In a controversial move supported by the Obama administration, the United Nations is now officially boasting about using unmanned aerial drones to support oftentimes barbaric UN military forces in what the outfit refers to as its “peacekeeping” missions. For now, at least, the drones are being used only in Africa. While the aircraft are still unarmed at this point, concerns are growing that they could eventually be fitted with missiles to rain down death on enemies of the UN or its largely autocratic member regimes.
The testing ground for the drones used by the UN’s self-styled “peace” troops is the Democratic Republic of the Congo. There, the dictator-dominated global outfit is operating a fleet of five “Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,” or UAVs, in its bloody effort to disarm various groups. According to media reports, the UN drones, almost 20 feet long, can take still pictures and video. They also have infrared sensors, helping UN forces pick up on hot spots even at night or through thick vegetation.
One day, possibly soon, they could also carry deadly weapons such as missiles. Despite UN claims that it has no current “plans” to arm its UAVs, analysts and officials are still expressing fears about the existing program, and especially its future potential for abuse and mayhem.
By this summer, UN bureaucrats were already openly and loudly agitating for a drastic expansion of the drone machinations around the world. UN “peacekeeping” boss Herve Ladsous said in May that the global outfit’s military needed to “upgrade” its technology to help the record numbers of soldiers it has deployed in its various wars around the globe.
“We do need them in countries like Mali, like Central African Republic and clearly in South Sudan. It would be my desire that we might deploy them,” Ladsous was quoted as saying in media reports. “Clearly we cannot continue to afford to work with 20th century tools in the 21st century. They [convoys] can use the images of the machines to make sure they are not going to be attacked or hijacked on the way. That, I think, is a very significant development.”
For now, the UN is touting the effectiveness of drones in gathering information to help its heavily armed soldiers crush their foes in the Congo. “We have a mandate here to neutralize armed groups — you can’t do it without intelligence,” Martin Kobler, UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo boss, told The New York Times in a propaganda piece that ran this month promoting the scheme. “They have also a psychological effect. Everyone knows they are flying.”
According to the Times report, the fleet of five drones has already proven highly useful to the UN and its so-called “blue helmets.” “Never before have foreign troops been able to collect so much fine-grained information about people and places of interest: who sells guns to whom, where illegal gold mines operate, the precise location of a rebel base,” the paper reported. “All of it, United Nations officials say, is classified and available only at the discretion of its lawyers.”
The UN’s hostility to civilian firearm ownership, of course, has prompted an outcry across the United States, where that fundamental human right is enshrined in the Constitution's Second Amendment. In the Congo and other places around the world, though, the UN sees part of its mission as disarming populations, putting them totally at the mercy of their often-ruthless and murderous governments. Historically, such schemes have had tragic consequences on countless occasions.
The UN first openly announced its intention to add drones to what the Washington Post called its “far-flung peacekeeping empire” early last year. To start with, the global outfit “notified” the regimes ruling several African countries that it was planning to deploy several UAVs in the eastern Congo. At the time, at least some Third World regimes, including some of those that were “notified,” protested the plot, warning about the potential for abuse.
“Africa must not become a laboratory for intelligence devices from overseas,” Olivier Nduhungirehe, a Rwandan diplomat at the United Nations, was quoted as saying in media reports about the scheme. “We don’t know whether these drones are going to be used to gather intelligence from Kigali, Kampala, Bujumbura or the entire region.” Pakistani diplomats also expressed doubts on the appropriateness of having the UN operate UAVs.
Of particular concern was the growing use of drones by the Obama administration to assassinate people around the world without due process, trial, or even formal charges. Also troubling to critics is the fact that the UN “peacekeeping” machine has a long and sordid history of human rights abuses, rape, murder, lawlessness, corruption, kidnapping, extortion, and other terror aimed at civilians. The trends stretch back to the earliest days of UN “peacekeeping.” After the Congo's Katanga province declared independence, for example, UN forces murdered civilians, attacked hospitals, and more to force the province to submit to brutal communist rule.
