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Celebrating the noble slaughter

One might think the 100th anniversary of World War I would bring a careful consideration of why such a calamity happened. After all, some 16 million soldiers and civilians were killed in what was, at the time, an incomparably horrific breakdown of human civilization.

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But no. The centennial has prompted a global celebration with former colonial empires promoting nationalism, patriotism, and the myth of military glory, while obscuring the real causes of the war – the fight of the Empires to redivide the world according to their insatiable economic and political appetites.

The Prime Minister of England, David Cameron, stated that “there was a cause young men volunteered for and that was to stop the domination of Europe by one power and to go to the defence of a defenceless country, Belgium.” Curiously, the noble cause of defending Belgium also gave the British Empire postwar control of Palestine, Iraq, Transjordan, Tanganyika, and parts of Cameroon and Togo – a happy accident!

Only about a million men in the British Empire had to die for that to occur.

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At the commemoration ceremony on August 4th in Liège, Belgium, where fighting started 100 years ago, royalty from England, Spain, Belgium, and Luxemburg were positioned on a platform above a small, select crowd amid tight security. Their pious concern for the war dead served as a reminder that 100 years later, victors get to keep their monarchies.

Meanwhile in France, where more than six million soldiers were killed or wounded during the conflict, the government took care to commemorate World War I with a military parade that showed off its “continued military might.”

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The most stirring comments come from Australia, which let 60,000 men die in the European Theater in return for a few islands in the Pacific. It is spending $600 million to commemorate WWI, far more than any other country in the world.

On August 4th 2014, the day a century ago that Britain declared war on Germany, and Australia immediately responded with an offer of “20,000 men of any suggested composition,” Australia’s defense spokesman David Feeney and Opposition leader Bill Shorten made a joint statement to their nation. Their statement is so striking that we feel compelled to adorn it with the wartime images of celebrated German artist Otto Dix.

Dix fought in the “great war” and like other artists who survived the conflict, his representation of events seem at odds with the giddy heroism we now see trumpeted. Indeed, Dix’s images all but strip bare the grand illusions that governments continue to fabricate about their cherished wars. Feeney and Shorten write:

“At each remembering we will honour the values we hold so dear, the values of courage…”

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“…duty…”

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“…honour…”

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“…mateship…”

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“…and sacrifice….”

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“Values that have inspired us in all we do, and that have secured our freedom down the years.”

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The Problem of Human Weakness

In the war against terrorism, drone operators have one common weakness — they’re human. They’ve been trained to respond mechanically during global excursions, obey all forms of impersonal military protocol, and even adopt an alienated parlance that refers to annihilated people as “bug splats.” But despite our best efforts, they still occasionally feel the miasma of doubt, stress, and inner confusion.

A group of artists has seized upon this weakness, and have created a visual reminder of the innocent civilians at risk from the drone campaign. They’ve set up a huge portrait of a Pakistani boy in the middle of a remote and heavily bombed Pakistani region.

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What will be the response of the drone operator when seeing this child through his grainy monitors?

Will the image remind him of all the innocent dead killed in past drone runs?

Or will perhaps a hazy vision of his own child emerge from the uncertain terrain?

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Yes, it’s a subject of grave concern. How can we overcome our human frailty to ensure our absolute safety?

The answer is robots. Killer robots.

As you read this, our nation’s top scientists, engineers, and designers are busy fabricating a new generation of exquisite killing machines. While some misguided groups opposed this new frontier, make no mistake about it — these flawless robots will protect us forever and ever.

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With any luck, the problem of human conscience will soon become a distant memory.

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Depravities of War

The United States has been at War for more than 12 years — longer than any other period of US history — and there is no end in sight.  But few American artists bother to look at this war or depict its impact on their country.

Artist Sandow Birk is an exception.

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Birk has a 20-year body of work that investigates American life, with a particular eye to U.S. militarism and its inseparable connection to domestic events.

His Depravities of War series stands out as one of the most thoughtful and visually striking statements of the entire “War on Terror” period. Fifteen large woodblock prints make up the series, showing the Iraq war from start to “finish.” [click on images to make large]

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Many of the prints depicting the U.S./allied invasion hardly look like historical battle paintings. There are no wide angles of massive competing armies, no glorious explosions or dramatic combat. Instead, the Iraqi government’s forces are seen as almost nonexistent — an accurate representation of “enemy” forces at the time.

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In Birk’s prints, the focus is not on the overwhelming military force of the invasion – the night vision spectacle of cruise missiles destroying a major urban center so beloved by TV news – but on the lengthy and violent period of occupation that followed. The print “Destruction” is followed by Desecration, Occupation, and Detention, in which truckloads of prisoners are taken away to an uncertain fate.

