Attack of the Drones

2012, Military and War  -   74 Comments
Ratings: 8.58/10 from 53 users.

The US government's growing reliance on aerial drones to pursue its war on al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere is proving controversial – as evidenced by the international reaction to recent drone missile attacks along the border with Pakistan. But Barack Obama's administration is undeterred, favoring the technology more and more because it reduces the need for American troops in those countries and the risk of politically unpalatable casualties.

But this strategy is giving rise to anxieties that conflict is becoming just a big computer game, in which 'desk pilots' in air conditioned bunkers far from the battlefield can kill a few enemy fighters and then go home to their families, remote from the human consequences of their actions or the anguish of associated civilian casualties.

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74 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Guest

    I've come to the conclusion that only fools comment, thinking their enlightment will alter anything. I've yet to see a producer follow up on any such.

  2. Gavin Phan

    What if we have more and more manufacturer producing AI like goods? They can break into your house with camera, fluid, even poisons under controll of bad guys! Just this one question makes me worry! We should feel happy when we have lived before it happens!

  3. Morthund

    Barrack Obama won the Nobel Piss Prize so he can't be all that bad, right?
    Sometimes I'm embarrassed to be Norwegian.
    Only joking.
    I'm usually embarrassed to be Norwegian. Least I'm an expat now.

  4. John Doherty

    Very informative. ACLU reflect the free speech right enshrined in the US constitution. However, is this spokeswoman in favour of uncurtailed illegal immegration and it's attendant tax cost. UAVs are the equivalent of the mass bomber raids of ww2 in that the pilot is somewhat removed from the consequences of their actions. It is unfair to compare piloting uavs to a game. People die. However, there is accountability in the US/West whereas Al Qaida is accountable to only itself, ergo unaccountable to anyone.

  5. Khadijah Ford

    World War 2 and the fighters,Veterans, has to be one war where ALL AMERICANS came together on the name of enemy.

    I look back on this war, two battle fronts: Japan and Germany, each theatre our men fought knowing this war is and will be won!

    My heart goes out to these Veterans today, when uneducated people meet then and abuse them.

    Think, if we lost WWII, this country would be completely different.

    Please please please have respect for these Veterans!!

  6. Gar

    This technology seems to be increadibly well suited for terrorist activity, might be time to start thinking about anti-drone technologies.

  7. Alaskies

    It's very funny how in this documentary, a few of the interviewees, and I would say Al Jazeera as well, tend to focus on "civilian" deaths throughout this documentary, as if it's ANY DIFFERENT WHATSOEVER than warfare before these unmanned drones. When civilians are killed during warfare, in any place, at any time, it's referred to as a "casualty of war". This is not a new term, look it up. I don't know if the producers of this video are trying to make it look worse by linking the fact that these drones are unmanned to the fact the innocent people can and will die. The same can be said about manned air crafts, which have been used for over a half a century. The only difference now is the far less chance of American soldiers dying. How can anybody look at this technology and say that it's a bad thing? Warfare happens no matter what. This technology simply makes it far safer for this country and it's soldiers that are fighting for it. Period.

    1. Aaron

      How can anybody say it's bad? Here's just a few:
      If you consider that the human being is gradually removed from the circuit during any kind of warfare you will quickly conclude that the next step is getting rid of the 'decision maker', in this case the UAV pilot. This is not sci-fi, you can look it up - there is a real threat in digital systems deciding on themselves when and what to strike.
      Another thing: whereas I may agree that warfare happens no matter what, I surely think it's not a good thing and its continuation usually is the worst for both sides' people. You mentioned manned aircrafts - it's really expensive to have those in the air 24/7 to make whole societies afraid of blue skies, don't you think? This "advance" makes the terrorizing cheaper in new, unseen ways.
      One more, I suggest you look for statistics on those "precision strikes" performed by UAVs, there will surely be huge differences between Al Jazeera's and official US reporting on that matter, but if you look good and deep using various sources, I recon you might get a bit worried about that technology or its current and future use.

