Pakistanis protest "Playstation" project

Thousands of Pakistanis protesting against deadly US drone strikes after two separate US drone-fired missile strikes killed at least 16 civilians in Pakistan's north-western tribal areas near the Afghan border on Monday.

Washington is keeping up the air strikes, despite a recent declaration from the Pakistani Parliament calling for their end.

But with the US government eyeing heavy investment in drone technology, Americans fear they could soon find themselves beneath a steel sky.

When a US drone hit the house of a young Pakistani man, he lost an eye, both legs and three family members.

People in Pakistan are demanding the CIA be held responsible for the deaths of their loved ones, but to no avail.

With the use of drones comes a lack of accountability.

“Those are being operated by somebody in the command center in Langley, Virginia. They are watching at them on a video screen, they are pressing the button. They are deciding who lives who dies, and then they go off for a weekend where they have barbecue in their suburban Virginia and suburban Maryland homes. And who pays the price? The people who are the victims of the attack. Is there accountability? None whatsoever,” says Brian Becker from the Answer Coalition.

Drones have become the symbol of America’s undeclared wars, wars that seem to have no state or legal boundaries.

“We have opened up a new realm of warfare, a new realm of breaking, breaching international and domestic law,” says Lawrence B. Wilkerson, former chief of staff to United States Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2002-2005.

Used in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, they have killed scores of civilians.

The former chief counter-insurgency strategist for the US State Department has estimated that drone attacks kill 50 non-targeted persons for each intended target.

“One of the things the United States pretends is that we’re morally superior, we are better able to judge what is good for other people. And therefore we are entitled to inflict our judgment on them and we presume that people will be grateful, but that is not what happens ever. And it is not what is happening in Yemen, it is not what is happening Pakistan. They are furious. They are enraged with us,” says journalist Susan Lindauer.

Washington is looking to increase the funding of drone development sevenfold over the next ten years. A large part of that will go towards unarmed surveillance drones.

The US has for years been using them in another of its undeclared wars – against drug traffickers in Mexico.

The Mexican government allows US spy planes, despite public discontent.

“There is a big concern that the use of those drones by the US government has more to do with the US control over Mexican territory than actually going up to drug lords and winning the drug war,” says Laura Carlsen, director of the Mexico City-based Americas Program of the Center for International Policy.

While issues of international law and sovereignty trigger little interest among Americans, the prospect of having surveillance drones spying all across the US itself surely does.

US police agencies are asking for drones for domestic surveillance, raising alarm among those who think that could be the end of American freedoms.

“Especially when you look at constitutional activities like free speech activities, they are going to be hovering over crowds that are merely maybe protesting war, protesting some of our governmental acts, and that will be chilling free speech. The drones will be equipped with some sort of weapons – sound cannons…some people are saying lasers – they will be able to punish innocents here advocating against the government. They have already been used in some instances in the United States when in 2007 protesters in Washington DC noticed small objects floating overhead that looked like lights or dragonflies. Turned out they were “robo-flies” developed by the Pentagon as surveillance devices,” says John Whitehead, head of the Rutherford Institute.

As America continues developing this Playstation mentality to killing and intelligence gathering, in Pakistan people live in fear that at any time they could become a target in someone’s deadly video game, and many in the US fear that with the rapid expansion of spy drones over their own territory, they could one day wake up in an ultimate police state.