Bravery and Drone Pilots
MILITARISM, 16 July 2012
by Glenn Greenwald - Salon
The Pentagon considers awarding war medals to those who operate America’s death-delivering video games.
The effort to depict drone warfare as some sort of courageous and noble act is intensifying:
The Pentagon is considering awarding a Distinguished Warfare Medal to drone pilots who work on military bases often far removed from the battlefield. . . .
[Army Institute of Heraldry chief Charles] Mugno said most combat decorations require “boots on the ground” in a combat zone, but he noted that “emerging technologies” such as drones and cyber combat missions are now handled by troops far removed from combat.
The Pentagon has not formally endorsed the medal, but Mugno’s institute has completed six alternate designs for commission approval. . . .
The proposed medal would rank between the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Soldier’s Medal for exceptional conduct outside a combat zone.
So medals would be awarded for sitting safely ensconced in a bunker on U.S. soil and launching bombs with a video joystick at human beings thousands of miles away. Justifying drone warfare requires pretending that the act entails some sort of bravery, so the U.S. military is increasingly taking steps to create the facade of warrior courage for drone pilots:
The Air Force has been working to bridge the divide between these two groups of fliers. First off, drone operators are called pilots, and they wear the same green flight suits as fighter pilots, even though they never get in a plane. Their operating stations look like dashboards in a cockpit.
And drone pilots themselves are propagating boasts of their own bravery more and more:
Luther (Trey) Turner III, a retired colonel who flew combat missions during the gulf war before he switched to flying Predators in 2003, said that he doesn’t view his combat experience flying drones as “valorous.” “My understanding of the term is that you are faced with danger. And, when I am sitting in a ground-control station thousands of miles away from the battlefield, that’s just not the case.” But, he said, “I firmly believe it takes bravery to fly a U.A.V.” — unmanned aerial vehicle — “particularly when you’re called upon to take someone’s life. In some cases, you are watching it play out live and in color.” As more than one pilot at Holloman told me, a bit defensively, “We’re not just playing video games here.”
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