  8. Hollis

    drones are the opposite of suicide bombers -- the more that people know about them, the better. collateral damage should be reduced or eliminated, once people understand that the guy they're standing next to is a target. this is WAR, guys, and Sun Tzu would have admired this technology -- i'd love to see a Chapter 14 in The Art of War that addresses modern technology.

    just like the japanese in WW2, al qaeda has underestimated its foe.

  9. abakusss

    Pity that in 1996-1999 when CIA had Bin laden under observation in Afghanistan that USA didn't have drones and that Clinton didn't act to eliminate him.
    Now with drones and Obama policy such issues with Al Qaeda high value people resolved painlessly.

  10. Brian Holst

    Al Jeez-crap reporting once again. This is war not Polly Pockets. ACLU go F yourselves. Bet they would think differently if they spent a couple of weeks in Afgan Taliban controlled territory. Ridiculous documentary. Save time and don't watch this crap.

  11. Bonker Farms

    They claim that no US targets have been hit but while my wife and I were returning from Arizona driving North to Nevada our Lincoln was targeted. I was driving our bus and she was following me in the car, a sudden burst of light struck the car, the trunk burst into fire, she pulled over and removed herself and our child, the car burnt to the ground on the side of the road. After the fire department put out the trunk fire, a very clear 6" circle on the passenger side of the car, rear trunk area could be seen, an area where the paint was completely missing and the metal had been heated to the point it was clearly different than the balance of the vehicle...but only in a 6" circle. After speaking with my wife, she claimed that there was a bright flash of light, the car got hot, smoke came from behind the rear seat, a government plated truck behind her started flashing its lights, she pulled over, the military person removed her and our child from the car, and drove them 1 mile from the burning car...after I noticed she was no longer behind me I returned just before the fire trucks....she was no place to be found....I quickly checked the the fire department pulled up the rear of the car was completely on fire (rear fuel tank) they started yelling for me to stop checking for passengers (I had the doors open and reached in and was feeling for my wife and child as the smoke was so thick it did not move from the interior of the vehicle...and the best I could do is run to the burning vehicle, open the doors, close my eyes, hold my breath, and reach in and feel for bodies...strangely my wife and child was returned 30 minutes later...but the military vehicle and male...did not stay, give a statement, or be identified....UAV's are being used in the US and accidents while training with live arms have happened...UAV's are like any other weapon they can be used for good or bad actions but we need the truth...not fiction about their use or capabilities.

    1. bringmeredwine

      @Bonker Farms,
      Oh my god!!!!
      Did you tell the media ?
      What did you tell your auto insurance company?
      Your family is so lucky to be alive!

  12. Dedan

    Judging by the refresh rate at around 8:10 and the fact that the lag is probably about a second (accounting for the distance) i don't buy the "precision" part of precision strike.

  13. Grace

    The ACLU person should have dressed in a clown suit. You will never see ACLU protecting the civil liberties of and real victims, only the ones fitting their communist agenda. We need to produce more drones.

    1. ender

      and who will represent the rights and lives of the poor civilians that are killed you selfish stupid american pig

    2. alex

      The guy from ACLU is protecting the "rights" of Al-Awlaki someone that didn't care about the rights of innocent people that died in bombings, in my opinion, in cases like that, human rights don't apply to a person that doesn't care about human rights in the first place. And this coming from a person that wasn't born and doesn't live in America and isn't even a big fan of America in general.

    3. 2sides2everystory222

      I think playing modern warfare without toilet breaks has affected your judgement.

  14. DigiWongaDude

    The end of drivethrough: the new McDrone Happy Meal delivered to your door...just make sure you have the necessary funds when it arrives.

  15. Israel Barrantes

    It'd be great to know the SOURCE of each documentary, e.g. to know if the source is reliable (which is not the case with this one).

