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Drone operators link Obama’s drone war to terror attacks

A US Predator drone

Four former US Air Force drone operators have warned President Barack Obama that the assassination program by unmanned aircraft has become a major driving force for Daesh (ISIL) and other terrorist groups.

The former servicemen, who have more than 20 years of experience between them in operating military drones, have penned an open letter to the US president, calling for a rethink of the controversial military practice which has become a hallmark of Obama’s "counterterrorism" strategy, according to The Guardian.

They warned that the “targeted killings” program has “fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay.”

In particular, they argued that the killing of innocent civilians in drone strikes has been one of the most “devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”

The letter was addressed to Obama, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and CIA Director John Brennan.

Three of the former servicemen were sensor operators in charge of visual equipment on US Predator drones that guide Hellfire missiles to their targets.

The letter signatories, from left: Cian Westmoreland, Michael Haas, Brandon Bryant and Stephen Lewis. (Guardian photo)

The writers also linked the abuse of the drone program and the hatred it creates to terrorist attacks like the recent carnage in Paris.

“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,” they wrote.

Bryant, who was told he was involved in the killing of more than 1,600 people, previously expressed regret about the drone program which he said was conducted with complete uncertainty.

Brandon Bryant

"We see silhouette, shadows of people, and we kill those shadows,” Bryant said earlier this year.

“There was no oversight,” he added. “I just know that the inside of the entire program was diseased and people need to know what happens to those that were on the inside.”

Bryant, who worked in the 15th Reconnaissance Squadron and 3rd Special Operations Squadron from 2005 to 2011, apologized to the families of drone victims. “I’m sorry that the mistake happened. I’m doing everything that I can to prevent further mistakes from happening.” 

The US drone program began as part of the so-called war on terror under former President George W. Bush and expanded dramatically under Obama.

Pakistani tribesmen hold up a placard of US drone strike victims during a protest in Islamabad on February 25, 2012. (file photo)

The Pentagon insists that the unmanned aircraft target militants, but according to local officials and witnesses, a large number of civilians have been killed in air raids in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and other countries.

Obama acknowledged Monday that the Paris attacks were a “terrible and sickening setback" in the fight against Daesh.

The president vowed to ramp up the military campaign in Iraq and Syria, but ruled out the possibility of deploying more US ground troops.



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