Posts Tagged ‘Debates’

(Català) Les cèl·lules mare, a debat

October 14th, 2014 No Comments

Lights and Shadows of Drones

September 22nd, 2014 1 Comment

Until recently, the word “drone” evoked a buzzing sound or a stingless male bee. Today, however, its everyday use no longer derives from noises or the animal kingdom. The word “drone” is now better known as a synonym for “unmanned aircraft”. Yet, this is not a twenty-first-century invention. Some years ago they were called “remote control aircraft”, but progress has brought with it three new elements that have made it necessary to coin a new word: autonomous flight, distance from the remote pilot, and military use.

Although the drone’s lethal capacity has made it famous in the past decade, it also has civilian and commercial uses. The two giant companies Amazon and Google are presently competing over which will be able to use it as an urban delivery device, moving packages from warehouse to home in a couple of minutes. Many other companies have dreamt up further drone uses: cultivating fields, rescue work, checking rooftop plumbing, and getting better images for real-estate sales. Its commercial uses will dramatically expand after 2018 when new legislation comes into force in the United States. Drones are not only remotely piloted aircraft. Their new functions will include – if all goes well – a self-piloting version which can respond to software commands.

However, the lamentable fame of drones and the theme of the debate Drones. Siege at a distance is their impressive ability to kill. For the moment, only three countries have killed with drones: the United States, the United Kingdom and Israel. The military use of drones is not limited to firing missiles. Surveillance and reconnoitring are more common among their strategic uses. Most of the countries with drones – more than fifty – have this less offensive type. The future violence of drones will not only take the form of missile strikes. China (and no doubt other countries as well) is working on planes that can engage in electronic warfare: blocking GPS systems, or scrambling object-locating programmes.

Nevertheless, the lethal drones have been the most evident type and, moreover, they have been used as freely moving aerial spies, unthreatened by anti-aircraft defences and combat aircraft, in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Gaza. Drones have been one of the two outstanding tools of President Obama’s antiterrorist campaign since 2008, the other being the special forces. Their effectiveness in a real war in which the enemy has anti-aircraft weapons is yet to be seen. Perhaps smaller, undetectable drones will be deployed. Some of them measure only 15 centimetres. Soon there will be autonomous solar-powered drones that can remain in the air for up to three years. A whole world to be discovered.

The constant activity of US drones in the remote zones of the world means that alleged members of Al-Qaeda and its affiliates will cannot live or train in peace. Obama has cut back their use in the past two years but the toll of civilian victims is still enormous. The rage of affected populations which are living under constant threat casts doubt on the success of this method.

Drones can be guided by human intelligence. Somebody informs that a target is, or will be at a certain place which is then attacked. But the target might be at a family gathering or party. What then? It will depend on the importance of the target for the attacking force. Drones have also carried out “signature strikes”. The US intelligence services identify a pattern that signals terrorist activities, for example a convoy of cars or a training camp. If a reconnaissance drone records signs meeting these parameters, it can attack. Sometimes the consequences have been dreadful.

Michael Hayden, retired United States Air Force general and Director of the National Security Agency in the dramatic weeks after 9/11, has said, referring to attacks against the Islamic State in Iraq, that, “The reliance on air power has all the attraction of casual sex. It seems to offer gratification but with very little commitment.” Hayden believes that such a strategy is dubious and insufficient. Now, let’s imagine a strategy where air power is in the hands of unmanned aircraft. What sort of sex would that be? President Obama has been engaging in it for years.

Jordi Pérez Colomé is a journalist specialising in international politics and author of the blog Obamaworld. He takes part in the debate Drones. Siege at a distance, that will take place on the 2nd October, in the framework of the project Under Siege.

The Siege Today

September 16th, 2014 No Comments

With “Under Siege”, we begin this last quarter of the year with a cycle of debates on contemporary sieges, a project that also aims to denounce military conflicts that are unresolved, forgotten and even hidden from public opinion.

A Brief History of Collapses (2011-12) © Mariam Ghani

“Under Siege” consists of an installation comprised by two audiovisual works by the artists Mariam Ghani and Omer Fast, together with a series of conversations about the concept of the siege. The installation was opened to the public on the 16th September with a session titled “Working under Siege”, which took the form of a dialogue between the curator Chus Martínez and the Afghanistan-born artist Mariam Ghani about the possibility of artistic creation in a state of siege.

