The Missile and The Paperclip – Julian Stallabrass 2014

The Missile and the Paperclip


Julian Stallabrass



To hear the big fellows talk, they wage war from fear of God and for all things bright and beautiful, but just look into it, and you’ll see they’re not so silly: they want a good profit out of it, or else the little fellows like you and me wouldn’t back ‘em up. –Brecht, Mother Courage and her Children



Imagine three scenes:

A worker in a high-tech, high-security factory assembles the components of a remote killing device: electronic circuitry, processors, avionics, cameras. The work is skilled but repetitive; the environment bright, calm and sterile with its polished grey vinyl floors, high ceilings and white walls. Each repeated action, performed hour after hour, contributes to the termination of a life, far away.

Another worker on another shift. She sits before a screen, observing for as many as twelve hours a day the routines of family and communal life in a rural district. She may see the same people, farmers and their families, over weeks. The interface she uses is familiar from the gaming consoles of her childhood. She has sat in front of another screen as the miles roll by on the commute from suburb to desert base. She may sit in front of yet another in the evening, watching TV or playing computer games. Her daily routine of work is not unlike that of the people who are paid to watch the relays from surveillance cameras, except that every so often an instruction comes through to murder the people on camera.

A farmer gazes at a distant aircraft describing a figure-of-eight pattern. Sometimes, he can hear its engine. He knows many people who have been blown up by such craft, and he knows that he is being watched. Everyone he knows live in constant fear of death dealt to them from the sky, and of the reprisal killings that often follow as supposed informants are assassinated by insurgents, or as old and unconnected scores are settled. His children no longer dare attend school because school buildings have so often been targets. People are too scared to gather in large groups so communal life and local decision making falter. At the dead of night, awake, he hears the distant drone of the engine again, and tries to calm the terror of his children.

Each of these scenes is imagined, though based on actual accounts.[1] The drama of the situation could hardly be greater: in legend, the Sword of Damocles hangs over the head of the monarch, yet in fact it quivers on its horse hair above some of the most powerless people on Earth. Each week, the President determines according to a ‘disposition matrix’ who should live or die.[2] People are targeted for killing not only on specific intelligence that they may have been involved in a particular crime, but on the grounds that their general behaviour makes it possible that they might have been.[3] Across countries on which no war has been declared (Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia), civilians are regularly blown up by missiles launched from drones, and shot by death squads. None has faced a trial or even heard the charges against them before the death sentence is levelled. Many undoubtedly innocent people have been killed in the process, while entire regions live under constant surveillance and the fear of arbitrary murder.

The gulag, public and secret, that the Bush regime constructed as part of its apparatus of the war on terror—kidnapping people, holding them indefinitely without trial, torturing them (sometimes to death), and taking them beyond the remit of law or any contact with their families—became an embarrassment. Far better, the new regime decided, to focus on killing suspects rather than capturing them.

The system of drone killing may be thought of as an intricate and overlapping series of circuits: it begins with intelligence gathering, including observation from drones; moves to the analysis of the vast quantities of data produced, and the production of disposition matrices; then to the moment of decision, in which Obama (so we are led to believe) sits in the White House Situation Room, like a grisly Fate, his scissors hovering over the various threads of life laid out before him; then to the ‘pilot’ whose immensely tedious job of watching and waiting is occasionally punctuated by the command to launch a missile at an individual or a building; then to the mechanism that delivers the Hellfire missile to its destination. Its fragmentation warhead destroys its target and anybody else nearby; and that in turn produces a series of reactions: people who try to help the wounded are often hit by another missile in a ‘double tap’ operation, a familiar terrorist tactic.[4] There is shock, trauma and grief. Armed groups may exact revenge on those they believe to be informants, so murder follows on murder. Among those who lose loved ones, some may choose to fight back. These reactions are then reassessed with the intelligence-gathering operations with which we began, and the cycle of death continues.

Much of this mechanism, like the running of the associated death squads, is designed to be out of sight of the mediatised public.[5] The parts that are designed for media exposure include the posturing of politicians, who garb themselves in military dignity, trying to assure viewers through propaganda images that they are fit to decide on issues of life and death, and that they do so with measured integrity. Also visible are clean images of the sleek technology of death, of the drones themselves in flight or in the factory. When some prominent target is supposed to have been blown up, the results are announced in words alone. In one notorious image, we (that mediatised public) are vouchsafed an image of the state executioners in the White House Situation Room watching their assassination agents at work. The image is banal, in most senses: some people in a dull meeting room watching a screen. Only one of them shows any emotion. But we are not allowed to see what they see.

And largely out of public sight, lie many more elements of the operation: the drone operator at work; the business of war (the private companies that make and sell drones, missiles and warheads); the destruction of people, animals and homes that the weapons cause; the consequences of retaliatory killings, the widespread trauma of those who live under the drones, the dissolution of communal life, and the fostering of what is called ‘extremism’—though what, we might ask, would count as an extreme reaction to such a campaign of surveillance, fear, destruction, maiming and murder?

So, once more, the drama of this situation could hardly be greater; yet in no sense is that drama matched by its representations that circulate in the mass media. The drone and death squad system are designed to be beyond the remit of law, political oversight and above all lenses. Imagine the impossibility of using it in places where a developed media operate: a government believes that a terrorist is shopping in a mall or teaching in a school in Frankfurt, New York, Paris or Birmingham, so a missile is fired into the building to kill the suspect, along with whoever happens to be close by. Swiftly, we would know the names of those who died, learn about their lives, and hear their grieving relatives and friends talk about them: we would know them as individuals, in other words, and as people much like us.

The invisibility of the murder campaign and of its many victims is then central to its very existence. We must not see the scenes of carnage, learn the names of those who died (unless they are prominent ‘terrorists’), or hear from the victims of their maiming or wounding, or from their loved ones. The media must not report and the people themselves must not be able to speak to us.

The circulation of photographic and TV images has become central to the operation of democracy itself.[6] Foreign policy intellectuals—those who think in the service of Empire—worry that rational decision-making can be unduly affected by responses to media images.[7] Where there are no images, there is little or no news, and so no restraint of power. Here the state of exception—the declaration of some area or group as being beyond the remit of law—is easily declared, and the state acts as a fascist.[8] It does so explicitly: putting a class of people to death because of where and how they live.

In these harsh circumstances of murder and censorship, and given that the mainstream media lacks the means and, it seems, often the motive to raise the lid, various artists have tried to find ways of visualising the programme. Sometimes they imagine or fictionalise what is only scantily documented. Many artists, including Raphaël Dallaporta, Haroun Farocki, Mishka Henner, Louise Lawler and Jay Zehngebot, using diverse means and media, have worked to highlight the drone campaign and its associated technologies.[9] Some, including Edmund Clark and Lisa Barnard, have worked under the auspices of Reprieve, a charity which assists victims in legal actions against the drone campaign.[10]

To take some examples among the range of these works, in a simple intervention, a group (using JR’s Inside Out Project) made a very large-scale portrait of a child in Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa, laid out on the ground and designed to be seen by drone operators. It was a way of reminding the pilots and all others who reviewed the drone footage that the people who live there are (in the words of the work’s title) Not Bug Splat.[11] The project’s wide circulation on social media is also designed to provoke opposition to the murder programme.

