that.”
But the government decision to have the case struck out on technical grounds of state succession – the principle that countries assume liability for their own affairs after independence – has infuriated human rights campaigners, who accuse the UK of shirking its responsibilities for rights abuses in former colonies.
The Foreign Office is believed to be arguing on a rule derived from a case over licences to fish for Patagonian toothfish in the South Georgia and South Sandwich islands, British overseas territories. “The FO is arguing that responsibility for acts by the colonial government passed to the independent government in 1963,” Muthoni Wanyeki, executive director of Kenya Human Rights Commission, said.
By Jason Ditz | January 24, 2010
Seemingly already damaged beyond repair, the prospect for peace talks took another hit today when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared portions of the occupied West Bank “eternally” part of Israel.
Attending a tree-planting ceremony in one of the settlements, Netanyahu proclaimed that “we are planting here, we will stay here, we will build here, this place will be an inseparable part of the state of Israel for eternity.” He added that the settlements were part of “sovereign Jerusalem.”
The settlements are built on land occupied by the Israeli military in 1967 and are not recognized as part of the nation. They lie near East Jerusalem, which was also occupied and is not generally recognized as part of Israel either, though Netanyahu insists that this too will remain part of the Israeli state.
The Palestinian Authority slammed the comments, saying they further undermined efforts by visiting US envoy George Mitchell to resume peace talks. Those talks already took a major hit last week when Prime Minister Netanyahu demanded that any hypothetical future Palestinian state allow an eternal Israeli military occupation and grant Israel practical control over its border with Jordan.
Though President Obama has seemingly given up on the peace process, declaring last week that it “is just really hard,” Mitchell insisted that the US remained committed to a “viable” Palestinian state. Those promises of commitment are worth less and less as the rhetoric continues to worsen, and it seems the chances of an improved diplomatic situation are remote, at best.
Today, tomorrow, and 2047
By Nick Turse
One moment there was the hum of a motor in the sky above. The next, on a recent morning in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, a missile blasted a home, killing 13 people. Days later, the same increasingly familiar mechanical whine preceded a two-missile salvo that slammed into a compound in Degan village in the tribal North Waziristan district of Pakistan, killing three.
What were once unacknowledged, relatively infrequent targeted killings of suspected militants or terrorists in the Bush years have become commonplace under the Obama administration. And since a devastating Dec. 30 suicide attack by a Jordanian double agent on a CIA forward operating base in Afghanistan, unmanned aerial drones have been hunting humans in the Af-Pak war zone at a record pace. In Pakistan, an “unprecedented number” of strikes – which have killed armed guerrillas and civilians alike – have led to more fear, anger, and outrage in the tribal areas, as the CIA, with help from the U.S. Air Force, wages the most public “secret” war of modern times.
In neighboring Afghanistan, unmanned aircraft, for years in short supply and tasked primarily with surveillance missions, have increasingly been used to assassinate suspected militants as part of an aerial surge that has significantly outpaced the highly publicized “surge” of ground forces now underway. And yet, unprecedented as it may be in size and scope, the present ramping up of the drone war is only the opening salvo in a planned 40-year Pentagon surge to create fleets of ultra-advanced, heavily-armed, increasingly autonomous, all-seeing, hypersonic unmanned aerial systems (UAS).
Drones are the hot weapons of the moment and the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review – a soon-to-be-released four-year outline of Department of Defense strategies, capabilities, and priorities to fight current wars and counter future threats – is already known to reflect this focus. As the Washington Post recently reported, “The pilotless drones used for surveillance and attack missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan are a priority, with the goals of speeding up the purchase of new Reaper drones and expanding Predator and Reaper drone flights through 2013.”
