A group of anti-war veterans has launched a campaign to try to convince drone operators, who are raining death on people around the world from the comfort of their cubicles at places like Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, and Beale Air Force Base in California, to abandon their posts.
They have also released an open letter from fourteen former members of the U.S. military urging people who currently work in the drone program “to refuse to play any role in drone surveillance/assassination missions.”
One of the KnowDrones.com activists, Navy veteran Nick Mottern, explained: “We feel that it really comes down to the people who are doing the actual killing to put a stop to this.”
Drone operators, despite their physical and psychological distance from their killings, are experiencing levels of stress that are causing many to burn out and are forcing the Air Force to scramble for new “pilots” — they have already been forced to reduce the number of drone assassination flights from a shortage of personnel.
The stress apparently comes in part from what was supposed to be one of the benefits of the job: being stationed far from the battlefield and close to home. Drone operators report difficulty going from killing people in their day job to trying to act like civil people in ordinary life. It’s like the stress of reentering civilian life from combat that is such a staple of past wars, but on a daily basis instead of all at once.
A Defense Department study in 2013, the first of its kind, found that drone pilots had experienced mental health problems like depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder at the same rate as pilots of manned aircraft who were deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.