For more than five years, Brandon Bryant worked in an oblong, windowless container about the size of a trailer, where the air-conditioning was kept at 17 degrees Celsius (63 degrees Fahrenheit) and, for security reasons, the door couldn’t be opened. Bryant and his coworkers sat in front of 14 computer monitors and four keyboards. When Bryant pressed a button in New Mexico, someone died on the other side of the world. The container is filled with the humming of computers. It’s the brain of a drone, known as a cockpit in Air Force parlance. But the pilots in the container aren’t flying through the air. They’re just sitting at the controls.

Bryant was one of them, and he remembers one incident very clearly when a Predator drone was circling in a figure-eight pattern in the sky above Afghanistan, more than 10,000 kilometers (6,250 miles) away. There was a flat-roofed house made of mud, with a shed used to hold goats in the crosshairs, as Bryant recalls. When he received the order to fire, he pressed a button with his left hand and marked the roof with a laser. The pilot sitting next to him pressed the trigger on a joystick, causing the drone to launch a Hellfire missile. There were 16 seconds left until impact.

With seven seconds left to go, there was no one to be seen on the ground. Bryant could still have diverted the missile at that point. Then it was down to three seconds. Bryant felt as if he had to count each individual pixel on the monitor. Suddenly a child walked around the corner, he says.

Second zero was the moment in which Bryant’s digital world collided with the real one in a village between Baghlan and Mazar-e-Sharif. Bryant saw a flash on the screen: the explosion. Parts of the building collapsed. The child had disappeared. Bryant had a sick feeling in his stomach.

“Did we just kill a kid?” he asked the man sitting next to him.

“Yeah, I guess that was a kid,” the pilot replied.

“Was that a kid?” they wrote into a chat window on the monitor.

Then, someone they didn’t know answered, someone sitting in a military command center somewhere in the world who had observed their attack. “No. That was a dog,” the person wrote.

They reviewed the scene on video. A dog on two legs?

“We have been the cowards lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly.

-Bill Maher



  1. The Monster's Lawyer says:

    Merry Christmas everyone. See you next year.

  2. bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

    Fair article. WAR is about innocent people getting killed. Its what used to be a difference between war and police actions?

    But “in context” shouldn’t the second picture and article be about mass shootings in schoolyards? ((I’ll let tollybong correct that….. if needed?))

    I felt like Alex through the Looking Glass watching the NRA Public Announcement this morning: arm everyone in America. thank you NRA for your significant contribution to ending gun violence in America.

    How do I get off this small Blue Orb?

    • deegee says:

      “I felt like Alex through the Looking Glass watching the NRA Public Announcement this morning: arm everyone in America.”

      So then instead of trained armed air marshals they should have instead put “No Hijack Zone” posters up in airports and airplanes?

      What other method than a bullet would you suggest is used to stop idiots, crazies, terrorists foreign or domestic, who are in the middle of bombing,shooting, burning up innocent people?

      • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

        The never fatigued, but he does need more sleep, deegee says:
        12/21/2012 at 2:26 pm

        “I felt like Alex through the Looking Glass watching the NRA Public Announcement this morning: arm everyone in America.”

        So then instead of trained armed air marshals they should have instead put “No Hijack Zone” posters up in airports and airplanes?/// If no guns, knives on airplanes then armed air marshals are a waste of time with a locked cockpit and armed pilots. Its Security Theater. Glad you like the show. Popcorn at intermission.

        What other method than a bullet would you suggest is used to stop idiots, crazies, terrorists foreign or domestic, who are in the middle of bombing,shooting, burning up innocent people? /// Take away the guns, and they can only throw bullets at you. Next step: remove high powered sling shots with the bullet cupping basket piece.

        Glad to see you are twitching towards your first adult step. Keep moaning.

