Counting casualties and making casualties count

In my analysis of CIA-directed drone strikes in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (see ‘Dirty Dancing’: DOWNLOADS tab) I drew upon the tabulations provided by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Chris Herwig‘s cartographic animation of casualties between 2004 and 2013: see my discussion here and the maps here.

Quartz’s CityLab is now running a week-long series on Borders (‘stories about places on the edge’) and it includes a new series of interactive maps showing civilian casualties from drone strikes in the FATA (this series also ends in 2013).  Here’s a screenshot:

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There’s not much geographical analysis – apart from noting the focus on North and South Waziristan – and, as I argued before, I think it a mistake to isolate drone strikes from the wider matrix of military and paramilitary violence in the borderlands (including air strikes by the Pakistan Air Force).  And there are obvious problems in disentangling civilian casualties – the US Air Force has the greatest difficulty in identifying civilians in the first place.

It’s difficult to put all this together – and particularly to hear the voices of those caught up in a matrix of such extensive violence that, as Madiha Tahir puts it so well, ‘war has lacerated the land into stillness.’  In an exquisite essay in Public Culture 29 (1) (2017) Madiha reflects on that difficulty and the ‘spatial stories’ local people struggle to tell.  Her title – ‘The ground was always in play’ – is borrowed from Michael Herr‘s despatches from Vietnam, but the full quotation explains how aerial violence echoes across this shattered land:

‘The ground was always in play, always being swept.  Under the ground was his, above it was ours.  We had the air.’

But the ‘we’ in the FATA is plural – a product of the ‘dirty dancing’ between Washington and Islamabad – and so we come to the story Madiha pieces together:

The story Mir Azad came to tell is this [and, as Madiha shows, he had travelled 500 difficult miles across South and North Waziristan to tell it]. In July 2015, American drones bombed and killed two of his cousins, Gul Rehman Khan and Mohammad Khandan. After Zarb-e-Azb began in June 2014, thousands of Waziris fled in all directions, businesspeople, farmers, militants, and students, including to the Pakistani villages in Barmal, and there the drones followed. The military operation and the “surgical” operation, carpet bombing and “precision strikes,” coordinated maybe, intentionally or not, they worked together to redraw the lines of movement, new containment zones, a shockwave that could start with ground troops in North Waziristan and end with a drone bombing a car in Barmal [in Paktika province, on the border with North Waziristan].

My extract can’t do justice to the essay: do read it if you can.

Since I completed the original version of ‘Dirty Dancing’ a number of new reports from Waziristan have provided more details of the co-ordination of air/ground operations.  Over the summer AFP reported that the Pakistani military had removed the roofs of houses to provide a better ‘aerial view’:

“(The) military has removed the roofs of the houses to have a better aerial view and stop militants taking refuge in these abundant, fort-like mud houses,” the official told reporters.  From the helicopter journalists could see scores of homes with no roofs but appearing otherwise intact, their interiors exposed to the elements.

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But in many cases – especially in North Waziristan – those ordered by the military to leave their homes have returned to find them reduced to rubble.

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Earlier this month Ihsan Dawar reported from North Waziristan on ‘Life on the debris of wrecked houses’:

Murtaza Dawar sat with his children and cousins on the debris of his house. Behind him the setting sun was a ball of fire in the sky, reducing him and his family to silhouettes, the shards of glass in the wreck of his house catching the light and winking in the gathering dark of an early evening.

Coming back home to Mirali in North Waziristan has been a bittersweet experience for Dawar, 48. Sweet because he and his family has returned home after more than two years of displacement. Bitter, because they have come back to wreckage where their home was.

“We have nothing to do with militancy or Talibanization but our house has been demolished,” says Dawar, taking a break from pitching a tent. “There is not a single room intact. I don’t know where to take my family to protect them from the terrible cold.”

Dawar’s is not the only house that was razed during the military operation Zarb-e-Azb, launched in June 2014 to clear North Wazristan of militants. Of the nearly million tribesmen displaced by the operation, many have lost not only their belongings and assets they left behind in the tribal district and their houses have been demolished for no reason.

