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NRT: For a drone-free New Zealand

Written By: - Date published: 11:31 am, May 27th, 2014 - 171 comments
Categories: uncategorized - Tags: , ,

It is difficult to describe just how abhorrent that I find the concept of the US military murdering the many bystanders and even targets with drone strikes and then trying to justify their illegal actions (under both US and international law) by labelling all of those killed, injured, and maimed as enemy. It reeks of the counting the body bags of civilians mentality that has been losing them wars during my lifetime.

I suspect that many other people with military backgrounds like myself would feel the same thing. In the aftermath of the Vietnam war, the consequences of such indiscriminate targeting of civilians around targets was quite apparent. It was highly counter-productive and more likely to create civilian support for insurgents than to terrorise them.

It sounds like time for New Zealand to deal with this rogue state mentality that the United States has fallen into. To do it before the stupidity spreads to states with even less compunction that the US. And to do it the way we do best – internationally.  No Right Turn on an idea from KiwiPolitico..

Over on KiwiPolitico, Pablo suggests a good idea: that New Zealand take a leadership role in the fight against US drone-murders by unilaterally renouncing the use of lethal drones:

At the end of my remarks I proposed that we debate the idea that New Zealand unilaterally renounce the use of lethal drones in any circumstance, foreign and domestic. I noted that the NZDF and other security agencies would oppose such a move, as would our security allies. I posited that if implemented, such a stance would be akin to the non-nuclear declaration of 1985 and would reaffirm New Zealand’s independent and autonomous foreign policy.

Alternatively, New Zealand could propose to make the South Pacific a lethal drone-free zone, similar to the regional nuclear free zone declared by the 1985 Treaty of Rarotonga. I noted again that countries like Australia and Chile would oppose the move (both have drone fleets and do not discount using them in anger), but that many of the Pacific Island states would likely welcome the idea.

(Note: lethal drones. Unarmed drones are a different matter, and have countless civilian applications)

He also suggests extending the ban to intelligence cooperation, and letting the New Zealand public decide the matter through a referendum.

I support this idea. Armed drones are used to murder people without trial. In Pakistan and Yemen, they are basically being used to indiscriminately wage war on civilians. We should have no part of either. New Zealand should renounce these weapons, ban our intelligence services from passing information to countries which use them, and organise the world against them. Obviously, that’s not going to happen under our current extrajudicial-murder-supporting government. But surely one of our opposition parties could make it policy?

171 comments on “NRT: For a drone-free New Zealand”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    Lprent, do you oppose their use altogether? No military purpose at all?

    • RJL 1.1

      For lethal drones? Of course, there is a military purpose for lethal drones. The point is to renounce that lethal use (for military purposes, or police purposes, or any other purposes).

      Non-lethal use of drones by the military (or others) — i.e. surveillance — is fine; assuming legal legitimate surveillance targets, of course.

      The tricky bit might come down to adjudicating cases like when a surveillance drone is used to provide live targeting information to something like an independently launched cruise missile. Is that a lethal drone? Common sense would probably say it was a lethal drone. Legal technicality might argue otherwise. On the other hand, assassinating people via cruise missiles is just as much of a war crime as using a drone — so maybe a moot point.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.1

        The problem becomes defining the “battlefield” if one side hasn’t got never has any boots on the ground.

        • RJL 1.1.1.1

          If you are renoucing the use of lethal drones the definition of battlefield doesn’t matter.

          Battlefield or supermarket you are still renoucing the use.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1.1.1.1

            The thing is, I’m not renouncing their use for “military purpose”, and neither are you.

            But the “war” isn’t a conventional one with discreet territory and battlefields and lines of engagement. The US isn’t going to put boots on the ground when they control the skies, and the battlefield is wherever the enemy is.

            The problem is that it’s the wrong question. Dignifying these nitwits with a military response was always a bad idea.

            Q: Should the police be able to deploy lethal drones when pursuing terrorism suspects?

            A: No.

            • RJL 1.1.1.1.1.1

              The thing is, I’m not renouncing their use for “military purpose”, and neither are you.

              The proposal is to renouce lethal drones; i.e. drones directly armed with weapons.

              There would then perhaps be a grey area around using non-lethal drones to guide “independent” weapons. But that is a side-issue.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Um, I hope that our soldiers are trained or at least resourceful enough to add lethal capacity to their non-lethal drones if any battlefield situation dictates it. Oh, and since that means they can engage their targets remotely I also expect them to offer every opportunity to surrender before deploying lethal force, but I’m pretty sure they know that already.

      • Ad 1.1.2

        So what then would the moral difference be between a Cruise missile and a lethal drone?

        • RJL 1.1.2.1

          Little moral difference in the device.

          Tends to be moral difference in what they are used for. But that probably just comes down to the practical difference that a drone can loiter for a long time.

          • Ad 1.1.2.1.1

            Hovering is hardly enough to justify a global ban.
            After all on that basis you would ban all helicopters with guns or missiles on them.

            • Colonial Viper 1.1.2.1.1.1

              Hi Ad,

              These things don’t just “hover.” They are able to intercept signals, surveilling and recording the environment beneath them in a multitude of ways and spectrums. Say good bye to privacy.

              Also imagine the psychological effect of a near permanent armed presence 500 metres above you, with munitions capable of levelling your entire house within seconds, or if you just happen to be travelling by the wrong place at the wrong time. That my friend is psychological warfare and terrorism, defined.

              There is one last difference between a cruise missile and a drone. Cruise missiles target GPS co-ordinates. Drones target people, and give operators to pick and choose who they kill throughout an entire 30+ duration on station.

              One is therefore designed as a military weapon. The other is an assassin’s tool.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Dispersal is one of the inevitable (military) responses to full spectrum dominance. A laser guided bomb is just as much an assassin’s tool as a drone. Both are military hardware.

                Deploying military resources against a civilian population in peacetime is a war crime. It doesn’t matter what the hardware does or how many bells and whistles it has. If it was bows and arrows it would still be wrong.

        • lprent 1.1.2.2

          There isn’t one when there is no war. It is exactly the same act as flying a plane into a building. It is an act of stupid terrorism.

