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Jul 07 2012

Drone “Pilots” Practice on Us.

A report in the New York Times by Mark Mazzetti, a national-security correspondent, revealed that the US trains drone “pilots” at Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico  in air conditioned trailers, sitting in comfortable chairs while they practice targeting on civilian cars passing the base.

The base has been converted into the U.S. Air Force’s primary training center for drone operators, where pilots spend their days in sand-colored trailers near a runway from which their planes take off without them. Inside each trailer, a pilot flies his plane from a padded chair, using a joystick and throttle, as his partner, the “sensor operator,” focuses on the grainy images moving across a video screen, directing missiles to their targets with a laser.

Holloman sits on almost 60,000 acres of desert badlands, near jagged hills that are frosted with snow for several months of the year – a perfect training ground for pilots who will fly Predators and Reapers over the similarly hostile terrain of Afghanistan. When I visited the base earlier this year with a small group of reporters, we were taken into a command post where a large flat-screen television was broadcasting a video feed from a drone flying overhead. It took a few seconds to figure out exactly what we were looking at. A white S.U.V. traveling along a highway adjacent to the base came into the cross hairs in the center of the screen and was tracked as it headed south along the desert road. When the S.U.V. drove out of the picture, the drone began following another car.

“Wait, you guys practice tracking enemies by using civilian cars?” a reporter asked. One Air Force officer responded that this was only a training mission, and then the group was quickly hustled out of the room.

Good practice for the real thing right here at home.

Drone strike kills 19 ahead of US-Pakistan meeting in Tokyo

Air strike is first since Pakistan reopened Nato supply route to Afghanistan and comes just before crucial diplomatic meeting

The death toll from a US drone strike in Pakistan rose to 19 on Saturday, increasing tensions ahead of a meeting between secretary of state Hillary Clinton and her Islamabad counterpart.

Pakistani authorities increased the estimate from an initially reported 12 suspected militants who were killed in the attack in the Dattakhel region in North Waziristan on Friday. [..]

But the use of drones is highly controversial, with a large chunk of the Pakistani public – as well as human rights activists around the world – resenting their use due to the high number of non-military casualties.

Figures from the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism show that CIA drones stuck Pakistan 75 times in 2011, causing up to 655 fatalities.

The majority of those killed were alleged militants, but as many as 126 civilians also have lost their lives, the bureau’s figures suggest.

And just who makes the determination that these people are militants? Based on what “intelligence”? According to the Obama administration any male in the vicinity of an alleged militant is a militant as well. How convenient.  

Meanwhile their killers, pilots sit comfortable, get to go safely home to their families and the US saves money because it’s all done right here in the US.

1 comment

  1. TMC

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