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The Attack

The Attack (2012)

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Attack of the Drones 2012 AJE

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As governments are increasingly relying on drones, what are the consequences for civil liberties and the future of war?

The US governmentΓÇÖs growing reliance on aerial drones to pursue its war on al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere is proving controversial ΓÇô as evidenced by the international reaction to recent drone missile attacks along the border with Pakistan.

 But Barack ObamaΓÇÖs administration is undeterred, favouring the technology more and more because it reduces the need for American troops in those countries and the risk of politically unpalatable casualties.

ΓÇ£He probably thinks this is already a controversial war,ΓÇ¥ says Christ Klep, an international relations analysts at the University of Utrecht. ΓÇ£IΓÇÖd better not endanger my pilots and my special forces, so what else do I have? Unmanned aerial vehicles? Deploy them.ΓÇ¥

But the strategy is giving rise to anxieties that conflict is becoming just a big computer game, in which ΓÇÿdesk pilotsΓÇÖ in air conditioned bunkers far from the battlefield can kill a few enemy fighters and then go home to their families, remote from the human consequences of their actions or the anguish of associated civilian casualties.

Nevertheless, Ko Colijn, a security expert at the prestigious Clingendael Institute, says that the technology is here to stay. ΓÇ£In a way the Americans reached a turning point in 2009, 2010. They trained more screen pilots than pilots physically inside an aircraft. And they purchased more unmanned planes than manned ones, which is not surprising since theyΓÇÖre much cheaper,ΓÇ¥ he says.  

However the Americans are not the only ones using drones. More than 40 countries are believed to be working with unmanned aircraft and even Iran claims to be developing its own version ΓÇô perhaps based on a captured US spy drone it downed last year and then proudly displayed to the media.

Nor are the current crop of unmanned military aircraft the only manifestation of this disturbing new trend. Already in production are aerial drones that can independently acquire and attack targets or work together in swarms over hostile territory and earthbound battlefield drones that can either accompany ground troops or be sent alone into especially dangerous areas. Some commentators fear it all adds up to a new tech-driven arms race.

The use of drones is becoming more widespread in civilian circles too ΓÇô not least as a key law and order tool in the fight against crime. In June this year, for example, police in the British city of Manchester used one to track down a suspected car thief; in the Netherlands an arsonist was caught after being identified on a drone camera. 

But the technology also gives rise to worrying questions about snooping and invasion of privacy ΓÇô and not merely because of the actions of government. With private companies in the US and Europe now developing cheap aerial drones that can be controlled with the kind of software used in smart phones
(edits)

This film, from Dutch filmmakers Vincent Verweij, and Fred Sengers and, looks at the development and use of these extraordinary machines and ask where their use might lead.  

(People and Power, original broadcast on Katholieke Radio Omroep,
some subtitles)


Source: http://www.aljazeera.com/programmes/peopleandpower/2012/07/201271872041648814.html

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