Friday, February 15, 2013

A drone by any other name...

It has been a while since I have posted on the Faustian or the Signal.
Life has had me very busy.
Mea Culpa.

I have some stuff in draft that will come out soon, hopefully. Till then, I will post on some issues.
Also, look for some of my older stuff - essays, stories, and rants - on :

Drones and the face of war

Few topics get this old bayonet so riled up as autonomous fighting devices, and remote controlled killing machines. Drones, for short.
These disgusting perversions of reconnaissance vehicles have fast become the assassination weapon of choice for the ruling elites of the west. They are expensive, sure, but if they get shot down there is no politically embarrassing casualties and flag draped coffins. If they kill a few dozen innocents while striking their target, the 'pilot' only sees flashed on a screen. He does not see or smell the burning flesh.
He does not weave for his life to avoid the AA fires bristling up from defences.
 In today's world of undeclared non-wars against enemies labelled simply as 'terrorists', an empty autonomous or remotely controlled missile armed plane or (soon to be) robotic killing machine bristling with weaponry seem to fit in to the surreality of the whole mess just fine.
Call me old fashioned, but I think soldiers should fight and, when the horrible need is there,  die in those wars. I do not write that in frivolity, but as a man who has seen far too much of such violence and witnessed the death of dear friends and comrades.
I think soldiers should fight in wars because unlike technicians watching monitors, or CPU's calculating trajectories - soldiers FEEL the situation.
They are capable  of mercy; of discriminating morally between targets. They are HUMANS - not machines, nor even remote observers. They are real people immersed in the conflict about them.
When soldiers kill, it effects them.
When they die, it effects the war effort and the folks back home.
This is the 'cost' of war.
When the human elements are removed from war, all you are left with is clinical, efficient murder.
War of the kind being fought today appears designed to last forever.
To be perennial war. War as an industry with growth seasons.

The pilots of these things will now receive MEDALS for 'service'.
Let's be absolutely clear here: We are not talking about real pilots who are risking their lives over enemy positions and engaged in visceral combat with enemy pilots and defences. We are not talking about riflemen who spend days embedded in some frozen valley waiting for the right bunch of murderous bandit trash to wander by - risking it all  to take them down.
We are talking about technicians with the basic aptitudes and the right level of coordination.
Some of them may well be conscientious minded and responsible.
I hope and pray that is so.
But, we know from press leaks and briefings many of them  who are decent are destroyed by their experiences When I was in the active service the drone pilots were seen as misfits and 'fuck ups'.
Their handy work in the first strikes was seen by many  as horrific overkill.
The pilots, as we knew,  were off somewhere way back and safe (increasingly out of theatre).
It was also widely rumoured they were being doped for performance.
Rumours are rumours. I do not usually give them much of an ear.
I have no idea if anything like that is truly the case, but I will be frank: It would not surprise me at all when it comes to projects like the drone initiatives. I will reiterate: It would not surprise me on single iota under these specific circumstances.
Also,  the medals we are talking about are not career service medals  to be awarded after years of service, nor are they badges to indicate a campaign service.
These are HONOURS that will exceed that of the PURPLE HEART.
That is the United State's military medal for being wounded or killed in action.
Is a joystick jockey to be put ABOVE heroes?
ABOVE those wounded in action, and our war dead?
And it doesn't stop there.
It doesn't stop in some dusty village in some place you've never heard of....

They are now testing the use of these things domestically. In law enforcement circles, the US has gone bonkers for drones. Even here in Canada the RCMP in BC are 'experimenting' with  surveillance models.

Something needs to be done about these mechanical killers and spies. Air drones, land drones, and water/sea drones. They need to be regulated YESTERDAY.
We need controls and conventions for these things in the same way we do with nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons - not medals and parades for the quacks that invent them and the guys that push the button to order the kill.
We need some sanity restored here and we need it fast. 

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