The things we do not know
Creech Air Force base in Southern Nevada is only a few miles from Las Vegas. It houses the largest CIA drone operation in America. Every day, young American soldiers fly killer drones armed with lethal Hellfire Missiles over distant countries like Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia by sitting in front of a television screen and operating a joystick just like you do to play Call of Duty on your PlayStation.
The only difference is that when these young soldiers push the red button on their joystick real bombs are fired that kill real people, not just pixels. They watch what they do on the screens in front of them. Doing this day after day is driving some of them mad.
A just released major documentary, Drone, reveals how drone operators at Creech AFB suffer from substance abuse, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Alcoholism is so prevalent that it is not even considered by their superiors as substance abuse. Whistleblowers tell of frequent booze-fueled weekend benders in Las Vegas. Amphetamine and cocaine use is also common. PTSD brings severe mood swings, sleepless nights and life dulling depression.
Cognitive dissonance (CD) causes PTSD. CD is the anguish that results from having authority figures tell you that something is true, only to see with your own eyes that what they say is bullcrap—not true. You are told that a group of Arab shepherds are actually Al Qaeda couriers with bombs, but when you blow them up there are no secondary explosions. You see the missiles you fire from your comfortable air-conditioned work pod obliterate people thousands of miles away in third-world hellholes and wonder how many were innocent women and children. You see a lone survivor of your attack try to crawl away because he is suddenly without legs until his image disappears from your screen after a follow up missile hit.
These screenshots appear in your sleep and in flashbacks when you are awake. Alcohol and drugs only dull the pain, they cannot make them stop. You have been psychically wounded, and may never heal. Eventually, suicide will seem a viable option.
Drone operators are not alone. PTSD strikes at least 12 percent of all veterans of our global war on terror (GWOT) in Iraq, Afghanistan and other deployments. Our veterans are returning with damaged brains but also damaged souls. Some have amputated legs and arms, while others have an amputated reason to live.
Many drone operators feel that what they are doing is not only wrong, but counterproductive. They wonder how many new terrorists they create among the survivors of their attacks for every actual terrorist they take out. They are told by their superiors that they took an oath of office and must follow orders but some are ashamed to have taken part in the drone assassination of U.S. citizen Anwar al-Awlaki and his son. The Constitution to which they swore allegience says even a traitor deserves a fair trial.
Drones can linger over a village for hours or days, a sinister presence that could either fly away or unleash a barrage of death. We are shocked when “radicalized” youth blow up a rock concert in Paris, but CNN does not cover the droned obliteration of a wedding party in Afghanistan. Fox barely mentioned the simultaneous terror attacks by Daesh against Hezbollah in Beirut. The Empire controls the news.
Americans are kept ignorant of the reality of the wars we are involved in until someone they know or love comes home shell shocked and suicidal. Go see Drone.