Sunday, January 31, 2010

Thousands protest in Tokyo against U.S. military presence in Japan



Monday, Feb 01 2010

Thousands protest in Tokyo against U.S. military presence in Japan

By Daily Mail Reporter
Last updated at 4:09 PM on 30th January 2010

Thousands of protesters from across Japan marched today in Tokyo to protest against U.S. military presence on Okinawa, while a Cabinet minister said she would fight to get rid of a marine base Washington considers crucial.

Some 47,000 U.S. troops are stationed in Japan, with more than half on the southern island of Okinawa.

Residents have complained for years about noise, pollution and crime around the bases.

Japan and the U.S. signed a pact in 2006 that called for the realignment of American troops in the country and for a Marine base on the island to be moved to a less populated area.

Enlarge   Tokyo protest

Protest: Some 6,000 people gathered at a rally in Tokyo calling for the withdrawal of U.S. Marine base stationed on the Japanese island of Okinawa

But the new Tokyo government is re-examining the deal, caught between public opposition to American troops and its crucial military alliance with Washington.

On Saturday, labor unionists, pacifists, environmentalists and students marched through central Tokyo, yelling slogans and calling for an end to the U.S. troop presence.

They gathered for a rally at a park - under a banner that read 'Change! Japan-U.S. Relations' - for speeches by civil leaders and politicians.

Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has repeatedly postponed his decision on the pact, with members of his own government divided on how to proceed.

Last week he pledged to resolve the conundrum by May, just before national elections.

'The Cabinet is saying that it will announce its conclusion in May.

For this reason, over the next few months we must put all of our energy into achieving victory,' Cabinet minister Mizuho Fukushima said at the rally, to shouts of approval from the crowd.

Enlarge   Tokyo protest

Angry: The slogans written in Japanese read 'We don't need Futenma base', in red, and 'We refuse new Henoko base', in blue

Fukushima - who has a minor post in the Cabinet and heads a small political party - wants the base moved out of Japan entirely.

Hatoyama's government must appease such political allies to maintain its majority coalition in parliament, and the public are increasingly vociferous on the U.S. military issue, even outside of Okinawa.

'I'm against having troops here. I'm not sure we can get them all out, but at least some of them should leave,' said Seiichiro Terada, 31, a government tax collector who attended the rally.

Terada said he traveled from his home in the central prefecture of Shizuoka, which hosts a Marine base at the foot of Mt. Fuji.

The deal with Washington calls for the Marine base in a crowded part of Okinawa to be moved to a smaller city called Nago.

But last week residents of Nago elected a new mayor who opposes the move, ousting the incumbent that supported a U.S. military presence.

On the other side of the debate, a steady stream of U.S. officials have petitioned Tokyo to follow the agreement and maintain American troop levels in Japan, with U.S.

Ambassador John Roos on Friday calling them 'front-line forces' in case of emergencies or security threats.

Published by Associated Newspapers Ltd
Part of the Daily Mail, The Mail on Sunday & Metro Media Group


Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


Justice Official Clears Bush Lawyers in Torture Memo Probe/Evo's New Cabinet: Ten Men, Ten Women

Justice Official Clears Bush Lawyers in Torture Memo Probe

Friday, January 29, 2010 8:07 PM
By Newsweek

By Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman

For weeks, the right has heckled Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. for his plans to try the alleged 9/11 conspirators in New York City and his handling of the Christmas bombing plot suspect. Now the left is going to be upset: an upcoming Justice Department report from its ethics-watchdog unit, the Office of Professional Responsibility (OPR), clears the Bush administration lawyers who authored the “torture” memos of professional-misconduct allegations.

