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Western military strategy was long premised on the avoidance of urban combat, with air strikes the preferred method of subduing large conurbations. Cities were seen as targets, not battlefields. But today, the cityscapes of the global South have emerged as paradigmatic conflict zones. Since the end of the Cold War, America’s militarized thrust into the Middle East and Central Eurasia has focused Pentagon planners’ attention on the burgeoning Arab and Third World cities that are now deemed de facto sites of current and future warfare for us forces. While the ‘revolution in military affairs’ emphasized overhead dominance, the losing battle for the streets of Iraq has sharpened the Pentagon’s focus on battles within the micro-geographies of slums, favelas, industrial districts and casbahs, as well as on globe-spanning stealth and surveillance technologies.....
Graham, Stephen. "War and the city." New Left Review 44 (2007): 121. APA
WAR AND THE CITY
estern military strategy was long premised on the
avoidance of urban combat, with air strikes the preferred
method of subduing large conurbations. Cities were
seen as targets, not battleﬁelds. But today, the cityscapes
of the global South have emerged as paradigmatic conﬂict zones. Since
the end of the Cold War, America’s militarized thrust into the Middle
East and Central Eurasia has focused Pentagon planners’ attention on the
burgeoning Arab and Third World cities that are now deemed de facto
sites of current and future warfare for us forces. While the ‘revolution
in military affairs’ emphasized overhead dominance, the losing battle for
the streets of Iraq has sharpened the Pentagon’s focus on battles within
the micro-geographies of slums, favelas, industrial districts and casbahs,
as well as on globe-spanning stealth and surveillance technologies.1
For defence strategists, the October 1993 defeat of elite Army Rangers
by armed teenage boys on the streets of Mogadishu was seen as a wakeup call. The civilian resisters inﬂicted 60 per cent casualties on the
American troops. But, as Mike Davis has pointed out, the us military
was initially slow to incorporate scenarios of Third World urban warfare into its training programmes. In 1996 the Army War College’s
journal was warning that ‘the future of warfare lies in the streets, sewers, high-rise buildings, and sprawl of houses that form the broken
cities of the world’.2 In 1999, a contributor to the Marine Corps Gazette
argued urgently that most military training sites were out of phase with
‘the urban sprawl that dominates critical areas of the world today . . .
We know we will ﬁght mostly in urban areas. Yet, we conduct the vast
majority of our training in rural areas—the hills of Camp Pendleton,
the deserts of Twentynine Palms, the woods of Camp Lejeune, the jungles of Okinawa.’3 A rand Report on the provision of military training
new left review 44 mar apr 2007
sites, commissioned by the us Congress in the aftermath of the invasion of Iraq, concurred:
us armed forces have thus far been unable to adequately reproduce the
challenges their soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen meet in the towns
and cities of Iraq and Afghanistan . . . More than a decade after the demise
of the Warsaw Pact, the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, too many urban
training sites, simulations and case studies still remind us of the Cold War
rather than Mogadishu, Iraqi towns and cities, or Afghan villages.4
A hidden archipelago of mini-cities is now being constructed across
the us sunbelt, presenting a jarring contrast to the surrounding stripmall suburbia; other Third World cityscapes are rising out of the deserts
of Kuwait and Israel, the downs of Southern England, the plains of
Germany and the islands of Singapore. Some are replete with lines of
drying washing, continuous loop tapes playing calls to prayer, wandering donkeys, Arabic grafﬁti, ersatz minarets and mosques; on occasion,
civilian ‘populations’ are bused in to wander about and role-play in Arab
dress. Others have ‘slum’ or ‘favela’ districts, with built-in olfactory
machines that can simulate the smells of death and decay. These are
the new training ﬁelds for the us and uk forces that will be dispatched
to Baghdad, Ramadi, Fallujah, Najaf or Karbala—for warfare, like the
rest of the world, is rapidly being urbanized. Unmarked on maps, and
largely unnoticed by urban-design, architecture and planning communities, these sites constitute a kind of shadow global-city system. They are
capsules of space designed to mimic the strategic environment of the
‘feral city’, as one us military theorist has called it—now seen as a critical arena for future wars.5
The construction of simulation military targets is not new. During
World War ii, streets of exact-replica Berlin tenements were created at
Mike Davis, ‘The urbanization of Empire: Megacities and the laws of chaos’, Social
Text, vol. 22, no. 4, 2004, pp. 9–15.