The government has not issued any clear data on the number of houses demolished in North Waziristan. In May 2016, a property damage survey conducted by the Fata Disaster Management Authority (FDMA) revealed that 11,663 houses were fully and partially damaged during operations against militants in South Waziristan, North Waziristan and the Khyber Agency.

Local tribesmen working in the political administration’s office in North Waziristan told Truth tracker on condition of anonymity – because of the sensitivity of information – that about 1500 houses were completely destroyed in the Mirali subdivision alone.

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Cartographic animations can’t capture these in-animations, but we must surely do our best to attend to them.

Rooting for the uprooted

There’s an excellent account by Michael Hodges of Eyal Weizman‘s Forensic Architecture project (he now calls it a research agency) over at Wired UK.  Unlike some media versions, this is fully – and appropriately – embodied and materialised, following Eyal through East Jerusalem and into the West Bank in August 2015.  He explains:

“The idea is to use forensic architecture as a method that extends deep into the facts and looks at them and maps them out to see the materialisation of political forces. Forensic Architecture assumes that every bit of material reality is the product of a complex force field that extends in space and time. So you can take an inanimate object and see into it, almost like a crystal ball.”

That’s as good a summary of the project as you’ll find, but en route you also understand the ‘situatedness’ of the project – that’s an inadequate formulation, I increasingly think, since it’s also about extending deep into what, for want of a batter word, we might call the field: it’s about the rootedness of Forensic Architecture in the lives of the uprooted.

FA Waziristan 2010 reconstruction

In consequence, what also comes into view during the report is the passionate commitment of its investigators to the witnesses whose experiences they recover:

“We understand the relationship between memory, architecture and violence,” Weizman says. “Take the woman who survived the drone strike in Waziristan [above; see also the video here: scroll down to case 2]. She was very traumatised; she lost relatives in there. We returned her digitally to the site of the attack and built it together with her, reconstructed her family house that had been hit by the drone [above]. During the modelling process she was meticulous about every window, every object we placed in there, every person. But she was very obsessed with a fan. In the beginning she said it was on the ceiling. Then she said no, it was a standing fan. She asked us to move it to the left and then to the right and then back again, until we were wondering, what is it about the fan? But when we made her walk through the space she recollected exactly where it had been, and that after the strike had killed her family she had found bits of human flesh on the blades of the fan. You see, the fan acted as an anchor for her memory and in the end we reassembled that memory in a digital space.”

And as you follow Eyal through occupied Palestine, you also realise that there is something vitally defiant in so thoroughly challenging Israel’s rhetorical claim to the ‘facts on the ground’.

Post-atomic eyes

Postcard

I’m speaking at a conference called “Through Post-Atomic Eyes” in Toronto next month.

Through Post-Atomic Eyes brings together an interdisciplinary group of artists and scholars to explore the complex legacy of the atomic age in contemporary art and culture. In what ways do photography and other lens-based art practices shed light on this legacy in the 21st century, and how has atomic culture shaped contemporary intersections of photography, nuclear industries, and military techno-cultures? Join us as we explore some of the most urgent issues of our time, from climate change and the Anthropocene to surveillance culture and the advent of drone warfare, through a post-atomic lens.

Through Post-Atomic Eyes is scheduled to coincide with John O’Brian’s groundbreaking exhibition, Camera Atomica, the first substantial exhibition of nuclear photography to encompass the postwar period from the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945 to the meltdown at Fukushima in 2011. Now on view at the Art Gallery of Ontario (until November 15, 2015).

(John’s exhibition at the AGO follows a successful showing in London late last year: see my post here).

I confess that when I received the Toronto invitation I was at a loss: how was I supposed to view drone warfare through post-atomic eyes?  At first sight, any comparison between America’s nuclear war capability and its drone strikes in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria and Yemen seems fanciful. The scale of investment, the speed and range of the delivery systems, the nature of the targets, the blast radii and precision of the munitions, and the time and space horizons of the effects are so clearly incommensurable.  So I dragged my feet, accepting the invitation because the other presenters (see the poster above) include so many people whose work I admire, but not making much progress.

