Tuesday, October 13, 2015

DRONE NATION: Putting the Killing Out of SIght, Out of Mind?

Are we falling behind in our effort to resist the growing convergence of robotics and war?

Having been at it for about 3-1/2 years, No Drones Network campaigners are becoming more and more aware that the greatest challenge of drones is that they operate "out of sight" . . . and once they're out of sight, they tend to be "out of mind."

Drones operate "out there" somewhere, and the US citizenry is encouraged to ignore them and go on with their lives. Whatever you do, don't think about drones. And certainly don't think deeply . . . .

People have trouble focusing on the problem of drones.  And that's just the way the government likes it. (See "Why focus on drone attacks?")

The antidote is active and creative agitation: activism that encourages people to think.

What are the creative ways that people around the country and around the world are helping people think deeply about what is being done with drones?

I've added a few links below. Please expand this list by using the comments section.

Why GROUNDED Is Soaring: Putting Drone Dilemmas In Your Face
Level Up, Step Up, Grow Up, Man Up . . . Wake Up
"The Predator" in Chicago - Good Friday, 2013 - "A Passion Play for the Drones Era"
GOOD KILL: Struggling to Bring the Truth of Drone Killing Out of the Shadows
ROBOTIC KILLING: What could possibly go wrong? (Ask a kid)
A Modest Proposal: Debate the Drones
The Apostle's Creed as a Focus for Thinking About Drones
"Everyday Suspects": Chicago Exhibition Delves Into Drone Invasion of Everyday Life
Time for a History Lesson? (Invoking Guernica)

Update: October 14, 2015

Plenty of schools are now teaching kids about drones. (Just google "high school curriculum drones".)

There seems to be a lot of "gee-whiz" fascination with the technology. (Hey, it's STEM, right?) But do these how-to courses on drones even begin to touch ethical questions?

One valuable exception seems to be this study guide: "A Field Guide to Teaching Agency and Ethics: The West Wing and American Foreign Policy," especially "Sample Lesson 2: Targeted killings, agency, and ethics."

Update: October 15, 2015

Like the answer to a prayer, today The Intercept published "The Drone Papers." EVERYONE please read...think about...write about...and SHARE. More about "The Drone Papers" in this space soon . . . .

Update: October 19, 2015

An art installation by Jim Shaw. "Labyrinth" and "Guernica": I wonder how many viewers will make the effort to tease out the parallels -- and contrasts -- between these two works.

(See Time for a History Lesson? (Invoking Guernica) on Scarry Thoughts)

Update: October 20, 2015

Drone killings is a topic that the mainstream media avoids. Project Censored has named US drone killings of civilians the 3rd most important under-reported story of 2015:

"Since President Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009, an estimated 2,464 people have been killed by drone strikes targeted outside of the United States’ declared war zones; this figure was posted in February 2015 by Jack Serle and the team at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism . . .  (More on Project Censored . . . )"

(I'm grateful for the coverage of Project Censored in the East Bay Express for bringing this to my attention.)

COMMENTS PLEASE! What are the creative ways that people around the country and around the world are helping people think deeply about what is being done with drones?

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

ROBOTIC KILLING: What could possibly go wrong? (Ask a kid)

Massachusetts Peace Action contest winners

Earlier this year, Massachusetts Peace Action sponsored a contest for posters and videos from local students to be used in promoting the April Peace and Planet events in New York City.

The results were impressive. I was particularly struck by this video:

The whole problem with the NPT, summed up in two minutes and thirty-nine seconds!

The lesson for me: if we want someone to help us explain an antiwar message, maybe we should ask a kid.

The movement against drone killing and drone surveillance could benefit from imaginative, no-holds-barred, tech-savvy, explorations of the problem.  The more people -- especially young people -- we get talking about this, the better!

The problem we're up against is that drones are portrayed as an out-of-sight, out-of-mind solution to military action, and so the general public is happy to simply not worry about it.

Just imagine what would happen if we could ask kids to think about the question . . .

Robotic killing: 
What could possibly go wrong?

How can we interest educators in schools across the country in asking the question: "Robotic killing: What could possibly go wrong?"

What do Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk say? "Autonomous weapons are ideal for tasks such as assassinations, destabilizing nations, subduing populations and selectively killing a particular ethnic group. We therefore believe that a military AI arms race would not be beneficial for humanity," they say in a joint letter by concerned scientists. (See Ban Killer Robots Before They Take Over, Stephen Hawking & Elon Musk Say)

Related posts

We can now entrust all the dirty work -- including war -- to robots. (Or can we?)

(See A Modest Proposal: Debate the Drones  )

With drones, people become just dots. "Bugs." People who no longer count as people . . . .

(See Drone Victims: Just Dots? Just Dirt? )

The panopticon was a prison design that reversed the old paradigm, in which prisoners were stored away, "out of sight, out of mind," and instead arrayed them in a way in which they could be observed as efficiently as possible by the fewest number of managers.