Maj. Ralph Peters, ‘Our Soldiers, Their Cities’, Parameters, Spring 1996; cited in
Mike Davis, Planet of Slums, London 2006, p. 203.
Col. Thomas Hammes, ‘Time to get serious about urban warfare training’, Marine
Corps Gazette, April 1999.
Russell Glenn et al., ‘Preparing for the Proven Inevitable: An Urban Operations
Training Strategy for America’, rand National Defense Research Institute, Santa
Monica 2006, pp. xv, 263.
Richard Norton, ‘Feral Cities’, Naval War College Review, vol. 56, no. 4, 2004.
graham: War and the City
the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah, designed by the exiled German
architect Eric Mendelsohn. Alongside them stood a cluster of Japanese
wood and rice-paper houses created by Antonin Raymond, an American
architect who had worked in Japan and who scoured the us for authentic types of Russian spruce for their construction.6 These buildings
were used by the us Chemical Warfare Corps to ﬁne-tune the incendiary bombs that would raze Japanese and German cities. To ensure
accuracy, the tenements were ﬁlled with authentic German furniture,
and the buildings hosed to mimic the temperate climate of Berlin. Even
during the Cold War, a sense of spectacle ensured that atomic and
thermonuclear bombs were exploded near simulated suburban homes,
complete with white picket-fences, and families of mannequins placed
around the table having mock meals.7
The city replicas of the 21st century involve a different relationship to
political violence, however. Rather than rehearsals for urban annihilation through total war, their purpose is to prepare ground troops for
military occupation and counter-insurgency warfare. An early example
of this new approach was the $14 million mock-Arab city constructed at
Israel’s Tze’elim base in the Negev desert. The site, known as ‘Chicago’,
was explicitly built to generalize the lessons of Israeli incursions into
Palestinian cities and refugee camps. The ‘town’ is split into four quarters, with apartment buildings, a marketplace, shops, a mosque and a
refugee camp. It is wired up with the latest surveillance equipment to
monitor the trainee Israeli soldiers as they practise blasting their way
into Palestinian homes. Grotesquely, a range of mechanical cut-out
caricatures of bearded Arab men, constructed by the prop department
at the Israeli National Theatre, are programmed to pop up in windows
and at street corners during live-ﬁre exercises. Adam Broomberg and
Oliver Chanarin, two Israeli photographers who succeeded in making a
detailed study of the site, have reﬂected that:
It is difﬁcult to pinpoint what it is about the place that is so disturbing.
Perhaps it’s the combination of the vicariousness and the violence. It’s as if
the soldiers have entered the enemy’s private domain while he’s sleeping or
out for lunch . . . It’s a menacing intrusion into the intimate.8
Mike Davis, Dead Cities And Other Tales, New York 2002, pp. 65–84.
Laura McEnaney, Civil Defense Begins at Home, Princeton 2000.
Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin, Chicago, Göttingen 2007.
It was here, the photographers report, that American Special Forces
were introduced to ‘Arab realities’ in the run-up to the ﬁrst Gulf War.
Full-dress rehearsals at the site have included an attempted assassination of Saddam Hussein and the battle for Fallujah.