The cycle also discusses  one of today’s most paradigmatic cases of the siege in “Gaza. The Permanent Siege“. Ahron Bregman, a former soldier in the Israeli Defence Forces and presently a lecturer at King’s College, London, will be presenting his most recent book La ocupación (Crítica, 2014 – published in English as Cursed Victory: A History of Israel and the Occupied Territories, 2014, Allan Lane). On the basis of his own experience and study of high-level Israeli classified documents, among other privileged sources, he condemns his country’s policy in Gaza Strip.

From the siege as understood in the classical acceptance of the word, the debate moves on to describe a key element in contemporary warfare with the session titled “Drones. Siege at a Distance”. With its use of drones, technology definitively breaks with the physical and moral proximity between attacker and victim, in such a way that killing becomes a less costly, aseptic, effortless task-at-a-distance. What does this use of drones mean on the political, military and ethical scales? A documentary, Drone (2014), directed by the Norwegian film-maker Tonje Hessen Schei and bringing together the testimonies of both victims of drone attacks and their pilots, is to be premiered in this session. Chris Woods, a British journalist and expert on drones will speak with Hessen in a discussion moderated by the journalist Jordi Pérez Colomé.

Finally, in the session titled “Syria. Information under Siege”, moderated by the journalist Lali Sandiumenge, another essential aspect of the contemporary siege will be analysed, namely the power of information and the importance of the digital media in making it available to the general public. The Syrian researcher and activist Leila Nachawati has studied a range of citizens’ initiatives in her birthplace. These have found a potent weapon against the Syrian regime in the form of the social media, and she documents this in the database Syria Untold. Then Marc Marginedas, a war correspondent for the newspaper El Periódico, inquires into the change of direction in the Syrian conflict after the irruption therein by the group of Iraqi origins called Islamic State (IS) and their strategy of targeting international journalists.

“Under Siege” is the counterpoint of the “Open City” cycle of debates with which the CCCB opened 2014, and also its contribution to the commemoration of the Tricentenari – the three-hundredth anniversary of the siege of Barcelona. These are two cycles of debate which, from opposite starting points, uphold freedom as an essential value of human existence, and draw attention to the responsibility of all of us in the task of safeguarding it.

Colm Tóibín pays tribute to George Orwell

June 25th, 2014 No Comments

Colm Tóibín © Peter Bevan

George Orwell arrived in Barcelona on Boxing Day 1936. He was 33 years old. He came here to fight as a volunteer on the side of the Republic as an anti-fascist militant. He found a revolutionised and revolutionary city where, in his words, “the working class was in the saddle”. He served on the Aragon front with the POUM militias and was shot through the neck by a fascist bullet. In Barcelona, he was a direct witness of the fateful days when a civil war took place within a civil war. Stalinist pressure on the Republic led to the May Days and the city became the setting for a bloody battle between forces that, up to that point, had fought side by side against the common enemy. Orwell witnessed that new Tragic Week where the authoritarian urges of some and the libertarian urges of others opened up an incurable rift in the strategy to win the war and uphold the revolutionary spirit. With the POUM outrageously declared illegal and its leader Andreu Nin tortured and murdered by Soviet agents, Orwell had to escape the persecution against his comrades-in-arms and depart in hiding from a city where he had discovered – and maintained, in spite of everything – a revolutionary and fraternal spirit that forever marked his political stance and the direction of a literary journey that culminated with Nineteen Eighty-Four.

Colm Tóibín arrived in Barcelona in 1975. He was 20 years old. He came to a city that still had the literary echoes of Homage to Catalonia in its head. He found a city that was awaiting the imminent death of the dictator, a society that was effervescent, creative and mobilised, but still under constant surveillance and repressed by a regime that was especially cruel, and aware that it was in its dying moments. In the midst of a dictatorship, the young Tóibín, paradoxically, found an atmosphere of change and an explosion of the much longed-for liberties. The Barcelona of the end of the Franco era and the start of the transition – so radically different to the Catholic and rural society of Ireland – became an initiatic space for Tóibín: a mixture of collective hope for the future and individual liberties that the young Irishman embraced as his own. In Barcelona, Tóibín learned to be who he is and adopted Catalonia as his second homeland. His successful literary career is full of traces of that decisive formative experience.

Now, on the occasion of Orwell Day, Tóibín offers us a re-reading of Homage to Catalonia in an attempt to put into perspective the Barcelona of 1936, – that of a frustrated revolution and a lost war – and that of 1975 – which was beginning the change from a dictatorship to a capitalist democracy. In this transition, the city will play an essential role and will be one of the keys of the configuration of the literary universe of Orwell and of Tóibín himself.

(Català) La gelosia i la seva història

June 17th, 2014 No Comments