Congress is considering giving a portion of US land to drones – a chunk of land larger than many states. Drones (unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAV’s) actually have their own caucus in Congress. The caucus currently has 50 members; a full list of members can be read here:
The Congressional drone caucus gets a shitload of money from lobbyists and insists that drones would be useful over US air space and that the increased production of drones for domestic use would create jobs, which, of course, is true. Unfortunately, almost all the jobs creation ideas Congress comes up with involve the military, the manufacturing of weapons, or the operation of weapons.
Nick Mottern at truthout.org April 16, 2011:
The story of how planes without on-board pilots will gain entry into our crowded airspace, where birds are life threatening, possibly within the next three years, is one involving campaign contributions, jobs and fear. As we will see, safety appears not to be the top priority.
I became aware of the pro-drone legislation from a February 10, 2011, Syracuse Post Standard report that Sen. Charles Schumer (D-New York) was supporting an amendment to the pending Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reauthorization bill (S. 223) that would create test zones for the introduction of drones into general airspace.
Senator Schumer was interested in the pro-drone amendment because MQ-9 Reaper drones, killer drones that are flying over Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq, are stationed at Hancock Air Base near Syracuse. However, FAA safety restrictions have limited drone flights out of Hancock.
“If Schumer’s legislative move succeeds this week,” said the Post Standard, “it would help ensure the future of 1,215 jobs at the (air) base in Mattydale (New York) and potentially lead to millions of dollars in radar research contracts for local defense companies.”
Drones have a grisly war history of misidentification. For example, on April 11, 2011, The Los Angeles Times carried a story of how a failure of US Air Force drone operators at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada to accurately identify the enemy led to the deaths in February 2010 of at least 15 non-combatant Afghani men, the wounding of 12 more and the deaths of a woman and three children…
Drones like the Reaper are also used for assassination, killing people without trial or conviction, a violation of international law, compounded by the problem of misidentification.
The Reaper can also be used strictly for surveillance and there are a variety of drones that can perform either killer or surveillance functions. Drones are also being produced for commercial uses, which include scanning land and oceans for agricultural, mining and fishing enterprises…
We knew we were starting very late. On February 15, we presented a letter (appearing at the end of this article) at Senator Schumer’s Peekskill, New York, office urging him to abandon the drone amendment. He did not respond and his staff did not provide any information to us until well after the FAA reauthorization bill, with the pro-drone language embodied in an omnibus amendment, cleared the Senate on February 17.
According to Open Secrets.org, Senator Schumer received $10,000 for his 2010 re-election campaign from Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin is one of at least 50 companies making drones of various sizes and types and it produces Hellfire missiles, used by drones and other aircraft. Lockheed employs 2,200 in Syracuse.
Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) also supported the drone amendment, saying in a press release: “This bill is about making southwest Ohio a critical part of this high-growth initiative. UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) could be used for a host of important purposes, from patrolling the border, to surveying Kandahar province, to combating drug smuggling and it’s critical that Wright-Patterson Air Force Base plays a key role in their development and testing. I’ve worked on a bipartisan basis – first with (former) Sen. (George) Voinovich and now with Sen. (Rob) Portman – to enable the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright Patterson and the Springfield National Guard to test unmanned aerial systems in Southwest Ohio.”
Among other Senate supporters of the drone amendment were Sens. Kent Conrad (D-North Dakota) and John Hoeven (R-North Dakota), whose state seeks to be a center of drone development and where the University of North Dakota claims to be the first in offering a four-year degree program for drone pilots “hoping to take the sticks in a field expected to swell to a $20 billion industry over the next decade.”
Senator Hoeven said on the Senate floor, in support of the amendment:
“We’re already flying UAVs in airspace all over the world. Now we need to open the skies for them at home to make our nation more secure, our communities safer and our economy more dynamic, creating jobs and opportunities in our country. If we don’t you can be sure other nations will.”
“We need to open the skies for them at home.” Why? Why do we need to do that? For what purpose, exactly? Drones are used for surveillance or bombing what is underneath them. What would be under a drone airborne over the US that particularly needs extraordinary surveillance or bombing? One can only assume that Senator Hoeven thinks that US citizens need the same sort of protection from each other that the Pentagon and CIA seem to think the US needs from terrorists abroad. The fact that we are constantly killing innocent people overseas with this technology does not concern the Pentagon, the CIA, or Congress; for some reason, they think it would be a good idea to do the same here. Our right to privacy is no deterrent to these power-mad goons, either. To be fair, however, it must be pointed out that the American people appear quite willing to give up those rights voluntarily. “We’re already flying UAVs in airspace all over the world.” How casually admitted, this violation of the airspace over sovereign nations. And the unspoken assumption is that since we are already violating the sovereignty of nations abroad and the rights (and lives) of the citizens in them, why the hell not do it here at home? The UN considers drones to be asymmetrical warfare and condemns the use of them. However, 56 countries now have drone technology and it is unlikely that the world will suddenly return to a state of sanity. (The UN also condemns the use of depleted uranium, white phosphorus, and cluster bombs – most countries have become signatories to the ban agreements on those weapons, with the exception of the US and Great Britain, who are, after all, exceptional in all cases. For that matter, the UN condemns the use of mercenaries.)
But drones are currently used over both borders of the US and we can assume they are here to stay. Now we need more pilots for all these drones. And that is where the University of North Dakota comes in (mentioned in the above cited article) with its new 4-year degree program in drone assassination piloting. No doubt we will see a few more colleges offering the program soon enough, and no shortage of students hoping to learn how they, too, can spy on and perhaps bomb their fellow citizens remotely.