While the probe is sharply critical of the legal reasoning used to justify waterboarding and other “enhanced” interrogation techniques, NEWSWEEK has learned that a senior Justice official who did the final review of the report softened an earlier OPR finding. Previously, the report concluded that two key authors—Jay Bybee, now a federal appellate court judge, and John Yoo, now a law professor—violated their professional obligations as lawyers when they crafted a crucial 2002 memo approving the use of harsh tactics, say two Justice sources who asked for anonymity discussing an internal matter. But the reviewer, career veteran David Margolis, downgraded that assessment to say they showed “poor judgment,” say the sources. (Under department rules, poor judgment does not constitute professional misconduct.) The shift is significant: the original finding would have triggered a referral to state bar associations for potential disciplinary action—which, in Bybee’s case, could have led to an impeachment inquiry.

The report, which is still going through declassification, will provide many new details about how waterboarding was adopted and the role that top White House officials played in the process, say two sources who have read the report but asked for anonymity to describe a sensitive document. Two of the most controversial sections of the 2002 memo—including one contending that the president, as commander in chief, can override a federal law banning torture—were not in the original draft of the memo, say the sources. But when Michael Chertoff, then-chief of Justice’s criminal division, refused the CIA’s request for a blanket pledge not to prosecute its officers for torture, Yoo met at the White House with David Addington, Dick Cheney’s chief counsel, and then–White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. After that, Yoo inserted a section about the commander in chief’s wartime powers and another saying that agency officers accused of torturing Qaeda suspects could claim they were acting in “self-defense” to prevent future terror attacks, the sources say. Both legal claims have long since been rejected by Justice officials as overly broad and unsupported by legal precedent.

A Justice official declined to explain why David Margolis softened the original finding, but noted that he is a highly respected career lawyer who acted without input from Holder. Yoo and Bybee (through his lawyer) declined requests for comment.

  • © 2010 Newsweek, Inc.

Evo's New Cabinet: Ten Men, Ten Women

Saturday 23 January 2010

by: EFE  |  Los Tiempos (Bolivia)


(Photo: Presidencia de la República del Ecuador (Flickr username not subject of image) / Flickr)



On Saturday, January 23, Bolivian President Evo Morales kicked off his second term as leader of the country by announcing the appointment of his new Cabinet. Morales has replaced more than half of the ministers from his previous administration, and brought gender parity to his new team by apportioning exactly half of the ministerial positions to women.

The announcement of the new Cabinet took place during a ceremony one day after Morales was sworn in on Friday.

Bolivia's new executive branch will be composed of ten male and ten female Cabinet members. Morales has decided to carry over seven ministers from his previous administration. He will be bringing in 13 new faces.

Among the dismissed officials, Morales let go of some of the "strongmen" of his first term, like the now former Minister of the Presidency Juan Ramón Quintana, the ex-Minister of Government Alfredo Rada and Wálker San Miguel, former defense minister.

The new government of the Plurinational State of Bolivia will witness the return of David Choquehuanca as minister of international relations, Luis Arce as minister of finance and economy, Carlos Romero as minister of autonomy, Wálter Delgadillo as minister of public works and Roberto Alguilar as minister of education.

Nardi Suxo and Óscar Coca will also remain part of Evo's executive team, as minister of transparency and anti-corruption and minister of the presidency, respectively. Coca will be switching roles this term; previously he was Morales's minister of hydrocarbons.

New faces in the cabinet include: Rubén Saavedra (defense), Sacha Llorenti (ministry of the government), Antonia Rodríguez (ministry of production and microenterprise), the young Carmen Trujillo (employment), Elba Viviana Caro (ministry of planning) and Luis Fernando Vicenti (ministry of hydrocarbons).

Also joining the team will be Gobierno Milton Gómez (ministry of mining), Hilda Copa Condori (justice ministry), Sonia Polo (health), Esther Udaeta (environment) and Nemesia Achacollo (rural development ministry).

One of the special appointments is the well-known Bolivian singer Zulma Yugar, who will serve as Bolivia's new minister of culture.

Translation: Ryan Croken.

Ryan Croken is a freelance writer and editor based in Chicago. His essays and book reviews have appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Z Magazine and He can be reached at

All republished content that appears on Truthout has been obtained by permission or license.

