The above image is an aerial view of a 100’x70′ vinyl banner entitled “Not a Bug Splat,” depicting a Pakistani girl said to have survived a drone attack that took the lives of her parents and either “two siblings” or “a sibling” (the information at Democracy Now! is inconsistent). A product of collaboration between French, American, and Pakistani artists and activists (or activist-artists or artist-activists), the work takes its title from jargon referring to computer-generated bomb damage models.
Our friend b psycho asked for comment, and my twitter response was that “as a political gesture it’s pointed, possibly late” and that “there’s a second order of intention or meaning to it.” I now have some time to expand on the thoughts, if not yet to incorporate them into a theory of The Drones, a project whose urgency has subsided along with the frequency of drone attacks ((As was predictable.)): thus the “possibly late” part of the reply tweet.
As I’ve argued before, to understand The Drones requires attempting to comprehend the system of systems in which they are located. If the transnational terrorist is a reverse image of the jet-setter, or another expert tourist like the journalist who specializes in terror and anti-terror and anti-anti-terror, all of them leading citizens of a global order that is either still arriving or can never fully arrive, and if the drone assassination campaign is a reciprocal extension of that either way incomplete order, then the portrait of a child visible from high above suggests, at least symbolically, a still further extension, or a further organic network integration. Our dystopian premonition, of a lethal world-spanning sky net, summons a utopian counter-image, of an internationally collaborative co-realization of the shared and equal humanity of drone operator and drone victim.
The sympathy that neither terror nor anti-terror terror has succeeded in erasing prevents us from simply affirming a forced
higher socialization of Waziristan or a part of it as a beneficial consequence of power projection, an end that billions of dollars in counter-insurgent playground construction, medical services, and civil-political consultation and so on and on may have not been noticeably better at bringing nearer. This piece of political concept art cannot by itself be taken as God’s frustration of Mephistopheles – the evil one condemned to achieve good despite himself – but neither is it exactly entirely not-that.
The counter-image as affirmation of humanity works as art, but it clearly has a purpose in making that affirmation: hope that the humanity of the drone operator prompts reconsideration of their actions, if not skepticism about the strategy that put them in that seat in the first place, due to reminder of the real human costs. To fully internalize the message being sent would lead to the Fire button not being pressed.
As for “higher socialization”, to be honest I can’t imagine those living in a war zone and literally fearing death from above thinking much about the concept. Fight or Flight conditions don’t tend to be fertile ground for long range discussion. I get the feeling though that if given respite from such and exposure to the strategy as you describe it they would likely have one question: “Why?”
Even if there were some long run benefit to the people of Waziristan as you suggest, who but them are appropriate to make such a call on their way of life? Suppose they hear of the globalization context and they reject it?