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When leaked photos from Abu Ghraib first revealed the torturing of prisoners by American forces, the official response was to charge a few low-level soldiers as “bad apples,” while insisting torture was not policy. In Degradation and Humiliation, however, Birk shows the notorious and horrific scenes of torture as organized and normalized actions.

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Towards the end of the series, Birk suggests an overarching process at work in the war – criminal occupation provokes opposition and, in turn, that opposition is met with depravity. In Insurrection, the chaos and social instability of Iraq is depicted with a weary inevitability. There is no sense that any kind of “peace” could possibly emerge from these operations. The final image from Iraq showing the execution of Saddam Hussein seems a continuation of the institutionalized violence, not an end.

The 4×8 foot size of these prints create a stunning effect when viewed in person, a harsh and epic look at grim events that have been persistently buried, distorted, or mythologized by the media and the state. Now that the war in Iraq is “over,” it has generally vanished as a subject of American interest or concern.

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But it is not over. Repercussion is the final print in the series, reminding us that the effects of the war continue for millions of Iraqis, Americans and others. It also raises the question – what is the lasting impact of this conflict?

For the folly, brutality, and profit of war is nothing new. Birk’s inspiration for the series was Jacques Callot’s Miseries of War. Published in 1633, Callot’s 18 small etchings offer incredibly honest and direct depictions of actual war. The overall structure – war hysteria and battle, then urban conflict, torture, and depravity – parallels that seen in Birk’s work. In both visual narratives, civilians and soldiers bear the cost of the grand designs of generals, noblemen, and kings.

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NSA taps your phone, CIA sends the drone

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There’s been new revelations detailing exactly what the NSA does with the massive amount of data it collects every second of every day. For more on how your phones SIM card helps direct drone-launched Hellfire missiles, see this investigative article by The Intercept.

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Perilous Times

Dangerous maladies are loose upon the earth, brothers and sisters.

Recently an Oxfam report emerged indicating that 85 individuals possess as much wealth as 3.5 billion of the poorest human beings on planet earth. Sane humans naturally view this massive imbalance as obscene. But sanity may be a vanishing condition, as a strange neurological condition is increasingly blinding humans to basic reality.

An intriguing example can be seen here.

Yes, in this twisted variant of the disorder, which frequently flourishes among the most affluent among us, contaminated individuals actually celebrate the suffering of others. Indeed, such people experience a comforting “high” (an activation of the pleasure circuits in the cerebral cortex) when they can freely muse that the poor, the sickly, and the doomed, are victims only of their own ignorance, and undeserving of the blessings the creator has disposed upon themselves.

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However, the more common manifestation of this disorder displays symptoms that appear more benign, but are in actuality, equally lethal. In such victims, a sociopathic form of alienation frequently arises that is marked with a feigned interest in social injustice, usually lasting no more than 12-37 seconds, followed by a deep engagement with colorful distractions and other neuro-masturbatory gifts. Media outlets are dangerous hosts in this epidemic. And pop star Justin Bieber is, tragically, a potent carrier of this strain:

Fortunately, however, scientists and technicians working for The Cluster Project have closely monitored Mr. Bieber’s trajectories into the media sphere, and have initiated the Celebrity-Cluster Index to help citizens at risk.

As the current stage of global psychosis is at Critical Delusion — a disturbingly high level of toxicity — please investigate our warning system and share its vital information with your family. During these dangerous periods, we beg the public to stay away from electronic transmission devices and other instruments of virulent contamination.

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Zimmerman’s Most Memorable Work

A controversial new artist by the name of George Zimmerman
has a painting on EBay that has fetched more than $100,000.

It is a powerful work of deep patriotic fervor.

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Some have noted, however, that the work bears a strong resemblance
to a stock image on the web by Shutterstock. How Warholian!

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No matter.
We believe Mr. Zimmerman will be remembered
only for this earlier work.

That work cannot be bought, and is forever his own.

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Good Tidings!

The amazing art duo Anthony Freda and Thomas Kinkade have come together once again to paint another tender portrait of America.

You’ve certainly heard of Amazon’s plans for a fleet of drones to carry its precious commodities directly to your home. There has been much less notice, however, of Amazon’s patriotic offer to loyally assist in extra-judicial, assassination programs.

That’s American business know-how! And just in time for Christmas!

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Drones & Humans — A Brief Visit

American administrations prefer their invisible wars to be…you know, invisible.