Eventually I realised that the root problem was that, while I had extensive research on genealogies of bombing under my belt, I knew next to nothing about The Bomb.  So, while I’ve been burrowing away in the archives in London for my project on casualty evacuation 1914-2014 and also inching my “Dirty Dancing’ essay into the home straight, I’ve also been reading and reading and reading.  So much wonderful, sobering material out there, some of which surfaced in my recent posts on Hiroshima and the metastases of nuclear weapons since then.

And, as I’ll try to show in detail in my next post, I’ve found a startling series of coincidences, convergences and transformations.  I now have a rough shape for my presentation, which I’m calling “Little Boys and Blue Skies“: a title which, as you’ll soon see, traces an arc from bombing Hiroshima to bombing Waziristan.  Watch this space.

Inhumanned

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Better late than never…  I talked about Robert Greenwald‘s Unmanned before – the video documentary he produced to accompany the Stanford/NYU report Living under Drones – and I’ve now discovered you can still watch all 61 minutes here.

Beginning at 39:08 there is a harrowing account of the murder of Mamana Bibi in Waziristan on 24 October 2012.  There is a detailed investigation in Amnesty’s Will I be next? and its forensic detail is compelling, but watching and listening to the surviving members of her family adds a new dimension to the horror.

So too, though in a radically different way, does reading C. Christine Fair‘s partisan dismissal of both the Amnesty report and the testimony of the Rehman family here.  It was published under the title ‘Ethical and methodological issues in assessing drones’ civilian impacts in Pakistan’ – without a trace of irony – but for once the comments below the line give me hope…

FOOTNOTE:  I’ve been asked to elaborate that last paragraph.  Fair suggests – on the flimsiest of bases – that the strike was carried out by the Pakistan Air Force, and clumsily attempts to discredit both Reprieve and Amnesty’s research.  I’ve written before about the PAF’s repeated assaults on the FATA – here and here for example – but here is part of a report from the Guardian on the murder of Mamana Bibi that describes how Amnesty’s local researcher Mustafa Qadri went about his work:

Qadri reached out to trusted sources in North Waziristan. The family members and their neighbors were interviewed independently on multiple occasions, unaware that a human-rights group was behind the questions they were asked. Over the course of many weeks, Qadri found the family’s account to be consistent. He determined it was highly unlikely that any militants were present at the time of the strike and that the missiles were likely fired by a US drone.

“It was a number of things,” Qadri told the Guardian. “We got the missiles, the large fragments that the family has that we got analyzed by [an] expert who says this is very likely to be a Hellfire missile. We also had family members who saw drones physically. We also have the eyewitness of the family who said they heard the noise of missiles fired from the sky and then separate noises of missiles impacting on the ground. We have the evidence of a double sound, with each single strike.”

I doubt that he needs any lessons on ethics or methodology.

Keeping up with the Drones

Patrick Svensson:Unblinking stare

Several recent contributions on military drones – what Forensic Architecture calls Unmanned Aerial Violence – you might be interested in.

First, Steve Coll has a long essay in the latest New Yorker on ‘The Unblinking Stare‘ (and, yes, I do know that those watching the screens blink.  Duh) about the drone war in Pakistan.  Many readers will remember that it was the New Yorker that published Jane Mayer‘s classic essay on ‘The Predator War‘ (26 October 2009), so it’s high time for an up-date since so much has happened since then.  It’s a very helpful survey.  Much of it will not be news, but Steve does provide some interesting background to the deadly gavotte between the US and Pakistan (what I’ve called ‘dirty dancing‘; see also here):

Pakistan’s generals and politicians, who come mainly from the country’s dominant, more developed province of Punjab, treated Waziristan’s residents “as if they were tribes that were living in the Amazon,” the journalist Abubakar Siddique, who grew up in the region and is the author of “The Pashtun Question,” told me.

In 2002, Musharraf sent Pakistan’s Army into South Waziristan to quell Al Qaeda and local sympathizers. In 2004, the Army intensified its operations, and, as violence spread, Musharraf allowed the C.I.A. to fly drones to support Pakistani military action. In exchange, Musharraf told me, the Bush Administration “supplied us helicopters with precision weapons and night-operating capability.” He added, “The problem was intelligence collection and targeting. . . . The Americans brought the drones to bear.”

