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The drone, symbol and engine of unequal power relations in the world

  • They're able to do the best and the worst as every human invention. Unfortunately, however, the drone is, above all, one of the main instruments for the Western capitalist powers to continue to dominate the majority of the world. Beyond technological loopholes, it's a key piece to understanding the world we live in and geopolitics. The Cold War suffered a fetish atomic bomb and threat. Well, the 21st century is the drone. Let's look at the creation, use and future of these semi-autonomous planes, unpunished champions of homicides.
Argazkia: Reuters

Zemari Ahmadi worked as a cooperator at the American NGO Nutrition and Education International in California. On August 29, 2021 he loaded the car with water bottles to take it to the airport. A drone spies on him. At 16:50, Ahmadi stayed at home. Thousands of kilometers later, in the United States, the soldier in charge of studying and acting accordingly on the drone images “mixed” the water drums with explosives and Ahmadi with a member of the Islamic State. A few seconds later, the Reaper MQ-9 drone launched a Hellfire missile. Among scrap and waste remained the remains of the cooperator and nine family members, including seven children. It was the last mission launched in Afghanistan, just before the occupying army finally retired from the country (physically), which was held the following day.

This well-known case is an example of the immission of military intelligence, but what happened after the murder is even more significant. The following month, in September, the head of the US Army Central Command, General Kenneth McKenzie, assumed responsibility for the killings. In October, the Pentagon offered the families of the victims undetermined financial compensation. And in December, following the recommendation of McKenzie, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, announced that they were not going to take any disciplinary action against anyone for that drone attack.

That is, the murder of the "Third World" people promised from the "First World" was indiscriminate. It's no exception, it's just one of thousands of similar cases, and although they're well-documented and videotaped, the authors haven't even passed before the judge. It's a good mirror to understand the order of war and geopolitics of the 21st century. In this world order, anyone can be eliminated to their liking as “preventive action” in the name of the “war on terrorism”. It's the time of death based on metadata, algorithms, signal analysis, and criminally designed patterns, symbolizing the drone.

Maintenance of a MQ-9 Reaper drone at the US military base Creech. Photo: American Air Force

For drones, there are no limits, not physical, not moral, not justice. This over-law military strategy was presented by its main protector, the United States Government, as the end of conventional wars. It would minimize civilian casualties, believing it was an instrument of "great precision," making war more "ethical." After two decades, the drone has become a hunting weapon. Its main achievements are endless conflicts, constant insecurity and the worldwide spread of innocent blood.

The "drone war" has been exploited, driven and exported by all the administrations of the imperialist center of the world (Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden). Most operations have taken place outside international law and the basic rules of war, have gone unpunished and have resulted in destruction, frustration and an intense desire for revenge, difficult to eliminate for decades. The "war on terrorism" bombards citizens to provoke mass casualties and demoralize the "enemy", but its main mission is to bridge the gap between "before" and "third parties", perpetuate the supremacist border between those who command and those who die.

The drone causes fascination and terror to the same extent because of the undeniable advantage it offers those who can acquire their ability to kill. As has happened in all military technological advances in history, the old distinction between those who have an atomic bomb and those who do not have it remains very valid, the population, the majority, who do not have access to this technology, faces a greater threat.

As Enric Luján, professor and political science politician of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, says in his book Drones, shadows of the war on terror (Drones, the shadows of the war on terror, Editorial Virus, 2015), the drone must be understood as a set of social relations, framed in systematic violence and the secret war spread in the Third World. On these pages we will try to uncover the use, contradictions and most significant consequences of drones in almost a quarter of a century.

Drones in China coordinated for fumigations. Photo: Getty Images

Empty robots with wings? The drone is a remotely controlled vehicle, terrestrial, aquatic or flying. The best known version is the unmanned aircraft. There are several, some of them a few centimeters and others can reach a flight length of more than 20 meters. Drone means “erlemando” in English and refers to the buzz of the insect when the drone flies, to a very low noise, compared to the permanent monotone, similar to the one produced by the engine. Sound that
become synonymous with terror in different parts of the world.

