The Pentagon unveiled a new medal today for those who kill people by remote control in a remarkable gesture of contempt for and defiance of human rights advocates.
US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said the Distinguished Warfare Medal would recognise those who take part in high-tech killing far from the front line.
"Our military reserves its highest decorations for those who display gallantry and valour in actions where their lives are on the line," Mr Panetta said.
"But we should also have the ability to honour the extraordinary actions that make a true difference in combat operations."
The new medal ranks between the Bronze and Silver Stars.
Unlike other military awards, it does not require the soldier to perform a courageous physical act that puts their life in danger.
Operators of unmanned, robotic drones and cyber weapons "contribute to the success of combat operations, particularly when they remove the enemy from the field of battle, even if those actions are physically removed from the fight," said Mr Panetta.
Predator and Reaper drones armed with Hellfire missiles and bombs have been used to kill fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan and by the CIA to go after suspected al-Qaida members in Pakistan, Yemen and elsewhere, normally without the approval of the governments whose territory they fly over.
The US has regularly faced sharp criticism from human rights organisations over the death of civilians killed by the unmanned drones targeting funerals or hitting social gatherings in error.