tv America Tonight Al Jazeera November 21, 2015 9:00pm-9:31pm EST
cinema, get ready to bid big. i will be back at 11 pm eastern 8 p.m. pacific. stay tuned now for america tonight next on america tonight after paris. can drones do the job of stopping i.s.i.l. we reconsider the human cost of the fire from the sky. >> i participated in actions in the drone program that killed people who i'm pretty sure were innocent regrets from a man who had his fingers on the trigger. thanks for joining us.
it is the force from the sky that has changed modern warfare and maybe the world's most effective tool for dealing with i.s.i.l. drone strikes. politicians see them as a force for stopping evil but could they do more harm than good? tonight a rare voice speaks out from the inside, a former drone operator who tells us why after five years with his finger on the trigger he considered himself a war criminal. gentleman you've described yourself as a war criminal. do you really mean that? >> i participated in actions that violated human rights. of course i mean that >> reporter: from 2006 to 2011 he served in a drone program. his job was to guide missiles to their target. his unit killed more than 16 hundred people i think when most of us think of a war criminal, we
think of nazis. what have you done that makes you a war criminal? >> i've participated in extra actions, the drone program that violated human rights, violated sovereignty of nations, killed people i'm pretty sure were. >> reporter: honourably discharged, he is one speaking out do we kill children in these? >> we do. >> reporter: did you ever participate? >> not active targeting, but there was a child that did run into a building that we had targeted. my second shot. i don't doubt that i killed the child. i killed, but how or why i couldn't tell you, wrong place, wrong time, collateral damage, accident, yeah, it happens. there were terms that people were used to excuse that they were in the wrong place or wrong time, use the term terrorists in
training, fun time terrorists, got to cut the grass before they grow, got to pull the weeds before they get out of hand >> reporter: what that means? >> means anything that justifiess the end. >> reporter: documents released by the investigative website show the u.s. isn't sure who is being killed. in one 14-month period of the 219 people killed in northern eastern afghanistan, only 35 of them were the intended targets. nonetheless, the military classified all of them as enemies killed in action. >> reporter: let's talk about the technology. you're in this room, you're watching, say, the same target, maybe, for weeks at a time and then hoop does it happen, does someone just pop their head in the room and say, okay, kill strike, activate kill strike. what happens? how does that occur? >> so, yeah. if we are sitting there
following someone, we will be told, hey, get red to spin up your missiles, get ready to strike. maybe you will be told don't follow the vehicle, go back to the house. maybe you will follow one vehicle and they say we're going to strike this vehicle. get ready to do so. you don't know when or who is going to make the decision for you. >> reporter: do you know who you're striking? >> no. we don't. we just know that this person has validated some sort of nefarious algorithm. >> reporter: how is it determined a person is to be called. >> they kill people vi amet adata. there is no doubt about that. that has been stated by many people multiple times and we help gather that met adata. it's the geolocations of the cell phone being used, being
communicated with, the vin number of the phone, the sim number of the phone, the length of conversation that's being done between phones, the length of the texts being exchanged, if not the direct text itself, but it's all that information being used to track these people and they do make kill decisions based off of it >> reporter: it's almost like you're bombing cell phones and you don't really know who is attached to that cell phone at the time that you commit the kills >> it's another level of disconnect. if you're not bombing a person, it's a terrorist, you're tracking their mobile number. there's less of a chance of human being being associated with that >> reporter: another document shows just how much the military relies on so-called signals intelligence. in somalia and yemen 57% of
targets were identified by using things like cell phone numbers. many of those killed are thought to be civilians of the the bureau of investigativive journalism estimates that u.s. drone strikes have killed nearly 1250 civilians. once you've called in a strike and you actually watch that happen on the screen, right, what happens afterwards? >> well, if you want to take in my first shot as an example of this, we watched - i watched - i hit three individuals, two of them were blasted to pieces and another man was killed, lost his leg above the knee and we watched him bleed out. we waited for people to come and pick up the body parts. no-one came after a while and they told us you have cleared off target, we will give you a new target >> reporter: what's the mood in the room after a strike? >> high intensity testosterone >> reporter: cheering or? >> there is. there is people high five each
other, congratulate each other for winning the war on terror. they say all sorts of slurs >> reporter: what kind of slurs were those? >> the typical, rag head >> reporter: racist or-- >> racist ethnic stuff. i felt like i was losing my humanity in this world because i was watching people live out their lives in being human beings while i was sitting there watching them do so. so it doesn't dehumanize them; it dehumanized me >> reporter: a lot of time to think about what you're doing? >> yeah, you drive yourself mad >> reporter: how did it affect your mental health? >> i stopped sleeping after my first hell fire strike t i just kept seeing people, the dead people that i'd killed around me and i felt like they were waiting for me. that was really disturbing and i would go home and i would dream about missions so i would dream in infra-red. i couldn't escape work.
