Three Courageous Whistleblowers Break the Silence Around the Secret U.S. Drone War when “National Bird” Premieres on Independent Lens

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28 April 2017
National Bird
Photo: Courtesy of Torsten Lapp
“National Bird” 
Monday, May 1 at 10 PM ET on PBS
(Check Your Local Listings)
         “National Bird” follows the dramatic journey of three whistleblowers determined to break the silence around one of the most controversial issues of our time: the secret U.S. drone war. Exploring the complexities of drone warfare from a human perspective, the film gives rare insight into the American military drone program through the eyes of veterans and survivors.
          At the center of the film are three U.S. military veterans — Heather, Daniel, and Lisa. Plagued by guilt over participating in the killing of faceless people in foreign countries, each decides to speak out publicly, regardless of the consequences. Their stories take dramatic turns, leading one of them to Afghanistan, where she learns about a tragic incident involving drone warfare. But her journey also gives hope for peace and redemption.

           “National Bird’ explores the difficult circumstances faced by military personnel involved with combat drones, the use of which has transformed modern warfare. Missions are highly classified, and there are no official counts of military or civilian casualties. The need for operators and intelligence analysts is increasing, yet their experiences and perspectives have been largely neglected because of their distance from the battlefield. While it may be true that these veterans don’t sustain battlefield injuries, their psychological wounds can be substantial.
          Pilots and analysts observe air strikes live and in detail, including the aftermath, when survivors pick up human remains for burial. Yet due to the secrecy of their positions, they are prohibited from discussing details of their experiences with anyone — even their psychiatrists. For some veterans these constraints are too much to handle.”National Bird” weaves together the stories of two groups separated by thousands of miles: those involved in drone warfare, and survivors and family members of those impacted by lethal drones. The film’s haunting images bring a faraway issue close to home.


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