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Hullabaloo


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

 
No, drone "pilots" are not heroes, they're office workers

by digby

Ok, now we're getting downright ridiculous:

They fight the war from computer consoles and video screens.

But the troops that launch the drone strikes and direct the cyberattacks that can kill or disable an enemy may never set foot in the combat zone. Now their battlefield contributions may be recognized.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Wednesday that for the first time the Pentagon is creating a medal that can be awarded to troops who have a direct impact on combat operations, but do it from afar.

"I've seen firsthand how modern tools, like remotely piloted platforms and cyber systems, have changed the way wars are fought," Panetta said. "And they've given our men and women the ability to engage the enemy and change the course of battle, even from afar."

The work they do "does contribute to the success of combat operations, particularly when they remove the enemy from the field of battle, even if those actions are physically removed from the fight," he said.

The new blue, red and white-ribboned Distinguished Warfare Medal will be awarded to individuals for "extraordinary achievement" related to a military operation that occurred after Sept. 11, 2001. But unlike other combat medals, it does not require the recipient risk his or her life to get it.

Officials said the new medal will be the first combat-related award to be created since the Bronze Star in 1944.

A recognition of the evolving 21st Century warfare, the medal will be considered a bit higher in ranking than the Bronze Star, but is lower than the Silver Star, defense officials said.

The Bronze Star is the fourth highest combat decoration and rewards meritorious service in battle, while the Silver Star is the third highest combat award given for bravery. Several other awards, including the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, are also ranked higher, but are not awarded for combat..

Higher ranking than the Bronze star?!!! I'm sorry but those who kill people from a remote location, don't get to be called heroes and there should be no special medals bestowed upon them. What's it for, valiantly staying at the console even when they really had to take a pee? There's nothing brave about manning computer screens to target and kill humans thousands of miles away. And it certainly degrades the very real bravery shown by those who risk their lives on the real battlefield.

The whole rationale for using these machines in this way is that it keeps Americans from being in harms way. That's the bargain everyone seems so keen on. So, if you kill people in the line of duty from the safety of a comfortable chair, the best you can say for it is that it's your job. Which you get to go home from every night. Where you can sit on your comfortable couch and play video games doing substantially the same thing. That's should be enough reward for any soldier.

One of the most salient arguments against drone warfare is that it makes it much too easy for a nation to kill people in far off places with little immediate risk to its own. It changes the equation for the Commander in Chief significantly since that risk is one of the main considerations against any war. Now they not only want to take the danger out of warfare, they want to bestow the mantle of bravery on those who operate the computers.

It's actually rather insane when you think about it.


Update: I wrote about America's fetish for military heroism before in this piece at MoJo.
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