tv Documentary RT November 29, 2013 10:29am-11:01am EST
hello and welcome to sophie and co i'm so not sent on man to aerial vehicles better known astro are in high demand and a multimillion dollar industry and their praise for not risking palettes lives are a formidable weapon for any army and a nightmare for the enemy but also loud are the voices to label them i'm accountable killing machines and demand their band today we talk about the drone controversy. from the bottom to the desert miles from the bullets these pilots fly their aircraft from the ground hitting targets they see on a computer screen how much more than a video game is their mission are they trigger happy do they realize they are actually taking somebody's life. and i guess today lieutenant colonel no blues black retired u.s. air force drone pilot it's really great to have you in our studio today now you're
retired drone operator and now a consultant you have said in one of your interviews i've heard that the time it took you to get from your home to work to your box from which you're actually carrying out the missions that was just enough time to put on your game mask game face what exactly does that mean. it's the transition from from. i guess what you would consider civilian life to to the military life and in particular for predator pilots because you are living in a civilian atmosphere and not surrounded constantly by the military by the wartime mentality it's an important transition but did you at any point experience some sort of cognitive dissonance i mean when you're living a normal life the next you're killing of the enemy and probably civilians as we buy a screen of a battlefield. if there was any of that it was going back to you know the word. it
was being able to put it as you were two civilian lawyers. you know one of the most vocal drone critics is brandon bryant and you've probably heard of him he was on c.n.n. not too long ago and he spent several years as a drone sensor operator now he believes that drone technology is very dangerous because it removes to natural psychological fear of kill that's making the operator detached from what they are doing does this describe you in any way. i don't think so as a matter of fact. i would say that it is just the opposite whenever there is a strike happens in the predator community predator reaper community you are intimately involved in that you are so much more involved in that particular action then say and if fifteen f. eighteen driver that shows up drops their weapon and then flies off you have been there watching the subject watching the target for hours maybe days on end
and when the when the action happens you are the one who has eyes on to see what happens and they use you to make sure that the battle damage that occurred is what was was required when you're away from a war zone and you don't actually experience state they horrors of war doesn't that numb to feeling of killing someone else because you're away from it you don't actually experience you don't see it's a blip on your screen no absolutely not. and what i would say again and what i would say the predator operator is so much more involved in what is going on than your average fast mover jet fighter pilot or your b. fifty two b. one b. two pilot who will never even see their target they will they will be dropping when they get to particular point a predator pilot has been watching his target knows them intimately knows where
they are know what's what's around them i would say it affects the u.a.s. community much more. but are you or your colleagues this drone operators would you say cut off from the controversy that the drone program causes in a wider sense. if you were talking about the predator itself. it like i say it's far more intimate than we have ever been in action in targets from the air except for maybe. a ten where you are right there. it and actually flying the aircraft and working aircraft it's nothing like a video game it's it's far removed from that. places me closer to what is going on on the ground what i'm doing to help the forces that i am helping i am much closer to them i can hear the actual battle going on i can hear the stress in their voice i know that they are relying on me i'm much closer to it i
can see it in very good detail as far as the actual implementation of the weapon system that is obviously a political calculation made by our leadership and their calculus has it's way beyond our level. so i just want to walk our viewers for the present cons for those who aren't aware so the drones keep america soldier safe while the enemy is killed which is a great thing i mean who wouldn't agree with that killing the enemy without killing your own soldiers on the other hand innocent civilians die alarming rate american think tank the brookings institution for instance says in pakistan for every militant leader killed ten civilians also die then you also have the united nations who is even concerned that this is my country of international law do you consider the other side of the argument at all. will there's two points there again and you're probably talking to about the amnesty international you're heading towards amnesty international report i have not seen their evidence so i can't
intelligently say that the two particular strikes that they were talking about had happened or not happened so i have a tendency to believe that based on my own experience that those figures are excessively inflated i have seen and me and my colleagues have jumped through many very very restrictive hoops before we are allowed to employ to the point that we are back chely done damage to blue forces because we weren't allowed to employ. the one incident in pakistan that amnesty international talked about again i don't know their evidence but a lot of the. things happen in that area that are unintended and not caused by the united states at all for example i personally watched a bomb in place or blow himself up and i don't know whether or not. those two
incidences happened to be from a strike or do you happen to blow themselves up or was there something planted on the ground that the lady happened to walk over and trigger. i just want to clarify something when i ask you this questions i just want to know that no one doubts the initial intention being for the greater good because once again who wouldn't want to kill an enemy without having your own soldiers die but the truth is. it's not only at the amnesty international but other think tanks as well and other organizations that have proven extensively that when the concept of drone is put in place and it starts to operate it entails repercussions it entails grave consequences that aren't dealt with. do you know what i mean. give you you're talking about collateral damage yeah i'm talking about all damages and the fact the for example american government wouldn't talk about it i mean it
only talks about the fact that drones are good but if it turns a blind on the fact that their race collateral damage and it wouldn't give us the number is seven how much people are actually dying. along with the terrorists. and i don't know i do not know what numbers have been listed officially by the government i can't speak until it gently of i can tell you though as our leadership things and in there are countless they have to weigh in to the fact that we do need to action this we need do need to use force we do need to protect our forces in within that calculus there is the collateral damage aspect of it how much can the cow much can we accept in what particular phase of the conflict. as the leadership figures that out there obviously want to minimize that as much as possible for the