The air drone is, at first sight, a high-tech metal apparatus created to cross the skies without crew. These devices are only improved versions of old remote aircraft. It highlights the combination of new technologies such as geolocation and simultaneous data transmission.

The “global war on terrorism” has become the norm that can be described as exceptional: selective killings without judicial control

They have quickly integrated into our daily lives and into areas far from public life, because of the many possibilities they offer. Drones are behind many of the spectacular planes we enjoy in the movies, they are the keepers of zoo animals, they “protect” emblematic buildings with graffiti firms, they monitor mountains and forests to prevent and extinguish fires, they oversee important works, they help improve cultivation cycles, prevent pests and plan future sows, they age selfies for Instagram and, and over and above the borders of hunting. That same tool that the pizza will soon bring home – Amazon has announced that drone distribution will reach Europe by the end of 2024 – is much more than a winged robot.

The use of drones is very limited by the civilian population, limited to uninhabited areas or requires prior and special authority authorisation. Its military use knows no borders. Today, drone is one of the major instruments of exploration, jealousy and destruction across the planet, but above all drone has revolutionized the forms of control and dominance that we live today.

Not few consider themselves "small evils". That is, they affirm that it is an effective tool if used "humanely", differentiating the military objective from collateral damage. But, according to social sciences doctor Sonia Arribas, the drone is above all the smallest part of the imperialist war and must be criticized in its entirety.

The source: Everything is terrorism between 2009 and
2011 Leon Panetta, director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), said the "rebel campaigns" – targeted drone killings – were the only game in town ("an opportunity") to ensure the security of the United States. His words confirm that each type of weaponry feeds a concrete concept of war. In this case, Panetta thought of the well-known "global war on terror."

This "global war" has become the norm which in its day could be described as exceptional: selective killings without judicial control. The world's first drone program has been American, which has marked the path that other countries, like Israel, have copied. These programmes have institutionalised the murders of state responsibility: they draw up lists of objectives, classify them according to the level of threat and, finally, implement them by offering a complete legal bureaucracy.

Following the attacks of 11 September 2001, President George Bush stated that the new form of war required "international human hunting". This new form of imperialism needed to justify the creation of an unlimited and adaptable subject: the terrorist. The so-called “war on terrorism” was launched by a mentalist hunter and a terrorist without humanity.

This transition from conventional war to drone war accelerated even further after the failure of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. They showed that this change would be "more humane": because of the "low" number of casualties it causes compared to conventional war. In fact, the most modest statistics indicate that 650,000 Iraqis were killed by the United States during the Iraq War. Former CIA Director and General of the Iraq War, David Petraeus, David Kilcull’s “counter-terrorism” expert, said at the US Congress that the proportion of victims in the Iraq War was the proportion of victims for every 50 civilian combatants. And he added that this proportion was not a sustainable process, but generated even more violence zuelako.AEBetako the military budget, which was higher than the sum of the budgets of the dozens of nations followed by the list of higher defensive expenses, doubled in the first decade of the twentieth century. And at the same time, military drones began an era after the presumption of innocence, a guarantee of the person in the face of state injustices. In this process of global influence, the responsibility of one person, Barack Obama, has prevailed.

With the experiences of Yes,
we drone Afghanistan and Iraq, the Democratic Party understood that new conflicts should be raised in a different way, if it wanted to anesthetize the society mobilized against the war. Wars marked with the stamp of global imperialism, even more justified by weak arguments such as the possession of weapons of mass destruction, led to opposition in much of society. So how can we enter into new conflicts without abandoning the militaristic race and the struggle of global hegemony? The answer gave it a weapon that allows us not to perceive the reality of violence in spaces of power: the drone.