‘Middle-Eastern cities’ have sprouted at military bases in the us over
the last few years, although in the assessment of the 2006 rand
Report these remain inadequate; casualty rates in urban combat for
untrained soldiers are around 25–30 per cent. To address future ‘Military
Operations on Urban Terrain’ training needs, the rand team recommendations include the construction of four new ‘cities’, with more than
300 structures each.9 By 2010, the Pentagon plans to have over sixty
mout training zones around the world. While some will be little more
than air-portable sets of containers, others will be extensive sites that
mimic whole city districts, with ‘airports’ or surrounding ‘countryside’.
One of the most important new urban-warfare training facilities is
Zussman Village at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Here a new 30-acre, $13 million ‘city’ is able to accommodate hundreds of role-playing ‘insurgents’,
who wear kefﬁyehs and are armed with ak-47s and rpgs, as well as 1,500
us military personnel, along with their tanks, personnel carriers and
helicopters. It is equipped with radio and tv stations that can broadcast in Hebrew, Arabic or Russian. Zussman Village includes mock
junkyards, mosques, cemeteries, petrol stations, sewers, electrical substations, train tracks and bridges. A ‘Third World slum’ is currently
under construction by the railroad. To simulate a war-torn environment,
the site is deliberately smothered in mud, and the unmaintained sewer
system is ﬁlled with live possums and rats, as well as rubber snakes
bought from local toy shops. The synthetic odours of rotting bodies, raw
sewage and contaminated water can be produced on demand.10 A speciality is the use of vapourized propane that can be converted into aerial
ﬁreballs, simulating the exploding cars and burning buildings troops
will encounter in Iraq. As explained by the Kentucky engineering ﬁrm
that provided the technology:
With the aim of being accessible to soldiers’ home districts, these will be located
at the existing Fort Polk base in Louisiana, at Fort Hood in Texas, in the Kentucky/
North Carolina/Georgia region and the American Southwest.
Roxana Tiron, ‘Army training site brings to life the horrors of war’, National
Defense Magazine, July 2001.
graham: War and the City
Most of our military operations are conducted at night. When an explosion
occurs and a soldier is wearing night-vision goggles, his vision goes blank.
He needs to learn how to react to this type of situation and resist the urge to
have his concentration lapse. It’s human nature to take that second to stare
at a ﬁre or explosion, but in combat, soldiers need to react quickly . . . Urban
warfare has a much higher rate of casualties than in the open battleﬁeld.
The action and the violence are much closer and much faster.11
The largest us urban-warfare complex of all, however, is emerging at
the Joint Readiness Training Center at Fort Polk, Louisiana. Eighteen
mock-Iraqi villages are being constructed in this 100,0000-acre site,
detailed down to kebab stands, and even ‘mass graves’ created by
burying rotting bones from local butchers’ shops. Included in the
exercises—carried out by 44,000 Iraq-bound soldiers between 2003
and 2005 alone—are 1,200 role-playing extras, dressed in Arab gear,
who impersonate Iraqi tribesmen, police and civilians. Two hundred
of these are Arab-Americans, mostly originating from Iraq itself.
Screenwriters are on hand to write ‘character sheets’ for each participant, based on whether they are programmed to be ‘friendly’, ‘neutral’
or ‘hostile’ towards the us forces.
In a mirror-image reversal of the more familiar global marketing contests in which cities parade their gentriﬁcation, cultural planning and
boosterism, here the marks of success are decay and an architecture
of collapse. Col. James Cashwell, a us squadron commander, reported
after an exercise in an urban-warfare training city at George Air Force
base in California that ‘the advantage of the base is that it is ugly, torn
up, all the windows are broken [and trees] have fallen down in the
street. It’s perfect for the replication of a war-torn city.’12 Evaluating
existing mout sites for the features deemed most challenging in
undertaking military operations within large, global-South cities, the
rand researchers awarded the highest points to those with ‘clutter,
debris, ﬁlth’, ‘slums, shanty towns, walled compounds’, ‘subterranean
complexes’ and simulated ‘government, hospital, prison, asylum structures’, such as the Marines’ Twentynine Palms facility in California.13
An ofﬁcer at the us Baumholder Base in Germany reported that solAvailable at www.wareinc.com, under ‘Turnkey Projects’.
