Remote control murder is set to increase over the skies of Afghanistan when the Ministry of Defence unveils it’s new five armed Reaper drones at RAF Waddington on Friday, doubling the 13th Squadron. The ‘standing in ceremony’ also marks the movement of UK drone control to the British Isles for the first time. Currently British drones operate from Creech air base in Nevada, where they are controlled by RAF pilots who are little more than glorified X-box players who’s only combat injuries are RSI and eyestrain.
The UK announced it had ordered the Reapers in a £135 million deal with General Atomics back in December 2010. Around the same time, the government’s Strategic Defence Review claimed the RAF needed to acquire a growing fleet of drones, and mooted the idea of involving BAE Systems. Just how effective drones have been remains shrouded in secrecy, especially in Afghanistan.
The RAF inauguration comes as a 27-year-old Pakistani citizen, Noor Kahn, seeks to implicate the MoD in the death of this father by a CIA drone strike in South Waziristan last year. His lawyers have argued at the High Court in London that if the UK’s communications gathering body, GCHQ, passed on information to the CIA that led to the strike in question (and others) then it could be considered a war crime.
Kahn’s father was murdered along with 40 other people who had gathered to discuss a local mining dispute in March 2011. Unsurprisingly the British government has kept it’s mouth shut about whether or not GCHQ passes information to the CIA for drone operations over Pakistan, and rolled out the usual bollocks that the court hearing risks denting US ties.
Unmanned Areal Vehicles (UAVs) have been operating above Pakistan and Afghanistan since the days of the Bush Administration, but Nobel-Peace Prize winning Barak Obama has increased their use dramatically since taking office four years ago. Thanks to their ability to be controlled remotely the US has been able to wage war in Somalia, Yemen and Libya without any American service personnel returning home in a body bag.
There is one caveat, however — hundreds of people in the Middle East and Africa are being killed because the video stream relayed back to pilots in Nevada is, quite frankly, piss poor. In fact, only one in seven US drone attacks in Waziristan kill militant leaders.
Take the case of Baitullah Mehsud, the much vaunted leader of the Taliban in Pakistan. Before the CIA finally slammed a hell-fire missile into their man as he lay on the roof of his father-in-law’s house (killing everyone inside, including his wife and her parents), they managed to murder between 207 and 321 people in 15 strikes. Why? Because alongside a distinct disregard for life, they just couldn’t get the right intelligence from the drones.
Maybe the CIA simply have a shit aim. The MoD claims that in Afghanistan they have only killed four civilians since they began flying armed Reaper’s over the country in 2007. In almost the same number of strikes in Pakistan, the CIA have killed between 400-800 civilians. Obviously, SchNews is not suggesting one iota that the MoD figures can be trusted.
Ever ready anti-war protesters have vowed to demonstrate at the gates of RAF Waddington, so if you’re in the vicinity (or beyond) then head on over for around midday. There will also be a talk by Chris Cole, who run’s the Drone War UK website, this Saturday at the University of Bradford.
* Those strategic airwave strikers at Radio Free Brigton have recorded an interview with Chris Cole, available here…