Friday, April 11, 2014

Getting Drone Operators To Face Humanity

The child pictured in the giant art installation above (whose name was not released) lost two siblings and both of her parents in a Predator drone strike.   The title of the work, Not a Bug Splat, refers to to a military slang terms for targeted victims of drone strikes.  Predator drone operators often refer to their kills as "bug splats", since viewing the body through a grainy video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed.   But many of these disembodied "insects" are innocent victims-- people who were unluckily in the vicinity of the intended drone target.

A 2013 study conducted by a U.S. military adviser found that drone strikes in Afghanistan during a year of the protracted conflict caused 10 times more unintended civilian casualties than strikes by manned fighter aircraft.   These findings directly contradict claims by proponents of drone warfare who say that drone strikes are precise and only target terrorists.   But a study from Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute found that the number of Pakistani civilians killed in drone strikes is “significantly and consistently underestimated" and that as many as 98% of those killed by drone strikes are civilians.  As a result of 193 Pakistan drone strikes authorized by Obama between 2009 and 2013, only 22 Al-Qaeda officers were killed-- but over 800 innocent civilians were killed, including 97 children.

In light of those statistics, a group of artists-- using the printing technology utilized in street artist JR’s work-- placed a massive portrait of the anonymous drone victim in Pakistan’s Pukhtoonkhwa region, where drones have killed over 200 people.  Their hope is that remotely-operating pilots flying overhead might see her face and be reminded of their victims’ humanity.

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