Target: Brandon Bryant, former Air Force drone operator
Goal: Applaud his courage in speaking out about the trauma he experienced working as a drone operator
For military drone operators, sending unmanned machinery to kill anonymous strangers is all in a day’s work. Many have compared their role to playing a video game, in part because of the physical and emotional distance between the operator and the drone’s victims. But that does not mean that operators are immune from the stresses of their job. One former Air Force drone operator, Brandon Bryant, left the military after he began to feel like a “sociopath” without any regard for human life. He has since spoken out widely about the program, helping expose the mindless brutality of drone strikes.
In his five year career with the Air Force Bryant participated in roughly 1,600 kills. While the exact number of civilian lives lost is difficult to come by, he remains convinced that many of his targets were innocent men, women and children. The Associated Press reports that three percent of those killed by American drone strikes in Pakistan since 2008 were civilians, although human rights groups insist the number is much higher. Classified documents from the Central Intelligence Agency, and released by NBC News, show the agency often didn’t know who it was even trying to target with its drones.
Disturbingly, most Americans continue to support “targeted” drone strikes. By speaking out about his experiences in the program Bryant has helped raise awareness and opposition to the use of drones. Applaud his courage, both for leaving the military over moral objections and for helping average citizens better understand this terrible, inhumane weapon of war.
Dear Mr. Bryant,
I can only imagine the stress drones operator must feel, never really knowing if the people they helped to kill were terrorists or simply innocent bystanders. Yet while many operators learn to ignore such doubts, you listened to your conscience and eventually left the Air Force. And rather than simply put this disturbing chapter behind you, you have courageously spoken out about your experiences.
The majority of Americans still support the use of targeted drone strikes in the War on Terror, despite the growing number of innocent victims. Perhaps they don’t realize how difficult it is to avoid killing civilians with drones–how brutal the technology is despite the government’s reassurances. Each time you share your story you help people better understand the real cost of drone warfare both on the “enemy” and on those who control the drones remotely.
Thank you so much for having the courage to speak out.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: Bobbi Zapka via Wikimedia Commons