Talk delivered by Heather Ashley Hayes as part of the States of Exception II: The Politics of Life, Bodies of War: Drones and Lone Wolves Symposium sponsored by the Contemporary Research on International Political Theory working group, part of the British International Studies Association, at Lancaster University from November 24-26, 2016. Talk drawn in part from her book Violent Subjects and Rhetorical Cartography in the Age of the Terror Wars (2016, for more information see "Violent Subjects" tab at left).
The enthusiastic proponents of armed drones claim the program is “a major step forward…in humanitarian technology” (Anderson, 2010). U.S. president Barack Obama has extended this idea in his direct addresses about drone use, claiming, “Simply put, these strikes save lives…we are choosing the course of action that is least likely to result in the loss of innocent life” (Obama, 2013). If we are to ponder drone attacks as humanitarian, then we must ask: How can one claim that war machines with no human being immediately attached to its killing capacity are a “humane” method of destroying life? How can we describe as “humanitarian” a program designed to annihilate human life? (Chamayou, 2015) Based on the “Living Under Drones” report co-published by Stanford Law School and NYU School of Law (2012), we also know that the everyday lives of humans living under the watchful eyes and roaming missile beams of the drones live in constant fear: “Everyone is scared all the time. When we’re sitting together to have a meeting, we’re scared there might be a strike. When you can hear the drone circling in the sky, you think it might strike you. We’re always scared. We always have this fear in our head” (Ishaq 2012). This article and presentation will confront the “fluidity of everyday practices, affects, and uncertainties” (Chaput, 2010) that come with living under drones and read this everyday phenomenon against the institutionalized discourses that frame the drone war as the dawn of a humanitarian fighting capacity. Ultimately, Hayes argues that the framing process by which drone attacks are to be understood as humanitarian allows the governing apparatus to functionally negate the experience of those most affected by the vast expanse of the program, effectively marking Muslims around the globe as permanently killable targets via the terror wars.