  16. jimmy kraktov

    Thoughts of some kind of moral limits on programming drones must come from a mind that's completely disconnected from reality. The U.S. is fighting an enemy, an ideology, that has no respect for life of any kind that's not lived as it lives.

    If these people don't want drones blowing them to bits they should stop doing what's making them targets. What the American drone pilots do for a living is just fine with me.

  17. ksm_mmd

    I think it's perfectly obvious to everybody that military organizations, regardless of their country of origin, will do whatever they can in order to fight more effectively. It's equally obvious that drones and other autonomous weapon systems have far more potential than manned systems in that regard. Thus, the military will continue developing autonomous systems for the foreseeable future, and they will become increasingly capable in every respect. Eventually, these systems will become not only physically superior to soldiers, but also mentally. The common belief that AI will never match man's intellect is simply not true. It's a fantasy that lots of people like to hold-on to in order to make themselves believe that there is something uniquely special about human intelligence.

  18. Vladimir Bogdanov

    Oh for pit's sake quit the whining and crying already. The future of warfare is in drones and remote technology and it beats having boots on the ground. And if Al Qaeda hate the drone so much then the US must be doing something right. Let hell rain on the terrorist heads from above until none are left to threaten our shores.

  19. Mercenarry ForHire

    I wanto see a WW3 with drones having dog fights with other drones and unmanned tanks ect.

    And after 10 years we realize that every one just spent more money and resources that the whole world takes in 200 years :3

    That would be the single saddest thing to ever see and still be able to laugh at it. I hope that in 500 years from now wars are fought with giant unmanned robots that costs billions :)

    1. seamus watson

      Surely you hope that there are no wars in 2oo years. Slim chance of that happening, but still.

  20. soros soria

    I would like to see Al Jazeera interview terrorists to see how they wrangle with the moral problem of killing people remotely or face to face. It seems Americans are always held to a far higher ethical standard than others who kill in ways far more indiscriminately. But then, Al Jazeera is a hypocritical mouthpiece for the disaffected.

    1. Robert Rybicki

      I agree with you, just the US acts as if they had no border

    2. slpsa

      Well, yeah, but, I can point to several of these so called problem countries and say neither do they. Afghanistan/Pakistan is one example. Just thought I'd interject, although, I do agree with you.

    3. Dabadu

      You don't think a nation, the most powerful and influential at that, should be held to a higher standard than some random pshycopaths? What the hell is wrong with you?

      AJE is closer to a "Newsroom" scenario than any of the American media houses, thats for sure.


    4. Rainbow6562011

      I think morality tends to flee as wars go on and on. Consider the morality of us bombing German cities in WWII, deliberately killing civilians, or Hanoi in the Vietnam War. The pilots , navigators, etc. all went home to dinner, unless they were shot down.
      Since humans run the wars, whatever ugliness they carry will surface sooner or later.

    5. estrayer

      Right on the aspect of morality and methods of killing. Wrong on the mouthpiece bit. A really interesting documentary on Al Jazeera during Iraq is called "Control Room." Give it a look.
      Oh, and the higher standard thing? Absolutely! But shouldn't every state be held to a higher standard?

  21. Tahir

    Counter to Drone : Red over GREEN. You train them they kill you. Artificial Intelligence can never match Natural Intelligence. The evolving nature of warfare will continue to take new forms. People will die we like it or not, no matter on what side they are. For some numbers do not matter.

  22. bbga

    VERY interesting. Definitely some ethical challenges. I, generally, support the use of drones for military purposes...

    They've proven VERY effective against Al-Qaeda


    wow, this is a great presentation! bravo!

  24. mark

    its funny that we dont recognize that the soldiers/officers operating these are the real drones. i will say that the technology is highly admirable although from history we have learned that humans have way of making the worst of everything. what is sad and eye opening is that we could have used this tech to overthrow the iraqi leader instead of destroying a country. this is telling of were are priorities lie and what the true agendas are.

