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Matt Southworth | Truth Out

Since the US economy is the main issue on the minds of voters this election season, let’s talk about Unmanned Arial Vehicles strikes – drones strikes – in economic terms.

The use of drones for strikes in places like Yemen and Pakistan seems, to many, a justifiable short term investment. It’s less expensive in dollars than Special Forces operations or a full scale deployment and almost all of the human cost – on the US side – is removed. However, this is a very poor, shortsighted investment with huge longer term risk. The likely long term outcome will be great US losses, and, riskiest of all, moral bankruptcy.

The US is hedging its bet on this one by assuming we can kill more extremists than the policy of killing “them” will create. Alarmingly, this increasingly seems to be a policy of choice, as articles appearing in the Wall Street JournalNew York Timesand Washington Post in recent weeks indicate.

The CIA is intent on expanding its own fleet of – and use of – drones. The White House seems more than content overseeing these assassination operations, even of US citizens. Given both Gov. Romney and President Obama’s emphatic support for drones expressed during the third Presidential debate, the policy is unlikely to change even if the administration does. Congress, by and large, seems just fine turning a blind-eye in the name of National Security, a term itself frequently left undefined. The public, save for a few groups like mine, also seem content as long as these operations reduce the use of US troops and treasure.

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Hugh Gusterson | Truthout

I kept finding myself thinking about the lunchbox.

I was at the all-day Drone Summit in Washington DC organized by Codepink, the antiwar group whose mostly female members are famous for putting on theatrical protests while wearing bold pink. I spent the day listening to human rights activists talking about civilians killed by US drone strikes, lawyers who complained that the strikes violated international law, and scientists worried that the United States is on the brink of automating the use of lethal force by drones and killer robots.

And I kept thinking about the lunchbox.

The lunchbox belonged to a schoolgirl in Hiroshima. Her body was never found, but the rice and peas in her lunchbox were carbonized by the atomic bomb. The lunchbox, turned into an exhibition piece, became, in the words of historian Peter Stearns, “an intensely human atomic bomb icon.” The Smithsonian museum’s plans to exhibit the lunchbox as part of its 1995 exhibit for the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II enraged military veterans and conservative pundits, who eventually forced the exhibit’s cancellation.

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Predator aerial vehicles at General Atomics, a defense contractor, in Poway, California, March 13, 2009. (Photo: Jim Wilson / The New York Times)

Tom Barry | Truthout

When I spoke with Shahzad Akbar recently, he reflected on the objectives of the upcoming first international drone summit in Washington DC, and on his concerns about drone operations in South Asia and the Middle East.

Shahzad Akbar can no longer travel to the United States.

Akbar is a Pakistani lawyer who founded the human rights organization Foundation for Fundamental Rights in 2010 and represents the family members of noncombatant victims of US drone strikes.

Columbia University invited Akbar to speak at a law school forum in May 2011, but he couldn’t get a visa, even though he has been to the United States multiple times and used to work as a consultant for US agencies.

Akbar is scheduled to speak at the upcoming first international drone summit in Washington DC, on April 28 and 29. The State Department, however, says that there is a problem getting the necessary authorization from the “Homeland Security structure.”

Given that Akbar wants to talk about the CIA’s clandestine drone operations and the military’s Joint Operations Intelligence Centers (JOIC), keeping him out of the United States and far away from the US public and the US media might seem to make good sense from the point of view of the Obama administration.

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