Gordon Duff is a Marine Vietnam veteran, a combat infantryman, and Senior Editor at Veterans Today. His career has included extensive experience in international banking along with such diverse areas as consulting on counter insurgency, defense technologies or acting as diplomatic representative for UN humanitarian and economic development efforts.This strip is a reply to SG Guitar, Terrific Friend, Statism
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America’s new angels are called “drones.” A thousand writers have used every word their thesaurus contains in order to describe something so simple. The devastation that spreads from Pakistan across to the horn of Africa is being meted out by such primitive machines, though few see how primitive through the brutality.
A “Raptor” drone is a US$3 million plane with one tiny propeller, a battery, a simple pod of sensors capable of doing good or evil; there is nothing magical about a drone other than the will that drives it.
A drone is an expression of human will, the expression of a borderless world where life and death sits in the hands of a decision making hierarchy that will never be touched by a drop of blood, never see a parent’s tear, never understand what war is.
Not that long ago, while visiting Pakistan, I spent a night talking with Imran Khan, then more a famous cricketer than “rock star” politician. We talked on drones, so much about drones.
“We have one million men in our tribal areas, all with beards, all carry guns, both are signs of manhood, yet to a drone, what is manhood means ‘terrorist.’ Men who begin with love and hope in their hearts, when the drones come, when they see innocent family members die, from that day forward will be warriors and those who sent the drones [have] turned men into enemies and simple farmers into jihadists."
The message of the drone is a simple one, 30 feet of wingspread, hardpoints for Hellfire missiles, fire and death enough to incinerate a hundred humans without a second thought.
What have become known as angels of death to a third of the world are, through the doublespeak of military jargon nothing but a “capability” and a “platform” for acts of “target acquisition” and murder?
Language is everything.
In a world filled with pilots there was never a reason to create pilotless aircraft, never a need that could ever be an expression of good. I come from the world of “surveillance platforms,” of satellites and reconnaissance aircrafts, of observation pods, of acronyms like FLIR and SAR, when no depth is impenetrable, no darkness safe, no furtive movement not subjected to analysis and intention.
If it moves, it is on a mission, if it carries something, it has a “capability” and it isn’t ours then it is an enemy. There are only enemies, a world of them, so often small children, innocent families, subjected to the unimaginable horror of the “Hellfire,” never has a weapon been so aptly named.
There is another story, one more sinister. The “angel of death” is an unseen hand, one that moves across the world in silence, coded communications through satellite uplinks, serving no master we will ever really see in the light of day.
Is President Obama, the master of the angels of death?
Why would such a thing exist, an invisible hand that is capable of striking down any village or settlement, one that, as we have seen so often, has one agenda, if it moves, it must die.
Who would wish such a thing, who would use something so cowardly, stealing through the night, serving purposes we all have become increasingly unsure of.
The last decade has taught those with eyes to see one thing, when the angels of death mete out their hellishness, punishing the evil has no place in their mission.
There are a hundred models of drone, some that fly thousands of miles per hour, some capable of carrying “payloads” 11,000 miles (not kilometers), some no larger than an insect but mostly we think of the Raptor.
Years ago we were told that al-Qaeda was the enemy, encamped somewhere in Afghanistan or was it Pakistan or Yemen or Somalia, or perhaps having dinner with Saddam? Were there 300 of them or just 12?
Has anyone ever met one?
Each week America announces that a Raptor drone has killed “the number two commander of al-Qaeda.” Why would anyone want such a job? You are barely introduced to your staff and, “poof,” the Americans have killed you.
You can read this and so much more in the newspapers, see the stories on TV, always read from a press release created in the Pentagon by someone working in a “cube."
Each week, a nameless young man or woman sitting in a trailer with a joystick and computer screen is assigned to “kill” the al-Qaeda “number two man” so that people can sleep more soundly in their beds.
It all seems so rational.
Earlier on we spoke of something sinister. Whenever anything sinister is mentioned, we enter the world of plots and conspiracies, of “cover and deception,” of “disinformation” and “mind control,” the magical world where death and destruction meets the world of lies and imagination.
Each week we get closer to a world where reality has disappeared entirely.
hat happens when war gets old and dies? Do we bury it or move it elsewhere, inject it with new blood, find new enemies, new battlefields?
In the “jargon,” we say a “low intensity conflict” has become “unsustainable."
We just defined Afghanistan.
When that message became clear, this is when we discovered that the ever so convenient “al-Qaeda” had moved to Yemen, an area where young men with Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPGs) aren’t waiting to turn a generation of Americans into the maimed, disfigured and dead.
Yemen is a “stepping stone,” a way of moving the drone war closer to home, where any warring tribe can be “al-Qaeda” one week, as long as we have the evidence, which we call sigint and humint.
“SIGINT” is an email or website, perhaps a satellite phone call, one we get or one a “trusted friend” tells us of. It is a reason to unleash the angels of death.
“HUMINT” is human intelligence, a man with a “story,” considered a more reliable form of basing life and death decisions.
Without the drone, we might just kick down the wrong door; toss a hand grenade into a room of sleeping children, leaving a squad of Marines a lifetime of sleeplessness, perhaps a suicide or two.
You would be surprised, this is exactly what happens.
With a drone, all that is seen is a funeral, dead children are brought out, the Pentagon makes its denials and, if we suspect a big funeral, we can attack that too, and we have, so many times we have.
The drone is such a primitive thing, built for one purpose, to create war, to foster fear and hate where none had existed before, to maintain a continual state of war where no questions are asked, no evidence is gathered, no fingers are pointed.
The drone has done its job. We no longer ask why.