i stayed up all night long >> reporter: did you talk to anyone about what was going on in your head or does the military offer anyone that you can talk to? >> when i was in, we did not have that availability. we were told that if we talked to a psychologist, they would take away our security clearances, kick us out, give us a dishonourable rabble discharge. they made us fear talking. i was going to see a chaplain >> reporter: what did he say? >> my commander said you need to talk to this chaplain. don't tell him specifics are but tell him how you feel. i went an said i killed female and i felt bad. maybe it was god's will for these people to die >> reporter: he decided to remain with the drone program. he took an oath to obey orders, but in february 2011 when his
unit began tracking a radical clearic and citizen living in yemen, he said he could no longer go with that oath >> we were told he was a traitor, he deserved to die >> reporter: a lot of americans believed that. so what's the problem with taking him out? >> article 3 section 2 of the united acon cititation even a traitor deserves a trial in front of his peers. it doesn't matter who this person is. we have to give them the opportunity. they are an american citizen. you look at historically the nazi war trials, people were saying i followed order. that was not an excuse. i was still responsible >> reporter: he was eventually killed by a drone strike in the fall of 2011. bryant says speaking out has helped him come to grips with his experience as a drone operator >> when we talk about the
killing of a human being it's not just a number. >> reporter: he shared his concerns with the united nations. he appears in a new documentary >> no-one else talks about what he have done and how we were treated the mentality of the people that are in there and it just blows my mind >> reporter: there's a lot of people who would say given the paris attacks that this is exactly what we should be doing and if anything we should be ramping up drone strikes even more. what would you say to those theme? >> what's to say that these things weren't the thing that fuelled something like that. if we fake out someone's uncle or brother or father-- take out-- why should they love us in any sort of manner, and if their mother or sister or someone innocent that wasn't involved in
the organizations over there gets killed, stopping them from seeking justice and if they can't get justice, what's stopping them from seeking revenge? a conversation. by the way al jazeera did reach out to the pentagon which declined to comment on our report. next, along for the ride, america tonight's correspondent listen in to the fears of those who calm france home but suspect that they may no longer be welcome. later, what i.s.i.l. seeks, not just informed, but every bit of history. it's enormous. he is 16 feet tall, he weighs 14 tonnes - 40 tonnes carved out of this rock targets of a cultural genocide, how i.s.i.l. is making money off these attacks of the and on the website tonight
france with each day bringing new alarm with what else i.s.i.l. might have been plotting. there is fear against back lash against the innocent. immigrants have a long history in france and in some cases over generations of the the crisis has left many feeling alienated in a place they call home. >> reporter: trying to get to st denis this morning we meant this man, french born and muslim. he is married, one child with another on the way. how long have you been driving a cab here in paris? >> translation: it's only since last january that i've started driving a cab. >> reporter: as we crawl through heavy traffic on the outskirts of paris, we talked
especially about what has change since last friday. >> translation: people are quiet. they're afraid for their lives. they're afraid something else might happen. >> reporter: do you feel at a things have changed here in your country, in your france for you? >> translation: absolutely. france is frightening now. people are quiet. they're afraid for their lives. they're afraid something else might happen. >> reporter: do you think that there is islam aphobia in france? do you think there is more islamphobia in france? >> translation: what has happened is a catastrophe. people look at us with suspicion. >> reporter: to be muslim in france now is to be afraid?
>> translation: it's scarey. we feel bad the way people look at us. there's some who put us in the same basket. they think "you're muslim. you have to be careful. you have to be aware of him. ". we're not all the same. for me, the terrorists are not muslim. i don't know where they come from or what their religion is because muslims cannot do this, cannot. any religion. if you believe in god, you cannot kill people. >> reporter: it took a while but we began to speak about friday's attacks. you on friday night, where were you? >> translation: i was working. i was nearly a victim too. it was a matter of minutes, one or two minutes maximum. >> reporter: he had not told us before what happened to him that night. we asked him to take us to where he had been. >> translation: i arrived and i turned may head and saw the dead
here and saw another by the tree. i saw that the bar over there was hit. there was a woman on the ground who was bleeding and wounded and her husband had been shot twice in the gun. the guys with the guns were gone. i parked my car and i didn't know what to do. i helped the guy who was shot twice in the arm. >> reporter: you were in the street? >> translation: i was just there. i was there on foot because it had just happened. there weren't a lot of people here yet. there was a guy who had a lot of blood under him. i didn't go near him. i was shocked. >> reporter: horrible >> translation: i saw the tables on the ground, the chairs, the dead on the ground the absolute shock. >> reporter: at least five people died here. the french values of liberty, brotherhood and equality, tatteked but not yet completely broken
