Democracy Now! - November 20, 2015

A hostage crisis is underway in Mali, where suspected Islamist militants have stormed a luxury hotel in the capital Bamako and taken over 180 people hostage. Malian special forces have launched a rescue operation and exchanged fire with the militants inside. Dozens of people have reportedly been freed, while at least three deaths have been confirmed. Mali has faced a radical insurgency since 2012, when Islamist militants seized northern areas. A French-led intervention ousted them the following year, but violence continues across the country. For context on the hostage crisis in Mali, we turn to Nick Turse, whose book "Tomorrow’s Battlefield: U.S. Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa" explores the expanding American battlefield in Africa, where the U.S. military is now involved in more than 90 percent of Africa’s 54 nations. Turse discusses how the U.S.-backed intervention in Libya helped fuel the ongoing militant violence in nearby Mali. Watch the original interview here, plus Part 2, and Part 3.

Has the U.S. drone war "fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS"? That’s the conclusion of four former Air Force servicemembers who are speaking out together for the first time. They’ve issued a letter to President Obama warning the U.S. drone program is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism. They accuse the administration of lying about the effectiveness of the drone program, saying it is good at killing people—just not the right ones. The four drone war veterans risk prosecution by an administration that has been unprecedented in its targeting of government whistleblowers. In a Democracy Now! exclusive, they join us in their first extended broadcast interview.

Former Air Force pilot Brandon Bryant is one of the the first U.S. drone operators to speak out against President Obama’s global assassination program. Bryant served as a sensor operator for the Predator program from 2007 to 2011, manning the camera on the unmanned aerial vehicles that carried out attacks overseas. After he left active duty in the Air Force, he was presented with a certificate that credited his squadron for 1,626 kills. We hear Bryant’s recounting of his first-ever lethal drone strike and the impact it continues to have on him today.

In an unprecedented open letter to President Obama, four U.S. Air Force servicemembers who took part in the drone war say targeted killings and remote-control bombings fuel the very terrorism the government says it’s trying to destroy. Two of the signatories, former sensor operator Stephen Lewis and former Air Force technician Cian Westmoreland, tell us why they are speaking out for the first time about what they did. “Anybody in the Air Force knows that an air strike has collateral damage a significant amount of the time,” Westmoreland says. “I’m saying it wasn’t all enemies. It was civilians as well.”

Among the issues tackled in the new documentary film "Drone" is the connection between video games and military recruitment. We air a clip from the film and speak to its director, Tonje Hessen Schei, as well as drone war whistleblower Brandon Bryant. "I think gamers should be offended that the military and the government are using [video games] to manipulate and recruit," Bryant says. "We’re more interconnected now than at any time in human history — and that’s being exploited to help people kill one another."

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Amy Goodman Democracy Now! Drones News Target

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