Has the U.S. drone war fueled hatred that has ignited terrorism and recruitment to groups like Islamic State? Yes, according to four former Air Force service members who are speaking out together for the first time.

Staff Sgt. Brandon Bryant and Senior Airmen Michael Haas, Stephen Lewis and Cian Westmoreland have issued a letter to President Obama, warning that the U.S. drone program is one of the greatest drivers of terrorism. The service members accuse the administration of lying about the effectiveness of the program: They say it is good at killing people — just not the right ones. The four drone war veterans risk prosecution by an administration whose targeting of government whistleblowers has been unprecedented. The “Democracy Now!” exclusive is their first extended broadcast interview.

Bryant served as a sensor operator for the Predator program from 2007 to 2011, controlling the camera on the unmanned aerial vehicles that carried out attacks overseas. After he left active duty in the Air Force, he was presented with a certificate that credited his squadron for 1,626 kills. Below, Bryan recounts his first-ever lethal drone strike and the impact it continues to have on him today.

Below, Lewis, a former sensor operator, and Westmoreland, a former technician, explain why they are speaking out about what they did. “Anybody in the Air Force knows that an airstrike has collateral damage a significant amount of the time,” Westmoreland says. “I’m saying it wasn’t all enemies. It was civilians as well.”

Below, “Democracy Now!” also looks at the new documentary film “Drone,” which examines the connection between video games and military recruitment. The program airs a clip from the film and speaks to its director, Tonje Hessen Schei.

“I think gamers should be offended that the military and the government are using to manipulate and recruit,” Bryant says. “We’re more interconnected now than at any time in human history — and that’s being exploited to help people kill one another.”

— Adapted from “Democracy Now!” by Alexander Reed Kelly.


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