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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Doom in the sky: Drones overhead, from Tucson to Nogales to Baghdad”

With the announcement a couple weeks ago by the Department of Homeland Security of the fourth unmanned aerial Predator drone assigned to guard the U.S.-Mexico border — teamed with the Obama administration’s dispatch of some 1,200 National Guard troops to the area — the policy ties that bind war and occupation overseas with domestic border militarization have never been more stark and alarming.

President Barack Obama’s approval of the $600 million bill last month, allocating mass troop deployment to the border, also sanctioned the purchase of two additional drone aircrafts, likely from military contractor General Atomics — which produces Predator and Reaper drones. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano boasted that the new crafts would increase Customs and Border Patrol’s drone fleet to six by the end of the year, Reuters reported on Aug. 30.

But who are the real and likely prey of these Predator drones? In Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Palestine, where Predators and/or their counterpart Reaper and Hermes models have been deployed heavily armed with hellfire missiles, drone aircrafts have been inflicting murder and mayhem for many years, largely against civilians and “”suspected”” terrorists. The Brookings Institute estimates that, for every militant killed, 10 civilians have died in Pakistan alone as a result of these drones — some 600 civilians in all.

Despite military authorities admitting that more than one-third of their drone arsenal crashes are due to technical or human error, they’ve tripled the amount of daily patrols in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years, according to a 2009 New York Times article.

The same article cites Davis Monthan Air Force Base here in Tucson as one of four locations in the country where Air National Guard has been ordered to full-time drone duty to help compensate for the lack of crew. On duty, the reserve pilots sit in “”dimly-lit trailers,”” operating joysticks in front of computer screens scanning roads and finding targets 10,000 miles away.

Not surprisingly, the New York Times reports, “”a few crew members have had a difficult time watching the strikes. And some pilots said it can be hard to transition from being a computer-screen warrior to dinner at home or their children’s soccer games.””

In a Sept. 11 interview with the Daily Wildcat, Middle East specialist and UA professor of history and Near Eastern studies Dr. Richard Eaton detailed the human and cultural effects of U.S. policy in the region through drones: “”The use of missile-firing drones by U.S. forces along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border has been hugely counterproductive, since they serve as effective recruitment tools for radical elements in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, they inflame opinion against America; across the border, they inflame opinion against the Pakistan government, which is seen as facilitating American imperial designs throughout the region. What Muslims find particularly offensive is that the U.S. ordered drone attacks into Pakistan at the rate of about one per day during the final week of the holy month of Ramadan. Whatever the intent of such attacks, they have had the well-known effect of incinerating dozens of innocent civilians.””

Raising connections between drone attacks and the higher than usual level of Islamophobia in the U.S. in recent weeks, Eaton comments: “”It has been especially pathetic to see General Petraeus pleading with a lunatic preacher in Florida not to burn copies of the Quran today (Sept. 11), on the grounds that such an action could endanger U.S. troops in Afghanistan, when Petraeus himself could do far more to lessen the danger to his troops by simply calling off his murderous drone attacks.””

Turning to Tucson and the borderlands, Eaton spares no words about the deleterious domestic use of drones now marshalling all of the nearly 2,000-mile border with Mexico: “”This appears to be one more instance of the ever-growing Israelification of America — that is, the effort to find military solutions to non-military issues. I should add that all this hysteria over the border, of which S.B. 1070 is reflection, is tragically misplaced. The number of people apprehended along the border has declined 60 percent over the past 10 years, while violent crime in border counties has decreased 30 percent since 1990.””

Although the nearly-acquired fleet of six unarmed military surveillance drones to the U.S.-Mexico border pales in comparison to the hundreds of missile-toting drones operating in the U.S. military arsenal abroad, the implications on our society, and other societies, remain in peril.

— Gabriel Matthew Schivone is an undergraduate at Prescott College studying art, literature and media studies. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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