      • Accremonious says:

        Simple, every passenger should have to fly au nude!
        It would cut down on unnecessary air travel, reduce the Carbon footprint, and reduce the flying public to equal status, n’ est pas? [And the stewards /stewardesses should have to wear masks!]
        As for schools, school yards, if the NRA succeeds in getting armed guards and principles, then only the gun mfgs win = Fortress America!
        Somewhere along the way from Hollywood oaters and now the video game craze, we have lost our sense of reality and humanity! It makes as much sense to blame this state of affairs on Madison Ave. for all of the successful advertising of gun fighting as the security panacea! So go eat Lead!

  3. MikeN says:

    I thought this site supported technology?

    • BobR says:

      Generally, it does. But apparently there are still a few of us who balk at the use of technology to kill innocents.

  4. MikeN says:

    Obama’s drone policies have declared that anyone within proximity of a target is by definition an enemy combatant. Shame on the Taliban for using kids to fight their war.

    • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

      It was a dog. Always a dog.

    • jpfitz says:

      You’re only looki g at the small picture. All invaded countries have children in their borders.

  5. bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

    Hey McC: I just noticed this is your OP. It is a good subject and I have in mind your staunch objection to drones as a subject.

    and I further just noticed the quote from Bill Maher. In context, what he said is quite correct. You probably are too from within your context.

    I see drone use as just another tool of war. Indeed: Drones don’t kill people, only POLITICAL policy kills people. Nice irony?

    I wondere if and when you might post a sentence or two about exactly what you find especially heinous about drones? Or are they only emblematic of our misguided (sic) foreign adventures/policies.

    Its good to think about things and stuff.

    • McCullough sick of his hard earned money paying to kill YOUR enemies says:

      Drones are just a symptom and war has it’s place. But I don’t agree with this war, this so-called war on terror. People place way too much stock on the events on 9-11 and it seems to have given us the green light to do whatever, wherever we want.

      There are so many unanswered questions around the Sept. 11th attacks, and a lot of it points to Saudi Arabia. The majority of attackers were Saudi, as was bin Laden. Yet we attacked Iraq and Afghanistan in retaliation. I still don’t understand the Bush relationship with the bin Laden’s as well as the Saudi Monarchy, allowing the bin Laden family to leave the US, when no one else was allowed to fly. It all seems very fishy to me.

      Most don’t know that Lloyds of London sued the Saudi Govt. for funding the 9-11 attacks, and the lawsuit was quietly dropped which sounds suspiciously like a backroom deal/payoff.

      http://independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/lloyds-insurer-sues-saudi-arabia-for-funding-911-attacks-2356857.html

      One of the few things I admired about Obama was his seeming willingness to talk about our (US) history of Colonialism and and open a dialogue with the enemy nations (of our creation, btw, see the overthrow of a duly elected and regionally popular Iranian president as a prime example in 1953). That is now just a vague memory. So I don’t agree with this concept of nation building or supporting so-called freedom fighters who invariably will , it seems impose even more draconian laws such as Sharia on its citizens…I just don’t get it.

      So, for me its much more complicated then just saying “Support the Troops” and an empty gesture of flying the flag on patriotic holidays. I don’t watch TV news ever, or let CNN or Fox News redirect my attention. I get my history lessons through different means and do not trust much that comes from our leaders.

      I realize I am all over the place with this comment, and if I had the time I would elaborate and bore everyone to tears. But in a nutshell, I question things, especially when I see hidden motives that seem to surround most major events in history. I think things are not as they seem, and I hope I am wrong….or not, I’m not sure.

      In the old days, I would have been called a left winger, now I am labeled a conservative. Go figger.

      • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

        Ha, ha. Somewhere… an angel just got wings. I would have to manufacture a quibble as I find myself in total agreement….. well===I think if you express an idea that is anti war or even just question it then you are usually labeled a liberal? And you posted Bill Maher and without comment I would take it that his statement was a “fair” summary of the OP–so again you would be labeled a liberal.

        Labels are like that. Label hanging is fun and informative, worthwhile and VALID! (with due regard to BobR.) You just have to have at least 10 labels for each position taken.

