with Chris Hedges
RT America on Sep 4, 2021
On the show, Chris Hedges discuss the corporatization and corruption of American science with the author Clifford D. Conner.
GNspace4peace on May 6, 2021
The Pentagon and multinational corporations are privatizing outer space, placing profit over people. Laws are being implemented in order to benefit billionaires, compromising decades-long international treaties. Exporting American capitalism, colonizing Mars, privatizing asteroids and other celestial bodies are all a continuation of Westward Expansion, Manifest Destiny and American Exceptionalism. We must fight back to keep space for peace before it’s too late!
At the end of the 1970s, when I first started using and investigating digital media, it quickly became apparent to me, that what became the World Wide Web, was very much a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it afforded independent journalists and investigators, a vehicle for reaching a public outside the control of corporate/state media and whose only parallel lay back in the 17th century, with the invention of the printing press and moveable type, broadsheets and later the so-called Penny Dreadfuls. Sold on street corners and in coffee houses, and produced in literally hundreds of small printing shops, they challenged the status quo in ways previously impossible. Often banned and their writers/publishers thrown in jail under the then new sedition laws, they heralded the arrival of modern capitalism.
The new military space plane, called the X-37B, was launched yesterday from Cape Canaveral strapped to an Atlas V rocket. The X-37 will spend up to 270 days in space before landing at Vandenberg AFB in California. The space plane will mostly fly on “autopilot” since there is no human inside the craft.
Meanwhile yesterday at Vandenberg AFB, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) also test launched another space plane – the Hypersonic Technology Vehicle, known as the Falcon.
Like a vampire rising from it’s grave each night to feed on the privacy rights of Americans, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is moving forward with programs that drain the life blood from our constitutional liberties.
From the wholesale use of informants and provocateurs to stifle political dissent, to Wi-Fi hacking and viral computer spyware to follow our every move, the FBI has turned massive data-mining of personal information into a growth industry. In the process they are building the surveillance state long been dreamed of by American securocrats.
A quintessential hallmark of an authoritarian regime, particularly one that operates within highly-militarized, though nominally democratic states such as ours, is the maintenance of a system of internal control; a seamless panopticon where dissent is equated with criminality and the rule of law derided as a luxury ill-afforded “during a time of war.”
In this context, the deployment of new offensive technologies which can wreck havoc on human populations deemed expendable by the state, are always couched in a defensive rhetoric by militarist aggressors and their apologists.
While the al-Qaeda brand may no longer elicit a compelling response in terms of mobilizing the population for new imperial adventures, novel threats–and panics–are required to marshal public support for the upward transfer of wealth into the corporate trough. Today, “cyber terror” functions as the “new Osama.”
By Noah Shachtman
lOctober 22, 2008
The Pentagon wants to be able to peer inside your apartment building — picking out where all the major rooms, stairways, and dens of evil-doers are.
The U.S. military is getting better and better at spotting its enemies, when they’re roaming around the streets. But once those foes duck into houses, they become a whole lot harder to spot. That’s why Darpa, the Defense Department’s way-out research arm, is looking to develop a suite of tools for “external sensing deep inside buildings.” The ultimate goal of this Harnessing Infrastructure for Building Reconnaissance (HIBR) project: “reverse the adversaries’ advantage of urban familiarity and sanctuary and provide U.S. Forces with complete above- and below-ground awareness.”
excerpt on current
by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, October 20, 2008
‘Tying the room together’: DARPA’s Project Gandalf
In the 1998 Coen brothers cult film The Big Lebowski, southern California slacker Jeffrey Lebowski aka “The Dude,” bemoans the desecration of his living room rug by criminals out to collect a debt in a hilariously absurd case of mistaken identity. After the thugs urinate on his prized possession, The Dude is crestfallen because that rug “really tied the room together.”
Fast forward to 2008, only there’s no mistaking either the identities or what’s being “tied together” here. DARPA’s Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) is seeking solicitations for “Project Gandalf,” according to an October 7 “Industry Day” announcement on the Federal Business Opportunities website.
In a bid to “tie the room together,” DARPA is developing a demonstration project that will provide “counterterrorist” special operators and spies, aka state terrorists, with
solutions to … radio frequency (RF) geolocation and emitter identification using specific emitter identification (SEI) for specific signals of interest. The ultimate goal of the Gandalf program is to enable a set of handheld devices to be utilized to perform RF geolocation and SEI on RF signals of interest to the Gandalf program. The specific goals and performance objectives associated with RF geolocation and SEI for the Gandalf system are classified. (“Gandalf Program, DARPA Industry Day Announcement,” Federal Business Opportunities, October 7, 2008)
That’s right, a hand-held cell phone tracking device that will enable security operatives to locate and take out opponents of the capitalist “new order” in global South or “hardened” heimat cities.
