Extraordinary Edition piece by Collin on the First of May, 2010
It is the first of May, International Workers' Day, and I am trying to get my head around the U.S. situation in Pakistan. Which renders IWD of little difference from other days on the calendar where my preoccupations are concerned. Yet, aside from being overwhelmed as usual and unsure where to start, I do have something new to share with you which won't make much sense at first and probably hasn't much to do with the significance of May 1, International Workers' Day except that I have to leave for work and probably should have made a bid to get the day off so I could more clearly elaborate in these pages.
My question today is this. Who is General Atomics Aeronautical Systems?
And I mean aside from being a U.S. corporation led up by a charmain and CEO decorated in the business community, Neal Blue. His Vice Chairman is Linden S. Blue, which might give the impression General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is a family business of sorts. This notion is easier to gather than what's meant by, "Leading the Situational Awareness Revolution," which is boasted on the GA-ASI company web site.
The following are two defense industry accolades proudly listed on the company site:
LEAD San Diego 2009 Visionary Awards, Economic Opportunity, presented to Neal Blue, Chairman & CEO of GA-ASI, and Linden S. Blue, Vice Chairman of General Atomics
CONNECT Entrepreneur 2009 Hall of Fame Inductee, presented to Neal Blue, Chairman & CEO of GA-ASI, and Linden S. Blue, Vice Chairman of General Atomics
General Atomics Aeronautical Systems makes its home at an airfield situated between Palmdale and Lancaster, California, in a desert setting outside San Diego.
If you don't know already, GA-ASI is the patent-holder manufacturer of the unmanned aerial vehicles General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper, or Predator B, and the MQ-1 Predator. The US Air Force classifies these aerial weapons, armed with optics, camera, transmitter for the video signal and oftentimes missles or bombs, as Medium Altitude Long Endurance or MALE.
These accounts, previously linked or listed in these pages, show some of the recent reports of the capabilities and applications of the proud fleet produced and distributed by the good people of San Diego, Palmdale and Lancaster.
"I was in Damadola when the drones came. They killed more than 80 teenagers – all students – and, yes they were learning the Koran, and the madrasah, the Islamic school, was run by a Taliban commander. But 80! Many of them came from Bajaur, which would be attacked later. Their parents came afterwards, all their mothers were there, but the bodies were in pieces. There were so many children, some as young as 12. We didn't know how to fit them together." This statement was taken by British journalist Robert Fisk from a Pakistani journalist who was forced to speak under condition of anonymity because he, like so many in Pakistan living in dangerous surroundings, has no immediate plan to change occupations.
Alex Rodriguez and David Zucchino of the Los Angeles Times wrote May 2 from Pakistan, "Their whir is unmistakable, a buzzing hum that prompts the tribespeople of Waziristan to refer to the fleet of armed U.S. drone aircraft hovering overhead as machay, or wasps. The Khan family never heard it. They had been sleeping for an hour when a Hellfire missile pierced their mud hut on an August night in 2008. Black smoke and dust choked villagers as they dug through the rubble. Four-year-old Zeerak's legs were severed. His sister Maria, 3, was badly scorched. Both were dead. When their cousin Irfan, 16, saw them, he gently curled them into his arms, squeezed the rumpled bodies to his chest, lightly kissed their faces, and slid into a stupor."
In his piece, Fisk learns the drone operator technique of returning to the scene to attack rescuers, a tactic reminiscent of the horrific fire bombing of Dresden by Allied planes in WWII. "They killed 14 men in just one night last month, at Datta Khel in north Waziristan. The drones come in flocks, and five of them settled over the village, firing a missile each at a pick-up truck, splitting it in two and dismembering six men aboard. When local residents as well as Taliban arrived to help the wounded, the drones attacked again, killing all eight of them. The drones usually return to shoot at the rescuers. It's a policy started by the Israeli air force over Beirut during the 1982 siege: bomb now, come back 12 minutes later for a second shot. Now Waziristan villagers wait up to half an hour – listening to the shrieks and howls of the dying – before they try to help the wounded."
Fisk praises journalist Amir Mir for his work in Pakistan. Mir reported April 10 for Pakistani news site The International News, "Of the 60 cross-border predator strikes carried out by the Afghanistan-based American drones in Pakistan between January 14, 2006 and April 8, 2009, only 10 were able to hit their actual targets, killing 14 wanted al-Qaeda leaders, besides perishing 687 innocent Pakistani civilians."
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a law suit merely to provide an inquiry into the numbers and details involving civilian casualties. Democracy Now reported March 17, "The lawsuit seeks details under the Freedom of Information Act on the circumstances under which drone attacks are authorized as well as the number and rate of civilian casualties. The ACLU first filed its request in January but says the government simply refused to respond. Jonathan Manes of the ACLU’s National Security Project said: 'The public has a right to know whether the targeted killings being carried out in its name are consistent with international law and with the country’s interests and values.'
In short, I think people who live in the United States should be asking themselves who exactly General Atomics Aeronautical Systems is and what it does. Who are its friends? What kinds of tax subsidy does GA-ASI receive? Who holds its corporate charter and can it be revoked? Does GA-ASI have any records of what's happened in the reports above and do its officers and shareholders ever think about these issues? Can the issue of civilian deaths be more important than job creation, successful business ventures and relationships with powerful people in industry and government?
By answering these questions, we stand to learn a great deal. I have to leave for work now.
Warfare continues to become more professional and dehumanized every day.
The purpose of Extraordinary Edition is being revisited for winter, headed into 2013. U.S. foreign policy, Central Asia and the Middle East remain key focal points. Economics and culture on your front doorstep are coming into focus here.