Friday, February 29, 2008

Upon Closer Examination of 'The Gates'

[Image: Aerial view of Cortez's Pipeline mine in Crescent Valley. | Photo credit: GBMW, via Great Basin Mine Watch.]

Not only did Pruned save Subtopia’s proverbial ass last night, Alex also “tagged” us with the intent of continuing an ongoing relay that compiles random book passages from blog to blog to blog, grafting little swaths of worded real estate from our favorite authors and posting them here. Who knows what scattered narrative that will yield but I like the idea of sampling our respective reading lists this way, towards some loosely trackable sequence of storied body parts.

This is only all too crazy when you think about what happened to us last night, which was essentially the opposite of this meme; that is, Subtopia was literally censored with ALL (not just a few sentences) of our text being stripped from this blog entirely. Who knows, maybe we were the victim of some other meme in the works that doesn’t just stealthily borrow but literally steals the text from its source, who knows what happens to it from there.

Nevertheless, we are moving ahead. The deal I guess is this:

1. Pick up the nearest book (of at least 123 pages).
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

So, for the most part I have been very recently perusing the lovely long-winded and rambling writings of Rebecca Solnit, easily one of my favorite writers. In her book Storming the Gates of Paradise: Landscapes for Politics, we find on page 123 in a section entitled Trouble Below, (Mining, Water, and Nuclear Waste), and within the chapter The Price of Gold, the Value of Water, the following extract:

For thousands of years in this area there had been nothing but sagebrush grassland open space, through which any creature might move freely; and even a few years back, when I worked as a land rights activist with the Western Shoshone, it was open space threatened by nothing worse than a few cows. Now its expanse is dominated by steep slopes of waste rock piles and fenced-off cyanide leach heaps, thousands of feet long and hundreds high, mounds that mean an equally large hole exists nearby. Black pipes lead into the distance, where a grid of rectangular recharge ponds gleams—the mine pumps about 13,000 gallons per minute to get under the water table., there you have it—a slivered archeology of a Subtopian landscape through the eye of Solnit.

Next up, I tag The Monterrey Experience, archive:s0metim3s, a456, Squatter City, and City of Sound.

Subtopia, back from the dead, with eternal thanks to Pruned!

[Image via Pruned]

Well, Subtopia faced some very scary moments here last night. You may, or may not have noticed, but beginning somewhere around 8:00 PM everything I had ever written on this silly site had somehow pulled a peculiar disappearing act. Seriously, every bit of text in my posts (except for the links, go figure) had literally vanished, even the comments, leaving behind a barren landscape of missing captions to photographs lost for explanation; links left hovering in mid blog air still in the places of their sentence structures which had abandoned them in a flash of vocabularic genocide. It was like some mysterious worded carpet had been pulled out from underneath our itchy little feet, with nothing behind but a hollow shell of military urbanism’s literary sidekick to end our show.
Thanks to Geoff for spotting this and tipping me off, and to Dan for offering some good thoughts on how I might troubleshoot this blindsided attack on our run-on little scribe here.
But, of course, before anything, all I could do is flip out!
I mean, what the hell happened? Subtopia -- left a pale ghost of itself, was that how we were going to go out? Was it an insidious Blogger bug that suddenly took hold as another fix went heinously awry? Did someone spike us with an epic blog-post sanitizer, or some disarticulating internet bleach? Had I been carefully hacked and censored by the CIA, the NSA? Were those master snoops finally on to us?
It was crazy, to be sure; all that excessive verbiage that has come to define Subtopia, for better or for worse, had just dropped off the face of the planet, vacuumed from the webby universe.
But, not that easily.

