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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Kansas, US- Former US assassin drone operator sheds light on a program she now condemns

Lisa Ling used to operate those unmanned drones the US Army uses for assassinations in parts of the Middle east and Africa. Today she travels the country to tell people why the US Army should stop doing that. She spoke at Wichita State University, last Friday Night, for a crowd of between 25 to 30 people. Ling is interviewed for the National Bird, a documentary on military drones shown here in Wichita a week before.
"You can't understand a culture from a two dimensional view,” Ling told the audience. “A lot of people call them terrorists. They are people. They are human beings.”

She was referring to the computer screen the drone operators are looking at when they look for their targets and the people they see on those screens.
The program has soldiers using computers and equipment to send these un-manned flying machines around the globe to assassinate suspected paramilitary "terrorist" leaders and operatives, with explosives. once leaders are found to be hiding out somewhere, the drones fly in when they least expect it. At times they kill family members, including children and people who just happen to be near the targets.
“This is America's longest conflict,” Ling said. She added that the drones are being used in countries we are not at war with such as Yemen.
“Congress hasn’t declared war since World War II,” Ling said. “They don't even call it war. They use words like “conflict.” They use the term “Eminent Danger." They call it "acquiring targets" and they are hunting humans.”
Ling explained through the night that targets are picked with little if any intelligence gathering. She said the program started out using the drones as intelligence gathering.
"Once they put bombs on those frames it changed everything, she said.
She added there have been 121,000 attacks on people by drones. After they believe they have hit a target the look to see how many pieces are left from the explosion, to figure out who they hit.
"I thought I would be protecting people on both sides,” she told us. “How do you wrap your mind around not seeing what you do?”
Ling told the audience that she believed the drone program is a form of terrorism. She said they hover around for days or weeks before they go for their target. The people they target often know they are being stalked. At times she said some people brought their children out so the drone pilot would see they are family people and hoped they would not be considered military targets. But that didn't help them.
"They don't attack us because they hate our freedom," she said, taking lines from Former President George W. Bush.[1] "They attack us because we attack them."
Ling said she would prefer boots on the ground rather than these hi-tec killing machines.
“If there is a war it is better to show up for it and be physically there,” She said.
She pointed out that here is no debate going on this kind of war. There is no national conversation. Democrats are as supportive of the drone program as Republicans. The media does not do a good job of bringing any real debate on the drone program. She said it is hard to pin down who actually authorized the drone program.
"Congress pays for it," she added.
During questions and answers Ling told a person in the audience that military drones and those used for commercial or personal use are completely different.
 "Am I with those people who stand in front of the bases and protest?" she said. "NO! All that does is push the operators to suicide (and other problems). The drone programming is getting bigger and standing in front of bases isn't helping. You need to target people who make money off the drones. Not the privates."
She said political pressure needs to be applied to politicians and any corporation that is profiting off of the drone program.
The Kansas Peace and Social Justice Center sponsored Ling's appearance. The  Peace and Social Justice Center is focusing on the use of military drones this coming year. Ling is touring across the country to get her message out.

[1] "They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other." - George W. Bush.

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