Featuring a little Q & A between a reporter and an unnamed source with a big hat and even bigger boots.
Q. What branches of the United States military currently utilize military drones for offensive purposes?
A. The U.S. Air Force, The U.S. Army and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Q. I didn't know the CIA was a branch of the military.
A. Think of the CIA as they think of themselves: a para-military organization that also gathers intelligence. Naturally the Border Patrol uses drones too, along with the National Guard.
Q. I see you didn't use the expression "Predator" drones.
A. Actually, I notice you didn't use that expression. You are asking the questions, after all.
Q. Point taken. Who makes these drones we keep hearing about?
A. They are built and sold by a company called General Atomics Aeronautical Systems. The MQ-1 Predator is only one of the unmanned remotely piloted aircraft the company builds. Usually they're called Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAVs.
A. Freedom isn't free.
Q. How much, then?
A. You got your MQ-1B, which lays out at twenty-seven feet long and hits a good speed of 135 miles per hour. Handles what we call armed
reconnaissance, carries your video cameras and radar detectors. Best of all, it'll carry two Hellfire missiles sure to blow the arms off anyone it strikes. Total cost of that program was a little better'n four billion. The Air Force ain't using any new ones. Just hanging on tight to the 156 they got left.
Q. There's others?
A. Aw, Lord, yes! The Army digs up on the MQ-1C Gray Eagle. That bad boy reaches heights of 29,000 feet. Has to have its own de-icing system, that's how cold it gets. Hell, its own mama couldn't find it up that high. Runs for twenty-five hours. And best of all, it carries twice as many Hellfire missiles as its first cousin.
Q. That would for four missiles?
A. It would. You know, don't you, that one of the CIA's first successful uses of the Predator was when we took out Nek Muhammad back in June 2004. He was a Qaeda terrorist guy, loved by the tribes, but he threatened the stability of Pakistan, so the leader we installed there gave us permission to violate their airspace. Boom. Region's been a glorious mess of destabilization ever since. Our boy know what they're doing.
Q. What else do you have?
A. Saving the best for last. The MQ-9 Reaper. Sort of a grim poetry about that name. In house we call it the Predator B. Powered by Honeywell, this sucker'll hit the sky at 50,000, flies for twenty-seven hours, and has seven external payload stations. You know what that means?
A. Means it can blow up your town, Bucko. Granted, the Reaper costs almost $14 million per model, whereas the Gray Eagle is only $5 million. But our military knows what it's doing. The Eagle program expenditure is $658 million, whereas the more enjoyable Reaper taps out at $11.8 billion. That's with a "b," boy.
Q. I've never even heard of General Atomics.
A. They're out of San Diego. Think General Dynamics with greater anonymity. Fact, General Atomics used Dynamics garages in the late sixties. Used to be owned by Gulf Oil. How's that for coincidence? Then Chevron owned it for a while. Nowadays it's owned by the Blue Brothers, and I don't mean Jake and Elwood. Nope, a couple guys name of Neal and Linden Blue hold title. Nice family business. They bought it from Chevron for only $60 million. And as one of the leading defense contractors, they do other things besides make and sell drones. Lord, yes, they do. Somebody has to make and sell all the electronic doodads those drones carry, like the transactions processing systems, the radiation monitoring systems, the high voltage capacitors, plus the electrostatic systems used by the conveniently located nearby petroleum refineries scattered throughout the Middle East. Of course, these folks is community-oriented, so they work closely with the science teachers in the San Diego area to make sure that the youngsters understand the beauty of nuclear fission and other peacetime uses of annihilation.
Q. Tell me more about the Blue Brothers.
A. Aw, they're just a couple of good old boys raised in the Depression. They've made a few bucks enriching uranium, dumped nuclear waste on Indian reservations--like there's anything wrong with helping out the Native Americans--spied on potential eco-terrorists, and tried, bless their hearts, to turn that hellhole of a ski resort known as Telluride into a useful tract home community. Of course, they have a long history of humanitarian work with Somoza in Nicaragua, building plantations there to provide full employment for the slaves. I guess they tried to exercise some influence with the CIA in the war against the Sandinistas, but you can only do so much once you get kicked out of another country. But that setback was nothing. Hell, Linden had been brought down over Havana just a couple weeks before the Bay of Pigs fiasco. Tossed his ass in jail in Cuba. After that, Nicaragua wasn't all that bad.
Q. So the Blue Brothers and General Atomics invented the Predator drone? That's wild.
A. Naw, actually the Predator was invented by an Israeli name of Abraham Karem. He got the idea during the Yom Kippur War. But that didn't mean shit to the Department of Defense. What they wanted--and what Congress wanted--was some good sales people. That's where the Brothers stepped in. They knew how to hire lobbyists. Cat name of Duke Cunningham--no relation to Richie--was the Congressional Republican for the California District that included San Diego and hence General Atomics. Those lobbyists pumped a payload of green cash into his pockets in the form of quid in return for favorable quo. And boy did they get their quo. Duke got eight years for tax evasion, which is just the cost of doing business these days. Hey, something wrong? Where you going?
Q. Nowhere. Just thinking.
A. Thinking what?
Q. Well, it just seems to me that while the media is fixated on the influence of the Koch Brothers--
A. I hear you. The Koch Brothers may buy the election, but the real contest for power lies in war, son. The mobilizing premise for all human society lies with its war powers. Elections are just for the suckers. Hillary, Rubio, Bush--run them through an x-ray scanner at the airport, look at the images, tell me who is who.
Q. You're a cynical bastard, huh?
A. Pleased to meet you. Hope you guessed my name.
|George W. Bush and Linden Blue|
|The Blue Brothers make the cover of Life|
1. Aerospace and Defense Intelligence Report.
2. General Atomics website: Reaper.
3. Aircraft Platforms.
4. The Billionaire Brothers Behind America's Predator Drones. Alternet.
5. A Secret Deal on Drones. New York Times.
6. U-T San Diego Military Spending.