Omer Fast has interviewed a drone pilot about his work and life, and in a complex video, 5000 Feet is the Best, dramatised his weird shuttling between civilian normality and death-dealing shift work. The work also imagines an alternative reality in which US citizens live under foreign occupation and continual surveillance, and are arbitrarily killed from the sky.[12]

In much of his work, Trevor Paglen has highlighted the operations and the invisibility of the secret shadow state, the vast and lavishly funded spying and military apparatus that lies outside of democratic oversight, a Praetorian Guard of immense power that lies at the beck and call of the President. Drones are merely a part of it. Paglen has also made work about black sites (secret prisons), has tracked rendition flights, and photographed military satellites and closed bases from great distances.[13] In dealing with the many tensions and contradictions between imperialism and democracy, the choice of the US state over the entire post-war period has been the consistent favouring of secrecy and force.[14]

Finally, a few exceptionally courageous and resourceful photographers have worked under the drone campaign areas, gathering images and stories, while facing dangers from both militants and the Pakistani military. Noor Behram has taken pictures of villagers holding up missile parts, blown-up buildings, along with dead and wounded children. He could not at first get his images into the press and had to show them on the streets in Pakistan.[15] These grisly spectacles are of course hard to verify, by the standards of the mainstream press which decides not to gather them, and have gained little traction there.[16]

Lisa Barnard’s work, then, is part of a wider movement which works more or less explicitly in the service of political agendas, to make visible the extent of the secret security apparatus and the drone campaign. Like Paglen, Barnard has evolved a complex multi-part project which, while it cannot address the whole system (much of which lies in the deepest of shadows), is a consistent attempt to illumine many parts of it. She has interviewed victims of missile attacks and drone pilots along with leading psychologists, working with the US Air Force, who deal with mental trauma. What clearly emerges from the different types of material that Barnard researches, records and surveys is a complex in which images are increasingly analysed by algorithms to yield operational data: a convergence of video feeds, still photographs and computer simulations, in which the rich, contingent life of photography and the world that it records is stripped out or disciplined to provide usable, identifiable data-objects. Can a machine tell a man from a woman or a child through a drone camera? Or a rifle from a hoe?

Brecht’s phrase, a ‘hyena of the battlefield’ comes from Mother Courage, and is a charge laid against the protagonist by a chaplain, when she worries aloud that peace might put her out of a job. Profiteering from war used to be a charge of severe moral deficiency, and if it has now become more respectable, it is still kept largely under wraps so far as the general public are concerned. Barnard shows crates for drones from the AUSVI (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International) Fair where they are bought and sold. They look much like the crates that art comes packed in; likewise, they often bear the warning ‘Fragile’ (though it is a term better used to refer to their fleshy targets). Some of the cases bear arrows pointing upwards that gesture to the skies that the drones will fly into and fall out of. The propaganda of the self-images of these arms companies are condensed into their logos. Here are some of the company names, and pieces of corporate propaganda taken from their websites:

General Atomics: ‘a world leader in proven, reliable Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) and tactical reconnaissance radars, as well as advanced high-resolution surveillance systems.  The company is dedicated to providing long-endurance, mission-capable aircraft with the integrated sensor and data link systems required to deliver persistent situational awareness and rapid strike capabilities.’

Boeing: ‘At Boeing, supportability and sustainability are in the forefront of design. The Hornet, Super Hornet and Growler are prime examples of this. Obviously, as the technology and the sophistication of our weapons systems have advanced so have the methods and tools that allow us to support our customers’ products affordably and effectively.’

Northrop Grumman:  ‘the recognized leader in unmanned systems’.

Cubic Defense: ‘a leading provider of live and virtual training systems, and a specialized supplier of military electronics and information assurance solutions’.

Beechcraft: ‘Beechcraft Corporation sets the standard for meeting demanding military training and light attack requirements in a world where unpredictability is commonplace and flexibility is crucial.’

Sikorsky: ‘We behave, at all times, at the highest levels of business and human integrity’.

As war has become less the exclusive domain of the state, and more a privatised business, an armoured glacis of corporate bullshit protects executives, workers and the public alike from the dark business of war. Killing is rarely mentioned in this company guff, though ‘strike’ or even ‘attack’ may be. Such end products are seen here as merely a part of professional operating efficiency, in which blood is hidden by business jargon. Making money out of killing is in no way incompatible with integrity.