        Your labels may vary.

        thanks.

        • McCullough says:

          I hate to burst your bubble, but actually, I don’t care for Bill Maher because I see him as just another hypocrite. And I used his quote to illustrate that. Intelligent and somewhat entertaining, but a hypocrite nonetheless. Yet I confess I haven’t watched his show for many years, so maybe he’s better now???

          I am not a fan of fundamentalism on either wing.

          Sorry.

          • MikeN says:

            How is that hypocrisy? Because he gave one million to Obama?

          • McCullough says:

            Because the comment was made when Bush was in office…but he gives a pass to this admin. Thus, hypocrisy.

          • MikeN says:

            I don’t think that’s hypocrisy. At the time he made that comment, he was referring to actions of Bill Clinton.

          • Dallas says:

            Bill Maher is one of the funniest and straight talk guys around. He’s awesome.

            I listen to his podcast all the time.

            He frequently has right wing nuttballs on his show that you like.

          • McCullough says:

            MikeN – You’re correct. My bad.

        • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

          Mr. Grinch—did you make your name change legal or just for this forum?

          Note: I never said or even implied that you cared for Bill Maher. Only commented on how using him to summarize the link would most often be labeled “liberal.”

          So ……. grumpy.

  6. Mr Diesel says:

    When you absolutely, positively want to destroy your target use Hellfire missiles.

    Sad thing about war, women and children die.

    Only one way to avoid it.

  7. spsffan says:

    Indeed.

    “War is hell.”, exclaimed William T. Sherman back in the 1860s.

    Not much has changed, except that more civilians get killed these days.

    • mainecat says:

      Once heard on M*A*S*H. “War is worse than hell. There are no innocent bystanders in hell”. Or something like that.

  8. Charles says:

    Bill Maher is Lowlife Trash, He makes things up as he goes along. He has NEVER contributed Anything True to The Great Debate, He is so far gone, that he thinks ( I seriously doubt if he even knows what the word Think Means ) that he has actually accomplished something good, what he does may look or sound good to a certain segment of Society, but look under it and all you will find is the SEWER THAT HIS KIND LIVES IN! He is a Vicious, whining Cry baby, who doesn’t hesitate to Openly Slander Anyone or Anything if he thinks that it will help the Demonrats you know The Jackass Party. That is their party Symbol, and I say it is THE MOST APPROPRIATE POLITICAL PARTY SYMBOL EVER IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD!!!
    He has had his lips Surgically ATTACHED TO osama’s Butt, and his head is so far up osama’s rectum he can read the morning paper while osama’s eating breakfast.
    Hey Bubba you would really be a Star on The Jerry Springer Show, Jerry Springer Showcases America’s Trash, you would be among YOUR KIND OF PEOPLE AND VERY COMFORTABLE, that is if you can Crawl out of the Sewer long enough to convince Real People that you are actually HUMAN, I DON’T THINK YOU CAN DO IT. Have a nice day.

    • BobR says:

      Damn it, man. You’re driving me crazy with the random capitalizations. Hate Maher if you must, but keep your fingers off the F’ing shift key!

    • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

      I think you put your finger on exactly why so many like him.

      Your words are too general though, too conclusionary. Can you tell us “exactly” why you dislike him so?

      as to the quote, I take it on the scale of coward vs bravery, you would put firing missiles in Pakistan from a trailer in Arkansas is more brave than doing a house to house search at night?

      Gee….. I don’t think so.

      • Ice Cream Headache says:

        You know, you think too hard sometimes. Embrace the simplicity of this statement:

        Maher is lowlife trash and has no redeeming value.

  9. Dallas says:

    This is no different than dropping bombs from an aircraft at 50,000 feet …. or in the early days, catapulting a diseased body over the wall.

  10. Charles says:

    Catapulting a diseased body over the wall, what a Fantastic use for Bill Maher he would have finally Accomplished something Good and actually USEFUL for the American people, Michael Moore is next in line, and then All of the Demonrats from the White House on down to Your town.