After all, they’re out there battling for our peace, freedom, and global dominance. If we would just shut up and stay the hell out of their business, they could accomplish their valiant goals. In recent years, the government has grown particularly vexed by the work of journalists, whistle-blowers, and human rights activists, who have the gall to expose secret U.S. activities, including torture and the murder of innocents.

So when a decent family from a small village in Pakistan makes a visit to our nation’s capital to politely ask for justice, well, it’s a little awkward.

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Because this is not the face of terrorism.

67-year-old Momina Bibi, the family matriarch, isn’t in this picture. Last year she was picking okra in her garden with her grandchildren when she was suddenly killed by a drone strike. The kids were sprayed by shrapnel and hospitalized. The father, a local teacher, was devastated and left with the question: Why?

Momina was the village midwife, not a terrorist. There were no indications of any terrorists in the vicinity. The event had the mark of a tragic mistake, especially since mistaken drone attacks are not uncommon in rural Pakistan. But there is never an apology, never support for medical treatment, never an acknowledgement that the killing of good and innocent people requires a response.

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The powerful do not make such responses. Discussion of drones in Washington are typically limited to policy, tactics, statistics and other abstractions. So the Rehman family’s visit to Congress offered a vivid insistence that human devastation runs deep through many of these drone attacks.

The family loved Momina. She was the center of their life. 14-year-old Zubair Rehman talked about the lovely blue sky above their heads that day. They all had seen the drone hovering, but that was normal. They were used to it. It would not attack them. But that day, it did.

Now the blue sky means death. Zubair says, “I prefer cloudy days when the drones don’t fly.” Like many children in communities targeted by drones areas, he and his sister prefer to simply stay inside. And if the American government won’t listen to them, perhaps they’ll at least look. So 9-year-old Nabila Rehman came prepared.

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Most members of Congress, however, couldn’t be bothered to attend such an unimportant event. A mere five U.S. representatives welcomed the family and listened to their story. But reporters were there [1, 2, 3]. And so we know about it. And we can see the picture she has drawn.

And anyway, the father, Rafiq Rehman, was speaking to Americans, not just their leaders:

“We’re all human beings. I knew that Americans would have a heart, that they would be sympathetic to me. That’s why I came here — I thought if they heard my story, they would want to listen to me and influence their politicians.”

Will we?


[Reports of civilians killed by drones remain a matter of great dispute. The American and Pakistan governments says the number is small, with Pakistan claiming there have only been 67 drone-related civilian fatalities in its nation since 2008. A more reliable estimate comes from London's Bureau of Investigative Journalism which estimates that between 407 and 926 civilians have been killed by drones in Pakistan since 2008, or between 16% and 25% of all deaths. But since the drones are deadly, the locations remote, and some attacks go unreported, the numbers could be higher still.]

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Britney & The Work of Women

Perhaps we’ve been wrong about Ms. Britney Spears.

As you may know from Celebrity-Cluster Index, our scientists have followed Ms. Spears for years and discovered a dangerous spike in global psychosis whenever her popularity rises and interest in social justice falls. Naturally then, we’re alarmed to see Ms. Spear’s popularity grow in the last month.

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But could our data be flawed? For now, we see that Ms. Spear’s emanations carry great humanistic insight. Her recent masterpiece WORK BITCH expresses the nobility of work with beauty, power, and tremendous insight. Critics are already calling the video “flawless” and a “feminist workplace manifesto.”

Her opening lines capture the yearnings of women everywhere: “You want a hot body? You want a Bugatti? You want a Maserati? You better work bitch.” Obviously this is coded language for a woman’s right to human dignity. Similarly her ritualistic exploration of high desert yoga in a feminist tribal context is deeply moving. Suddenly we realized her secret message, and immediately made a new INFILTRATION video that decodes and reveals her hymn of praise and solidarity. See for yourself

Yes, Ms. Spears was obviously inspired by the courageous Laotian women who work as deminers, finding and destroying the unexploded munitions strewn through their country. As an American, Ms. Spears realizes that her nation’s military left some 80 million unexploded bombs in Lao PDR more than four decades ago, and her creative videos and performances speak to that. Bravo, Ms. Spears, bravo.

By the way, in the video below, you might see a bit of what these women do in their jobs. Risking their lives to protect their communities doesn’t get 20 million hits on YouTube, but it’s pretty good work nonetheless.

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The Dream Made Real

One of the world’s most famous paintings generates a profound turbulence.

Black and white on a huge canvas, Picasso’s Guernica
imagines the frenzied destruction of an aerial bombing.

It has become an iconic image of the madness of war.

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But while Guernica is an image of war, there are no soldiers to be seen.

