Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Drone operator quits after ordered to kill child

Drone operators: A drone pilot, left, and a drone sensor operator practice on a simulator at Holloman Air Force base in New Mexico.
The Daily Mail:

A former U.S. drone operator has opened up about the toll of killing scores of innocent people by pressing a button from a control room in New Mexico.

Brandon Bryant, 27, from Missoula, Montana, spent six years in the Air Force operating Predator drones from inside a dark container.

But, after following orders to shoot and kill a child in Afghanistan, he knew he couldn't keep doing what he was doing and quit the military.

'I saw men, women and children die during that time,' he told Spiegel Online. 'I never thought I would kill that many people. In fact, I thought I couldn't kill anyone at all.'

But it began to take its toll immediately.

The first time he fired a missile, he killed two men instantly and cried on his way home.

'I felt disconnected from humanity for almost a week,' he said.

But it was an incident when a Predator drone was circling above a flat-roofed house made of mud in Afghanistan, more than 6,250 miles away, that really sticks in his mind.

The hut had a shed used to hold goats and when he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser.

The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact.

'These moments are like in slow motion,' he told the website.

As the countdown reached seven seconds, there was no sign of anyone on the ground.

Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point.

But when it was down to three seconds, a child suddenly walked around the corner.

The next thing he saw was a flash on the screen - the explosion. The building collapsed, and the child disappeared.

Continue reading here.

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