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San Diego Discussion On Military Use Of Drones And Unintended Casualties

Evening Edition

Aired 12/10/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUESTS:

Dustin Sharp, Assistant Professor, Joan Kroc School of Peace Studies, University of San Diego

Laura Pitter, Senior National Security Researcher, Human Rights Watch

Transcript

They're being used for everything from monitoring traffic and reporting information on wildfires to backyard fun. But drones, unmanned aerial devices, continue to be scrutinized for their use in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. That's due to the number of unintended targets: civilian causalities. One human rights group said people in those countries fear drones more than Al Qaeda.

The Tuesday night panel discussion, "Drones, International Law and the Forever War," coincides with Human Rights Watch Day. It's being presented by the Joan Kroc School of Peace Studies at USD.

The Unites States military and President Barack Obama have defended the use of unmanned aerial attacks. The drones can target hostile militant groups without endangering U.S. soldiers. But human rights organizations people who live in the region are becoming increasing concerned about the manner and frequency of drone use.

In October, Human Rights Watch issued a report called "Between a Drone and Al Qaeda," which looked at the number of civilian casualties caused by drones. The 97-page report examined six U.S. targeted killings in Yemen, one from 2009 and the rest from 2012 to 2013. Civilians were killed in two of the attacks.

Comments

Avatar for user 'benz72'

benz72 | December 10, 2013 at 12:36 p.m. ― 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I would be interested in an analysis of civilian casualties caused by manned raids in similar situations. It seems fallacious to suppose that we had an ideal system and abandoned it for an inferior one. What are we actually comparing drones to, an ideal state or the other available choices?

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 10, 2013 at 2:10 p.m. ― 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Drones used in combat seem like a reasonable choice and no different from using cruise missiles or other precision guided munitions. However, they are now being used off the battlefield to assassinate people at will.

Plus, Obama has stated he is very willing to use drones to assassinate any US citizen he deems an enemy of the government. Pretty scary.

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Avatar for user 'thompsonrichard'

thompsonrichard | December 10, 2013 at 2:35 p.m. ― 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Predator drones don't kill people -- Hell-fire missiles killed Hospital Corpsman Benjamin D. Rast.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 10, 2013 at 5:11 p.m. ― 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Thompson,

Well to be exact then, it isn't the hellfire missile either. It is the explosive warhead that kills people. And then it isn't really the explosive warhead either, it is the loss of blood, organ failure, or incineration that kills people.

What exactly is your point?

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Avatar for user 'thompsonrichard'

thompsonrichard | December 11, 2013 at 11:33 a.m. ― 9 months, 2 weeks ago

I attended Rast' Memorial Service at Balboa Naval Hospital Chapel. It was in fact a Predator from which a stateside -- not California, some state in the mid-West -- unmannerly PILOT fired the missiles killing Afghanistan-stationed Corpsman Rast & a Marine buddy. According to a Navy research paper, the pilots of MQ-1 Predators are the most fatigued cohort in the military.

Targets are vaporized not incinerated.

What's in a name, or a flag for that matter? A photograph of a Northern California forest fire showed a drone in the sky above it. The AP story was enthusiastic about the drone because it could handle to task of watching the fire cheaper than a piloted Cessna. The drone was ID'd as a "Predator" in the photograph. He could have been ID'd as a CaliforniaDefender (California has 38 million people: which one are you?).

General Atomics -- located here in San Diego -- is co-owned by Linden Blue. I think he has a beautiful name. His wife, the former "Navy mayor of San Diego" was one of Filner's accusers. Her married name is Mrs. Linden Blue. They of the beautiful name build the UAV Predator. UCSD Chancellor Pradeep Khosla worked as a project manager for DARPA during sabbatical from his Engineering Deanship at Carnegie Mellon University -- his immediate past employment. When the new Engineering Building was inaugurated, he and Mr. Blue stood side by side. "There," pointing at the building, "is the future of the university," said Dr. Khosla.

I am grateful to the Joan Kroc School of Peace Studies at USD for publicizing the fact that General Atomics weapons & munitions are now being used on and off the battlefield to assassinate people at will.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | December 11, 2013 at 11:52 a.m. ― 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Excellent post, Richard Thompson, and unlike others who require things be spelled out for them, I found your previous one, UNambiguous.

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Avatar for user 'CaliforniaDefender'

CaliforniaDefender | December 11, 2013 at 4:30 p.m. ― 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Thompson,

Are you surprised that UCSD is a center for offensive drone research? If you dig deeper, you'll find that DARPA has its tendrils in nearly every major university in America.

Sadly, I don't think it matters how many papers Peace Studies students at USD write. DARPA and the US government will continue to quietly pump more resources into science and engineering schools to find more efficient, remote, and silent ways to kill a human being.

Then executives with cute names will retire to their mansions and while sipping on cognac will nod in satisfaction at their profits.

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | March 3, 2014 at 12:58 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

I'm building my own 'Anti-Drone' Unmanned Arial Vehicle - it has an explosive charge that will detonate when it get's close to another UAV and take it out.

The great thing about remote control robots is that they can be sent to do anything and you can't be traced or caught.

As we start getting Google cars, we will be able to load cars and trucks with explosives and send them to drive themselves anywhere!

UAV's are just an extension of efficient surveillance for fun. I use mine with a video recording smart phone to record my neighbors in their yard and through their windows.

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Avatar for user 'philosopher3000'

philosopher3000 | March 3, 2014 at 12:58 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

(Satire, the above was SATIRE, please don't send the drones after me!)

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Avatar for user 'JeanMarc'

JeanMarc | March 3, 2014 at 3:39 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

And why shouldn't we dedicate our nations best and brightest minds to the defense of our great nation? What would you prefer, that we halt all technological advancements in military technology while the rest of the globe surpasses us? In a few decades we would be like Afghanistan - trying to fight high tech military weapons with rocks and sticks.

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Avatar for user 'Boots'

Boots | March 3, 2014 at 7:47 p.m. ― 6 months, 3 weeks ago

Used to be against but after rethinking what's the difference?The genies out of the bottle and drones are a whole lot cheaper than jet-fighters

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