October 27 2011, reporting from Washington — “The Homeland Security Department is adding three surveillance drone aircraft to a domestic fleet chiefly used to patrol the border with Mexico even though officials acknowledge they don’t have enough pilots to operate the seven Predators they already possess….”
The complete article can be viewed at:
Now, Congress would like to take over public and private land to create a massive, state-sized drone base and training/testing area in Colorado. Air space above the land base would bleed out to include 60 million acres of airspace over both Colorado and New Mexico.
David Swanson has written a good article about this on warisacrime.org. At the end of his article he gives a link to not1moreacre.org, a site developed to oppose this action. I include his link within the excerpt of his article:
Weaponized UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), also known as drones, have their own caucus in Congress, and the Pentagon’s plan is to give them their own state as well.
Under this plan, 7 million acres (or 11,000 square miles) of land in the southeast corner of Colorado, and 60 million acres of air space (or 94,000 square miles) over Colorado and New Mexico would be given over to special forces testing and training in the use of remote-controlled flying murder machines. The full state of Colorado is itself 104,000 square miles. Rhode Island is 1,000 square miles. Virginia, where I live, is 43,000 square miles.
The U.S. military (including Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines) is proceeding with this plan in violation of the public will, new state legislation on private property rights, an exceptionally strong federal court order, and a funding ban passed by the United States Congress, and in the absence of any approved Environmental Impact Statement. Public pressure has successfully put the law on the right side of this issue, and the military is disregarding the law….
I would ask opponents of drone warfare to consider the likely impact of setting aside 60 million acres of air space for testing drones.
“We cannot allow the sacrifice of our democracy to politicians who are bought by military contractors,” says Aguerre. “If they are able to get this 51st state for robotic warfare, I think the economy will be irretrievably lost. These are unbelievably beautiful and pristine lands. Our rural areas are where the genetically modified seeds are being planted, where the lands and mountains are being mined, and where the military is going to destroy an area the size of a state, because the rural people are so few. Gary Hart was able to attack the last short grass prairie without political cost.”
Why is there no political cost? Because “we can’t get the word out.”
Let’s help get the word out by sharing this link: http://not1moreacre.org
Not1moreacre is sistered with the Purgatoire, Apishapa, and Comanche Grasslands Trust to work on this specific issue. They have managed to hold the hostile take-over of these lands at bay for now, but the plans to commandeer this land have been in the works for a long time, most vigorously pursued since 9/11. The Pentagon and contractors who want this land will not stop their efforts – they want this land and they are unrelenting. They have a significant number of Congressmen already working in their behalf and an endless supply of lobbyists from the weapons manufacturers (think of them as army ants) bringing bribes to encourage those Congressmen and lure others to their cause.
- The region under threat contains:
- some of the richest concentrations of the human record in the American West, reflecting 12,000 years of human experience in the region;
- unique bioregions of canyonlands, forested mesas, grasslands and riparian systems providing habitat for diverse flora and fauna found nowhere else on Earth and the largest block of native prairie remaining on the High Plains;
- restored Dust Bowl lands – Comanche, Kiowa and Rita Blanca National Grasslands — offering robust safe haven to threatened and endangered species of plants and animals, including rare insects and reptiles yet to be named;
- wild rivers and complex wetlands vital to native fish, migrating birds, unique wildlife and environmental health;
- Santa Fe National Historic Trail, the 19th century transportation route that connected Missouri with Santa, Fe, New Mexico, with historic ranches, stage stops and trading posts illustrative of the American Southwest;
- the longest “dinosaur freeway” in North America, marking where 150 million years ago many different species of dinosaurs traveled along the shoreline of an interior seaway from present-day Colorado to New Mexico and Oklahoma. [from not1moreacre.org website]
This land also happens to contain some of the traditional sacred sites of the area’s Indian tribes and some of the most beautiful wilderness camping areas in the US. Not to mention the privately-held property of local ranchers which is under threat of governmental seizure.
The facts that this area is sparsely populated, fairly accessible to the new airport outside Denver (speculated to be the site of large underground bunkers to house certain important government and military personnel in the case of a national emergency), and on the “high ground” (always a good strategy for the war planners), are probably coincidental.
So efficient, these drones. Killed 50 people in one day, Thursday, 27 Oct., in 3 different countries. None in America. Yet. Bet you can’t wait until we get some of this action.
Nearly fifty people have been killed in separate US assassination drone strikes in Somalia, Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region bordering Afghanistan and Yemen in a single day.
On Thursday, 13 people were killed and several others were injured when the US military launched an attack using a remote-controlled unmanned aerial vehicle on the outskirts of Bilis Qooqaani town, which is located 448 kilometers (278 miles) southwest of the Somali capital Mogadishu.
The US also launched drone strikes on the outskirts of Afmadow city, situated in the middle of the Juba region and 620 kilometers (385 miles) south of Mogadishu, on Thursday. At least 25 people were killed in the aerial attack.
In addition, six people were killed in a non-UN-sanctioned US drone attack on Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal region near the border with Afghanistan.
According to Pakistani officials, two unmanned aircraft fired six missiles at a vehicle traveling through Tura Gula village in the Azam Warsak area on Thursday.
Three people were also killed in attacks carried out by unmanned US aircraft in southern Yemen on Thursday.
A Yemeni government official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the drone strikes targeted Shaqra village in Abyan Province. He added that six people were also injured in the aerial attacks.
The US says its remote-controlled unmanned drones only target militants. However, reports have shown that most of the people killed in the drone strikes are civilians.