As America is looking into its drone policy abroad and the impact its unmanned planes are having on local populations as opposed to the positive breakthrough CIA operatives alleges the campaign is having against al-Qaeda, psychologists are warning against the negative drones are having on civilians and the ripple effects it will have on society as a whole.
The issue of drones is slowly moving away from pure judicial parameters, evaluating the ethic of America's war against terror and the justification of collateral casualties in its democratic crusade.
Ever since 2011 popular uprising and the dilution of Yemen central government into political factions, tribal entities and military loyalties, Washington has intensified its fight against al-Qaeda in the impoverished nation, keeping in check the group's territorial ambition and quest for power in the region.
Sensing Yemen was weak and unable to defend its territorial integrity, Ansar al-Sharia (an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Yemen) sprung into action, sending its militants to occupy large swathes of land in Abyan southern province. It took President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi six months of an intense military operation to defeat the Islamists and regain control of the region.
Al-Qaeda' s ability to military seize and occupy lands within Yemen, led the White House to resume its Drone campaign, in agreement with Yemen President.
As drones became more frequent, the list of civilian casualties grew exponentially, striking fear at the heart of tribal communities across the nation.
So far, both Yemen and the United State of America are arguing drones remain the best viable option against terror, refusing to validate reports stating more civilians are dying in the strikes than terror militants.
Addressing the Houses of Parliament on Monday (U.S) Dr Peter Schaapveld, a clinical and forensic psychologist who visited Yemen in February to conduct his research, assessed Yemeni children had been left so traumatized by the unmanned plane attacks they had become ""hollowed-out shells of children who looked sullen and had lost their spark."
Dr Schaapveld went on explaining that several children he personally observed manifested clinical signs of post-traumatic stress disorder and deep psychosis.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe anxiety disorder that can develop after exposure to any event that results in psychological trauma.
Dr Schaapveld recalled a specific case subject, a little girl, who since she witnessed an attack has been vomiting out of fear whenever she hears a plane or a sound similar to that of a plane.
"Her father said that she vomits every day, and also when she hears aircraft, or drones, or anything related," said Dr Schaapveld. "She said, in her own words, 'I am scared of those things because they throw missiles.'"
Dr Schaapveld also said the girl suffered from nightmares. "She has been waking terrified from her sleep," he said. "She points to the ceiling and says 'people there want me to suffocate'.
"Her dreams are of dead people, planes and people running around scared."
Dr Schaapveld stressed that of the 28 victims interviewed, approximately 99% had some type of traumatic disorder. "The constant presence of drones means that residents are consistently re-traumatized and recovery is nigh on impossible."
At least six different towns in Yemen are the target of drone strikes, which means unmanned aircraft are constantly flying overhead. One resident of al Bayda told Dr Schaapveld that drones fly over his village at an interval of every seven minutes, while a father from the Shabwa region reported that drones hover overhead ‘24/7’.
“What I saw in Yemen was deeply disturbing. Entire communities – including young children who are the next generation of Yemenis - are being traumatized and re-traumatized by drones. Not only is this having truly awful immediate effects but the psychological damage done will outlast any counter programme and surely outweigh any possible benefits," Dr Schaapveld ended telling the Houses of Representative.
Reprieve, a UK-based NGO which led the fact-finding mission to Yemen expressed concerns over America drone campaign in Yemen, warning of the ill-effects such attacks were having on the general public as well as the judicial ramifications.
Reprieve is not for profit organization specialized in promoting the rule of law around the world.
Kat Craig, Legal Director at Reprieve who recently returned from Yemen said in a press release: “These findings represent further evidence that drones not only kill innocent civilians, but that their use amounts to a form of psychological torture and collective punishment. Children are afraid to go to school and adults are unable to work, socialize or function with any semblance of normality. As a result drones abjectly fail to achieve their purported purpose: instead of keeping us safe they breed animosity and tear apart the fabric of some of the poorest and disenfranchised communities in the world. A hellfire missile costs over $60,000 which could be spent building schools and wells. Yemen needs aid and our support, not drones.”
Craig warned that drones were terror counter-productive as they were playing into al-Qaeda rhetoric, leading young men to join their ranks in reaction against America's targeting of their homes.
Gregory Johnsen of Princeton University told Mark Mardell, BBC North America Editor, "Look at Yemen on Christmas Day 2009, the day the so-called underwear bomber attempted to bring down a flight over Detroit. On that day, al-Qaeda numbered about 200 to 300 individuals and they controlled no territory. Now today, two-and-a-half years later, despite all the drone strikes al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has tripled in size, it's now around 1,000 members and it controls significant territory.
The more the US bombs, the more they grow."
Dr Schaapveld also told Channel 4 in an interview (UK-based TV channel) young men had personally came up to him to explain they felt drawn to al-Qaeda as a coping mechanism.
"We did hear young men say that 'they are forcing us into the hands of al-Qaeda, what else are we supposed to do?'
"Another young man, 17 years of age, he said prior to this, prior to the strikes: 'I was very interested in the western culture. Me and my friends followed western fashion, listened to western music and watched western films. Now we have no interest in the west because of what has been done to us.'"
With contradictory reports on drones' related death, the United Nations decided to launch an inquiry, seeking to establish drones death ratio.