As part of my project on Militarized Vision I’ve been drawing together my work on two air strikes in Afghanistan in which the full motion video feeds from UAVs played a central role. The first was an air strike in Uruzgan on 21 February 2010, which was carried out by two combat helicopters but mediated by video and commentary from a Predator and other eyes in the sky (the most thorough press account is by David Cloud here). The second was a ‘friendly fire’ incident in the Sangin valley on 5 April 2011 when a Predator strike claimed the lives of two US Marines (you can find an excellent summary account by David Cloud and David Zucchino here).
The two reports I’ve just cited were published in the LA Times‘ Combat by Camera series, but a close reading of the two official investigations – thousands of pages obtained through FOIA requests – inevitably shows that the stories were more complicated than the tag-line implies. Still, for all the differences there are some remarkably close parallels between the two, and these have prompted me to revise (in radical ways) the analysis I originally offered in “From a view to a kill” (DOWNLOADS tab).
Searching for a title for the presentations I’m giving on this in October and November, I half-remembered a song called ‘Angry Eyes’. When I tracked down the lyrics (by Kenny Loggins) I literally could not believe my eyes. He obviously wasn’t writing about the US Air Force (or the Israeli), but it requires no great leap of the imagination to switch from love to violence:
Time, time and again
I’ve seen you starin’ out at me.
Now, then and again, I wonder
What it is that you see
With those Angry Eyes.
Well, I bet you wish you could
Cut me down with those Angry Eyes…
You want to believe that
I am not the same as you.
I can’t concieve, oh no,
What it is you’re tryin’ to do
What a shot you could be if
You could shoot at me
With those Angry Eyes…
You tried to defend that
You are not the one to blame.
But I’m finding it hard, my friend,
When I’m in the deadly aim
Of those Angry Eyes.
So the presentations (here in Vancouver, and in Zurich and Bergen) will be called “‘Angry eyes’: militarized vision and modern war”. As the image implies, there’s more to this than full motion video displays, and I’m also going to try to say something about the genealogy of what Paul K. Saint-Amour calls ‘optical war’ (and its distance from the corpographies of ‘boots on the ground‘).
More on all this later, when I’ve finished the essay that I am presently spinning off the presentations with the same title; it’s the last thing I have to do for “The everywhere war” (I hope).