With the UK military death toll in Afghanistan now substantially higher than for Iraq we are subject to a constant steam of patriotic MSM coverage aimed at bolstering public support for our wars. From the ostentatious ra ra visits of national football and cricket team Reps to our boys (and girls) in Helmand, to the sombre long-focus shots of coffins descending from the rear of Hercules planes at RAF Lynam and the parades through nearby Wootton Bassett. We are regularly treated to earnest patronising lectures from General This and Colonel That on the valour of our service personal in their dual tasks of 'protecting our freedom' and 'helping the Afghans'. Last week there was a National service of commemoration for those who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan - and all of this impossible to miss no matter your 'news' sources or degree of attention.
I have no issue with the valour of our service men and women. The loss of a single one is as tragic as is the loss of a son, daughter, husband or father to any family - including afghan and Iraqi families who God knows have suffered rather more than ourselves in these perpetual wars of ours. My issue is with our so-called leaders. In particular their bare-faced lies about the reasons for our involvement together with the sickeningly jingoistic/patriotic masquerade to which the grief of bereaved families is, as a matter of routine, harnessed by them.
However, be all that as it may (or rather IS), were our armed forces, valiant and professional though they undoubtedly are, to be deployed on equal terms with their alleged enemies - ie without monopolistic precision GPS guided air power and with arms limited to aging Kalshnikovs, RPG's and cannibalised mines from the Soviet era - it is unlikely their deployment would last long against similarly armed 'insurgents' who, for the most part, simply see themselves as defending their homeland against foreign invaders.
Which brings me to the 'Point, Click, Kill Brigade' or 'Remote Control Warriors' as the US military likes to characterise them -
The Drone Pilots.
The following is a brief paraphrased resume of articles and interviews published in various US media here, here and here.
Absent serious traffic, it takes a certain USAF Captain (we'll call him Adam) about 45 minutes to drive from his four-bedroom suburban home outside Las Vegas to his place of work at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada. He is an instructor and 'Remote Control Warrior' piloting drones flying some 7,500 miles away on 'combat operations' in Afghanistan and that damned commute is likely the most harrowing part of his day.
His first kill in Adam's own words:
"A month after I began flying combat UAVs, me and the crew were watching a trigger house, which gives insurgents a vantage over a roadway to detonate an IED as a vehicle passes. We had spotted two people stringing wires from the house to the road the night before, but that wasn’t enough to go on. This night, however, the figures appeared to pull back a dark spot on the road and crouch, plugging in wires. Seeing that feed, the ground unit gave me clearance to fire, and I launched a missile. I saw it reach one of the men. It landed right at his feet, and - PAUSE - he was gone.”On his 45 minute drive home Adam noted (with or without irony) the usual illuminated signs cautioning him to "... Drive carefully - this is the most dangerous time of your day". His wife gave him a hug and said she was proud he took his first shot. He’ll never forget the date. It was his daughter’s second birthday, and he had had some cake with her before heading off to work that morning.
The stuff of latter day military heroes eh?
Perhaps the most infamous example to date of the work of these 'Remote Control Warriors' is the attack on a wedding party in June 2009. The BBC and Reuters initially reported the death toll at about 45 with the all usual official obfuscations and equivocations dutifully repeated - they were 'suspected militants', 'suspected insurgents', 'we had solid evidence...' etc ad nauseam - Because of course, if the West suspects an Afghan of being 'A MILITANT', why then it's perfectly OK to incinerate him isn't it? The actual death toll was soon established at over 80, most of them women and children.
Where was the outrage? - Answer: there wasn't any, just the routine mendacity of 'military spokesmen' followed by sheepish embarrassed silence.
With more of the same now almost a daily occurrence it is no longer news at all unless the innocent civilian death toll is more than about 10, in which case it may warrant a paragraph or two on an inside page. And all the while our leaders seriously expect us to believe that we occupy the moral high ground.
The moral high ground. THE MORAL BLOODY HIGH GROUND?
The place we in the West ACTUALLY occupy is more akin to a moral sewer. With the attention span of the general population reduced to the blink of an eye on anything that does not portray us as poor misunderstood heroes or titillate our insatiable appetite for trivia about the lives of our air-head celebrities, or our propensity to self-righteous outrage at the alleged misdeeds of this that or the other villain du-jour.
Here's a video of a 'Kill' - and that from 7,500 miles away with USAF Captain Adam commentating. Don't worry. All is well. These are professionals and their prey ARE after all suspected militants - and in any event mere 'Ragheads' - so that's OK then.