Wednesday, February 23, 2011

A Powerful, Shattering Documentary

Talk about relevancy! Here I am watching the TV newscasts focusing on the ongoing Arabian revolutions when I switch on my preview DVD of Remote Control Wars.
The hourlong documentary is on CBC-TV's Doc Zone Thursday night at 9 p.m. and nothing on TV this week could be as relevant.
The news showshots from Libya and Bahrein are all about such new technologies as Facebook and Twitter permitting oppressed people to rise against well entrenched dictators.
But Remote Control War goes far deeper as it probes into new warfare techniques already being practiced over the skies of Pakistan and often against innocent civilians.
Then those same techniques, refined and miniaturized, might one day be practiced over the skies of North America.
It's Robotic Warfare and it's the hottest killing technique of the decade.
Every night in remote Indian Springs, Nevada, well outside of Las Vegas, normally dressed civilians go to work to fight the rebels in far distant Afghanistan.
They do so using the most sophisticated computers commanding the most highly specialized drones yet devised, drones than can follow civilians on the ground and often bomb, maim, even kill many innocent people.
The images are dazzling --we see the way drones hover in the air and how they can spot movement. What they cannot do is selectively chose between the ordinary populace and the Taliban. And so many mistakes are made as the bombs go off.
But since U.S. casualties are diminished by this impersonal way of killing the U.S. military chiefs and the Congressional politicians are very much in favor of the new ways of war.
Dead U.S. soldiers come home in nbody bags to grieving families and an increasingly sceptical civilian population.
The list of experts director Leif Kaldor and producer-writer Leslea Mair have chosen to take us into this hitherto unknown war is dazzlinng: New York Times writer David Rhode, U.N. investigator Philip Alston, University of Sheffield's Noel Sharkey, a professor of artificial intelligence, Peter W. Singer, author of Wired For War.
Together they take us into a new form of modern warfare --one done almost entirely by robotics instead of the usual soldiers.
The robotic planes can hunt people down but they cannot discriminate. Anybody fleeing becomes a target and U.S. robotic planes now number 7,000. And another 43 countries including Canada are investing in drones as the preferred choice of future conflicts.
Kaldor has gotten unprecedented access to hitherto classified footage, Pentagon sources and dissenters both in North America and Europe who wonder who will make the decisions about future kills.
When does the robotic method amount to killing for the sake of killing.
And what happens when the adversaries of the U.S. become as technologically advanced. We go to one robotics fair where amateurs have miniaturized everything and produced their own tiny planes for as low as$300. Could these planes swarm Manhattan in a future attack? Or Toronto?
U.S. Lt. Gen. David Deptula and Nobel Peace Prize winner Jody Williams grapple with the morality of the issues. This rush to a new way of waging war is scary as hell and reinforced by the images of conflict throughout Arabia on the newscasts.
In Short Remote Control War is perfectly positioned --it asks all the questions we should be asking with conflict all around us. The hour was made by Regina-based Zoot PIctures which made such past documentaries as Eco-Home Adventures and Weekend Wonders.
REMOTE CONTROL WAR premieres on CBC's DOC ZONE Thurs. Feb. 24 at 9 p.m. Two additional showings are on CBC News Network Frid. Feb. 25 at 10 p.m. and Sunday Feb. 27 at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m.
MY RATING: ****.


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