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Ear to the Ground

‘I Worked on the U.S. Drone Program’

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Posted on Dec 29, 2013
Sean Davis (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Politicians defending the use of drones in Afghanistan have no idea what they’re talking about, former U.S. Air Force analyst Heather Linebaugh, who has seen innocent women and children incinerated by Hellfire missiles and soldiers killed because of drone failures, writes at The Guardian on Sunday.

“How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” she wants to ask elected defenders of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program. “How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicles] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?”

To justify the program, the U.S. and British militaries “feel the need to deliver faulty information, few or no statistics about civilian deaths and twisted technology reports on the capabilities of our UAVs.” What the public doesn’t understand is that video provided by drones is rarely clear enough to distinguish a rifle from a shovel, “even on a crystal-clear day with limited clouds and perfect light.”

“We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian’s life all because of a bad image or angle,” Linebaugh writes.

What’s more, the human beings flying and analyzing data from the UAVs are often traumatized by what they see. “When you are exposed to [watching people die] over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.” Some soldiers, including two of Linebaugh’s colleagues, kill themselves after what they do. But statistics about UAV operator suicides are kept secret, as is data about how heavily they are medicated for depression, sleep disorders and anxiety.

“The UAV’s in the Middle East are used as a weapon, not as protection, and as long as our public remains ignorant to this, this serious threat to the sanctity of human life—at home and abroad—will continue.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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