Dronestagrams from Instragrams

HOT TIMES IN HALCYON

TERRANCE GAVAN – EDITOR
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“Hey, Dorothy, I just offed a Taliban convoy in Islamabad Province,” wanna’ go for a Martini at the Sands? Apres shift chatter overheard at the Drone Launch HQ in Las Vegas Nevada.

Drone attacks averaging one per day in far flung countries may seem trivial when most of the residents here in Halcyon face a real-time 14.5 percent unemployment rate.

I hear ya’.

But we live in McLuhan’s microdot and unfortunately our shrinking tableau brings such nuance into play.

Why? Well, because our global village is under attack by the very same force that we just cheered to victory last week.

Barack Obama continues to bestow his military industrial complex with a willy-nilly mandate to send missile missions into Somalia, Afghanistan and we are sure parts of Northern Pakistan. The attacks are launched from an unassuming complex in Nevada near Las Vegas by women and men who bring a lunch bucket to work at 8 am and tote that same bucket home at 5 pm.

Why should we care? Well because the attacks are being broadcast in not so living color by Instagram. Instragram, aka Dronestagram, is being used as a propaganda tool by anyone with a cell phone in Afghanistan. So not so far away from Halcyon after all this little engine of destruction.

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Dronestagram (Courtestyof Atlantic.com)

So far this year the American military has launched more than 330 drone strikes in Afghanistan alone — an average greater than one per day. In Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia the numbers are smaller — 80 altogether— but the lesser frequency doesn’t make the strikes any more comprehensible. From this side of the war, America’s drone strikes feel very remote, their consequences quite abstract, their targets unmoored to actual physical locations.

But with our powerful maps and comprehensive satellite images of the world over, visuals of each of those places lives online, a few clicks away, if we would bother to look. A new project, Dronestagram, is doing the searching for you, marrying the images of Google Maps satellite view to the episodic, image-sharing capacities of Tumblr and Instagram. When drone strikes are reported by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (which focuses on Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia but not Afghanistan), writer James Bridle tracks down the locations on Google Maps and then Instagrams the picture. He annotates each drone’s-eye-view with a caption about the strike, noting any known casualties.

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Good for James Bridle and good on the BIJ.

We hope that some other NGOs get involved here.

And maybe, just maybe we should get involved here too. Why not fire an email off to the President of the US and tell Mr. Obama that it’s time (four year window baby) to research this new paradigm of destruction.

Time maybe too to investigate if this is just another make work project funneled from the imaginative minds at the US Defense Department. We realize that UAVs will continue to stretch the boundaries of the new battlefield and we can get behind the fact that they can be very effective tools in an arsenal against insurgency and guerilla tactics.

But one per day? Are there that many targets out there. And what about the incidence of civilian casualties, which despite the rhetoric to the contrary, are mounting daily. The war for hearts and minds is being waged by the foreign affairs department while the actual battle for hearts and minds is being touted fulsome and bleak by stuff like dronestagrams.

It goes further than that. Journalists working in drone-infested battlegrounds take their own Instagrams. Children missing limbs, mothers screaming, a house or a school in cinders.

Drones are the modern version of the scud or the V1 rockets sent into Britain near the end of WWII. They are terrifying because of their indiscriminate and ironically blase mandate. They are piloted by men and women in Las Vegas and they are immune  to the vagaries of the reality of battle.

If they crash. Well, that’s a win-win for some workers on the production floor of a Boeing or Lockheed plant. If they hit their target and kill an insurgent? The program is justified by a world press who sees this war on terror in stark shades of black and white.

If the drone missile strikes a village elder’s house killing his wife three sons and four daughters? That is regrettable, but understood as a price of doing battle against the Taliban or whatever flavor of the month terrorist group is making news today. Money might get shifted to the village for a new school or hospital, both sickeningly sarcastic paeans to a pale horse of destruction.

So we can only advise our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world to keep their cell phone charged and their Instagram app on alert.

The only bulwark against these filthy attacks is a vigilant press and an active populus.

Email terrance at gav@pardontheeruption.com and catch us on twitter @HighlanderToday.

 

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