The MQ-1 Predator – first used in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s – and its newer, larger, and more deadly cousin, the MQ-9 Reaper, are now firing missiles and dropping bombs at an unprecedented pace. In 2008, there were reportedly between 27 and 36 U.S. drone attacks as part of the CIA’s covert war in Pakistan. In 2009, there were 45 to 53 such strikes. In the first 18 days of January 2010, there had already been 11 of them.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force has instituted a much publicized decrease in piloted air strikes to cut down on civilian casualties as part of Afghan War commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s counterinsurgency strategy. At the same time, however, UAS attacks have increased to record levels.
The Air Force has created an interconnected global command-and-control system to carry out its robot war in Afghanistan (and as Noah Shachtman of Wired’s Danger Room blog has reported, to assist the CIA in its drone strikes in Pakistan as well). Evidence of this can be found at high-tech U.S. bases around the world where drone pilots and other personnel control the planes themselves and the data streaming back from them. These sites include a converted medical warehouse at Al-Udeid Air Base, a billion-dollar facility in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar where the Air Force secretly oversees its ongoing drone wars; Kandahar and Jalalabad Air Fields in Afghanistan, where the drones are physically based; the global operations center at Nevada’s Creech Air Base, where the Air Force’s “pilots” fly drones by remote control from thousands of miles away; and – perhaps most importantly – at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a 12-square-mile facility in Dayton, Ohio, named after the two local brothers who invented powered flight in 1903. This is where the bills for the current drone surge – as well as limited numbers of strikes in Yemen and Somalia – come due and are, quite literally, paid.
In the waning days of December 2009, in fact, the Pentagon cut two sizable checks to ensure that unmanned operations involving the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper will continue full-speed ahead in 2010. The 703rd Aeronautical Systems Squadron based at Wright-Patterson signed a $38 million contract with defense giant Raytheon for logistics support for the targeting systems of both drones. At the same time, the squadron inked a deal worth $266 million with mega-defense contractor General Atomics, which makes the Predator and Reaper drones, to provide management services, logistics support, repairs, software maintenance, and other functions for both drone programs. Both deals essentially ensure that, in the years ahead, the stunning increase in drone operations will continue.
These contracts, however, only initial down payments on an enduring drone surge designed to carry U.S. unmanned aerial operations forward, ultimately for decades.
Drone Surge: The Longer View
Back in 2004, the Air Force could put a total of only five drone combat air patrols (CAPs) – each consisting of four air vehicles – in the skies over American war zones at any one time. By 2009, that number was 38, a 660 percent increase according to the Air Force. Similarly, between 2001 and 2008, hours of surveillance coverage for U.S. Central Command, encompassing both the Iraqi and Afghan war zones, as well as Pakistan and Yemen, showed a massive spike of 1,431 percent.
In the meantime, flight hours have gone through the roof. In 2004, for example, Reapers, just beginning to soar, flew 71 hours in total, according to Air Force documents; in 2006, that number had risen to 3,123 hours; and last year, 25,391 hours. This year, the Air Force projects that the combined flight hours of all its drones – Predators, Reapers, and unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawks – will exceed 250,000 hours, about the total number of hours flown by all Air Force drones from 1995-2007. In 2011, the 300,000 hour-a-year barrier is expected to be crossed for the first time, and after that the sky’s the limit.
More flight time will, undoubtedly, mean more killing. According to Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the Washington-based think tank the New America Foundation, in the Bush years, from 2006 into 2009, there were 41 drone strikes in Pakistan that killed 454 militants and civilians. Last year, under the Obama administration, there were 42 strikes that left 453 people dead. A recent report by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based independent research organization that tracks security issues, claimed an even larger number, 667 people – most of them civilians – killed by U.S. drone strikes last year.
While assisting the CIA’s drone operations in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, the Air Force has been increasing its own unmanned aerial hunter-killer missions. In 2007 and 2008, for example, Air Force Predators and Reapers fired missiles during 244 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, while all the U.S. armed services have pursued unmanned aerial warfare, the Air Force has outpaced each of them.
