Just back from a wonderful trip to Toronto and York, where (among other things) I gave a new presentation on “Drones and the everywhere war“. It turned out to have been timely: there’s been a flurry of revelations and reports about the US campaign of targeted killing in Pakistan and Yemen, and I managed to incorporate some of them into the argument.
It’s smart and stunning, and addresses a swath of vital issues about the drone strikes in just 25 minutes: from their colonial antecedents in ‘air policing’ and the special laws imposed on the Federally Administered Tribal Areas by the British state through extraordinary testimony from survivors to the collusion between the US and Pakistan in exposing the population of FATA to military violence.
The testimony should be read alongside the reports from Amnesty International [“WIll I Be Next? Drone strikes in Pakistan“] and Human Rights Watch [“Between a drone and al-Qaeda“, on Yemen] issued earlier this week. There’s a short video from AI on their report:
Reading and thinking about these testimonies has helped convince me that the root problem with drones is not that they enable killing from a distance: as I’ve said before, if you object to killing someone 7,500 miles away, over what distance do you think it is acceptable? In fact, although Predators and Reapers are controlled from the continental United States they have to be deployed close to their targets: these are not weapons of global reach. One of the most fundamental issues is that they can only be used in uncontested air space, so that they are limited to haunting the skies over some of the most vulnerable and marginal populations on earth, whose own governments care little about them and where the distinction between a combatant and a civilian is made to count for precious little. One of my next tasks is to revise “Moving targets and violent geographies” (DOWNLOADS tab) to incorporate these reports and to emphasise this conclusion.
In one sequence, repeating a tactic which has been used by other artists in Iraq in particular, “Wounds” projects US drone strikes in Waziristan onto a map of Madiha’s home state, New Jersey:
Madiha also appears on a panel on “Life Under Drones” at the Drones & Aerial Robotics Conference in New York earlier this month, with Wazhmah Osman, Chris Rogers and Tara McKelvey, also now up at YouTube: