Interview: U.S. Global Drone Warfare, NATO Push Into Africa
Voice of Russia
February 26, 2013
Countries will start to shoot down US drones – exclusive interview with Rick Rozoff
The world is just starting to take notice of the expansion of US drone usage worldwide. US drones are becoming increasingly larger, deadlier and greater in number (now at approximately 8,000) and pose a threat to world peace. In addition, for the US’s AFRICOM and NATO, Mali is important due to its strategic location near uranium reserves, hence the recent military operations in the country, which are characterized as another “energy grab” by Voice of Russia regular contributor Rick Rozoff.
This is John Robles. I am speaking with Mr. Rick Rozoff, the owner, manager and editor of the Stop NATO website and mailing list.
This is part 2 of an interview in progress.
Robles: There were reports that Iran captured a US drone last year and they reverse-engineered it and are now producing massive quantities of their own drones. Would you like to comment on that?
Rozoff: It would serve Washington right if they did, I mean it truthfully would. The US has pioneered international drone warfare; this is something that has developed over the last decade, actually over the last 12 years. It is a new form of warfare, it is global in scope, it is deadly, as we know.
My personal estimates are the amount of people killed by the drone missile attacks, Hellfire missiles fired by drones in no fewer than six countries at this point, John – in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Yemen – is probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 5,000. By some accounts, including Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper a couple of years ago, they estimated the 96 percent of those killed in Pakistan were civilians and had no connection with al-Qaeda.
So, the fact that the US is covering the globe, including our own country I fear, with surveillance drones, but also with lethal drones capable of firing missiles is something the world should counteract, and if one of their drones gets taken down and is duplicated by another country, I don’t see how the US could complain, except for copyright violations.
Robles: How are they going to react if one day Iran decides to assassinate somebody in the United States with the drone?
Rozoff: That’s an unlikely possibility. Unfortunately, there is only one nation that has done that, at least on any scale. I don’t know what Israel has done in that respect with Heron drones but I believe that the US is really alone.
And we have to keep in mind, incidentally, that in the year where the so-called Global War on Terror was inaugurated, or launched, in 2001, the Pentagon had 200 drones in its arsenal. These are almost entirely surveillance drones.
As of last year the estimate is the Pentagon had 8,000 drones, which is a 40-fold increase.
These are increasingly larger, capable of carrying more, and larger, and more lethal weaponry, we are talking for example about the Predator drone, the most common one, now being superseded by the Raptor and perhaps even more sophisticated and deadly versions of unmanned aerial vehicles in the future.
So, this is something the world is finally, if a bit belatedly, taking note of, is that once again one country and one country only reserves to itself the right to launch aerial assassinations around the globe without having to account to its own laws, its own Congress, much less to the international community.
Robles: So, you don’t think it is possible that in the coming years other countries will start countering US drone strikes with their own?
Rozoff: I think they will shoot them down. I mean as has happened in Afghanistan. It was brought down by the Iranians evidently according to the account you related.
There will be anti-drone measures taken by other countries. I don’t know of any other country that evinces an interest targeting people for murder around the world.
Robles: Sure, they could start targeting the people who are running the drone programs as being a threat to their citizens.
Rozoff: I would hate to speculate on that score and I would probably end up in penitentiary somewhere if I did. Sorry.
Robles: Let’s not do that.
Rozoff: We do have to see that the US is substantively engaged in supporting the French military operation, indeed the French war in Mali, that US aircraft are refueling French war planes, Rafales and Mirages, for air attacks inside the country, US cargo planes are transporting…the US Air Force is running an operation in France to transport troops and materiel, including weapons, inside Mali for the campaign.
And we have to recall that the US military has been involved in Mali itself for several years now. An incident perhaps four or five, perhaps even more, years ago occurred where a US military transport plane was shot at, and caught fire, that is, gunfire from the ground by Tuareg rebels in the north where the US was aiding and abetting the government of Mali against the rebels in the north, engaged in a counterinsurgency war.
So, that is something not new to the United States and it is part of what is called the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative, which is a misnomer. It grew out of the Pan Sahel Initiative of the US State Department supposedly to combat Islamic terrorism in the Sahel region, that is, the area south of the Sahara Desert that runs all the way from the Atlantic Ocean to the Horn of Africa; that is a very strategically vital part of the world. And US Africa Command, AFRICOM, has run any number of special forces war games, military exercises in Mali, but in the general region under the code name of Operation Flintlock, so the US has been involved pretty substantially in that.
The same US air units that are supporting the French in Mali currently are those who supported AFRICOM and NATO’s war against Libya two years ago. You know, operating out of Britain in the first place.
So, what we see is a further expansion of military operations inside Africa, which have included in recent years NATO air-lifting Burundian and Rwandan troops into Somalia for the ongoing fighting there, the US assisting that, including with air strikes and drone missile attacks.
So, what you are seeing is kind of a war front extending around the same latitude that Sahel is at, but all the way from West Africa and Mali to East Africa and Somalia, and in between increasingly in areas like the western part of Sudan, Darfur, the Central African Republic.
The US and its NATO allies, and its NATO allies are, we have to recall, all the major colonial powers that had formally divided up and ruled the African continent – Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, later on Germany and Italy, also Turkey during the Ottoman period – and this is a force that is not going back to supposedly restore order or pacify Africa again. I am sure the Africans on the ground, if not their governments, are nervous, they recollect what happened the last time these guys were there.
Robles: Now, Rick, back to Mali there for a minute: a few minutes ago you mentioned something about NATO being a guarantor of energy supplies. Right?
Rozoff: Uh huh.
Robles: I read an article by somebody, I can’t exactly remember where it was, they said the whole purpose for the French assistance of the Malian government was to ensure the delivery of Uranium to France from Niger. Do you know anything about that?
Rozoff: It is an extremely good point. The estimates I’ve read is that 80 percent of energy produced in France is from nuclear power plants. They are dependent, of course, on uranium to run those plants, and Mali and neighboring Niger are sources for a good deal of that uranium, and the fighting that’s been going on for a number of years in the north of Mali with the Tuareg rebels – in large part the Tuaregs wanted not only autonomy and a certain degree of participation in the central government in Bamako, but also wanted some say into what happened with the proceeds of the uranium mines in the north of the country where they reside. So, in large part I think we can see this, as being another energy resource grab.
You were listening to the interview with Rick Rozoff, the owner, manager and editor of the Stop NATO website and mailing list.
End of Part 2. Please visit our site in the near future for the third and final part of this interview.