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


Warning--very difficult to read: Orphaned, Raped and Ignored

The New York Times


January 31, 2010

Op-Ed Columnist

Orphaned, Raped and Ignored



Sometimes I wish eastern Congo could suffer an earthquake or a tsunami, so that it might finally get the attention it needs. The barbaric civil war being waged here is the most lethal conflict since World War II and has claimed at least 30 times as many lives as the Haiti earthquake.


Yet no humanitarian crisis generates so little attention per million corpses, or such a pathetic international response.

That’s why I’m here in the lovely, lush and threatening hills west of Lake Kivu, where militias rape, mutilate and kill civilians with a savagery that is almost incomprehensible. I’m talking to a 9-year-old girl, Chance Tombola, an orphan whose eyes are luminous with fear.


For Chance, the war arrived one evening last May when armed soldiers from an extremist Hutu militia — remnants of those who committed the Rwandan genocide — burst into her home. They killed her parents in front of her. Chance ran away, but the soldiers seized her two sisters, ages 6 and 12, and carried them away into the forest, presumably to be turned into “wives” of soldiers. No one has seen Chance’s sisters since.


Chance moved in with her aunt and uncle and their two teenage daughters. Two months later, the same militia invaded the aunt’s house and held everyone at gunpoint. Chance says she recognized some of the soldiers as the same ones who had killed her parents.


This time, no one could escape. The soldiers first shot her uncle, and then, as the terrified family members sobbed, they pulled out a large knife.


“They sliced his belly so that the intestines fell out,” said his widow, Jeanne Birengenyi, 34, Chance’s aunt. “Then they cut his heart out and showed it to me.” The soldiers continued to mutilate the body, while others began to rape Jeanne.

“One takes a leg, one takes the other leg,” Jeanne said dully. “Others grab the arms while one just starts raping. They don’t care if children are watching.”


Chance added softly: “There were six who raped her. One raped me, too.”


The soldiers left Jeanne and Chance, tightly tied up, and marched off into the forest with Jeanne’s two daughters as prisoners. One daughter is 14, the other 16, and they have not been heard from since.


“They kill, they rape, burn houses and take people’s belongings,” Jeanne said. “When they come with their guns, it’s as if they have a project to eliminate the local population.”


A peer-reviewed study found that 5.4 million people had already died in this war as of April 2007, and hundreds of thousands more have died as the situation has deteriorated since then. A catastrophically planned military offensive last year, backed by the governments of Congo and Rwanda as well as the United Nations force here, made some headway against Hutu militias but also led to increased predation on civilians from all sides.


Human Rights Watch estimates that for every Hutu fighter sent back to Rwanda last year, at least seven women were raped and 900 people forced to flee for their lives. “From a human rights perspective, the operation has been catastrophic,” concluded Philip Alston, a senior United Nations investigator.


This is a pointless war — now a dozen years old — driven by warlords, greed for minerals, ethnic tensions and complete impunity. While there is plenty of fault to go around, Rwanda has long played a particularly troubling role in many ways, including support for one of the militias. Rwanda’s government is dazzlingly successful at home, but next door in Congo, it appears complicit in war crimes.


Jeanne and Chance contracted sexually transmitted diseases. Like other survivors in areas that are accessible, they receive help from the International Rescue Committee, but Chance still suffers pain when she urinates.


Counselors say that most raped women are rejected by their husbands, and raped girls like Chance have difficulty marrying. In an area west of Lake Kivu where attacks are continuing, I met Saleh Bulondo, a newly homeless young man who was educated and spoke a little English. I asked him if he would still marry his girlfriend if she were raped.

“Never,” he said. “I will abandon her.”


A girl here normally fetches a bride price (a reverse dowry, paid by the husband’s family) when she marries. A village chief told me that a typical price would be 20 goats — but if the girl has been raped, two goats. At most.


Thus it takes astonishing courage for Jeanne and Chance to tell their stories (including in a video posted with the on-line version of this column). I’ll be reporting more from eastern Congo in the coming days, hoping that the fortitude of survivors like them can inspire world leaders to step forward to stop this slaughter. It’s time to show the same compassion toward Congo that we have toward Haiti.