Musharraf allowed the C.I.A. to operate drones out of a Pakistani base in Baluchistan. He told me that he often urged Bush Administration officials, “Give the drones to Pakistan.” That was not possible, he was told, “because of high-technology transfer restrictions.”

We know that close co-operation and even co-ordination between Washington and Islamabad was still the order of the day until at least 2011.  We know, too, that local people live under a double threat, and the essay reports on a group interview in Islamabad with half a dozen young men, mainly university students, from Waziristan.  On one side, recalling the Stanford/NYU ‘Living under dronesreport:

Being attacked by a drone is not the same as being bombed by a jet. With drones, there is typically a much longer prelude to violence. Above North Waziristan, drones circled for hours, or even days, before striking. People below looked up to watch the machines, hovering at about twenty thousand feet, capable of unleashing fire at any moment, like dragon’s breath. “Drones may kill relatively few, but they terrify many more,” Malik Jalal, a tribal leader in North Waziristan, told me. “They turned the people into psychiatric patients. The F-16s [of the Pakistan Air Force] might be less accurate, but they come and go.”

On the other side:

Families in North Waziristan typically live within large walled compounds. Several brothers, their parents, and their extended families might share a single complex. Each compound may contain a hujra, or guesthouse, which usually stands just outside the main wall. In the evening, men gather there to eat dinner and talk war and politics. A rich man signals his status by building a large hujra with comfortable guest rooms for overnight visitors. The less well-heeled might have a hujra with just two rooms, carpets, rope cots, and cushions.

Taliban and Al Qaeda commanders moved from hujra to hujra to avoid detection. The available records of drone strikes make clear that the operators would regularly pick up commanders’ movements, follow them to a hujra attached to a private home, watch for hours—or days—and then fire. Many documented strikes took place after midnight, when the target was presumably not moving, children were asleep, and visitors would have returned home.

North Waziristan residents and other Pakistanis I spoke with emphasized how difficult it would be for a drone operator to distinguish between circumstances where a Taliban or Al Qaeda commander had been welcomed into a hujra and where the commander had bullied or forced his way in. If the Taliban “comes to my hujra and asks for shelter, you have no choice,” Saleem Safi, a journalist who has travelled extensively in Waziristan, told me. “Now a potential drone target is living in a guest room or a guesthouse on your compound, one wall away from your own house and family.”

“You can’t protect your family from a strike on a hujra,” another resident of North Waziristan said. “Your children will play nearby. They will even go inside to play.” The researcher in Islamabad said, “There is always peer pressure, tribal pressure, to be hospitable.” He went on, “If you say no, you look like a coward and you lose face. Anyway, you can’t say no to them. If a drone strike does take place, you are a criminal in the courts of the Taliban,” because you are suspected of espionage and betrayal. “You are also a criminal to the government, because you let the commander sleep in your hujra.” In such a landscape, the binary categories recognized by international law—combatant or noncombatant—can seem inadequate to describe the culpability of those who died. Women, children, and the elderly feel pressure from all sides. A young man of military age holding a gun outside a hujra might be a motivated Taliban volunteer, a reluctant conscript, or a victim of violent coercion.

This speaks directly to a general point made by Christiane Wilke: in today’s wars the requirement that combatants identify themselves as combatants (a standard obligation of international humanitarian law) has effectively been transferred to civilians, so that it becomes their responsibility to make themselves known as non-combatants.  Even to an unblinking eye at 20,000 feet.

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Second, this week the Telegraph carried a video and an interview with ‘Major Yair’, the pseudonym for the pilot of a Israeli Heron TP drone based near Tel Aviv.  He reports that roughly 65 per cent of Israeli air operations are conducted by drones.  ‘Yair’ served in all three Israeli assaults on Gaza and he says nothing about Israel’s targeted killing – the focus is on the provision of Close Air Support.  But the claims he makes will be all too familiar to those familiar with USAF air strikes in Afghanistan:

As Israeli ground units pressed into Gaza, they would call Major Yair for close air support. “They’d be saying ‘we keep getting fire from within those buildings’ and I’m sitting at a distance – on a neat floorspace with screens and air conditioning systems – but you’re sweating and it’s ‘what do I do, what do I do’? How do I not cause more damage than help?”