Some supposed “experts” on “peacekeeping” claimed in media reports that official concerns over the UN’s drone fleets were largely coming from African and Asian governments, which profit handsomely on the backs of Western taxpayers for contributing their troops as mercenaries to UN “peace” missions. The big fear among those regimes is that cheaper UAVs would replace their soldiers, thereby cutting off a lucrative source of funding. While that may be true, it misses the real issues — including the fundamental questions about whether the UN is needed at all and whether the controversial wannabe global government should be operating a military in the first place.
Unsurprisingly, though, the Obama administration, which recently sought a massive expansion of U.S. taxpayer funding for the widely criticized UN military machine, fully supported the effort. Washington, D.C., backing for allowing the UN’s armed forces to operate drones in their wars was advanced under the guise of “protecting civilians.” Ironically, perhaps, estimates suggest thousands of civilians have been murdered by drones around the world on orders from the Obama administration, in flagrant violation of the U.S. Constitution and due-process rights.
“This is the idea that the UN peacekeeping authorities are putting forward to have unarmed UAVs participate in peacekeeping missions,” said Obama State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland at the time. “This would only happen with the consent of the country or the countries where the mission would operate, and their use would not impact in any way on sovereignty. Again, they would be unarmed, and they would only be carrying photographic equipment.”
Of course, the UN also sought to market the ploy as a way to “help” civilians. Even a brief examination of its atrocious record in “peacekeeping,” however, would seem to make a mockery of those supposed justifications. In the Congo, for example, where the UN’s drones are currently deployed, human rights organizations have documented atrocity after barbaric atrocity perpetrated by UN troops or UN-backed regime forces against innocent civilians.
In fact, as The New American reported in 2010, the UN-backed forces operating across the Congo may be an even greater threat to civilians than the “armed groups” that the global body is trying to disarm and crush. According to an umbrella group of 84 organizations called the Congo Advocacy Coalition and even a report commissioned by the UN itself, the “peacekeeping” machinations have been an unmitigated disaster, with soldiers killing and raping civilians with impunity.
“For every rebel combatant disarmed, one civilian has been killed, seven women and girls have been raped, six houses have been burned and destroyed and 900 people have been forced to flee their homes,” the coalition calculated after an investigation. The UN-backed operations have “resulted in an unacceptable cost for the civilian population,” the group said in a press release at the time.
Even radical pro-UN groups blasted the UN mission, with Human Rights Watch saying the global “peacekeepers” were “supporting an army that is attacking its own population.” The Associated Press reported that the group identified more murders of civilians perpetrated by the UN and its partner regime than by the “rebels” they were supposedly fighting. Incredibly, even a UN-commissioned report by a “Group of Experts” documented some of the horrors. Still, the mission continues — now with drones to help out.
Of course, the current regime ruling over the Congo is led by Joseph Kabila, who was trained by the Communist Chinese “People’s Liberation Army” in Beijing. The UN has a long and atrocious history of fighting on behalf of brutal governments. More recently, as The New American reported last year, UN “peace” forces have come under fire for everything from corruption and lawlessness to spreading deadly diseases and even murdering and sexually abusing civilian populations in countries they occupy.
The discussion about whether or not the UN’s military should be operating drones, though, diverts attention away from much more fundamental issues that must be addressed. Why, for instance, should the United States government remain a member — and primary financier — of a scandal-plagued organization that is dominated by autocrats and openly hostile to the U.S. Constitution and the God-given rights of Americans? The UN is currently seeking a U.S.-based "disarmament officer" for reasons that remain unclear.
Legislation in Congress right now — H.R. 75, The American Sovereignty Restoration Act — would revoke U.S. membership in the scandal-plagued global body and end all funding for it. Another alternative would be for the House to end all funds for the UN until the U.S. government can formally withdraw. Not only would such a move benefit the American people, who are increasingly coming under attack from an out-of-control UN they pay for, it would be especially helpful to the people around the world whom the UN purports to “help.”
Photo of UN drone in the Congo: AP Images
Alex Newman, a foreign correspondent for The New American, is currently based in Europe. He can be reached at
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