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The #NotABugSplat Campaign Aims to Give Drone Operators Pause Before They Strike

BY Rebecca Chao | Thursday, April 10 2014

Rather than tiny bug-sized dots, this is what activists hope drone operators will now see (

In the #NotABugSplat campaign that launched this week, a group of American, French and Pakistani artists sought to raise awareness of the effects of drone strikes by placing a field-sized image of a young girl, orphaned when a drone strike killed her family, in a heavily targeted region of Pakistan’s Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province. Its giant size is visible to those who operate drone strikes as well as in satellite imagery.

"Predator drone operators often refer to kills as ‘bug splats’, since viewing the body through a grainy video image gives the sense of an insect being crushed," explains the campaign website. "Now, a drone will see an actual face of a child, creating dialogue, and possibly, empathy."

A quick sweep of Twitter reveals a campaign that has gained broad global support. However, some critics pointed out that the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Province had not seen a drone strike for over 100 days nor had there been any civilian causalities for over a year; it was therefore an exaggeration for the campaign to call the region "heavily targeted."

Akash Goel, one of the campaign's activists who is based in New York, told the New York Times that the goal of the campaign was to raise awareness of the unjust impact of drone strikes globally, not just in Pakistan. However, a map on the website shows the number of civilian deaths it has caused so far in the Pakistani province: it totals 3,700 of which 200 are children. Goel also told the New York Times about data from the New America Foundation and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism that estimated 2 percent of those killed by the CIA in Pakistan were the high-profile militants targeted.

Regardless of the numbers, Goel said, “This isn’t a video game."

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