Today, however, we must tip our heavy hats and glasses to the one and only Alex Trevi, penman of the incomparably landscape savory Pruned, who stepped in last night like a postmodern on-call house doctor, of sorts; a virtual template wizard who was up with me in the wee hours of the night restoring piece-by-piece the dismembered flat bodied corpus that was left of our helpless little field guide.
Alex, you are AWESOME, man. Seriously, like some nocturnal emergency tinkerer, re-architecting the HTML behind the scenes in a truly exceptional performance of post bed-time hyper programmer rescue mission commitment that can surely not go thanked enough.
So the world must know that SUBTOPIA LIVES TODAY BECAUSE OF PRUNED! In case you haven’t hung out in the luscious gardens of his prose recently, go do it now! By the miraculous fountains of Pruned's youth, the titanic lakes of its self reflection, the nuclear-powered glaciers of its reach; go wander his precious vault of cemeteries ironically enough! Get lost in that labyrinth of agricultural wonder! It is one of the best blogs out there, to be sure.

[Image via Pruned]

Today we can only honor with our highest passion and praise, A.T. himself. Check his masterpiece out now and realize, we moves onwards here and now today because of him and the wicked inspirational work of Pruned!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

MOUT Urbanism

[Image: Mobile MOUT, unknown location.]

If you’ve been reading Subtopia for a while now then this may not come as anything new since I’ve called attention before to these mysterious simulacrums of urban space—I’m talking about those ghostly MOUT (Military Operation on Urban Terrain) training facilities where entire pseudo landscapes and quasi architectures are designed solely for the purposes of being conquered and reconquered, over and over again to help prepare the armed forces for counter-insurgency warfare in cities abroad--life inside a simulative architectural loop; landscape as militaristic prop.
This earlier post Peering into the Arenas of War should help get you caught up if this is all new to you, as well as these excellent articles both cited in that same post: Baghdad, USA (Wired), which tours the Joint Readiness Training Center in Louisiana known as Box, and Mock Iraqi Villages in Mojave Prepare Troops for Battle (New York Times), that takes a pretty good look at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert.

[Image: MOUT Graduate School at Twentynine Palms, CA., as featured in MS&T Magazine/2006.]

But, as of 2006 a much larger project has been slowly developing just a few miles outside the sprawling Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) at Twentynine Palms in California, that is estimated—when its all said and done—to be the largest MOUT training facility in the world, and if all goes to plan that could be sometime in the summer of 2010 depending on how far development takes it. Since the MCAGCC site is roughly 932 square miles, (that makes it, according to this article, “the service’s largest installation, bigger than Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Quantico, Va., put together,”) it no doubt provides the ideal geography for essentially recreating entire Arab cities in the American desert so that their future occupation and hostile takeover can be rehearsed and perfected to a kind of act of militaristic performance art, or something.

[Image: "U.S. forces arrive to take control of a make-believe Iraqi town. The region, nearly the size of Rhode Island, is dotted with villages that are eerie in their likeness to the real things." - Via NYT, photo by Ann Johansson.]

Somewhere out there in the restricted strata of Defense real estate the Marine Core 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.
A recent and truly excellent article written by Kelly Sullivan tells us that CAMOUT is “both nowhere and everywhere at the same time.” Lost deep in the American outback early parts of the new site are slated to spread over a 20-by-20 km area centered around an urban core of 280 acres, “roughly the size of downtown San Diego,” Sullivan points out. While this new facility sits tucked away in the nowhere territories of the U.S.’s remote home front, its test grounds for a planetary anywhere where urban warfare mediates the War on Terror lends CAMOUT an eerie ubiquitous everywhere kind of quality. It is, in effect, a stage that is meant to carry out its ultimate theatrics abroad. The essence of MOUT is that it prepares one for the conditions of an elsewhere; it is an active ghost town this way empowering its subjects to descend on cities the other side the world and enact their will wherever they see fit. It is again another manifestation of this military urbanism’s contemporary elasticity; it is the capability of bringing the complexities of a foreign city home in order to practice the art of conquering it there first. It is an eerie simulated architectural sublime in the art of war.

[Image: NATO Exercise Cooperative Osprey 1996, Camp Lejeune, NC.]