(See Drones, 1984, and Foucault's Panopticon)

Monday, February 9, 2015

Dealer: "The military folks have hijacked the U.S. drone"

Is there an opportunity for people who support civilian uses of drones to make common cause with people who oppose drone killing and drone surveillance?

from @TheDroneDealer:
"The military folks have hijacked the U.S. drone industry
most of us want to do positivie things with drone tech
I'm not sure the police can handle the responsibility
they need to reach out to their communities"

Comments please!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Opponents of Drone Killing Go to Nevada Desert to "Shut Down Creech!" in March

Shut Down Creech! protesters
(See more photos on the Shut Down Creech! website.)
Join activists from across the country and around the world to Shut Down Creech! March 4-6, 2015 at Creech Air Force Base, Indian Springs, Nevada, for a national mobilization of nonviolent resistance to shut down killer drone operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan,Yemen, Somalia, and everywhere.

April 2014, CODEPINK Resisting Drones at Creech,
memorializing the victims on pink paper drones.
(See more photos on the Shut Down Creech! website.)
(See the full program of the multi-day mobilization on the Shut Down Creech! website.)

The convergence is sponsored by . . .

CODEPINK: Women for Peace
Nevada Desert Experience (NDE)
Veterans For Peace (VFP)
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF)
Voices for Creative Nonviolence (VCNV)
. . . and more (see full list)


Activists from across the country will be converging there:

John Amidon: "Please join us March 4 - 6 to Shut Down Creech!" on No Drones New York State

Kathy Kelly: "Let's rehabilitate CREECH!" on No Drones Illinois


and invite friends

Social media: Tweet, RT, Favorite
#ShutDownCreech posts on Twitter

Plan your participation via

One People One Earth . . . Stop Drone Attacks!
 (See more photos on the Shut Down Creech! website.)

Saturday, August 16, 2014


"Dozens of aerial drones were on display...
at the Chinese air show in Zhuhai." (NYT - 11/27/2012)
The United States is very good at starting things . . . but seldom considers three moves ahead, much less how it will all end.

Drones are a case in point.

Now people are starting to talk about the problem of global drone proliferation. Here are some resources.

Arms Control Association: "Drone Proliferation Tests Arms Control"

April, 2014 - "As the U.S. government winds up an interagency review of rules governing the export of large drones, the conflicting goals of nonproliferation and commerce are creating a new test of the 27-year-old Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR)."

The Atlantic: "8 Questions the World Faces as Lethal Drones Proliferate: Today's answers will affect how other countries pursue targeted killing in the future"

March 12, 2014 - "Sooner or later, countries other than the United States may start killing people with drones as frequently as we do. If and when that happens, Americans are likely to regret the norms President Obama has established around targeted and semi-targeted killing . . . . "

CNN.com: "Nine facts about armed drones"

May 13, 2014 - "The virtual monopoly that the United States had on armed drones a decade ago is evaporating . . . . "

Action on Armed Violence infographic: "Global drone wars: current combat drones and their proliferation"

"Once countries like China start exporting [drones], they're going to be everywhere really quickly . . . . "

Global Post Special Report: "The Drone Age: Why we should fear global proliferation of UAVs"

"Inside the world’s biggest air shows in Singapore, Dubai and Paris, leading weapons manufacturers gather to sell their lethal wares in the global marketplace, and nothing is selling these days like drones . . . ."

Council on Foreign Relations Special Report: Limiting Armed Drone Proliferation

June 26, 2014 - "The Obama administration should pursue a strategy that places clear limits on its own sale and use of armed drones lest these weapons proliferate and their use becomes widespread. These are the central findings of a new report by CFR Douglas Dillon Fellow Micah Zenko and Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow Sarah Kreps."

"Although only five countries have developed armed drones—the United States, Britain, Israel, China, and Iran—several other countries have announced their own programs . . . ."

(See also "The Drone Invasion Has Been Greatly Exaggerated: Why sensationalizing drone proliferation is going to kill our ability to control them" and "Drone Proliferation: Three Things to Know")

Related posts

No matter how you feel about the inherent challenges posed by drone technology . . . whether or not you recognize that drone attacks resulting in innocent deaths are an enormous ethical and practical problem . . . whether or not you are concerned that even "successful" drone attacks constitute extrajudicial executions (i.e. are war crimes) and are not "self-defense" as claimed by the Obama Administration . . . whether or not you care about the simple surveillance implications of drone use . . . doesn't it seem like a good idea to SLOW DOWN with the proliferation of drone technology? Lest we end up regretting it later?

(See The Drone-Pandora Connection (and I'm not talking about music) )

Today, it may seem quaint to think about the role that trains played in the cataclysms of the 20th century. Could something as simple as a bunch of trains, once set in motion, possibly put people on a course they couldn't reverse? And yet . . . what if I told you that the hyper-organized planners of the U.S. government have a timetable to make 100 drone bases operational in our country in the near future?

