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‘Drone warfare helps sell wars to a domestic audience’

Published time: January 31, 2014 02:40
An X-47B pilot-less drone combat aircraft (Reuters / Jason Reed)

Development of modern drone technologies will never eliminate civilian collateral damage in conflict deployment, Michael Raddie, antiwar activist told RT, arguing that investing in drones makes warfare more acceptable for general public.

RT: A Downing Street source has told the Independent that drones are an essential piece of equipment for the military. Well they are, aren’t they?

Michael Raddie: If the military is all about killing the civilians, then I guess they are. But the real essence of drone tech is really about just carrying on giving subsidies to the industrial military complex, the likes of BAE, the likes of Rolls Royce, Thales UK, these are all the companies that are going to benefit from this joint-drone program. In fact it’s not going to be just with the French. I think the British are talking to the Italians and the Swedes and who knows who else.

But the program is likely to continue, the Reaper drones in Afghanistan are likely to be redeployed into Africa, again to assist the French, maybe in Mali, Central African Republic and possibly back into Libya to quell the pro-Gaddafi green uprising that is happening there in the south of the country.

RT: But the drones just don’t kill civilians, the whole point of this move by the British and the French is to build their own drones to make their own country safe, as well as obviously to use them in the overseas campaign where they are deemed necessary….

MR: This is the problem with the politics of drone warfare. It becomes very easy to sell a war based on drones to the domestic audience, because there’s no soldiers, there’s no airmen, there’s no pilots putting their lives at risk. This makes drone warfare fairly acceptable to most countries. It is very popular in the US, again for those reasons I’ve mentioned. It’s become popular in the UK, because we don’t have boots on the ground, we don’t have soldiers losing their lives. But what is to stop China and Russia and other states taking part in drone warfare.

Effectively, if you use drones in another country, you have invaded a sovereign state, you have violated the sovereignty of that foreign country. That is against the law, that is a breach of international law right there. It seems to me that the current agreement that’s going to be signed tomorrow… The French and the British, at the moment, they kind of make strange bedfellows, because we have a socialist government in France, we have a far-right, Tory government in the UK, they differ very much on the economic policy, and there has been a political spat about that.

 Reuters / Jason Reed

In fact, this conference tomorrow, this summit tomorrow, was originally going to be held in Blenheim Palace. Now this just highlights the diplomatic insensitiveness of British. Blenheim Palace was named after a famous baron in the 19th century when the British slaughtered 30,000 French soldiers. It was moved at the last minute over to Brize Norton, just to avoid this embarrassment. Just the idea of that plan going ahead is just incredible.

So I think the long-term goal, certainly in the next 10-15 years, is to continue the drone program. It’s going to escalate and it’s going to reach parts of Africa that we have not been to thus far.

RT: Will drones become far more effective and accurate in the future, thus lowering the amount of civilian casualties?

MR:
I don’t really see this happening, to be honest. The CIA drone program is pretty reckless and has the most civilian casualties associate with it. But then the CIA instead of getting most of its intelligence from Pakistan, places like Somalia, countries like Afghanistan, all of their intelligence is coming from the NSA and the GCHQ. So they are basing their missile strikes on intelligence that is not even being gathered on the ground, it’s gathered several thousand miles away. For one, it’s not going to be very accurate. In terms of collateral damage, yes we do have missiles that do kill those in the surrounding area and I do not think even the British military take much care, if they need to take out what they consider as an insurgent, if it is in a crowd of people, I think, they will carry on doing it anyway. Certainly the CIA drone attacks have been known to do that.

But even when there is only one person in the vicinity, we have managed to kill one person and as it turns out later, they happened to be civilians. There is a court case going on in the UK at the moment, brought out by the Afghan civilians because their family members were killed while farming. We also have drone pilots that have gone on the record and have said that from their images they can’t tell if someone is carrying a gun or a spade. So what the advice to the Afghan population would be? Stop gardening, stop farming, stop digging crops in the field, because these drones above your head can’t distinguish what you are carrying?


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