CAMOUT is being built in three phases over three years with separate funding contracts that could reach in total somewhere between $200 and $250 million — “the largest within the Department of Defense" with regards to a so-called MOUT urbanism.
The first phase is the construction of the urban core which Sullivan goes on to tell us “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.”
Quoting the article at length, here's a brief overview on the development of the MOUT program:
By 2015, an estimated 75 percent of the world’s population will live in urban areas, Robertson said.

In 1997, according to Department of Defense documents online, the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, Va., began studying urban warfare environments.

In 1999, it launched Project Metropolis to develop a program to help Marines fight successfully in such environments.

A project study determined that urban training facilities, which have been in use for many years by the Marine Corps at its various bases, were too small. Many contained 35 or fewer buildings, Robertson said (Bryan Robertson – Assistant CAMOUT Project Manager), hardly enough to provide the level of training needed to prepare troops to conduct operations in big cities.

“Trying to train for urban combat in 35 buildings is like trying to train for jungle warfare in a botanical garden,” he said.

And so the idea of a mega-MOUT, one big enough to accommodate a full Marine Air-Ground Task Force — 7,000 troops — was born.

In 2004, the Marines began developing the concept and design for CAMOUT, putting together a budget with funding from two sources — military construction funds and military procurement funding.

So, what will a quarter of a billion dollars get you? Well, reading on we learn CAMOUT, if completed as planned, will include 1,560 buildings (some as high as five stories) in seven separate districts: the urban core (as previously described), east and west stadium districts, a hospital district, an ‘old town’ which will actually be modeled on Sadr City (a suburb of Baghdad), and finally an industrial district as well as a diplomatic district. “A city like no one has ever seen,” it will be “bisected by a river, already in place, that’s up to 80 feet wide in some spots,” even though in reality we are told it will contain absolutely no water. “Some areas will have buildings that have been reduced to rubble and there will be shanty towns around the city” that will almost certainly lend a theme park-like and surreal credence to Mike Davis’ claim that the Pentagon is the world’s largest slumlord.

[Image: "At the National Training Center at Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert, the Army is relearning how to fight, shifting from its historic emphasis on big army-to-army battles to the more subtle tactics of defeating a guerrilla insurgency." - Via NYT, photo by Ann Johansson.]

Each of these districts is meant to provide a different urban experience, to command a distinct military interface with the separate layers of what constitutes the medium of an urbanized insurgency, in varying spatial densities and typologies, and for a range of tactical purposes, from targeted assaults, patrolling techniques, clearing buildings, rescue missions, to more scaled mass evacuations and stationary support roles. There will be an entire system of underground sewers so soldiers at CAMOUT will be able to train for a new wave of subterranean warfare, as well as coordinating large-scale air/ground operations. All the while this entire ‘combat city’ will be covered in cameras that will be controlled remotely and allow everything to be watched, recorded, and used for playback, in what Geoff has described in his own MOUT coverage as a cinematic extension of the architectural war environment.

[Image: Model of the Urban Training facility, via Soltek.]

And so, you might be wondering who actually builds these things, who gets the contracts to design and erect these artificial marvels of the Third World, these ‘feral city’ replicas? Who designs the militarized theme parks of the Marine Core’s industrial combat training grinder? In this case, I’ve found it’s Soltek Pacific, a San Diego based design-build construction company that’s using the help of Architects Mosher Drew Watson and Ferguson, and Stedman & Dyson Structural Engineers. These are the architects re-imaging the imaginary geographies of the non-western world, building the play sets of war, the precursory battlegrounds of the future. It’s a crazy prospect to think about, particularly: what are the psycho-urban implications of training soldiers in certain mimicried environments like these? Even though these places provide immersive cultural training and ways of interfacing with foreign places and people, how do these arenas for war-play also actually condition to some extent our military’s racial perception of the Arab—or, the ‘other’—world? What inherent racism exists in the fabricated architectures of mock Iraqi villages set out as mere objects of war across the innocuous flatness of the Mojave desert? Are these the disposable architectures of a new racialized landscape; the subliminal artifice of geopolitical brainwash; are they the ultimate spatial commodities of a new MOUT marketplace?

