Un boulot tout propre. Une bonne maison, l’armée US, et un poste de haute technologie, des horaires presque corrects, une bonne paie, et agir pour la défense du pays. De quoi se plaindre ? De ce qu’il s’agit d’exécuter des condamnations à mort prononcées sans procès et sans preuve par le gouvernement fédéral, le Prix Nobel de le Paix Obama. L’horreur du crime de masse. La prison se précise pour ce criminel.
Voici deux articles pour faire le point.
I – New York Times
Le premier article, sous les signatures de Christopher Drew, Dave Philipps, Mark Mazzetti et Eric Schmitt, a été publié dans le New York Times du 16 juin.
As Stress Drives Off Drone Operators, Air Force Must Cut Flights
CREECH AIR FORCE BASE, Nev. — After a decade of waging long-distance war through their video screens, America’s drone operators are burning out, and the Air Force is being forced to cut back on the flights even as military and intelligence officials are demanding more of them over intensifying combat zones in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
The Air Force plans to trim the flights by the armed surveillance drones to 60 a day by October from a recent peak of 65 as it deals with the first serious exodus of the crew members who helped usher in the era of war by remote control.
Air Force officials said that this year they would lose more drone pilots, who are worn down by the unique stresses of their work, than they can train.
“We’re at an inflection point right now,” said Col. James Cluff, the commander of the Air Force’s 432nd Wing, which runs the drone operations from this desert outpost about 45 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
The cut in flights is an abrupt shift for the Air Force. Drone missions increased tenfold in the past decade, relentlessly pushing the operators in an effort to meet the insatiable demand for streaming video of insurgent activities in Iraq, Afghanistan and other war zones, including Somalia, Libya and now Syria.
The reduction could also create problems for the C.I.A., which has used Air Force pilots to conduct drone missile attacks on terrorism suspects in Pakistan and Yemen, government officials said. And the slowdown comes just as military advances by the Islamic State have placed a new premium on aerial surveillance and counterattacks.
Some top Pentagon officials had hoped to continue increasing the number of daily drone flights to more than 70. But Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter recently signed off on the cuts after it became apparent that the system was at the breaking point, Air Force officials said.
The biggest problem is that a significant number of the 1,200 pilots are completing their obligation to the Air Force and are opting to leave. In a recent interview, Colonel Cluff said that many feel “undermanned and overworked,” sapped by alternating day and night shifts with little chance for academic breaks or promotion.
At the same time, a training program is producing only about half of the new pilots that the service needs because the Air Force had to reassign instructors to the flight line to expand the number of flights over the past few years.
Colonel Cluff said top Pentagon officials thought last year that the Air Force could safely reduce the number of daily flights as military operations in Afghanistan wound down. But, he said, “the world situation changed,” with the rapid emergence of the Islamic State, and the demand for the drones shot up again.
Officials say that since August, Predator and Reaper drones have conducted 3,300 sorties and 875 missile and bomb strikes in Iraq against the Islamic State.
What had seemed to be a benefit of the job, the novel way that the crews could fly Predator and Reaper drones via satellite links while living safely in the United States with their families, has created new types of stresses as they constantly shift back and forth between war and family activities and become, in effect, perpetually deployed.
“Having our folks make that mental shift every day, driving into the gate and thinking, ‘All right, I’ve got my war face on, and I’m going to the fight,’ and then driving out of the gate and stopping at Walmart to pick up a carton of milk or going to the soccer game on the way home — and the fact that you can’t talk about most of what you do at home — all those stressors together are what is putting pressure on the family, putting pressure on the airman,” Colonel Cluff said.
While most of the pilots and camera operators feel comfortable killing insurgents who are threatening American troops, interviews with about 100 pilots and sensor operators for an internal study that has not yet been released, he added, found that the fear of occasionally causing civilian casualties was another major cause of stress, even more than seeing the gory aftermath of the missile strikes in general.
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.
The exodus from the drone program might be caused in part by the lure of the private sector, Mr. Tasin said, noting that military drone operators can earn four times their salary working for private defense contractors. In January, in an attempt to retain drone operators, the Air Force doubled incentive pay to $18,000 per year.
Another former pilot, Bruce Black, was part of a team that watched Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of Al Qaeda in Iraq, for 600 hours before he was killed by a bomb from a manned aircraft.
“After something like that, you come home and have to make all the little choices about the kids’ clothes or if I parked in the right place,” said Mr. Black, who retired as a lieutenant colonel in 2013. “And after making life and death decisions all day, it doesn’t matter. It’s hard to care.”
Colonel Cluff said the idea behind the reduction in flights was “to come back a little bit off of 65 to allow some breathing room” to replenish the pool of instructors and recruits.
