Drone Operators Feeling the Effects of Carrying Out Kill Orders

By:  Joe Wolverton, II, J.D.
Drone Operators Feeling the Effects of Carrying Out Kill Orders

Drone operators are reporting that they are sensing psychological ill effects of carrying out the president's kill orders.

President Obama reportedly sits in the Oval Office on Tuesdays and adds and subtracts names from his infamous “kill list.” In consultation with his national security advisers, the president takes names of suspected terrorists and transfers them from flash cards to orders for summary execution.

Of course, the president doesn’t have to kill these people himself, and he doesn’t have to watch them or anyone else be incinerated in the blast zone of a Hellfire missile. Someone does, however, and some of those charged with piloting the drones and firing the missiles are beginning to suffer psychologically from the awful assignment.

Consider the following harrowing and heartbreaking story of one of these drone operators, as reported by CNN:

Years of aiming missiles at people on the other side of the world left Brandon Bryant a broken man.

In an interview with the magazine GQ, Bryant recounts some of the grisly scenes he watched unfold on his monitor as an Air Force drone operator.

In grimly vivid detail, he talks about the first time he killed somebody, in early 2007.

He was sitting in a control station on an Air Force base in Nevada. His three victims were walking on a dirt road in Afghanistan.

After the Hellfire missile fired from the drone struck the three men, Bryant watched the aftermath on his infra-red display.

"The smoke clears, and there's pieces of the two guys around the crater. And there's this guy over here, and he's missing his right leg above his knee," he says in the article in the November issue of GQ.

"He's holding it, and he's rolling around, and the blood is squirting out of his leg, and it's hitting the ground, and it's hot. His blood is hot," Bryant says. "But when it hits the ground, it starts to cool off; the pool cools fast. It took him a long time to die. I just watched him. I watched him become the same color as the ground he was lying on.”

Bryant is a member of the video-game generation where military combat missions are make-believe, but increasingly vivid and realistic. Perhaps familiarity with this atmosphere inures one for a time from feeling the effect of conducting such deadly operations in the real world. For many, though, the experience eventually chisels through the wall of insensitivity, however.

What of the images described by Bryant? Is there other evidence of such brutal and blood-curdling drone strikes? Yes.

Beyond the headlines, one of the most disturbing and damning accounts of the effect of the Obama administration’s drone war on the civilian population of Pakistan — the most frequent target of the attacks — deserves greater publicity.

Click here to read the entire article.

Photo of drone pilots: AP Images

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