          • Ad 1.1.2.2.1

            So your complaint is about declaring war, not drones.

            • Colonial Viper 1.1.2.2.1.1

              Why the hell would you want unaccountable armed F-16’s cruising the skies above your work place or your home, capable of monitoring all your movements and intercepting your communications, knowing that overseas that same weapon system has been used to kill hundreds or thousands of civilians including children?

              And why the hell would you want these fighter jet weapon systems deployed over your own civilian population in peace time, and just think about why the power elite might want that too.

              Then think hey – what if these F-16s were piloted by foreigners from anywhere else in the world and you would not even know. In 2-3 years time, the sensor packages on these things will be so advanced that they can pick up an individual out of a crowd, and using automated facial recognition systems, match them against a wanted list, and launch a lethal strike on the target – with no human intervention at all. Just happens.

              Why would you back that?

    • lprent 1.2

      Lprent, do you oppose their use altogether? No military purpose at all?

      Hell no. But they are like every other weapon of war, they need to be subject to rules on their usage and to follow the conventions and agreements on the waging of war.

      Imagine the artillery equivalent. In a declared state of war at a range of 100’s or kilometres, I am going to drop some shells on a building because I have some reasonably vague intelligence that they are storing arms there (I am actually thinking of certain cases in military history here). Turns out it is full of refugees. Courts-martial will follow and did.

      What the US is doing is exactly the same, except it isn’t in a declared state of war.

      They aren’t something that you should be using against civilians and deliberately causing civilian collateral damage even in a war without strong rules about their usage.

      To do it without a declaration of war and arbitrarily ignoring the deaths of “collateral” damage is a act of simple murder, deserving of dragging those doing it and ordering it to the world court in the Hague.

      From a point of pure practicality, it is a completely idiotic activity because all they do is to increase the number of enemies you have – ask the Israelis what deliberately killing kids does to the hostility levels of the families they came from.

      • Colonial Viper 1.2.1

        To do it without a declaration of war and arbitrarily ignoring the deaths of “collateral” damage is a act of simple murder

        To fire a pistol into a crowd is murder.

        Firing a Hellfire II missile into a civilian apartment building or village centre is a massacre, and a crime against humanity.

        And it hardly matters what your justification is for hunting down bad bad human beings who may indeed be dangerous rabid animals…when you have become one yourself on the way.

  2. shorts 2

    Totally support the idea too… could it be our no nukes independent action of this century?

  3. Sounds like a no-brainer. It’s not like we were going to be operating lethal drones against anybody anyway.

    Of course, within a short time these things are going to be normal battlefield equipment, and the idea of committing your armed forces to regular combat without lethal drone support will be as insane as committing combat forces without artillery or air support – we’d want to be able to yank that commitment immediately if we found ourselves having to fight a war.

    • Macro 3.1

      ” It’s not like we were going to be operating lethal drones against anybody anyway.”

      In effect we are when we supply information, via the GCSB, to the US. Without that “information”, the drone strike does not happen. By being a member of the “5 eyes” we effectively align our foreign policy with the major power the US. This will not go well for us. The “Ugly American” and all that implies now includes all NZers traveling abroad. This stupid act of sucking up to the US by the Key Govt has just made all NZers less safe.

    • lprent 3.2

      Of course, within a short time these things are going to be normal battlefield equipment, and the idea of committing your armed forces to regular combat without lethal drone support will be as insane as committing combat forces without artillery or air support – we’d want to be able to yank that commitment immediately if we found ourselves having to fight a war.

      Of course and that is simply part of a war and what soldiers expect. It is no different to artillery. However these strikes are against a civilian population without a declaration of war.

      Even so (for instance) would you consider that in the time of war, it’d be a violation of the international rules of war to destroy civilian building well behind the lines with a missile from a drone because a soldier (say a general) was billeted there with a family? Because that is what is what the US is claiming as happening now.

      • Ad 3.2.1

        Surely there is nothing specific to drones about calling for thier non-use outside of a declaration of war?

        Why would that not apply already to every other military weapon – making a specific lethal drone ban pointless?

        Or is your point to seek to outlaw lethal drones entirely from all human activity – like nerve gas or germ warfare?

        • Draco T Bastard 3.2.1.1

          Use of chemical and biological agents as weapons is already banned.

          • Ad 3.2.1.1.1

            Precisely. So what criteria were used to ban them that are applicable to proposing to ban drone strike aircraft? If none, what criteria are being deployed here?

            • Draco T Bastard 3.2.1.1.1.1

              The criteria was simple – it was the indiscriminate way that they kill. Chemical warfare will kill or maim everyone within the area and germ warfare could easily go global.

              A number of people who support drone attacks for taking out militants argue that drones are precision machines and thus aren’t covered by the rules of warfare. The fact that the number of civilian deaths far exceeds the number of militant kills doesn’t seem to get through to them.

              • Ad

                Got through to me.
                Name me a weapon bigger than a rifle that doesn’t have large civilian deaths.
                There is no principle operating here to ban lethal drones. See comment 13.

                • Colonial Viper

                  The simple principle that we don’t need them, or want them Ad.

                  What are you going to do next? Justify the use of landmines and the booby trapping of enemy weapons caches?

      • Psycho Milt 3.2.2

        Even so (for instance) would you consider that in the time of war, it’d be a violation of the international rules of war to destroy civilian building well behind the lines with a missile from a drone because a soldier (say a general) was billeted there with a family?

        Personally, I’d like it to be. The idea of W sitting in the dock at the Hague trying to explain why it was OK to destroy an apartment block full of people because he had some intelligence that someone important was there… that idea definitely appeals. But in reality, WW2 put it very clearly within the rules, because the victors were guilty of exactly that kind of thing and weren’t about to hang themselves. Same applies here.

        • lprent 3.2.2.1

          W?

          The purported excuse that the allies (and for that matter the germans) gave for their atrocities was that they were trying to hit military targets with imperfect weapons and accidentally destroying the city through inaccuracy (eg especially the german and english night bombing) and/or they were involved in close quarters urban fighting.

          That was why I used the example of single artillery round at long range which even in WW2 or Korea didn’t have either of those issues.

