Sunday, January 10, 2010

Drone Syndrome

Forty years ago, I worked for a military contractor. The longer I worked there, the more I came to dislike the job. When I could no longer live with myself, I quit.

In many ways, it was a great place to work. I worked with a bunch of very creative, highly motivated people. The pay was good with almost unlimited opportunity for overtime. The benefits were excellent. And job security was all but guaranteed.

The problem was that we were building weapons. When you’re building things like bomb fuzes, you lose perspective.

Bomb fuzes were the predecessors to today’s smart bombs. Screwed into the nose of a bomb, they determined when the bomb exploded, maximizing enemy deaths and infrastructure destruction.

One of the more bizarre projects was a Frisbee-like grenade that was designed to hover over the enemy in the swamps of Vietnam and direct the blast of metal shards down onto them.

We also built radar systems for anti-aircraft missiles and cannons. They were easier to rationalize since they were defensive weaponry.

Periodically, we were shown films on how our products worked, all cloaked in clinical terms of efficiency. The films included tests demonstrating the relative destruction of buildings by bombs detonated at different altitudes. Or the destruction of drone target planes by rapid-fire cannons that sounded like a giant fart as they fired 3,600 rounds per minute.

These days, drones have gone from prey to predator. They’re controlled from secret, remote sites halfway around the world by military personnel who might as well be playing video games -- except they’re not games. These men and women go to work and kill people thousands of miles away and then go home for supper.

And there lies the problem. War has become too easy.

American drones are being used in an ever-widening war in the Middle East. They give our military the ability to extend war into countries with whom there is no declaration of war. Like those bomb fuzes forty years ago, they are the predecessors of “Terminators” that will secretly carry out assassinations of suspected enemies and attacks on suspected targets.

Killer-drones have already been used in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Shrouded in secrecy, these technological predators have taken the decision to make war out of the hands of Congress and the American people. They have erased international boundaries. They allow our military to launch secret attacks 24/7/365 almost anywhere in the world against real and perceived enemies based on secret intelligence to which we’re not privy.

These enemies have often not been where the intelligence suggested, and innocent civilians have died. The use of these drones is turning us into the terrorist assassins that we so doggedly pursue—assassins with no accountability.

This is a frightening and significant development. It will most certainly initiate a rapid proliferation of new unmanned tactical weapons. Like the escalation of bomb technology born in World War II, it signals the beginning of a new arms race.

And the irony is that we’re the world’s only military super-power. The others are gone.

Our military budget already accounts for nearly half of all global military spending. Major nations like Russia and China are reducing military spending. So we’re creating an arms race with whom? For what purpose?

The only winners will be the military-industrial complex that I once worked for – the arms manufacturers, advanced weapons labs and think tanks that churn out strategies for future military domination.

It’s a one-nation race to the poor house.

1 comment:

  1. Karl, Thanks for caring about being human. Your description of the disaster of war-employment is especially important to death-star armament populations living in the USA, Canada, NATO (40% of GNP) countries & Israel (60% of GNP) where armaments, munitions & false-security are the mainstay by which we daily make our 'killing'. Sad thing is that Adam Lanza's massacre of 20 6 year olds is such a small part of the 3000 children killed per year in gun violence or 30,000 people in the USA.
    Until we undertand the difference between the 'exogenous' (Latin 'other-generated') colonial violence we have adopted as some kind of birthright & our worldwide 'indigenous' (L 'self-generating') heritage of peace, we're continuing the carnage.