The Air Force also has tried to ease the stress by creating a human performance team, led by a psychologist and including doctors and chaplains who have been granted top-secret clearances so they can meet with pilots and camera operators anywhere in the facility if they are troubled.
Colonel Cluff invited a number of reporters to the Creech base on Tuesday to discuss some of these issues. It was the first time in several years that the Air Force had allowed reporters onto the base, which has been considered the heart of the drone operations since 2005.
The colonel said the stress on the operators belied a complaint by some critics that flying drones was like playing a video game or that pressing the missile fire button 7,000 miles from the battlefield made it psychologically easier for them to kill. He also said that the retention difficulties underscore that while the planes themselves are unmanned, they need hundreds of pilots, sensor operators, intelligence analysts and launch and recovery specialists in foreign countries to operate.
Some of the crews still fly their missions in air-conditioned trailers here, while other cockpit setups have been created in new mission center buildings. Anti-drone protesters are periodically arrested as they try to block pilots from entering the base, where signs using the drone wing’s nickname say, “Home of the Hunters.”
Voici le second article:
Drone Pilots Are Exhausted and Suffering From PTSD, Lucy Steigerwald
On Tuesday, The New York Times published the latest look at drone pilots. These Unmanned Aerial Vehicle operators are suffering such a high rate of exhaustion and stress that the US Air Force has been forced to cut drone missions down from a high of about 65 a week. They also currently have about 500 fewer pilots than they need.
Though they get to fight their wars in safety, and see their families every night, these new type of soldiers suffer from a surprisingly high burnout rate, and equivalent levels of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to fighter pilots. And though when that news first broke two years ago, the temptation to be withering and unsympathetic was strong (okay, maybe that was just me), perhaps that kind of a mental reaction says something vital about the dangers of war to the human soul. Even people who aren’t themselves in danger suffer when they’re killing innocent people.
Part of the stress comes from the fact that these 1200 pilots are not in a battlefield setting. Strangely, but logically, controlling a surveillance and/or killing machine from thousands of miles away, concern about backing up manned personal, or more likely, worrying whether you’re hitting a would-be terrorist or some innocent civilians is stressful, no matter if you are safe in some bunker in Nevada. Seeing your spouse and kids a few hours later heightens the alienation inherent in such a job. You’re on duty, but you’re at home. It has to be disconcerting. After all, PTSD doesn’t tend to be about cracking up on the battlefield. It’s about dealing with a banal job or life after you’ve been trained to be on edge all the time. These pilots have to do that daily in a manner which must feel like psychological whiplash.
Additionally, there aren’t really “enough” drone pilots, so the ones who are there are drained and exhausted. Why, though? In a 2013 New York Times piece, one of the co-authors of a Defense Department study offered this explanation, “Remotely piloted aircraft pilots may stare at the same piece of ground for days. They witness the carnage. Manned aircraft pilots don’t do that. They get out of there as soon as possible.” That makes sense. For the 100 years that airplanes have been dropping death from above, the policy tends to be do your thing and then get home as fast as possible. Drones and the eyes of their operators just linger indefinitely.
The constant presence of drones adds to the psychological torment of the people who live under their invisible shadow. It makes sense that it would be more stressful for the would-be killers as well.
A piece reposted at Salon back in March reports that drone pilots fly more than three times as many man hours as other pilots. The latter tend to look down on the former as well, implying that they’re just nerdy gamers playing, not real pilots. And even for the antiwar person, there is a temptation to look especially disdainfully at the chickenhawk. Even a bomber pilot is risking their own life when they go out on a mission. Drone pilots go home at night every night. Poor babies, right? Just stop.
And more and more people wish they would do just that. In April, the websiteknowdrones.org aired 15 second TV spots that urged drone operators to quit. Now, the group – which includes ex-military people – has put together a letter that urges the same thing. The letter says that drone attacks are against the law, and the 6,000 casualties are “undermining principles of international law and human rights.”
It’s terrific to see this effort going forward, but it’s impossible to feel optimistic about being able to reverse the progress of military drones. They are a cheap, easy way to keep literally a constant presence in countries with which the US isn’t even at war. Someday a terrorist may well use drones in their own form of blowback, but not even then is the US likely to reconsider their new toys. If they literally had nobody left to fly the drones, however, that would stop them from murdering.