Sounds like a seamless way to “tie together” information culled by NSA trolls or the Justice Department’s Terrorist Identity Datamart Environment (TIDE), the “master list” from which all other federal agencies derive their own dubious watch lists.
The Gandalf Program is classified Secret/NOFORN, meaning only American firms whose personnel hold coveted U.S. Department of Defense “secret clearances or higher” need apply. The October 28, 2008 Industry Day will be held at the Rosslyn, Virginia headquarters of the Scitor Corporation. An appropriate venue if ever there were one.
Deriving its name from a Latin word meaning “to seek to know,” Scitor’s website has little in the way of useful information for the researcher, aside that is, from the usual banalities about “excellence” and “solving customer needs.”
However, a profile on Yahoo! Finance reveals that Scitor “hopes to aid you in your search for technological knowledge and harmony.” (!) There we also learn that the firm “offers a wide range of professional and technological services, including consulting work, risk management, software development and systems engineering.” Unsurprisingly, “Scitor works primarily for U.S. government agencies, including the Department of Defense.”
Founded in 1979, the company was acquired in 2007 by the private equity firm Leonard Green & Partners LLP. With $421.9 million in revenue in 2007, the company employs some 1,100 people with top secret and above security clearances. Their main competitors according to Yahoo’s profile are Lockheed Martin Information Systems & Global Services, Northrop Grumman Information Technology and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC).But as investigative journalist Tim Shorrock revealed in his essential book Spies For Hire,
…Scitor, a CIA and defense contractor company…has become a $300 million company without creating a single ripple in the media. “It’s the biggest company you never heard of,” said a former NSA officer who knows the company well.
Scitor is a technology company that does extensive work for the U.S. Air Force in aerospace communications and satellite support services. The privately held company is also an important contractor for the CIA’s Directorate of Science and Technology… Within that directorate, two sources said, it is used primarily by the Office of Technical Services, the secretive unit that develops the gadgets, weapons and disguises used by spies. …
A Scitor contract with the General Services Administration posted on the GSA’s Web site lists the CIA among the company’s clients. It states that Scitor helps government agencies manage “major acquisitions and cradle-to-grave programs that are vital to national defense.” Those agencies include the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Security Agency, the NGA [National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency], the CIA and the Pentagon. (Tim Shorrock, Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, New York: Simon & Schuster, 2008, pp. 141, 142)
Clearly, DARPA’s cell phone tracking proposal falls well within the parameters of Scitor’s spooky brief.
While the “specific goals and performance objectives associated with RF geolocation and SEI for the Gandalf system are classified,” it doesn’t take a rocket scientist–or securocrat–to realize there’s real money to be made here.
Former Royal Navy officer Lew Page who unearthed the project for the U.K. online tech publication The Register, reports that “Project Gandalf” will supplement work “already done by surveillance aircrafts and/or drones.” The “new wrinkle” according to Page, “is being able to do it using handheld devices” at close quarters. Page writes,
So it would appear that a group of undercover operatives or special-forces troops dispersed near a target (perhaps a specific cell or satellite phone) might carry portable gadgets, presumably networked. The netted devices would be able to pick out the phone, radio or whatever they were after and track it. …
As far as the technology goes, the idea sounds feasible. Commercial pico/microcell gear, for instance–with all the capabilities needed to ID and locate cell phones–is already easily down to briefcase size. Satellite phones would be harder, of course. (Lew Page, “DARPA to Begin Mysterious ‘Project Gandalf’,” The Register, October 8, 2008)
As I wrote in “Niche Telecom Providers Assisting NSA Spy Operations,” enterprising capitalist grifters in the telecom industry are already “providing security agencies with real-time cell phone tracking capabilities.” What makes this research so insidious are the workarounds supplied–at a premium price–by under-the-radar companies to NSA or the U.K.’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) not covered by any law.
Project Gandalf clearly travels along the same repressive continuum but with a twist. If the program pans out it will give security agents an “up close and personal” capacity, let’s just call it for the sake of argument, that real-world intel touch required to disrupt meetings or smash an organizing drive even as they’re taking place. Now that’s real progress!
Industry Day Goals at the upcoming October 28 meet and greet are threefold:
1) to familiarize participants with DARPA’s interest in RF geolocation and SEI technologies, 2) to identify potential offerors and promote understanding of the BAA proposal requirements, and 3) to promote discussion of synergistic capabilities among potential program participants. Information on the Gandalf solicitation will be available at: http://www.darpa.mil/ipto/solicit/solicit_open.asp following the publication of the BAA in FedBizOpps. Following the Industry Day, the web site will contain the unclassified Gandalf Frequently Asked Questions, unclassified presentations from the Industry Day, and information on how to obtain the classified briefings and Q&A.
