Militant Journalism

Carnegie Mellon University complicit in deadly US drone warfare

Drone warfare has become an increasingly common and deadly form of aggression in the playbook of the U.S. military. Favored for keeping the toll of war concealed from the public, drone bombings are claiming an increasing number of civilian lives and causing chaos around the world. Drone systems are developed in large part by programs in universities across the country. 

Carnegie Mellon University is among the most prominent of these and has a long-standing, well-funded relationship with the U.S. military. The Combat Capabilities Development Command Army Research Laboratory (ARL) is the U.S. Army’s corporate laboratory. In 2019, they signed a $72 million, five-year-long artificial intelligence development deal with CMU. Andrew Ladas, the leader of ARL’s Army Artificial Intelligence Innovation Institute (A2I2) said researchers expect to achieve automated sense making — the ability for AI to recognize scenes and generate real-time, actionable correlations, insights and information for humans. This would make drones all the more deadly. 

CMU has also signed onto the ARL’s “Open Campus” initiative, which is designed to further cooperation between university research and military projects. This continues over 70 years of CMU’s close collaboration with the military. Carnegie Mellon University’s National Robotics Engineering Center proclaims on its website “NREC brings innovative robotics technology to warfighters and military operations. Since 1995, NREC has been working with Department of Defense clients including DARPA, AFRL, TARDEC, USMCWL, OSD TRMC, NAVEODTECHDIV, PM Night Vision RSTA, USACE, JGRE, ONR, US Army, US Air Force and others”. They work on Autonomous Vehicles from “From inspection robots to tactical vehicles”. 

A brief history of US drone war

In February 2021, Joe Biden ordered a drone strike on an Iraqi militia group, killing 22. This occurred over 20 years after the United States began its series of brutal invasions in the Middle East euphemistically referred to as the “war on terror.” But drone strikes are not a new weapon in this wave of aggression. 

Their first stumbling steps occurred in October 2001 when a drone was used to attempt to kill Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban. The drone missed and hit an empty truck.

The strikes continued with a total of 57 under the Bush administration. Once Barack Obama assumed office, he decided to rapidly increase the number of drone strikes. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that under Obama’s presidency, a total of 563 drone strikes were launched. However, the BIJ also notes that the number could be higher as drone strikes often go unreported or under-reported.

The aggression of course continued under the Trump administration, with Trump for instance launching at least 114 strikes participating in the genocide in Yemen. The Intercept reports that 90% of drone strike victims are not the intended target. 

And of course, it cannot go without mention that a drone strike killed leading Iranian General Qasem Soleimani last year while he was conducting peace negotiations in Iraq. This almost plunged the United States and Iran into an all-out war that threatened to consume the entire region.

Not only have we seen piloted drones develop and come into mainstream use, but we have also seen the development of autonomous drones, which do not require a remote human pilot. These weapons are convenient for the ruling class as they allow for constant unfeeling warfare without question. This allows for minimal public visibility of the conflict and therefore minimizes public examination. War could be waged, the Pentagon generals hope, in absolute secrecy.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation demands Carnegie Mellon University and all other universities end their participation in the blood-soaked business of drone warfare.

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