From 2001, when armed drone operations began, until the spring of 2009, the Air Force fired 703 Hellfire missiles and dropped 132 GBU-12s (500-pound laser-guided bombs) in combat operations. The Army, by comparison, launched just two Hellfire missiles and two smaller GBU-44 Viper Strike munitions in the same time period. The disparity should only grow, since the Army’s drones remain predominantly small surveillance aircraft, while in 2009 the Air Force shifted all outstanding orders for the medium-sized Predator to the even more formidable Reaper, which is not only twice as fast but has 600 percent more payload capacity, meaning more space for bombs and missiles.
In addition, the more heavily-armed Reapers, which can now loiter over an area for 10 to 14 hours without refueling, will be able to spot and track ever more targets via an increasingly sophisticated video monitoring system. According to Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, deputy chief of staff for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, the first three “Gorgon Stare pods” – new wide-area sensors that provide surveillance capabilities over large swathes of territory – will be installed on Reapers operating in Afghanistan this spring.
A technology not available for the older Predator, Gorgon Stare will allow 10 operators to view 10 video feeds from a single drone at the same time. Back at a distant base, a “pilot” will stare at a tiled screen with a composite picture of the streaming battlefield video, even as field commanders analyze a portion of the digital picture, panning, zooming, and tilting the image to meet their needs.
A more advanced set of “pods,” scheduled to be deployed for the first time this fall, will allow 30 operators to view 30 video images simultaneously. In other words, via video feeds from a single Reaper drone, operators could theoretically track 30 different people heading in 30 directions from a single Afghan compound. The generation of sensors expected to come online in late 2011 promises 65 such feeds, according to Air Force documents, a more than 6,000 percent increase in effectiveness over the Predator’s video system. The Air Force is, however, already overwhelmed just by drone video currently being sent back from the war zones and, in the years ahead, risks “drowning in data,” according to Deptula.
The 40-Year Plan
When it comes to the drone surge, the years 2011-2013 are just the near horizon. While, like the Army, the Navy is working on its own future drone warfare capacity – in the air as well as on and even under the water – the Air Force is involved in striking levels of futuristic planning for robotic war. It envisions a future previously imagined only in sci-fi movies like the Terminator series.
As a start, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, the Pentagon’s blue skies research outfit, is already looking into radically improving on Gorgon Stare with an “Autonomous Real-Time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Infrared (ARGUS-IR) System.” In the obtuse language of military research and development, it will, according to DARPA, provide a “real-time, high-resolution, wide area video persistent surveillance capability that allows joint forces to keep critical areas of interest under constant surveillance with a high degree of target location accuracy” via as many as “130 ‘Predator-like’ steerable video streams to enable real-time tracking and monitoring and enhanced situational awareness during evening hours.”
In translation, that means the Air Force will quite literally be flooded with video information from future battlefields; and every “advance” of this sort means bulking up the global network of facilities, systems, and personnel capable of receiving, monitoring, and interpreting the data streaming in from distant digital eyes. All of it, of course, is specifically geared toward “target location,” that is, pinpointing people on one side of the world so that Americans on the other side can watch, track, and in many cases, kill them.
In addition to enhanced sensors and systems like ARGUS-IR, the Air Force has a long-term vision for drone warfare that is barely beginning to be realized. Predators and Reapers have already been joined in Afghanistan by a newer, formerly secret drone, a “low observable unmanned aircraft system” first spotted in 2007 and dubbed the “Beast of Kandahar” before observers were sure what it actually was. It is now known to be a Lockheed Martin-manufactured unmanned aerial vehicle, the RQ-170 – a drone which the Air Force blandly notes was designed to “directly support combatant commander needs for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance to locate targets.” According to military sources, the sleek, stealthy surveillance craft has been designated to replace the antique Lockheed U-2 spy plane, which has been in use since the 1950s.