Like samples in a sales catalogue, the crates are cut out and their backgrounds are removed. They are juxtaposed with a blueprint-style map of the Fair, listing the participants and showing their spatial disposition. As in all such spatial configuration, there is the cutting of reality into discrete fragments, and the arrangement of those fragments in an order, pointing to abstraction, instrumentalism, surveillance and bureaucracy. Yet the crates also bear the signs of work—of marking, labelling and the removal of labels and scuffs due to lifting. The polish of the commodity, which is supposed to banish any thought of the labour that formed it, is seen here in its shipping containers.

The metal objects shown at the Fair may appear to be artefacts of the old industrial age. The Hellfire missile, though frequently updated and modified to work against different targets, was designed in the late 1970s and first deployed in 1984, while drones are older still.[17] Yet computing, cameras and machine visualisation are key to their operation; like the film cameras that first incorporated digital circuitry, they bind up mechanical, optical and chemical elements. But it is the screen that Barnard sees as being the presiding symbol and presence of the military-industrial-entertainment regime.[18]

In Fast’s film, Las Vegas (the nearest city to the Creech Air Force Base from which drones are operated) is presented as a flashy nightscape seen from the air in ominous slow tracking shots. The city is, of course, at the origin of one of the most powerful narratives of postmodernism, in which the urban landscape’s marketised lack of planning, variety, entertainment and celebration of popular taste was pitched against boring, grey, Puritan modernism.[19] Yet the billboards of the postmodern era have been largely replaced by the screen, the sign of a further acceleration of consumption, as the weeks’ long life of the poster is switched for the evanescence of the digital display that changes by the second. The postmodern Las Vegas (like Fast’s aerial nightscape) is gaudy, glitzy, kitsch and trippy, a crazed eclectic mix of promiscuous styles. It is a fitting place for Hunter S. Thompson’s chemical reveries.[20] Barnard’s city, in contrast, drawing on the subtle everyday aesthetics of the New Topographics’ photographers, is decorated with massive screens but is largely bleached of colour, and appears mundane and regulated. Even the signal casino buildings (like New York, New York) seem distant and unprepossessing, while other casinos, more typically, have the severe look of a bunker. Drones fly near the city, and its military role is clear in signage and architecture. Here the city is dull but also sinister.

Las Vegas is, too, the city of games, and as screens complement and replace clockwork mechanisms in gaming devices, another circle closes: the mostly poor folk who ‘volunteer’ for the US military are increasingly lured into service by computer games, many of them made either directly by or with the collaboration of the armed forces. They may play a part in inuring recruits to the kill, even before they join.[21] Some drone pilots play combat games in their time off. Computer simulations are also being used to provide a reassuring environment in which to counter trauma (PTSD) on return from combat operations in the service of the Empire. Barnard takes a tour of Virtual Iraq, a programme designed for the military by Medical Virtual Reality to act as an individually tailored environment to help returning soldiers deal with their trauma. In a simulated and generic Iraqi urban scenario, elements are slowly introduced that bring back traumatic events, so that they can be controlled emotionally. Barnard, acting as a photojournalist, has a minder give her a tour of the virtual city, and takes stills. As with the photographic scenes of Las Vegas, these virtual landscapes are banal and unremarkable: pixellated figures, dusty and largely empty streets, a car parked by the side of the road, a crack in the pavement. Here, and in the computer-rendered versions of photographs of blast marks, severed limbs and badly wounded people sent in by serving soldiers, instrumental machine vision comes to the fore. In giving soldiers the ability to emotionally handle the trauma that they have experienced or are yet to experience, a balance of denatured and visceral elements is struck: a Virtual Reality environment in which fruit and vegetables are reduced to flat patches of colour, and the comforting limits of the game are established; and set against that environment, physical sounds, vibrations, smells and objects of the occupied land (including carpets and domestic knick-knacks). The real, then, is portioned out in small doses, to be managed against the virtual environment in which each discrete element, including the avatars meant for interrogation, is there to be used or destroyed.

