The Conscience Pangs of a Drone Pilot

A friend sent me a link to this story about a drone operator killing a child on one of his missions and having trouble coming to terms with his actions. He wanted to know my reaction, and this is what I wrote back.

There’s nothing here that hasn’t been felt by bomber pilots over the past 80 years. In the 1940s allied bombers killed millions of Japanese and German civilians. They were viewed as unavoidable casualties in a war against regimes that chose to put them in harms way, not unlike the way Hezbollah and other terror organizations use civilians as human shields today. In 1945 while fighting in the Philippines my own father shot and killed a 12 year old Filipino boy who had been forced to carry ammunition for the Japanese. He had no choice because he knew that if the Japanese got the ammo the boy was carrying his friends would be finding that ammunition in their own bodies. It sickened him before, during and afterward. At the time he had 2 kids himself but he pulled the trigger because the enemy gave him no choice. It turns out it was a regular policy of the Japanese to use civilians as slaves whenever possible because they knew American soldiers would hesitate firing on them. They also baked it into their plans of homeland defense. While teaching in Japan I met people who had seen kids taught to carry backpacks and run towards pictures of Cary Grant and other western film stars to overcome their innate fear of the foreign face. The idea was that they would be used as suicide bombers, carrying backpacks full of explosives, but the kids were scared to death of foreigners. That’s Pure Evil if you ask me.

Today we don’t carpet bomb anymore. Instead we use precision to kill our enemies, and far fewer civilians die today than would otherwise. I personally take issue with the statement that our foreign policy “regularly murders innocents overseas,” as if the point of our actions is to kill civilians. I’ve seen the same crap levied against the Israelis by the Leftists and Libertarians, who then conveniently justify the terror attacks by jihadis against civilians or the unguided missiles they fire into Israel. So you have one side trying to kill civilians and the other side doing its best to minimize civilian casualties yet some people morally equate both as the same. I guess that’s what happens when you’ve lost your own moral bearings in life. If the US or Israeli governments wanted to kill civilians, they could kill millions at a time. But they don’t.

I usually don’t waste my time arguing with people who believe this stuff because honestly their bearings are so off I don’t see the point. I would ask though, “What would you have us do? Should we carpet bomb the village, send in Seal Team 6, or simply let the terrorists go?” We tried that last option in 1998 when Clinton fired a few cruise missiles into Afghanistan after a dozen Americans and hundreds of innocent Africans died in the embassy attacks in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, and what happened? 9-11. Seal Team 6 puts more American lives in jeopardy without decreasing the likelihood of casualties. So what’s left? Sending in the B-52s?

Leftists and Isolationists cannot accept that we are in an existential war with radical Islam. The Lefties believe we deserve retribution for our treatment of the Indians, the Soviets, the Vietnamese and even America’s raping of the planet (immediately after 9-11 I saw an environmental group claim the attack was due to just that). They want us to suffer the way some Calvinists believe we must to atone for our sins; substitute “the planet” or “the environment” for God and there’s not much differences between two. Libertarians think we can exit the world’s stage and not suffer the consequences. They cannot accept it’s not 1492 anymore. Hell even Jefferson realized we couldn’t avoid interacting with the world when the Barbary Pirates raided American ships and sold American sailors into slavery in the early 1800s. He ended up shelling Tripoli, and no doubt killed many more civilians than this drone pilot did.

When my father shot the 12 year old he knew that if he didn’t the ammunition he carried would kill others. By killing he saved lives. Yeah, it’s difficult for some to believe but killing can save lives (think about the lives saved had someone put a bullet into Lanza’s brains before he stepped into that school.) Does this drone pilot consider the lives he may be saving by taking out the jihadist along with the child? It’s not clear because the way the story is written it appears as if he’s firing on an empty hut. From my understanding of the military, blowing up empty huts isn’t really the point of our engagement in Afghanistan. The jihadis tend to kill more Muslims than infidel, so it’s likely that he’s saving other children’s lives in the area. It’s also possible that the jihadi is plotting innocents outside of Afghanistan. He might feel better if he knew that by killing that child he saved other lives, but he doesn’t seem to consider that.

Oh, and I also find it a hoot that the German media is moralizing about this (the story appears in Der Speigel). Sorry but I haven’t forgotten what happened in the recent past there, and call me a bigot but I don’t think the Germans have earned the right to moralize about anything just yet. Get back to me in a few hundred years.

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16 Comments

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  8. SnoopyTheGoon:

    This drone operator: we should be proud of him playing for our team. As for the drones issue in general: here is a related piece:

    http://fatmanonakeyboard.blogspot.ca/2012/11/droning-on.html

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