          • Psycho Milt 3.2.2.1.1

            Sorry – ‘W’ was one of many colloquial names for George W. Bush, presumably intended to distinguish him from his dad.

            Re the WW2 comparison, I think air and naval actions cover it. For example, the British sent a bunch of RAF Mosquitos to attack the Gestapo headquarters in Copenhagen to try and kill various Gestapo officers, and a few of the pilots mistook a school for the Gestapo building and killed some Danish schoolchildren.

          • Draco T Bastard 3.2.2.1.2

            That was why I used the example of single artillery round at long range which even in WW2 or Korea didn’t have either of those issues.

            Artillery

            The Wiki disagrees with you.

            • lprent 3.2.2.1.2.1

              You’re right. Interesting. I’d thought that the reasonably accurate artillery was from a lot earlier.

              I’ll try to remember to look at the generational accuracy in the morning. I had the impression that ww2/korean war arty was small 10’s of metres accuracy, and that the warhead was dangerous for 10’s of metres. Which was sufficient for most targets.

              From memory the laser guided stuff like the copperhead required a laser painted at the target by an observer and that was accurate within metres.

              • Colonial Viper

                I’ll try to remember to look at the generational accuracy in the morning. I had the impression that ww2/korean war arty was small 10′s of metres accuracy, and that the warhead was dangerous for 10′s of metres. Which was sufficient for most targets.

                They had that level of accuracy once accurately ranged and sighted.

                Also, artillery (as you no doubt know) is used in several different ways and many different and complex firing plans, patterns and barrage types can be ordered and accurately delivered even using only standard shells.

              • Draco T Bastard

                I’d thought that the reasonably accurate artillery was from a lot earlier.

                They seem to have got unguided artillery accurate to “some tens of yards” by 1918 using air-photography and other methods. The problem really being wind shifts during the flight of the shell and there’s not much you can do about that. Even with modern computers that shell isn’t going to be overly accurate. Certainly not something that I’d fire in the general direction of a civilian population. Probably good for bases, camps and factories that are away from the population centre but anything close will result in civilian deaths.

                From memory the laser guided stuff like the copperhead required a laser painted at the target by an observer and that was accurate within metres.

                Yep. Lot easier to hit the target when you can see it and the shell can be guided on to it.

    • RJL 3.3

      Psycho Milt: “– we’d want to be able to yank that commitment immediately if we found ourselves having to fight a war.”

      The same argument applies to any other banned weaponry (nukes, cluster munitions, depleted uranium munitions, chemical and biological weapons). It hasn’t proven a problem in those cases.

      • Psycho Milt 3.3.1

        Soldiers do sometimes find themselves having to fight without air support – the Germans fighting the western Allies in 1944/5 for instance. However, it amounts to condemning them to wholesale slaughter and certain defeat, which is not something I’d encourage the NZ government to plan for its soldiers…

        • Colonial Viper 3.3.1.1

          Although in recent wars, it’s allied air support which has been most dangerous to western soldiers, not enemy air support…

          • One Anonymous Bloke 3.3.1.1.1

            That’s because the enemy hasn’t had any air support at all.

            • Colonial Viper 3.3.1.1.1.1

              Just watched video of Ukranian airforce gunships attacking a Ukranian army checkpoint.

              A very nasty whoops.

  4. Ok, It’s very simple. If you think that hunting animals with drones is abhorrent and prohibit them then you should declare them abhorrent when they are used on unsuspecting villagers in mountainous areas ore anywhere else for that matter.

    Every European country has rejected the use of Drones and the fact that the prime minister of New Zealand finds them acceptable and finds nothing wrong with the extrajudicial killing of one of its citizens simply because he accused of perhaps having to do something with terrorism is something that should worry every Kiwi.

    • Will@Welly 4.1

      100%

      You summed up my thoughts and feelings succinctly, John Key has no moral fibre. He might be Prime Minister, but he is not a leader, nor a statesman.

    • Ad 4.2

      “In the proposed regulation, remote-controlled aircraft are listed with unlawful hunting methods including the use of poison, bombs, radio communication or exploding salt licks, among other things”

      Crikey, we poinson the heck out of whole bunches of pests – admittedly I haven’t heard of DoC using exploding salt licks however (!)

      Can’t see the moral or ethical point that Alaska is making. If they are opposed to the mechanised killing of animals as a whole, they open a can of worms worth a Peter Singer-scale debate. In reality they’re just keeping things sweet for the rifle hunting fraternity.

      • Colonial Viper 4.2.1

        In war, fighting (and hunting) there used to be a concept of what was honourable or what was sportsman-like. Often it was very arbitrary.

        You don’t attack someone from the back.

        You don’t kick someone when they are down.

        In medieval times the outcomes of battles would sometimes be declared by ‘referees’ on the field without requiring the wholesale slaughter of all on the other side, and reagents would abide by the decisions.

        These days, any government can with intellectual sophistry and PR justify all kinds of immoral and amoral activities and technology.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 4.2.1.1

          :roll:

          Gosh, yes, jolly unsporting, what what.

          • Colonial Viper 4.2.1.1.1

            Take it as a joke if you like. A global hyper-power can do whatever the fuck it likes. A nation like NZ on the other hand has to make its way using its independence, its soft power and by setting a moral example.

            Too quaint an attitude for you no doubt.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 4.2.1.1.1.1

              Your notions of Medieval chivalry are romantic drivel. Just saying.

  5. hoom 5

    An International treaty regulating/limiting use of lethal drones is a really bloody good idea.

  6. Pablo 6

    As the person who first put the idea out in the public domain (at a meeting last week in Wellington and then on KP), let me clarify that my proposal was for there to be public debate about NZ’s possible unilateral renunciation of lethal drones or the construction of a regional lethal-drone free zone in the South Pacific. I noted some pros and cons by way of introducing argumentative points that would emerge in such a debate and speculated that the it would be good to have in the lead up to a referendum on the subject. NRT was kind enough to support the proposal and is clearly for unilateral renunciation, as are Lynn and many others.

