Drone usage on the increase but do they breach the Geneva Convention?
The west has now focused more on the use of drones and two types basically exist……the conventional drone that acts as an airborne spy platform with the ability to carry out missile strikes and the latest top secret “Stealth” unarmed drone that was recently recovered whilst intruding into Iranian airspace.
In the military sense the use of drones basically cancels out the risk of losing aircrew and with the use of advanced composites/carbon fibre allows the drone to be able to stay airborne for very long durations, an essential ingredient when spying or being used as an airborne observation platform.
One could challenge the legality and use of drones especially when used to penetrate sovereign airspace almost totally undetected to carry out behind the lines spying. With the more conventional drones this also extends into carrying out airstrikes with such lightweight missiles as the “Hellfire” which in itself is in clear violation of the Geneva Convention.
As it stands at the moment one could say with a certain amount of certainty that these drones at times can be extremely inaccurate when it comes to hitting the correct target. On average it would appear that to take out one so called terrorist could cost the lives of around 140 innocent civilians as they do not have the ability, when controlled from many miles away, to identify the good guys from the bad.
In Israel they are used almost continuously as an airborne observations and attack role and have been responsible for many innocent deaths in Gaza……when one considers that once these drones are linked to overhead military satellites and the automated gun post that sit on the border with Gaza it becomes a sort of computer war game……….the drone picks out a target and can either fire a missile itself or via the satellite send data to the operator (normally female soldiers) who then with her joystick can operate the automated guns on the border to take out anyone who enters the buffer zone near to the Gaza fence line.
It is clear that after the latest US Top Secret “Stealth Drone” was brought down within the sovereign territory of Iran that the use of such drowns is in clear violation of international law which clearly states that no military aircraft can enter another sovereign state without prior permission and in doing so is considered to be an intruder and a security risk to the country concerned. In such circumstances any action can be taken to bring down the offending aircraft.
The US has some of the strictest laws when it comes to their own airspace and believe me if one should ever challenge their capability and penetrate their sovereign state the results would be fatal.
One should point out at this stage that the control of such drones lies with the US Defense Department from the West Coast of the US. The operators are professional pilots and fly them just like a computer game.
Some Afghanistan statistics throw some light on the current use of drones in Northern Pakistan which also breach Pakistan sovereignty:
In 2009 – Of the 44 Predator strikes carried out by the American drones in the tribal areas of Pakistan in 12 months of 2009, only five were able to hit their actual targets, killing five key Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders, but at the cost of around 700innocent civilian lives. The article clearly gave a comparison that for every single person taken out it means the death of 140 innocent civilians.
2010 – According to the Pakistani Interior Minister Rehman Malik, U.S. drone strikes killed more than 900 people in Pakistan last year, the vast majority of whom were civilians, often women and children.
2011 – Defense Department officials said that a Hellfire missile killed a Marine and a Navy seaman in Afghanistan. The two U.S. troops were supposedly mistaken for “militants.”
The statistics are alarming and in this context Obama (the Commander in Chief) is simply adding to the civilian death toll making him guilty of war crimes.
The drones “Hellfire Missiles” are themselves horrendous to say the least and are described as follows:
The missile creates a pressure wave which sucks the air out of victims, shreds their internal organs and crushes their bodies. The explosion is described as “Thermobaric” and is known to contain depleted uranium. British pilots in Afghanistan have complained about their inaccuracy and the innocent civilians that have died as a result of their usage.
British drones have been used by the military for years but there have been some serious concerns….one such headline read as follows:
“The Terminators: drone strikes prompt MoD to ponder ethics of killer robots”
Analysis of unmanned aircraft in combat urges Britain to establish policy on “acceptable machine behaviour” but one could challenge the sincerity behind such concerns!!
The growing use of unmanned aircraft in combat situations raises huge moral and legal issues, and threatens to make war more likely as armed robots take over from human beings, according to an internal study by the Ministry of Defence.
The report warns of the dangers of an “incremental and involuntary journey towards a Terminator-like reality”
The Guardian stated the following (17/4/2011):
“It is essential that before unmanned systems become ubiquitous (if it is not already too late) … we ensure that, by removing some of the horror, or at least keeping it at a distance, we do not risk losing our controlling humanity and make war more likely,” warns the report, titled The UK Approach to Unmanned Aircraft Systems. MoD officials have never before grappled so frankly with the ethics of the use of drones. The report was ordered by Britain’s defence chiefs, and coincides with continuing controversy about drones’ use in Afghanistan, and growing Pakistani anger at CIA drone attacks against suspected insurgents on the Afghan borders.
It states that “the recent extensive use of unmanned aircraft over Pakistan and Yemen may already herald a new era”. Referring to descriptions of “killer drones” in Afghanistan, it notes that “feelings are likely to run high as armed systems acquire more autonomy”.
Many countries have their own programmes in the development of such drones and believe it or not it is common for western countries such as the US, UK and France to share satellite and drone data with each other…….it is also broadly known that these same countries provide secret data to other members of NATO such as the activity of the Kurdistan PKK with Turkey etc.
As we are all aware recently Pakistan demanded that the US stop drone strikes and the CIA drastically cut its officers there. David Cameron said in December that British drones had killed 124 insurgents in Afghanistan since June 2008, hailing them as a “classic example of a modern weapon which is necessary for today’s war”. The drones, known as Reapers, have to date fired 167 missiles and bombs in Afghanistan. I would add to this statement that David Cameron did not say anything about the British pilot’s criticism or the extensive deaths of innocent civilians!!
Although the British military does have its own smaller drones we do cooperate with the US and purchase the US-manufactured General Atomics Reaper for the RAF. This drone can carry four Hellfire missiles, two 230kg (500lb) bombs, and 12 Paveway II guided bombs. It can fly for more than 18 hours, has a range of 3,600 miles, and can operate at up to 15,000 metres (50,000ft). I would again stress that many such weapons contain Depleted Uranium and are thus classified as Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) and are in violation of the Geneva Convention by being indiscriminate killers. This year alone David Cameron increased the number of the Reaper from four to nine at a cost of around £135m.
The MoD is also funding the development by BAE Systems of a long-range unmanned aircraft, called Taranis, designed to fly at “jet speeds” between continents while controlled from anywhere in the world using satellite communications.
Whilst still on the topic of BAE Systems role I would also point out that BAE also provide parts for drones to Israel which were used against the people of Gaza during the 2008-2009 Operation Cast Lead and continue to do so up to the current time.
Britain has spent considerable amounts of tax payer’s money in the development and purchase of drone aircraft. It also entered into an agreement with France to jointly produce a drone in order to cut costs. It is common knowledge that there is also a very high fail rate in drone accidents and despite the enormous costs involved they will remain in the forefront of military aircraft…….the British Government is now seriously considering the use of drones in the sky´s over the United Kingdom…….a clear indication of a future police state.
Peter Eyre – Middle East Consultant – 18/12/2011