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  • Mark 6:43 pm on July 13, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , fortress city, john urry, , , war   

    The fortress city and what it may portend 

    A couple of months ago, I shared a disturbing extract from John Urry’s final book about what he termed the ‘fortress city scenario‘. There’s a powerful section in Naomi Klein’s recent book, No Is Not Enough, which illustrates the basis of this scenario in actually existing conditions & the manner in which contemporary warfare can act as a laboratory for dystopian futures. From pg 130-132:

    I watched another such dystopian window open in 2003 in Baghdad, shortly after the invasion. At that time, the US occupation had carved the city in two. At its heart, behind enormous concrete walls and bomb detectors, there was the Green Zone—a little chunk of the United States rebuilt in Iraq, with bars serving hard liquor, fast-food joints, gyms, and a pool where there seemed to be a party 24/7. And then—beyond those walls—there was a city bombed to rubble, where there was often no electricity for hospitals, and where violence, between Iraqi factions and US occupation forces, was spiraling out of control. That was the Red Zone. The Green Zone at the time was the fiefdom of Paul Bremer, former assistant to Henry Kissinger and director of Kissinger’s consulting firm, whom George W. Bush had named as the chief US envoy to Iraq. Since there was no functioning national government, that essentially made him Iraq’s supreme leader. Bremer’s was an entirely privatized empire. Dressed in combat boots and a sharp business suit, Bremer was always protected by a phalanx of black-clad mercenaries working for the now-defunct company Blackwater, and the Green Zone itself was run by Halliburton—one of the largest oil field companies in the world, previously headed by then vice president Dick Cheney—along with a network of other private contractors. When US officials made forays outside the Green Zone (or the “emerald city,” as some journalists called it), they did so in heavily armored convoys, with soldiers and mercenaries pointing machine guns outward in all directions, guided by an ethic of “shoot first, ask questions later.” Regular Iraqis supposedly being liberated by all this weaponry had no protection, except for the kind provided by religious militias in exchange for loyalty. The message broadcast by the convoys was loud and clear: some lives count a hell of a lot more than others. From deep inside his Green Zone fortress, Bremer issued decree after decree about how Iraq should be remade into a model free-market economy. Come to think of it, it was a lot like Donald Trump’s White House. And the edicts were pretty similar too. Bremer ordered, for instance, that Iraq should have a 15 percent flat tax (quite similar to what Trump has proposed), that its state-owned assets should be rapidly auctioned off (under consideration by Trump), and that government should be

  • Mark 7:57 pm on July 6, 2017 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , , , , drought, environmental sociology, nature and society, , , , war   

    Politico-environmental crisis 

    In Naomi Klein’s new book No Is Not Enough, there’s a lucid overview of the intersection between political and environmental crisis. The role of drought in fermenting the conditions for the Syrian civil war was something which Marc Hudson first explained to me last year. From pg 182-183:

    The irony is particularly acute because many of the conflicts driving migration today have already been exacerbated by climate change. For instance, before civil war broke out in Syria, the country faced its deepest drought on record—roughly 1.5 million people were internally displaced as a result. A great many displaced farmers moved to the border city of Daraa, which happens to be where the Syrian uprising broke out in 2011. Drought was not the only factor in bringing tensions to a head, but many analysts, including former secretary of state John Kerry, are convinced it was a key contributor.

    In fact, if we chart the locations of the most intense conflict spots in the world right now—from the bloodiest battlefields in Afghanistan and Pakistan, to Libya, Yemen, Somalia, and Iraq—what becomes clear is that these also happen to be some of the hottest and driest places on earth. The Israeli architect Eyal Weizman has mapped the targets of Western drone strikes and found an “astounding coincidence.” The strikes are intensely concentrated in regions with an average of just 200 millimeters (7.8 inches) of rainfall per year—so little that even slight climate disruption can push them into drought.

    In other words, we are bombing the driest places on the planet, which also happen to be the most destabilized. A frank explanation for this was provided in a US military report published by the Center for Naval Analyses a decade ago: “The Middle East has always been associated with two natural resources, oil (because of its abundance) and water (because of its scarcity).” When it comes to oil, water, and war in the Middle East, certain patterns have become clear over time. First, Western fighter jets follow that abundance of oil in the region, setting off spirals of violence and destabilization. Next come the Western drones, closely tracking water scarcity as drought and conflict mix together. And just as bombs follow oil, and drones follow drought—so, now, boats follow both. Boats filled with refugees fleeing homes ravaged by war and drought in the driest parts of the planet.

    Surely these intersections should be at the forefront of how we imagine social processes? I realise there are many reasons why this isn’t the case but the one I’ve been pondering is the sustained hold of the nature/society distinction. If we see nature and society as distinct domains, we’re liable to be blind towards the environmental factors at work in social catastrophe. Only an idiot would deny the relationship in principle but the effects are projected into the future, as an expected horizon in which the natural will impact upon the social. But in doing so, their present entanglement with all the consequences flowing from this, comes to be lost in the analysis of events which are interpreted as narrowly political.