I invite you to visit my blog, On the Ground. Please also join me on Facebook, watch my YouTube videos and follow me on Twitter.



Copyright 2010 The New York Times Company



Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at]


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


Did Louisiana's Republican Elite Support the Landrieu Phone Squad?      

Did Louisiana's Republican Elite Support the Landrieu Phone Squad?

By Kevin Connor, AlterNet
Posted on January 29, 2010
The four conservative activists arrested for tampering with the phones of Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu earlier this week have been linked to the Pelican Institute, a conservative New Orleans think tank. Pelican is a relatively new organization, but it appears to have strong ties to members of the state's Republican elite, most notably Representative Charles Boustany.

Though only one of the tamperers is from Louisiana, Pelican appears to have been the group's home base there. The apparent ringleader, James O'Keefe -- also the activist behind last September's ACORN videotape -- spoke at a Pelican Institute luncheon last week. Another one of the four, Robert Flanagan, is a paid blogger for Pelican (Flanagan is the son of the acting US attorney in Shreveport, Bill Flanagan). Pelican's founder, Kevin Kane, blogs at BigGovernment, the site where O'Keefe first posted the ACORN video.

TPMMuckraker has found that Pelican "enjoys a prominent voice in Louisiana political circles." A close look at its board of directors helps explain why this is the case.

Pelican listed three board members on its 2008 990 (available from Guidestar): founderKevin Kane, lawyer Stephen Gele, and one "J LeBlanc." A LinkedIn page reveals that the listing refers to Jennifer LeBlanc, a Republican fundraiser who chaired the Lousiana finance committee of presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani in 2008.

LeBlanc is extremely tightly linked to Representative Charles Boustany, who was a close friend of her late husband, Patrick LeBlanc, before he died in a 2008 plane crash. LeBlanc was a top Boustany donor, as well, and he and Jennifer hosted a high-profile fundraiser for his Congressional campaign in 2005. Vice president Dick Cheney was the featured guest. The LeBlancs, Boustany, and Senator David Vitter all endorsed Rudy Giuliani's campaign for president in 2007.

Boustany and Cheney.

Boustany and Cheney.

Boustany also endorsed LeBlanc during his unsuccessful run for state representative that year. That bid was undone by ongoing scandals related to LeBlanc's prison operation and construction business, LCS Corrections. The company operates private prisons throughout the southeast and Texas, and has been investigated by the FBI for "contracting irregularities" related to possible bribery schemes.

Boustany's brother-in-law, Christopher Edwards, was LeBlanc's attorney during his campaign, and threatened to sue LeBlanc's opponent over a negative ad. Edwards is the nephew of disgraced Louisiana governor Edwin Edwards.

When Patrick LeBlanc died, Boustany released the following statement:

"Pat was my dear friend, a loving family man and a leader in the Lafayette community. It is a terrible loss, and my thoughts and prayers are with Jennifer and his children. Bridget and I will miss him greatly."

Boustany and Pelican were both out in front of the ACORN scandal in August and September.

Boustany was one of the first members of Congress to react to news of the ACORN videotape last September. The day after the news broke, on September 11, 2009, he called for a House Oversight investigation of the group's tax prep activities.

TPM has reported that Pelican published an investigative report on ACORN in August 2009, one month before the O'Keefe videotape was released. The report alleged that ACORN had evaded federal taxes on a number of occasions.

Was there coordination between Boustany, BigGovernment, Pelican, and O'Keefe? What role does Jennifer LeBlanc play at the Pelican Institute? Who funds the organization?

There's still a lot more to learn here, but this is shaping up to be a very interesting scandal.

Leia and WileECoyote have done awesome work updating information on the various networks behind O'Keefe and Pelican. Pelican appears to have strong ties to the Reason Foundation, and Pelican founder Kevin Kane and Breitbart's relationship deserves closer examination, among other things.

Let me know if you want to get deep into the Louisiana muck.