Instead, the painting depicts a very particular kind of war.
A war against humanity.

The bombs that fell in 1937 on the small town of Guernica
in the Basque region of Spain fell on women and children
and old men and animals.

It was no accident. They were excellent targets.

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Which reminds me, have you ever dreamed of flying?

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In his masterful The History of Bombing, Sven Lindqvist shows us
that when man first began to dream of flight…

He began to dream of bombs.

Early popular fiction depicted bombers high in the sky,
safe and dedicated to their sacred mission:

the absolute decimation of entire cities and races below.

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And then, the dream became real.

Man learned to fly, and quickly, very quickly,
he learned to bomb.

It proved an impressive way of keeping order.

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Let’s say you had valuable colonies filled with inferior people
who possessed an entirely different skin color and religion than your own.

And say the colonies were disobedient. They opposed your occupation.
Or interrupted your removal of their resources.
Or gave comfort to your enemies.

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You merely had to fly over the homes where their children
played and their wives cooked and their elders sat,
and drop your bombs.

The fiery transformation was considered most effective.

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You had delivered a clear message on the law of civilization:

Never resist your superiors. Never think of resisting.
Submit and serve.

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In this way, early aerial bombing massacred civilians
in the villages and cities of Morocco and India and
Iran and Ethiopia and many, many other countries.

Only you never heard of these bombings.
They had no Picasso to tell the tale of their devastation.

Their stories went up with the smoke.

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Of course, the civilized powers dropping the bombs
did not endorse the brutal killing of innocents. They would never do that.

They were nations of laws and justice and religion.
They enacted strict international laws forbidding such actions.

Only these laws applied to humans like themselves.

Humans unlike themselves,
Africans or Arabs or Asians or Indians,
were naturally inferior and fell outside such legal constraints.
They could be slaughtered for their own good.

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That’s what was interesting with Guernica.
Europeans bombed innocent Europeans.

That was new in 1937. And deeply unsettling.

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Picasso began working on his masterpiece almost immediately
after hearing reports of the atrocity, and his Guernica painting
soon toured widely through Europe.

When viewers gazed upon it, did they sense
it was an image more from the future than the past?

No matter. A single painting, no matter how strong, no matter
how celebrated the artist, was not enough. Not enough at all.

Soon the people of the civilized nations would learn
what their darker-skinned brothers already knew.
Everyone was at risk from the sky.

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In a few short years, civilians living in huge cities
would be incinerated by the tens of thousands.

Dresden, Hamburg, and Tokyo would be
decimated in a new kind of war where everyone
was a target and innocence was irrelevant.

Of course, that was another time, another world.
Nothing like that could happen today.

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The important work of our greatest artists tell us so.

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The Child is the Future Drone Pilot

Hey, wouldn’t it be great to train kids to be military drone pilots?

Sure it would! So Cherry Lake publishing has put out a school book for students in grades 4-8 all about drones. It’s part of their “cool military careers” series and, boy is it ever fun!

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The book tells kids all about drones and how they work. It’s awesome! One special passage reveals, in an easy-to-remember way, the five skills any successful drone pilot needs:

Dedicated
Responsible
Organized
Never out of control
Eager to get the job done right

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Sounds great! Wish I were a kid again, dreaming and hoping about one day leading my own secret drone mission to waste some terrorist scum. And because it’s never too early to plan that military career, the book has a helpful link to the Air Force!

What’s that? You’re not sure a child should be learning about piloting military drones? Doesn’t seem quite right for a kid? No problem! She might be better suited for….

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Special Ops is super cool! Action, adventure, and risking your life everyday to “help protect the United States and preserve peace throughout the world.” Sure we’ve already killed a few of the big “targets,” but thanks to the drone program, we’ll have plenty of enemies for a long, long time!

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Win That Nuclear War!

Naturally the bombing of Hiroshima evokes a mixture of triumph and regret. Yes, the atomic bomb saved the world for freedom and democracy (we call it the Peace Bomb around here). And that’s all well and good. But it’s a little embarrassing to admit that our atomic weapons were so puny in those days. A mere 15 kilotons? Hardly an expression of global dominance!

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Since then, we’ve diverted more than 5 trillion dollars and some of our greatest scientific minds to the challenge of making deadlier nuclear weapons. Success! Now we have warheads that are 300 kilotons, with some that are far more massive than that. That’s a nuclear arsenal that’s the envy of children and powerless humans everywhere!

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Of course, one must always suffer the whining of weak and tedious pacifists who keep yammering that nuclear war will annihilate millions. That is so not the point! The point is that when we do have a nuclear war, we will win!

