Every morning, the hangar doors roll open and the sunlight flares my electro-optical sensors. I drag myself onto the flight line, load up my pylons with Hellfire and Griffin missiles, and try to get some coffee into my tank before takeoff. If all goes well, I lumber into the air, loiter over some godforsaken warzone du jour, and occasionally lob weaponry at those I’m told are the enemies of the free world. By broad consensus, I’m pretty good at my job — and when I’m not soaring above the mountains of Afghanistan or Yemen, I even find time for hobbies, like posting on Twitter. But after I return to base, I self-medicate with extreme prejudice. Because I’m a Predator drone, and you people make me drink.
Allow me to explain.
In the last decade, my robotic flying cohorts and I have gone from Air Force afterthought to indispensable weapon in the global struggle against violent contingencies, or whatever the hell we’re calling it now. We come in sizes large and small: Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawk is the size of a modest jetliner and AeroVironment’s NAV is hardly bigger than a golf ball. And we don’t just do war, either. Among other civilian missions, we’ve sampled radiation at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and helped firefightersmonitor wildfires in Alaska and California. We even fly weather-research missions into hurricanes.
Yet somehow, us drones — yes, we prefer the term “drone” over the alphabet soup of UAV, RPA, orUAS — have been pressed into unwilling service as the bugaboo for a host of disparate interest groups. Libertarians like Ron Paul probably couldn’t agree with Code Pink’s Medea Benjamin on the time of day, but they can at least agree that they don’t like me. And that hurts my robotic feelings, because I simply don’t deserve it.
The robotic lush concludes:
I’d complain about the conflation of drone airstrikes abroad and domestic surveillance,but I kinda already did. Or I could rant about the trope that I turn killing into a “video game,” which ignores the significant incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder among my human co-pilots. But I’ll simply say this: Blaming a new weapon for the consequences of a society’s willingness to use deadly force against its enemies obscures the real issues of America’s adventures abroad. And it’s terrible for my self-esteem. But you humans show no signs of letting up, and so … I drink.