The Drone War: Understanding Who Must Die From Above

Photo by Debra Sweet | CC BY 2.0

In late October of 2016, I took a break from reading for my various social science courses to work for a couple of hours at my work-study job at the Vassar College Athletics Communications Office. On this particular day, I had to provide commentary and audio for a video stream of the game which is played live online, largely for parents and family members of the players. At halftime, the parents of someone on the team approached my boss to talk, and in this conversation, one parent casually commented that the other loved to watch their child play while in their office at General Atomics. General Atomics, the defense contracting company which, among other things, manufactures the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper, the two most-used military drones.

This chance meeting with a General Atomics employee speaks to the larger context of drone warfare as well as the logics behind it. This person could, through a video image and the sound of my voice, be transported from an office in California to a sports field 3,000 miles away. At the same time, General Atomics was producing and selling military drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to the U.S. military to be used in locations across the world, thousands of miles away, while being controlled remotely in places such as Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.

In the context of the game stream, one is completely aware of the rules of the contest and the bounds of play, the participants are numbered…

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