Sunday, May 30, 2010

Predators, Warriors, And Ravens: The CIA Drones Wage War

THE COURTYARD of the Pentagon feels like a cross between an arms fair and a used-car lot on a fine May morning. “Congratulations 1,000,000 Army Unmanned Aircraft System Flight Hours,” says a banner.

With 5,456 US servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the Afghan war going badly, the US military celebrates what it can. Unmanned Aircraft Systems, also known as Unmanned Aircraft Vehicles but referred to as drones, are the military’s most important technological asset. Last year the CIA’s director, Leon Panetta, called the Predator drone programme “the only game in town”.

“We’ve reached a turning point in the history of war, and maybe in humanity,” says Peter Singer, director of defence studies at the Brookings Institution and author of Wired for War , which chronicles the shift to robotic warfare. There were only a handful of drones in the inventory when the US invaded Iraq in 2003, Singer says. “Today there are more than 7,000 airborne drones, and some 12,000 ground-based robots . . . Very soon there will be tens of thousands.”...

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