(See War By (Drone Base) Timetable? )

Beyond recognizing the inherent contradictions of "pre-emptive violence," we must confront an urgent problem related to technology: the automation of "pre-emptive violence" -- e.g. via drone technology -- is leading to a spiral (or "loop" or "recursive process") that we may not be able to get out of.

(See When "Pre-emptive Violence" Is Automated ....)

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Gaza Crisis Brings Israel's "Dronification" of State Power into Full View

The use of drones by Israel in the current Gaza crisis is bringing into full view the leading role of Israel in changing the way the U.S. and other countries assert state power against people everywhere.

Israeli drone pilot describes how assassinations are carried out

As this Wall Street Journal video points out, the U.S. previously criticized Israel for carrying out assassinations using drones . . . before adopting "the same deadly tactic" in its own killing program in Pakistan and elsewhere.

Israel has created its own peculiar ethics: it's all exerting power "without risking human lives" i.e. the "human lives of pilot or aircrew." The "infantry feels more safe." As for people on the ground, the words "militant" or "terrorist" condemn them to execution.

People in Chicago were treated to an elaborate description of this ethic when leading Israeli military thinker Amos Guiora spoke there about "good" targeted killing. (See "Targeted Killing" - The Heart of the U.S.-Israel Relationship )

On top of defining the new ideology of drone killing, Israel is the top exporter of drones. As the WSJ video points out, five NATO countries are using Israeli drones in Afghanistan, and Turkey and Brazil are importing Israeli drones.

"Dronification" . . . Made in Israel!

Related posts

Amos Guiora, an Israeli "counter-terrorism expert," held forth on the difference between "good" targeted killing -- i.e. the kind Israeli practices (!) -- and "bad" targeted killing -- namely, the kind the Obama administration carries out. But what this talk was really about was conditioning the public to accept the idea that "targeted killing" is a legitimate activity of a government.

(See "Targeted Killing" - The Heart of the U.S.-Israel Relationship )

No Drones Illinois has endorsed the following call by Anti-War Committee – Chicago, Jews for Justice in Palestine, U.S. Palestinian Community Network and 8th Day Center for Justice: Protest Boeing Death Machines in Gaza: Demand Chicago Drop Boeing from Air and Water Show!

(See No Drones Illinois Endorses Call to Drop Boeing from Chicago Air and Water Show)

The movement to publicize and bring an end to drone warfare customarily focuses on U.S. actions in four places: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. Is it time to add the Sinai Peninsula to that list, considering drone executions being carried out by Israel there?

(See Should We Include Sinai in the List of U.S. Drone Target Zones? )

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

"Immigration Border Crisis": The Perfect Excuse for Total Drone Surveillance

The crisis du jour in the U.S. is now the "immigration border crisis": thousands of unaccompanied minors arriving at the U.S. border. Although the crisis is not one of detecting these immigrants, but of discovering an ethical response to their plight, U.S. Customs and Border Protection is wasting no time demanding money for surveillance equipment.

As reported by NBC News, "[t]he White House wants an additional $3.7 billion to deal with the current crisis, with $39.4 million committed to air surveillance — including funds meant for 16 additional crews to operate and maintain drones" (See "Eyes in the Sky: Are Pricey Border Patrol Drones Worth the Money?")

The immediate challenge will be for immigrants rights and civil liberties activists in states on the southern border -- California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas -- to redouble their efforts to keep the drones on the ground.

But just how long do the non-border states think it will be before those drones are being "borrowed" by local law enforcement or other federal agencies for all kinds of purposes, in all kinds of places?

Related posts

The acquisition of drones by LAPD, in the larger context of the LAPD Architecture of surveillance, spying and infiltration, demonstrates the continued militarization of the LAPD. Embedded within this infrastructure is an enormous array of electronic and human surveillance programs and devices such as - Trapwire, Stingray, Hi Definition Cameras, Automatic License Plate Readers, Suspicious Activity Reporting, Special Order 1, iWATCH, Predictive Policing, and the Safer Cities Initiative.

(See "No Drones in LA!")

Texas' "drone zone" is anchored by Fort Bliss in El Paso, an authorized basing/training site for Reaper drones and smaller-scale Shadow and Raven drones. Two other anchors of Texas' "drone zone" are on the Gulf Coast . . . .

(See Texas' Militarized Border: How Will Drone Politics Impact the 2014 Midterm in the 23rd? )

It was interesting that on the main street at Senator Udall's office several bystanders joined in with us to hold signs for a while. There is a good amount of general knowledge about drones and the controversy surrounding them.

(See Jan18: Albuquerque Protests Drones )

According to the Department of Defense Report to Congress on Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems Training, Operations, and Sustainability (April 2012), Arizona has six (6) locations that have been designated as potential basing locations for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) [i.e. drones].

(See Arizona Drone Bases)