LOOKING BACK AT DRONE CONFERENCE
- I am heading home after the weekend drone conference here in DC. Yesterday I spoke in a workshop along with David Swanson and Clare Hanrahan who I've know since my Florida days. Clare is doing some great organizing in the south educating people about the environmental impact of military production sites across the region.
- During my time in the workshop I talked about how space technology coordinates all Pentagon warfare these days. I read the words of former Air Force Maj. Gen. James Poss (he helped oversee the Predator drone's development) who told Atlantic magazine a couple of months ago that he was "tired of the fascination with the drone vehicle itself" and wants people to understand that cut off from its satellite links and its data processors the drone is basically worthless. I ended my words with a suggestion that we call for the nationalization (take the profit out of war) and the conversion of the military industrial complex.
- Particularly moving was the testimony of people from Pakistan and Yemen during the conference. One woman, who comes from an oil rich region of Yemen, said the people there had never heard of Al-Quida until the US began launching drone strikes at them. "If you are for drones then you are for terrorism," she said. Similar remarks came from Pakistani delegates who reminded us that drone strikes actually increase militancy. "Stop these strikes or we will never be able to have peace," one man said.
- Entesar al Qadhi from Yemen told the assembled at the drone summit that the US was "testing the drone technology in Yemen for use on Americans at some point." Knowing that Congress and the Obama administration have ordered the FAA to prepare for 30,000 drones to be flying in US airspace, beginning in 2015, gives strong support to this claim. As part of the US drone program Congress has mandated that six drone test centers be established across the nation. Some 37 states have applied. All six drone sites will make their own privacy rules - allowed by the FAA who doesn't want to establish a national standard. At this point there is no federal mandate saying these domestic drones cannot be weaponized. According to one legal expert at the conference the domestic drone program will be secret, pervasive and unchecked. Thus the great need for local and statewide organizing against drones.
- Clearly drones, and other robotic warfare technologies, are being created to infuse the military industrial complex with new proftis but are also a strategy to keep war going "out of site and out of mind" of an increasingly war weary public. Anti-drone organizer Chris Coles from the UK made this point saying his government saw drones as a way to get around "a casualty averse public."
- It appears that an international coalition against drones will be formed coming out of the summit. I was unable to fully participate in the meeting that discussed this as my workshop was scheduled at the same time. But I sat in for a few moments and pledged the support of the Global Network for the growing efforts to oppose drones worldwide. It's an issue that the Global Network has worked on for many years although it is not our singular focus. Clearly there is growing interest and organizing energy around drones and we are thrilled to see that.
- On the subway to the airport in Washington this morning I read two important pieces in the paper about Afghanistan. One said that despite Obama's announcement that the US would be leaving Afghanistan, his administration is signing new agreements with the government there to allow US military bases indefinitely. The second article was a report about hospitals closing in Afghanistan for lack of funds. Tied together these two stories reveal once again that the US never had the interests of the people of Afghanistan in mind - it's always been about establishing permanent military presence in the region for control of local resource extraction and pipeline routes for Caspian Sea oil and natural gas.