Killing People by Drone Still Has Consequences

War—killing people—should never be easy. It actually gives me a measure of hope to hear that some of our drone pilots are experiencing psychological “trauma” from what they do (and, actually, I really worry about the ones who aren’t!).

As the Washington Times tells us: “Emotional toll taxes military drone operators too.”

President Barack Obama has assured Americans he opposes sending U.S. ground troops to crush Islamic extremists in Iraq and Syria – well aware the country is not ready to return to the battlefield with its war wounded still recovering from a decade of conflict.

But airmen have been sent back into combat in the region with the focus on airstrikes, divided between fighter pilots and drone operators.

While drone operators are not physically in harm’s way – they do their work at computer terminals in darkened rooms far from the actual battlefield – growing research is finding they too can suffer some of the emotional strains of war that ground forces face.

“It can be as impactful for these guys as someone in a foxhole,” said Air Force spokesman Tom Kimball.


Brandon Bryant manned the cameras for pilots at Air Force bases in Nevada and New Mexico for about five years.

He said he still suffers from insomnia, depression and nightmares three years after he participated in his last mission. He witnessed the direct killing of 13 people, and his squadron was credited with killing 1,626 enemies.

“I would go to sleep and dream about work, the mission, and continuously see the people I’d watched on the screen earlier now in my own head repeatedly being killed,” he said, adding that he felt alone and that no one wanted to talk about it.

Bryant, 28, said he has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder by the Veterans Administration.

He said the military’s drone community has shunned him for speaking out.

This whole business of killing people without potential physical risk to the attacker is simply too easy, as we’ve proved over and over by murdering innocents. I’m sorry but “oops” doesn’t cut it when you blow up fifteen people on the way to a wedding in nations where there is no declared war—we wouldn’t tolerate it here in the United States, and we should absolutely not tolerate it overseas, either.