    There are practical arguments in favor of retaining the right to deploy lethal UAVs in and over the battlefield (since the trend in UAVs is towards nano technologies). If that were to occur the conditions governing their deployment would require many strictures regarding the rules of engagement, choice of targets, nature of the conflict etc., which would be the subject of further discussion. The immediate point is that these issues need to be aired more broadly and not left to government interpretation.

    I believe that it is time for open and reasoned discussion of where we as a polity stand on the subject of lethal drones. Given their myriad non-lethal applications, the issue is not whether there will be drones in our future, but when and what kind will be allowed to operate at home and abroad, and under what conditions. A referendum on the subject would clarify the issue and could help policy approaches towards it.

    • RJL 6.1

      Pablo: “…since the trend in UAVs is towards nano technologies…

      Is the trend towards nano manifest in lethal drones too?

      At some point, with a lethal drone, some munitions need to arrive at the target. Munitions tend to be macro.

      Or do you just mean a whole swarm of tiny “sensor nano-drones” that network to a large lethal drone. The lethal drone can loiter some distance away and then launch munitions according to targeting information provided by the swarm?

      Can’t see a good reason to not renouce that potential tech.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1.1

        How about that a tiny robot can deliver a single lethal dose with no other loss of life?

        • RJL 6.1.1.1

          Would still be an extra-judicial assassination; so still a war crime.

          Also, while that may reduce collatoral damage, it can’t eliminate it: tiny robot may dose the wrong person.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 6.1.1.1.1

            You have to think harder: that drone on your neck toe is one of a hundred within striking distance of you right now. Surrender or die.

            • Colonial Viper 6.1.1.1.1.1

              No doubt you also approve of the use of assassin drone technology, as long as the target is a suitable non-civilian one.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                No doubt you’re such a fuckwit that you will continue to misrepresent my views on this subject, you unelectable failure.

                • Colonial Viper

                  An “unelectable failure”? Like I said before, at least I’m not a Drone Democrat making excuses for the latest automated weapons platforms that money can buy.

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    What part of the fact that control of the air disperses the enemy can’t you grasp? What part of the consequences of that dispersal are you having trouble with?

                    Fuck you’re a moron.

    • Ad 6.2

      Would you mind providing a link to your arguments so I can get my head around them?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 6.3

      Pablo a referendum are you serious?

      Shall we allow soldiers the right to kill engage the enemy by remote control?

      Or

      Shall we cede the right to life to the US administration?

      What yes/no question did you have in mind?

      • Pablo 6.3.1

        Actually, since referenda are non-binding and have been ignored by arrogant governments (e.g. asset sales), a Royal Commission would be a preferable alternative. Draw up a panel of experts, hold public hearings, then write up recommendations. They might be harder to ignore.

    • lprent 6.4

      If that were to occur the conditions governing their deployment would require many strictures regarding the rules of engagement, choice of targets, nature of the conflict etc., which would be the subject of further discussion. The immediate point is that these issues need to be aired more broadly and not left to government interpretation.

      Exactly. Especially as the way that the US appears to be currently deploying drones closely resembles simple acts of terrorism

      • One Anonymous Bloke 6.4.1

        The main reason to deploy drones is to limit casualties. What costs more, a drone or a platoon?

        The deployment of drones effectively scatters the enemy, forcing them to hide among the civilian population.

        At that point it makes far more sense to return jurisdiction to the civilian authorities than to bomb weddings.

        • Colonial Viper 6.4.1.1

          The main reason to deploy drones is to limit OUR casualties. The coloured bad guy ragheads who speak a different language can go get fucked.

          Clarified it for you.

          What costs more, a drone or a platoon?

          I love the moral measure you bring to bear here. What’s the cheaper way of killing other people.

          God I hate lefties some days. Drone Strike Democrats the lot of ya.

          • One Anonymous Bloke 6.4.1.1.1

            Yes, because costs are only ever measured in money, you blinkered twit.

          • Draco T Bastard 6.4.1.1.2

            Generally speaking there shouldn’t be way at all. Unfortunately, there’s a few psychopaths in power in a few places around the world some of those places happen to be powerful nation states.

  7. Chaff 7

    What makes a drone and how does it differ from any other weapon? Fine, you don’t like the idea that the US targeted and killed someone who they perceived to be a terrorist with whom they are at war with. Perhaps that is a matter of perspective. This idea that a drone is somehow indiscriminate, automated etc, implied very much by the silly term ‘drone’ in the first place, is wrong.

    Someone is flying that aircraft, making the same decisions anyone else is. The idea that warfare is somehow ‘fair’ and unmanned weapons are wrong is about 150 years out of date, and irrelevant.

    Now if you want to argue collateral, sure, but the use of a ‘drone’ is irrelevant to the subject of collateral.

    • Ad 7.1

      Retired US Air Force General Charles Dunlap:
      “It’s not particularly new to use long-range strike. David defeated Goliath with a long-range strike with a missile weapon. At Agincourt, the English bowmen destroyed the flower of French knighthood with long-range strikes… and we have had long-range strike bombers for some time. This really is not new conceptually.”

      Debating Drones, In the Open, New York Times, Feb 10, 2014

      Possibly drawing too long a bow there (sorry)

      • Colonial Viper 7.1.1

        Big difference between one guy being armed with a long sword and the other being armed with a dagger; to one guy being armed with an AK47 and the other guy shooting at him from 5,000km away in a secure base in Texas.

    • Macro 7.2

      “Fine, you don’t like the idea that the US targeted and killed someone who they perceived to be a terrorist with whom they are at war with. Perhaps that is a matter of perspective.”

      Every NZer is entitled to a fair trial. NZ has abolished capital punishment – even for crimes against the state. Supplying information that leads to a drone strike on his cell phone, is tantamount to being an accessory in his murder. Being “relaxed” about it compounds the crime. There is no state of war declared by NZ against Pakistan. The so called “war against terrorism” is not a state of war against innocent people, and it draws a long bow to think that that includes legitimacy to perform acts of assassination against anyone. And the last time I read the principles of justice every NZer is presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.

    • lprent 7.3

      What makes a drone and how does it differ from any other weapon?