In Los Angeles, Barnard has made a series of urban scenes. As in Las Vegas, they are bleached and mundane; and again, they fix on possible triggers for panic attacks: piles of rubbish which in Afghanistan or Iraq could have hidden bombs, uneven paving, parked cars. Yet the point here is that the range of possible triggers is extraordinarily broad, and can include any irregularity in the environment. So, through the rehearsal of traumatic memories in controlled conditions, in which as they are rehearsed memories are altered, a flattening and controlling mentality is produced in the traumatised soldier. Unruly memory, which cannot handle the horror of what has been done to the troops, and what they did to civilians, is reduced to bare, flat elements, the way that fruit is rendered as blocky areas of colour in a computer game. It is a logical capitalist solution, geared to the rationalisation of work and the way that business treats its human ‘assets’, its resources and environment. The violence of technology is partly about how it cuts the link between people and their sensory interaction with the world.[22]

If we discount the footage from the drones themselves, missile explosions are not caught on camera, and even their aftermath is only rarely seen by journalists and activists. How to envision the killing, if you are unable to do what Noor Behram did at great personal risk, and speak to the victims of the drone campaign? On her tour of Virtual Iraq, Barnard ‘photographs’ clouds of smoke, the product of simulated explosions, and this serves as one indication. Smoke and virtually burning palms are set in crude digital landscapes. They bring to mind that sectarian warfare (from Palestine to Iraq) has often targeted trees, date palms and olives in particular, sources of income and deep attachment for those who tend them, which are quick to destroy and very slow to replace. Smoke is one of the hardest phenomena to model convincingly in computer simulations, and these are clumsy renditions. This may be the point: that the system of intelligence and killing is played like a game, that tokens are taken off the board, and that the act is heavily abstracted in the minds of most of those involved.

The other thing that Barnard does, in a distinctive series called ‘Primitive Pieces’, is to photograph Hellfire missile fragments, picked up from murder sites in Waziristan and brought to Islamabad by Noor Behram. While, as we have seen, most of Barnard’s work deliberately eschews visual drama, here she photographs the fragments in monochrome, against black backgrounds, lit as if they were pieces of sculpture. Some look like mutilated skulls or helmets, and in each picture the distorted and torn steel is a ruin that has created ruins, and displays the force that blew it and other bodies and structures apart. The results are reminiscent of modernist sculpture, particularly Anthony Caro bronzes of the 1970s and 1980s. Is this, too, a jibe about abstraction? That the modernist aesthetic lives on blithely in the military, where the image of intimidating power is as important as force itself (or rather, is another kind of force); and that a mordant abstraction also hangs about the entire system of drone killing, as the targets remain mostly abstract in the public mind, at least in the nations that launch the missiles, and the system of abstract calculation is untainted by what is implied by these distressed surfaces: chaos, blood and grief.

Barnard’s general resistance to spectacle runs through much of this work, including the long and incident-free videos that she has made of the commute to and from the Creech Air Force Base from Las Vegas, and the proceedings of the AUSVI Fair and a Jirga held in Pakistan that brought anti-drone activists together. Barnard appears in the Fair and Jirga films, sometimes seen through the lens of a drone camera, switched from artist to subject and target. The negative model here is the spectacular war so often represented in photojournalism, movies, television and games. Instead, war through the screen is a matter of boredom, clumsy simulations, bureaucracy, tedious architecture and urban environments, all of which forces on the participant and viewer a cold emotional distance. A bleak repetitiveness is meant to hold back realisation of the terror with which it is so closely intertwined. All this is reminiscent of the view of the grey experience of new media laid out by Matthew Fuller and Andrew Goffey, which sets spectacle against the listlessness and boredom that the screen and the interface produce.[23] In this sense, the X-Ray wave traces that appear on the Las Vegas pictures, and which Barnard had made through repeated exposure of the film to airport scanners and highlighted by pushing the film, may serve as a metaphor for whole project. Coinciding with and interrupting the regular boredom of the image, there lies an instrumental element of force, an impact that marks the scene, and that remains normally hidden while affecting everything that we see. It also points to the tight binding up of military entertainment and media systems: handing government great propaganda powers but also exposing vulnerabilities as the areas in which the fascist power of exception can be exercised shrink, and as the old legal powers governing the ownership and circulation of images erode.

