"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

The Ramblings of Brandon Bryant

I've previously mentioned Brandon Bryant, former drone operator, and given him encouragement for furthering an important discussion.  I've been careful to point out that we have many differences of opinion, but this latest contribution of his, given on foreign soil, indicates that perhaps he has ceased to provide anything meaningful to the topic.

Brandon served as an RPA sensor operator, engaged the enemy on four occasions over eight years in the military, completed his enlistment, and then got out of active duty.  After his separation from the military, he began to hit media airwaves to talk about his experiences.  His "message" wasn't quite unified or necessarily coherent, and seemed to mostly be that the United States military uses military equipment to carry out military missions.

Not exactly earth shattering news, but at least it was part of an important discussion.  I'm not sure, however, that his contributions are helping that discussion anymore.  The video above starts off bad and then gets much worse before it descends into a rambling stream-of-consciousness pile of incoherent contradictions and blathering.

From the painful-to-watch video above, Brandon opens up with:

I'd also like to thank the Free Chelsea Manning Foundation for representing Chelsea and Edward Snowden for doing what they have done. I'd like to thank all the journalists and stuff that have supported me and allowed me to have this platform where I would never have had this opportunity to talk to you otherwise. And I think it's really important that we recognize these people are just as important as, as I guess, sometimes, people think about me and people like me.

Apparently Brandon has the delusion that his post military departure message, that the U.S. military conducts military operations, somehow makes him a whistle blower and puts him in the same company as Edward Snowden.  If Ed Snowden were known for completing his contract with Booz Allen Hamilton and then, after leaving, set out to tell the world that the NSA simply did surveillance, then I might get this comparison.  But the fact that the military uses force and the fact that the NSA conducts surveillance is not new information.

Those two individuals are not similar.  Ed Snowden pointed out that the NSA engaged in unlawful activity.  That was extremely useful information and the public needed to know this, because they did not know their government was violating their rights and violating the law.  Brandon's overarching message is quite different in that it merely points out that the military engages in warfare.  That is not noteworthy information and is not whistle blowing and does not take courage.

In the video Brandon mentions his created Project Red Hand, which he says is mostly an idea that he and others (including a conscientious objector Marine officer) are working on.  He mentions they are trying "to figure out the base reason, what we're contributing towards."  This idea of gathering people without knowing the base reason to contribute toward seems to be a hallmark of Brandon's contributions in the drone discussion, as well.  His message is almost baseless and doesn't appear to have a developed point.

He mentions the GQ article he was a part of, and how the title "Confessions of a Drone Warrior" offended him.  He mentions growing up wanting to be a hero.  He says he felt like a coward for using technology to kill people where he had no skin in the game and he calls that technology "wrong" because it doesn't give "respect" to those being engaged.  He says "war is not a game."

He then tells the foreign audience, that what they need to understand is what that violence does to drone operators, those who are employing the violence.  He states that he "kind of kicked everyone in the balls" when he claimed his experiences gave him PTSD.  While he calls RPA warfare the most cowardly form of warfare to ever exist because drone operators are far from the battlefield, he claims great psychological damage and hardship from being a drone operator.

He claims that he was committing murder, because he killed "indiscriminately" because he didn't have all the information on those he was ordered to engage.  He says he wanted to be a hero, but his country made him a murderer.

He says he didn't feel like a warrior because he has studied "warriorship," and warriors understand the nature of violence and the nature of war and have codes of honor and codes of conduct, and they prevent war and go out of their way so that war doesn't affect the average person.  Brandon then goes on to admit that war always gets out of hand and there is no way to contain it.  

Brandon then offers a solution.  Pretending.  He says:

We can always pretend to follow codes of conduct, and these things, in order to make it seem more civilized.

He then briefly mentions that the enemy are not "sand demons" and that they come from a different culture and that we "need to reach out to them."

He then tells the audience, "we all know the issue.  We all know that violence sucks" and does damage to those that wield it and those that receive it and asks, "how do we come up with a solution?"  He goes on to mention that finding a solution is the goal of his Project Red Hand (the organization that does not have a base reason for existing and doesn't know what it is working toward).  He then pivots to drone technology and asks how we can create techno-warriors that leverage RPA technology.  While he decries drone operators as cowardly murderers, for some reason he asks his foreign audience how we can create more of them.

Brandon's talk then becomes a rambling collection of phrases and words.

He shifts into a discussion of hackers who can be scum, but who also can do great things and mentions honor among hackers.  He then mentions RPA, throws out an undigested reference to 1984 and cameras on the ground and people staying inside because they have fear.

He starts talking about his "fragile soul" and thoughts that he would meet those he killed in the afterlife and then talks about trying to become a survival instructor before getting "long story short" injured and not making it through the program.

The talk then becomes babbling, combining charged words and psycho babble strung together with half platitudes until it gets to a question and answer session.

The main themes I pull from the video seem to be:

1.  Violence is bad but warriors are good.

2.  Brandon has a strong desire to be a hero with honor and a code of conduct.

3.  Brandon has a desire to organize people to do something, but isn't sure what.

4.  Brandon suffers.

5.  Brandon has a message the world needs to hear.

The common theme appears to sum up to one topic:  Brandon Bryant. 

I hope that he overcomes any suffering he has endured from watching television screens tens of thousands of miles away in a profession that has no skin in the game.  As for the larger discussion, at this point it is clear to me that Brandon has nothing worthwhile to offer on the subject of drone operations.  After the several years he has been separated from the military, his "message" is simply not useful.  His message appears to be a ploy to promote himself by saying any number of nonsensical and contradictory things.  And toward that end, Brandon is not furthering an important discussion on drone technology, but rather he is confusing it.

The video above makes this painfully clear.

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