[Image: Mobile MOUT, unknown location.]

There is Mobile MOUT, reconfigurable shipping containers that allow these training facilities to both be transported and adapted to multiple spatial arrangements to mix up the architecture a bit for training purposes, but one can only wonder how reconfigurable these simulated cities may actually become in the future. The idea that CAMOUT could one week be fancied into a city based on the exact dimensions of Sadr Cty, and then the next week be converted into a startlingly real carbon copy of Port-au-Prince, or Darfur, smacks of both exciting and sinister potential. Imagine an entirely fake city that is the architectural combination of, say, Rio, Tijuana, and Johanasberg—toy cities, hybrid cities; imagine the Lego cities of anti-western extremism and other counter imperialist pirates coming to life. CAMOUT is a city waiting not only to be destroyed over and over again, but one eager to be remade in the alternating images of Third World cities all over. It is a morphable chameleon this way. Freaky, right?
Or, imagine—in the event this base remains an unchanged replica of a single city—if a brand new geography of CAMOUTs one day spanned the Pentagon’s real estate portfolio around the world, so that dozens of global south cities come to have life-sized replicas of themselves opposite sides of the planet being colonized by Marine Core drill sergeants and the impresarios of globalization’s military machine. Is this the Universal Studios of nation building? What if these dispersed bases even became a a bizarre kind of global tourist market and families from all over came to ride armored trams through gridded sets of fake battle scenes and spectacularly contained skirmishes, glimpsing up close the wars of the future? What if these military bases were the vanguard of architecture’s simultaneous progression and regression? What if CAMOUT became a new dismal suburban model of sorts for the future?

[Images: Blackwater Training facility in North Carolina, compliments of]

While the military contractor company Blackwater can boast having the world’s largest privately owned military base in the world, CAMOUT is now on its way to becoming the federal equivalent. And even if all three phases of it are built I can’t help but to wonder, what will be the next phase after that? What will constitute the urban evolution of MOUT? While these facilities mostly occupy remote exurban locations today, what will be the next dimension of MOUT's advancement tomorrow? What is the ultimate architectural trajectory of this program--bases the size of small countries? Will MOUT one day see its infusion somehow into our normal lives, into the fabric of our common society? In other words, will MOUT one day expand to a utilization of real-life western cities? Could San Francisco, or Los Angles become the next vast training facility? Or, will MOUT take over abandoned tracts of other American real estate as a sort of advantageous byproduct of the shrinking city phenomenon we see in places like Flint, or abandoned stretches of McMansions from the dismal subprime housing market crisis? This may sound absurd, but might we all one day end up living as the unwitting actors within a Goliath-scale MOUT urban program?

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Peripheral Milit_Urb 22

[Image: On the Border: The 'Virtual Fence' Isn't Working, photo by Jeff Topping.]


$1.2 billion fence adds little or no security by Luis Alberto Urrea.
On patrol with the US army in Iraq and Why some U.S. soldiers feel at home there.
The Iraq project, A mission impossible?
Guns or Bridges? or, Military robots to 2032?
Airline to Test Anti-Missile System
Baghdad Embassy Is Called A Fire Risk
Sovereignty by stealth / Hollow Land: Israel's Architecture of Occupation
The Architecture of Fear: Kabul Chronicles; Jolyon Leslie on the reconstuction of Kabul; Kabul gets only 3 hours of electricity a day


Global arms transactions, visualized in interactive map
FBI Deputizes Private Contractors With Extraordinary Powers, Including 'Shoot to Kill'
InfraGard - Public Private Partnership -Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Phronesisaical: No More Impunity for Mercenaries
Pioneering Blackwater Protesters Given Secret Trial and Criminal Conviction
"Jackasses with Guns": Mercenaries Terrorize Iraq
Nightmare or Reality?
Halliburton to Drill in Mexico
Bush Budget Would Bring Record Deficits
Global Guerrillas: PANDORA'S BOX


