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    Col. Charles W. Manley, commander of the 163d Maintenance Group,163d Reconnaissance Wing, pilots a training simulator for the U.S. Air Force's MQ-1 Predator, at the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County, Calif., in this June 25, 2008 file photo

    The Death Drones: People Working as UAV Operators 'Cease to Be Humans'

    © AP Photo / Damian Dovarganes
    Military & Intelligence
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    Former US Air Force pilot Brandon Bryant in an interview with Sputnik said that being a drone operator is dehumanising.

    In an interview with Sputnik, former US Air Force pilot Brandon Bryant focused on his country's Joint Unmanned Combat Air System project, also known as the US drone program, which is aimed to add significantly to Washington's anti-terror effort. 

    "The war against terrorism" was declared by George. W. Bush in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. Barack Obama later extended the mandate to carry out military operations twice.

    Under President Obama, the number of US unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) attacks increased drastically, and drones soon became a new symbol of the war on terror.

    However, the counterterrorism drone strikes left up to 116 civilians across the globe dead between 2009 and 2015, according to a report filed by former US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. Many maintain that these numbers are grossly understated. According to data presented in the book 'We Kill Because We Can' by Laurie Calhoun, at least 4,500 people were killed by US Predator drones.

    Research conducted by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism found that nearly 500 civilians were killed by drones under the Obama Administration.

    Speaking to Sputnik, Brandon Bryant said that he just "stumbled into" becoming a drone operator, a job which he said he has never wanted to deal with.

    He said that after he retired as a drone operator in April 2001, and "when the military didn't want to take care of me, I decided to talk about my experiences and try to help people understand" the moral aspect of the story.

    Asked about whether he underwent special training for his drone operator mission, Bryant said "the funny thing is that they don't really prepare you to do it."

    "I mean I had training at the Creech Air Force base after eight months of intelligence school," Brandon Bryant saidn The training was all about operator's simulation drone attacks on a rock in the desert, with "no one preparing us to hunt down human beings for a living" and stalking them like prey. "There is nothing in this training that prepares someone to do that," he added.

    A US Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile setting off from its hangar at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. File photo
    © AFP 2019 / Bonny Schoonakker
    A US Predator unmanned drone armed with a missile setting off from its hangar at Bagram air base in Afghanistan. File photo

    Also, Bryant said that they decided to coin the term Predator-porn after they saw their top brass becoming addicted to watching the drone attacks with "lust and ecstasy" on their faces; "it was bizarre to see that reaction," Bryant added.

    Touching upon his job a drone operator, Bryant specifically emphasized he currently does not take pride in what he was doing.

    "When I left and looked back at what we were doing and what was happening, it really hit me that I became someone that I didn't want to be anymore. There's no concept of honor and dignity among these people," he said, adding that they don't share the values of the US military.

    He said that dealing with journalistic sources on the matter and communicating with victims of drone strikes helped him "really open up his mind about what kind of Pandora's box they have opened" in moral and spiritual terms.

    "We have the ability to kill anyone anywhere in the world with almost a minimum of data. People taking part in the drone program actually cease to be humans because they sit in a cold dark room in front of a computer screen and a bar for hours and hunt down other people day by day," he said. 

    He added that the drone operators "dehumanize themselves" because they even don't give their enemies a chance to be seen       as human beings; they in turn see the drone operators as "killer robots or aliens", according to Bryant. 

    Last year, former US Department of State political officer Matthew Hoh told Sputnik that low US drone casualty estimates are an attempt to cover up the deaths of innocent people and the ineffectiveness of a program that has helped fuel support for al-Qaeda and Daesh throughout the Muslim world.

    Even if the drone campaign was limited in its killing of civilians, which it is not, it would still be a failed and counterproductive policy," Hoh observed.
    The White House estimate of between 64 and 116 civilians killed by drone strikes is nothing less than a deliberate lie, Hoh argued.

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