LifeSolved Episode 5

Professor Peter Lee discusses how drone operators are unable to detach themselves from the act of killing

20 min listen

External Audio

A former military Chaplain, Professor Peter Lee talked to drone operators and their families and found out that in spite of popular belief, operating drones in warfare does not detach operators from the act of killing, or the mental health consequences. In this episode he explains his perspective that technology cannot remove the innately human nature of war and conflict.

Advisory: Please note this episode contains material that some listeners may find disturbing.

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I never felt I could possibly ask somebody to talk about what would undoubtedly be the worst day of that life.

Professor Peter Lee, Theme Director (Security and Risk)

Episode transcript

John Worsey: Thanks for downloading this podcast from the University of Portsmouth. In Life Solved, we're asking the big questions about our world from politics to technology, our bodies and our environment. To do this our interviewers have snatched moments with researchers who are challenging existing ideas and finding new ways of solving the world's problems.

John Worsey: This time, we're asking what the human cost is of using drones in warfare. More specifically, we're looking into the experiences of the people who use these remote weapons to kill.

Peter Lee: I never felt that I could possibly ask somebody to talk about what would undoubtedly be the worst day of their life. From a camera 20,000 feet in the air, he can see her body juddering with shock.

John Worsey: In mainstream reporting, it's often assumed that operating weapons at a distance takes the emotional impact away from the act of taking a human life. But is this really the case?

Peter Lee: They all assume that if you're 3000 miles away or 5000 miles away, that you are-- if you're physically detached or emotionally detached. They're physically a long way away but the human dimension of war can never be taken away.

John Worsey: Today, Emma Field's meets a former military chaplain who turns his attention to the ethics of the technology we use in modern warfare. Peter Lee told us about his findings around the real impact of using human-operated drones.

John Worsey: Peter Lee is the Director of Security and Risk Research at the University of Portsmouth. He studied for degrees in both engineering and cultural studies before his interest in the military took him close to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Peter Lee: When I was a military chaplain in a military hospital in Akrotiri in Cyprus, all the British and some American battlefield casualties from Iraq were brought to the hospital and I would sit with them for hours every day, sometimes all night. And-- and my view of war is not guns, bombs and bu

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