    • BobR says:

      There you go again. Someone find out where this guy lives and pop the shift and caps locks keys off his keyboard.

    • Dallas says:

      I was thinking Rush Limbaugh but whatever.

    • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

      That is kinda funny but Bill Maher isn’t sick or diseased. Maybe he should have dinner at your house?

    • Ivana Gisagna says:

      good luck finding a catapult capable of getting michael moore off the ground.

  11. Phydeau says:

    Every time we kill a bad guy, we kill some innocent bystanders. Their families immediately become “bad guys” because they now hate America for killing their innocent family members.

    (-1 Existing bad guy)

    (+10 New bad guys)

    Repeat until everyone in Afghanistan is a bad guy, then nuke the place. (Kidding!)

  12. Chrisbap says:

    Killing innocents during combat has always occurred to greater or lessor degrees. I feel like, in general, the US military does an admirable job to keep it to a minimum, though the number is certainly non-zero.

    Drones are the latest weapons we use to kill during combat, and I don’t feel they are any more cowardly to use than high-altitude bombers or long range artillery.

    The deeper question is – once we place the human troops in such a safe position that they never get killed do we, as a society, become more willing (or too willing) to go to war in the first place? If there is no risk of the news showing headlines of Sgt. Smith from Smalltown, USA being killed tragically in a pointless fight, I feel like our leaders are much more willing to stick with the fight rather than seek alternatives.

    • Phydeau says:

      That would be great if we were actually officially at war. As it is, we are just killing people.

      • Chrisbap says:

        Heh, you won’t get any argument from me on that point.

        I definitely have some uneasiness about us just killing “bad guys” outside of a war situation. This seems more like a police action than a war and the police generally just catch bad guys to put them on trial, not kill them on the spot. That said, it’s not like we can easily arrest bad guys in another country.

        What do you suggest we do instead? I’m honestly interested in practical alternatives that both keep this country safe and at the same time prevent our president from being some sort of “Judge Dredd” that can pronounce sentence on anyone he feels like with no trial.

        • bobbo, we think with words, and flower with ideas says:

          Recognize that Great Empires fall when they engage in wars in far flung foreign locations that don’t pay for themselves by brings the spoils of war home. Keeping the shipping lanes open so Japan can get oil isn’t in our Key and Necessary Interest.

          Now if Japan and the rest of the World would PAY US for our mercenary activities—then we got a business model.

          • Arkyn1 says:

            Business model… I think you hit it right on the head. That seems to be what “we” are defending. Or, more specifically, “we” seem to be on a campaign to eliminate the use of any business model on “us”. Our “leaders” seem to have decided that if someone has something they want, they have no obligation to purchase said item(s). Instead, embark on a classic FUD propaganda campaign, invade the country of origin, and take said commodity. And don’t forget to install a puppet government who will continue to provide the commodity for the new low price of free. It’s all I’ve seen in these invasions of the Middle East. “We’re” tired of being customers, so “we” have become bandit marauders instead.

    • McCullough says:

      Good point, some of us grew up watching Dan Rather report from the ‘Nam, and that was highly instrumental in turning the publics opinion on that bullshit war.

      Americans are shielded from that now, and its just wrong. They need to see it.

      Again, they need to see it.

  13. MikeN says:

    Again, there is officially no innocents killed by drone attacks. Forget about whether this is a dog. Even if it’s a child, it’s an enemy combatant child. No innocents are near the target of a drone attack, ever.

  14. iamtheeyeinthesky says:

    “It was a hot, sunny day in Nevada, but it was dark inside the container and just before daybreak in Iraq.”

    B.S.
    B.S.
    B. fricking S……

    Look at a globe or google “globe north pole view”
    The earth rotates counter-clockwise seen from above.
    That’s why the sun rises in the east……

  15. Bubbaone says:

    Why are you quoting Bill Maher? He is an asshole!

  16. Kent says:

    Americans are bat shit crazy.