Monday, June 13, 2011

“Lockheed Martin Developing Ninja Robots”

OK..It’s a little off topic, but I just couldn’t resist this one. I know what you’re thinking: this article reads more like something out of a Marvel comic book rather than the Christian Science Monitor, but I assure you it’s real. While our over-the-top technological advancements may provide some short-lived humor, they represent a more serious issue regarding international law and our country’s disregard for it. Now I’m not saying that Lockheed’s robots are going to use their super-human ninja skills to violate the laws of war, but I am suggesting that throughout history the United States’ government has had a tendency to overlook international law for the sake of "defense."

This brings me to the topic of today’s blog: the UCAV. Otherwise known as the “combat drone,” this undetectable killer is capable of dropping guided 2,000 lb bombs at the press of a button. What’s the best part? The Air Force gave them cool super villain names like “Sabre Warrior” and “Hunter-Killer.” And it’s only fitting that UCAV operators are basically trained on video games much like those played on an X-box or Playstation. Unfortunately, the targets are live people, not digital images.

I’m sure that we have all become familiar with the headlines, “Heavy Civilian Casualties After Drone Attacks,” or “US Drone Strikes Kill Many in Pakistan,” and this is not ok. The United Nations even released a report stating that "the number of [civilian] deaths attributed to pro-government forces marginally exceeds that caused by anti-government forces” — basically acknowledging that the United States and NATO-led forces are responsible for an alarming increase in casualties resulting from drone attacks.

If the heightened death toll from combat drones doesn’t shock you, their egregious violation of international law will. In 2010 United Nations investigator on extrajudicial killings, Philip Alston, issued a 29-page report on the lack of rules or safeguards for drones. Alston also noted the absent data on drone related deaths and called on CIA operators to prove that they have attempted to capture or incapacitate suspects without killing them. Unfortunately, the intelligence community has done little to address the issue of drone killings or their breach of international law. The Pentagon continues to make drone warfare a top budgetary and strategic priority for the coming years.

For a further reading on the use of drones, check out this moving poem called, “Of Hawks and Drones,” written by NAPF President David Krieger.

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