Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Fiction and Nonfiction Strikes on Drones


Looking forward to our April discussion book, Alex Gilvarry's From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant, which makes use of satire to expose the post-9/11 security state, I was excited to see Teju Cole's experiment in Twitter fiction which exposes our 'empathy gap' with drone victims by deploying strikes on famous literary characters:


I highly recommend this interview with Cole from CBC Radio about what he is trying to accomplish here. Does the graft of fiction on news headline work for you? (From Think Progress, here's an interesting critique). You many also want to learn more from Teju Cole (tejucole) on Twitter and his personal website. Cole's novel Open City has been on my to-read list for quite awhile and this is going to bump it up to the top. Maybe we will get him onto the Rights Readers list soon, too.

By the way, it occurred to me that we had previously discussed the empathy gap brought about by advances in military technology when we read  Virtual War: Kosovo and Beyond by Michael Ignatieff more than a decade ago. Sure enough, he has something to say about drones (Financial Times June 2012), noting that they fulfill our wish for harm without consequence, thereby becoming the 'mercenaries of the 21st century,' but it's not at all clear they are effective in achieving political goals,
Before succumbing to these technologies, leaders should remember how little virtual war has actually accomplished. Kosovo is still a corrupt ethnic tyranny; Libya will take years to put itself back together; and no one can see a stable state in sight in Afghanistan. Virtual war turned out to be the easy part. Democracies have little staying power for the hard part.
Urge the President and Congress to bring US use of armed drones and other lethal force in line with our obligations to respect human rights here.
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