Fatal mistakes

What a U.S. soldier in Nevada has to do with the Middle East [Guideline]

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USA, Nevada, Creech Air Force Base



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You stare at the screen. Gray dots are moving across the surface.
With a small movement of the joystick, you let the MQ-9 Reaper fighter drone descend. Then you hear the familiar alarm sound: the drone has targeted one of the dots.

“That’s him!” the general says excitedly.

Zoom in

Indeed! It’s the person you were looking for, he’s boarding a truck fully loaded with ammunition….
What about the other dots? You can’t tell whether they’re carrying any weapons, everything’s too blurry.
And that small figure behind the truck? A child?

Hold your breath

The people on the screen look so fake, as if the desert floor they’re standing on doesn’t belong to a country on the other side of the globe, but to a planet on the other side of the universe.
It’s like a computer game. Just a game.

Press the shutter button
Shake your head, take your finger off the controls
Somewhere in Germany

4 minutes earlier

The code is written, the program is ready to run.
Your finger hovers over the enter key.
In a few minutes, Ramstein Air Base will completely collapse, the systems hacked by a refugee from Yemen who no longer wants to watch the killing.

Smile bitterly

You thought Germany was a peace-loving country.
But they allow the U.S. to kill people in your country from their soil. Time to put an end to the haunting – “Have you gone mad?”
Your husband storms into the room.

Turn your head

“Stop that right now! What you’re doing is irresponsible.” He looks at you pleadingly.

“Please! We risked so much to make it to Germany! If anyone finds out who shut down Ramstein, our lives will be in danger! They’ll kick us out, send us back to Yemen, or kill us right now!”


“Please!” your husband repeats, “Think about the children!”
Something convulses inside you.
Images flicker through your head: your own children, they are at school, and the nameless children in Yemen, they are starving or being threatened by bombs.

Press enter key
Abandon attack
Yemen, Provinz Ma’rib

2 hours later

You see the drone circling in the sky like a raptor. Where is Ayasha?
Everything is happening way too fast. The shots are hitting all around you. They hit the old truck, which explodes with a deafening bang.
You are unable to move as people fall to the ground around you. The drone turns away, the dust settles.

Look around frantically

Ayasha! No! You see the girl with severed limbs lying lifeless on the desert floor a few meters away from you.
The world around you collapses. “Ayasha! My child…you monster…!”
You kneel down next to your daughter, start screaming, yelling the injustice to the world, but your pain doesn’t subside.

Take revenge, no matter the cost
Kneel next to your daughter, carry her away
USA, New Orleans

3 years later

It’s 11:55 p.m. and the mood in the club is approaching its peak. You order another drink.

Tomorrow you will have to kill again, eliminate terrorists on the other side of the world. But for now, it’s time to party. Your field of vision blurs, the laughter around you reaches its peak.

You don’t notice a hooded person entering the club and unlocking his rifle. By the time the shrieking from the crowd reaches you, it’s already too late to escape.

Finish story
USA, Las Vegas

10 years later

As you look into the eyes of the young woman in the wheelchair, you are surprised by the calmness in her gaze.
No trace of hatred, although she has lost all her limbs due to your drone.
You spent 10 years looking for her because you couldn’t get the image of the exploding truck and the apparently dead girl out of your head.

Look to the ground

“Is there anything I can do to help you forgive me?” you ask.
“You destroyed my childhood,” she whispers, “My country is in ruins. Father died a few years ago. The people of Yemen are suffering, and your country has quietly left…”
“You can’t change all that. But there is one thing you can do: Help me get the government to finally close Ramstein!”

Finish story
Afghanistan, Kandahar

9 years later

The city looks deserted: The residents who were smart enough have fled a long time ago.
Others who didn’t want to leave their homes are now buried under their former houses. When you were a drone pilot, war always seemed like a game to you.
Now you find yourself in the middle of this game of life and death, as part of the U.S. ground forces on the front lines.

