Heather Linebaugh: I Worked on the US Drone Program. The Public Should Know What Really Goes On

Few of the politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue how it actually works (and doesn’t)

by Heather Linebaugh  Published on Sunday, December 29, 2013 by the Guardian/UK
The Elbit Systems Hermes 450 is an Israeli medium size multi-payload unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed for tactical long endurance missions.

Whenever I read comments by politicians defending the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Predator and Reaper program – aka drones – I wish I could ask them some questions. I’d start with: “How many women and children have you seen incinerated by a Hellfire missile?” And: “How many men have you seen crawl across a field, trying to make it to the nearest compound for help while bleeding out from severed legs?” Or even more pointedly: “How many soldiers have you seen die on the side of a road in Afghanistan because our ever-so-accurate UAVs [unmanned aerial vehicle] were unable to detect an IED [improvised explosive device] that awaited their convoy?”

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Few of these politicians who so brazenly proclaim the benefits of drones have a real clue of what actually goes on. I, on the other hand, have seen these awful sights first hand.

I knew the names of some of the young soldiers I saw bleed to death on the side of a road. I watched dozens of military-aged males die in Afghanistan, in empty fields, along riversides, and some right outside the compound where their family was waiting for them to return home from mosque.

The US and British militaries insist that this is such an expert program, but it’s curious that they feel the need to deliver faulty informationfew or no statistics about civilian deaths and twisted technology reports on the capabilities of our UAVs. These specific incidents are not isolated, and the civilian casualty rate has not changed, despite what our defense representatives might like to tell us.

What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is a far cry from clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited clouds and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: “The feed is so pixelated, what if it’s a shovel, and not a weapon?” I felt this confusion constantly, as did my fellow UAV analysts. We always wonder if we killed the right people, if we endangered the wrong people, if we destroyed an innocent civilian’s life all because of a bad image or angle.

It’s also important for the public to grasp that there are human beings operating and analyzing intelligence these UAVs. I know because I was one of them, and nothing can prepare you for an almost daily routine of flying combat aerial surveillance missions over a war zone. UAV proponents claim that troops who do this kind of work are not affected by observing this combat because they are never directly in danger physically.

But here’s the thing: I may not have been on the ground in Afghanistan, but I watched parts of the conflict in great detail on a screen for days on end. I know the feeling you experience when you see someone die. Horrifying barely covers it. And when you are exposed to it over and over again it becomes like a small video, embedded in your head, forever on repeat, causing psychological pain and suffering that many people will hopefully never experience. UAV troops are victim to not only the haunting memories of this work that they carry with them, but also the guilt of always being a little unsure of how accurate their confirmations of weapons or identification of hostile individuals were.

Of course, we are trained to not experience these feelings, and we fight it, and become bitter. Some troops seek help in mental health clinics provided by the military, but we are limited on who we can talk to and where, because of the secrecy of our missions. I find it interesting that the suicide statistics in this career field aren’t reported, nor are the data on how many troops working in UAV positions are heavily medicated for depression, sleep disorders and anxiety.

Recently, the Guardian ran a commentary by Britain’s secretary of state for defence Philip Hammond. I wish I could talk to him about the two friends and colleagues I lost, within one year leaving the military, to suicide. I am sure he has not been notified of that little bit of the secret UAV program, or he would surely take a closer look at the full scope of the program before defending it again.

The UAV’s in the Middle East are used as a weapon, not as protection, and as long as our public remains ignorant to this, this serious threat to the sanctity of human life – at home and abroad – will continue.