© 2010 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Nick Turse | The Drone Surge: Today, Tomorrow and 2047



Kevin Zeese has called for a revitalized peace movement.  Howard Zinn told us there can be no peace movement unless people join a group, no matter how small.  The Pledge of Resistance & the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance continue to take it to the streets.  Honor Professor Zinn by coming to a Pledge meeting and offering your opinion on building a movement to take on the Empire.  The next meeting will be at my house on Monday, Feb. 1 at 7:30 PM.  Contact me for directions.


Kagiso, Max


Nick Turse | The Drone Surge: Today, Tomorrow and 2047

Sunday 24 January 2010

by: Nick Turse  |

One moment there was the hum of a motor in the sky above. The next, on a recent morning in Afghanistan's Helmand province, a missile blasted a home, killing 13 people. Days later, the same increasingly familiar mechanical whine preceded a two-missile salvo that slammed into a compound in Degan village in the tribal North Waziristan district of Pakistan, killing three.

What were once unacknowledged, relatively infrequent targeted killings of suspected militants or terrorists in the Bush years have become commonplace under the Obama administration. And since a devastating December 30th suicide attack by a Jordanian double agent on a CIA forward operating base in Afghanistan, unmanned aerial drones have been hunting humans in the Af-Pak war zone at a record pace. In Pakistan, an "unprecedented number" of strikes -- which have killed armed guerrillas and civilians alike -- have led to more fear, anger, and outrage in the tribal areas, as the CIA, with help from the U.S. Air Force, wages the most public "secret" war of modern times.

In neighboring Afghanistan, unmanned aircraft, for years in short supply and tasked primarily with surveillance missions, have increasingly been used to assassinate suspected militants as part of an aerial surge that has significantly outpaced the highly publicized "surge" of ground forces now underway. And yet, unprecedented as it may be in size and scope, the present ramping up of the drone war is only the opening salvo in a planned 40-year Pentagon surge to create fleets of ultra-advanced, heavily-armed, increasingly autonomous, all-seeing, hypersonic unmanned aerial systems (UAS).

Today's Surge

Drones are the hot weapons of the moment and the upcoming Quadrennial Defense Review -- a soon-to-be-released four-year outline of Department of Defense strategies, capabilities, and priorities to fight current wars and counter future threats -- is already known to reflect this focus. As the Washington Post recently reported, "The pilotless drones used for surveillance and attack missions in Afghanistan and Pakistan are a priority, with the goals of speeding up the purchase of new Reaper drones and expanding Predator and Reaper drone flights through 2013."

The MQ-1 Predator -- first used in Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s -- and its newer, larger, and more deadly cousin, the MQ-9 Reaper, are now firing missiles and dropping bombs at an unprecedented pace. In 2008, there were reportedly between 27 and 36 U.S. drone attacks as part of the CIA's covert war in Pakistan. In 2009, there were 45 to 53 such strikes. In the first 18 days of January 2010, there had already been 11 of them.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force has instituted a much publicized decrease in piloted air strikes to cut down on civilian casualties as part of Afghan War commander General Stanley McChrystal's counterinsurgency strategy. At the same time, however, UAS attacks have increased to record levels.

The Air Force has created an interconnected global command-and-control system to carry out its robot war in Afghanistan (and as Noah Shachtman of Wired's Danger Room blog has reported, to assist the CIA in its drone strikes in Pakistan as well). Evidence of this can be found at high-tech U.S. bases around the world where drone pilots and other personnel control the planes themselves and the data streaming back from them. These sites include a converted medical warehouse at Al-Udeid Air Base, a billion-dollar facility in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar where the Air Force secretly oversees its on-going drone wars; Kandahar and Jalalabad Air Fields in Afghanistan, where the drones are physically based; the global operations center at Nevada's Creech Air Base, where the Air Force's "pilots" fly drones by remote control from thousands of miles away; and -- perhaps most importantly -- at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, a 12-square-mile facility in Dayton, Ohio, named after the two local brothers who invented powered flight in 1903. This is where the bills for the current drone surge -- as well as limited numbers of strikes in Yemen and Somalia -- come due and are, quite literally, paid.