As the European watchdog group Quintessenz has revealed, digital and telephonic privacy invasions represent a fundamental assault on “freedom of information, the right to personal privacy and data integrity, the right to communicate freely.”
With information on Thales “Autonomous facility for IP Monitoring,” aka IP Tr@pper, the Siemens Intelligence Platform, Force10 Networks “10 Gigabit Packet Filtering” presentation to the NSA “for high speed government surveillance,” to the Verint (formerly Comverse Infosys) “STAR-GATE interception system,” the Quintessenz project “ties the room together” on state and corporate assaults on our fundamental right to free speech and privacy.As Antifascist Calling has previously reported (see: “America’s Cyborg Warriors,” July 23, 2008) such “technophilic” moves arise during a period when “restless natives”–on the contested, resource rich terrain of the global South and increasingly, within the Western “homeland” itself–are challenging the economic, political and social hegemony of “actually existing capitalism.” As Durham University geographer Stephen Graham wrote,
Here, attention should fall in particular on the ways in which biopolitical stipulations of the worth–or lack of worth–of human subjects are, quite literally, cast into the software code that operates increasingly automated and multi-scale surveillance, targeting and killing systems. Thus, the new technoscience of the urbanized RMA [Revolution in Military Affairs] concentrates on distinguishing ‘normal’ urban space-times and ecologies in the global north, so that the apparatus of an increasingly militarized police state can be used to discipline those deemed ‘abnormal’. (Stephen Graham, “Surveillance, urbanization, and the ‘Revolution in Military Affairs’,” in D. Lyon, Theorizing Surveillance, Uffculme, Devon: Willan Publishing, 2006, p. 264)
And as we have seen in recent surveillance scandals in the U.S. and elsewhere, those deemed “abnormal” include: union organizers, antiwar activists, socialist parties, antiglobalization campaigners, environmentalists, animal rights activists, civil liberties and human rights organizations, the list goes on and on. Indeed, from the point of view of state security agencies and their outsourced corporate partners, potentially “abnormal” or at least politically “suspect” individuals encompass the vast majority of citizens.
Finally, as the West’s “terrorism industry” continues to grow at a rate directly proportional to capitalism’s economic decline, we can expect that enterprising corporate grifters will flood DARPA with proposals to make “Project Gandalf” a reality.
© Copyright Tom Burghardt, Antifascist Calling…, 2008
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=10623
(Lots of pictures and links on his blog post)
The vision of Google’s future, according to Google co-founder, Sergey Brin, is “it would be like the mind of God”. And it’s a future that they’re working feverishly to make a reality today.
While that quote was in reference to “the ultimate search engine”, this analysis is going to make it more than clear that he was in fact referring to Google in particular. In doing so, we’ll see numerous other quotes demonstrating their intentions, what they mean by “all of the worlds information”, how they’re on precisely the right path to achieve their goal with the U.S. military in this vast project that is set to change humanity forever.
“AI” is actually too “narrow” of a term for a cognitive system, but a “broad” cognitive system would contain many narrow AI parts. To even contemplate the notion of cognitive “Artificial General Intelligence” one must first embrace emergence. Emergence is the key to all complex systems that could be considered in attempting to create a model for an AGI system. Google’s methodology in their quest is to exploit and harness the powers of emergence, while adding ‘parts’ that perform cognitive tasks in their own right. The idea is to push the term superorganism to the fullest potential. The insights are the ant colony, and the beehive. The models are the Internet, and the human brain. The entire premise of emergence is ‘the sum is greater than its parts’.
Military & Aerospace Electronics
23 Aug. 2008
LINTHICUM, Md., 23 Aug. 2008. Everyone who has ever watched the Star Wars films from George Lucas has probably at one moment wished they had Jedi abilities such as mind control or what Lucas called Jedi reflexes – knowing something will happen a second before it does.
A team led by Northrop Grumman’s Electronic Systems Sector is looking to bring a similar threat detection capability to warfighters as part of an advanced research contract to develop a panoramic day/night optical system that will utilize human brain activity to detect, analyze, and alert foot-soldiers to possible threats.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), in Arlington, Va., awarded the contract, which is for the first phase of the Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System program, or CT2WS.
DARPA officials say the CT2WS will function as an intelligent neuro-optical system, using the stimuli sensed by brain activity to detect targets at long-range over a wide field of view.
