Robotic Warfare

1 April 2011News

An attempt to discover more about the circumstances of British drone strikes in Afghanistan has been blocked on the grounds that disclosing this information “would prejudice the capability, effectiveness and security of the armed forces in Afghanistan”.

Peace activist Chris Cole, who co-ordinates the Christian peace group Fig Tree and maintains the invaluable blog Drone Wars UK, first filed a Freedom of Information Act request about the strikes in November 2009.
The ministry of…

1 December 2010News in Brief

Five suspected militants were killed in drone attack in North Waziristan by US drones on 10 November, 2010, writes Jim Wright. Fifteen were killed on 18 November and five more on 21 November. Although the US never acknowledges carrying drone attacks within Pakistan, “unnamed security sources” are generally on hand to confirm that the dead were insurgents, and provide a reason for the killing.

The US has unofficially asked Pakistan for permission to expand its drone attacks into…

1 December 2010Short Review

Fellowship of Reconciliation, 2010; 20pp; available for £3 + p&p from Housmans Bookshop, www.housmans.com or free to download from www.for.org.uk/act/campaign

Impeccably researched and attractively presented, this should be the first port of call for anyone wishing to take action on the growing menace of robotic warfare.
 

1 November 2010News

The “prospect of peace” in Afghanistan “poses a serious danger” to the burgeoning drones industry, according to a recent anonymous comment piece in Flight International, believed to have been authored by an industry insider.

Noting that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been “the making of the unmanned aircraft industry”, the piece, entitled “Oh, What A Lovely War”, urges the industry to “persuade military decision makers to trust autonomous technology to make decisions at…

1 October 2010News

Campaigning against drones

“The lawyers tell me there are no prohibitions against robots making life-or-death decisions” - Gordon Johnson, leader of robotics efforts at the Pentagon’s Joint Forces Command Research Center in Virginina

In “the most intense period of US [drone] strikes in Pakistan since they began in 2004” (Washington Post), the judge trying 14 peace activists charged with breaking into Creech air force base in Nevada announced that he will take four months to consider his verdict.

1 September 2010News

On 26 June, members of the Fellowship of Reconciliation in Wales (Cymdeithas Y Cymod) held a service of repentance outside the drones centre at Parc Aberporth.

The Reverend Guto Prys ap Gwynfor, president of the Fellowship, led the meeting. He said: “The MoD is spending £899 million on developing the unmanned aircraft through contracts with private companies, including Thales and Qinetiq. The only airspace in Europe where unmanned aircraft are allowed to be tested is in Wales,…

1 July 2010Review

Penguin, 2009; ISBN 978-1-594-201-98-1; 512pp; £19.99

This well-researched, highly readable and highly disturbing book is essential reading for anyone who has watched with increasing concern the rise of robotic warfare in places like Iraq and Afghanistan. An absorbing account of the range of technological, political and socio-cultural factors that have converged to stimulate a “paradigm shift” in the nature of warfare over the last two decades – a shift which underlies the rapidly escalating dominance of armed drones in combat – it is also a…

1 June 2010Feature

A delegation of US peace activists visit the terrorised in Pakistan.

Islamabad: On 12 May, the day after a US drone strike killed 24 people in Pakistan’s North Waziristan, two men from the area agreed to tell us their perspective as eyewitnesses of previous drone strikes.

One is a journalist, Safdar Dawar, general secretary of the Tribal Union of Journalists. Journalists are operating under very difficult circumstances in the area, pressured by both militant groups and the Pakistani government.

Six of his colleagues have been killed…

1 May 2009Feature

On 9 April, 14 peace and social justice activists were arrested at Creech US Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada, in what is believed to be the first act of mass nonviolent civil disobedience against the military use of pilotless drones. “Predator” and “Reaper” drones have reportedly killed hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan and Pakistan (see Gabriel Carlyle’s analysis on p2 for more details).

The Creech 14, including Nobel Peace Prize nominee Kathy Kelly, were arrested…

1 May 2009News

On 10 April 2009, Pakistan’s second-largest English-language newspaper (circulation 140,000), the News International, cited figures on US drone attacks “compiled by the Pakistani authorities”. According to these figures, of the 60 cross-border Predator drone strikes into Pakistan between 14 January 2006 and 8 April 2009, only 10 hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders. These 60 strikes also killed a reported 687 Pakistani civilians.

Of the 14 drone attacks…

1 April 2009Feature

All the news that’s fit to print (or pretty nearly ignore if you’re the mainstream media).

Obama’s Guantanamo
On coming into office, US president Barack Obama promised to shut down the US prison camp for suspected terrorists on Guantanamo within a year and to fight terrorism “in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals”. As our last issue went to press, Obama quietly indicated that he will continue to deny the right to trial to hundreds of terror suspects held at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, a place human rights lawyers call “Obama’s Guantanamo”. Bagram…

1 November 2008News

US terrorism against Pakistan continues. Up to 21 people (including two women and a child) were killed in a US drone attack on 3 October; three were killed in a suspected US missile attack on 11 October; and at least nine people were killed in a US missile attack on a Pakistani madrassa in North Waziristan on 22 October.

The 22 October strikes came just hours after the Pakistani parliament passed a unanimous resolution demanding an end to US attacks. The resolution said: “The…

16 October 2008Feature

As suggested in last month’s PN, the US-UK war in Afghanistan is spreading to Pakistan, as US troops and drones mount attacks on border areas – against the express wishes of the Pakistani government. While Washington is banking on the acquiescence of the government, polls show Pakistani public opinion is outraged and the semi-autonomous Pakistani military appears set on confrontation.

As we mark the seventh anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan on 7 October, Professor Paul…

1 September 2008News

While much attention has been paid to the risk of a US attack on Iran, little notice has been taken of the escalating war in Afghanistan and the increasing danger of deeper US intervention in Pakistan. Britain is signalling the possible doubling of troop levels in Afghanistan, and is escalating aerial attacks, including with thermobaric weapons.
In mid-August the Taliban mounted “their most serious attacks in six years of fighting”, the New York Times noted, “including a coordinated…

1 October 2005News

In June, the use of armed (pilotless) drone aircraft came in for criticism from a senior UN official, Amnesty International, and, reportedly, CIA officials. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defence confirmed that Britain and France were conducting a feasibility study into the possibility of jointly producing or purchasing a new drone aircraft.

Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on “extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions”, submitted a strongly-worded report to the UN human rights council on 4 June, calling for an end to CIA drone strikes.

Alston wrote: “because operators are based thousands of miles away from the battlefield, and undertake operations entirely through computer screens and remote audiofeed, there is a risk of developing a ‘Playstation’ mentality to killing.” He added: “A lack of disclosure…