Blown Up: More Inflatable Military Stuff
Trevor Paglen's talk at Transmediale
Satellite Spotters Glimpse Secrets, and Tell Them
Disabled Spy Satellite Threatens Earth, but, Why the spy satellite won't fall on your head...
Airport Security Study
Networked Security in the City: A Call to Action for Planners
Punishing Thought Crime: Would New Bill Make YOU a Terrorist?
Seven Steps to a Homeland Security Campus
Governor's security tab is off the charts
San Francisco security cameras' choppy video
Police increase security for Super Bowl
Staging the Largest Terrorism-Response Drill in U.S. History
More Cities to Get Counterterror Money
Lasers to speed airport checks
Identifying a face from a single picture
Gallery: Homemade Bombs, From Richard Reid's Shoe to Kaczinski's Envelope
Gallery: Spy Gear and Police Tech at Homeland Security Conference
Federal buildings become Real ID zones
Navy ordered to establish sonar-free zones to protect whales, dolphins
Borders, Transit Top Security Spending

[Image: An elderly South Korean genuflects before a barbed-wire fence at Imjingak Pavilion, near the Panmunjom demilitarized zone, to show respect for his parents in North Korea.SF Gate.]


FEMA Trailers Finding New Life
YouTube - Humanitarian impact of Israel's blockade of Gaza - 21 Jan 08
With aid of S.F. man's project, Afghan women risk lives for a song
Kandahar's cemetery of 'miracles'
Joint Chiefs Chairman: Close Guantanamo
Confusion Clouds Guantanamo Tribunals
A snag as justices mull Guantanamo detainees / White House seeks to put second case before high court
Torture Yourself
Privatized Prisons for Immigrants: The Expansion Continues
Mexico City's newest bus option: 'Ladies Only'
More interest in working on Dharavi, Mumbai
The world's rubbish dump: a garbage tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan


Pentagon Plots Sim Iraq for Propaganda Tests
Safety Zone for Missile Defense Radar
Tomato Factory Becomes Marines' High-Tech Trainer
Pentagon Explores 'Human Fear' Chemicals; Scare-Sensors, 'Contagious' Stress in the Works?
The French Pentagon
NYC's Subway Spycam Network Stuck in the Station
Border 'Surge'; Mexican Troops' Big Build-Up
Hayden Admits: Contractors Lead 'Enhanced Interrogations' at CIA Black Sites
Homeland Security's 'Cyber Storm' War Game
Brawny New Bunker Buster: 'Divine Thunderbolt'
DARPA Wants Supercharged Spy Cams
India Prepares Desert War Game


Half Dose #44: Saint- Nazaire Alvéole 14
Anti-Viruses and Underground Monuments: Resisting Catastrophic Urbanism in Saint Petersburg
Next Stop: Ljubljana, Slovenia - Where Soldiers Slept, a Cultural Enclave Rises
Post Cold War Nuclear Optic
The Evolution of Violence in the 21st Century
UK farmer built illegal castle behind haybales
X-ray art installation depicts injuries from terrorism
S African thief's getaway spiked
Call for Proposals: Moving Walls 15 Documentary Photography Exhibition
Art attack
Off the Wall
The Nature of Walls (via Phronesisaical)
Great Wall Mural, Bank of China, Dalian China
J.G. Ballard & Architectures of Control
How the Military Conquered the Natives of Subterranean Earth
Pentagon Looks Toward Space For Solar Power On Earth
Weaponizing the Climate: Geoengineering's Military Potential

[Earlier peripherals ... 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21]

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Hot Rod Border Facades

You’ve met Ronen before on a couple of occasions here, tracing the periphery in his own sort of way with projects I always find refreshingly subliminal – in the sense that they are not these bombastic ‘hey check me out’ kind of art spectacles about the border, but more so the kind of work you’d find quietly screaming at the bottoms of your shoe, which to me is a much more clever way of engaging artistic spaces of immigration and conflict. I guess what I’m saying, is with all the political hype around the border these days, I just dig his more subtle tactics of using gutters and drains as a canvas to reflect on refugee flows, or football field chalk to delineate old geographic boundaries in once highly contested neighborhoods that are now simply a park.

