In February 2010 a US air strike on three vehicles in Uruzgan province, Afghanistan in support of US and allied ground forces caused multiple civilian casualties. The attack was the direct result of surveillance carried out by a Predator drone, and a US Army investigation into the incident criticised the flight crew for persistently misinterpreting the full-motion video feeds from the remotely operated aircraft. This has become the signature strike for critics of remote warfare, yet they have all relied solely on a transcript of communications between US Special Forces in the vicinity, the drone crew at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada, and the helicopter pilots who executed the strike. But an examination of the interviews carried out by the investigation team reveals a more complicated – and in some respects even more disturbing – picture. This presentation uses those transcripts to brings other actors into the frame, pursues the narrative beyond the strike itself, and raises a series of questions about civilian casualties. During the post-strike examination of the site the casualties were rendered as (still) suspicious bodies and, as they were evacuated to military hospitals, as inventories of injuries. Drawing on Sonia Kennebeck's documentary film "National Bird" I also track the dead as they are returned to their villages and the survivors as they struggle with rehabilitation: both provide vivid illustrations of the embodied nature of nominally remote warfare and of the violent bioconvergence that lies on the other side of the screen.
Derek Gregory is Peter Wall Distinguished Professor and Professor of Geography at the University of British Columbia at Vancouver. His research addresses the ways in which war has (and has not) changed over the last 100 years. He is completing a new book, "Reach from the Sky: Aerial Violence and the Everywhere War", which is a critical investigation of bombing from before the First World War through to the contemporary use of drones in the world's borderlands as a central vector of later modern war. His current research focuses on casualty evacuation (military and civilian) from war zones; one of its central concerns is the figuration of the wounded body and its multiple apprehensions as it moves through the evacuation chain. The two projects have collided in another stream of work on the bombing of hospitals and medical facilities in Afghanistan, Syria and too many other theatres of war. He also has a keen interest in the experimental use of the performing and visual arts in rendering the violence of modern war.
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