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Reaper + Hellfire = Deadly Stare – the Next Surge in Iraq

23814b89-de9a-47d1-bf0c-5a9cf003c68f.jpgLieutenant General Gary North, the commander of US air forces in the Middle East, is really pleased with his newest weapons system:

"We can put unmanned aircraft — Predator, Reaper, and other assets — overhead for long endurance periods. We call that persistent stare.

"And with the Reaper, armed with Hellfire and 500-pound precision weapons, we’ll be able to have a deadly stare if needed," he said.

The Reaper was deployed in Iraq for the first time July 17 from Balad Air Base, and has been flying in Afghanistan since September.

The Reaper is also known as a a “persistent hunter-killer against emerging targets to achieve joint force commander objectives"… and it’s deadlier than those manned flights!

The Reaper can fly faster, higher, farther and carry more weapons than its predecessor, the MQ-1 Predator.

Unlike the Predator, which can carry two laser guided Hellfire missiles, the Reaper carries four Hellfires and two 500-pound GBU-12 laser guided bombers, North said.

"It is very, very effective," he said.

You don’t even need boots on the ground to kill Iraqis:

The Reaper, which are flown by a two person crew thousands of miles away at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, reportedly can stay aloft up to 24 hours at a time, sending back surveillance and reconnaissance data.

And they’re more fuel efficient – one might even say this is a new Green weapon system:

Keeping the average 90 flights of fighters and bombers over Iraq on a given day means flying another 64 sorties by air refueling aircraft.

And in an age of skyrocketing fuel prices, that cost money.

"The thing about unmanned aerial vehicles is they can stay overhead for a long time, and not use a lot of gas," North said.

And if you thought the talk of timetables and possible withdrawals might mean fewer air strikes on Iraqis, think again:

North said as the scale of the conflict is reduced he was be able to use "more and more of these (drones), and reduce the manned fighters and bombers overhead."

I wonder what the SOFA or MOU – which Bush did not manage to get by his deadline of July 31 – says about “persistent hunter-killer” drones flown from bunkers in Nevada?

Tom Englehardt raised the same issue in another context back in March in his must read post, Philip K. Dick Meet George W. Bush :

Nonetheless, it’s a fact that the "right" to missile, bomb, shell, "decapitate," or assassinate those we declare to be our enemies, without regard to borders or sovereignty, is based on nothing more than the power to do it. This is simply the "right" of force (and of technology). If the tables were turned, any American would recognize such acts for the barbarism they represent.

And Ramesh Thakur, Distinguished Fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo, reminds us in a discussion of the lack of statistics for Iraqi civilian casualties and the first Lancet study:

For the 18-month period after the war, a U.S. medical team calculated the civilian casualty based on a scientific household survey and came up with the stunning figure of 98,000 deaths, without counting Fallujah (because it had been the scene of the fiercest and most prolonged fighting, Fallujah was categorised as an outlier). Moreover, 84 per cent of the casualties were attributable to coalition air strikes, not rebels, and women and children made up more than half the total killed.

Thakur concludes:

The still sadder fact is that neither the Iraqi government nor the coalition forces have deemed Iraqi lives lost worthy enough to be counted accurately. Dignity in death is clearly not a human right for Iraqis. And no one will be called to account in national or international criminal justice forums.

Let’s hope we can prove him wrong.


Updating earlier news: Ambassador Crocker has sent a representative to apologize to the “Governor of Saladdeen Hamad al-Qaisi for the killing of his son by U.S. troops.”

Azzamzan notes: “Analysts say the apology to Saladdeen’s governor only came when Qaisi and his powerful tribe warned that they would avenge the killing of Husam.”

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Siun is a proud Old Town resident who shares her home with two cats and a Great Pyrenees. She’s worked in media relations and on the net since before the www, led the development of a corporate responsibility news service, and knows what a mult box is thanks to Nico. When not swimming in the Lake, she leads a team working on sustainability tools.

Email: media dot firedoglake at gmail dot com