  • Mark 12:47 pm on March 8, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , chris mullin, , , war   

    The Iraq war: 10 years on 

    It was just under a decade ago that the Iraq war began. I only realised this recently when reading the first volume of the Chris Mullin diaries, covering the bulk of the New Labour era and the first few years of the Iraq war. It’s fascinating to see a portrayal of these events from the perspective of someone on the periphery of government, pulled in different directions by competing impulses of scepticism, expediency and loyalty. I was surprised at how immediately I can place myself in terms of the events he describes. He recounts his experience at parliament as “relays of school children, protesting against the war, blocked the traffic in Parliament Square, hurling themselves against the police lines”. Immediately I remember seeing Anti-Flag at the London Astoria (RIP) on the night in question:

    He describes the February 15th demo, laconically remarking “let no one say that politics is dead or that New labour has failed to mobilise the young and the idealistic” while nonetheless being drawn towards a ‘pragmatism’ that will look worse with each passing year. Meanwhile I remember shuffling through the streets of London, debilitatingly hung over and vacillating between a sense of amazement at the size of the crowd and a wish that they would just be a little more quiet… at least until I felt better. He describes the morning after the bombing began and I instantly recall a long drawn out conversation online with a friend from the other side of the country, despairing that so little difference had seemingly been made by all the activity enacted against it.

    Like many on the left in their late 20s, I was radicalised by the Iraq war. I’d been on the fringes of anarchist politics previous to this but only really skirting around the edges, with the Iraq war engendering a commitment to a range of causes. But again, I think, like many others, it also inculcated a degree of detachment. It left me with the desire to sustain an intellectual distance because of how exhausting and excoriating activism can be without it. It’s a very impressionistic claim but there’s a political sensibility, for lack of a better term, which I sometimes see in others which I recognise in myself. At least in the case of myself, I attribute its formation to the experience of the Iraq war campaign and see it as something that’s been entrenched over time. With the exception of campaigning against the arms trade (I’m not sure why) I’ve always tended to find myself back, skirting around the edges, in a way which I’m sure is fundamentally defensive but, as I get older, becomes easier to attribute to the other demands on my time.

    Being angry all the time is draining but sometimes, confronted with something jarring, I’m reminded that the anger is still there, in spite of my intellectual detachment from my own responses to it. As I was reminded when watching this new documentary on the Iraq War which shows how right we were and yet illustrates how utterly without consequence that rampant mendacity was for those perpetrating it, with many now being taken seriously as they preach the need for military intervention in Iran, Syria and even Russia.

  • Mark 8:52 am on February 4, 2014 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , war, war studies   

    CfP: Sensing War, deadline 14 Feb 2014 

    Reminder: Call for Papers deadline 14th Feb 2014

    Sensing War

    International Interdisciplinary Conference. 12 – 13th June 2014. London, UK.

    Website:  http://sensingwar.org/

    War is a crucible of sensory experience and its lived affects radically transform ways of being in the world.  It is prosecuted, lived and reproduced through a panoply of sensory apprehensions, practices and ‘sensate regimes of war’ (Butler 2012) – from the tightly choreographed rhythms of patrol to the hallucinatory suspicions of night vision; from the ominous mosquito buzz of drones to the invasive scrape of force-feeding tubes; from the remediation of visceral helmetcam footage to the anxious tremors of the IED detector; from the desperate urgencies of triage to the precarious intimacies of care; from the playful grasp of children’s war-toys to the feel of cold sweat on a veteran’s skin.

    Recognising the recent growth of ground-breaking work on the senses across the humanities and social sciences, Sensing War aims to bring together researchers from a wide variety of disciplines to foster creative dialogue and critical exploration of the multiple and shifting relationships between war and sensation.  What concepts, resources and methods does the sensuous turn in scholarship offer to further our understandings of the myriad experiences of war and militarism?  How is war sensed by and for the drone operator, the occupied population, the female engagement team, the insurgent, the medic, the refugee, the veteran, the military family, the arms fair delegate, the war tourist, the video-gamer, the artist?  As war continuously shape-shifts, bleeding across the global flows of late modernity, how might attentiveness to sensory experience help us to rethink its genealogy and ontology?  How might we enable innovative and critical sensory engagements with war that allow us to see, hear, sense and understand it anew?

    We invite contributions that engage with the topic of Sensing War widely and creatively.  Potential themes may include, but are not limited to:

    •       Sensing bodies, technologies and environments of war
    •       Sensory and scopic regimes and counter-regimes of war
    •       The militarization of sensation
    •       War politics and the distribution of the sensible
    •       Military orientalism, the colonial nervous system and the empire of the senses
    •       Touch/smell/sound/vision/tastes of war
    •       Rhythms, movements and kinaesthetics of war
    •       The sensory and affective grammar of everyday life in wartime
    •       Sensuous war/play
    •       Sensation-seeking, extremity, craving and addiction in warfighting
    •       Sensing the shadows of war
    •       Sensory resonances and aftermaths of war
    •       Gender, class, race, sexuality, disability and sensations of war
    •       War sensation and activist practice
    •       Doing sensuous ethnographies, sociologies, geographies and histories of war

    Please send paper abstracts (max 500 words), or details of other proposed contributions, together with brief biographical details, by 14th February 2014 to: sensingwar@gmail.com

    All proposals are subject to a review process.  We aim to publish selected papers from the conference as a special themed issue of a relevant journal and an edited collection.

    Please address any other queries to Kevin McSorley: kevin.mcsorley@port.ac.uk

    Academic Committee

    Kevin McSorley, Sociology, University of Portsmouth
    Debbie Lisle, International Relations, Queens University Belfast
    Tara Woodyer, Geography, University of Portsmouth
    Holger Pötzsch, Media & Culture, University of Tromsø
    Joseph Burridge, Sociology, University of Portsmouth

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