J. R. Wilson, ‘Army expands home-based mout training’, Military Training
Technology, March 2003.
rand, ‘Preparing for the Proven Inevitable’, p. 243.
diers repeatedly asked for donkeys, goats and other animals in the
mout training site to help simulate life in Iraqi cities.14 Some locations integrate multi-sensory systems for projecting special effects;
Fort Wainwright, Alaska can provide the smell of diesel fumes, burning rubber, even burning ﬂesh.15
The rand Report also explored the possibility of appropriating entire
‘ghost towns’ within the continental usa that have been deindustrialized and largely abandoned. Attention has focused on the former
copper-mining town of Playas in southwest New Mexico, which has
already been used as a ‘generic American suburb under simulated
attack’ to instruct anti-terrorist squads for the Department of Homeland
Security.16 The rand team suggests that Playas could be improved as
a training site if ‘the architecture of the abandoned town were modiﬁed to include walled compounds of the type that us troops in Iraq and
Afghanistan must at times isolate and clear.’ However, live-ﬁre exercises
would probably not be possible, ‘since the owners . . . would consider the
structural repair costs prohibitive’.17 Despite being portrayed as a ‘ghost
town’, a few remaining residents cling on in Playas, making their living
mainly as extras in urban-war and terrorist exercises. A network of ‘lowpopulation’ towns in North Dakota is also being considered for such a
role, and the rand Report recommends further investigation into the
use of abandoned factories, ofﬁces, strip malls, schools, hospitals and
Another proposal is to use densely populated metropolitan areas for
mout training, modelled on the Urban Warrior and Project Metropolis
exercises that took place between 1999 and 2000. In these, Marines
‘invaded’ Little Rock, Chicago, Oakland and Charleston, staging
major amphibious and airborne landings (also designed to generate
recruitment interest) before acting out the disablement of electricity,
communications, transport and water infrastructure in abandoned hospitals and sewer networks. Such exercises will remain necessary, rand
Cited in Terry Boyd, ‘Training site replicates Iraqi village’, Stars and Stripes,
26 July 2006.
Associated Press, ‘Urban combat training center will be Army’s largest’, Citizen
Review Online, December 2002.
See Steve Rowell, ‘Playas, New Mexico: A Modern Ghost-town Braces for the
Future’, The Lay of the Land: Center for Land Use Interpretation Newsletter, vol. 28,
rand, ‘Preparing for the Proven Inevitable’, p. 63.
graham: War and the City
argues, because ‘no purpose-built urban training site and no simulation
for many years to come will be able to present the heterogeneity and
complexity of a modern megalopolis’. Nevertheless, this remains the
aim. The Report’s most ambitious suggestion is for the construction of
a 20 x 20 km ‘mega-mout’ complex, incorporating a complete 900building town, at the Twentynine Palms Marine base in the California
desert.18 Costing $330 million by 2011, such a complex would allow an
entire brigade to simulate taking a large Iraqi town, including port and
industrial facilities, with unprecedented levels of realism. For the ﬁrst
time, air power could be integrated with ground forces, and live artillery
ﬁre would be possible.
Electronic simulation technologies blend seamlessly into these physical
constructions. In the ‘Urban Terrain Module’ at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, a
one-house space decorated in ‘Middle-Eastern’ style is embedded within
a media studio, which can project digitally generated ‘virtual humans’
with suitably swarthy ‘Arab’ features onto special screens inside the
house. The project’s designers argue that the simulations at Fort Sill,
built with the help of Hollywood professionals, are so convincing that
the borders between the virtualized and physical elements are increasingly indistinguishable to us soldiers training there. In the near future
they hope the environments will be modiﬁed to project digital mapping
data from Iraq or other urban war zones, so that troops could rehearse
‘on the actual terrain that they would occupy someday—maybe in a
future theatre of war’.19
Beyond these ‘hybrid’ or ‘mixed reality’ simulations lies a universe of
purely computerized ones. In these, electronic mapping and satelliteimage technologies of cities that us troops are about to attack or occupy
are used to provide digital renditions that can be experienced ‘immersively’. In 2004, the Computer Science Corporation combined satellite
and laser-scanned imagery with digital pictures from the ground to
‘build’ much of Iraq, including all the major cities, into a ‘virtualized reality’ model, accurate to within one metre. This apparently allows trainees
rand, ‘Preparing for the Proven Inevitable’, pp. 83, 152.
Heidi Loredo, ‘Hollywood magic prepares Marines for combat’, Marines.Com,
to ‘drive’ from Kuwait to Turkey via real-time models during war games.
Entirely lacking in even virtual people, these simulations render Iraq
as pure digital battlespace. The virtual models have such an impact on
troops that csc has to warn: ‘if you put a door on the side of the building,
the soldier is trained for that. If he gets to the real environment and the
door is on the wrong side of the building, he can get killed.’20
Much larger urban simulations are used for the war-gaming activities by
which us defence planners map out future combat scenarios. For one
of these, an 8-square-mile swathe of Jakarta that includes 1.6 million
buildings has been digitized and ‘geo-speciﬁcally’ simulated in three
dimensions. It includes over a hundred thousand ‘vehicles’ and ‘civilians’, with their daily rhythms mapped in virtualized real time: roads are
relatively empty at night, but clogged with vehicles during rush hours;
‘trafﬁc and civilian presence increases around mosques at the appropriate times for daily prayers’. Known as ‘Urban Resolve’, the simulation
has used some of the us military’s most sophisticated supercomputers
to project American forces into a full-scale war in the Indonesian capital in 2015. The same technology is now being adapted to provide a
virtualized rendition of Baghdad.21 One aim is to keep these computer simulations of urban battleﬁelds constantly updated, using combat
patrols to report back on the latest destruction wrought by artillery or
Army of gamers
The ‘military–industrial–entertainment–media complex’ has played a
central role in naturalizing the idea that American and allied forces should
be pitched in battle against the inhabitants of Arab and Third World
cities.22 The two most popular video game franchises in 2005 were Full
Spectrum Warrior and America’s Army, developed respectively by the us
Marines and the Army. Both games centre overwhelmingly on the task
of occupying stylized Arab cities. Their immersive simulations work
Quoted in Harrison Donnelly, ‘Geospatial data bolsters virtual training’, Military
Geospatial Technology, vol. 4, no. 4, 2006.
See Peter Wielhouwer, ‘Preparing for future joint urban operations: The role of
simulation and the Urban Resolve experiment’, Small Wars, July 2005.
James Der Derian, Virtuous War: Mapping the Military–Industrial–Media–
Entertainment Network, Boulder, co 2001.
graham: War and the City
powerfully to equate these environments with ‘terrorism’ and to stress
that they need ‘paciﬁcation’ or ‘cleansing’ by military means.
These video games also demonstrate the extent of the American entertainment industry’s commitment to ‘a culture of permanent war’.23
Unsurprisingly, when the city’s inhabitants appear in these games they
are portrayed, almost without exception, as the shadowy, racialized
representation of ‘the terrorist’—ﬁgures to be annihilated in a blurred
combination of military training and entertainment. In America’s Army,
the ﬁctional country of ‘Zekistan’ features stylized Islamic architecture; buildings are either dark and menacing, or else in ﬂames. Here
again, the only role for Arab cities is as a terrain for urban war. Complex
and self-reinforcing connections between war and entertainment in
the digital age deepen the long-established role of ﬁlms and toys as
outlets for militaristic propaganda. An estimated 90 per cent of the
75,000 men and women who join the us Army each year are ‘casual’
video-gamers; 30 per cent consider themselves ‘hardcore’. Such is the
familiarity of most military recruits with Playstation controls that the
us Marines have even mimicked these in the consoles for their new
remote-control urban-surveillance vehicle, Dragon Runner, currently
being used on Iraq’s streets.24
The extent to which us military managers have preferred to inhabit virtualized Arab cities, rather than confront their social realities, is reﬂected
in the treatment of the increasing numbers of us Iraq war veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The University of Southern
California’s Institute for Creative Technologies, a major player in the
crossover between war and entertainment, has adapted Full Spectrum
Warrior’s immersive simulations of Arab cities as the basis for treating
traumatized soldiers. Patients are forced to go through recreations of the
events that have distressed them most: being inside mined or bombed
vehicles or helicopters, sitting out mortar attacks on their compounds,
or coming under attack while patrolling Iraqi streets. This allows
the war-zone experience to be replayed in what is called ‘Virtual Iraq
Exposure Therapy’, due to be extended to treatment centres across the
United States. The video-game features of the ‘therapy’ are deemed by its
designers to ‘resonate well with the current generation of war ﬁghters’,
Andy Deck, ‘No Quarter: Demilitarizing the playground’, Artcontext website, 2004.
Noah Shachtman, ‘Why War Is Really Just a Game,’ Wired, 24 May 2002.
although one Navy psychologist stressed that it was important to make
sure that the simulations were ‘not too realistic’, since that might ‘create
The complex constellation of urban-warfare simulations discussed here
work most powerfully as a collective. Their various physical, electronic
and hybrid manifestations operate, as do all simulations, by collapsing
the real with the artiﬁced, to the extent that any simple boundary between
the two disappears.26 One effect, as we have seen, is to naturalize Arab
and global-South cities as little but physical battlespace, populated, when
peopled at all, by dehumanized and racialized ‘terrorists’ that must—
necessity is one of the rules of the game—be erased by Western, or
Israeli, military intervention. At the same time, the militaristic gloss and
relentless sanitization serve to produce an ideological reinforcement and
subliminal legitimation of us foreign-policy imperatives.
A further dissolution of boundaries takes place in the piloting of the
armed Predator drones that are increasingly used in the us and Israeli
surveillance and assassination strikes, from Lebanon and the Occupied
Territories to Afghanistan and Pakistan. The American ‘pilots’ of these
machines are actually located in an anonymous trailer complex at Nellis
Air Base, on the edge of Las Vegas. They ﬂy combat sorties without ever
leaving their desks. ‘At the end of the work day’, their commanding
ofﬁcer explained, ‘you walk back into the rest of life in America’.27
In fact, the urban war-zone images produced by the simulacral collective speak just as much to the fragmenting landscapes and racialized
politics of America’s cities. In addition to a simulated ‘Middle East’,
us defence planners’ programmes continue to factor in mock-ups of
American city districts, in which law-enforcement and National Guard
personnel undertake operations against civil unrest, terrorist attack and
natural disaster. us military simulacra still focus on Los Angeles as well
as on Baghdad, planning major operations to re-take American cities
See Rick Rogers, ‘Military to try virtual combat stress remedy’, SignOnSanDiego.Com.
Jean Baudrillard, The Gulf War Did Not Take Place, Bloomington 1991.
Quoted in Richard Newman, ‘The joystick war’, us News, 19 May 2003.
graham: War and the City
from uprisings or social protests.28 The Los Angeles riots of 1992 appear
on military urban-warfare Powerpoints about ‘lessons learned’ just as
often as Grozny or Mogadishu. Responding to the devastation of New
Orleans, one us Army ofﬁcer talked openly about the need to launch
urban-combat operations to ‘take back’ the city from ‘insurgents’ who
were purportedly breeding anarchy and violence there, in an echo of the
language used about Fallujah or Baghdad.29 Attitudes of military and law
enforcement personnel towards crises in American cities seem strongly
inﬂuenced by ‘urban operations’ in the Middle East.
