By pajoly/ DailyKos
The image above is not a Photoshopped jpeg. It is an image massively blown up and staked into the ground to shame the American military drone pilots — and now indeed all of us — as their death from above ply the skies above Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region. It is an art project named #NotABugSplat, co-opting in graphic relief the slang drone operators callously and cavalierly give their victims.
Let that sink in. Bug Splat. Our society is fond of creating colorful euphemisms that are byproducts of truly shitty and shameful public policy. “Collateral damage” is one we all know; it’s clinically distant and sounds so much nicer in print and at a press briefing than “innocent dead bystanders.” (“Medical tourism” is another cheery one that seems almost bucolic instead of being actually a pathetic and desperate consequence of our pay-to-play healthcare regime.)
But, nothing so grossly illustrates our abandonment of any pretense of moral high ground like labeling exploded human beings as bug splats. Can you hear the conversation in the control room? The light banter and bets wagered as the operators launch the “Predator” drone’s “Hellfire” missile from their lair, bathed by LEDs and the giant HD video screens. As they sip their lattes, some 8,000 miles away the Hellfires lock onto the digital DNA of some SIM card and rips through the sky at over MACH 1.
Remember, we’ve already learned the drones don’t target human beings, they target SIM cards supposedly known to once have been used by a guy they’ve marked for death. No matter that the cards are swapped around and often used by innocents.
The sweet little girl in the portrait? She is not some random doe-eyed child. She’s an orphan now. A drone’s missile killed her parents and her siblings. Her dead family are not errant, unavoidable casualties of war, they are victims of a very deliberate, elective policy of the United States government. It is being done in our name and claimed to keep us “safe.” The humble gardens of this girl’s village is being watered with the bodily fluids, blood and tissue of her family. Do you accept our government’s excuses for their murder as legitimate? A “better her family than mine” sort of quick calculation before you drop your children off at school?
I don’t buy our excuses, anymore than I buy the excuses of the citizens who sat by as their own governments committed crimes against humanity. And we as a people are no better than them, though we indignantly insist otherwise, reflexively spouting scale comparisons we know well because other countries inflicted them. Our history teaches us numbers of the bad things others do, but we, we are “exceptional.” The numbers we kill don’t merit rote memorization.
The artists’ goal was to attempt to remove the abstraction from the viewing screen of the drone operators, since to them, the humans on the ground look like scurrying insects instead of the flesh and blood fathers, sons, brothers…and children and women…they are. The images will stay on the ground long enough for imaging satellites to upload them into databases like Google Earth. It’s brilliant and moving, and it’s arguably the most powerful art I’ve seen in a very long time. It is example of how art can and does change the world (no wonder the Right fights to kill funding for it).
The work deserves to be shared here. I only wish I could paper it across the arch of wall in the Oval Office facing any who sits at the Resolute desk.
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