© 2013 The Guardian/UK
Heather Linebaugh

Heather Linebaugh served in the United Stated Air Force from 2009 until March 2012. She worked in intelligence as an imagery analyst and geo-spatial analyst for the drone program during the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Follow her on Twitter: @hllinebaugh

One comment

  1. investorsowngov · · Reply

    Dear Heather, Never was a necessity to know, if we don’t intend to bring ourselves before the Nuremberg Principles laws as Chief Prosecutor said should must be done and Chief Council for the Prosecution Gen. Telford Turner told CBS (suppressed) he would be glad to . call me if you are interest in joining Ramsey Clark initiative. “Ramsey Clark has given his name to encouraging journalists to no longer write erudite explanations, interesting, entertaining insights into US continuous genocide as Realpolitik, as if it were something other than prosecutable crimes against humanity and crimes against peace.  Mass homicidal events are avidly discussed as news and politics, as if they were as unchallengeable as the weather and therefore not worth any effort to stop the unstoppable, is in merciless disregard for the ongoing massive human suffering and the right of survivors of present and past colonialist wars for justice and compensation for wrongful death and injury.

    12/25/2013    Jesus’ Birthday in an Apostate USA that Kills HIM Everyday Multiple Times  USA places itself above Jesus. Shoots an Afghani, Pakistani, Yemeni, Somalia, Bang! Boom! there goes Jesus, shot down again at the same time, for in Matthew 25:40: Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” All who draw the sword will die by the sword. (Matt. 26:52) “you know the commandments: you must not kill” Mark 10.18 Nuremberg Principles say the same! 12/15/2013   [SURPRESSED] Mandela in 2003: “USA Has Committed Unspeakable Atrocities in the World!”  Just as war investing industry owned corporate conglomerate media cartel has for 44 years blacked out all mention of Martin Luther King Jr.’ condemnation of US atrocity wars and covert genocide on 3 continents in maintenance of predatory investments, does it black out Mandela’s denunciations of US atrocities and his love and appreciation for Fidel Castro for Cuban sacrifices and for Gadaffi aid to the ANC fighting Apartheid 10/8/2013      GI War Experiences Nostalgia in Mindboggling Ignorance of Participation in Crimes Against Humanity  Any US veteran by googling the history of the country he or she invaded, can know of any prosecutable crimes against humanity he or she might have been involved in. Critical to stopping the centuries of genocidal wars invested in by the speculative investment banking industry, are the lawsuits for compensation for wrongful death, injury, destruction of property and theft of natural resources that will make war unprofitable. 1128/2013   USA On Thanksgiving Give Thanks No Millions of Wrongful Death Lawsuits Filed Yet  English and native men, women, children ate together, but indigenous peoples of North America would be destroyed at the constant inciting of land speculative banking, which now all powerful, has let the now neo-colonized majority mankind know with merciless gunfire and missiles, that they are prohibited from choosing their own governments. A weaker economically US will be sued for wrongful death in the millions before WW III. 11/16/2013 Few American Progressives Joining Ramsey Clark’s Call for Prosecution of US Genocide!  Survivors of heartless bombings, invasions, occupations, and covert violence ware aware that US antiwar intellectuals never seem to say or write that America should be brought to justice. What is now unthinkable and unimaginable in majority mankind, will become first plausible, then possible, then expected, then inevitable and necessary in a sane and just world, able to deal with the problems that affect survival. Curricula Vita: Jay Janson is an archival research peoples historian activist, musician and writer; has lived and worked on all continents; articles on media published in China, Italy, UK, India and the US; now resides in New York City; first effort was a series of articles on deadly cultural pollution endangering seven areas of life emanating from Western corporate owned commercial media published in Hong Kong’s Window Magazine 1993; Howard Zinn lent his name to various projects of his; Global Research; Information Clearing House; Counter Currents, Kerala, India; Minority Perspective, UK; Dissident Voice, Uruknet; Voice of Detroit; Ethiopian Review; Palestine Chronicle; India Times; Ta Kung Bao; China Daily; South China Morning Post;Malaysia Sun; CubaNews; SocialistNamibia; Come Home America; OpEdNews; HistoryNews Network; Vermont Citizen News; Santos Republic; TurkishNews have published his articles; 300 of which are available at: http://www.opednews.com/author/author1723.html; Weekly column, South China Morning Post, 1986-87; reviews for Ta Kung Bao; article China Daily, 1989.  Is coordinator of the King Condemned US Wars International Awareness Campaign: (King Condemned US Wars)http://kingcondemneduswars.blogspot.com/ ; and website historian of Prosecute US Crimes Against Humanity Now Campaign http://prosecuteuscrimesagainsthumanitynow.blogspot.com/ featuring a country by country history of US crimes and laws pertaining. In October 2013 was interviewed on RTTV Moscow. Studied history at CCNY, Columbia U., U. Puerto Rico,  Dolmetscher Institut München, Germany.  (Musician grassroots activist dedicated firstly to ending colonial power “genocide in maintenance of unjust predatory investments,” [Martin Luther King Jr.])  I believe former US Attorney General  Ramsey Clark, Noam Chomsky, Ed Herman, Gustavo Esteva along with Consul Carol Delgado and Greg Wilpert would be glad to vouch for my sincerity and integrity and familiarity with documented history and current events.

