Thursday, May 5, 2016

The Truth About Drones (*NOT* APPROVED by the US Air Force)

National Bird screened this week in Berkeley. It gives first hand accounts of the way the US drone program ruins the lives of drone operators, undermines any real attempt to "defend" the US, and -- most of all -- massacres innocents.

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Drone Pilots Speaking Out
National Bird contrasts the "excitement and glory" of Air Force and Army recruiting with the reality people face when they enlist and serve in the US military.

Young people toying with the idea of becoming a drone operator will drop it like a hot potato after seeing what it's done to others. "The drone program gives people PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder]," says a former operator in the film, against the background of her attempt to get the VA (Veterans Administration) to acknowledge her condition. "What's so surprising about that?"

Another participant in the drone program -- someone who appears again and again as calm, cool, and collected on screen -- talks in the film about his suicidal ideation. Yikes.

Can't they put it behind them? Yet another former participant in the drone program, who came in person to participate in the discussion period following the screening, put it this way: "Once you're in the drone program, there's no escape."

No wonder more and more former drone operators are speaking out . . . .

U.S. "Precision Strikes" in a Nutshell
National Bird also sums up why the officer class has become more and more skeptical about drones.

All you have to do is watch the film's clip of Gen. Stanley McChrystal going on national TV in Afghanistan to apologize for the February 21, 2010, massacre of innocent Afghans to understand why no being an officer in the US military is becoming a fool's errand.  (In an appearance at a book talk in San Francisco, McChrystal offers the understatement of the year: the drone program needs to do a better job of "not generating ill-will.")

What happens when large numbers of people decide it just isn't a good idea to become an officer because the technology and systems and approaches and policies of the US "defense" establishment are programming massive blowback into everything the military does?

Drone Victims: Just Dots? Just Dirt?
National Bird is dedicated to the people killed in the February 21, 2010, massacre, and it is the recounting of that event that is the most difficult part of the film to watch.

This film is essential watching for anyone who still thinks US air strikes kill "bad guys."

"I lost part of my humanity working in the drone program," says one of the operators profiled in National Bird. She's got company: the drone program is being carried out in the name of everyone in the US; losing our humanity has become a national condition.

Related posts

Leveling Up is the creative work that demonstrates just how thoroughly America's new ways of warfare have become intertwined with the other dominant strands in our culture.

(See Level Up, Step Up, Grow Up, Man Up . . . Wake Up)

Anyone who cares about stopping drone killing should take a friend and go see Good Kill, and then do it again, and again.

(See GOOD KILL: Struggling to Bring the Truth of Drone Killing Out of the Shadows )

Grounded raises tough questions. I was hoping that the play would challenge the idea that killing people with drones is good. It's a reflection of the seriousness of this work that that is just one of the issues it raises; others include our society's willingness to destroy the people who we employ to "serve" ("serve our country," serve us in general), our culture's worship of violence / use of force, and the consequences of pervasive surveillance.

(See Why GROUNDED Is Soaring: Putting Drone Dilemmas In Your Face )