The U.S. government made the 1958 film Power of Decision to reassure its Strategic Air Command forces about this very fact. The military realized that the prospect of slaughtering populations and creating hell on earth might make even the most well-trained soldier a bit uncomfortable. Strategic personnel must be gently taught of the greater wisdom — we will triumph over any enemy. Yes, it may kill 70 million of our people or 100 million of theirs or perhaps more deaths than anyone can imagine. But the point is, in the end, we win!

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Some scoffers dismiss this as the cold war logic of the 1950′s. Fools. Great ideas never age. That’s why we still have some 5,000 working nuclear weapons, with more than 1900 warheads currently deployed and aimed at targets around the world. We’re all set for victory!

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For more on this inspiring film, and other once-classified documents from U.S. government files, go to the excellent National Security Archives.

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The Art of Exposure

You begin with an image. It comes through Twitter or Tumblr or Instagram. The view is unfamiliar, a strange indistinct area from an alien land.

The only thing you know is that this place is a crime scene.

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People have been murdered there. By a drone.

There are a few spare facts. Four missiles, more than 16 dead. Little else. Details will remain elusive for some time, because the event took place in a distant area.

And the dead are not people we know.

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Who are those caught in the eye of the drone? A terrorist, a man selling tea, a child? We are left to wonder.

It’s this act of wondering which is the real product of Dronestagram, a social media project that disperses these “drones-eye” views across various platforms. James Bridal is the inventive artist who realized he could tap into the drone data compiled by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, match it with Google satellite images, and bring it into the everyday lives of safe, comfortable people.

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Some argue that such drone strikes engender fear and resentment among the innocent civilians of these areas, and it will be that which will prove the enduring damage of these attacks. But if we don’t know about the bombs, if we don’t read about the victims, if we’re left in the dark, we surrender any role in preventing war or shaping peace.

Which is exactly what powerful authorities prefer. We’ll handle things, they assure us.

Just trust us.

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In the ongoing struggle between the forces of concealment and revelation, Dronestagram features the art of quiet exposure, reminding us, oh so politely, to consider the consequences of our secret wars and state assassinations.

Do we step deeper into the image? Or do we look away?

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Stay Strong Pakistan!

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Congratulations Pakistan! 15 years since the creation of your first working nuclear warhead, and now you wield more than 100 nukes — each capable of massive destruction!

But if you could only generate a little power for your people to live. Pakistan has been plagued by widespread power blackouts in the sweltering summer and the problem has now reached crisis proportions. Workers can’t work, the sick cannot be well treated, and solutions remain excruciatingly elusive.

But take heart, Pakistan, you may not have power for health, production and quality of life, but your threat of mass murdering your enemies remains strong!

Athar Hussain/ReutersAthar Hussain/Reuters

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Winning the Hearts and Minds…..

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Top Salesman of State

John Kerry is not only the American Secretary of State, he’s also a top salesman for Raytheon, one of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers. In his recent trip to the Mideast, Kerry stopped by Oman to ink a deal for Raytheon to sell the more than two billion dollars worth of weapons to our beloved Sultinate.

Making the world safe for democracy!

REUTERS/Jim Young

Remember, what’s good for Raytheon is good for America.

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Our Bomb Launches

The Cluster Project launches its first installments of works related to weapons, war, and the giddy, psychotic culture that breeds violent conflict. In other words, big fun! This blog hopes to offer an ongoing chronicle of these dark realms, full of bombs and businessmen, artists and celebrities, politicians and the innocent dead.

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Certain grand products of civilization are not easily viewed, especially for those weak of stomach. A few may trouble themselves with visions of massacres and genocide, but they’re wildly outnumbered by the broad masses who come online for kitty cats, porn, games, and Kim Kardashian (only the last of which we cannot quite grasp).

Some things, however, need to be seen and thought. So we walk along the crooked paths of satire, surrealism, and science fiction which take us to places we don’t wish to go, but know that we must.

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After all, these are our killing machines. The drones, cluster bombs, nukes, and other indiscriminate devices that wield power over the earth are not inventions from outer space. They’re inventions of inner space. The history of bombing is the history of us. Its heart is our heart.

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We’re the ones with the ancient impulse for annihilation. We’re the ones with the fevered dream of flight and transcendence. It’s our glorious engineers who have fused these forces into exquisite instruments of mortal terror. So good for us! Hurrah for the primates!

But maybe, you know, we might also review the matter again.

Just to see how it’s working out for everyone.

Hiroshima-Bombing
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In Times of Universal Deceit…

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