The price of conscience: Drone warfare whistleblower gets 45 months in prison

Pakistani tribesmen hold up a placard of alleged drone strike victims during a protest in Islamabad on February 25, 2012, against the US drone attacks in the Pakistani tribal region. The protesters demanded an immediate end to drone attacks and compensation for those who lost relatives or property, as well as condemning this week’s burning of Korans at a US-run base in neighbouring Afghanistan. (AAMIR QURESHI/AFP via Getty Images)

Another hero and patriot, Daniel Hale, goes to jail because he had no choice but to follow his conscience. Below are some excerpts from a 27 July 2021 Salon article by Chris Hedges.

He recalled the first time he witnessed a drone strike, a few days after he arrived in Afghanistan.

“Early that morning, before dawn, a group of men had gathered together in the mountain ranges of Patika province around a campfire carrying weapons and brewing tea,” he wrote. “That they carried weapons with them would not have been considered out of the ordinary in the place I grew up, much less within the virtually lawless tribal territories outside the control of the Afghan authorities. Except that among them was a suspected member of the Taliban, given away by the targeted cell phone device in his pocket. As for the remaining individuals, to be armed, of military age, and sitting in the presence of an alleged enemy combatant was enough evidence to place them under suspicion as well. Despite having peacefully assembled, posing no threat, the fate of the now tea drinking men had all but been fulfilled. I could only look on as I sat by and watched through a computer monitor when a sudden, terrifying flurry of hellfire missiles came crashing down, splattering, purple-colored crystal guts on the side of the morning mountain.”

This was Hale’s first experience with “scenes of graphic violence carried out from the cold comfort of a computer chair.” There would be many more.

“Not a day goes by that I don’t question the justification for my actions,” he wrote. “By the rules of engagement, it may have been permissible for me to have helped to kill those men — whose language I did not speak, customs I did not understand, and crimes I could not identify — in the gruesome manner that I did. Watch them die. But how could it be considered honorable of me to continuously have laid in wait for the next opportunity to kill unsuspecting persons, who, more often than not, are posing no danger to me or any other person at the time. Never mind honorable, how could it be that any thinking person continued to believe that it was necessary for the protection of the United States of America to be in Afghanistan and killing people, not one of whom present was responsible for the September 11th attacks on our nation. Notwithstanding, in 2012, a full year after the demise of Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, I was a part of killing misguided young men who were but mere children on the day of 9/11.” 

Finally, here’s an excerpt from a 28 July 2021 The Intercept article about Hale’s sentencing. Who has more honor and integrity, Daniel Hale or Barack Obama and others who have engaged in remote control murder?

Hale is a descendant of Nathan Hale, the American patriot who was hanged by the British for stealing documents in 1776. Addressing the court Tuesday, Hale quoted the words often attributed to his famed ancestor: “My only regret is that I have but one life to give to my country, whether here or in prison.” As he did in the letter he submitted to the court last week, Hale, in his appearance before the judge, focused his attention on the victims of U.S. foreign policy.

“I believe that it is wrong to kill,” Hale said, “but it is especially wrong to kill the defenseless.”

President Obama’s bloody track record during his two terms was 542 drone strikes that killed an estimated 3,797 people, including 324 civilians. (That includes the remote control executions that Hale carried out.) He reportedly told senior aides in 2011, “Turns out I’m really good at killing people. Didn’t know that was gonna be a strong suit of mine.” (Dark humor: cue the snickers and nervous laughter.) Here’s a clip from the 1 May 2010 White House Correspondents Association Dinner in which Obama jokes about killing the Jonas Brothers with a predator drone. (More nervous laughter. Probably not so funny for the survivors and surviving family members of those who were obliterated by a drone missile strike.) Obama’s in good company among US presidents and their minions.

His confession reminds me of Noam Chomsky’s famous quote from a 1990 speech that “If the Nuremberg laws were applied, then every post-war American president would have been hanged” – in reference to the International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg in 1946. Obama’s quote, by the way, reminds me of some things that the unindicted war criminal, Henry Kissinger, said. Good company, indeed. In fact, it was Henry the K who once said, “Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.” The United States government as judge, jury, executioner.

Edward Snowden’s 28 July 2021 Tweet is spot-on:

Daniel Hale, one of the great American Whistleblowers, was just moments ago sentenced to four years in prison. His crime was telling this truth: 90% of those killed by US drones are bystanders, not the intended targets.

He should have been given a medal.

Jeremy Scahill wrote in a 31 July 2021 essay that Hale should be pardoned and released, and the government should pay him restitution. This 20 July 2021 Intelligencer article, a deep dive into Hale’s life, is also worth reading.

Finally, here is an 18 July 2021 letter Daniel Hale sent to the judge in the case.

If this were a just and not an Orwellian world, Barack Obama and people like him would be in prison, despised and detested, while those like Daniel Hale would be free, respected, and honored.

Postscript: If you would like to follow Daniel Hale’s case and express your support during what will be a difficult time, have a look at the STAND WITH DANIEL HALE website and subscribe. Daniel Hale was one of three whistleblowers featured in the 2016 documentary National Bird.

Shalom (שלום), MAA

3 thoughts on “The price of conscience: Drone warfare whistleblower gets 45 months in prison

  1. On Painting Daniel Hale: His Exquisite Burden

    Portrait of whistleblower Daniel Hale by artist Robert Shetterly. The quotation from Dale reads: “With drone warfare, sometimes nine out of ten people killed are innocent. You have to kill part of your conscience to do your job… But what possibly could I have done to cope with the undeniable cruelties that I perpetuated? The thing I feared most… was the temptation not to question it. So I contacted an investigative reporter… and told him I had something the American people needed to know.” (Portrait: Robert Shetterly/Americans Who Tell the Truth)

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