      No different. In most militaries in peacetime having a soldier lob a shell into a civilian town would constitute a civil crime. Doing the same as a drone operator firing a missile into a building or street deserves the same treatment regardless if it is in Yemen or Pakistan or NZ or Mexico.

      • Ad 7.3.1

        Then, again, your problem is with the US not declaring war, not drone deployment.

        • Macro 7.3.1.1

          Oh finally you got it! This has been the argument all along – but some have taken all day to work out the moral basis. There is a huge difference between declaring war on a country and sending ad hoc drones into Pakistan to kill persons who may or may not be members of an organisation you happen to disagree with.

          Tit for tat gets us no where, indeed it merely escalates into all out conflict. Just because suicidal maniacs hi jacked some plane and flew them into the Twin towers and the Pentagon killing several thousand innocents in the process doesn’t automatically make it right for the US and NZ to continually fly drones into Pakistan killing thousands more. Repeating a wrong doing does not make it right. All these drone attacks do is to harden the anger against USA and its allies, and create more desire to “get back”. Rather than reduce the threat to US civilians it has increased it. They feel more threatened now than before. It is a stupid policy which the States and those countries associated with them (including NZ) will ultimately loose, as the so- called war in Afganistan is proving.

  8. Populuxe1 8

    ….Or we could completely and cost effectively replace our long lost air force by defending our coastal and ocean territories with drones. Babies and bathwater.

    • lprent 8.1

      With effectively no international rules on their use and violating international laws? What are you going to do.

      What are you planning to do? Fire a hellfire missile into a korean fishing boat full of filipino semi-slaves because you think that there might be a al-qaeda operative on board?

      That is roughly what the US does. Then they claim guilt by association and call the other victims enemies.

      I’m afraid that you’d have a hell of a hard time getting our military happy with it. Besides have you looked at the costs of something that could stand our offshore weather?

      • Populuxe1 8.1.1

        With effectively no international rules on their use and violating international laws? What are you going to do.

        How does one violate laws that don’t exist then?

        What are you planning to do? Fire a hellfire missile into a korean fishing boat full of filipino semi-slaves because you think that there might be a al-qaeda operative on board?

        Do we do much of that now, then? More to the point as the world turns to shit, in 20-50 years the Pacific will likely be a whole lot less pacific.

        That is roughly what the US does. Then they claim guilt by association and call the other victims enemies.

        I didn’t say anything about deploying them overseas. I said quite clearly “defending our coastal and ocean territories”.

        I’m afraid that you’d have a hell of a hard time getting our military happy with it. Besides have you looked at the costs of something that could stand our offshore weather?

        Well until someone asks them, we won’t know, although it’s actually up to the government rather than the military. The US Navy already has ship-launched drones that would work just fine in our offshore weather.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.2

      We didn’t lose the air force – it’s still there. We just got rid of the rather useless air-combat wing.

      The monitoring of our waters has always been sub-par and will probably remain so until we develop our own space program. There’s no way that I would trust a satellite built by another country for our defense. Actually, I apply that to all of our defense forces weapons.

      • TheContrarian 8.2.1

        “The monitoring of our waters has always been sub-par and will probably remain so until we develop our own space program”

        This is what I love about Draco, the blanket “All we need to do is <insert lofty goal that must only be achieved using the resources we have at hand because Draco also believes we don’t need to import anything either.>”

        Never change, you’re a peach.

  9. Chooky 9

    +100 …Great Post …Totally agree “Armed drones are used to murder people without trial. In Pakistan and Yemen, they are basically being used to indiscriminately wage war on civilians. We should have no part of either. New Zealand should renounce these weapons, ban our intelligence services from passing information to countries which use them, and organise the world against them. Obviously, that’s not going to happen under our current extrajudicial-murder-supporting government. But surely one of our opposition parties could make it policy?”

    Armed drone attacks make war into a boys computer game …there is no honour here….the murder of innocent civilians will encourage greater resentment and risk of a greater and dirtier war …the assassination of the suspected terrorists without fair and proper international trials propels the world into a state of permanent war and lawlessness

    • Populuxe1 9.1

      And while we’re at it we should ban our military from having guns because they might kills someone with them.

      • Colonial Viper 9.1.1

        Hey Pop. You gotta draw the line somewhere when it comes to weapons technologies. Anti-personnel mines, cluster munitions, white phosphorus munitions in the anti-personnel role, there are good military uses for those weapons. But we don’t want them.

        • Populuxe1 9.1.1.1

          I’d agree on the mines, cluster bombs and white phosphorus, but drones are a bit more multipurpose than that and I don’t see the difference between having Penguins on our Naval helicopters and Sea Sparrows on Te Kaha, and a hellfire on a drone to be used only in the defense of our territorial sovereignty.

          • Colonial Viper 9.1.1.1.1

            I have little problem with sensor only unarmed drones being used solely in military ops. Problem is, once they have them, they’ll want to expand their use to ordinary civilians eg law enforcement, spying etc.

            • Populuxe1 9.1.1.1.1.1

              Let me know when our plods start using LAVs and I’ll concede the point.

              • Colonial Viper

                Ok, sure. NZ is usually about 15 years behind US implementation, so at a guess it should happen in about 12-13 years time.

                By the way, I heard something about drones being used to assess Christchurch earthquake damage recently…

                • Populuxe1

                  By the way, I heard something about drones being used to assess Christchurch earthquake damage recently…

                  The New Zealand government actually doing something proactive about Christchurch?! Dear boy, that is positively something to CELEBRATE!

                  Here’s a funny story. You know how in New Zealand is only separated by two degrees? Yeah. So actually I knew quite a few people killed in various collapsing buildings, so just perhaps the thought of checking earthquake-damaged buildings without risking human life doesn’t worry me so much as you arguing that makes you a horrible, horrible person.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    yes sireee I guess a massive citizen facing security and surveillance state is needed to protect us from terrorists and now also earthquakes too

                    BTW bringing up the deaths of people you know in Christchurch as some kind of justification for military drone usage is pathetic. (I have no issues with non-military non-intelligence gathering non-armable drones for legit civilian use).

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      (I have no issues with non-military non-intelligence gathering non-armable drones for legit civilian use).

                      So, that would be recreation only?