Operating with little ethical oversight, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has been tapping cutting-edge advances in neuroscience, computers and robotics in a quest to build the “perfect warfighter.”
As the costs of imperialist war skyrocket, securocrats find themselves under the gun so to speak, of corporate and Pentagon masters demanding “results.”
No matter that the solutions sought are for “smart” weapons–particularly those that “think”–systems they believe capable of dominating global south and “homeland” cities. This quest for technological mastery has been dubbed by Pentagon theorists as “network-centric warfare” (Rumsfeld’s “Revolution in Military Affairs” [RMA]) a “transformational” process that turn cities, any city, into a limitless “battlespace.”
Indeed, current U.S. Army doctrine for fighting in urban environments define the problem as central to U.S. “national security,”
As urbanization has changed the demographic landscape, potential enemies recognize the inherent danger and complexity of this environment to the attacker, and may view it as their best chance to negate the technological and firepower advantages of modernized opponents. Given the global population trends and the likely strategies and tactics of future threats, Army forces will likely conduct operations in, around, and over urban areas–not as a matter of fate, but as a deliberate choice linked to national security objectives and strategy, and at a time, place, and method of the commander’s choosing. (Urban Operations, Field Manual No. 3-06, Headquarters, Department of the Army, Washington, D.C., October 26, 2006) [emphasis added]
Key to RMA is the belief that contemporary military operations aim for defined effects and that it is now possible for U.S. forces to defeat adversaries through a combination of surveillance technologies, devastating firepower and the suppression and degradation of communications networks. Durham University geographer Stephen Graham has deemed such notional irrationality by U.S. war planners “technophilia.” Graham avers:
[S]uch technophiliac discourses depicting an RMA ushering new relatively reduced-risk, ‘clean’ and painless strategy of US military dominance assumed that the vast networks of sensors and weapons that needed to be integrated and connected to project US power would work uninterruptedly. Global scales of flow and connection have thus dominated RMA discourses; technological mastery, omnipotent surveillance, real-time ‘situational awareness’, and speed-of-light digital interactions, have been widely portrayed as processes which, intrinsically, would usher in US military ‘Full Spectrum Dominance’, on a planetary scale, irrespective of the geographical terrain that was to be dominated. (“From Space to Street Corners: Global South Cities and US Military Technophilia,” Unpublished paper, 2007)
Bloodied by “facts on the ground” in Iraq and Afghanistan however, and despite imperialism’s much-vaunted technological superiority, America’s techno-warriors continue searching for “Holy Grail” solutions to the political quandary they have confronted since the Vietnam war: how to achieve “victory” in environments that have proven themselves deadly quagmires, humiliating object lessons never learned by the world’s sole “hyperpower”?
In a world of supercomputers, complex algorithms and emerging nanotechnologies, the Pentagon’s research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is the “tip of the spear” that our capitalist masters are banking on to “win” the “war on terror.” And in this world, surveillance is the gateway and ubiquitous key to controlling the counterinsurgency “battlespace.”
Portrayed in media accounts as a “gee-whiz” agency of nerds and quirky misfits, DARPA researchers were instrumental in designing–or appropriating for military use–the surveillance technologies deployed by the National Security Agency (NSA) under president Bush’s so-called “Terrorist Surveillance Program.”
As Tim Shorrock points out in his essential book, Spies For Hire: The Secret World of Intelligence Outsourcing, DARPA “money…funded some of the NSA’s first data mining programs.” Indeed, Shorrock reported recently in Salon that the NSA’s surveillance program is directly tied into state “Continuity of Government” planning including use of the Main Core database,
According to several former U.S. government officials with extensive knowledge of intelligence operations, Main Core in its current incarnation apparently contains a vast amount of personal data on Americans, including NSA intercepts of bank and credit card transactions and the results of surveillance efforts by the FBI, the CIA and other agencies. One former intelligence official described Main Core as “an emergency internal security database system” designed for use by the military in the event of a national catastrophe, a suspension of the Constitution or the imposition of martial law. Its name, he says, is derived from the fact that it contains “copies of the ‘main core’ or essence of each item of intelligence information on Americans produced by the FBI and the other agencies of the U.S. intelligence community.” (“Exposing Bush’s historic abuse of power,” Salon, July 23, 2008)
The secretive nature of the program is so highly sensitive, Shorrock reports, that when a former senior Justice Department official mentioned Main Core to an intelligence analyst stationed inside the White House after the 9/11 attacks “he turned white as a sheet.” One can only wonder what role DARPA and their “outsourced” corporate partners played in updating Main Core or programs similar to it.
