Former Drone Pilots to Obama: Civilian Killings Driving 'Terrorism, Instability'
Air Force whistleblowers say US drone program "is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world."
By Lauren McCauley / commondreams.org
Nov 19, 2015

Graffiti denouncing strikes by US drones in Yemen. (Photo: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters)

Graffiti denouncing strikes by US drones in Yemen. (Photo: Khaled Abdullah/Reuters)

Four former U.S. Air Force drone operators issued a public letter on Wednesday warning that the United States' ongoing targeted killing program "is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world."

The letter (pdf), addressed to U.S. President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, and CIA Chief John Brennan accuses the administration of fueling "tragedies such as the attacks in Paris" while "lying publicly about the effectiveness of the drone program."

"We came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS," the whistleblowers wrote, "while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay."

According to Guardian reporters Ed Pilkington and Ewan MacAskill, who broke the story, the servicemen have "more than 20 years of experience between them operating military drones." In the letter, the men say they all "succumbed to PTSD" and were subsequently "cut loose by the same government we gave so much to—sent out in the world without adequate medical care, reliable public health services, or necessary benefits."

Facing possible persecution for speaking out, the men are being represented by attorney Jesselyn Radack, director of national security and human rights at the nonprofit ExposeFacts. Radack says this letter marks the "first time we’ve had so many people speaking out together about the drone program."

The full text of the letter is below:

Dear President Obama, Secretary Carter and Director Brennan: 

We are former Air Force service members. We joined the Air Force to protect American lives  and to protect our Constitution. We came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing  only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a  fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay. This administration and its predecessors  have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and  destabilization around the world. 

When the guilt of our roles in facilitating this systematic loss of innocent life became too much, all of us succumbed to PTSD. We were cut loose by the same government we gave so much to ­­ sent  out in the world without adequate medical care, reliable public health services, or necessary benefits.  Some of us are now homeless. Others of us barely make it. 

We witnessed gross waste, mismanagement, abuses of power, and our country’s leaders lying  publicly about the effectiveness of the drone program. We cannot sit silently by and witness tragedies  like the attacks in Paris, knowing the devastating effects the drone program has overseas and at home.  Such silence would violate the very oaths we took to support and defend the Constitution. 

We request that you consider our perspective, though perhaps that request is in vain given the  unprecedented prosecution of truth­tellers who came before us like Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange,  and Edward Snowden. For the sake of this country, we hope it is otherwise.

Sincerely,

Brandon Bryant

Staff Sergeant

MQ­1B Predator Sensor Operator

SERE Instructor Trainee

USAF Joint Special Operations Command

3rd Special Operations Squadron

Disabled Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran

Founder of Project RED HAND

Cian Westmoreland

Senior Airman

RF Transmissions Systems

USAF CENTCOM

73rd Expeditionary Air Control Squadron

Disabled Afghanistan Veteran

Project RED HAND's Sustainable Technology Director

Stephen Lewis

Senior Airman

MQ­1B Predator Sensor Operator

USAF Joint Special Operations Command

3rd Special Operations Squadron

Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran

Michael Haas

Senior Airman

MQ­1B Predator Sensor Operator Instructor

USAF Air Combat Command

15th Reconnaissance Squadron

Iraq and Afghanistan Veteran

4.3 ·
2
Trending Today
"The Myth of Time" - Martin Luther King Jr.
3 min · 6,216 views today · Excerpt from MLK Jr.'s last sermon, "Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution". Delivered at The National Cathedral on March 31, 1968 (4 days prior to his...
How a Lack of Touch Is Destroying Men
Mark Green · 4,931 views today · Why Men Need More Platonic Touch in their Lives
Real Underground Kingdom That Has Existed for Millions of Years Went Unnoticed, Until Recently...
Kid Krunk · 4,709 views today · 28 Stunning Photos Of The World’s Largest Cave
Surviving Capitalist Depression
Michael Emero · 3,122 views today · We live in a toxic society filled with toxic people. Even the ones with the best hearts- including ourselves- have been raised in ignorance, with disinformation. Our examples...
Thich Nhat Hanh: How We Can Learn to Love Our Enemies
5 min · 2,574 views today · This is a short excerpt from Peacemaking. I often think about this story when I think about the kind of activism I would like to bring into this world. I want to help build a...
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 2,568 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
I Am Not Your Negro (2017)
3 min · 2,176 views today · In his new film, director Raoul Peck envisions the book James Baldwin never finished - a radical narration about race in America, using the writer's original words. He draws...
How Wolves Change Rivers
4 min · 2,173 views today · When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable "trophic cascade" occurred. What is a...
A Hauntingly Beautiful Short Film About Life and Death
5 min · 1,901 views today · The Life of Death is a touching handdrawn animation about the day Death fell in love with Life.
The Charter For Compassion
2 min · 1,760 views today · The principle of compassion lies at the heart of all religious, ethical and spiritual traditions, calling us always to treat all others as we wish to be treated...
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 1,501 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
Hans Rosling Brilliantly Explains Complexity of Population and Resource Issues Using Simple Tools
3 min · 1,461 views today · Let me show you the world, says Swedish academic Han Rosling as he demonstrates the dynamics of population growth, child mortality and carbon dioxide emissions. The challenge...
True Justice Should Have Compassion in It
Thich Nhat Hanh · 1,145 views today · I believe that true justice should have compassion in it. When someone does something harmful, destructive, the destruction is done not only to the person who is the victim...
What It Really Means to Hold Space for Someone
Heather Plett · 698 views today · How to be there for the people who need you most
The Price of Certainty
7 min · 633 views today · It’s alarming to see how polarized politics have become in the United States. The wider the gulf grows, the more people seem to be certain that the other side is wrong...
What Makes Call-Out Culture So Toxic
Asam Ahmad · 528 views today · Call-out culture refers to the tendency among progressives, radicals, activists, and community organizers to publicly name instances or patterns of oppressive behaviour and...
Meet the Earthship
7 min · 360 views today · Outside of Taos, New Mexico, you'll find a community of people living in off-grid homes made of garbage. The homes are called Earthships and were invented by Michael Reynolds...
The Importance of Empathy
3 min · 350 views today · With an increasingly polarized and divided world, we need empathy more than ever before. Too often we are talking at each other, unable to listen and jumping to entirely wrong...
HUMAN (2015)
382 min · 349 views today · What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery?  Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 343 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Former Drone Pilots to Obama: Civilian Killings Driving 'Terrorism, Instability'