Four former US Air Force drone pilots have come forward with a blistering critique of the current drone program, first published in The Guardian. In an open letter addressed to President Obama, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter, and CIA director John Brennan, the pilots argue the civilian casualties and resulting devastation from US drone strikes have radicalized regions where it is used, fueling the rise of ISIS and other terrorist organizations.
"This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world," the letter reads.
According to the four pilots, the damage from the drone program's isn't limited to America's reputation. All four pilots report suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and say subsequent medical care and benefits have been inadequate. The letter also references gross mismanagement of the program, citing Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden as examples that compelled them to speak out. "Silence would violate the very oaths we took to support and defend the Constitution," the pilots write.
Roughly 58 percent of Americans approve of the drone strike program, but it enjoys near-unanimous support from current US presidential candidates. Among the two major parties, the only candidate to express opposition to the drone program is Lincoln Chafee, who suspended his campaign in October. While strikes against US citizens remain controversial, a number of campaigns have suggested expanding the drone strike program overseas. Hillary Clinton has said the strikes were one of the most effective counter-terrorism tools available during her time as secretary of state, and Ben Carson has proposed using drone strikes to police the border between Mexico and the United States.