Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Former drone pilots speak out against US drone program

According to human rights attorney, Jesselyn Radack, the U.S. government has tried to silence four former drone pilots who are now critics of the drone program.
Radack claims the U.S. government tried to silence them through threats of criminal prosecution and also attempts to intimidate some family members.The four former pilots are Michael Haas , Brandon Bryant, Cian Westmoreland and Stephen Lewis. The four have written an open letter to President Obama, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and CIA Director John Brennan: They all claim the drone attacks are unconstitutional, and engender further hatred for the United States: We are former Air Force service members. We joined the Air Force to protect American lives and to protect our Constitution. We came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay. This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.Some details of the drone program and pilot experiences are covered in the appended video Drone.
Michael Haas said the culture of the program emphasized and encouraged the dehumanization of those targeted. Haas said he took refuge in alcohol and drug abuse, a common occurrence he claimed among drone pilots. Haas took part in the mission that killed Anwar al-Awlaki, a U.S. citizen. Haas considered in doing so, even if he was a traitor and deserved to die, was a violation of his oath to uphold the U.S. constitution:“We were told that al-Awlaki deserved to die, he deserved to be killed as a traitor, but article 3 of section 2 of the U.S. Constitution states that even a traitor deserves a fair trial in front of a jury of his peers."
Haas said you were made to think of killing the targets as like stepping on ants. The people are just black blobs on a screen. This made it easier to do the job. You had to ignore any inner voices saying what you were doing was not right.
Bryan Brant recalls his first shot. He guided in a F-16 fighter aircraft to kill three individuals said to be reinforcements coming to help the Taliban. However, when he saw the targets, their body motions indicated they were terrified, and were gesturing wildly, suggesting to Bryant they were not trained fighters but likely individuals trying to escape the battle. In another instance he watched what was supposedly a group with a camel carrying weapons to the Taliban. He saw no evidence of weapons. After the group settled down for the night they were all killed with a Hellfire missile. Bryant noticed that there were no secondary explosions suggesting that there had been no weapons or at least ammunition with them.
When a pilot leaves the service they are given an envelope with a sort of report card in it showing the number of killings the pilot played some part in. When Bryant was discharged honourably in 2011 the number on his card was 1626. Haas did not open his card. There are interviews with some of the pilots on Democracy Now.

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