In the waning days of December 2009, in fact, the Pentagon cut two sizeable checks to ensure that unmanned operations involving the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper will continue full-speed ahead in 2010. The 703rd Aeronautical Systems Squadron based at Wright-Patterson signed a $38 million contract with defense giant Raytheon for logistics support for the targeting systems of both drones. At the same time, the squadron inked a deal worth $266 million with mega-defense contractor General Atomics, which makes the Predator and Reaper drones, to provide management services, logistics support, repairs, software maintenance, and other functions for both drone programs. Both deals essentially ensure that, in the years ahead, the stunning increase in drone operations will continue.

These contracts, however, only initial down payments on an enduring drone surge designed to carry U.S. unmanned aerial operations forward, ultimately for decades.

Drone Surge: The Longer View

Back in 2004, the Air Force could put a total of only five drone combat air patrols (CAPs) -- each consisting of four air vehicles -- in the skies over American war zones at any one time. By 2009, that number was 38, a 660% increase according to the Air Force. Similarly, between 2001 and 2008, hours of surveillance coverage for U.S. Central Command, encompassing both the Iraqi and Afghan war zones, as well as Pakistan and Yemen, showed a massive spike of 1,431%.

In the meantime, flight hours have gone through the roof. In 2004, for example, Reapers, just beginning to soar, flew 71 hours in total, according to Air Force documents; in 2006, that number had risen to 3,123 hours; and last year, 25,391 hours. This year, the Air Force projects that the combined flight hours of all its drones -- Predators, Reapers, and unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawks -- will exceed 250,000 hours, about the total number of hours flown by all Air Force drones from 1995-2007. In 2011, the 300,000 hour-a-year barrier is expected to be crossed for the first time, and after that the sky's the limit.

More flight time will, undoubtedly, mean more killing. According to Peter Bergen and Katherine Tiedemann of the Washington-based think tank the New America Foundation, in the Bush years, from 2006 into 2009, there were 41 drone strikes in Pakistan which killed 454 militants and civilians. Last year, under the Obama administration, there were 42 strikes that left 453 people dead. A recent report by the Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies, an Islamabad-based independent research organization that tracks security issues, claimed an even larger number, 667 people -- most of them civilians -- killed by U.S. drone strikes last year.

While assisting the CIA's drone operations in the Pakistani tribal borderlands, the Air Force has been increasing its own unmanned aerial hunter-killer missions. In 2007 and 2008, for example, Air Force Predators and Reapers fired missiles during 244 missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, while all the U.S. armed services have pursued unmanned aerial warfare, the Air Force has outpaced each of them.

From 2001, when armed drone operations began, until the spring of 2009, the Air Force fired 703 Hellfire missiles and dropped 132 GBU-12s (500-pound laser-guided bombs) in combat operations. The Army, by comparison, launched just two Hellfire missiles and two smaller GBU-44 Viper Strike munitions in the same time period. The disparity should only grow, since the Army's drones remain predominantly small surveillance aircraft, while in 2009 the Air Force shifted all outstanding orders for the medium-sized Predator to the even more formidable Reaper, which is not only twice as fast but has 600% more payload capacity, meaning more space for bombs and missiles.

In addition, the more heavily-armed Reapers, which can now loiter over an area for 10 to 14 hours without refueling, will be able to spot and track ever more targets via an increasingly sophisticated video monitoring system. According to Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula, Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, the first three "Gorgon Stare pods" -- new wide-area sensors that provide surveillance capabilities over large swathes of territory -- will be installed on Reapers operating in Afghanistan this spring.

A technology not available for the older Predator, Gorgon Stare will allow 10 operators to view 10 video feeds from a single drone at the same time. Back at a distant base, a "pilot" will stare at a tiled screen with a composite picture of the streaming battlefield video, even as field commanders analyze a portion of the digital picture, panning, zooming, and tilting the image to meet their needs.