In the drone war, only a small part of the population of the imperialist countries is involved: pilots. This makes it difficult to create genuine political opposition to this war. That is why the American drone program is one of the most secret in the world and is also led by the CIA and not by the army, to make judicial protection of any kind even more difficult. This change of vision was perfectly adapted to Obama's "Yes, we can."

Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, claiming, among other things, that "for preferring dialogue and negotiation as a tool to resolve the most difficult international conflicts". Photo: Reuters

Obama presented himself as a candidate to close the Guantanamo military base. And besides not complying with the word, it further expanded Guantanamo's "political exception." His predecessor, George Bush, arrested nearly a thousand "suspected terrorists" around the world, took them to Cuba, tortured them and subjected them to endless trials. This is a rather dirty process and, above all, it has a bad press. The obama was faster and fine-tuned Bush's policy. Running the "suspects" through a drone was easier and more politically actionable. Very simple, just write their names in lists made by the famous Terror Tuesdays. Every Tuesday, dozens of members of the national security apparatus met through videoconference under Obama's leadership. They formed the Kill List, the list they had to run. Like the best genocides, every Tuesday, Barack Obama signed orders to kill people who didn't even know who they were. Only in this way is it understood that hardly anyone was arrested for terrorism during the years of his government. By way of example, during the first six months of 2011, 145 drones were attacked against the Muammar al Kadafi regime, when the Obama administration publicly denied the existence of a war against Libya. Murder yes, war no.

The first black president of the United States also made the term Signature strikes famous. That is, to order the execution of people, since their behavior is quite similar to that of “terrorist conduct”. In other words, killing people according to data and patterns: behavior, origin, family and friends, etc. As a result, Obama described as terrorist and therefore executable almost every man over the age of 16 in Afghanistan and several regions of Pakistan. In 2015, the journal The Intercept, through the study The Drone Papers, obtained the classified documents describing the actions of the American army in Afghanistan from January 2012 to February 2013. According to this data, 200 people were killed via drones, of which only 35 were military targets. That is, 82.5% were "not wanted" victims, but all of the officially killed in these attacks were presented by the US Government as "dead enemies in the fight."

This is the same “work” that the secret agents of the CIA or Mossad used to do for the world, but thanks to drones, this killer capacity has been simplified and naturalized exponentially. At the beginning of the 21st century the invisible threat of drone became the main weapon to continue to impose the old fantasies of white hegemony in the United States and continue to wage a war for peace.

Obama described nearly every man over the age of 16 as a terrorist and therefore executable in Afghanistan and several regions of Pakistan.

With the selective murder programme, Guantanamo was taken everywhere and the right to the presumption of innocence was increasingly reduced. This trend has expanded further in recent years in the field of telecommunications and privacy. Mass espionage programmes daily rob huge amounts of personal data from the entire world population. They are part of the same “anti-rebels” strategy, which eliminates the right not to be accused or accused arbitrarily.

"I'm very good at killing myself, I didn't know it was going to be one of my strengths," said Osama bin Laden Pakistan, Nobel Peace Prize.

The chain has not stopped when Donald
Trump came to power in 2017, there were no
major changes. Trump maintained the line of the Dronese program inherited from Obama. It gave the CIA more capacity to extend drone strikes to more nations, such as Libya, Somalia and Yemen. In the months following Trump’s takeover, the frequency of drone strikes in EE.UU. increased by 432%, one attack every 1.25 days, an average 5.4 with Obama. However, in the global count there were fewer attacks during Trump’s mandate than with Obama. According to the Brown University Institute of International Affairs, Watson, between 2018 and 2021, Yankis drones performed counterterrorism operations in 85 countries.

According to the May 2023 report, The Costs of War, of the same institute, the number of deaths in war areas, including Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, on or after 9/11/2001, may be at least four and a half million people, although the exact number of deaths is still unknown. The report highlights that many people have been killed in the bombings, but many others, especially children, have died from the aftermath of the war, such as the spread of diseases.

