There are two sides to President Obama’s semi-secret drone war.On the one hand Obama did exactly what he said he would by using drones to strike al Qaeda operatives where they live — international borders be damned. On the other hand the program has been shrouded in secrecy. Until now.
Researching his new book, Kill or Capture: The War on Terror and the Soul of the Obama Presidency, Dan Klaidman at The Daily Beast talked to the State Department’s legal advisor Harold Koh.
In preparation for a speech, Koh spent hours in CIA headquarters at Langley interrogating drone pilots. Koh wanted to find out everything he could about their job, their lives, and the mentality behind all the ‘unmanned’ airstrikes and peppered the pilots with statements like: “I hear you guys have a PlayStation mentality.”
The drone pilots are now civilians, but most were former Air Force pilots who took offence at the notion they were armchair warriors so far removed from their mission that they felt nothing at all about the death and destruction they caused.
Klaidman says the lead pilot blew up on Koh and said:
“I used to fly my own air missions. I dropped bombs, hit my target load, but had no idea who I hit. Here I can look at their faces. I watch them for hours, see these guys playing with their kids and wives. When I get them alone, I have no compunction about blowing them to bits. But I wouldn’t touch them with civilians around. After the strike, I see the bodies being carried out of the house. I see the women weeping and in positions of mourning. That’s not PlayStation; that’s real. My job is to watch after the strike too. I count the bodies and watch the funerals. I don’t let others clean up the mess.” Klaidman’s new book can be found here >
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