So behind the bureaucratic business of killing, and behind the screen, lies a bloody and chaotic strain. Here, one may be reminded of an early, prescient account of the technology of mechanised killing, H.G. Wells’ short story, ‘The Land Ironclads’ of 1903, in which he envisaged the invention of the tank. The soldiers who dwell within are also operatives of a basic screen, a camera obscura on which are laid targeting crosshairs:

The rifleman stood up in his pitch-dark chamber and watched the little picture before him. One hand held the dividers for judging distance, and the other grasped a big knob like a door-handle. As he pushed this knob about the rifle above swung to correspond, and the picture passed to and fro like an agitated panorama. When he saw a man he wanted to shoot he brought him up to the cross-lines, and then pressed a finger upon a little push like an electric bell-push, conveniently placed in the centre of the knob. Then the man was shot.[24]

These killers go about their work calmly and without apparent disturbance, in contrast to the sweaty, brave and patriotic troops who are their victims. Wells, though, ends with the suggestion that ‘they had also in their eyes and carriage something not altogether degraded below the level of a man’. And indeed, we may think of the drone pilots, of the ‘Whiplash Transition’, mediated only by a commute, between killing families and family life, and that they suffer PTSD at rates at least as high as regular pilots.[25]

What is assembled through Barnard’s various series of images and texts is a view of war as a system, as a series of interacting components in which labour, profit, entertainment, the scramble for resources, and the management of human feeling all play a part. In the continual and intensifying struggle to create new opportunities for profit in a shrinking world, war offers distinct advantages: if a nation can be destroyed (as Iraq was comprehensively and deliberately), then that ‘creative destruction’ is as good as a recession in offering new business opportunities; military spending is one of the few untouchable arenas for the state subsidy of corporations; and war can be used to put a lock on scarce resources and ensure that they flow to the advantage of the already powerful. The hyenas of the battlefield are many.

Yet at the same time, the system is not functioning well. In Iraq, the sectarian violence that was encouraged in a typical imperial divide-and-rule policy escaped the aims of its architects, and now threatens to tear apart the nation, disrupt oil supplies, aid steadfast enemies of the US, and has largely prevented the economic stimulus that reconstruction could have provided. Partly as a result of this catastrophe, the Empire seems reluctant to commit troops anywhere, and in this sense, the drone and assassination campaign is a symptom of weakness. One of Virginia Woolf’s recommendations for anti-war activists was that they should puncture the pretensions of the military, of its absurd pomp, ceremony, costumes and rituals.[26] Barnard has applied that strategy to one political war-monger in a well-known series of aged and rotting propaganda photographs of Margaret Thatcher, found at a former Tory Party headquarters. Here, though, her tactic is different: to reveal and make visible the system of war in a way that drains it of its spectacle and glamour, connecting it with the general bureaucratisation, auditing, regulation and timetabling of life and labour, separating war from its heavy investment in entertainment to place it firmly within the world of work and profit: of strip lighting, the screen, the paperclip and the cubicle.




[1] For descriptions of conditions for drone pilots and those living under the drones, see Medea Benjamin, Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, Verso, London 2013, pp. 89-91; 117-21. The description of those making drones draws on photographs of drone factories.

[2] Ian Cobain, ‘Obama’s Secret Kill List – The Disposition Matrix’, The Guardian, 14 July 2013;

[3] Benjamin, Drone Warfare, pp. 120-1.

[4] Jerome Taylor, ‘Outrage at CIA’s deadly “double tap” drone attacks’, The Independent, 25 September 2012: See also Benjamin, Drone Warfare, pp. 26, 120, 135.

