Syracuse’s Hancock Air National Guard Base has become one of the national hubs for piloting — via computer screen and satellite — the Reaper over Afghanistan. For three years upstate New York activists have been trying to educate our public and Hancock personnel about the war crimes being committed by these robotic killers [www.upstatedroneaction.org].
The Reaper, a higher-tech offspring of the Predator, is the Pentagon’s and the CIA’s instrument for aerial surveillance and assassination in Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other nations “over there.” Now with those US/NATO wars somewhat winding down, the Reaper – and a slew of its robotic cousins — are coming home to roost in the Western Hemisphere. Also driving this trend are the US and Israeli drone manufacturers eager to expand their markets.
The SOA/WHINSEC currently offers a “Masters Training” course familiarizing its students with drones. For several years US drones have been flying deep into Mexico, and now crisscross the Caribbean. Drones are penetrating South American airspaces. They are used for drug-interdiction, monitoring borders and hounding undocumented Latinos trying to enter the US. And within the US there’s strong pressure to use the drone for domestic surveillance and crowd control.
In Colombia drones take on anti-insurgency functions. In 2009 Hugo Chavez claimed that a Colombian drone invaded Venezuelan air space. The Colombian government denied the charge, responding that Venezuelans must have been seeing “Santa’s sleigh.”
So far there seems to be little evidence that the drones now roaming Latin America are weaponized. But some – like Israel’s Hermes 900 — can readily be adapted for lethal payloads (including 500-pound bombs and Hellfire missiles). The so-called “war on drugs” segues into – and serves as cover for — war on “insurgents” or on perceived enemies of the state and of the empire. Missions drift.
While the US Congress regulates the export of drones, the Israelis are selling their drones all over the place, including to Brazil, Colombia, Chile, and Mexico. Reminds me of back in the eighties when Congress cut out military aid to Guatemala’s genocidal regime, the Israelis – with the Pentagon’s wink and a nod – provided such aid. Assisted by Israel (and, in the case of Venezuela, Iran), several Latin American nations are already developing their own drones.
ENTIRE ARTICLE HERE: Drones Over the Americas » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.