for the obvious reasons you're talking about here it's bad it's a horrible thing when somebody does it doesn't need to. and they want to minimize that if you were going to minimize that this is the weapon to use this is like a surgeon walking into an operating room with a scalpel as opposed to an x. the chances of collateral damage happening from a u.a.b. strike who's been overhead of target for example six hundred hours the predators flew on for six hundred hours before the action that target that knowledge gained the capability the ability to wait the ability to strike when the time was right is so much better with this weapon system than has ever been experienced in any other phase were fair in any other time did you ever think or consider that maybe the leadership is turning a blind eye on collateral damage and not really getting too deep into the collateral damage problem because it just so convenient the way it is american
soldiers are dying and who really cares that others are it's a clean war for america you know what i mean. i think that's a mischaracterization of our mindset we never. none of the leadership that i have ever dealt with none of the none of the rules that i have been operated under have ever placed collateral damage on who really cares because blue forces are ok we have always been very very very conscientious of the image that our community is portraying and what responsibility we have to the people that we are trying to protect and trying to save in that country . on a larger scale do you ever question america's policy on the war on terror for example. you know what. i do know. this is a question that i genuinely am curious about is there
a regimental pride among drone operators would you want your child to serve as a drone operator for example. i would be proud if if she did yes all right we're going to take a short break but when we come back we'll talk more about drone missions that collateral damage they cause as well as the future of an unmanned welfare stay with us. ukraine a country divided its government's decision not to pursue integration with the european union and for russia instead as western politicians and media in an uproar brussels feel snubbed while moscow has a wait and see approach as ukrainian politics is anything but stable the so-called
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air force drone pilot great to have you back now want to talk a little bit about the technical side of how that actually happens where there are different types of missions sorted you always have to eliminate someone. i don't know and. i hesitate. it makes me cringe when i hear that question. ninety nine point nine percent of my time i am trying to gather in intelligence and trying to keep people from from being killed i saved far more people orders of magnitude more than i ever had to fire including afghanistan's and iraqis and. ninety nine it looks ninety nine percent of our time is spent trying to get intelligence for example right now in afghanistan the way i understand it is very very difficult and it was very difficult in iraq as we left to fire you get
no intelligence from a dead person you get very little at this so-called mission control boxes they're usually placed out in the desert somewhere why are they so remote. will there that we put them where they need to need to be for example they were in downtown las vegas at one time is just where the conduct that it was the where we launch and control the aircraft from happens to be in country because that's we need to be in very close proximity of the aircraft and it's on an airforce base there in country where we launch aircraft but you know just match to afghanistan and iraq which other countries where on your mission list. those are the two i can talk about. so how hard do you have to steady the characteristics that they targeted areas started you have to blindly rely on the intelligence provided. a little of both
the what we used to say when i was on the unmanned aerial system taskforce is the only thing on manned about us is is that little piece of fiberglass on the on the end of a very long trail for example for every predator cap it takes one hundred seventy five people to make it happen for every global hawk it can take up to four hundred . and most of that are people behind the scenes working the intelligence working the i.t. working the communications and oftentimes when i would step to the box or replace somebody in the box on a mission it i had a lot of data on what we were doing like i said we we've been sitting on them for days weeks trying to figure out where people were going and what they were doing sometimes. we would show up in the middle of a firefight and not know a thing and be trying to to build a picture at that point how much is shared about the purpose or specifics of the
mission. i i will know a fair amount about what we are doing i may not know the individuals if it's data that i need to do in particular he drives a blue car with a sun roof that they will tell me that and they'll tell me who it is that we're following. sometimes there are missions where i go and i wait and i may not know why i'm waiting there at that particular time so you've said that ninety nine percent of your missions are monitoring and then that one percent is maybe eliminating someone out when it comes to that one percent are you the one who decides when to pull the trigger. and that that varies with the with the phase of war that we were in early in the in the iraq and afghanistan war there were it was much easier to lose a weapon and you always work with a ground crew i might be following a convoy if they came under attack i would work directly with the ground controller and he would he would tell us where he needs help he would say you look up at royal
we're taking fire from that arroyo and i would tell him what i'd see and then he would clear me hot and the decision was me on me for when to fire as the phase of war changed those restrictions became greater and greater and greater we we could not loose weapons and towards the end of our occupation in iran in iraq we we were weapons tight it to. the president to say yes that somebody we need to strike because again. you don't need to be killing people you need to be arresting those people and getting the intelligence from them how do you know a terrorist from a civilian or does somebody else decide it for you. it's usually a guy pointing a weapon at somebody or a guy digging a hole in the road or in a field somewhere implanting a one hundred five millimeter shell with a wire attached to it actually knowing whether somebody is
a terror. it comes from the until that is gathered in many many many places and said to us we never action somebody just based on their shape we don't do that and it's just not what we do. oftentimes i would see somebody carrying something that looked like a gun and we wouldn't do anything because he was just carrying a gun. people have guns over there we won't do it. you don't just we just don't just walk around and kill people and then no i'm not saying he just walk around incapable i'm saying when it comes down to pulling the trigger how are you hundred percent sure that that is the person you looking for especially in a country where everyone is carrying guns you know a terrorist is not always wired with explosives he could be just walking around with a gun like peaceful civilian who is also walking around with a gun and this is that black and white screen after all and you can't really see too well who is who. to misconceptions or one it's only
black and white when we're looking at him in infrared and. it's not just little figures i can see how many fingers somebody is holding up to put me on how close i am flying to the subject. so we also have a very good camera but i'm not making my decisions on who to action based on what they look like i do want to get a little bit back to the civilian casualties i get your position because when you think at the numbers are greatly exaggerated and there haven't been in your opinion and offer proof to actually talk about them but we're both agreed that there are civilian casualties so when that happens is someone ever held responsible for that or not. yes yes so how does that happen. or. the in the i gave an interview earlier and asked if i'd ever seen.