Look around

Since Ramstein has been regularly crippled by hacker attacks, the U.S. is once again relying on the direct deployment of soldiers.
You’ve been promoted, you’re fighting for the nation’s values and security, and you’re earning a decent salary.
But that doesn’t change the fact that you could be shot at any moment by a Taliban lurking behind the collapsed houses.

Orient yourself

You need to find your squad before it gets dark. You won’t survive a night alone in a Taliban-controlled city.
You carefully make your way through the mountains of rubble when you sense movement ten meters to your right. Your heartbeat accelerates.
Something is lying on the ground, twitching convulsively. A wounded Taliban?

Shoot the person
Approach the person
Afghanistan, Kandahar

2 minutes later

It was a Taliban ambush.
Almost at the same moment as the shot breaks the silence, you are surrounded by fighters holding their guns on you.
You know what is now going to happen.

Finish story
Afghanistan, Kandahar

2 minutes later

It’s your comrade, covered in blood. He has lost consciousness. But his radio is still working! You are saved.
Half an hour later, you are sitting in the helicopter, which is moving swiftly away from Kandahar and heading for your base. You look at your hands, which are covered in your comrade’s blood.
Will another US soldier die for a war that has no end and in which there are no victors?

Finish story
USA, unknown place

September 11, 2021

“General!” When you refused the order back then, you never expected to get promoted.
But after it emerged that the man identified by the drone was not the wanted warlord at all, but the father of a family of seven children, the public put on the pressure.
You are now in the National Security Department and have command of the missile interceptors on the West Coast.

Look up

“General! A call from the National Aviation Authority! It’s urgent!”
The young soldier holds the smartphone out to you. Worried, you press the device to your ear. “We have a problem with a plane: Boeing 747 from Aden to San Francisco,” says the voice on the other end of the line, “Our system has lost the plane.
Contact with the pilots is not possible. It should still be about half an hour away from San Francisco.”

Bite your lip

Aden. That’s in Yemen. “How many people?”
“About 400 refugees. A US government rescue program.”
“Ok, we- ” The young soldier comes running up to you and drags you to one of the surveillance systems in the control center. The radar shows a plane approaching the northwestern coast of the USA.

Wipe sweat from your forehead

A red number flashes: 911. The Golden Gate Bridge appears on the screen with the San Francisco skyline behind it.
You guessed it. Today marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center – perfect for a second attack.
Your thoughts are racing as you watch the plane approach its destination without breaking.

Clench your fist

You must not allow 9/11 to repeat itself.
It is almost certain that the plane was hijacked and that the terrorists are targeting the bridge.
But it is just as certain that there are 400 innocent people on board.

Consider the consequences

Chaos breaks out at the head office. “Inform the president!” someone shouts.
“Quiet!” you yell. You have no more time. The plane’s speed is high, far too high for a landing approach.
In a few seconds it will have passed through your aircraft launch system. Then it will be too late for San Francisco.

Give the order to shoot down the aircraft
Put the call through to the President
USA, unknown place

1 year later

You have been a judge at the military court for a very long time, but you have never had to decide such a serious case.
The accused had a passenger plane shot down more than a year ago, which was suspected of carrying out a serious terrorist attack on the Golden Gate Bridge.
The plane crashed into the sea, most of the occupants drowned.

Browse through the files

But the survivors deny that their plane was hijacked by terrorists and incriminate the accused of killing their families.
According to witnesses, the Yemeni pilot suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and briefly lost consciousness, but that the co-pilot had eventually brought the situation under control.

Continue reading the court documents]

The pilot and co-pilot can neither confirm nor deny these statements, as they both lost their lives.
You are faced with a dilemma.
The prosecutors want justice, the accused claims to have prevented a possible horrific terrorist attack.

Condemn him
Acquit him
USA, San Francisco

10 years later

You can’t believe how the world has changed. San Francisco has become a floating island where people only use inflatable boats to get around.
There are no cattle in Texas now, only algae farms.


You can now fill up with fuel made from algae instead of petrol and eat sushi on every corner. And the biggest surprise: the country’s president is a woman!
In prison, you thought long and hard. You always tried to make the right decision.
You refused to become a killer, but you were willing to kill for the greater good.

