September 11, 2001, is the day that changed the course of human history. It not only changed the lives of the Americans but of every human living on the face of this planet. The events that took place on 9/11 were followed by US’ direct military involvement in the Middle East, emergence of even brutal terror outfits and further radicalization of the radicals. After 9/11, the world changed forever — the Middle East and the West.
In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, on Oct. 7 to be precise, a fighter pilot named Scott Swanson was given a hitherto untried mission. Sitting in a trailer in a garage behind the CIA headquarters, Swanson was in command of one of the unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) known as Predators. He flew the drone through remote control over Kandahar, 11,000 km away. It weighed 110 kilos more than other drones. It was the first armed UAV.
When the order came, Swanson pressed the button on the control set. The rocket launched by the drone sped toward its target in Kandahar. Within a few seconds, Afghanistan would become acquainted with a new scourge that would literally make life a hell on earth. And not only Afghanistan, but also countries like Iraq, Pakistan, Syria, Yemen and Somalia were soon to become targets of this new weapon of choice. And this was the beginning of a new era in the history of warfare. It started a new chapter called drone warfare.
What many Americans expected when Obama took office was the complete withdrawal of US troops from the Middle East. To many of us, this was good news that the US interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq would come to an end. However, although most US troops did return home, the US war in the Middle East became even fiercer and bloodier. Drones replaced US troops in afflicting the civilian population. Between August 2014 and August 2015, a single Predator fleet carried out 4,300 sorties and fired rockets at 1,000 different targets.
In 2002 there were 167 drones, but today there are more than 7,000. Rather than marvels of technology, drones are regarded as weapons that can easily kill from the air. Where the rocket launched from the drone is aimed at, the kind of devastation it will leave behind it and the families it will hit are of no concern to almost anyone. For example, civilians returning from a wedding in Yemen were hit during a drone strike in December 2013, and 14 were killed. Government officials made do with saying that they had confused the vehicle they were using with one belonging to Al-Qaeda. As with all the other cases, nobody even looked into the details of this killing.
For the people in the command centers, the targets may well be places containing a few militants. However, there are sometimes more civilians than militants in these places. Usually, there are only civilians. It has been reported that some 3,962 people have been killed, 962 of whom were civilians, including 207 children, have been killed in drone attacks by the US in Pakistan alone since 2004.
The picture emerging from a report in The Intercept is even more terrible. According to the report, 90 percent of the recent drone attacks in Afghanistan have not been against “identified targets.” In other words, these attacks have hit civilians. The report goes on to say that during one special operation in northeast Afghanistan between January 2012 and February 2013, drones killed 200 people. Of these, only 35 were identified targets. Since US Intelligence assets in Yemen and Somalia are limited, it is thought that civilian losses are even higher than estimated. The slaughter of civilians before the eyes of the world shows the scale of the tragedy. But pressing the death button for “identified targets” is another aspect. The American deep state, which since 9/11 has been unable to wean itself of the idea that it can eliminate a terrorist by killing him, fails to grasp that through this policy it is constantly creating new terrorists. It has still not grasped that it must fight the ideology, not the militant. Obama’s desire to end the US military presence in the Middle East was in all probability sincere. However, mafia-like groupings dominating whole states; secret formations that are above the law and state have been unwilling to end this dirty war in the Middle East. Killing machines under remote control contribute to that aim, to their desire for control of the Middle East and to the growth of the arms sector on which they place such importance.
Mafia-like groups within states have been dreaming up these secret plans for years. Using drones operated by remote control to rain down rockets on families, weddings and mosques and thus shed the blood of even more Muslims appears to be a part of the same sinister plan. One of the most important ways of derailing a plan is to decipher it. This plan must be thwarted by making it clear everywhere that armed drones circling around the skies of the Middle East are nor essential, but part of a sinister stratagem.
It is essential to put an end to the killing of innocent people and children. All we need do is speak out.
Adnan Oktar's piece in Arab News & National Herald Tribune: