Humyn Rights Week Workshop Discusses US Use of Drones


Travis Taborek

Different manifestations of oppression and exploitation are interrelated in ways that are not always immediately obvious.

This was exemplified during “From Midanao to the Middle East: Life Under Drones,” an interactive workshop presented by the Muslim Student Association and Kapatirang Pilipino on Tuesday, Nov. 12, one of a number of events that are a part of Humyn Rights Week.

The workshop, which was largely interactive and encouraged group input and discussion, was intended to provide a forum and space for the discussion of the social and human rights implications of drone warfare as an implementation of foreign and military policy. The history of colonization and U.S. military occupation in the Middle East and the Philippines were used as case examples.

It was not apparent to many of those present how the respective histories of how the two regions were connected in terms of the way they have experienced foreign interventionism. Co-facilitators of the workshop Megan Foronda, fourth-year sociology major and member of Kapatirang Pilipino, and Hani Tajsar, fourth-year Middle Eastern Studies major and member of the Muslim Student Association, intended to rectify this by relating the historical precedents seen in the two examples in a broader global context of imperialism and oppression.

“I think there’s this idea in mainstream media and society that the war on terror specifically targets the Middle East, when in fact it targets an array of nations that are deemed threatening,” Foronda said. “I think the reason why the Philippines hasn’t really gotten that much attention is because it’s not even in the center of the conversation, there’s no awareness around the depth of the war on terror in terms of where it is happening.”

Advocates of the use of drones in warfare claim that their precision capabilities minimize collateral damage. In an attempt to counter this view, Tajsar proceeded to show a slide demonstrating how the use of drones has increased dramatically since the Obama administration, and that most of those killed since the beginning of their use in 2004 have disproportionally resulted in the deaths of children, civilians, and other non-combatants.

“I think it’s important to know that the struggles that different communities face are very much connected,” said Tajsar. “The folks that are actively in charge of perpetrating imperialism and colonialism would like different communities not to band together, so they frame conflicts in such a way to prevent that, but in fact, as we saw in the workshop, the liberation of all these different communities around the world is linked together.”

Among the salient points of the workshop was a discussion of how University of California, Santa Barbara students are in some way complicit in the war on terror, insofar as their tuition fees fund research programs that are either directly or indirectly fund the drone strike campaigns and other facets of the military.

“I think it really depends on questioning where our money goes,” Foronda said. “I think what we can do as UC students is challenge the Regents in giving us information about where our money is specifically going and how our money is involved in these conflicts abroad, and how we directly pay into the research and development of these weapons.”