  25. dewflirt

    Love the swarms, can they peg my washing out? Also like the pack horse though I am disturbed that I felt sorry for it when they kicked it. Could you imagine something like that coming after you? Brilliant and terrifying. Of all the guys operating the drones, I wonder how many of them would be able to kill someone in person, how removed do they really feel? Reminded me of the electric shock obedience experiments, drones flying drones.
    Shooting someone that is directly threatening your life is not the same as shooting a car full of people off the road, that's long distance execution for possible past crimes. Don't we have Judge Dread for that?

    1. Jeremy Hughes

      Check out Ray Bradbury's "Farenheit 451" great read, great presentation of what society, IMO, will dev0lve to, and features a robot police dog straight out of science fiction that undoubtedly and sadly will soon be seen patrolling our streets .

  26. Jeremy Hughes

    Anyone remember the Robin Williams flick "Toys" ??

    1. Edward Campbell

      'Batteries Not Included', an even earlier flick about intelligent, alien, toy-like machines. Cute film with a moral message.

  27. oQ

    Aljazeera is kicking some doors open.

    1. Pysmythe

      Aljazeera (and Russia Today) are about the only news agencies worth watching anymore.

      edit- You can go ahead and remove the "about," if you want.

    2. lakhotason

      Al Jazeera and Russia Today are the only news agencies worth watching.

      I removed the "about".

    3. estrayer

      Ironic isn't it? Even Hillary Clinton recommended that we follow Al Jazeera. I use RT in class often as well. I wonder if RT could do anything on Putin? Regardless, the truth is where you find it.

    4. lakhotason

      It is a sad state of affairs when a dictator, albeit a benevolent dictator, has a better news organization than a democracy.

  28. Deejay Es

    15 : 09 didnt know xbox made combat remote controls

  29. Malchik

    Oh boy, I can't wait until the police force gets their hands on these. Warrant? Who needs warrant?

  30. ulickmcgee

    Sounds like Philip k Dick was spot on in his novels.

  31. john Palermo

    Can't wait for the first "wanted" american to be blown off the highway at rush hour and the news reports of "great success taking one of the governments most wanted down with minimal damage to surrounding vehicles."
    Nothing is either unlikely nor impossible when it comes to the advance on humanity by the psychopaths calling themselves the federal government. It is and will destroy this country and world feeding it's power lust.

    1. oQ

      reminds me of the Fifth Element.

  32. David Ewer

    Only the US people can stop their rulers attacking the rest of the world with these machines. Come on you Yanks!

    1. Peter Wilson

      right now, about 10 percent are on board with you Mr. Ewer. The rest are squabbling over Obama vs. Romney, both of whom, with the blessing of 97% of Congress (and apparently most of the judiciary---so much for a system of "checks and balances") will proceed to violate Syria, Iran, Egypt, our own population, Honduras, Pakistan....It doesn't look good for Basic Human Rights for awhile

    2. bringmeredwine

      I agree with Peter.
      As a Canadian, I anticipate my country will be targeted for its natural resources in the very near future.

    3. MikeCarrick

      not sure about that, but we despise you for opening up HELL in the Alabasca tar sands region. Our XL pipeline, backed by our ascendant right wing, and your pit of oily black bitumen have sealed the fate of the planet.

      so WHO is targeting WHO?

    4. bringmeredwine

      That wasn't me, that was my country's Conservative government, big banks, and the oil companies, making deals and dreaming about trillions of dollars.
      Wasn't your ambassador to Canada once involved high up at Goldman Sachs; who stand to make a gazillion dollars from their vested interests in the pipeline?
      What chance do any of us have to be heard against all that power and control?
      We've all been sold down the river.
      Average Canadians like me never wanted to destroy our planet. We are trying to stop this madness.
      It makes me sick! My country is being raped!
      I gave up my car a few years ago because I care so much!
      I completely understand your position.