next, they survived nearly three thousand years of history, only to be destroyed in no time. >> i.s.i.l. control this area, a big stretch and all of the syrian capitals are now either i.s.i.l. controlled or on the front lines. they have destroyed these areas. >> reporter: the assaults and what is being lost to i.s.i.l. a schooling campus on racism. the latest college to face demands for the president to stand down over the allegations that the campus is a bad environment >> i think he should step down. if he resigns, for them to have
the fingerprint of i.s.i.l. has become easy to identify, explosive speck tackles made more visible by a deliberate public media witness campaign. we have seen in paris and in beirut and over the sky over egypt scars across our modern lies. i.s.i.l.'s brutal reach extends into our shared history as it seeks to destroy the future of some communities and the past of others. >> reporter: for nearly three thousand years they stood watch
sentinales of one of the world's first great empires. he is enormous. >> 16 feet tall, weighing 40 tonnes. >> reporter: the lam asu guardians of ancient asyria. >> it demands the power of the bull, the man. all in one. >> reporter: a powerful protector >> in the palaces of the kings of syria every gateway would be flanked by two of these magical beings who would protect everyone entering that palace from any kind of evil. >> reporter: this is the director of the university of chicago o refreshings riental
institute. >> the institute excavated the whole pal as in the 1930s. the iraqi government allowed us to bring these back and the remainder is either in the museum in baghdad or out therety site >> reporter: or it was >> or it was >> reporter: was until i.s.i.l. for more than a year i.s.i.l. has systematically destroyed and posted videos of the destruction of antiquitys as it takes control of areas that are home to some of the most valuable sites. places known to any student of ancient sometimes, ninemah and oars >> i.s.i.l. controls this area, they control big stretch of the typress and all of the syrian capitals are in areas that are either i.s.i.s. directly controls or on the front lines.
they have destroyed these two areas. >> reporter: is it a form of terrorism? >> absolutely. because it is a form of cultural cleansing. these sites have stood for millennia and they're bowing blown up. >> reporter: there is a program tracking i.s.i.l.'s campaign against these treasurers of the past which took on greater urgency in may after a u.s.-led raid on top i.s.i.l. leader's compound in the syrian city. a lot of antiquitys captured there with a reminder just how valuable they are to i.s.i.l. >> we came to be aware of how serious it was once the u.s. and coalition raid his compound and found what he had, both in terms of documentation and actual artefacts. he was in charge of this area. >> reporter: in some cases they're actually taxings. >> there was a real structure in place
>> reporter: since then analysts have combed through images of sites in i.s.i.l. held areas. >> it's very dramatic when you like side-by-side from a couple of years ago to today, and you can see the pockets that have developed where they have actually completely excavated sites >> reporter: experts monitor the destruction and looting of relativics going - relics, sold on the black market, even e-bay. a trade in what are called blood antiquitys. >> it is called that because they're actually financing i.s.i.l.'s terror. as they're selling these items and making money, they are - the money then go to i.s.i.l. to perpetuate their work. we want people to know if you are purchasing these, you're financing terrorism. >> reporter: no-one knows that,
with these people who hid relics. this man refuses to tell where he hides his treasurers >> he thought this is worth protecting. heritage is like that. it defines who we are and if it - when they kill him, they were also killing people judge by some estimates the world's antiquitys market is worth more than two billion dollars. even more disturbing is who is buying. >> the biggest market is illicit, smuggled, looted antiquitys is the united and the u.k. we are part of the problem because there are many people who are willing to buy these. >> reporter: if this stuff is being looted and destroyed anyway, are we not doing a good thing to purchase it?
>> it is a very slippery and complicated matter. people can say i am saving them. on the other hand, it's very clear that looting is driven by market demand and as long as there are people who really are willing to buy these things, no matter what, they will have enormous market value. the people who buy it are driving the demand and that demand is driving the looters. >> reporter: conquering forces have always looted and plannederred, but i.s.i.l. is unprecedented at it >> reporter: i.s.i.l. wasn't the first >> no. the taliban are the ones in the modern era who really pioneered this idea of political destruction when they blew up the bomian it was an effort to destroy their enemies. it was cloaked in a version of
islam >> reporter: i.s.i.l. has also used religion to justify destroying sites even when they have nothing to do with worship. >> these monuments were under the control of the muslim caliphate for one and a half thousand years. they were never destroyed. it is only now being done to terrify people, win supporters from the more radical fringes of the islamic world. we have to recognise that it's a political struggle and that i.s.i.l. is cloaking political ends in religious terms. let's face it, it's being done to polarise the world. they want to provoke the west. it's very difficult to know what's the right way to react to it a tragic chapter in history. that is america tonight. pleas tell us what you think at
aljazeera.com/america tonight. or visit us on facebook. we will have more america tonight tomorrow. >> it's like a conveyer belt of storms. >> i felt like i was in a washing machine. >> we're kind of stuck with more than a century of bad choices. next. i'm ali velshi "on target" in istanbul, in a moment my conversation with former utah governor, ambassador to china and former candidate john