SSNA’s aim is “to model networks of connections like social interactions, financial transactions, telephone calls, and organizational memberships,” according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s 2003 analysis. Once license plate numbers are “mined” from raw CCTV footage, investigators could: a) identify a car’s owner; b) examine her/his web-surfing habits; c) scan e-mail accounts for traces of “inflammatory rhetoric;” d) monitor recent purchases for “suspicious” items.
After the program was uncovered, all traces of CTS have since disappeared from DARPA’s website. However, the program has been farmed-out across the agency. I will explore some of the “innovative” solutions that DARPA securocrats are investigating to “improve” imperialist “warfighting” capabilities, particularly those falling under the purview of Military Operations on Urban Terrain. As should become clear, all of the applications described below are “dual-use,” that is, they are readily adaptable for “counterterrorist” purposes here at home.
IPTO is divided into six “thrust areas:” Cognitive Systems, Command & Control, High Productivity Computing, Language Processing, Sensors & Processing, Emerging Technologies. Each “thrust area” is further subdivided into a score of projects, the majority of which are concerned with developing technologies to “control the battlespace” of occupied cities.
The Cognitive Systems office is currently working on a project called Learning Applied to Ground Robots (LAGR), a system “to develop a new generation of learned perception and control algorithms for autonomous ground vehicles, and to integrate these learned algorithms with a highly capable robotic ground vehicle.” In other words, ground-based “killer robots” that can act on their own volition and “take out” insurgents independent of any human control. Early, human-controlled versions of these systems have been deployed in Iraq. Corporate and university grifters Applied Systems Intelligence, BAE Systems, Carnegie Mellon University, Florida A&M University, General Dynamics, and SRI International among others are jointly working on the project in alliance with DARPA and the Army Research Laboratory’s Robotics Collaborative Technology Alliance.
The Command & Control brief is described as “the exercise of authority and direction by a properly designated commander over assigned and attached forces in the accomplishment of a mission. Without question the missions faced by our warfighters today (such as counterinsurgency) and the operational environments (such as cities) are more complex and dangerous than ever before.” To achieve “situational dominance,” the following projects are in the works:
Deep Green, an “innovative approach to using simulation to support ongoing military operations while they are being conducted.” According to Wired defense analyst Noah Shachtman, software suites designed include “Blitzkrieg” which will model “battlespace” alternatives and “Crystal Ball,” a program that “will take information coming into a headquarters to figure out which scenarios are most likely to happen, and which plans are likely to work best.” As if to drive home the importance of Deep Green to Darpacrats, major corporate grifter Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) was awarded a $42 million contract in June for work on the project, according to Washington Technology.
Heterogeneous Airborne Reconnaissance Team (HART) (formerly known as “HURT”–the acronym says it all!) is described by DARPA thusly: “The complexity of counter-insurgency operations especially in the urban combat environment demands multiple sensing modes for agility and for persistent, ubiquitous coverage. The HART system implements collaborative control of reconnaissance, surveillance and target acquisition (RSTA) assets, so that the information can be made available to warfighters at every echelon.” According to its website, major capitalist grifter Northrop Grumman is designing a suite of tools to be used with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) capable of operating below 100 feet.
The Persistent Operational Surface Surveillance and Engagement (POSSE), program “is building a real-time, all-source exploitation system to provide Indications and Warnings of insurgent activity derived from airborne and ground-based sensors. Envisioning a day when our sensors can be integrated into a cohesive ‘ISR Force’, it’s building an integrated suite of signal processing, pattern analysis, and collection management software that will increase reliability, reduce manpower, and speed up responses.” According to the Defense Update website, SAIC “was awarded” a $32 million contract to work on the project for the U.S. Air Force.
The Sensors & Processing “thrust area” of IPTO states that since “U.S. forces and sensors” are “networked across” services and domains, new means are required to “manage” these increasingly complex systems. Since “future battlefields will continue to be populated with targets that use mobility and concealment as key survival tactics, and high-value targets will range from quiet submarines, to mobile missile/artillery, to specific individual insurgents,” therefore, “sensor processing, sensor fusing and information management” will provide the “warfighter” with the ability for “pervasive and persistent surveillance of the battlespace and detection, identification, tracking, engagement and battle damage assessment for high-value targets in all weather conditions and in all possible combat environments.”
One program, UrbanScape claims it will “provide the warfighters patrolling an urban environment with an up-to-date, high resolution model of the urban terrain that can be viewed, manipulated and analyzed. The overall objective of the program is to make the foreign city as ‘familiar as the soldier’s backyard’.” Or perhaps, provide the “warfighter” with a “high resolution model” of his own backyard! The project is a “collaborative venture” of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Kentucky, one of whose researchers now sits on the board of SET Corporation’s Management “team.” Small world (of leveraging DARPA “expertise” into big bucks!)