In the coming years, the RQ-170 is slated to be joined in the skies of America’s “next wars” by a fleet of drones with ever newer, more sophisticated capabilities and destructive powers. Looking into the post-2011 future, Deptula sees the most essential need, according to an Aviation Week report, as “long-range [reconnaissance and] precision strike” – that is, more eyes in far off skies and more lethality. He added, “We cannot move into a future without a platform that allows [us] to project power long distances and to meet advanced threats in a fashion that gives us an advantage that no other nation has.”
This means bigger, badder, faster drones – armed to the teeth – with sensor systems to monitor wide swathes of territory and the ability to loiter overhead for days on end waiting for human targets to appear and, in due course, be vaporized by high-powered munitions. It’s a future built upon advanced technologies designed to make targeted killings – remote-controlled assassinations – ever more effortless.
Over the horizon and deep into what was, until recently, only a silver-screen fantasy, the Air Force envisions a wide array of unmanned aircraft, from tiny insect-like robots to enormous “tanker-size” pilotless planes. Each will be slated to take over specific war-making functions (or so Air Force dreamers imagine). Those nano-sized drones, for instance, are set to specialize in indoor reconnaissance – they’re small enough to fly through windows or down ventilation shafts – and carry out lethal attacks, undertake computer-disabling cyber-attacks, and swarm, as would a group of angry bees, of their own volition. Slightly larger micro-sized Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (STUAS) are supposed to act as “transformers” – altering their form to allow for flying, crawling, and non-visual sensing capabilities. They might fill sentry, counter-drone, surveillance, and lethal attack roles.
Additionally, the Air Force envisions small and medium “fighter-sized” drones with lethal combat capabilities that would put the current UAS air fleet to shame. Today’s medium-sized Reapers are set to be replaced by next generation MQ-Ma drones that will be “networked, capable of partial autonomy, all-weather, and modular with capabilities supporting electronic warfare (EW), CAS [close air support], strike, and multi-INT [multiple intelligence] ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] missions’ platform.”
The language may not be elegant, much less comprehensible, but if these future fighter aircraft actually come online they will not only send today’s remaining Top Gun pilots to the showers, but may even sideline tomorrow’s drone human operators, who, if all goes as planned, will have ever fewer duties. Unlike today’s drones, which must take off and land with human guidance, the MQ-Mas will be automated, and drone operators will simply be there to monitor the aircraft.
Next up will be the MQ-Mb, theoretically capable of taking over even more roles once assigned to traditional fighter-bombers and spy planes, including the suppression of enemy air defenses, bombing and strafing of ground targets, and surveillance missions. These will also be designed to fly more autonomously and be better linked-in to other drone “platforms” for cooperative missions involving many aircraft under the command of a single “pilot.” Imagine, for instance, one operator overseeing a single command drone that holds sway over a small squadron of autonomous drones carrying out a coordinated air attack on clusters of people in some far off land, incinerating them in small groups across a village, town, or city.
Finally, perhaps 30 to 40 years from now, the MQ-Mc drone would incorporate all of the advances of the MQ-M line, while being capable of everything from dog-fighting to missile defense. With such new technology will, of course, come new policies and new doctrines. In the years ahead, the Air Force intends to make drone-related policy decisions on everything from treaty obligations to automatic target engagement – robotic killing without a human in the loop. The latter extremely controversial development is already envisioned as a possible post-2025 reality.
2047: What’s Old is New Again
The year 2047 is the target date for the Air Force’s Holy Grail, the capstone for its long-term plan to turn the skies over to war-fighting drones. In 2047, the Air Force intends to rule the skies with MQ-Mc drones and “special” super-fast, hypersonic drones for which neither viable technology nor any enemies with any comparable programs or capabilities yet exist. Despite this, the Air Force is intent on making these super-fast hunter-killer systems a reality by 2047. “Propulsion technology and materials that can withstand the extreme heat will likely take 20 years to develop. This technology will be the next generation air game-changer. Therefore the prioritization of the funding for the specific technology development should not wait until the emergence of a critical COCOM [combatant command] need,” says the Air Force’s 2009-2047 UAS “Flight Plan.”
