Naomi Campbell's Tears Just Made You Care About Drone Strikes
We’ve come a long way from pretending airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars, but the wish is still there. Now, in a haunting new song from ANOHNI, debuted on Annie Mac’s BBC radio show, it comes as a wish for death. The transgender singer, of Antony and the Johnsons, is no stranger to controversy–she spent the last half of February making headlines for her scathing callout of the Oscars. The performance slot, which should’ve been given to her and her ecocide-themed song “Manta Ray,” was instead given to Dave Grohl—despite the fact that he wasn’t nominated for an award like she was. Now, she’s switched her focus from the oceans to the skies with a new video for her song “Drone Bomb Me,” which you can watch on Apple Music here. The ballad features model/queen Naomi Campbell, was art-directed by Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, and will absolutely pummel you when you hear the heartbreaking lyrics.
“It’s a love song from the perspective of a girl in Afghanistan, says a 9-year-old girl whose family’s been killed by a drone bomb,” ANOHNI explained to Mac. “She is kind of looking up at the sky and she’s gotten herself to a place where she just wants to be killed by a drone bomb too.”
It’s powerful not just because of the lyricism but also because songs about drone strikes are incredibly rare in pop culture. Addie Wagenknecht’s “Drone Painting,” and Laura Poitras’ “Astro Noise“ have tackled the subject in the art world, but musicians have yet to dive too deep into drone warfare. That might be attributed to the fact that drone programs like the one in the United States have been intentionally kept under wraps for over a decade during our endless War on Terror. Thanks to ANOHNI and the tears of Naomi Campbell, drones have become a talking point you’ll almost certainly end up discussing this weekend at the bar. To help break it down so you impress your friends and keep them woke, here are five facts about drones you need to know.
The CIA’s first drone strike started a 14-year bureaucratic nightmare.
In the opening campaign of America’s War on Terror a month after Sept. 11th, a botched drone strike failed to kill Taliban Supreme Commander Mullah Mohammed Omar. The drone plan—a tiny, propeller-driven device—had just committed the first lethal action by a remotely-piloted aircraft and completely missed its target. Instead of killing Omar, it hit an empty car parked outside of his compound. To this day, the CIA doesn’t know who issued the order to fire the missile, which makes it the CIA’s very own Nipplegate but, you know, with terrorism.
Drone strikes have a bad habit of killing innocent civilians.
America’s strategy on drone strikes is like playing hide and seek but, instead of finding the people in hiding, we just bomb the shit out of where they might be hidden. Seriously. A report last year found that in a five-month stretch of time between January 2012 and February 2013, 90% of the people killed in drone strikes were civilians. In that entire period, only 35 of the more than 200 people killed in drone strikes were terrorists. The last time we saw odds that bad, it was when Martin O’Malley tried running for president.
Over the course of his presidency, President Obama has become the drone strike king.
When President Obama took office, he inherited Bush’s expansive drone program and ran with it. Throughout his presidency, he’s launched more than 506 drone strikes (compared to Bush’s 50 strikes), which have killed a reported 3,040 terrorists and 391 civilians. In a 2013 speech, he even went full chill mode about civilian casualties. “The terrorists we are after target civilians but the death toll from their acts of terrorism against Muslims dwarfs any estimate of civilian casualties from drone strikes,” he explained. The problem with this rationale, though, is that the more people you kill in drone strikes, the more likely you are to increase anti-government sentiment and, therefore, produce a cycle of terrorist recruitment to groups like Al Qaeda and ISIS.
The Pentagon has been flying drones over the U.S. for a decade.
It’s time to put on your tin foil hats, caress your bong, and think twice about torrenting that movie, because drones are high in our skies. The Pentagon released a report admitting that they’ve sent drones into the skies to spy on U.S. territories since 2006, though they’re allegedly “rare and lawful.” The missions have mostly been used to assist in search and rescue, fires, floods, and the like, but we all know they’ve been watching us in horror as we struggled to overcome puberty, navigate adulthood, and trip over countless sidewalk cracks.
Drones have made kids in the Middle East fear clear blue skies.
In 2013, a 13-year-old Pakistani boy named Zubair told Congress about the experience of living under drone-filled skies. “I no longer love blue skies. In fact, I now prefer grey skies. The drones do not fly when the skies are grey,” he explained after recounting the injuries he and his sister suffered in a drone strike that killed their grandma while she was outside in their garden. It’s one thing to recount facts and stats about drones, but it’s stories like Zubair’s and songs like ANOHNI’s, which tells the story of a girl who wants to die in a drone strike to reunite with her dead parents, that truly hit home.
When a new generation of kids are growing up scared of the clear blue skies that we’ve been basking in since spring arrived, things have to change.
Original imagery via Kathryn Chadason. Additional imagery via The Atlantic, AP, Slate, and The Guardian.
Stay tuned to Milk for more political pop culture news.