I’ve repeatedly noted the affinity – even proximity – USAF crews working out of Creech Air Force Base in Nevada feel with troops on the ground in Afghanistan.  But ‘Yair’ doesn’t elaborate on the Israeli ground assault.  Instead, remarkably, persistently – unblinkingly, you might say – he circles around his own last sentence:

Major Yair stressed how he was constrained by rules of engagement designed to avoid innocent deaths. Hamas operatives, he added, routinely exploited this restraint by hiding behind civilians. One sequence shot by a Heron showed four men preparing to launch a salvo of rockets under a screen of trees. Seconds later, the men were shown running to a nearby street filled with children.

“They’re untouchable now,” said Major Yair, pointing at the screen. “I know that no mission commander, under current directions given by the chief of staff, will engage in this situation. No way.”

He added: “It is sometimes frustrating because you feel that you’re fighting with your hands tied. There are a lot of situations where you see your targets, but you will not engage because they’re next to kindergartens, because they’re driving with their wives and their kids.”

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David Blair presses him on the large number of Palestinian civilians killed in Gaza, including children, only to be told:

“We do make mistakes… but it’s nature. People make mistakes. We learn from those mistakes. You’ll see no smiling face after an incident where kids were killed. None of us wants to be in a position where he does these mistakes. We learn and try to avoid this as much as we can.”…

“You learn to live with it,” he said. “It’s not easy. I’ve made mistakes that, for many years, will come back at me. But it’s something that people have to do. It’s not easy. We do not shove it back somewhere in our minds and try to avoid talking about it. We talk about it, we support each other.”

And so, as so often happens in the United States (and elsewhere) too, our gaze is directed away from the victims and towards the torment suffered by those who inflict military violence from the air.

But, third, Corporate Watch has just published the fifth in its series of reports on living under drones in Gaza.  These eyewitness reports are indispensable because there are serious problems in using satellite imagery to reconstruct drone strikes.  Nobody is better at doing so than Forensic Architecture, but as they note, there is a threshold of detectability:

IMG_0076rsSome drone-fired missiles can drill a hole through the roof before burrowing their way deep into buildings, where their warheads explode. The size of the hole the missile leaves is smaller than the size of a single pixel in the highest resolution to which publicly-available satellite images are degraded [a square that translate sin to 50 cm by 50 cm of terrain].  The hole is thus at the “threshold of visibility” and might appear as nothing more than a slight color variation, a single darker pixel perhaps. This has direct implications for the documentation of drone strikes in satellite imagery, which is often as close to the scene as most investigators can get. When the figure dissolves into the ground of the image, it is the conditions—legal, political, technical—that degrade the image, or that keep it at a lower resolution that become the relevant material for forensic investigations.

The Corporate Watch report also includes a remarkable tabulation from the Al Mezan Centre for Human Rights in Gaza, showing the numbers of people killed by the Israeli military in Gaza (col. 2) and the proportion killed by drone strikes (col. 3):

Israeli drone strikes in Gaza

I’m not sure what the sources for these tabulations might be: as Craig Jones has emphasised in a vitally important post, it’s exceptionally difficult to parse Israel’s targeted killings in occupied Palestine, and while these tabulations clearly include many other situations I have no idea how you begin to separate different killing machines in what is, after all, a networked mode of military violence in which drones are likely to perform vital surveillance operations for strikes carried out from other platforms. But the increased reliance on drones chimes with the report from David Blair.

Unmanned and unmoored

Robert Greenwald‘s feature-length documentary film Unmanned: America’s drone wars is being released on 30 October: it will be streaming online for a limited time, but if you sign up here you will be able to watch it thanks to Brave New Foundation free of charge (and no, this isn’t piracy).  Thanks to Jorge Amigo and Sara Koopman for the heads-up.