We turn next to DARPA’s Strategic Technology Office (STO). STO’s “mission” is “to focus on technologies that have a global or theater-wide impact and that involve multiple Services.” Among the more than five dozen projects in the works we find the following:
Integrated Sensor Is Structure (ISIS), whose goal is to develop and deploy a “stratospheric airship based autonomous unmanned sensor with years of persistence in surveillance and tracking of air and ground targets.” Essentially a large blimp that can hover at some 70,000 feet for years over a “target” city, ISIS engineers are currently developing ultra-lightweight antennas for the system. According to Defense Industry Daily, major corporate defense grifters who have received tens of millions of dollars in funding for ISIS include Lockheed Martin, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman.
VisiBuilding will address “a pressing need in urban warfare: seeing inside buildings.” This Orwellian project proposes to 1) determine building layouts; 2) find anomalous quantities of materials and 3) locate people within the building. VisiBuilding “will develop knowledge-deriving architectures for sensing people and objects in buildings” in order to “find which buildings should be searched, through detailed assessment of targeted structures for building layouts and behavioral analysis, live updates of building occupancy to support building raids, and finally post-mission analysis to find hidden objects or people.”
Deployed in U.S. and European cities along with the other accoutrements of an emerging police state–data mining, internet and cell phone surveillance–in the final analysis, these systems represent not the strength, but rather the precarious nature of capitalism’s entire geopolitical project. However, that doesn’t make them any less deadly–or dangerous–to a functioning democracy.
© Copyright Tom Burghardt, Antifascist Calling…, 2008
The url address of this article is: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9659
by Tom Burghardt
Global Research, July 17, 2008
In Planet of Slums, socialist historian Mike Davis mapped the brutal urban realities shared by more than one billion of the earth’s inhabitants, unmoored by neoliberal globalization from the “formal” world economy. From Baghdad to Karachi and from Lagos to Los Angeles and beyond, as ever-broader segments of the world’s population are transformed into “a surplus humanity,” the master class presents “no scenario” for ameliorating the immiseration it has itself designed through the “normal” functioning of a grotesque system of exploitation and injustice.
The vast expansion of planetary slum zones amid sumptuary wealth and dystopian high-rise palaces of glass and steel patrolled 24/7 by armed sentries, are future portents of a regime where the savage inequalities of the “free market” go hand in hand with the terminal vacuousness of the “Real Housewives of Orange County.” As economist Michel Chossudovsky points out, the current economic crisis gripping late capitalism is hardly an accident of history:
…downsizing, corporate restructuring and relocation of production to cheap labor havens in the Third World have been conducive to increased levels of unemployment and significantly lower earnings to urban workers and farmers. This new international economic order feeds on human poverty and cheap labor: high levels of national unemployment in both developed and developing countries have contributed to depressing real wages. Unemployment has been internationalized, with capital migrating from one country to another in a perpetual search for cheaper supplies of labor. (The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order, 2nd edition, Shanty Bay, ON: Global Outlook, 2003, p. 6)
Under existent conditions, a racist discourse of “feral cities” haunts the imagination of military theoreticians. Considered a “breeding ground” of subversion by ruling class economists, politicians and sociologists, the urban battles of the future are being “wargamed” today.
Military Operations on Urban Terrain and Other Horrors of a Horrible System
Fraught with problems not readily amenable to technological “fixes,” Durham University geographer Stephen Graham cites one military theorist’s view of the conundrums faced by 21st century “warfighters”,
“Urban operations represent a black hole in the current Revolution in Military Affairs pantheon of technological advantage […]. The technologies traditionally ascribed to the current Revolution in Military Affairs phenomenon will have negligible impact on Military Operations in Urban Terrain.” (cited in Stephen Graham, “From Space to Street Corners: Global South Cities and U.S. Military Technophilia,” Unpublished paper, 2007)
Indeed, there is a powerful imperative driving military strategists and their political masters: the stark recognition that capital’s economic/political project for domination is an acute failure, one which is creating conditions for chronic “low-intensity warfare” campaigns in cities against a panoply of “insurgent forces.”
