I spy in the sky with my little eye…

October 8, 2010 at 12:02 am (Uncategorized)

My BBC homepage popped up today to reveal the headline:

”Pakistan criticizes ‘unjustified’ US drone attacks”.

I read it, browsed around some news articles for a while,and mentioned that headline to someone once it came up in conversation.  I was promptly asked: What the hell is a US drone?

Good question.

Drones are unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s), aircrafts that are controlled from a ground station.  As in, no pilot. They provide the military with a constant feed of information about the goings-on of a location.  They can stay in the air for about 17 hours at a time, and some are small and equipped with cameras, to be used for collecting information/intelligence, while others are bigger and armed with laser-guided missiles for attack.  These are some pretty smart machines: they are armed with radar, infra-red imaging, and can even pick up on mobile phone conversations.  They are linked up in a system with a satellite and ground control system, and a couple other drones.  The technology is progressing rapidly, and they can now be armed with heavy missiles to hunt and kill. (facts care of BBC.co.uk Military fact file: drones).

Whether you are up to date on current world news, or looking at the latest People magazine article covering another riveting story on Kate Gosselin, this is interesting to me as it is another example of how even in the US military, we can be so foolhardy as to make decisions in our safe haven away from death and destruction, through the wonder of a small machine.

Reaper unmanned aircraft

Remember the days of the pilot going down with the plane? Remember having to risk lives in order to make such a huge decision? I somehow think that having an unmanned machine carry out “dirty work” (fire missiles) for us makes us less cautious to press that “deploy” button.  It makes us more reckless so we can say “fire!” more often.  If your coworker – your friend – was in that machine that was about to fire, wouldn’t you hesitate and hover over that red button, and really consider the severity of this decision? Remember being accountable for your fellow brothers and sisters, your fellow citizens? Having a sense of humility, and accepting the melancholy fact that these choices will never really be rewarded, because they are not heroic.  They are choices made in do-or-die situations, under the authority of someone who knows you only as a serial number.  War is awful. War is terrible. Fathers and mothers are lost, and someday, we will remember why we are fighting and forget the whole thing, and what’s more, we will wonder why we let history repeat itself so many times.  We will talk. More importantly, we will listen.  Maybe someday the children of North and South Waziristan (and all of Pakistan and Afghanistan) will look up at the sky and count stars, find constellations….instead of check for UAV’s. 

All of these fancy buttons seem very easy to push.  I think we may be pushing way too many buttons lately.  If we had the ability to take these situations more personally and less technically… we could try to rediscover the pause button. The stop button.

Do you see the irony that for any machine to perform any task, you have to press a “power” button before you can do anything at all?  Who gets this power, where does it go?  What about your power?

I’d like to just press “off” for awhile, and see how things turn out.


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