The MoD Watchkeeper drone programme is beginning trials at ParcAberporth using the Israeli-built Hermes 450 UAV (“Unmanned Arial Vehicle”). Watchkeeper is not about agricultural and environmental monitoring, oceanographic and atmospheric data collection or grassland management, it is about “intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and target acquisition”.
Which, in plain English, means locating people and killing them.
So I’m not going to waste your time moaning about how the Welsh assembly government’s consultation last year was the summer’s best kept secret: 35 hours of consultation in 7 towns attracting only 300 visitors.
I’m not going to make a big issue of the fact that the Welsh European funding office application from ParcAberporth in 2003 stated that 230 new high-tech jobs would be created by 2008, but that only 19 jobs were in place by 2009.
I’m not going to moan about the noise from UAVs circling overhead for 30 hours at a stretch, or the intrusion of having high-resolution, cloud-penetrating cameras trained down and recording the lives of 50,000 residents of West Wales.
I’m not even going to go on about the safety issues concerning UAVs, which has led other countries to test their vehicles over unpopulated deserts.
I’m not going to moan about those things, because compared with being on the receiving end of a drone attack, my niggles about consultation, jobs and noise are trivial.
Drone on Gaza
“Sitting around drinking tea with the family in their small courtyard, Mounir heard the loud buzzing of a drone, clearly visible in the sky above.
“He went inside for a moment and, as he returned, he saw a ball of light hurtling down toward him. There was a loud explosion and he was thrown backward.
“He gathered himself and stumbled out into the courtyard, where he saw the scene he says will never leave him.
“‘We found Mohammed lying there, cut in half. Ahmed was in three pieces; Wahid was totally burnt – his eyes were gone. Wahid’s father was dead. Nour had been decapitated. We couldn’t see her head anywhere.’ All six members of the Palestinian family had been blown to pieces.” (Guardian 23 March 2009)
And between 2006 and 2009 in western Pakistan, drone attacks killed 14 alleged mid-level al-Qaeda leaders; the strikes also killed 700 civilians.
Even David Kilcullen, the former adviser on counter-insurgency to US general David Petraeus said: “That’s a hit rate of two percent on 98 percent collateral. It’s not moral.” (FT 13 May 2009) UCAVs (“Unmanned Combat Aerial Vehicles”) will continue to be responsible for the murder of hundreds more civilians, sacrificed in order to kill one combatant by a pilot sitting hundreds of miles away at a video game console.
We may not be able to stop their development, but the least we can do is not to encourage them by providing facilities, inducement grants and airspace in West Wales.