• Predator Nation

    May 14, 2012 // 6 Comments »

    From TomDispatch: A devastating account of drone wars as our number one export of the twenty-first century and just how we’ve become a Predator nation, America as a Shining Drone Upon a Hill, On Staring Death in the Face and Not Noticing.

    It was one of the great self-congratulatory speeches of our era — Obama counter-terrorism tsar John Brennan offering a full-throated defense of the administration’s “covert” drone wars. In his latest post, focusing on what author Tom Engelhardt calls his “shining drone upon a hill” speech, he considers the nature of American exceptionalism in our time and the way it blinds us to ourselves, to how we actually look to the rest of the world.

    Engelhardt writes of an American dream of this country as a “shining city”: Whatever that ‘city,’ that dream, was once imagined to be, it has undergone a largely unnoticed metamorphosis in the twenty-first century. It has become — even in our dreams — an up-armored garrison encampment, just as Washington itself has become the heavily fortified bureaucratic heartland of a war state. So when Brennan spoke, what he offered was a new version of American exceptionalism: the first ‘shining drone upon a hill’ speech.

    Tom Engelhardt explores his over-the-top language of self-congratulation, his fears of how others less wise, judicious, and moral than us might use drones in the future, and in the process the way a sense of American exceptionalism blinds our leaders to a changing American reality. He concludes that “What they can’t see in the haze of exceptional self-congratulation is this: they are transforming the promise of America into a promise of death. And death, visited from the skies, isn’t precise. It isn’t glorious. It isn’t judicious. It certainly isn’t a shining vision. It’s hell. And it’s a global future for which, someday, no one will thank us.”

    Be sure to read the entire piece at TomDispatch. And keep a sharp eye out overhead.

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    Posted in Democracy, Military

    State Department to Acquire Own Drone Fleet

    April 11, 2012 // Comments Off on State Department to Acquire Own Drone Fleet

    According to NextGov, the State Department plans on acquiring its own fleet of (so far unarmed) aerial drones. Because sure, why not? Nothing says “diplomacy” these days better than showing some swag violating foreign air space because we freaking can. This development can only make the US more popular overseas, that is for certain.

    Just as a thought experiment, how do you think the US would feel if say the Chinese or the Iranians wanted to fly drones over the US to watch over their own diplomats (the Iranians have a UN mission in New York)? Any issues there?

    The State Department has issued a request for proposals for contractors to provide the aircraft, crew and support on a turnkey basis. The procurement request released last month and updated Monday marks the start of a project to provide the department with UAV assets that could be deployed anywhere in the world. State did not say how many aircraft it eventually planned to deploy.

    In its 2011 annual report, State’s Diplomatic Security Bureau said it tested UAVs in December 2010 in cooperation with the Defense Department and planned to deploy them to Iraq in 2011.

    The mission of the UAV program is to provide real-time air surveillance of fixed installations and the ground routes that diplomats travel “thereby improving security in high-threat environments,” State said.

    State intends to acquire two types of aircraft in conformance with standards established by the Air Force. It wants to operate Tier I hand-launched UAVs such as the Gnat-750, manufactured by General Atomics, which can operate at altitudes of 500 to 2,000 feet and at speeds up to 40 miles per hour. These aircraft should be equipped with video and heat sensors that downlink still and streaming video and use built-in GPS navigation with a range of 250 miles.

    The RFP also calls for contractors to supply Tier II and Tier II UAVs and aircraft such as the General Atomics Predator, which can fly as high as 18,000 feet and has a range of 250 miles. The original RFP sought aircraft with a range of 900 miles. Tier II UAVs must also be able to downlink still and streaming video and use GPS navigation.

    The State UAV project has already attracted 62 interested bidders, including manufacturers such as General Atomics and a number of aerospace companies, as well as systems integrators such as Computer Sciences Corp., General Dynamics Information Technology, L-3 Communications and Lockheed Martin Corp. Bids are due April 23.

