If you want to get to the good stuff, you can skip this first bit. But that will make me sad.
Some people think about what they’ll be having for dinner later. Others think of ways to be as sustainable as possible in their day to day lives. Some people think about the travesty of Big Bird losing his job while others consider their daily calorie intake. Me? I think about the character of modern imperialist warfare and the media that has become an irrevocable part of the military-industrial complex.
In particular, I think a lot about drones.
Two years ago, as a teaching assistant, I had the opportunity to teach conferences for a undergraduate class looking at the causes of major war through the realist lens. The class focused on WWI, but our conversations would often – intentionally by my design – go into discuss the nature of modern war. Considering how at the time I was quite concerned with the increase in drone warfare, beyond Northern Pakistan, I often wouldask my students to consider drones as not only a part of the new age of war but the future of war. Since WWII, warfare has been concerned with victory by any means necessary – and these ‘means’, unfortunately, always necessitate large scale destruction. WWII transformed war from one just between soldiers and in the trenches to a war in which a civilian was as much the enemy as a combatant – and there were no restrictions to where your weapons could shoot, where your bombs could fall. Of course now we have the Geneva conventions and all that wonderful international law stuff that keeps many academics and lawyers employed, but paper and practice differ greatly. And, of course, there’s a huge discrepancy in how non-state actors participate in war and how they are depicted as well – ‘insurgents’, ‘militants’ and ‘terrorists’. As the famous Charles Tilly thesis goes – the state has the authority and monopoly over violence only because it has used it at such a grand scale for so long that it has created its own authority and this monopoly. When really, he posits, they’re just thugs.
So while the past seven decades have seen the full mechanization of war as well as the blurring of lines between civilian and soldier, the past decade has increased not only this blur but has diminished the differences between a legitimate target and an illegitimate target. There’s also the issue of how we define other terms – such as insurgency versus resistance, terrorist versus freedom fighter versus guerilla. And of course the definitions that win out, in our books, are the definitions held by the state powers and structures that wield great influence and hold that monopoly on grand scale violence. Drones are the future of warfare- they fully disconnect man from ‘his kill’, which is just an image on a screen that he sees from an ocean or two away. And for some reason we are unwilling to call US drone attacks in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia what they are – acts of war. Nothing more or less.
Uh, so that’s generally what I think about these days.
Anyway. So, onto the topic of this post. Instead of writing it all out, I will present you with all the delightful proofs in the form of tweets. The tweets begin with how it all started and there will be commentary throughout. I tried to get them in as much chronological order as possible, so apologies if it may seem disjointed at times. Enjoy.
[It’s right here if you’re interested in torture]
Should be noted that here I meant my Pakistani family across Pakistan. I do not have family in FATA/SWAT/Waziristan/Northern Pakistan. I was making a reference to how she seems to imply that she has more concern for ‘all other’ Pakistanis (which would include my entire family, of course) than me.
I’ll admit I was harsh. But …I think it’s a little more harsh to support drone strikes.
Looked at myself in the mirror today and thought “you sexy occidentalist you”.
Yes. She went there.
Fair is referencing the LivingUnderDrones report that recently was released. She disagrees with every report out there it seems that makes any mention of civilian casualties.
Somewhere in the background ..Duran Duran is playing.
And this just got even more weird.
Back to my “family” in “FATA”.
After that, Dr. Christine Fair of Georgetown University blocked me. All my jokes aside, I was floored by her sheer incompetence, her quick resort to lies and ad hominems and her complete lack of decency and professionalism. If this is an example of the intellectual and academic support for drone warfare – the case against it is already made. I’m a writer and humorist with an academic background. I currently have no professional associations. She is an assistant professor at Georgetown, a fellow at the Center for Counter-Terrorism at Westpoint and former UN political officer on Afghanistan. Amongst much else. But see – Dr. Fair’s career rests on war. Despite being part of a ‘peace and security’ department, her focus is now war. War is now very profitable for everyone willing to shill ethics, their decency and the dignity of others for it.
What took me back even more was being called an ..”occidentalist.” It was incredibly funny to me but I couldn’t laugh because the hilarity shook my brain until I had a mental concussion. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the term, it esentially is the subaltern (i.e. brown, wsup) version of the Orientalist. As the Orientalist depicts and fantasizes about the “Orient” in stereotypes and the gaze of power (key here, will expand in a bit), the Occidentialist does the same but towards the Occident ..or ..”The West”.
In other words, she just pulled the reverse racism card on me.
No. That’s not how it works, Christine. If you’re going to specialize on a region such as AFPAK/India (she doesn’t, by the way, specialize at all in FATA) I highly suggest you brush up on how power relations and racism work. Fair’s justification for calling me an “Occidentialist” was that I was apparently claiming to speak on behalf of all Pakistanis/Muslims (same thing) because …I wear the hijab. In other words, she reduces my comments and opinions to my headscarf. Fantastic. But here’s the problem. An Occidentialist doesn’t ‘claim’ to represent all those of the “Orient” (remember Occidentalist is from the Orient, stay with me). An Occidentialist stereotypes and imagines the Occident in a way that is, arguably, ‘harmful’. Where did I do that? Not only does, thus, Fair cuss at me and offer no actual evidence aside from her own visits to FATA (where no one can get in, according to her Stream interview) but her insult is a misuse of a word. So, she doesn’t even know what Occidentalism (let alone irony) is, but is grounded enough in her own grandeur that she just wants to use it against me. Unless she meant I was an Occidentalist for another reason. Why? Why does she call me an occidentalist and a racist? Maybe because I pointed out [her] white privileged politics and war strategy. The irony compels me. She talks about how Foucault says stuff (she never clarified what) about Occidentalism, whereas while I had no idea where he has this discussion – a Foucault enthusiast informed me that he never uses the word.
Her only responses were either insults or, ultimately, blocking me. She called me a troll, yet for every one tweet I sent ..she would send 3 or 4. I couldn’t even post them all because I became confused with the chronology as well after the first two. I also readily admit I didn’t offer exactly much debate in my responses to her – I became very disinterested in that as soon as I saw her tone and her responses. I’m a writer, a humorist – not a Georgetown assistant professor.
And she never answered me if she would support drone strikes in Pakistan’s north if even one American life was at risk for being killed. Why doesn’t she? Because American life is far more precious than Pakistani; that American would be completely innocent. Maybe an aid worker. A journalist. But Pakistanis, innocent civilians, killed in a drone strike? They do not exist, according to Fair who chooses to take PK/US government talking points over untrustworthy media outlets and numerous think tanks, academics and reports. It is not possible for a civilian to die in a drone strike and if it is ..well, some things are just tragic. But let’s be utilitarian about this ..unless the victim is one of ‘ours’.
Some will ask why I bothered to engage her further by writing this post. Truth is – she’s an educator. She’s an educator in a field that has an actual impact on American foreign policy and warfare. She is teaching and she is publishing. This woman is teaching people how to think like her, see the region and the issues through her lens. I’ve read Fair before and while I didn’t agree with her all the time, I appreciated her work and even had thought about approaching her for a chapter in a book I was working on. Then I began seeing the problems clearly. What had always bothered me about her became more apparent and then I found the article on why drones are the best worst option for dealing with ‘terrorists’ in Pakistan.
I wrote this piece and compiled these tweets so that if any of her students decide to search for her name on Google at any point, they can be potentially led to this post and see in what kind of a war monger’s hands their education lies.
Update: This is her current Twitter avatar. I, uh, wow.