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Ground the Drones


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Why we need to end the drone wars

Drones, or ‘Unmanned Aerial Vehicles’ (UAVs) are military aircraft either controlled remotely by ‘pilots’ who are often thousands of miles away, or, increasingly, fully automated systems that carry out pre-programmed missions. They are used either for reconnaissance and spying or can be armed with missiles and bombs.

Even when not dropping bombs, drones induce panic and anxiety where they are flown. Drones can hover for up to 80 hours at a time and the constant buzzing noise they produce has a terrible effect on their target communities. It is hard to dismiss the legitimate grievances that drones present and the animosity this produces towards the West.

British drones operating in Afghanistan are now remotely controlled from RAF Waddington near Lincoln alongside a British Squadron at Creech air force base in Nevada. Armed drones have killed thousands in Afghanistan, Pakistan. At a time when drones are seen by the government as the “low cost” option to intervene abroad, opposition to their use, as an extension of the unpopular War on Terror, is becoming increasingly important. Here is why.

Drones increase the threat of terrorism and insecurity

As a former head of the CIA’s counter-terrorism centre said on drones “we have gone a long way down the road of creating a situation where we are creating more enemies than we are removing from the battlefield. We are already there with regards to Pakistan and Afghanistan.”

Thousands killed

According to the Bureaux of Investigative Journalism, by August 2013 up to 3,584 people have been killed in Pakistan by 371 US drone airstrikes. The UK has launched a similar number of Reaper strikes in Afghanistan using the same tactics, making it highly likely that thousands of people have already been killed by ‘our’ drones.

Maintaining a military presence in Afghanistan

The UK government has announced a timetable for military withdrawal in 2014, but after more than 12 years of war in Afghanistan, in which tens of thousands of civilians have been killed, the US Pentagon has announced that drones could be used to extend the war until at least 2015. It is therefore likely that the UK’s use of drones in Afghanistan will continue while the government presents its ‘planned withdrawal’ as a success.

Making new interventions easy

A statement by the Secretary of State for Defence in January 2013 showed just how easy new military interventions abroad might be. Phillip Hammond MP said he turned down a request from France to send drones to Mali because of the "unacceptable impact on our operations in Afghanistan". Democracy was sidelined and the question of whether or not the British public would back a new war in Mali was never even raised. More than a decade of war as part of the War on Terror and the appalling loss of life and insecurity this has produced, the strength of public opposition to war has grown. Drones are now seen as a way of launching new secret wars, under the radar of the general public.

Drones not ‘pinpoint’ or ‘precise’

Advocates of drones promote their precision and accuracy. It is true that the technology allows a reasonably small area to be targeted, but drones do not have the capacity to pinpoint terrorists. The statistics show this quite starkly: of the 3,584 killed in Pakistan by US strikes, a conservative estimate is that 928 were innocent civilians. Perhaps it is for this reason that the Ministry of Defence has given no figure on the number killed in Afghanistan.

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