A more advanced set of "pods," scheduled to be deployed for the first time this fall, will allow 30 operators to view 30 video images simultaneously. In other words, via video feeds from a single Reaper drone, operators could theoretically track 30 different people heading in 30 directions from a single Afghan compound. The generation of sensors expected to come online in late 2011 promises 65 such feeds, according to Air Force documents, a more than 6,000% increase in effectiveness over the Predator's video system. The Air Force is, however, already overwhelmed just by drone video currently being sent back from the war zones and, in the years ahead, risks "drowning in data," according to Deptula.

The 40-Year Plan

When it comes to the drone surge, the years 2011-2013 are just the near horizon. While, like the Army, the Navy is working on its own future drone warfare capacity -- in the air as well as on and even under the water -- the Air Force is involved in striking levels of futuristic planning for robotic war. It envisions a future previously imagined only in sci-fi movies like the Terminator series.

As a start, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency or DARPA, the Pentagon's blue skies research outfit, is already looking into radically improving on Gorgon Stare with an "Autonomous Real-time Ground Ubiquitous Surveillance-Infrared (ARGUS-IR) System." In the obtuse language of military research and development, it will, according to DARPA, provide a "real-time, high-resolution, wide area video persistent surveillance capability that allows joint forces to keep critical areas of interest under constant surveillance with a high degree of target location accuracy" via as many as "130 'Predator-like' steerable video streams to enable real-time tracking and monitoring and enhanced situational awareness during evening hours."

In translation, that means the Air Force will quite literally be flooded with video information from future battlefields; and every "advance" of this sort means bulking up the global network of facilities, systems, and personnel capable of receiving, monitoring, and interpreting the data streaming in from distant digital eyes. All of it, of course, is specifically geared toward "target location," that is, pin-pointing people on one side of the world so that Americans on the other side can watch, track, and in many cases, kill them.

In addition to enhanced sensors and systems like ARGUS-IR, the Air Force has a long-term vision for drone warfare that is barely beginning to be realized. Predators and Reapers have already been joined in Afghanistan by a newer, formerly secret drone, a "low observable unmanned aircraft system" first spotted in 2007 and dubbed the "Beast of Kandahar" before observers were sure what it actually was. It is now known to be a Lockheed Martin-manufactured unmanned aerial vehicle, the RQ-170 -- a drone which the Air Force blandly notes was designed to "directly support combatant commander needs for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance to locate targets." According to military sources, the sleek, stealthy surveillance craft has been designated to replace the antique Lockheed U-2 spy plane, which has been in use since the 1950s.

In the coming years, the RQ-170 is slated to be joined in the skies of America's "next wars" by a fleet of drones with ever newer, more sophisticated capabilities and destructive powers. Looking into the post-2011 future, Deptula sees the most essential need, according to an Aviation Week report, as "long-range [reconnaissance and] precision strike" -- that is, more eyes in far off skies and more lethality. He added, "We cannot move into a future without a platform that allows [us] to project power long distances and to meet advanced threats in a fashion that gives us an advantage that no other nation has."

This means bigger, badder, faster drones -- armed to the teeth -- with sensor systems to monitor wide swathes of territory and the ability to loiter overhead for days on end waiting for human targets to appear and, in due course, be vaporized by high-powered munitions. It's a future built upon advanced technologies designed to make targeted killings -- remote-controlled assassinations -- ever more effortless.

Over the horizon and deep into what was, until recently, only a silver-screen fantasy, the Air Force envisions a wide array of unmanned aircraft, from tiny insect-like robots to enormous "tanker size" pilotless planes. Each will be slated to take over specific war-making functions (or so Air Force dreamers imagine). Those nano-sized drones, for instance, are set to specialize in indoor reconnaissance -- they're small enough to fly through windows or down ventilation shafts -- and carry out lethal attacks, undertake computer-disabling cyber-attacks, and swarm, as would a group of angry bees, of their own volition. Slightly larger micro-sized Small Tactical Unmanned Aircraft Systems (STUAS) are supposed to act as "transformers" -- altering their form to allow for flying, crawling and non-visual sensing capabilities. They might fill sentry, counter-drone, surveillance, and lethal attack roles.

