Despite Global Blowback, US Military Demanding Bigger, Badder Drone War

Less than a month after a group of U.S. Air Force whistleblowers spoke out against “the devastating effects the drone program has overseas and at home,” the branch announced its desire for a vast expansion of the drone war.

The Air Force announced its recommendations, which include doubling the number of drone pilots, Thursday.

Reporting on the development Friday for the Tribune News Service, W.J. Hennigan writes that it’s a “$3 billion plan, which must be approved by Congress,” and that it “comes as the Pentagon has intensified airstrikes on Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria.”

Those strikes, according to transparency group Airwars, have killed as many as 996 civilians.

The development also comes as the military arm is facing a shortage of drone operators and weapons.

USA Today reported last week that the Air Force is “depleting its stocks of munitions” in its fight against ISIS, having dropped so many bombs in its campaign that it’s scrambling to find more.

And as Hennigan reported last month, the military has addressed the dearth of drone pilots by turning to civilian contractors:

But that appears to contradict another statement by Carlisle reported by Hennigan Friday.

“Right now, 100 percent of the time, when a MQ-1 or MQ-9 crew goes in, all they do is combat,” Carlisle said.

Hennigan’s reporting from November adds:

In an article entitled “A Booming Business in Drone Pilot Training,” Sandra Erwin wrote in National Defense Magazine Thursday that the move to private companies for the training can be a lucrative opportunity.

The consequences of the drone war, however, are often ignored by corporate media, as John Hanrahan wrote at ExposeFacts last week:

Hanrahan points to one such omission in particular—the lack of coverage of a letter addressed to U.S. President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, and CIA Chief John Brennan last month by four former U.S. Air Force drone operators who warned that the United States’ ongoing targeted killing program “is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.” They also accused the administration of “lying publicly about the effectiveness of the drone program.”

Also largely ignored, Hanrahan noted, was the October publication by The Intercept of a series of articles called The Drone Papers based on documents leaked by a whistleblower.  Amnesty International USA said that the documents “reveal the startling human costs of armed drone use and highlight chronic flaws in the decision-making process behind the strikes carried out in multiple countries,” and showed that the program warrants an “immediate congressional inquiry.”

The Air Force request this week comes as the Pentagon says the fight against ISIS has underscored the necessity of a buildup of new bases across Africa, Southwest Asia, and the Middle East to help its counterterrorism efforts. The New York Times reported Thursday that 

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