Former Drone Operator turned Whistleblower: “I saw men, women and children die” by Ezra Van Auken


American drones have been a problem around the world since their inception in the early 2000s; in the past year or so, the advocacy against drones has increased immensely. This could be partly due to the acceleration of drone strikes that have occurred in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Libya – along with Afghanistan. Within the drone world has come about a whistleblower to the operations.

Former United States drone operator, 27-year-old Brandon Bryant from Montana worked for nearly a decade flying predator drones. A turn for the worst made Bryant decide that the predator drone job wasn’t the best job for him after conducting and witnessing the killing of a child in Afghanistan. “I saw men, women and children die during that time,” Bryant explained to Spiegel Online. The former drone pilot went on to say, “I never thought I would kill that many people. In fact, I thought I couldn’t kill anyone at all.”

Replaying his experience, Bryant noted that after killing his first two men by drone strike, he then “cried on his way home” from work. The 27-year-old commented about how he felt lost from sanity, “I felt disconnected from humanity for almost a week.” Shockingly, Bryant detailed the accounts of a time he mistakenly, but by orders, killed a young boy in Afghanistan.

Before the hellfire missile hit the target and the mud-roofed house was destroyed, a boy walked around the corner. Bryant recalled asking, “Did we just kill a kid?” In response, his operational partner said, “Yeah, I guess that was a kid.” As the Guardian reported, “One day he collapsed at work, doubling over and spitting blood. The doctor ordered him to stay home, and not to return to work until he could sleep more than four hours a night for two weeks in a row.”

If more honorable and moral individuals who have been in the drone business were to come out about what is going on, I’m positive we would hear more of the same stories.

Without much transparency from the Obama administration regarding drones, it is likely that these practices will not change anytime soon. For instance, Obama’s counterterrorism advisor, John Brennan is looking forward to an expansion of overseas drone use. Brennan explained earlier this year, “There are aspects of the Yemen program that I think are a true model of what I think the U.S. counterterrorism community should be doing.”

Members in Washington including Rep. from Texas, Ron Paul and Rep. Dennis Kucinich have been heavy advocates for reforming the drone programs and learning more about what the drones are doing overseas.

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