In Venezuela for example, autonomous groups such as the 23 de Enero People’s Army, the “Tupamaros,” La Piedrita, Militia Zero, the Zapatista Collective or the Revolutionary Movement of Bolivarian Defense, neighborhood organizations of battle-hardened veterans who have at best, a strained relationship with Hugo Chávez’s Bolivarian government, will form the backbone of armed resistance to any outside intervention or internal counterrevolution by Venezuela’s CIA-NED-financed elite “opposition.” As George Ciccariello-Maher describes:
It was in [the] context of repression that the Venezuelan popular militia movement was born. Neither entirely clandestine nor fully open, small groups began to spring up to defend local barrios from both the state and the burgeoning parallel violence of narcotrafficking. Small groups, masked and armed, began to make semi-public appearances, giving an ultimatum to local drug dealers: either you stop selling drugs or you’ll be killed. The police, too, found themselves all the more frequently victims of armed ambushes and shootouts with masked militias. In order to explain this phenomenon, the police, government officials, and even more appreciative local residents adopted a single moniker, derived from the Uruguayan urban guerrilla struggle: in mythical fashion, these militias were deemed “Tupamaros.” (George Ciccariello-Maher, “Embedded with the the ‘Tupamaros’,” MR Zine, 23 April 2008)
Masters and mistresses of American barrios and “ghettoes,” Brazilian favelas and South Asian chawls where even police fear to tread, rapid urbanization has radically undermined the high-tech advantages built-up by the U.S. since the dawn of the Cold War, thwarting American fantasies of “dominating the battlespace” through “network-centric warfare” (NCW).
The political realities of urban combat inhibit the tactical requirements necessary to “secure” an urban “battlespace.” Short of obliterating a city as the United States did during its series of destructive campaigns in Fallujah in 2003-2004, military options are fairly limited. Resorting to overwhelming force in the absence of broad political support in the area is hardly the way to win “hearts and minds,” as the Pentagon discovered much to its horror in Vietnam during the 1968 Tet Offensive, when the U.S. simultaneously achieved a fleeting tactical victory and a devastating strategic defeat.
As a result of recent urban combat debacles, MOUT strategists are building simulated cities in the American outback as a “living laboratory” for protracted combat operations in an urban environment.
Mainly as a consequence of widespread opposition to 1999 “Urban Warrior” exercises when the Marine Corps’ Urban Warfighting Laboratory and U.S. Army Special Forces staged “realistic” war games on the streets of American cities, the Pentagon is creating entire pseudo landscapes and ghostly architectures: the urban space transformed into a militarist simulacrum.
Bryan Finoki, the editor of Subtopia: A Field Guide to Urban Militarism writes:
Somewhere out there in the restricted strata of Defense real estate the Marine Corps is taking over cities in an imaginary Third World that have been grafted and turned into some sort of urban template for a spectacularly unseen militarized stage show. There are multiple MOUT facilities all over the world, but in addition to two that already exist at Twentynine Palms, there is a brand new site cropping up along the fringes that’s being called CAMOUT, or Combined-Arms Military Operations in Urban Terrain. Pronounced “K-MOUT”, it is expected to be the Mecca, so to speak, of the entire MOUT program. (“MOUT Urbanism,” Subtopia, February 23, 2008)
Covering some 280 acres, a half-hour’s drive from the Marine Corps’ Twentynine Palms Air Ground Combat Center the training facility is “roughly the size of downtown San Diego,” journalist Kelly O’Sulllivan writes. CAMOUT “will feature an Olympic-size soccer stadium, a hospital, airport, large marketplace, prison, police compounds, schools, an industrial center, extensive underground tunnel systems and two embassies.”
And at a cost of some $250 million, CAMOUT is slated to be the largest such facility owned by the Defense Department. Orbiting somewhere between war and entertainment, the Pentagon is designing a disquieting netherworld, a series of Potemkin villages whose sole purpose is to perfect its apparatus of death and destruction.
Stephen Graham writes:
The global complex of urban warfare training cities involve a different relationship to political violence to the atom-bombed suburban homes or fire-bombed tenements and rice-paper structures of the 20th century. For here, the simulation is not designed to sustain attempts at outright urban annihilation through total war. Rather, its purpose is to hone skills of occupation, counter-insurgency warfare, and urban remodelling via expeditionary, colonial war. (“Theme Park Archipelago: Simulating War in an Urbanizing World,” Unpublished paper, 2007)
Constructed for the maximum recreation of war’s nightmare and horror, these simulated cities are filled with dazzling special effects courtesy of Hollywood. In addition to “realistic” settings and “culturally accurate” renditions of Middle Eastern architecture, these deranged spaces feature an array of olfactory sensations such as “…dead bodies, burning rubber, diesel fumes.” According to special effects wizard Manuel Chaves who runs the urban warfare site at Fort Wainright, Alaska: “I can do nine different buildings, nine different smells. Generally, if it’s a burning building, we put something really nasty in there like burning bodies.”
