In military slang, predator drone operators often refer to kills as “bug splats”, since viewing the dead body through a grainy video image gives a sense of an insect being crushed. 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. They received help from the locals who were enthusiastic about the project.

Now, when viewed by a drone camera, what an operator sees on his screen is not an anonymous dot on the landscaper, but an innocent child victims face. The young girl in the image lost her family to a drone strike in the North Waziristan village of Dande Darpa Khel. The strike led to the destruction of several mud homes that house Afghan refugees. The casualties were mainly women and children. According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 383 U.S. drone strikes have been reported in Pakistan since 2004 with the death toll estimated to be between 2,296 and 3,718.

Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa is the historic region where my ethnic group, the Pashtuns originate from. So these “bug splats” speak my language, eat my food, and listen to my music. They might call their parents “Aba” and “Aday”, like I do.

Knowing that my face, or the face of my relatives could replace this little girls’ absolutely shakes me to my core.

God bless the innocent people of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

I’m sorry blue skies are not beautiful to you anymore.





"If you grow up underneath drones, its going to affect the way you see the world." - John Oliver

“If you grow up underneath drones, its going to affect the way you see the world.” – John Oliver


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2 Responses to #NotABugSplat

  1. Thank U, my dear Madinah, for making me aware about this way to shame the drone operators. In the old days, such air-borne devices were called “cruise missiles”. Now the euphemism is “drones” — as if they are harmless!

  2. noah b

    Every warring organization (national or otherwise) uses language to dehumanize and make the “other” “less than.” Take that away; force soldiers to view the enemy as caring, feeling human beings and acts of war become that much more difficult. The picture directed at the sky is beautiful. Thanks for sharing the story.

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