  33. batvette

    Summary executions without due process, or presentation of evidence, across the world. Where did we get to this point, where this seemed like a good idea?
    Seems to me this is a "perfect" program for a moderate Democrat White House, where the President knows there is a job that needs to get done, and does not neglect it- yet is too afraid of the political liabilities from within his own party if he angers them by using a heavy hand.
    No surprise this is how Clinton pursued his policies, and why we got hit on 9/11. Shooting missiles into villages of peasants and bombing aspirin factories not only pisses people off but also makes them think we are cowardly and weak. Send 250,000 men into a country and have your tanks in their capital in a few weeks, well you're going to piss them off too but they certainly respect you for it.

    1. slpsa

      Why you got hit on 9/11? What? When airplanes can knock down skyscrapers from fire and heat, come back to me and start over again, we can give you a physics 101 lesson. What you imply is/was/ and always will be physically impossible. Whoever knocked those buildings down were not from the Middle East in some cave bud. The why we got hit is a non starter. If you start any of this debate at the day of 9/11, without stating the obvious, that airplanes could not have done this, the rest is tripe by all accounts. Everything that spawns from 9/11 is a lie. That much is more than obvious, it is a fact.

    2. batvette

      " Everything that spawns from 9/11 is a lie. That much is more than obvious, it is a fact."

      So factual nobody's filed charges in court anywhere in the country for it. So all the members of Congress who were on the 9/11 committee, their aides and office workers were all in on it? All the NIST scientists who produced that report, and all their assistants, they are all in on it? The 94% of Americans who think you 6% have a screw loose, are we all in on it too?
      You may have lots of sympathy in a 9/11 conspiracy thread with the other faithful, but your arrogant assertions about giving people a physics lesson are a bad joke.
      (how about a physics lesson: what is the difference in kinetic energy released by the impact of the B-25 in 1945 and one of the planes hitting the WTC? can you answer that- and if you can then explain the absurdity of truthers comparing the two events? Or how did falling 3 meters or one story affect the previously static load of the top of the towers to the bottom?)
      If you or anyone of your ilk had the qualifications to do any such thing you'd have published rebuttals to the NIST "lies" in a professional journal, not pretending to be an expert on an internet comment thread.
      "That much is more than obvious".
      My comments about why we got hit on 9/11 were more toward those sitting at the adult table of US foreign policy discussion.

    3. slpsa

      There is nothing adult about your blatant assertions. People of my ilk? See, that is the basic problem people like you have in the face of dealing with a certified professional like me. You know jack squat about what you say, and resort to insults. I spent 11 years dealing with people like you, your one more know nothing in a long line of many. You only need to know 1 law of physics to know buildings do not fall that way. You can throw stones all day long, you are not new. I am no poser, and certainly not pretending. You can once again, think what you like. It is your bubble.

  34. Edward Campbell

    Interesting, that the presiding officer described the 'joy' stick as a "command stick"?

    A subtlety not lost on those who have read George Orwell's '1984', where he presents, among many other propaganda devices, "Double Speak".

    When I look back at 20 years of video games, which are predominantly 'war' games, it shows how the hand-in-glove co-operation between video games manufacturers and the military has finally borne ‘fruit’ - the illegitimate war-children of a marriage made in Hell...

    Big Brother is not only watching you but can now rain down fire from heaven upon you with impunity.

    A generation of childhood existentialist-psychopaths has been spawned, and umbilically connected, to The Machine of War by a gradual, insidious symbiosis, classed as 'kids’ entertainment’, paid-for by indulgent, baby-boomer parents.

    We can now see that by co-operating with the games manufacturers, the US military in particular, has been in it for the long game.

    George Orwell saw it all beginning to happen 76 years ago, at Barnhill, Isle of Jura, Scotland, in 1946-48, when he wrote his most prophetic story. All of which has ‘come to pass’ and we now take for granted, mostly unnoticed and un-criticized.