Well, recently, he situated a life-sized two-dimensional cut out of a standard Israeli Border Police Jeep in the streets of the small East German town of Weimar (among other places in Germany), where reputations for violent intolerance against Jews and other foreign people have loomed in the past.

In his own words:
I want to examine what such an action would bring, how the presence of a militarized police force from Israel in a small quiet East German place would be perceived. Would it produce fear, antagonism, discomfort or maybe understanding and sympathy?

The site of the Star of David is never neutral on the streets of Germany, all the more so when it is painted on an armored jeep.

Needless to say, I dig these types of ‘out of context’ overlays that stir up the imaginary geographies of ‘the other’, and get us to either rethink the past in some newly connective way, or even force us to consider what is going on elsewhere in the present that we may have no bearing on otherwise. I am reminded of an earlier post when we mentioned the work of Paula Levine and the You Are Not Here project.

Ronen also says this:
This fake militarized jeep, I feel, will also bring another useful element to the discussion. The fake jeep, the two-dimensional façade barley standing on its wooden frame, is very much like the fake façades of Weimar’s historic building. The façades, historical manipulations, and the cultural cloning wish to suggest authenticity, but they do have to be really convincing to fulfill their purpose and to create in Weimar the romantic Disneyland of the east. In the same way, security can work as a façade. It does not really have to be convincing, you don’t need expensive systems, trained personnel, intelligence, and expertise. What is needed is a pretense of security, feeling of security, the knowing of its being and the statement that it is present.

Anyway, for all you Germans out there who may have a chance to go see it, let me know what you think. Would be real curious what if anything is stirred up by this. More coverage is of course available on Ronen’s site.

But, it also kind of has gotten me to consider my own crazy little border space overlay project. Who knows, I may have already mentioned this, but I’d love to cut out a piece of the border wall, or I guess more realistically just fabricate my own. It could be as small as 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide, scrap metal with some barbed wired lacing the top. I’d like to mount some fake robotic turrets to the top and some sirens, some would-be floodlights, and a bunch of CCTV cameras as well, so that this thing is one mess of insurmountable border fence security features, any gaps would be filled in by random pieces of fake sensor equipment, and some shreds of clothing clinging to the barbs.
I’d like to put the whole thing on wheels, and rig it up so that I could guide it around town by remote control.

Then, perhaps doing my best impersonation of Ashton Kutcher behind the scenes of one of his little Punk'd stunts, I’d cruise this thing in front of grocery store doorways, right there where the cheap plants are all stashed next to the soda pop machines. Perhaps, once I became skilled enough I’d wheel it inside somehow and just follow people around, blocking them off in certain isles, preventing access to some but not to others. I’d race my mobile border fence up to the checkout stand and quickly get in some line with it and then just not budge.
After I had my fun in the grocery store, I’d hit top speeds through the parking lot and go stand in front of an ATM machine, or do my brief part for Bank security and completely seal off the main entrance for an hour or so. Before I got caught I’d whiz to some Starbucks and block the entrance there, too. I’d throw up some mangled latte cups and spear them on the top of the fence for added effect, and then like some Jackass routine I’d leave my fence buddy hanging out in the middle of a massive intersection for awhile, just to see some drivers’ reactions (not to cause any accidents of course). I’d park by some bus stops, hang out for a bit in front of schools and libraries, at the airport, and even very briefly make my silly point by parking it outside the emergency entrance of the hospital; I’d follow some humvees around town with it for miles just in time to block a gasoline station, then some stairwells down to the subway; I'd wait patiently for Sunday to come and go to church with it. Afterwards we'd go shopping and stroll around outside the mall escorting shoppers to and from their cars and the mall doors. I might even go house-to-house one afternoon, door-to-door, and just sit for awhile in front of people's fancy driveways or kick it on their front lawn for bit. We'd lounge in Union Square downtown, barricade the Nike Town, grab lunch in the Carnelian Room on the rooftop of the Bank of America building.
Finally, properly well rested we would begin our tour of the nation slowly rolling along the road to the White House.
Me and my four-wheeler border fence.
And I’d record everyone’s reaction to it with a mounted camera and stream it all live for you right here on Subtopia.
Where else should I take this thing, any ideas?