but an incident like that and i couldn't while the top of my head and i thought about it later there was one particular incident that was that i recall and i'm not going to go into details on it but instantly whenever they think something like that has happened that we caused everything is. and i don't know how they do things in russia but like we do here in the united states everything freezes that has to do with that particular incident including the g.c.s. and all the tapes and everything is is it's frozen and kept as evidence and then a separate group not in that squadron somebody from somewhere else comes and reviews the evidence and reviews everything that's going on both on the the side of the air force and on who we were supporting to the special operations or if it's army if it's navy then they will be put together and they'll do a regular investigation the same doctor present ari's that i suspect that's. they
could be suspensions yes they could go to prison if it was if it was willful it was something to try to conserve and i will explain. i don't know would be me i don't know that i would know somebody that had decided to loose a weapon and kill someone i would doubt that because there's just too many people watching this there's a hundred and seventy five people watching what you do and everything you do is being recorded so some cowboy is not going to get in a predator and go gallivanting around pakistan killing people now i know the military records of targets terminated during the missions do you know the approximate number at that you've helped to eliminate terrorists or people of your targets. i do ok is this something that actually you know gives you force to go on ars is something that you don't want to think about. it's something i put aside
it's not something. you don't sit in the bar and count the notches on your gun. you don't anybody that does needs to be talking to somebody with help. it's just not it's not a proud thing it's something you have to do and you do your job. but you want to tell us the number of what you. know no ok so the other thing with civilian casualties is that you know for example. when people are leaving young men for example or pakistan see these drones flying around and you know they kill the terrorists but along with the terrorists they kill how ever many civilians they kill then this really inside its controversy and negative feelings two words the united states couldn't that actually be inciting terrorism even more.
i don't know how it would get in. worse. the incitement is happening because of. the stories that get told and the misconceptions that happen and who controls the ground there who can actually walk up to to the hoods and say you see that or playing overhead you see or he's going to kill your children that's what they're here for there to kill your children. and their stories are wrong and. if it terror's certain being incited they're being inside out of falsehoods and lies do you have art to ever stop to think that such a high tech weapon as a drone. how could that be that it could still target someone precisely and yet kill someone that you weren't targeting. accidence proximity. loose loosing the weapon on someone who is hiding among civilians which they
do quite often remember these are the people that send their children in to blow others up. these are not. these are not fighters like we are used to they like using civilians as human shields. i personally have called off weapon strikes because the bad guys were using were in or in and around civilians and were using civilian buildings as a hiding place. you know do you see a future war for it being dominated by and manta machines missed some are predicting for example that into future drones will be able to carry out missions fully autonomy asli from people is that a bit scary i point you to be scared to wake up in a terminator movie or something. what yes if it ever gets a terminator stage i would but i do not it doesn't scare me that drones are doing that because remember. every predator cap took her seventy five people to do it
it is far more controlled nel than sending one guy out one airplane out i had one hundred seventy five eyes looking at what i'm doing making sure i'm doing it right and making sure that i'm hitting the right target calling the strike the president personally can call up any predator feed down in the office and say yea or nay. it's much more much more controlled than it is sending one person out with a ball with what he thinks is the right target. first thank you very much what this amazing interview and for this wonderful inside and out that's it for now my guess was a lieutenant colonel first black a retired drone pilot u.s. air force and i will see it in the next edition that said.
you know there's one thing that i still can't understand i said i don't want to good mood but i have this one question. for you that you had everything they respect and that you gave them all up in the senate to go your way but look forward . it was a wait and he tried to restrain himself but look. anyway. if it really puts me off that i have such a father. whose one small but very
with the economic ups and downs in the final months they belong to the old sang night and the rest that life. will be if briefly on all things. react to situations i have read the reports. are true and know i will leave them to the state department to comment on your latter point of the month to say it is secure a car is on the docket no god. no more weasel words. when you made a direct question be prepared for a change when you throw a punch be ready for a. critical speech and down to freedom to cross.
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