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Hey I hear that the Pentagon is developing humanoid robotic systems solely for use in “humanitarian and rescue missions”. Hope you become a big supporter of this important and useful technology.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Yes I will be supportive of such technology. Same as I’m supportive of drones that can fly up the sides of buildings and test if they’re likely to fall down in an earthquake or not.

                      I’m not supportive of drones being used as assassination weapons in a war with no boundaries that causes massive civilian deaths that are then written off as collateral damage rather than being prosecuted for the war crimes that they represent.

              • felix

                “Let me know when our plods start using LAVs and I’ll concede the point.”

                …after it’s too late to do anything about it.

                • Populuxe1

                  Oooh, what a pickle of a paradox!

                  • lprent

                    They used them in Bosnia. Borrowed them from the English as I remember it.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    I seem to recall the military, complete with a LAV, being called in because of a gunman in Christchurch a few years ago.

                  • felix

                    “Oooh, what a pickle of a paradox!”

                    It’s not really a pickle. It demonstrates that you’re being dishonest so you can be safely ignored.

                    Oh yeah there was that incident near the hospital in Napier a couple of years ago too, but I guess that doesn’t count unless the cops were using LAVs to issue speeding tickets, due to the position of the new goalposts.

                    (of course if they were, you’d just say “the key word is SPEEDING”)

                    • Populuxe1

                      Please do ignore me, Felix, you have nothing to contribute. Of course, I’ll just leave you the last word – it seems as effective as a baby’s pacifier where you’re concerned.

                      And no, I’d say the key word is “Molinaar”

  10. Steve Wrathall 10

    So you’d prefer hand-to-hand combat? You volunteering?

    • Macro 10.1

      Typical idiotic comment from an idiot.

      • Colonial Viper 10.1.1

        If two nations decide to go to war why not…give the leadership ranks of each government knives and lock them together in a meeting room. Something will get sorted out, quickly, cheaply, and without the loss of valuable civilian lives.

        • Macro 10.1.1.1

          yes i agree! but i don’t quite think that is what the idiot was referring to

  11. Hennie van der Merwe 11

    I would propose that these strikes only be allowed on foreign soil (territory) if the operator has officially declared war against that foreign territory.
    What gives any country the right to “invade” another and kill its citizens or residents by any means except in an officially declared war.
    In my mind a country cannot declare war in its essence against an ideology or terrosism and use this to legalise their actions.
    Just my penny’s worth.
    PS Something that I have never been able to get my mind around is the fact that in most countries it is a serious offence to take another’s life, however, once two (or more) politicians decide that war is on, then it is a crime punishable by death if one does not kill.

    • Ad 11.1

      Have a read of the Geneva Conventions – you will figure out the difference betwen war and killing. In fact have a look at coverage of the Nuremburg Trials – you will get the idea.

  12. Pablo 12

    The conversation so far demonstrates why a public debate is needed.

    R&D on larger drones such as the Reaper, Predator and Global Hawk (to say nothing of Israeli, Chinese and Russian models, among many others) has largely leveled off (besides the usual payload, stealth, speed, maneuverability and survivability upgrades), with the focus shifting to miniaturization designed for tactical contexts (urban in particular). The US military is hard at work designing and trialling automated squad weapons platforms in the air and on land, and robotics of all sorts are now designed with at least half an eye towards weapons applications. Whether using swarm or stealth tactics, armed unmanned platforms are seen by military planners and weapons designers as having high utility in future battlefields, conventional as well as unconventional.

    These can and will eventually be used in domestic as well as foreign contexts. Police already use robots for EOD and forced entry work, some with non-lethal weapons deployed (e.g. tear gas). The array of land-based robotics in development is staggering, and naval UAVs are in the pipeline (all of these with lethal potential). I think that it would be wise to reflect on these future applications with an eye towards developing legal and operational frameworks governing their use (or non-use). Among other things, that is where the rubber will meet the road when it comes to the balance of realism and idealism in NZ foreign, defense and domestic security policy.

    Kiwipolitico has a series of posts that mention various aspects of drone warfare. NRT has a link (above) to the post proposing that unilateral renunciation be debated.

  13. Ad 13

    I don’t see any argument to ban them other than some conflation with a general hating of United States’ surveillance techniques. Separate issues.

    David Remnick in The NewYorker earlier this year says “we are in the same position now, with drones, that we were with nuclear weapons in 1945. For the moment, we are the only ones with this technology that is going to change the morality, psychology, and stratgegic thinking of warfare for years to come.”

    I would argue, in contrast, that they have no unique features to other kind of military technology.
    – Like armed heilcopters, they hover
    – Like guided missiles, they are deployed from afar
    – Like many weapons systems of this decade, they are very precise
    – Like many missile and large gun systems, they are human-guided from afar

    If we wanted to get to the heart of it and vent our frustration at the US choosing not to be subject to international law because they go at it with or without declaring war, well great.
    But outlawing lethal drones won’t get near that.

    • lprent 13.1

      The biggest issue I see with them is the question about who you charge for killing civilians with them in a time of war or in peace. At present the US is dodging that and pretty much ignoring all international rules about atrocities, war crimes, and civilian on their use. That is because they appear to be the only forces actively using them against targets outside of the battlefield

      They are effectively defining the doctrines of their use. At present, that doctrine appears to be that they are used purely for the purpose of terrorism.

      Problem then is that every tinpot dictator who gets them now has a perfect example to point them at as the assassinate their dissident groups in other countries, ignoring “collateral damage” of the deaths of bystanders.

      For that matter, the US is in effect validating their use as terrorist weapons by terrorist groups. What is the difference between driving a plane into a building with hated enemies and firing a missile into a building with a hated enemy?

  14. Draco T Bastard 14

    I’m thinking that this is the wrong discussion. Drones obviously come under existing rules as they’re nothing more than military aircraft.

    The discussion we really need to have is about the legality of the War on Terrorism, how the US is using that to engage in acts of terrorism and how the Rest of the World isn’t willing to hold the US to account for those acts.

    • lprent 14.1

      That I’d fully agree with. Currently the US is acting like a rogue state employing terrorist techniques.

      It is going to be a bastard when other states start following their example.

