Thursday, 12 January 2012

Predator Drones on Western Canada's Southern Border

by John W. Warnock
Act Up in Saskatchewan
January 9, 2011

Last week the U.S. government announced that the ninth Predator Drone will be deployed protecting the borders of the United States against the infiltration of terrorists, criminals, drug traffickers and economic refugees. Six of these unmanned attack aircraft are based in Arizona and Texas and operate along the border with Mexico. The other three operate along the northern border, between Minneapolis and Seattle. They are stationed at the Grand Forks, ND U.S. Air Force base. When the program of U.S. government monitoring the “undefended border” began it had the full support of the Harper government.

The Predator drones operate high in the sky and cannot be seen or heard from the ground. They are active far from the bases where they are stationed and directed. They can monitor individuals well across the border into Canada. The U.S. government insists that so far they have not been armed with missiles.

President Obama’s favourite weapon
President Barrack Obama’s first act as President was to authorize the regular use of U.S. Predator drones within the borders of Pakistan. Attacks in that country rose from special cases of one or two a year to 33 in 2008, 53 in 2009, and 118 in 2010. Most recently, President Obama directly ordered the CIA to use a missile from a Predator drone to assassinate Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen, who was in Yemen supporting radical Muslims who oppose U.S. military presence in the Middle East.

In the Iraq and Afghan wars, the U.S. government has widely used the drones to launch missile attacks on individuals and groups who opposed the U.S. war. Often these were missile attacks on the houses where the suspects were assumed to be living. The U.S. government and its NATO allies have played down the deaths of innocent civilians. However, at the local level protest demonstrations have been the norm.

Drone attacks have been widely used in the war inside the borders of Afghanistan. In one case a brother of President Hamid Karzai was killed by a U.S. drone missile attack. The Afghan government has demanded that these attacks cease, but they have not.

In Pakistan the Human Rights Commission conducted an on-the-ground investigation of drone attacks in 2010. They investigated 111 attacks which resulted in the reported deaths of 957 civilians. The Conflict Monitoring Centre in Islamabad, which follows local news reports of drone attacks, reported 134 strikes in 2010 which resulted in over 900 civilians killed. The U.S. government denies these claims and insists that virtually no civilians were killed. With the development of new smaller drones and missiles, the Obama administration argues that they have given up the practice of launching attacks on the homes of suspects.

Support for the surveillance state
Last December it was reported that a sheriff in North Dakota called on the U.S. Air Force to use one of the Predator drones to help in the arrest of an anti-government farm family. Three of a neighbour’s cows and their calves wandered onto the Brossart’s farm, and they refused to return them. The local sheriff and his deputies were hesitant to move on to the farm as the Brossart’s were known to be heavily armed. The drones were used to follow the movements of the members of the Brossart family during the resulting 16-hour standoff. Eventually the Brossarts put down their weapons and surrendered to the sheriff without firing a shot. But this event has now been cited as the precedent for the use of the drones within the United States in support of local police authority in actions against its own citizens.

For more information on the use of drones for the assassination of “suspects” see Voices for Creative Non Violence, which leads the movement in the United States to have the weapons system banned. []

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