It is murder. And that has to be part of why the operators feel so beaten down. One has to hope they know what they are doing and it has an effect on their psyches. In combat, the eventual suffer of PTSD is in peril. Perhaps they are worried about their fellow soldiers and being able to have their backs if necessary. The latter issue may come into play for drone pilots, but the former never does. And pictures clear enough to see the pink mist that was once a human – perhaps a nameless one, tracked from cell phone signal or suspicious patterns that might mean a terrorist gathering or a wedding is coming together – seem to be enough to damage the person who did the deed from thousands of miles away.
As I wrote last year, as much as it is unfortunate to have more people in mental distress, it does bode well for humanity that war hurts them. Not the “goodness” of World War II, nor the safety of drone war today will stop a soldier from feeling something if they take a life.
Drones tueurs : des « pilotes » déprimés, rongés par les remords…
Traduction par Gilles Munier
Mardi dernier, le New York Times a publié un dernier aperçu de ce que vivent les militaires qui pilotent des drones. Les opérateurs de ces Véhicules Aériens Sans Pilote souffriraient, au plus haut degré, d’épuisement et de stress, de sorte que l’armée de l’air US a été obligée de réduire le nombre de leurs « missions » qui était de 65 par semaine. L’autre raison est qu’elle ne dispose pas de ces pilotes en nombre suffisant. Il lui en faudrait 500 de plus...
Bien que ces « pilotes » mènent leur guerre dans des conditions de sécurité exemplaires, qu’ils rentrent dans leur famille tous les soirs, ils sont sujets à des Désordres post-traumatiques de stress (DPTS) à des niveaux équivalents à ceux des pilotes de combat. Ce stress provient, pour partie, de ce que ces 1200 pilotes ne sont pas sur un site d’opérations.
En effet, bizarrement, contrôler un drone-espion ou servant à tuer à des milliers de kilomètres, soutenir efficacement des militaires en opération au sol, ou plus vraisemblablement, se demander si vous avez ciblé un présumé terroriste ou des civils innocents, est usant, même si vous êtes à l’abri dans un bunker du Nevada. Voir votre épouse et vos enfants quelques heures plus tard attise l’aliénation inhérente à ce travail. Vous êtes en service, mais à la maison. Cela doit être déstabilisant.
De plus, il n’y a pas « assez » de pilotes et donc ceux en poste sont fatigués et vidés. Pourquoi ? En 2013, dans le New York Times, un des coauteurs d’un rapport de la Défense expliquait que « les pilotes d’appareils télécommandés fixent ce morceau de paysage pendant des jours. Ils voient le carnage. Les pilotes classiques ne font pas cela. Ils sortent de là dès que possible ». Depuis que les avions de guerre, il y a une centaine d’années, ont, du ciel, déversé la mort, la pratique veut que vous exécutez et vous rentrez chez vous immédiatement. Les drones et les yeux des opérateurs planent indéfiniment.
En avril, le site knowdrones.com a mis sur Internet des séquences tv dans lesquelles il demandait à ces opérateurs de démissionner. Les activistes animant ce site, dont d’anciens militaires, ont également présenté cette demande dans une lettre où ils déclarent que : « les attaques de drones sont illégales et les 6000 victimes de celles-ci « minent les principes du droit international et des droits de l’homme ».
L’optimisme n’est pas de mise : il est quasiment impossible de renverser la marche en avant des drones militaires. Ce sont des outils bon marché, très bon marché, permettant de maintenir une présence constante dans des pays avec qui les Etats-Unis ne sont même pas en guerre. Peut- être qu’un jour, le retour du bâton viendra quand un terroriste utilisera un drone, mais, même à ce moment-là, les Etats-Unis seront incapables de reconsidérer l’utilisation de leurs nouveaux jouets. A moins qu’il n’y ait plus personne pour les faire voler… et tuer.
C'est un crime. Et c’est peut-être la raison pour laquelle les « droneurs » sont si déprimés. On peut espérer qu’ils savent ce qu’ils font et que cela a une répercussion sur leur psyché. Le danger est inhérent au DPTS mais, les « droneurs » sont peut-être préoccupés par leurs coreligionnaires soldats et par le soutien qu’ils doivent nécessairement leur apporter… Les images vivaces de l’ombre rose (sur leur écran – ndlr) de ce qui était un être humain - peut-être un anonyme, traqué depuis un signal téléphonique ou un comportement suspect analysé comme un groupe terroriste ou un mariage en marche - semblent suffisantes pour détruire celui, qui à des kilomètres de là, appui sur le bouton de tir.
S’il est triste de voir tant d’individus souffrir de troubles mentaux, cela est réconfortant pour l’humanité de constater que la guerre fait mal. Ni la « vertu » de la 2ème guerre mondiale, ni la sécurité de la guerre des drones, aujourd’hui, n’empêcheront un soldat de ressentir quelque chose quand il prend une vie.