National Bird: Drone Wars (2016)

12 Feb
With the increasing prevalence of drones in our daily lives it was inevitable that film-makers would seek to examine the dark side of what has become the symbol of 21st century warfare. Told through the stories of three U.S military veterans National Bird exposes the emotional and physical toll of the drone program on both operators and their targets alike.

Arguably the most controversial weapon of recent times, the weaponised drone has created moral, ethical and legal dilemmas for those countries who operate them and muddied the rules of modern warfare along the way. The definition of combatant and non-combatant is now on much shakier ground and remote killing has become the preferred method of waging war on terrorists. Compared to the ineffective bombing campaigns of World War Two, modern drones are capable of eliminating military targets with a reasonable level of accuracy, which begs the question as to why the media has been awash with stories of the innocent victims of drone strikes. National Bird goes some way in highlighting some of the fundamental issues within the drone program itself and the efforts taken by the  U.S to keep the human cost out of the public eye. The anguish suffered by the three military veterans, whose experiences are at the core of the film, underscore just how divisive the use of drones has become and one veteran’s journey back to Afghanistan to see first-hand the damage done is particularly disquieting.
National Bird may not be ground-breaking documentary cinema, but it certainly does an effective job of exposing the damaging effects of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome for those involved in the U.S drone program and the apparent lack of follow up care that military veterans deserve. It also serves to remind us of the human face behind those blurry targets seen in news reel footage. Whilst it is completely understandable that the U.S military and Government would want to keep the finer details of the drone program under wraps, the public clearly have a right to know that extreme caution is exercised when using drone technology and Kennebeck presents a solid argument that this is not always the case.
 Recommended viewing.
By Roger Beatson

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