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General News    H3'ed 3/11/10

Decade Of The Drone: America's Aerial Assassins

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2010 is the last year of the new century and millennium and is the tenth consecutive year of the United States' war in Afghanistan and in the 15-nation area of responsibility subsumed under Operation Enduring Freedom. In early March American military deaths in the Greater Afghan War theater -Afghanistan, Cuba (Guantanamo Bay), Djibouti, Eritrea, Jordan, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, the Philippines, Seychelles, Sudan, Tajikistan, Turkey, Uzbekistan and Yemen - surpassed the 1,000 mark.

This year is also the tenth year of the first ground and the first Asian war fought by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which wages wars from and not to protect the nations of the northern Atlantic Ocean.

2010 is the tenth and deadliest year in Washington's use of unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for targeted assassinations and untargeted "collateral damage."

Originally designed for battlefield surveillance and reconnaissance, albeit often to call in lethal military strikes, drones have been employed by the U.S. since 2001 to identify and kill human targets.

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The first "hunter-killer" unmanned combat air vehicle, the Predator, was used by the Pentagon in Bosnia in 1995 and later in the 78-day air war against Yugoslavia in 1999.

In 2001 Predators were equipped with Hellfire missiles and were deployed from Pakistan and Uzbekistan to launch attacks inside Afghanistan. The following year they were flown from the U.S. military base at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti for the same purpose in Yemen.

The Predator and its successor, the Reaper, capable of carrying fifteen times more weaponry and flying at three times the speed, have been used for deadly attacks in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and with particularly murderous effect in Pakistan since the autumn of 2008. They are equipped with cameras connected by satellite links to bases in the United States.

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In October Vice Admiral Robert Moeller, deputy commander of U.S. Africa Command, announced that Reapers, "capable of carrying a dozen guided bombs and missiles," [1] were deployed to Seychelles off the eastern coast of the African continent to patrol the Indian Ocean.

Radio Australia ran a story on March 8 that stated "US President Barack Obama may have taken his time to decide on his Afghanistan policy, but he's also now become more of an enthusiast for drone missile strikes than his predecessor." [2] In both Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as in Yemen.

Discussing a report by the New America Foundation, the station documented that deadly U.S. drone missile strikes on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border have been increased by 50 per cent since the Obama administration took over the White House a year ago January 20.

Citing the above-mentioned think tank, the Radio Australia report said there have been 64 drone strikes in South Asia in the past fourteen months compared to 45 under the George W. Bush administration between the invasion of Afghanistan in October of 2001 and January of 2009.

Bill Roggio, editor of the Long War Journal, was interviewed and said "there is an average five to seven strikes a month although in January there were 11."

He was further quoted describing the qualitative as well as the quantitative escalation of American drone warfare in Afghanistan and Pakistan: "The main drone is the 'Predator' which carries the 'Hellfire' anti-tank missile.

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"The 'Reaper,' the older brother of the Predator, they made so it could carry larger Hellfire missiles as well as it can carry, again, the 500 pound GPS (global position system)-guided bombs. So they're very, you know, this is sort of a revolution in air warfare." [3]

The Reaper carries a thousand pounds of munitions and is also equipped for the Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missile. Plans for adding Stinger air-to-air missiles are underway.

In terms of the human cost of Obama's 2008 Afghan war campaign pledge - "If we have actionable intelligence about high-level al Qaeda targets in Pakistan's border region, we must act if Pakistan will not or cannot" - at the beginning of this year Pakistan's influential Dawn News published an account of what that policy has meant to Pakistanis. In an article titled "Over 700 killed in 44 drone strikes in 2009," the source, quoting Pakistani government statistics, wrote:

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Rick Rozoff has been involved in anti-war and anti-interventionist work in various capacities for forty years. He lives in Chicago, Illinois. Is the manager of the Stop NATO international email list at: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/stopnato/
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