(fresh in my mind: a little guardian angel barricade..., The Albino Hummer)

[All Images by Ronen, 2008]

Camp 7 & the Platinum Captives

[Image: Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp.]

Apparently, this was quietly alluded to last December in the New York Times tucked under the wordy little girth of an article I think I remember reading -- but somehow left me less curious than I should have been about the existence of what has now been confirmed at Guantánamo as “Camp 7.”

The first clue via the NYT:
The notes that were declassified from Mr. Khan’s lawyers, Gitanjali S. Gutierrez and J. Wells Dixon, say he “lives in Camp 7” and imply that he has contact with at least one other high-value detainee, Abu Zubaydah.

Officials at Guantánamo have not discussed the existence of a Camp 7. They often say publicly that the most recent center constructed there is Camp 6, a modern maximum-security building.

Real quick, in case you haven’t been following along (and I am really just catching up myself), Majid Khan (a former resident of Baltimore) is a detainee at Camp 7 and purported to be a co-conspirator with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who, according to the Pentagon, is “the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks”, and had selected Khan at some point “to study the feasibility of blowing up gasoline stations and poisoning reservoirs in the United States.”

[Image: "Photographs of a restraint board reportedly for waterboarding used by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 1970s, currently in the Tuol Sleng museum of Khmer Rouge crimes in Phnom Penh." - via.]

In a recent article by The Miami Herald the CIA confirmed that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (or “KSM”), was “covertly waterboarded somewhere overseas to break his will” (read more about waterboarding here), and that following this interrogation and having been brought to Camp 7, he has since confessed “to plotting a virtual, global campaign of terror -- everything from the Sept. 11 assaults on New York and the Pentagon to the never-realized assassinations of American presidents.”

Regardless of your stance on (un)lawful interrogation techniques, torture, or even Gitmo for that matter, you still have to question the validity of confessions suddenly prompted in the context of waterboarding, a controversial tactic widely seen as torture, and now any confessions or evidence induced by good old Camp 7, yet another little distortion of secret space enfolded in the liminal landscape of the War on Terror.

Nevertheless, should we really be surprised about the existence of a new “top-secret” Gitmo camp, whose location remains unclassified, and still -- for all legal intents and purposes -- doesn’t even really exist, aside from the fact now that some Gitmo commanders say it does? Of course not. The real question is: what others just like it also exist, where, and for what purposes? And how should they be legally addressed?

In an interview with The Associated Press printed just a couple days ago, Rear Adm. Mark Buzby -- the top commander of detention operations at Guantánamo -- described Camp 7 as a “maximum-security lockup” for 15 key alleged al-Qaeda members; a facility, according to the report, “that was already built when President Bush announced in September 2006 that 14 high-value terrorism suspects had been transferred from CIA secret detention facilities to Guantánamo. An additional detainee, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, arrived last April.”

The AP goes on to tell us that so far “detainees have been held in Camp Echo and Camps 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6,” where journalists have been allowed media tours for the most part. Camp 7, however, is supposedly a way to isolate these senior al Qaeda captives called ''high-value detainees,” from the other 262 detainees at Gitmo, that is, according to The Miami Herald, “run by a special unit code-named Task Force Platinum.” But, even though we are to believe that Camp 7 is the necessity of preventing Guantánamo detainees from finding ways of communicating with each other, and to prevent retribution amongst one another, and even to protect itself from a future terrorist attack by limiting public knowledge about the locations of some of these places, the more glaring reason for Camp 7 in my eyes seems to be to simply cover up and shield whatever activities are actually taking place there, and as merely more practice in black world secrecy -- expanding the "classified" infrastructures of nowhere.