    1. Common_J

      my god, we was being trained the whole time

    2. TheOne

      Excuse me? The majority of video games are war games? Yeah, most games include violence, but are based in science-fiction and fantasy universes. Also there are a lot of games which help critical thinking especially more recent indie games(e.g.: Braid). It is true that some mainstream developers stick to the war thing(e.g. Call of Duty) - but those games are crappy anyway - and yes, they can be used to brainwash kids, but they are doing it to themselves, there are plenty of other, high quality non-war games to choose from. I have played violent video games from the age of 4 and I am very much against war, would never sign up in one. My country forces me to go to war? Then I'm leaving it...Stop blaming games and movies, and start shifting the responsibility to the parents, schools (which should be responsible for providing quality information) and the majority of ignorants who have no idea how the world is being run.

    3. Alaskies

      The majority of your comment, particularly the part linking video games to modern day military technology and tactics, carries little to no weight whatsoever. This is a technology that could and would have been born with or without video games. People like you that think video games are the root of all evil and violence are complete and utter m*rons, at best.

  35. lakhotason

    OK. Now I'm paranoid. But then again it's not paranoia if it's real.

  36. oQ

    It seems like every technical and computer advancement we use and enjoy are really just the toys that come out of war technology. For the military that has nothing to do with playing.
    The arms race is on. Self imposed limitation? I had to laugh at that one!
    Leave the killing to technology so man can go back to their family diner at night with a clean conscience.

    1. Matt Kukowski

      You can not blame technology. After all fire when under the control of human is a form of technology of the most ancient kind.

      The funniest part for me was when they said, "We do not think computers should be in control of these drones, but humans instead."

      Well are you so sure you want humans in control of anything? Look at geo engineering, pollution and causing droughts, atomic fusion and a-bombs... and everything else.

      it appears to me anyways that humans are the fundamental threat, not the technology. So called average good people are ignorant and the ones that create get hi jacked and the ones that do the hi jacking are power crazed.

      All of which are human. Humans will destroy everything in time... all the while blaming the technology. Funny.

    2. Common_J

      i agree, but i'm pretty sure we haven't achieved atomic (Nuclear) fusion yet.

    3. oQ

      I don't blame technology, i say man will use robotic technology to clean his hands of the dirty work.......and that while at war too.

  37. ulickmcgee

    Scary to see the technological capability of the american military is so advanced.What next?

    1. slpsa

      Whatever it is, they had it ten years ago, we know nothing about it. Whatever you can imagine, is what is next.

    2. MikeCarrick

      google NSA ANT catalog
      The 'targetting' part is aimed at us. Or any independent thought.

    3. slpsa

      I dont search anything like that. Ever. Not anymore. What ive said in the past online did in fact come back to bite me. As i always suspected that if you say certain things loud enough, argue with certain people about facts and not fiction, or put in any sort of logical debate about any number of technical issues, you will be put on a list. I am not even kidding when i say i had to explain myself to a few suited individuals, when i said certain things about 9/11 and my knowledge base of physics and materials, as a card carrying certified engineer. In fact if you scroll up, you'll see me debating and basically laughing at the one know it all, know nothing named Batvette, about 9/11. And the impossibility of it all. I have posted on engineering websites where people like that troll would have no idea what the conversation was about, never mind the numbers. It was posting there that got me having to feel rather...uncomfortable knowing someone, somewhere, didnt appreciate too many people knowing too many things, or asking questions that made them uncomfortable. I know now to just keep my thoughts to myself. He who has the guns, makes the rules. The big stick they carry, comes in many forms. The weapons they have to deal with things these days, well. This old guy just shuts up now, and lets the trolls on the payroll and sheep think everything is well. It is far from that. I look around everyday and see the control. Manipulation of people. Its scary. Stupid people have a say too, which is even scarier. Mind control or mind rape is not above the people in charge. The things they tell us about what new weapons they have? They had that long ago right? its what we dont see that should scare us. LOL