FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Drones Club Meets in San Diego

by FRANK GREEN

The manufacturers of drone airplanes, which have killed hundreds of civilians in Pakistan and Afghanistan, are about to see their prospects soar as the Pentagon expands its vast arsenal.

At least that was the message at Tuesday’s “Unmanned Aircraft Systems West” conference in San Diego, where advocates of the lethal composite birds dispassionately described how unpiloted planes directed via satellite will soon come to largely replace the human element on the killing fields.

Use of the so-called Predator and Reaper drones to fight the U.S.-spawned war in the border regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan have rapidly escalated during the opening months of the Obama administration, with 51 reported strikes in Pakistan in 2009 alone – up from 45 during the previous eight years, according to a recent report by the New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.

The foundation alleges in its “The Year of the Drone” account that more than 1,000 – or 32 per cent – of drone attack victims were civilians.

Tuesday’s industry conference was held at the sprawling Sheraton Hotel on Harbor Island. A group of antiwar protesters picketed the event on a sidewalk near the facility’s entrance.

“People have been so disappointed in President Obama, and now he’s expanding production of aircraft which is killing innocent civilians,” lamented Carol Jahnkow, executive director of the Peace Resource Center of San Diego.

Jahnkow was standing near a heavily-trafficked intersection across from San Diego International Airport holding a three-foot-wide sign reading “Made Locally! Killing Globally!”

Nearby, three wraithlike figures wearing skeleton masks and black robes slowly paced the boulevard, with one pounding a drum at dirge tempo.

Many drivers passing by in their cars honked horns in support of the rally, even if most of them likely didn’t realize the focus of the gathering was the meeting inside.

San Diego is the epicenter of drone airplane construction, with the bulk of the machines built by area defense contractor General Atomics and a local division of Northrop Grumman.

The machines, which render both surveillance and attack functions at altitudes of up to 25,000 feet, cost between $4 million and $12 million each to produce – substantially less than piloted bomber planes.

Moreover, the 27-foot-long planes can travel as far as 400 miles to their target, hover there for hours rendering their assignment, and then return home to base.

Just how prized the drones have become to the U.S. military was evident on December 8 when Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, hailed the plane’s battlefield advantages during an appearance before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Never mind that the drone’s reputation for precision snooping and targeting of U.S. foes has been battered lately with increasing reports of deadly stikes on unwary civilians, many of them children.

On January 3, for instance, four drones hovering over the village of Musaki in North Waziristan, Pakistan, dropped at least part of their payload on the civilian quarters of Sadiq Noor, a teacher, and his 9-year-old son Wajid, instantly killing them both, according to various news reports.

None of that was broached at the “Unmanned Aircraft” conference, where attendees referred in sometimes oblique terms to the mechanics of refining design wrinkles, target accuracy and other topics.

The two-day conference, which ended Wednesday, was held under the auspices of the Association of Naval Aviation, with corporate sponsorship supplied by the likes of RTI, a softward services company; HDT Engineered Technologies; Flow Technology and Z Microsystems, among other subcontractors hoping for expanded business from the drone’s primary producers.

Among the nine speakers at Tuesday’s meeting were Marine Major Gen. Thomas Conant, who addressed the burgeoning use of unmanned aircraft systems in the corps, and U.S. Coast Guard Captain James Sommer, who likewise recited various nonwar projects for the unmanned planes in his agency.

Several military officials and corporate executives, all of whom asked that their names not be used in this story, defended the dispatch of drones in warfare as an economical strategy to keep soldiers out of harm’s way.
Missions can be executed quickly and cleanly using unmanned aircraft, and “with little, if any, collateral (civilian) damage,” one company official said.

Indeed, the executive stressed that Sadiq Noor, the victim of the drone attack cited above, actually had links to militant groups in his village, and was therefore a legitimate target.

Other attendees acknowledged that the drones aren’t necessarily the weapon for all occasions, but only good for use in relatively poor countries without the military capacity to launch anti-drone missiles and aircraft.

“These (drones) wouldn’t do well over, say, Russia,” a company salesman said with a laugh.

FRANK GREEN is a veteran journalist and lives in the San Diego area. He can be reached at fjkbgreen@cox.net

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
February 17, 2017
Friday - Sunday
David Price
Rogue Elephant Rising: The CIA as Kingslayer
Matthew Stevenson
Is Trump the Worst President Ever?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Flynn?
John Wight
Brexit and Trump: Why Right is Not the New Left
Diana Johnstone
France: Another Ghastly Presidential Election Campaign; the Deep State Rises to the Surface
Neve Gordon
Trump’s One-State Option
Roger Harris
Emperor Trump Has No Clothes: Time to Organize!
Joan Roelofs
What Else is Wrong with Globalization
Andrew Levine
Why Trump’s Muslim Travel Ban?
Mike Whitney
Blood in the Water: the Trump Revolution Ends in a Whimper
Vijay Prashad
Trump, Turmoil and Resistance
Ron Jacobs
U.S. Imperial War Personified
David Swanson
Can the Climate Survive Adherence to War and Partisanship?
Andre Vltchek
Governor of Jakarta: Get Re-elected or Die!
Patrick Cockburn
The Coming Destruction of Mosul
Norman Pollack
Self-Devouring Reaction: Governmental Impasse
Steve Horn
What Do a Louisiana Pipeline Explosion and Dakota Access Pipeline Have in Common? Phillips 66
Brian Saady
Why Corporations are Too Big to Jail in the Drug War
Graham Peebles
Ethiopia: Peaceful Protest to Armed Uprising
Luke Meyer
The Case of Tony: Inside a Lifer Hearing
Binoy Kampmark
Adolf, The Donald and History
Robert Koehler
The Great American Awakening
Murray Dobbin
Canadians at Odds With Their Government on Israel
Fariborz Saremi
A Whole New World?
Joyce Nelson
Japan’s Abe, Trump & Illegal Leaks
Christopher Brauchli
Trump 1, Tillerson 0
Yves Engler
Is This Hate Speech?
Dan Bacher
Trump Administration Exempts Three CA Oil Fields From Water Protection Rule at Jerry Brown’s Request
Richard Klin
Solid Gold
Melissa Garriga
Anti-Abortion and Anti-Fascist Movements: More in Common Than Meets the Eye
Thomas Knapp
The Absurd Consequences of a “Right to Privacy”
W. T. Whitney
The Fate of Prisoner Simón Trinidad, as Seen by His U. S. Lawyer
Brian Platt
Don’t Just Oppose ICE Raids, Tear Down the Whole Racist Immigration Enforcement Regime
Paul Cantor
Refugee: the Compassionate Mind of Egon Schwartz
Norman Richmond
The Black Radical Tradition in Canada
Barton Kunstler
Rallying Against the Totalitarian Specter
Judith Deutsch
Militarism:  Revolutionary Mothering and Rosie the Riveter
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir Evoked a Lot More International Attention in the 1950s Than It Does Now
Adam Phillips
There Isn’t Any There There
Louis Proyect
Steinbeck’s Red Devils
Randy Shields
Left Coast Date: the Dating Site for the ORWACA Tribe
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bill Hayes’ “Insomniac City”
David Yearsley
White Supremacy and Music Theory
February 16, 2017
Peter Gaffney
The Rage of Caliban: Identity Politics, the Travel Ban, and the Shifting Ideological Framework of the Resistance
Ramzy Baroud
Farewell to Doublespeak: Israel’s Terrifying Vision for the Future
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail