Drone Attacks at Funerals of People Killed in Drone Strikes

By Conor Friedersdorf
Reuters

Human-rights groups have alleged for some time that the United States kills people in drone strikes, waits for rescuers to arrive, and deliberately targets them too, and that we target and kill mourners at the funerals of drone-strike victims. 

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism is one prominent source of these accusations. "Of the 18 attacks on rescuers and mourners reported at the time by credible media, twelve cases have been independently confirmed by our researchers," it reported in February 2012. "Credible news reports emerged a year later indicating that double-tap strikes had been revived," it added this August. "International media including the BBC, CNN and news agency AFP variously reported that rescuers had been targeted on five occasions between May 24 and July 23 2012, with a mosque and prayers for the dead also reportedly bombed."

I thought of the controversy surrounding "double-tap" drone strikes yesterday, when I came to the following passage in GQ's article on a former Air Force drone operator:

On the day of one of our interviews, The New York Times ran an article about the military’s research into PTSD among drone operators. I watched as he scanned a barrage of Facebook comments mocking the very idea that drone operators could suffer trauma:

>I broke a fucking nail on that last mission!
>Maybe they should wear seatbelts
>they can claim PTSD when they have to do “Body Collection & Identification”

And then Bryant waded in:

>I’m ashamed to have called any of you assholes brothers in arms.
>Combat is combat. Killing is killing. This isn’t a video game. How many of you have killed a group of people, watched as their bodies are picked up, watched the funeral, then killed them too?

>Yeah, it’s not the same as being on the ground. So fucking what? Until you know what it is like and can make an intelligent meaningful assessment, shut your goddamn fucking mouths before somebody shuts them for you.

Bryant’s defense—a virtual battle over an actual war—left him seething at his keyboard.

Fascinating, right? A former drone operator engaging in a heated Facebook debate with former colleagues writes, "How many of you have killed a group of people, watched as their bodies are picked up, watched the funeral, then killed them too?" The implication: The tactic is so common at least some if not most would've used it.

Is that true?

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2013/10/drone-attacks-at-funerals-of-people-killed-in-drone-strikes/280821/