Portrait of a Drone Killer: ‘I Have a Duty, and I Execute My Duty’
by William Grigg
July 30, 2012
One wonders if drone pilot Col. D. Scott Brenton listens to Louis Armstrong in the suburban Air National Guard Base in Syracuse from which he murders people 7,000 miles away.
“I see mothers with children, I see fathers with children, I see fathers with mothers, I see kids playing soccer,” Brenton tells the New York Times. Drone operators see their intended targets “wake up in the morning, do their work, go to sleep at night,” explains Dave, another high-tech murderer who killed from an office cockpit at Nevada’s Creech Air Force Base and who now trains new recruits to the cyber-killer corps at New Mexico’s Holloman Air Force Base.
When instructed to kill someone he has stalked from the air for a prolonged period, “I feel no emotional attachment to the enemy,” Brenton insists. I have a duty, and I execute my duty.” When the deed is done, he points out, nobody “in my immediate environment is aware of anything that has occurred.”
“There was a good reason for killing the people that I did, and I go through it in my head over and over and over,” insists another drone operator named Will, who — like Dave — served a deskbound “combat” tour at Creech and now trains others to do likewise at Holloman Air Base.
Like the soldier Bates in Henry V, it’s sufficient for Will — and others of his ilk — to render obedience to their Leader, confident that “if his cause be wrong, our obedience to the king wipes the crime of it out of us.” The more concise and notorious formula, of course, is: We are only obeying orders. Besides, drone operators (who insist on being called “combat pilots”) are carrying out an indispensable function by picking off Afghan “militants” — or at least those “suspected” of such tendencies — who unreasonably resent the presence of foreign military personnel in their country.
The New York Times profile is part of a campaign by the state-aligned media to “humanize” the state functionaries who murder by remote control — and to normalize this mode of mass murder as drones become part of the domestic apparatus of surveillance, regimentation, and repression. Readers are invited to share the anguish of these conflicted people, who for reasons of duty have to do terrible but necessary things.