‘A former Air Force drone operator who says he participated in missions that killed more than 1,600 people remembers watching one of the first victims bleed to death.
Brandon Bryant says he was sitting in a chair at a Nevada Air Force base operating the camera when his team fired two missiles from their drone at three men walking down a road halfway around the world in Afghanistan. The missiles hit all three targets, and Bryant says he could see the aftermath on his computer screen – including thermal images of a growing puddle of hot blood.
“The guy that was running forward, he’s missing his right leg,” he recalled. “And I watch this guy bleed out and, I mean, the blood is hot.” As the man died his body grew cold, said Bryant, and his thermal image changed until he became the same color as the ground.
“I can see every little pixel,” said Bryant, who has been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, “if I just close my eyes.”
Bryant, now 27, served as a drone sensor operator from 2006 to 2011, at bases in Nevada, New Mexico and in Iraq, guiding unmanned drones over Iraq and Afghanistan. Though he didn’t fire missiles himself he took part in missions that he was told led to the deaths of an estimated 1,626 individuals.‘
Mr. Bryant is not a sociopath as demonstrated by his remorse for his actions and the difficulty he is having with integrating his actions into his perception of who he is as a person. A sociopath would feel no remorse, no need to justify his actions, and would not be suffering from the problem of integrating his actions into his personality. Indeed, for sociopaths, violence, fraud, and deceit are integral parts of their personalities.
Instead of a non-sociopath such as Mr. Bryant, let us imagine his alter ego as a sociopath, let us refer to him as Mr. Anti-Bryant. Let us then assume that Mr. Anti-Bryant became a police officer upon his honorable discharge from the military.
Now we have a sociopathic murderer roaming the streets of the US, armed, and above the law. When he assaults or murders a civilian, why should we be surprised? (See William Grigg’s blog, Pro Libertate, for extensive coverage about actual incidents.)
Let us put this in the context of the recent brouhaha over the NSA domestic spying scandal. Some pro-liberty commentators have wondered why there are no massed protests. This is a valid question. However, would you protest in a nation full of heavily armed Mr. Anti-Bryants? This seems to be a quick way to martyrdom. Since most of us have no desire to be martyrs, we sensibly avoid putting ourselves in the cross hairs of the guns wielded by Mr. Anti-Bryants.
What is to be done? First, we must realize that the police state is a cultural problem. When the dominant ideology of a society is individualism, a police state cannot arise. When it is collectivist, the society is fertile grounds for the emergence of a police state. Thus, the proper way to combat an actual or emerging police state is to change the culture. This can only be accomplished by winning the battle of ideas via education. Articles, books, blog posts, posters, videos, podcasts, etc. are the means by which advocates of liberty can educate the masses in an attempt to turn the culture away from collectivism.
To do this, one must be alive. While this seems obvious, the would be martyr looses sight of this. Let us use a baseball analogy to explicate this. Willie Mays was one of the all time greats. His combination of power, speed, and elite defense at the premium position of center field yielded tangible value towards winning ballgames on a daily basis. As an outfielder, Mays never dove for balls or crashed into walls. His reasoning was that his overall value as a player outweighed the risk of injury and extended absence that could result from sacrificing his body for the possibility of a single out. Even a cursory view of sabermetrics shows that Mays was undoubtedly correct. The analogy for advocates of liberty should be clear. Do not risk your life confronting the state. Use your talents and energy to change hearts and minds and ultimately the culture. Additionally, never forget the core ethical value of libertarianism: the nonaggression principle. Violence is not the answer.