    Dissident Voice supports the call to Prosecute US Crimes against Humanity Now Campaign with link bottom of each issue of its newsletter.

    As musician: (stage name, Henry Nowak): Author of: Carl Fischer Co: Conducting the Music, Not the Musicians; The Art of Phrasing; The Wonder of Music” Weekly column in South China Morning Post,1986-87; reviews for Ta Kung Bao; articles for China Daily; series of articles describing deadly pollution from Western Media on seven areas of life, Window Magazine, Hong Kong. 

    Prof. Solo Principal Trumpet of the following: Orchestra Sinfonica of R.A.I. Rome, Italy (lifetime contract); Hong Kong Philharmonic; Zagreb Philharmonic, Yugoslavia; Mostly Mozart New York, Marlboro Festival Vermont where recorded along with Yoyo Ma the Beethoven Symphonies and Bach Suites under Pablo Casals; American Ballet Theater at Metropolitan Opera;Casals Festival and Sinfonica, Puerto Rico; U.S. State Dept. Tours to Soviet Union, East Berlin, Yugoslavia 1962; 19 city tour ABT tour of Latin America 1964; Casals Festival  to Mexico and Caribbean ‘1966; PR Sinfonica to Central America 1967. Close collaborator of Wynton Marsalis since his 18th birthday.

    Assistant Conductor of following: Shanghai Symphony Orchestra Tour to Japan, 1989: Vietnam National Symphony 1993-99; Pan-Asian Chamber Orchestra, Calcutta (and soloist) 2003; Myanmar Symphony 2012; Composer documentary films for United Nation NGOs and for 50th Anniversary African Development Bank while working in eight African countries; Substitute Conductor week of rehearsals Senzhen Philharmonic, coach-conducted Shamen Symphony for Director Zheng Xiao-ying.

    Founding Professor of both The Korean University of Arts Conservatory of Music, Seoul and the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts Conservatory of Music. Guest Lecturer four times Shanghai Conservatory; Master Classes in Beijing Central, and conservatories in Guangzhou, Chendu, Wuhan. Counts among his students famous New York recording artists and Principal Trumpets of symphony orchestras in Asia, Europe and South America, a few now become conductors and composers. 

    Composer documentary films for UN NGOs and for 50th Anniversary African Development Bank while working in eight African countries (1983); MM in Music, Manhattan Sch. of Music, NYC; Postgrad Diploma, Hochschule für Musik, Munich.

    Wynton Marsallis and Yoyo Ma would be glad to vouch for my sincerity.and integrity as a musician and person.

    Chopin Nocturne in C Minor, Trpt., arr. by Henry Nowak, Piano Kim DaeJin (click on “5 videos” for: Chopin Mazurka Opus 17 No.4 Chopin Etude in F Minor Chopin Prelude No.4 in E Minor  Bach 2nd Cello Suite Prelude Trpt. Nowak 

    Most appreciatively,  jay janson telephone 1 646 344 2532

    Like

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