    Maybe the State Department’s public diplomacy social media people can get in on this, say holding a contest on Twitter, the winner gets his/her house buzzed by a drone. Or something on Facebook where whomever gets the least “likes” has a Hellfire missile sent down their timeline?

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    Posted in Democracy, Military

    Started They Have, the State Department Drone Wars

    January 30, 2012 // 12 Comments »

    Alert readers of this blog already knew that the State Department maintains its own air force at the World’s Most Expensive Embassy in Iraq, fixed wing, rotary wing and drones. The aircraft are flown by security contractors, mercenaries to the trade, and have been such an open secret that State’s own Diplomatic Security brags about them in its slick, expensive US Government-paid for propaganda, hidden away under the deceptive title “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles” next to a photo of a DS thug launching one of the little drones.

    Why, US Ambassador Jeffrey even said the other day “Iraq is a sovereign democratic country. We have no role as outsiders in the democratic process other than to observe.”

    Apparently the rest of the Internet, and Iraq, missed all of this playing Angry Birds or something because a New York Times story set off a flurry of copy-cat articles.

    The Times reports “A senior American official said that negotiations were under way to obtain authorization for the current drone operations, but Ali al-Mosawi, a top adviser to Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki; Iraq’s national security adviser, Falih al-Fayadh; and the acting minister of interior, Adnan al-Asadi, all said in interviews that they had not been consulted by the Americans.”

    Nice diplomatic touch: trying to obtain authorization from the Iraqis for a program already underway anyway. Nothing says f*ck you better than asking for permission after the fact. Honest, honey, I thought you were OK with that…

    The Times emphasizes the Iraqis are in fact ever so upset that the US is flying drones over its “sovereign democratic country,” and rightly so. For the average Iraqi, a peace-loving State Department drone looks and sounds a lot like an Army or CIA Death from Above killer drone. The Iraqis remember that as long ago as one month, even unarmed observation drones overhead could mean an airstrike was imminent. For State to keep up the image of death from above happening at any moment = Worst Public Relations Fail Ever. In most other places, State tries hard to differentiate its diplomats from the military or the spooks, if for nothing more than their own safety. But, as we know, Iraq is complicated. Who knows, with the drones in Iraq, the US might end up as popular there as in Pakistan (“Drone Country“), where 100,000 people turned out Friday in protest.

    The other issue is State trying to maintain the illusion, at least inside Foggy Bottom because I doubt anyone outside buys it, that its mission in Iraq is just another ‘ole Embassy. One wonders how the US might react if the Chinese Embassy in Washington began flying drone missions over DC, citing the high rate of homicide and street violence in our nation’s capitol.

    We now also have four acknowledged agencies flying their own drones: Military, CIA, Homeland Security and the freaking State Department.

    If the Chinese, or perhaps the Iranian delegation to the UN which lives in New York, do however wish to kick off their own drone program, it is easy. The helpful folks at DIY Drones can get you started. Dronepedia is also helpful for beginners.

    Be sure not to leave rude remarks for the Congressional Unmanned Systems Caucus on Facebook about all this stuff.

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    Posted in Democracy, Military

    Acts of Cluster Humanitarianism

    April 22, 2011 // Comments Off on Acts of Cluster Humanitarianism

    A nice companion piece to my Head… Will… Explode… look at USG hypocrisy, this time on cluster munitions.

    Acts of Cluster Humanitarianism

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    Posted in Democracy, Military

    Obama Names New Ambassador to all Muslim Nations

    // Comments Off on Obama Names New Ambassador to all Muslim Nations

    No confirmation hearing required apparently, but not such a good guest for weddings.

    Watch a Predator kill people (video) in Iraq. PS: the video seems dumbed down; it is much clearer in real life.

    In Pakistan, a US drone attack killed 23 people this morning.

    US to begin drone strikes in Libya.

    CIA drone kills US Citizen in Yemen missile strike.

    Drones are playing a growing role in Afghanistan.

    (Ed. – Leave space here for additional countries)

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    Posted in Democracy, Military