Urban-war simulations help to demonstrate the shifts in us military
doctrine in much more explicit form. Pentagon theorists no longer
concentrate so exclusively on a planetary battlespace, over which the
networked power of us air and space platforms rules supreme: instead,
they have turned their attention to the spaces of the global South. In
addition, as Eyal Weizman has emphasized, both Israeli and Western
military planners now stress the need not just to occupy, but physically
to reorganize the space of colonized cities, so that high-tech weapons
and surveillance systems can work to their best advantage. Weizman
calls this ‘design by destruction’. As he puts it: ‘contemporary urban
warfare plays itself out within a constructed, real or imaginary architecture, and through the destruction, construction, reorganization and
subversion of space’.30
Thus, as in Iraq, neighbourhoods can be wrapped in razor wire, circled
by biometric checkpoints and turned into de facto ghettos or camps—
looking much like Palestinian villages. Areas deemed to be too dense
and complex to be penetrated by the gaze of drones, satellites and aerial
targeting can be physically bulldozed, as was Jenin in 2002. The infrastructural systems that sustain the life of cities can be destroyed—as
Military simulacra also feature more directly in the fortunes of us cities. Their
generation now involves important swathes of the us economy, especially in hightech metropolitan areas. Local economies such as Orlando, Florida or the beltway
in Virginia are now dominated by simulation corporations that blend military,
research and entertainment dimensions. In Orlando alone there are around a hundred military-simulator ﬁrms which generate some 17,000 jobs, and are starting to
rival Disney as a local economic force.
Joseph Chenelly, ‘Troops begin combat operations in New Orleans’, Army Times,
2 September 2005.
Phil Misselwitz and Eyal Weizman, ‘Military operations as urban planning’, in
Anselm Franke, ed., Territories, Berlin 2003, pp. 272–75.
in the urbicidal assaults on Iraq in 1991 and Lebanon in 2006—or
manipulated, to coerce resistant populations and political leaderships
into surrender through the forced immiseration of enduring urban life
without sewage systems or electricity; Gaza is, of course, the most notorious instance. Once again, Israel provides the most inﬂuential paradigms
for the new trends in Western urban warfare.
Intimately tied to the entertainment industries, this mimetic collective
labours to produce the digital streets and immersive cityscapes of the
Arab world as America’s ‘other’. The key to these increasingly detailed
environments is, of course, the radical denial of the social and cultural
worlds, and lived urbanism, of these cities. The inculcation of racialized
aggression works rather to obliterate understanding of the real places, and
bodies, destroyed by military assault. It is widely recognized that the crude
behaviour of the invading Anglo-American forces—search-and-destroy
raids, arbitrary arrests, opening ﬁre on demonstrations—was an
important factor in stimulating the resistance in Iraq.31
As the occupation of Iraq enters its ﬁfth year, American forces still
control only a small fraction of Baghdad. At the start of 2007, Patrick
Cockburn reported, us troops with accompanying Iraqi units ‘tried to
ﬁght their way into Haifa Street, less than a mile from the Green Zone’.
They had been attempting to capture exactly the same terrain in March
2005. In March 2007 Ban Ki-Moon’s press conference announcing that
the security situation in Baghdad had improved sufﬁciently for the un
to expand its presence was punctuated by a rocket attack on the heart
of the Green Zone. ‘Securing the city is a near impossibility’, Cockburn
argues. ‘Sunni insurgents and Shia militiamen are too well-entrenched
and, moreover, generally have more legitimacy in the eyes of Iraqis
than government forces’.32 The us soldiers still attempting to take Haifa
Street four years after the invasion should recall Sunzi’s advice: ‘Know
the enemy’. But if they did, of course, they would not be there.
See Patrick Cockburn, ‘The Abyss in Iraq’, nlr 36, Nov–Dec 2005.
Patrick Cockburn, ‘Nowhere to Hide’, London Review of Books, 22 February 2007.