New CEL project seeks to cut through secrecy surrounding Hawija bombardment

An innovative new Community Engagement Learning (CEL) collaboration between UGlobe’s Intimacies of Remote Warfare programme and PAX seeks to uncover and unpack the reverberating effects of civilian harm in contemporary warfare.

Contemporary warfare is a distant and secretive affair. Ordinary citizens almost never directly see or feel the effects of fighting taking place on their behalf. As a result, it is easy to obscure exactly what is being done. Paradoxically, then, although technological innovation has made the world smaller across a range of domains, its application in drones and precision airstrikes has opened a vast gulf between those waging war and those on the receiving end. Today, missiles can be called in from the safety of air-conditioned offices thousands of kilometres away, far from the heat of battle.

In June 2015, the distance and secrecy of contemporary warfare was grimly apparent when a Dutch F-16 operating as part of “Operation Inherent Resolve,” the international coalition against IS, launched a missile on the town of Hawija, Iraq. Despite the “surgical precision” of this weaponry, the resulting explosion was far bigger than anticipated and resulted in at least seventy civilian casualties. Although the destruction was instantly devastating for those on the ground, the Dutch people it was delivered on behalf of were blissfully unaware. In fact, it took four years of investigation and campaigning from journalists and civil society for the Dutch government to publicly take responsibility for the attack. Even today, while the effects of this airstrike continue to reverberate among the local population, many important questions remain unanswered.

A new Community Engagement Learning (CEL) project between UGlobe’s Intimacies of Remote Warfare’s War/Truth project and PAX seeks to cut through the secrecy and distance surrounding the Hawija bombardment. From January onwards, a team of student, supervised by dr. Lauren Gould (faculty of Humanities) will be examining social media discourses surrounding this attack to understand the narratives constructed and meanings made by those affected. As a result, the same technologies which enable wars to be waged remotely will be used to study – and perhaps even challenge – the fighting from afar. Not only will the students be servicing the needs of our societal partner PAX, a key tenet of any CEL programme, they will be producing work beneficial to a host of wider societal stakeholders. The final report will be presented to Parliament to inform them on the local impact of the wars waged in our name. Improving awareness and enhancing transparency in this manner, it is hoped, will stimulate public debate and prompt more robust parliamentary oversight of the ways wars are waged today.

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