Look into the sunset

That it finally had to come to this is not because of you, but because of the cruelty of war and never-ending spirals of violence.
To this day, you don’t know whether you did the right thing back then. But you have come to terms with the past.
You have served 10 years in the army, lost 15 years of your life in prison – in your remaining 30 years you will fight for peace.

Finish story
Aden, Yemen

30 years later

You sit on the beach and watch the silhouette of Aden shining in the light of the setting sun.
The temperatures have now risen so much that you can only leave the house in the evening, and it gets worse every year.
It is all the more astonishing how quickly the city was rebuilt after the war and how busy everyday life has become.

Listen to the waves

You did everything to help with the reconstruction, organised donations from all over the world and founded an NGO.
Anything to pay your debt, to be able to look the people here in the eye without having to avert your gaze.

Look around

Not far from you, children are playing. They are growing up in a new Yemen, without war, without drones.
A scuffed ball sails over. The smallest of the group comes running.

Throw the ball to him

He greets you, smiles at you and you look into his dark brown eyes.
Do you think he knows you used to work for the US military? That you are responsible for the deaths of 388 of his countrymen? Whether he can read the guilty conscience on your face?
“Do you want to play, grandpa?” the boy suddenly asks expectantly. For the first time in a long time, a smile breaks out on your dry lips.

Finish story
USA, West Coast

5 minutes earlier

The United States. What a strange-sounding name. Will this soon be your new home? You press your head against the glass in anticipation, but so far all you can see is the blue of the ocean below you.
You are sitting in the front of the plane, next to your father and your brothers. First class is reserved for the injured and sick, and since your father only has one leg, you have the benefit of the wide seats.

Look at the ocean

At that moment, a sound shreds the air.
You’ve heard it so often in recent years that you know immediately what it is: the shot of a Kalashnikov.
One moment, a stewardess enters the aisle. Her face is whiter than paper. Behind her are two men with assault rifles.

Stare at the corridor, motionless

As if in slow motion, they run past you, forcing the woman to open the door to the cockpit. When you realise what they are up to, you start screaming.
The people seem to be frozen. “Help!” you scream, “Do something! They’re going to kill us!”
Someone puts their hand over your mouth. “Please Ayasha!” your father pleads, “Shut up!”

Tear loose, run towards the open door of the cockpit
Nod, tears in your eyes
USA, West Coast

6 years later

It has become dangerous to go out to sea in an inflatable boat.
Unpredictable hurricanes are on the increase and rescue workers have enough to do pulling desperate refugees out of the water, trying to reach America from various sinking islands.
You still come here every year.

Continue paddling

It is the place where the plane from Aden touched the water and disappeared into the sea forever. It is not your fault.
The inmates decided to do it themselves. In doing so, they prevented a terrible bloodbath, a second 9/11.
It was big in the press for a few weeks, now hardly anyone even knows the names of the 400 refugees from Yemen who sacrificed themselves for America.

Protect your face from a wave

Did you do the right thing then? Could you have saved them? How could it have come to this?
You think you know the answer, but no one in the army wants to hear it. The fact is that since the US stopped fighting wars for oil and power in the Middle East, terrorist attacks have dropped dramatically.
But you realise: all it takes is a rising oil price, a crazy president or a Chinese military base in the Middle East and everything starts all over again.

Finish story
USA, San Francisco

A few seconds later

“Ayasha!” You wake up in a cold sweat. You feel your husband’s hand on your mouth, which is opening to scream.
“Please. The children are asleep,” he whispers. Sheepishly, you look sheepishly into his eyes.
It’s been 15 years since you fled Yemen with your family. You found your new home in the USA and started a family.

Blink away your tears

You tried to forget the war.
But it always attacks you when you are defenceless, when no one is there to help you: in the middle of the night in your dreams.
“Easy.”, your husband says, takes you in his arms, kisses you.
„It’s over. All is well.”

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