[5] The Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) death squads are the subject of Jeremy Scahill’s film, Dirty Wars (2013); Scahill has written an associated book, Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield, Nation Books, New York 2013.

[6] For a sustained argument about photography and liberal democracy, see Robert Hariman/ John Louis Lucaites, No Caption Needed: Iconic Photographs, Public Culture, and Liberal Democracy, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 2007.

[7] This phenomenon is known as the ‘CNN Effect’. See, for example, Margaret H. Belknap, The CNN Effect: Strategic Enabler or Operational Risk?, USAWC Strategy Research Project/ U.S. Army War College: available at [accessed 30 June 2014]; for a remarkable account of the foreign policy intellectuals, see Perry Anderson, ‘Consilium’, New Left Review, no. 83, September-October 2013, pp. 113-67.

[8] The idea that such a declaration is the font of political power is found in Carl Schmitt, The Concept of the Political, trans. George Schwab, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago 1996 (first published in 1927); it have been taken up in much current theory, particularly in the work of Agamben. See particularly Giorgio Agamben, State of Exception, trans. Kevin Attell, University of Chicago Press, Chicago 2005.

[9] For an account of artists dealing with drones, see Paul Wombell, ed., Drone: The Automated Image, Le Mois de la Photo à Montréal, Kerber Verlag, Bielefeld 2013. On Lawler, see Mignon Nixon, ‘Louise Lawler: No Drones’, October, no. 147, Winter 2014, pp. 20-37.

[10] See the Reprieve website: [accessed 24 June 2014]

[11] See The Inside Out Project provides facilities for communities to represent themselves with posters in the JR style, and has been used by a variety of groups with political agendas. See [accessed 24 June 2014]

[12] See Omer Fast et al., 5000 Feet is the Best, Sternberg Press, Berlin 2012.

[13] There is an extensive literature on (and by) Paglen. See, for example, Trevor Paglen, Invisible: Covert Operations and Classified Landscapes, Aperture, New York 2010.

[14] For an account that demonstrates this continuity in postwar US foreign policy, see Perry Anderson, ‘Imperium’, New Left Review, no. 83, September-October 2013, pp. 5-111; on the choice between democracy and Empire, see  John Brenkman, The Cultural Contradictions of Democracy: Political Thought Since September 11, Princeton University Press, Princeton 2007.

[15] Noor Behram’s work was shown at Beaconsfield art space, London in 2011. See [accessed 24 June 2014]

[16] See Spencer Ackerman, ‘Rare Photographs Show Ground Zero of the Drone War’, Wired, 12 December 2012;  The article reflects on the uncertainties surrounding the photographs and offers a defence of the editorial decision to publish them.

[17] See Boeing’s account on the history of the AGM-114A HELLFIRE missile: [accessed 26 June 2014]

[18] For an account of this nexus, see James Der Derian, Virtuous War: Mapping the Military-Industrial-Media-Entertainment Network, Westview Press, Boulder, CO 2001.

[19] Robert Venturi / Denise Scott Brown / Steven Izenour, Learning from Las Vegas: The Forgotten Symbolism of Architectural Form, The MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass. 1977.

[20] Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, Paladin, London 1972.

[21] Nick Turse, The Complex: How the Military Invades Our Everyday Lives, Faber and Faber, London 2008, pp. 137-8. The book also gives a valuable account of the US military’s use of gaming culture.

[22] André Gorz, Critique of Economic Reason, Verso, London 1989; as described in David Harvey, Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, Profile Books, London 2014, p. 271.

[23] Matthew Fuller/ Andrew Goffey, Evil Media, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA 2012, pp. 11-14.

[24] H.G. Wells, ‘The Land Ironclads’, in The Short Stories of H.G. Wells Ernest Benn, London 1927.

[25] As reported by a study by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center. See James Dao, ‘Drone Pilots Are Found to Get Stress Disorders Much as Those in Combat Do’, New York Times, 22 February 2013, p. A9.

[26] Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas, Hogarth Press, London 1938.