Saturday, January 07, 2012

Drones

The other night I spoke with an 18-year-old University of California student and was shocked to learn that she didn't know what a drone was. An A student having just finished her first semester in college, she certainly had not stayed up on the news. What upset me wasn't that she didn't know about drones, but that her not knowing is indicative of MILLIONS of young American adults not knowing.

She didn't know that our government is deploying drones in several countries, that a third of the people killed by drones are innocent bystanders, that Obama has ordered more drone strikes than Bush ever dreamed of, or that the drones are operated by normal suburban military personnel who work in comfortable command-and-control rooms at a military base outside Las Vegas, killing people 8,000 miles away, then flying their drones back around to see clear video of the carnage they have just wreaked, including little kids missing legs or heads, a bride and groom accidentally blown away, a grandmother face down in a pool of blood. I told her how after a hard day of work, one of these drone controllers might stop at a 7-11 to buy a gallon of milk or make it just in time to watch his child play in a Little League baseball game.

She was receptive to my criticism. She realizes that in a few months she'll be voting to decide who our next president will be. I told her that it was a simple matter to go on line and read the main international, national, and local stories of the day, and that if she would do this every day, not only would she know what was going on in her world, but it would all start to make a lot more sense to her.

After our conversation about drones, I put this little photo essay together and e-mailed it to her. I wrote: "3 pictures worth a million words."





17 comments:

  1. I'm not sure if anything will make more sense to her if she watches the news. Probably things will get more complicated...but at least she'll know. I think this last photo may be staged, thought the baby tossed upside down would be hard to do. What are the creds for it?

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  2. I thinks that it's totally fucked up that you have to go to Las Vegas to fly a drone. Why can't I fly it from home? I have a firewall and antivirous softwhere. what's the deal?

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  3. Anonymous 1, sorry I didn't save the credits, but iPhoto has a comments section where I DID save this, the caption of the picture: "An Afghan Shia Muslim's cries near dead and injured after explosions during a religious ceremony in the center of Kabul on Dec. 6. At least 60 people were killed in an explosion at a Kabul shrine where Shia Muslims were marking the Day of Ashura Tuesday." It was on the cover of the NY Times about Dec. 7 or 8.

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  4. Anonymous 2, I agree. My son, expert at Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3, could make some money for college if he could pilot some drones from his dorm on his Mac.

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  5. Hey Jeff! You aren’t planning to vote for Ron Paul, I hope. The only good thing about him is that he is anti war. But, he’s very awful in so many other ways that I think the anti war thing is just a ploy to get votes. The same with his anti patriot act stuff. When I look at this economic plan and listen to him speak, he’s just another corporatist. His policies will only benefit the one percent – which is another form of endorsing war on human beings.

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  6. It looks like I'm going to have to vote for Obama. For white males who are rich and not troubled by a sense of morality, it would make perfect sense to vote for Ron Paul, but for non-whites, gays, WOMEN, students, and poor people, it would be crazy to vote for him. His foreign policy is right on, and I like that he's willing to take on the smoke-and-mirrors way the Fed / Treasury creates money based on nothing, and that he's willing to take on the IRS, but he's a scary guy who doesn't believe in evolution and was a very strong Reagan supporter back in the day. Plus he's old. Can't the Republicans come up with a young, strong, brilliant, charismatic candidate? Except for Paul and Huntsman, the rest truly seem to have spilled out of a clown car.

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  7. Telling photos. Given the carnage shown, I think there is a good chance one of these drone controllers has nightmares. This type of killing is bad for everyone.

    Keep up the good work.

    Doug

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  8. You're right, Doug. Because drones are relatively cheap compared to manned jet bombers, and because there is no danger of losing a pilot, the drones fly back around and check out the carnage in high-definition video, and there are many articles on line about the drone controllers, safe in their control rooms in Las Vegas, experiencing serious PTSD. Unlike the bombers in the Vietnam war, who killed teenagers, farmers, and children from 10,000 or 20,000 feet up in the air, and could only guess about the damage, these new-generation bombers get to see the horror they unleash. Interestingly, though, the pilots of the surveillance drones experience a higher level of stress than the pilots of the attack drones . . . I read about a large study of this, but wasn't clear on why this was the case.

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  9. "An Afghan Shia Muslim's cries near dead and injured after explosions during a religious ceremony in the center of Kabul on Dec. 6. At least 60 people were killed in an explosion at a Kabul shrine where Shia Muslims were marking the Day of Ashura Tuesday."

    This quote that corresponds with your third picture does not say that a drone was used in the explosion.

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  10. Jeff to other Jeff: You're right. That picture almost certainly is NOT the result of a drone strike. I just used it because it's one of the most striking pictures--maybe THE most striking picture--I've seen dealing with our military occupation of Afghanistan. It was a pretty graphic photo to appear on the first page of the New York Times (a couple of weeks ago). Amazing how the media and our government have treated us like little children, never allowing us to see the carnage we voted for, paid for with our taxes, and supported with our brave soldiers; we weren't even allowed to see flag-draped American coffins for the longest time. Artistically, photographically, the way the elements of the photo are arranged, make it a truly great photo.

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  11. Hi Jeff,

    Maybe you could refer this 18 year old to this recent episode of Beavis and Butthead on MTV, called "Drones" (see link below). They think the military drones are video games. The drone action starts at about the 5 minute mark of the video, if you can't bear to watch the massive amount of stupidity contained in the entire episode...

    http://www.mtv.com/videos/beavis-and-butt-head-season-9-ep-3-drones/1674141/playlist.jhtml

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  12. People are ignorant (especially young ones). War is hell. What else is new?

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  13. When I was younger, I always thought in terms of black and white, good or bad. In recent years I have learnt that there are a lot of shades of GREY we might have to deal with.

    DRONES on the other hand and the known factor that there almost always is significant "collateral damage" makes them as BAD as they can possibly be.

    Were someone like Saddam or Bin Laden or even some private citizen to use such devices, there would be an uproar. What makes this different if applied by the U.S. government?

    We have decided to live in a free and open minded society (well, about as open minded as it gets...). How can we possibly reason for others to act in a sane fashion if what we do is... simply insane?!

    Ralph

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  14. Without bad, there can't be good. Thank you bad, for allowing good to exist!

    Sent from my iPad.

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  15. Those working in the LV base you described have the highest suicide rate in the military.

    The larger issue is that just as someone coming to the US as an adult may never fully comprehend football because they did not grow up with it, similarly if they grew up without newspapers in the home or parents who are apolitical or worse, then not knowing about drones is understandable.

    It is not a simple matter of looking up this or that on the Internet. It has to do with context that is established over decades. That context determines how we evaluate information. Our context is living on the left coast and for me growing up in liberal NYC.

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  16. I understand your point, but I would rather kill people by remote control than risk my worthless hide doing it in person where the guy on the other side can be just as clever as I am, with IED's, gas, poison, use innocents and propoganda for sheilds, and so on. That said, that third photo looks staged...

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  17. They said this photo
    http://www.zenhell.com/images/blog_images/vietnamese_girl_running.jpg
    was staged as well. That's what makes that third photo so amazing--not only does it convey, in the expression and body language of the woman in green, the total hell and evil of our "war"--but the elements of it are arranged so artistically, almost as if they were posed. There are some very creative people who happen to do photography . . .

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