Airwars: Conflicting Accounts
To date, the US-led Coalition has conceded 1,190 civilian deaths over its four-year campaign against the so-called Islamic State. Conversely, by listening to social media, local news and speaking to monitors on the ground, Airwars has recorded over 28,000 alleged deaths and after provisional assessment, places the minimum number of civilians likely killed by Coalition air and artillery strikes at between 7,400 to 11,800.
In an effort to reconcile its records with those of the Coalition, Airwars has maintained regular exchanges with the US-led alliance since its civilian harm cell was established in December 2016. Despite this, and recognition from military sources of the credible contributions made by NGOs to civilian harm monitoring, the transparency of Coalition civilian casualty and strike reports remains inadequate – and the official death toll, implausibly low.
In 2017, a New York Times article called civilians killed by Coalition strikes “the uncounted”. For the American philosopher, Judith Butler, they are the “ungrievable”. In other words, those whose deaths do not fit within the many – aesthetic, juridical and narrative – frames of war.
Taking as its focus two recent collaborations, the first with Amnesty’s Crisis Response Team and the second with Glasgow-based designers Rectangle, the talk will outline two experimental ways in which Airwars’ archive is being mobilised to reframe civilian deaths.