A $13 million facility built on a 30 acre site in Fort Knox, Kentucky named Zussman village is able to accommodate “hundreds of role-playing ‘insurgents,’ who dress in keffiyehs and are armed with AK47s and RPGs.” According to Graham, “a ‘Third World’ slum is being constructed near the railroad.”
To emphasize the importance of urban warfare simulation in current military doctrine, in 2006 Congress commissioned the RAND Corporation to produce a report on the efficacy of current training facilities. RAND did, and with a characteristic racist subtext to boot.
Adding to the mix, RAND researchers recommended that U.S. military planners consider the possibility of “appropriating” entire “ghost towns” within the continental U.S., in other words, cities that have been deindustrialized and largely abandoned. RAND “specialists” conclude: “the use of abandoned towns has moved beyond the concept phase into what might be considered the early test and development phase.”
Graham reports that attention was focused on the virtually abandoned copper-mining town of Playas, New Mexico. The town has also been used extensively by the Department of Homeland Security for training anti-suicide bomb squads. Apparently, the destruction of U.S. manufacturing, mining and industrial infrastructure under the pressure of neoliberal globalization is viewed as a “plus” in some quarters.
“Over the course of time, towns and cities eventually die,” writes Steve Rowell of the Center for Land Use Interpretation in Culver City, California. “Despite this and despite the receding U.S. economy, the industries of defense and disaster preparedness are flourishing, reversing this trend in some of the most remote areas of the nation. The war on terror is redefining the American pastoral in an unexpected way.” In the case of Playas, its new role is “as a generic American suburb under simulated attack.” And, in future, as a simulated “Arab city” where U.S. “warfighters” come to hone skills for expeditionary war, Graham reports.
Despite adverse publicity generated by “Urban Warrior” exercises, RAND analysts insist they continue. Indeed, such displays of militarist omniscience will be even more necessary in the future 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.”
But wargaming isn’t the only front where simulated urban battles are being fought and refought. Enter the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).
Under contract to DARPA, capitalist grifter Computer Science Corporation, combined electronic mapping and satellite image technology to create purely electronic representations of cities that are, or may in the future, come under the purview of U.S. military occupation. Scores of cities around the world are being electronically mapped by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in order to create a “virtualized reality” for U.S. “warfighters.”
Within complex simulation models, the structures of Middle Eastern or indeed, any city, have been classified using “Urban Terrain Zones” based “on international databases of the construction materials and practices used in the different parts of target cities: steel, glass and concrete in city cores, older brick, stone or mud in casbahs,” Graham informs us.
And even larger simulations of global south megacities are providing grist for the murderous mill of U.S. military “gamers” as they imagine full-scale counterinsurgent warfare well into the future. One electronic simulation, “Urban Resolve,” has actually mapped an eight square mile swathe of Jakarta, Indonesia in three dimensions! According to Graham, “this has been done down to the interior of the (1.6 million) buildings, and also involves 109,000 mobile ‘vehicles’ and ‘civilians,’ as well as the subterranean infrastructures.”
Such projects are expanding exponentially. Under the heading, Urban Reasoning and Geospatial Exploitation Technology (URGENT), DARPA’s Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO), is searching for “new technologies” to defeat urban insurgencies. According to IPTO’s “Mission Statement” on the program
The recognition of targets in urban environments poses unique operational challenges for the warfighter. … Today’s urban missions involve analyzing a multitude of urban objects in the area of regard. As military operations in urban regions have grown, the need to identify urban objects has become an important requirement for the military. Understanding the locations, shapes, and classifications of objects is needed for a broad range of pressing urban mission planning analytical queries.
A related program, Building Labels for Urban Environments (BLUE),
seeks innovative approaches that exploits surveillance video data to classify buildings automatically. In addition to visual feature data such as color and line orientation, video captures data concerning motion over time. The latter affords the opportunity for automated recognition of patterns in moving objects in the vicinity of buildings. These motion patterns may be reliable indicators of a building’s function. BLUE technology should be able to learn patterns that distinguish building types and to process video from surveillance video data, such as that collected from high-endurance military UAV platforms, to label buildings correctly.
As we have seen, the U.S. ruling class is intent on deploying its entire high-tech arsenal against the global south and perhaps someday soon, on the streets of American cities. Tied intimately into the defense, computing, entertainment and “homeland security” industries, the Pentagon’s quixotic quest to “dominate the battlespace,” is reflective of the precariousness of the entire U.S. neocolonial project in the post-Cold War world.
Despite its abject failure against urban insurgents in Iraq, the U.S. military’s obsession with building simulation models of urban landscapes and electronic mapping suites of real cities tell us a great deal about the masters’ preoccupation–and fear–with the direction things are heading.
© Copyright Tom Burghardt, Antifascist Calling…, 2008
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