Kahn told a military panel he was subjected here to such intense CIA interrogation tactics in the first months, “that he gnawed at the artery in his arm, wanting to die.”

From what I’ve read, aside from Gitmo’s top brass, only the Red Cross has actually seen this secret prison camp, while Kahn’s lawyers Wells Dixon and Gita Gutierrez, from the New York Center for Constitutional Rights, perhaps also have seen Camp 7, or maybe just Kahn himself (I’m not clear), one of the only captives of Camp 7 to have been communicated with by outsiders.

But The Miami Herald goes on to ask some crucial questions:
Who runs this camp? Who built it? How does it function? Who comes and goes and gets to talk the detainees? When and how will they see lawyers?

And I will add, how long will they stay there, what kind of legal scrutiny should it be exposed to, what goes on at this camp in terms of interrogation exactly, what exists in the realm of interrogation oversight; how is Camp 7 “legal”? What mechanisms constitute the right for Camp 7 to exist, or does it merely exist outside of the law, much like Guantánamo itself? Meaning, is it neither legal nor illegal, but sub-legal, or extra-legal? Which is fascinating to think of about actually; life being neither of these, but just merely existing devoid of legal value; legal value itself as both an ideal and a harrowing human prospect.

<[Image: Guantánamo Bay Detention.]

Reminds me of this Agamben quote I spotted on Angela’s blog:
One day humanity will play with law just a children play with disused objects, not in order to restore them to their canonical use but to free them from it for good. What is found after the law is not a more proper and original use value that precedes the law but a new use that is born only after it. And use, which has been contaminated by law, must also be freed from its own value. This liberation is the task of study, or of play. And this studious play is the passage that allows us to arrive at that justice that one of Benjamin’s posthumous fragments defines as a state of the world in which the world appears as a good that absolutely cannot be appropriated or made juridical.

Anyway, I will certainly offer more as I come across it, but -- what has been the Pentagon's reaction to all of this? When asked to comment on story this morning, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said only: "Some aspects of Guantánamo Bay are more transparent than others."

Don't forget: An Exceptional Paradise; Guantánamo and the Border Exodus; Justice Barred; A Camp Called Justice; A Mini-city for Trying Terror; Gitmo Courthouse Compound goes bye bye; Walkthrough Gitmo: the de-restricted fortress

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Via Anelli's Wall

We mentioned the anti-immigration wall in Padua, Italy, briefly several months ago, which actually led to an ongoing chronicle of updates and information about the impact there in the comments section, thanks to local Italian blogger Alberto, who pens the Padua Blogger's Inn blog.

Buried in those comments Alberto pointed to a pretty good little You Tube video of the Via Anelli ghetto that has been concentrated with immigrants demonized by local community members and leaders who would rather take the NIMBY approach of just quarantining the issue of migration rather than truly trying to resolve it with proper integration policies, etc.

Now, thanks to fellow reader and writer Marcello Di Cintio, we are directed to another great video on the walled ethnic slum that has been highly contentious for a decade in the ancient city of Padua, described as a prison without locks, and a psychological horror for migrants, who are not only warehoused together but were at one point totally walled off from the rest of the neighborhood. The video (which is also readable here) gives a good history of how the situation arose, ha evolved, been merely displaced from one street block to another, speaking with advocates from both sides as well as Italian officials who now finally acknowledge the backlash of having conducted a local politics that followed from the gut of racism rather than lead with a rational solution of providing citizenship and basic human respect. Good video, about 20 minutes long, well worth the watch - so check it out.

(And thanks again Marcello!)