    • Ad 14.2

      Fully agree.

    • Colonial Viper 14.3

      I’m thinking that this is the wrong discussion. Drones obviously come under existing rules as they’re nothing more than military aircraft.

      And what about the use of military aircraft for law enforcement, intelligence purposes? Or for spying on your own citizens?

      • Draco T Bastard 14.3.1

        Already against the law.

        • Colonial Viper 14.3.1.1

          Even if that were true. Who audits and enforces those laws. And where is the budget to do that coming from? No where, right?

          • Draco T Bastard 14.3.1.1.1

            I agree that the laws governing intelligence gathering and enforcement of those laws need to be updated.

          • Populuxe1 14.3.1.1.2

            Who audits and enforces any of our laws?

      • Populuxe1 14.3.2

        …or a bored teenager attaching a smart phone to a remote control model helicopter…

        • Colonial Viper 14.3.2.1

          That’s the difference between an airsoft pistol and an anti-materiel gun. Although the spooks have been known to use their technology to get their jollies off as well.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 14.4

      DtB exactly. Everything about the use of drones is fucked because the war on terror is an oxymoron.

      • lprent 14.4.1

        The problem is that how the US has deployed their drones on the “war on terror” has been to use them as a weapon of terror without significiant regard to casualties or national bounds..

        That is going to reflect now in how all nations who have such weapons or nations who get them in the future will operate them as a relatively cheap weapon of state or (just as bad) private terrorism.

        Wait until the terrorists buy and use them…

        That is the problem.

        • Draco T Bastard 14.4.1.1

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fbITzCI2AU0
          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elfj4ytDAJc
          http://diydrones.com/

          If I had built either of those remote controlled planes they would have been drones. It really can’t be that long until the terrorists make them.

        • One Anonymous Bloke 14.4.1.2

          The whole topic is soaked in morbidity, but for what it’s worth, terrorists are generally interested in soft targets. Why are drones a more effective delivery method than (say) car bombs?

          • Colonial Viper 14.4.1.2.1

            This is just nonsensical and ignorant a question.

            • One Anonymous Bloke 14.4.1.2.1.1

              Cars are cheap. They draw no attention, they require no special skills or cell-phone coverage, and if you think driving a truck bomb into the front of an embassy somehow sends less of a message than a missile attack inside the perimeter you’re a fool, but I already said that.

              • Colonial Viper

                Yes I may be a fool, but your suggestion that a successful car or truck bombing requires “no special skills” is nothing short of ignorant.

          • Colonial Viper 14.4.1.2.2

            Regardless of that, here’s your fucking answer Armchair General Lefty

            http://www.usembassymanilavisa.com/usembassymanilabuilding.jpg

            • One Anonymous Bloke 14.4.1.2.2.1

              Looks like a soft target to me, armchair MP.

              • Colonial Viper

                You made an assumption right at the start which I don’t think holds – that terrorists are mainly interested in soft targets. Just think about the USS Cole, or the suicide bombing of dozens of US marines in Beiruit. You don’t get harder targets than that.

                A more solid assumption would be this – that terrorists go for the most effective targets that their capabilities allow.

                And drone tech significantly extends those capabilities.

                • One Anonymous Bloke

                  They were soft targets too: “…a visibly low state of situational awareness”; very little military advantage gained.

                  A bit like drones really.

    • Colonial Viper 14.5

      I’m thinking that this is the wrong discussion. Drones obviously come under existing rules as they’re nothing more than military aircraft.

      I really hate this kind of naive carry on from lefties.

      All you guys seem bedazzled with the superficial idea that the thing looks like an aircraft and flies like an aircraft, so its just like any other military aircraft.

      In reality drones are advanced weapon and sensor platforms with capacity for massive levels of future automation and autonomous mission execution. They bring advanced new capabilities to military operators and make feasible the kinds of operations which would otherwise be impossible.

      • Draco T Bastard 14.5.1

        In reality drones are advanced weapon and sensor platforms with capacity for massive levels of future automation and autonomous mission execution.

        Except for the automation modern military aircraft are exactly the same.

        Oh, wait, that one’s 50+ years old.

        They bring advanced new capabilities to military operators and make feasible the kinds of operations which would otherwise be impossible.

        Not really unless you’re looking solely at cost and I really don’t believe that would make any difference either.

        • Colonial Viper 14.5.1.1

          love these lefties. you might as well go work for lockheed martin.

          • Draco T Bastard 14.5.1.1.1

            I just pointed out that your assertions were bollocks.

            • Colonial Viper 14.5.1.1.1.1

              Nah you just pointed out that you don’t understand what fundamentally new capabilities modern drones bring to battle space operations, and in fact you probably think that an Enfield rifle and a Phalanx CIWS are basically the same class of weapon because they both fire bullets.

              • Draco T Bastard

                /facepalm

                • Colonial Viper

                  Go weaponise the NZ airspace, what the fuck do I care, turns out this site is full of socially liberal Drone Democrats which is an informative discovery.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    You’re confusing my knowledge of weaponry with agreement that it should be used as you describe.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      +1

                      Oh, and being a prize asshole to boot.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      You just compared Predators and Reapers to a 1960’s Cold War U-2. I’m surprised you didn’t compare Predators and Reapers to the WWI tri-planes they used to recon enemy positions.

                      After all they are ‘exactly the same, except for the automation’.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      Oh, there’s one other way in which two pieces of military hardware are exactly the same. Deploying either against civilians in peacetime is a war crime.

                      What part of this isn’t getting through to you?

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Which part of ‘the nature and history of military drone use has been one against civilian populations and with many civilian casualties’ isn’t registering with you?

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      None. It’s a war crime. Discussing the ramifications of this somehow equates to supporting it, in your fevered imagination.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      “It’s a war crime”

                      Do keep saying that. It’ll help salve your conscience as yet another Drone Democrat.

                      Fact of the matter is of course, while we know that there have been many civilians killed by drone strikes in Iraq, Afghanistan, and very likely in Palestine/Lebanon ZERO CHARGES have been brought against those drone operators, and that is the way it is likely to stay.