If anything close to the Air Force’s dreams comes to fruition, the “game” will indeed be radically changed. By 2047, there’s no telling how many drones will be circling over how many heads in how many places across the planet. There’s no telling how many millions or billions of flight hours will have been flown, or how many people, in how many countries will have been killed by remote-controlled, bomb-dropping, missile-firing, judge-jury-and-executioner drone systems.
There’s only one given. If the U.S. still exists in its present form, is still solvent, and still has a functioning Pentagon of the present sort, a new plan will already be well underway to create the war-making technologies of 2087. By then, in ever more places, people will be living with the sort of drone war that now worries only those in places like Degan village. Ever more people will know that unmanned aerial systems packed with missiles and bombs are loitering in their skies. By then, there undoubtedly won’t even be that lawnmower-engine sound indicating that a missile may soon plow into your neighbor’s home.
For the Air Force, such a prospect is the stuff of dreams, a bright future for unmanned, hypersonic lethality; for the rest of the planet, it’s a potential nightmare from which there may be no waking.
Damian Lataan | January 25, 2010
It seems Israel is becoming anxious about the American peoples commitment to Israeli Zionist dreams of creating a Greater Israel. They are so anxious that they have released a tape that they are claiming is the very dead Osama bin Laden threatening the US with acts of terrorism if they continue to support Israel.
This latest tape is the most blatantly transparent piece of nonsense that has ever emanated from the Israelis and their allies and demonstrates how fearful they are of losing the support of the American people and the West generally. The give-away for this particular piece of garbage is the way the Israelis have tried to link the al Qaeda cause to the Palestinian’s cause.
American’s, and indeed, many in the West, are becoming rapidly disillusioned by Israel’s behaviour over the past few years. In particular, since the release of the Goldstone Report that showed Israel’s warcrimes in the Gaza during Operation Cast Lead in which over a thousand Gazans were brutally murdered, people have become alerted to Israeli skulduggery and attempted cover-ups for their crimes. And, in latest developments in the West Bank, people in the West are increasingly becoming aware that the Netanyahu Zionist government has no intention whatsoever of ever allowing a Palestinian state to exist despite all the talk of talks, negotiations, roadmaps, accords, etc. As recently as this last Sunday Netanyahu said that Jewish settlements in the West Bank will remain Israeli.
Israel, by linking the Palestinian cause with Osama bin Laden is attempting to undermine the Palestinians quest for a sovereign state and in the process claim that Israel’s enemies are America’s enemies and that the struggle against ‘terrorism’ intrinsically links Palestinian fighters with al Qaeda and, therefore, the US must continue to support Israel in their fight against the Palestinians seeking their own sovereign state.
Unfortunately for the Israeli Zionists and their supporters in the West, the vast majority of the peoples of the world are unlikely to fall for this nonsense. It is only the extreme right-wing Murdoch style press that are actually pushing this nonsense as a given fact while other more progressive and realistic media sources are feeding the news of bin Laden’s latest messages as ‘purportedly of Osama bin Laden’ or ‘claiming to be from bin Laden’.
Oddly, the Los Angeles Times takes the tack that bin Laden is claiming credit for the Christmas Day bombing plot but then states that US intelligence (and I use the word ‘intelligence’ advisedly) officials have raised doubts about bin Laden’s role in the plot and suggest that it was an “attempt to score propaganda points for a plot already claimed by an increasingly independent faction of his movement in Yemen”.
Bin Laden was allegedly responsible for the most successful terrorist attack ever perpetrated destroying three major buildings and severely damaging the hub of US defence, so, even if bin Laden were alive, why on earth would he put his hand up to admit to the miserable failure of some bloke failing to blow his groin to bits with not much more than a large fire cracker that turned out to be just a damp squib? And where’s the propaganda brownie points in that?
Desperation has truly set in.