“Not a bug splat”: The Pakistani artists campaigning against drone attacks

Not a bug splat main

Originally published by Planet Ivy on 7th April 2014.

Artists in Pakistan have laid down a giant poster of a drone victim in an attempt to humanise those affected by America’s strike programme

A group of artists in the drone-besieged area of Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa, Pakistan, have unfurled a giant poster of a child victim’s face to raise awareness of civilian casualties caused by Predator drone strikes, and to give drone operators pause for thought while operating the unmanned aircrafts. The collective is working under the name #NotABugSplat, after Rolling Stone reported that the military slang for someone killed by a drone is a ‘bug splat,’ “since viewing the body through a grainy-green video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed”.

Drone strikes are an extremely controversial tactic and raise serious moral questions about the nature of warfare and who are considered combatants. Some have even argued that the attacks should be considered state-terrorism, given that they use fear and the threat of violence to achieve America’s geo-political aims.

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Despite the Obama Administration repeatedly maintaining that the strikes are surgical, targeted, and have only caused civilian casualties in “single digits,” many believe the casualties are much more widespread and indiscriminate. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports that there have been 2,400 deaths from drone strikes in the last five years, at least 273 of whom are reportedly civilians.

These numbers are likely to be inaccurate, due to the US government’s insistence that the details of the drone programme should be kept from the public, and thus shielded from democratic accountability. Just last week, a bipartisan bill was put before Congress which would force the government to publicly reveal the real number of casualties caused by drone strikes.

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#NotABugSplat acted with the help of locals to install the poster of a nameless girl, who reportedly lost her parents and siblings to a drone attack. The group hope that the action will draw attention to the fact that the victims of drone attacks are real people, saying in a statement on their website: “Humans appear as disposable bugs when viewed through a traditional drone camera. We changed this. Now, a drone will see an actual face of a child, creating dialogue and, possibly, empathy.”

It is hoped that actions like this, along with the bill brought before Congress, might bring about a policy change so that less lives are lost from drone attacks.

Images courtesy of #NotABugSplat.

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