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      If you’re going to persist in the delusion that I support their deployment I’m going to treat you with contempt and ridicule, armchair MP.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      You just compared Predators and Reapers to a 1960′s Cold War U-2.

                      I compared two aircraft that do the same job and are in use today. One just so happens to have been around for 50+ years but you’re not complaining about it. This denotes a serious case of double standards on your part.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      I support a ban on armed military drones as well as drones designed to unaccountably surveil the general population; on the other hand I don’t give a fuck about U-2’s and U2 deployment in NZ or the Pacific.

                      If that’s a “double standard” so fucking be it.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      The double standard undermines any argument that you make.

    • Phil Sage 14.6

      For the last few hundred years wars have been between states. The war on terror is a clash of civilisations. Why should one side tie both hands behind their back. Your logic suggests that the intervention in Afghanistan was “illegal” because it was not preceded by niceties of a formal court of law. That is war.
      The West is perfectly justified in using weaponised drones to visually identify and eliminate targets in the war on terror. Collateral damage is being reduced by the use of drones with higher accuracy and a consequently lower explosive force.

      If you argue that there is no war on terror is that because you think the islamists are not dedicated to a global caliphate, you think it is bad tactics and worse strategy or you think we should give in?

      • Draco T Bastard 14.6.1

        The war on terror is a clash of civilisations.

        Don’t kid yourself – the War on Terror is the US Empire attacking a marginalised religious group. A group that would likely have gone the way of the dodo decades ago if the West hadn’t kept attacking and holding back the M.E.

        Collateral damage is being reduced by the use of drones with higher accuracy and a consequently lower explosive force.

        Actually, the collateral damage done by the US is a why crime as it far exceeds the damage done to the militants. The US is engaging in more terrorism than the militants.

  15. RedLogix 15

    I’m surprised no-one has brought up the next shoe – autonomous killing machines.

    It would appear that at least one especially objectionable aspect of lethal drones is that they allow their operators to be entirely removed from the killing zone, comfortably in a dark ops center with zero personal risk or physical involvement. It’s this ‘killing at a distance’ which disconnects and insulates the machine operator from any sense of their consequences which essentially cheapens the price of a human life to essentially zero.

    At least the weapons officer of a nuclear armed ICBM sub went about his duties vividly aware of the extremely high price of a mistake – a lethal drone operator not nearly so much.

    Which is of course only one relatively small step away from removing the operator from the transaction altogether, and unleashing autonomous carnage machines with murderous intent – and zero conscience.

    • Colonial Viper 15.1

      Bunch of pro-military Drone Democrats on this site. Let’s end child poverty but have Reapers flying overhead their kindergartens.

      Waste of fucking time even talking to these morally confused individuals.

      • Draco T Bastard 15.1.1

        Let’s end child poverty but have Reapers flying overhead their kindergartens.

        Last time I looked children didn’t eat either aluminium nor silicon.

        You’re confusing money for resource.

        • Colonial Viper 15.1.1.1

          I said morally confused Draco, that should give you a fucking clue as to what I meant – it’s not a point to do with either money or resources.

        • RedLogix 15.1.1.2

          I think the point is DtB that immensely cheap computing power has placed us on a remarkably parallel precipice to the same one Europe was perched upon exactly 100 years ago.

          They all knew war could be hard, brutal business – but conducted according to the rules as they understood them at that time it could also be a useful, morally justified tool for a nation. Indeed serving in the military came with a considerable degree of honour and social respectability.

          They had absolutely no inkling of the mass horrors of mechanised trench warfare that lay just months into their future. They had no idea that in less than a year, 20,000 troops would be wiped out in a matter of minutes in a futile bid to gain mere yards of useless mud. High rate machine guns existed, but they had been used in far-off lands against peoples no-one cared about. Tanks were still lumbering toys of dubious utility and while poison gas sounded unpleasant – the nightmare of it’s mass impact remained unimagined.

          But at least it was all conducted on a battlefield and you could tell mostly who was a combatant and who was not. These future autonomous, remote killing machines will care not a jot about any of that. There will be no battlefields – anyone, anywhere, anytime will be a target.

          • Colonial Viper 15.1.1.2.1

            New Pentagon robots are designed only for “humanitarian” service and rescue. LOL

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TE3CJfgaLQ

            • RedLogix 15.1.1.2.1.1

              I’m thinking in terms of ‘full spectrum dominance’. How layers of sensors weapons based in space, air, subsea and cyber will be used to build a complete picture of operations and optimal targeting strategies using hardened, ultra-secure networks and supercomputers.

              There will be nowhere to hide.

              The robots will be mainly used to mop up the last most stubborn resistance.

              • Colonial Viper

                At least you’ve been paying attention RL. BTW I’m pretty sure that Russia and China have both analysed this US doctrine and have decided that EW/cyberwarfare, anti-satellite and EMP weapons are perfect for targetting the weak points in the technology.

                Iranians demonstrating their ability to ‘midair hijack’ US military drones, for instance.

                • RedLogix

                  And there you have put your finger on the proximate cause of WW1.

                  The Germans faced two potential fronts, one from the Russians the other from France and Britain. Despite having the best army in Europe conventional wisdom was that they could not win a war on both fronts at the same time. But they considered that the Russians would take at least 100 days to mobilise, much less advance through Poland into Germany.

                  On the other hand a fast lightening strike against a weaker France, concluded within a few months would shut down that front – freeing up the German army to swing about and fully engage Russia – against whom a victory was considered probable.

                  When the Czar implemented a preparatory partial mobilisation, the window of opportunity on this asymmetric tactical advantage began to close rapidly, forcing Germany to invade Belgium. The whole plan unravelled at Marne – bogging the Germans down in trenches and forcing the Germans into an defensive posture they could never recover from. It was in many ways a war no-one really wanted – but one they felt forced into for fear of losing the strategic advantage.

                  The same logic will apply if the USA begins to believe it’s strategic advantage is about to be lost.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    And failing empires do not do nice, rational things. In fact, a collective insanity can and usually does take hold.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                The fact that full spectrum dominance leaves nowhere to hide makes hiding pointless and leads directly to “collateral” murder.

                If they can hit me anywhere I may as well go to that wedding.

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