In Pakistan in 2014, a group of international artists made a giant installation, when the camera of an American drone approaches it, to "make the driver understand" that he was not killing insects, but humans. Photo of
a girl who lost her parents and two siblings in a drone strike.

After Trump, Joe was in command in Bide. Second Vice President of Obama in eight years of office plagued by mass selective killings. It was Biden who authorized the attack in Kabul that we explained at the beginning of this report. In public consultation following the withdrawal of Afghan troops, Biden promised to "hunt" terrorists with distant drone and missile attacks. However, with Biden there has been no drone war, but "occasional attacks." The geopolitical situation has changed and the behavior in the US has changed too. In addition to the manifest aggressiveness against China and its allies, Biden’s mandate is characterized by its direct responsibility and participation in some wars and genocides, led by Ukraine and Palestine. Two bodies where drones are also a fundamental piece.

The "accomplishment" of the Bush, Obama, Trump and Biden governments has not only been to extend their killer power to any part of the world. Thanks to their journey, dozens of countries today have armed drones. Between 2001 and 2015, only the US, Israel and the UK carried out drone strikes. From summer 2014 to summer 2019, 14,570 international coalition drones were attacked in Iraq and 19,785 in Syria. An estimated 13,000 civilians were killed, of whom 2,300 were children.

Today, some forty nations have or are in the process of getting armed drones. The list grows rapidly. One of the last to join this club was the Kingdom of Spain. In November 2015, the Cabinet of Ministers of Mariano Rajoy approved the acquisition of four Reaper MQ-9 drones and two remote control mobile stations. But they said that to alleviate the criticisms they would never arm. Pedro Sánchez’s coalition government has not had complexes and in early 2023 gave the green light to add weapons to these drones.

The armed reaction of the Western drone bombings must be taken into account. For Bera, Iran produces drones on a massive scale. Some of them are capable of flying over 1,500 km, and many armed groups dute.Matxino also use drones to hit on a perimeter of between 10 and 100 meters. Of course, some are more sophisticated, such as the Iranians Shahed. On 13 April, in Iran’s first offensive against Israeli territory, it launched about 300 missiles and drones, including those of the model Shahon 136. The voids in Yemen are also being used against ships heading to Israel. Others have "homemade" drones, like those used by the Palestinian armed resistance on October 7. The attack began when small drones abolished the defenses and surveillance posts of the Gaza Wall. Following the "glare" of the Zionist defenses, the wall was torn down and armed militants were able to enter several Kibbutzias near Gaza to kill or kidnap hundreds of Israelis.

The First Drone War Today it is common to read news about attacks and murders with drones. After more than two decades of expansion and naturalization of drone use, the Ukrainian war has marked another milestone: it is the first time that the two conflicting parties use drones in such a massive and strategic way. From the beginning. During the early days of the Ukrainian invasion, Ukrainian forces mainly responded with drones to the large rows of Russian tanks that left for Kiev. They managed
to slow down the progress of Russian forces.

The famous high-tech American drones, such as the Predator, Reaper or Eagle models, costing between 20 and 30 million dollars, are not located in Ukraine. The other large unmanned aircraft, such as the Turkish Bayraktar TB2 or the Russian Orion, are playing an important role in the war, but commercial drones, which are everywhere on the front lines of war, have actually made a difference.

These are small drones that can be controlled with a simple mobile phone. From about EUR 500 you can get an apparatus with a 4K high definition camera and a flight autonomy of 40 minutes. Weighing less than 250 grams, they transmit the video 10 kilometres away and reach 60 kilometres per hour. And these are just the simplest models. It has turned its low prices into almost disposable weapons, and since the beginning of the war its use has only grown.

This tool, created to extract a selfie from the beach, becomes essential to get information about the area controlled by the enemy. Its most frequent use is recognition, as they are small, highly mobile and, above all, silent. They're able to send very useful information, like the exact location of a military target, and then artillery attack. Some models include thermal cameras.