Additionally, the Air Force envisions small and medium "fighter sized" drones with lethal combat capabilities that would put the current UAS air fleet to shame. Today's medium-sized Reapers are set to be replaced by next generation MQ-Ma drones that will be "networked, capable of partial autonomy, all-weather and modular with capabilities supporting electronic warfare (EW), CAS [close air support], strike and multi-INT [multiple intelligence] ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] missions' platform."

The language may not be elegant, much less comprehensible, but if these future fighter aircraft actually come online they will not only send today's remaining Top Gun pilots to the showers, but may even sideline tomorrow's drone human operators, who, if all goes as planned, will have ever fewer duties. Unlike today's drones which must take off and land with human guidance, the MQ-Ma's will be automated and drone operators will simply be there to monitor the aircraft.

Next up will be the MQ-Mb, theoretically capable of taking over even more roles once assigned to traditional fighter-bombers and spy planes, including the suppression of enemy air defenses, bombing and strafing of ground targets, and surveillance missions. These will also be designed to fly more autonomously and be better linked-in to other drone "platforms" for cooperative missions involving many aircraft under the command of a single "pilot." Imagine, for instance, one operator overseeing a single command drone that holds sway over a small squadron of autonomous drones carrying out a coordinated air attack on clusters of people in some far off land, incinerating them in small groups across a village, town or city.

Finally, perhaps 30 to 40 years from now, the MQ-Mc drone would incorporate all of the advances of the MQ-M line, while being capable of everything from dog-fighting to missile defense. With such new technology will, of course, come new policies and new doctrines. In the years ahead, the Air Force intends to make drone-related policy decisions on everything from treaty obligations to automatic target engagement -- robotic killing without a human in the loop. The latter extremely controversial development is already envisioned as a possible post-2025 reality.

2047: What's Old is New Again

The year 2047 is the target date for the Air Force's Holy Grail, the capstone for its long-term plan to turn the skies over to war-fighting drones. In 2047, the Air Force intends to rule the skies with MQ-Mc drones and "special" super-fast, hypersonic drones for which neither viable technology nor any enemies with any comparable programs or capabilities yet exist. Despite this, the Air Force is intent on making these super-fast hunter-killer systems a reality by 2047. "Propulsion technology and materials that can withstand the extreme heat will likely take 20 years to develop. This technology will be the next generation air game-changer. Therefore the prioritization of the funding for the specific technology development should not wait until the emergence of a critical COCOM [combatant command] need," says the Air Force's 2009-2047 UAS "Flight Plan."

If anything close to the Air Force's dreams comes to fruition, the "game" will indeed be radically changed. By 2047, there's no telling how many drones will be circling over how many heads in how many places across the planet. There's no telling how many millions or billions of flight hours will have been flown, or how many people, in how many countries will have been killed by remote-controlled, bomb-dropping, missile-firing, judge-jury-and-executioner drone systems.

There's only one given. If the U.S. still exists in its present form, is still solvent, and still has a functioning Pentagon of the present sort, a new plan will already be well underway to create the war-making technologies of 2087. By then, in ever more places, people will be living with the sort of drone war that now worries only those in places like Degan village. Ever more people will know that unmanned aerial systems packed with missiles and bombs are loitering in their skies. By then, there undoubtedly won't even be that lawnmower-engine sound indicating that a missile may soon plow into your neighbor's home.

For the Air Force, such a prospect is the stuff of dreams, a bright future for unmanned, hypersonic lethality; for the rest of the planet, it's a potential nightmare from which there may be no waking.

Nick Turse is the associate editor of and the winner of a 2009 Ridenhour Prize for Reportorial Distinction as well as a James Aronson Award for Social Justice Journalism. His work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Nation, In These Times, and regularly at TomDispatch. Turse is currently a fellow at New York University's Center for the United States and the Cold War. He is the author of The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives (Metropolitan Books). His website is

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