Posts Tagged ‘guerra’

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.

Nadeem Aslam, a Window into Pakistan

September 10th, 2013 No Comments

Ana Ballesteros

In the last few years, writing about Pakistan has become an almost obsessive account of what is wrong with the country. Sword, failure, chaos, jihad, frontline, terrorism, war, turmoil, trouble or Armageddon are just some of the words that abound in headlines regarding it since the symbolic date of 11th September 2001 and the subsequent War on Terror. A usually one-sided account of Pakistan leaves us with many questions and a certain feeling of concern, not to say fear.

Nadeem Aslam (© Richard Lea-Hair)

But a country cannot be portrayed in such a restricted way, one which ignores its past and its cultural richness. Nadeem Aslam’s writing contrasts with this monochromatic perception and shows us a world of colour, variety and nuance. The human condition and whatever remains of normality must be expressed; in this way, what is often seen as a failed state finds its foundations in the strength of its people. They, ordinary Pakistanis, are the real heroes of a daily existence that is by no means easy.

Aslam reminds us in his writing that there is a cultural legacy -brilliant, alive, surviving the dark forces of uniformity that threaten the rich heterogeneity of Pakistan. Traditions, stories and names get to live on and even come to life within our own traditions as we try to see them through our own eyes. The touchstone of it all is nothing but human nature: human feelings set in a certain context and a certain time that we can identify with because at certain times in our past, we have experienced them within our own countries, on our own doorsteps, in our own families and right in our own hearts.

That is how we can start to see this troubled area from a human perspective: not with the eyes of analysts, politicians or strategists, but with those of common people who just happened to be in the right or wrong place, at the right or wrong time. ‘The Blind Man’s Garden’ is set between Pakistan and Afghanistan at a time when the lives of its peoples were turned upside down. The story tells us that amidst the turbulence of the times, love, friendship and family prevail.

Nadeem Aslam will visit the CCCB on Monday, 16th of September, at 19:30h. He will read a fragment of his last novel and speak with Ana Ballesteros, an expert in Pakistan and Afghanistan. They will both open a window into Pakistan and the afghan conflict. Tickets can already be purchased at Telentrada or at the CCCB.

(Català) Mèxic en guerra: les veus dels testimonis

September 7th, 2012 1 Comment


September 16th, 2011 No Comments

The CCCB commemorates the tenth anniversary of the attacks with an installation by the artist Francesc Torres and a cycle of lectures

This week has seen the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and the CCCB wishes to join the commemorative events by contributing towards the reflections arising from them. Some days ago, the installation “Memòria fragmentada. 11-S NY Artefactes a l’Hangar 17” (Fragmented Memory: 9/11-NY Artefacts in Hangar 17) by the artist Francesc Torres was inaugurated. This is based on photographs he was able to take several months after the attacks in the hangar at JFK Airport where the remains of the Twin Towers were stored. Off-limits to the public, this space contained more than 1,500 objects of all kinds recovered from Ground Zero, thus inadvertently becoming an improvised museum and the most singular space of memory of the tragedy. In his own words, Francesc Torres’ installation is about “historic memory, national memory, memory of social and individual pain and ways of dealing with deep traumas in order to heal.”

Photo of the installation Fragmented Memory: 9/11-NY Artefacts in Hangar 17 © Francesc Torres- VEGAP- 2011

The exhibition is accompanied by a cycle of lectures “11-S. El món deu anys després” (9/11: The World Ten Years On – from 19 September to 2 November) which, in the broadest possible way, offers reflections on the political, social and cultural changes of these ten years with the aim of determining the nature of the legacy the attacks have left us today.

For many people, the heart-rending images of the collapse of the Twin Towers marked the onset of a new stage, as if we had crossed some hitherto unknown boundary and, somehow, nothing would ever be the same again. And it is evident that some things have changed over these ten years: the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have evolved into conflicts that are very difficult to resolve, while also leaving a terrible bequest of victims who, for the most part, have not had the attention they deserve. In the West, other attacks like those in London and Madrid have had their effects on what could really be the main change in the western world: a new and paralysing sense of fragility that has made discourse on security and the terrorist threat a prevailing theme throughout the decade. The CCCB has been closely following these events over the years and has created its own lines of reflection in analysing them and evaluating their consequences: from the rise of an obsession with security and its dangers for democracies and human rights (“Arxipèlag d’excepcions” (Archipelago of Exceptions, 2005), “L’impacte de l’11-S i l’11-M. Una perspectiva comparada” (Comparing the Impacts of September 11, 2001 and March 11, 2004, 2005), “Mentides globals, violències locals” (Global Lies, Local Violence, 2006)); the impact of the attacks on urban life and public space (“Traumes urbans” (Urban Traumas, 2004), “Arquitectures de la por” (Architectures of Fear, 2007), “L’espai públic en el punt de mira” (Targeted Publics, 2008)); through to the difficulties of resuming an East-West dialogue and understanding the present-day reality of Islam and the Muslim world (“Fronteres” (Borders, 2004), “L’Islam europeu” (European Islam, 2005), “Imaginari democràtic i globalització” (The Democratic Imaginary in the Era of Globalisation, 2011)).

We have been developing these ideas through the years with contributions from local and international experts including Fred Halliday, Michael Walzer, Robert Fisk, Judith Butler, Arjun Appadurai, Gema Martín Muñoz, Georges Corm, Naomi Klein, Zygmunt Bauman, Stephen Graham, Tzvetan Todorov, Faisal Devji and Abdelwahab Meddeb, among many others.

Now, ten years on from 11 September 2001, with the West immersed in full-blown economic crisis and the Arab world convulsed with revolts in which people are demanding more democracy and more rights, we are offering a new debate on real and imagined transformations, on the world we believed was coming and that has finally become. The sessions include a discussion on the memory of the attacks, with Francesc Torres, Clifford Chanin, director of education and programming adviser of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, which was recently opened in New York, and Montse Armengou, journalist and authority on historical documentaries. There will also be a book launch, of Diari de guerra. Nova York, tardor 2001 (War Diary: New York, Autumn 2001 – L’Avenç, 2011), in which the professor of Art Fèlix Fanés will describe his experiences in New York in the months following the attacks. Also speaking will be Rafael Argullol, professor of Aesthetic Theory, and Mary Ann Newman, essayist and translator. Finally, there are two exceptional lectures that will inform us about two different realities that were profoundly disrupted following the events of 11 September: Pankaj Mishra, the Indian novelist and essayist will discuss how the attacks changed the relations between East and West and, very particularly, the West’s relations with the Islamic world; and the journalist Barbara Ehrenreich, who is well known for her incisive essays on the socioeconomic and cultural reality of the United States, will close the cycle with some thoughts on the effect of the attacks on American society.

With this lecture cycle we hope to furnish new perspectives to reflections that began ten years ago under the shadow of the unease that has lingered on after the attacks, reflections that we have been building on all this time in order to provide knowledge, horizons and voices that give us a better understanding of our world today.