Wright Brothers’ Invention in the Hands of a Bigot

Author Name: Omer Aamir      26 Feb 2021     Airforce

Part 1: The Risk of Innovation

When the Wright Brothers pioneered their first flight in December 1903, they were unaware that this same flight would ultimately lead to Abhinandan (slinged by Modi’s antics) in one of the aircraft that would be shot from the sky. The Wright Brothers’ contributions to the aviation world are numerous. Their daring attempts, which ultimately took the life of young American army Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge can be attributed to their and other aviation enthusiasts’ unwavering dedication to the noble pursuit of giving wings to humans. They are the people of whom the aviation world and humanity, in general, are in awe. Their hazardous yet, ultimately, fruitful contributions led to many others exploring this field as well. The daring 26-year-old U.S. Army officer, Selfridge from California, died in what was ultimately his dedication to flying. The ill-fated aircraft was being piloted by Orville Wright himself. A propeller malfunction led to the crash that took the young lieutenant’s life while sparing Orville’s. Selfridge became the first casualty, and ultimately, an American national hero in the Wright Brothers’ maddening dedication to the field of aviation. This puzzling 'whatever it takes attitude' to the cause can be judged from the fact that although United States’ Army manuals recommended flying with at least an American football helmet, neither Orville nor Selfridge wore one.

Nevertheless, their pioneering achievements in aviation landed them a place in the all-time greatest innovators’ ‘hall of fame’ in the league of Edison, Einstein, da Vinci, and Jabir ibn Hayyan.

They succeeded against all odds in front of a hostile press, a dearth of government funding, and challenged by unscrupulous competitors. Their motives were questioned, lawsuits were initiated against them, and to top it all, Wilbur Wright did not live long enough to live in the house built from his hard-earned savings from daring aviation pursuits. Wilbur once quipped melancholically that had they not been embroiled in the distressing legal and media controversy by critics and competitors at the time, they would have succeeded beyond measure and contributed much more. The work they were doing was so risky that 11 trained American military pilots died between 1912-13 while flying the Wright-built model C. Even their father advised them to undertake the flight one ‘brother’ at a time to prevent both his sons from dying, should one of their experiments failed.

Nevertheless, by the late 1900s, the world had started to pay attention to their heroics, and the kings of Spain, Great Britain, and Italy personally came to see their aviation feets. Large crowds assembled wherever they went, and big corporations jostled to team up with them. The media had also turned in their favor. Lawsuits also went their way. If the risk and reward theory had a windfall, the Wright Brothers had won it. Orville later went on to serve on the board of the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (“N.A.C.A”), a predecessor agency to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (“N.A.S.A”), besides chairing the Wright Corporation and attaining many other honorary positions. However, his father, sister, and the (more creative and ambitious) elder brother, Wilbur (dying of typhoid), all preceded his death.

Here in the future, former US President Trump’s regressive isolationist policies and decrees were a major setback to the legacy of the Wright Brothers and other great American inventors. Nonetheless, their successful inaugural flight is a testimony to their unwavering commitment to humanity’s progress in general. A similar unflinching passion ignites other modern-day pioneers worldwide in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (“A.I”), Robotics, Quantum Mechanics, and nano-technology to take humanity forward by leaps and bounds, such as Elon Musk. How their innovations were later misused is not something that can be attributed to their mal-intent. This is elucidated by how Orville disapproved of the massive carpet bombings of civilian cities undertaken by air forces during World War II. However, the politico-military compulsions and dynamics of the early ‘40s were neither of their making nor within their control. This is similar to when Einstein disapproved of his discovery’s militarization. He was wary of what Kissinger had labelled the ultimate use of power, which leads to “destruction”, whereas efficient use of power is warfare.

PART 2: Modi’s Theatrics cut through by Swift Retort

More than a century after the end of the ‘Great War,’ the now famous 27th February 2019 battle of the two South Asian Air Forces occurred. A day that signified the resolve of Pakistani aviators to tackle adversaries who challenged the sovereignty of Pakistan. From a political angle, it unified a divided nation. From a military angle, it re-established deterrence. Psychologically, it reignited the sacrifices of Aziz Bhatti, Shabbir Sharif, and teenage patriots such as Aitazaz Hassan and Rashid Minhas. The intent of Modi’s cabal was not noble or legally sanctioned by any measure. He was out to avenge like a medieval-era warlord. However, his unprepared Air Force had to bite the dust.

Pakistan’s aerial frontiers were challenged for the first time in almost half a century. The country’s pilots’ motivation to embark on a journey that might ultimately lead them to rendering the supreme sacrifice for the motherland, is commendable beyond measure. It gained national acclaim and international fame. February was a fateful month otherwise as well. The novel Indian cross-domain strategy challenged Pakistan. Diplomatically, efforts to put Pakistan on the Financial Action Task Force (“F.A.T.F”) blacklist intensified. Legally, India sought to defame Pakistan’s military courts and label it as a terror-sponsoring nation. Militarily, India embarked on an intensive effort to exploit breaches in Pakistan’s defence. They undertook aerial ploys in four sectors before zeroing in on Balakot to destroy a few trees with their multi-million dollar Israeli-supplied SPICE-2000 weaponry. However, the Indian media (catering to public sentiment) tried to portray that their Air Force targeted and destroyed a Pakistani camp with three hundred armed fighters. A farcical victory backed by false propaganda of their military media wing.

South Asia and mainly India (primarily because of its large population) have a habit of masking and cherishing individuals who would be classified as madmen in any developed country. Take, for example, the self-styled god-man Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, who can, by any modern-day medical and legal definition, be labelled as a crazy. However, due to rampant illiteracy and widespread poverty, he managed to amass a considerable following from people who were promised a better reincarnation. He then used these individuals as political fodder to be pitched against the Sikhs and the State simultaneously, in the Indian Punjab. His luck ran out as he was arrested after a sustained political hue and cry by liberal activists in 2017. This arrest was for his involvement in the murders of journalists and vandalizing the sacred sites of Sikhism, besides other heinous crimes.

Another delusional individual happens to have made it to the highest office in India. Modi unwittingly remarked in the Defence Committee meeting that the Balakot strikes were his idea to use the cloud cover that would have benefited the Indian jets to avoid radar detection. At the same time, they conducted the 27th February airstrikes against Pakistan. A claim which runs contrary to meteorological and scientific deductions. However, his neurosis’ grimmer, yet less comical effects were seen when he oversaw the massacre of over a thousand innocent individuals belonging to the minority Muslim community - including women and children. His complacency in the pogrom was reaffirmed by a senior Indian police officer in front of the Indian Supreme Court in 2011.

Nonetheless, it propelled Modi to the premiership of the ‘world’s largest democracy.’ He cashed in on the widespread hatred of the right-wing Hindu nationalists towards the minorities internally, and towards Pakistan externally. He tried to come out as a strong man, backed by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s intensive social and electronic media campaign. However, this was also exposed just a couple of years later, when satellite imagery showed China had advanced its position across the Line of Actual Control (LAC). Modi denied everything, even though an Indian Army Colonel had died in the clashes.

His intent to cash in on false flag operations - presumably conducted by the Indian intelligence agencies themselves on 14th February went array. It might have been partly due to misguidance, and partly due to political expediency. However, the Indian Air Chief at the time stated that they were prepared to wipe out Pakistani forward brigades’ had Abhinandan not been released. Once again, a slippery slope argument.

In conclusion and hindsight, Pakistan reaffirmed credible deterrence while remaining within the boundaries defined by International Law (how it did so would be the subject of a separate opinion piece). It simultaneously did not fall into the trap of hollow rhetoric, chest-thumping and prevented a climb up the escalatory ladder by releasing the captured Indian pilot. Rights enshrined under the Geneva Convention treatment of prisoners were upheld, particularly its Articles 13 & 14. Pakistan came out resolutely as a mature peace-loving nation that knew how to protect its sovereignty. Since then, Modi’s politico-military calculations stand exposed. A day might come when he stands before an International Criminal Tribunal for his Human Rights Violations in Gujrat and Humanitarian Law violations across the Line of Control; similar to what Augusto Pinochet and Slobodan Milosevic faced. Or maybe he might not; however, his Air Force did send six of its own to stand trial before God on 27th February 2019, while two were sent on their way by the Pakistan Air Force. As for Abhinandan’s antics. Well, to put it politely, he did not put the Wright Brothers’ invention to fair use.

Omer Aamir is a researcher at the Centre for Aerospace & Security Studies (CASS). He has done B.A LL.B (Hons) from the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). He intends to pursue International Law and International Relations for further studies. The article was first published in National Herald TRIBUNE.He blogs at omeraamir.com