In the heavily bombed Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan where drone attacks regularly occur, an artist collective working with local villagers installed a massive portrait facing up to challenge the U.S. drone pilots who routinely refer to their kills as “bug splats” and to raise awareness of civilian casualties.
Now, when viewed by a drone camera, an operator sees the innocent face of a child victim of their attacks on his screen instead of an anonymous “bug” on the landscape.
The project is a collaboration of artists who made use of the French artist JR’s ‘Inside Out’ movement. Reprieve/Foundation for Fundamental Rights helped launch the effort which has been released with the hashtag #NotABugSplat.
Villagers in North Waziristan go about their daily lives with drones circling for hours or even days before striking. Predator and Reaper drones (called bangana or “wasp” in Pasto) emit what sounds like a flat, gnawing buzz from the ground. The people below look up to watch the machines hovering at about 20,000 feet, capable of unleashing fire at any moment, like a dragon’s fiery breath.
In spite of U.S. military claims that the drones are“a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the United States safer by enabling ‘targeted killing’ of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts” the villagers know that their house or vehicle can be targeted anytime, and that local gatherings like weddings, funerals, or tribal meetings have been attacked resulting in the killing of innocent men, women and children.
– from “The Unblinking Stare” by Steve Coll, The New Yorker