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Terminator Planet: How America Became an Empire of Drones

"Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare," by Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse, chronicles the rise of drone warfare.

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As laughable as the notion that a Drone Empire active in AfPak, Yemen, Somalia and soon in all points across the "arc of instability" will save the homeland from jihad, Sharia law, a new Caliphate set up by a bunch of fanatics, and all of the above. 

Especially now that the Pentagon itself ditched the rhetoric - and is focused on a "pivoting" to face the potential peer competitor that really counts, China. 

And US Army brigades (and Special Ops commandos) from 2013 onwards will be rotated all around the world - with an emphasis in Africa - according to a Pentagonese "regionally aligned force concept." 

And Southcom has announced that Predator, Reaper and Global Hawk drones will be deployed in Central and South America for "anti-drug operations, counter-insurgency and naval vigilance". 

As much as The Drone Empire is global, drones can only be effective if ground intelligence is effective. A simple example is enough. Ultimately, in AfPak, it's not Obama that decides on his "kill list". It's the Pakistani ISI - which relies the info that suits its contingencies to the CIA. And this while the Pentagon and the CIA keep working under the galactic illusion of absolute supremacy of American technology - when they cannot even neutralize an inflation of cheap, ultra low-tech IEDs. 

Uncle Sam wants your ass

Americans must also worry about the Inland Drone Empire - as the pitifully unpopular US Congress and President Obama have now fully authorized their "integration" into American airspace by 2015; by 2020, they will number at least 30,000. For the moment, the Pentagon has "only" 7,000 drones (ten years ago there were less than 50). 

Predictably, massive corporate lobbying by drone manufacturers such as General Atomics was key for the approval of the new legislation. There's even a drone caucus, with 55 Congressmen (and expanding), and a global lobby with 507 corporate members in 55 countries, the Association for Unmanned Vehicles International, which essentially sets the rules. 

The Orwellian - and Philip Dick - overtones are inescapable; this is all about 24/7 drone surveillance of large swathes of the US population via radar, infrared cameras, thermal imaging, wireless "sniffers" and, crucially, crowd-control weapons. You better monitor the skies very closely before you even start thinking about protesting. And wait for the imminent arrival of nuclear-powered drones, which can go on non-stop for months, and not only days. 

Tom and Nick's digital file is absolutely essential reading for contextualizing the lineaments of an already de facto surveillance state, where everyone is a suspect by definition, and the only "winner" is the military-industrial complex. Welcome to Motown as Dronetown: "Nowhere to run to, baby, nowhere to hide…" Obama and the Dronellas, anyone? 

Pepe Escobar is the author of  Globalistan: How the Globalized World is Dissolving into Liquid War (Nimble Books, 2007) and Red Zone Blues: a snapshot of Baghdad during the surge. His most recent book, just out, is  Obama does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).  He may be reached at

 pepeasia@yahoo.com (Copyright 2012 Asia Times Online (Holdings) Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

Pepe Escobar is the roving correspondent for Asia Times. His latest book is named Obama Does Globalistan (Nimble Books, 2009).

 
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