Just Another War Game on the Net

By Paul Balles for the Gulf Daily News.

Relatively little has appeared in the mainstream media about recent drone warfare.


However, on November 1 Bill Moyers introduced a new documentary by Robert Greenwald called Unmanned America's Drone Wars.

This week, Moyers reported: "Members of Congress heard testimony for the first time from victims of drone attacks, including that of 13-year-old Zubair Rehman, from Pakistan, who spoke of a strike last year that killed his grandmother and wounded him and his little sister."

Only five members of Congress showed up for the testimony.

I couldn't believe my eyes: Only five members of the US Congress showed up for testimony by a family who travelled all the way from Pakistan to report on American misuse of drones.

The use of drones has intensified under President Barack Obama's leadership as the number of troops on the ground in Afghanistan and the Pakistani tribal areas has been scaled back.

The drones often kill innocent civilians and 178 children have died in drone attacks.

Adding to the interest of the mainstream media has been the assassination on November 1 of Hakimulla Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban, who was accused of being "responsible for numerous terror attacks".

Azam Tariq, a Pakistani Taliban spokesman, vowed: "Every drop of Hakimullah's blood will turn into a suicide bomber.

"America and their friends shouldn't be happy because we will take revenge for our martyr's blood."

The Guardian's Datablog on Monday identifies 56 different types of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) used in 11 different countries.

"Where it can calculate actual stocks, this covers 807 drones in active service around the world - and this is a huge underestimate: Number data is not available for China, Turkey and Russia," it said.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism keeps the most complete record of the human toll of US drone operations in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia.

The Bureau reports that at least 3,000 were killed by US drone strikes in those three countries in the past decade, including at least around 400 civilians or those not suspected to have any connection to terrorism.

There's more to the growing public interest in drones than their use to win battles against Al Qaeda or Taliban leaders.

Despite being half a world away from their targets, to pilots it all feels very real.

It also feels very real to people living in areas where drone attacks have taken place.

How many more drone attacks that kill civilians will it take for families or friends to support revenge attacks?

However, none of this speaks to the potential for drones - other than civilian casualties - and the use of drones to save the lives of pilots.

The US administration has been struggling with the future for Guantanamo and President Obama has undoubtedly found that he could finish two birds with a single assassinating stone rather than imprisoning more enemy combatants.

Another concern about drone warfare should focus on the negative effects of Internet war games.

To the players, drone warfare is just another game.

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