American Drone Operator SPEAKING OUT !
He was among many young adults, who were told that their new occupation was to “kill people and break things,” he said. Drone operators are “guys and gals” fresh out of high school, who are “basically video game snipers, four months of training, put into a position to make [life and death] decisions.”
Watching people being killed, even through a monitor from over 10,000km away, comes with a cost. Bryant saw the deaths of friendly soldiers, hostiles and innocent civilians, including those whose lives he helped end.
“‘Mental degradation’ would be a proper term,” he said, explaining how operators cope with the stress. “Every shot that we took – like they’re cheering, they are congratulating each other, they are high-fiving each other.”
It’s like a withering away of who you are.
Drone wars were launched under George W. Bush, but it was Barack Obama, who ramped up its use significantly, and Bryant was part of that surge. One of the most controversial drone strikes under the Democrat president – and one that impacted Bryant a lot – happened in Yemen in 2011. It killed 16-year-old US citizen Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the son of US-Yemeni preacher and terrorist figure Anwar al-Awlaki. Also a US citizen, he was killed in a ‘signature strike’ two weeks prior.
Leaks from the US government indicated that Abdulrahman was a bystander killed in a legitimate strike targeting a senior Al-Qaeda operative. Bryant said he heard a different reasoning: “They said because they didn’t want him to become a figurehead.”