The #NotABugSplat campaign speaks for the voiceless as it sets out to shame drone pilots who have regarded innocent children and villagers as ‘collateral damage’.
If drone pilots – waging war against insurgents from thousands of miles away from the safety of military bases – risk confronting the enemy with a dehumanizing gaze that discounts the human lives in the surrounding area they are supposed to be fighting to secure, then an artist movement is trying to reflect that life through art back at them.
NotaBugSplat.com, which has launched the #notabugsplat campaign to raise awareness about drone victims through this art and other work, wrote:
To challenge this insensitivity as well as raise awareness of civilian casualties, an artist collective installed a massive portrait facing up in the heavily bombed Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan, where drone attacks regularly occur. Now, when viewed by a drone camera, what an operator sees on his screen is not an anonymous dot on the landscape, but an innocent child victim’s face.
The child featured in the poster is nameless, but according to FFR, lost both her parents and two young siblings in a drone attack.
A collaboration organized through the Reprieve/Foundation for Fundamental Rights worked with locals in the Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa area of Pakistan to unfurl a giant field-sized image of an innocent child that drone operators would be able to pick up through their screens – and hopefully, empathize with.
NotABugSplat points out that the Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region has been one of the most heavily hit areas by drones, with hundreds of children and thousands of bystanders killed by strikes:
The image will also be viewable to satellite mapping technology, and artists hope it will be made more permanent after it is registered on publicly viewed satellite-map platforms including Google Earth. (The current images of the area date to 2010).
As the CBC and others have reported, the term “Bugsplat” is an insensitive nickname for a program used by the DoD and CIA to reduce analyze and reduce the amount of collateral damage inflicted by drone strikes that air less on the side of “surgical” and more on the side of “indiscriminate”:
Bugsplat: That is the name of U.S. Defence Department software for calculating and reducing collateral damage (dead civilians) resulting from airstrikes.
Bugsplat was first used in the Iraq war in 2003. Back then, officials told the Washington Post that it would, “more precisely model potential damage by a particular type and size of bomb dropped by a particular aircraft flying at a given altitude.” The CIA also uses Bugsplat.
When I Confronted a Drone Pilot…
I wrote previously about the time I confronted a drone pilot who is a friend of the family about his involvement in strikes on innocent bystanders:
Who flies the drones America uses to take out military targets in foreign locales all over the globe? I had the chance to talk to an Air Force drone pilot operating out of Whiteman Air Force Base, and astonishingly, he admitted to me that he took part in strikes on wedding parties in Middle East & Asian countries said to harbor terrorists.
Did he, too, find these people dispensable? Did he share the cold rationale of our leaders that it is “worth it” to kill these civilians to target an enemy? I tried to find out when I saw him during a wedding I attended, all while I was deeply aware of the unsettling irony that the celebration we were attending was seen differently than the weddings, funerals and other gatherings that U.S. airstrikes have unofficially declared to be venues of war.