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And, yes, I DO take it personally: Killing "Bubba" using hi-tech, remote-controlled horror: "Suddenly, the two men explode"
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Friday, February 15, 2008

Killing "Bubba" using hi-tech, remote-controlled horror: "Suddenly, the two men explode"

gosh... it's just like a video game...

Photos provided by the U.S. Air Force
Inside the U.S. Air Force's Combined Air & Space Operations Center
in the Middle East

Each [screen] is about 5 feet wide, displaying remarkably clear live footage from cameras mounted on the Air Force's un-manned Predator drones that buzz incessantly above Iraq and Afghanistan. The Predator drones, however, are not filming a raging firefight, or a bridge about to be strafed from the air.

They are stalking prey.

You see a man, walking through a shrub-dotted, dusty field. A small dog wanders behind him. Another screen shows a group of individuals, standing huddled together on a city street, looking like they could be chatting about a ballgame. A third Predator tracks a figure getting into a car, following as the car snakes through traffic. Yet another screen stays fixated on a single squat house surrounded by what looks like a low cement wall, as if someone is about to emerge from the front door.

The scenes look misleadingly pedestrian. The miniature people on the screens do not know they are being watched. "We are looking for individual people," Lt. Col. Walt Manwill says, as he stares up at the massive screens. "Especially when you are killing people, you want to make sure you do it right." Manwill, a blockish former pilot whose call sign is Fridge, is a chief of combat operations here, on what the Air Force simply calls "the floor." He handles one of three eight-hour shifts in a job that runs 24 hours a day.

Targeters here show me recent footage of two men on the ground in Iraq. The two men, far below the Predator drone's gaze, appear to be setting up a mortar on a city street. They are in the shadow of a building just feet away. Suddenly, the two men explode. Everything around the men, including the buildings, looks unharmed. But when the dust clears, the two men are wiped away. A small bomb, tailor-made for hunting single individuals, has done the job.

besides the nightmarish scene described above in which a duo presumably intent on causing death and destruction are exterminated, seemingly by god himself, we have our u.s. air force coming to realizations like this from the comfort of their air-conditioned operations center...
The Air Force learned the hard way that inadvertently killing and injuring civilians or damaging property is counterproductive to the overall cause. "We went back and looked at our procedures -- how we use air, why we use air and under what circumstances," explains [Col. Gary Crowder, the commander of the operations center]. "We changed the way we do business."

"It's just like a business," agrees Maj. Gen. Maury Forsyth, the deputy commander of Air Force operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Every time you have one unsatisfied customer, you have to have nine satisfied customers to counteract that," he says during an interview in his office. "I'll put it this way: All of the military and political benefits of 10 perfect airstrikes targeting insurgent leaders can be lost in a few seconds by one strike that goes awry and causes civilian casualties."

to complete the absolute horror of this hi-tech operation and the characterization of those ordering the killing as "customers", the targets have even been given a nickname - "bubba"...
The technology the Air Force relies on to kill Bubba, but not his neighbors, is mesmerizing. It also makes the process of killing another human being eerily impersonal.

On the floor, once Bubba is up on the screen, targeting officials can quickly call up satellite images of his location. They have at their fingertips high-fidelity images less than 90 days old of nearly every square foot of Iraq and Afghanistan -- a vast amount of data. By overlaying two images of the same location taken from separate angles, and donning a pair of gray 3-D glasses (I wore a pair), a stunning real-life-looking, 3-D image of Bubba's house appears on a computer screen: There is Bubba's yard, the tree in Bubba's yard and so on. Using a mouse to point and click, a computer quickly determines the size, height and precise location of nearby structures.

to say that i am aghast would be a serious understatement... and, as much as i would like to repress it, another thought crosses my mind... this available and highly-sophisticated technology of instant and impersonal death is on the horizon for domestic use... bet on it...

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