A commercial drone adapted for war.

There are many brands, but in the last decade the Chinese multinational DJI has developed this market the most. For these companies, the transformation of their drones into war weapons for leisure has been a real economic pagotxa. Sales have increased exponentially, although linking the brand to violence and murder can be detrimental in the long term.

These drones are equipped with a GPS, so they can be programmed to fly in certain parts of the world. The DJI promised this during the Syrian War, and it set its drones almost an exclusion zone in Iraq and throughout Syria. In April 2022, the DJI decided to stop selling its drones in Ukraine and Russia, "to ensure that no one uses them in the fight," assuming the "supposed" position of its government: not align in favor of anyone. But it is a banal measure, as they can be bought from other countries and sent to Ukraine or Russia. For its lightweight and small size, it is easy to transport large quantities.

Ukraine has an advantage. Drones are "cheap," yes, but only for First World misnamed drones. So these drones are abundant in Western Europe and the United States, Ukraine's main allies in this war. And so the Ukrainian army collects drones from these countries, through public campaigns, citizens are asked for money to buy massive cheap drones and then send them to war. They buy in any country of the European Union, send them on trailers to Ukraine and adapt them for war. For this, of course, prior training is necessary. In Ukraine, since the beginning of the war on Donbass in 2014, groups have been working particularly hard on this task. The best known is Aerorozvidka. Nathan Khazin is a group created by former Israeli rabbi and military Ukrainar, who also participated in the creation of the Azov fascist battalion.

Smaller drones cannot be used as weapons and, as I say, are used for recognition. Models of more than half a kilo are adapted to transport small explosives or grenades, causing explosions in turrets or tank trenches. These pomegranates can also be "homemade". To lower their weight, they are primed with 3D printers and then the explosive is introduced.

These commercial drones can also be used as trucks. There are also voluntary groups in Ukraine. Some equipment cuts carbon fiber with laser to make drone trucks capable of throwing 1.5 kg explosives. They are called UAV-7 and their price is about $2,000 each, including their control console.

Photo: Getty Images

The army's own organization has also been transformed. A group of attacks from Ukraine consists of 12-16 soldiers, with which today almost the same number of drone operators go. Despite the fact that aerial drones are the most common unmanned weapon in Ukraine, Ukrainians have also used truck boats to attack Russians in the Black Sea, where Ukraine does not have much maritime force.

The duration of these small drones is very small. There are publications where the average is three flights. In electronic war, they are the vitamins of countermeasures. They interrupt the communication between the drone and the pilot, causing them to fall to the ground leaving the apparatus unused. But because they are cheap and plentiful, their loss is acceptable. According to a report by the Royal United Services' think tank on security and defence, Ukraine loses about 10,000 drones each month, mostly commercial or domestic.

Ukraine has developed its own drone industry and is one of the largest drone production centers in the world. According to Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Digital Transformation, Alex Bornyakov, the country already has over 300 companies that in 2024 will produce more than one million drone trucks. Ukraine is a wonderful proof for the products of the arms companies, where the number of foreign companies is enormous.

The future automaton is experiencing the dronephication of state violence. The fascination of the military world with
drones and robots is evident, but we only have to go through its major journals. All the publications that think about the current and future war place the drone at the heart of this goal.

The future that opens up to us will be an improvement in the accuracy of the drone, but above all its complete automation. In other words, the drone will be able to work autonomously, without anyone having to confirm or annul its action, including attacks. In this way, algorithms would determine what is a "threat" or who is an "enemy" and, therefore, whether shot or not. They call it a soldier who does not sleep, who is not hungry, who maintains extreme weather -- these kinds of indigenous weapons have tried to impose the international ban on several occasions, but all attempts have been blocked by the US, the UK, China, Russia, Israel and Turkey mainly.

