Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050. By Nick Turse and Tom Engelhardt. Dispatch Books, 179. Paperback, $12.99.CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- During his first nine months in the White House, Barack Obama authorized more drone attacks on Pakistan's tribal borderlands with Afghanistan than George W. Bush approved during the previous three years.
The Pakistan Institute for Peace Studies found U.S. drone strikes killed 667 people in 2009. Most were innocent civilians. On June 23, 2009, for example, a U.S. drone attack killed at least 80 people in a funeral procession.
"Air power and civilian deaths are inextricably bound together. They cannot be separated," writes Tom Englehardt. "It's simply the barbaric essence, the very nature of this kind of war, to kill noncombatants."
"Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050," a collection of essays by Engelhardt and Nick Turse, focuses on the impacts drone bombings have on people living in targeted areas.
Both write for TomDispatch.com, part of the Nation Institute, a weekly internet publication focusing on international relations and economics.
"Drones are now the bedrock of Washington's future military planning," Turse writes.
Obama apparently believes he has absolute freedom to use drones, which have become his weapon of choice, without seeking any prior approval from Congress.
He has already authorized drone strikes against people in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and the Philippines.
Drones help detach "combatants" from battlefields. Some of today's "combatants" monitor unmanned drone flights on computer screens in places like Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, thousands of miles away from their targets.
Drone warfare, Englehardt argues, is history's "most extreme version thus far of the detachment of human beings from the battlefield" which "catches something important about the American way of war."
Today, most Americans have also become "remarkably detached" from military battles and operations.
"Such detachment has been the goal of American war-making," especially in the wake of the Vietnam War, where a civilian army recruited by drafting young Americans became "increasingly rebellious" as that war went on and more injured soldiers returned home.
@brfs:Impact of drones
@bod:William Pfaff, a national newspaper columnist since 1978 who has also authored 10 books, recently wrote drone attacks have "ignited protests on moral, legal, political and strategic grounds. ...
"Obama's acts consciously undermine the civilized order of modern society. The United States has quite deliberately made itself an outlaw state."
Defenders of drone attacks argue they take fewer lives on both sides of military conflicts.
In "The Moral Case for Drones," a July 15 "New York Times" article, reporter Scott Shane argues, "Since drone operators can view a target for hours or days in advance of a strike, they can identify terrorists more accurately than ground troops or conventional pilots.
"They are able to time a strike when innocents are not nearby and can even divert a missile after firing it."
But innocent civilians still die, Shane adds.
Some question whether drone bombings have become a "convenient substitute for capture. If so, drones may actually be encouraging unnecessary killing," Shane writes.
Englehardt and Turse focus on a fundamental point ignored by most news media and political leaders.
"Our air 'war' on terror is, in reality, a machine for creating what we then call 'terrorists.'" Englehardt warns.