Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Drone Love

I thought NPR couldn't show more love to the unmanned, extrajudicial killing machines of the Pentagon and CIA. There was one at an awesome arms bazaar on January 2007; there was "Drone Daddy" coming home from killing on April 2007, and Drone Bowman salivating over the exquisite precision of killer drones on December 2008.

You can never have too much of a good thing, so NPR brought out Jackie Northam on Monday morning to talk about how the use of killer drones in Pakistan is being "reviewed" by the US. Odd thing is that - except for Andrew Bacevich's blunt assessment that drone attacks represent an expanded war in Pakistan - the rest of the interviewees are rather upbeat about them:
  • Seth Jones of the RAND Corporation, using the same "clear, hold and build" propaganda of US counterinsurgency, says that drones may be helpful in the short term, but "over the long run, they need to be supplemented by much broader, longer-term activities to clear hold and build..."
  • Stephen Cohen of that "liberal" Brookings Institute claims (with no evidence) that the majority of people killed by drones in Pakistan have been "militants." He also notes how humane they are: "What they do is allow any country that possesses them to pinpoint and target without much collateral damage. The drone in a sense, while it conjures up images of a mechanical monster, in fact is far more effective and more humane than dropping tons of bombs on an area."
After Jackie's softening up operation Monday, Tom Gjelten emerges from the shadows on Tuesday morning with yet another big "scoop" from his employers high officials at the CIA. It's a real performance:
  • According to Tom, starting early last year "the CIA turned up the heat. Unmanned aircraft began targeting suspected al-Qaeda leaders and facilities in Pakistan on a routine basis. Now US intelligence officials are reporting the results of the ramped up campaign. The al-Qaeda leadership has been decimated says one official."
  • "The enemy is really, really struggling says another official. These attacks he says have produced the broadest deepest and most rapid reduction in al-Qaeda leadership in several years."
  • The featured "skeptic" of these claims is Bruce Hoffman (CIA award winner). Hoffman, according to Gjelten "says one effect of the strikes against al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan could be a demoralization of Jihadi warriors in other parts of the world." This is followed by Hoffman's own voice, "Might they not conclude if the United States can reach out and target these highly protected and valued individuals, what happens to the ordinary soldiers?" That is some serious skepticism!
Just in case you get some wild idea that maybe our half-trillion dollar war-stimulus package is a bit much now that al-Qaeda is on the ropes, Gjelten reminds us that we have nothing to fear but the lack of fear itself:
"The officials are careful to say the reported success of the Pakistan campaign does not necessarily mean the al-Qaeda threat has diminished. As many as a hundred fighters have already graduated from training camps in Pakistan and are said to be prepared for terrorist operations in the West."
We then are treated to the puffery of Sec. of War Gates asserting that "we will go after al-Qaeda wherever al-Qaeda is." To which Gjetlen wonders, "And where might that be? Al-Qaeda has been defeated in one area before only to pop up somewhere else. It's operations in Pakistan may be weakened, but officials say the network is now gaining strength in east Africa."

Westward ho! to Africa. Sounds to me like we might need a few thousand more of these humane, freedom lovin' Reapers.


Anonymous said...

I think "drone" is also a pretty apt description for what NPR does these days.

They drone on and on without ever really saying anything newsworthy.

Anonymous said...

Maybe ROBOT Siegel will express some hot, "drone-on-drone action" on thee new ATC series called "All Tech Considered." Good God! Make the theme-related news stop!

Anonymous said...

Couple of weeks ago, Terry Gross (I know, I know) had a pretty good interview with P.J. Singer which explored the amoral aspects of this new form of slaughter. One of the more interesting facts was that their best "pilot" is a 19-year-old HS dropout who flunked his helicopter maintenance test (couldn't read), but he was great at video games so they stuck him there. Drone is the word.

Anonymous said...

WoWo- PJ Singer is the expert in the the privatization of war. Terry is Terry, but Singer is fantastic. Singer was also on Frontline a few years back. -Anon

Anonymous said...

he was great at video games so they stuck him there."

of course, who cares if you hit the wrong guy with a turban in an Afgahni village?

Certainly not the high school dropout. I doubt he would even understand that Afghans are actually people with families and lives.

If it is indeed true that the air force is keeping (to say nothing of accepting people who do not know how to read, that is an insult to the fine men and women who serve in our military.

Whoever accepted that guy should be fired. His/her career in the military should be OVER.

Anonymous said...

Bha ha ha - Terry is Terry... and Gross sho' is Gross.

By stark contrast, Moyers Journal had two scholars on last week regarding this very topic - rather than the readymade "precision" buzzword these interviewees stripped the weapon down to the knives-with-loose-handles that they are.

Anonymous said...

^ PS: And ya don't hear information like THAT through the bullhorn very often!