Weapons operating autonomously or semi-autonomously have already been developed and used in cases like drones, boats, drone sets, submarines, laser weapons -- in the Gaza genocide, the Israeli media +972 and Local Call, the Zionist army is using an artificial intelligence program called Lavender to identify the targets to be bombed. This system identifies the “acceptable number” of civilian victims in each of the bombings it suggests. In 2022, Israel installed robotic weapons in the Al-Aroube refugee camp in the West Bank. It is a kind of cannons surrounded by cameras and remotely controlled, designed to release tear gas, paralyzing grenade and sponge tip bullets. And of course, Israel's most well-known missile system, and probably the world, the Iron Dome, automatically throws rockets.

Lancet Russian drone created by business group Kalashnikov.

Boris Johnson Government Defense Secretary Ben Wallace suggested that by 2040 90% of the UK's air forces will be unmanned drones, forcing the army to remove other armaments such as tanks. Kremlin has said that his famous Lancet drone, widely used in Ukraine, is capable of working autonomously, but they have not clarified whether it has ever worked like that. The US government announced in February 2022 that it would strengthen surveillance patrols at the Mexican border with the Vision 60 dog robot. The U.S. Navy has a fleet of autonomous drones for surveillance and early warning in the Strait of Ormuze between Iran and Oma. In November 2020, the U.S. Navy simulated an attack of a thousand small drones of fifteen centimeters. Without going any further, we can see coordination between hundreds of small drones in some drone shows that create moving images with lights at night.

In the future, drone algorithms might decide what is
“threat” and what “enemy”

On January 15, 2024, the world's largest artificial intelligence company (AI), OpenIA, announced that they will no longer ban the use of the chatGPT program and its tools in the military area. The announcement was made immediately after working with the United States Department of Defense. Anna Makanjo, company spokesman and former Obama advisor, justified the decision citing reasons for national security and insisted that they have allowed the "military use" of the AA but not the production of weapons.

But in the book by Enric Luján that we mentioned at the beginning of this report, it is emphasized that the improvement of automated aircraft is not irrelevant. The fundamental political issue remains the same: selective murder is becoming increasingly frequent in order to rationalize the undeclared war against the world’s excluded.

Many organisations, such as Amnesty International and pacifist organisations, question the legality and ethical justification of the use of military drones and, even more, automated ones. But is there a fair way to wage war? Concerns about the "ethics" of automation or its adaptation to international legislation are, in short, debates about the regulation and improvement of killing algorithms. As Luján says, talking about “unfair uses” of imperialist barbarity implies legitimizing barbarism itself, although adapted to certain rules. International humanitarian law has never wanted to end the war, but to regulate and adapt the war of armies, says Israeli architecture professor Eyal Weizman in one of his works on human rights violations in relation to West Bank urbanism.

A mural in Sana, the capital of Yemen, to denounce attacks by American unmanned planes in Yemen: "Why have you killed my family?" Photo: K. Abdullah - Reuters

So it's not about seeing if there will be smart weapons. The story of the smart man is soaked with blood from start to finish and almost everything has been poured out without a robot. If the killer robot is profitable, if it gives money, there will be killer robots, as already mentioned in the report they have produced in the number 99 of La Marea magazine. It will be as simple as that. At least until he is able to project a future without capitalism or imperialism.

Enric Luján stresses the need to politicize the drone and all technological inventions created for the control and imperialist murder. "The current climate of undeclared war must be deregulated, as well as the ‘preventive doctrine’ based on selective state killings and on shoot to kill."

Drone missiles have not created a peaceful country, they have not defeated “enemies” or prevented the deaths of innocent people. They have only increased fear and hatred, and increased mass exodus of people and poverty. If we don't fix it, in the near future, the privileged whites of the First World will bring us the purchase of Amazon to the front door, and those who protest and complain will be spied by the drones. For the rest of the world, the dark-skinned marginalized, drones will continue to bring the death of the sky.

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