As I noted last summer, Greenwald prepared the video to accompany the Stanford/NYU report Living under Drones, and you can find more about the background to the film in George Zornick‘s article for the Nation here.  Like the crew that made Madiha Tahir‘s Wounds of Waziristan, Greenwald travelled to Pakistan, but the twist here is that Greenwald is bringing some of the witnesses to Capitol Hill this week:

“What we’ve been able to do is put a face to policy. Bring over living, breathing, human beings who can look the camera, or the congresspeople, or reporters, in the eye and say, ‘Yes, my grandmother was in the field. She was killed by a drone,’ ” he explained. “ ‘My mother, who I miss every day, was killed by a drone. How could she possibly, under any set of circumstances, be called a terrorist?’”

For more details on the project to bring them to the United States and the horrors that they witnessed, see Ryan Devereux‘s chilling report here about the murder of Mamana Bibi.

Mamana Bibi

Zubair, now 13, said the sky was clear the day his grandmother died. He had just returned home from school. Everyone had been in high spirits for the holiday, Zubair said, though above their heads aircraft were circling. Not airplanes or helicopters, Zubair said.

“I know the difference,” Zubair said, explaining the different features and sounds the vehicles make. “I am certain that it was a drone.” Zubair recalled a pair of “fireballs” tearing through the clear blue sky, after he stepped outside. After the explosion there was darkness, he said, and a mix of smoke and debris.

“When it first hit, it was like everyone was just going crazy. They didn’t know what to make of it,” Zubair said. “There was madness.” A piece of shrapnel ripped into the boy’s left leg, just above his kneecap. A scar approximately four inches in length remains. “I felt like I was on fire,” he said. The injury would ultimately require a series of costly operations.

Nabeela, the little girl, was collecting okra when the missiles struck. “My grandma was teaching me how you can tell if the okra is ready to be picked,” she said. “All of the sudden there was a big noise. Like a fire had happened.

“I was scared. I noticed that my hand was hurting, that there was something that had hit my hand and so I just started running. When I was running I noticed that there was blood coming out of my hand.”

Nabeela continued running. The bleeding would not stop. She was eventually scooped up by her neighbors. “I had seen my grandmother right before it had happened but I couldn’t see her after. It was just really dark but I could hear [a] scream when it had hit her.”

This is the same attack detailed in Amnesty’s report, Will I be next? last week.  Amnesty’s account of the strike, on Ghundi Kala in North Waziristan on 24 October 2012, included this photograph showing the position of Mamana Bibi‘s family when the drone struck while she was working in the fields:

Ghundi Kala drone killing October 2012

This is exactly that I meant when I said that all these targeted killings – and this was one which surely went hideously wrong (though I’m not sure what going right would look like) – have effects that reach far beyond the individual victim.  The ‘individuation of warfare‘ is never confined to an individual; and in this case, like so many others, it’s not warfare either.

More soon.

UPDATE:  The Independent carries an early report of the testimony of Mamana Bibi’s son here and the Guardian here (‘Bibi’ simply means ‘grandmother’ and is an honorific – the family name is Rehman).

“Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rehman said, through a translator. “Some media outlets reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother’s house. Others reported that the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All of them reported that three, four, five militants were killed.”

Instead, he said, only one person was killed that day: “Not a militant but my mother.”

“In urdu we have a saying: aik lari main pro kay rakhna. Literally translated, it means the string that holds the pearls together. That is what my mother was. She was the string that held our family together. Since her death, the string has been broken and life has not been the same. We feel alone and we feel lost.”

In the image below, her grand-daughter is holding her drawing of the attack.

Nabila Rehman

Read this alongside Kenneth Anderson and Benjamin Wittes here – with their double-act doublespeak of Amnesty International’s ‘coyness’ and its ‘blithe claims’ (do they know what these words mean??) – and retch.

 

Precarious life

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.

Karim's Home

I’ll be posting about all this shortly, but in the meantime – and directly related – news from Madiha Tahir that Wounds of Waziristan premieres on VICE Motherboard on line for a limited period today.

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.

Waziristan I feel sick all day

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:

Obama Years

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: