Sunday, April 02, 2006

Subterranean Urbanism

[Image: Satellite imagery of the Natanz enrichment facility from early 2004, Iran. Photo by Global Security.]

For more background on why the American government has grown deeply concerned over the proliferation of Underground Facilities (UGF’s) that are used to conceal anything from WMD development programs, terrorist networks, smuggler tunnels, and potentially other biological or chemical weapons stockpiles all over the world, this article offers a pretty thorough examination of different bunker types, their construction, methods for detecting them, and how they’ve become an important part of the defense strategy for a number of countries hostile to the U.S..

[Image: Satellite imagery of the Natanz enrichment facility in 2002, Iran. Photo by Global Security.]

According to the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review, conducted by the Defense Department at the request of Congress, “more than 70 countries now use UGFs for military purposes ... In June 1998, the Defense Science Board Task Force on Underground Facilities [found] that there are over 10,000 UGFs worldwide ... approximately 1,100 underground facilities were known or suspected strategic (WMD, ballistic missile basing, leadership or top echelon command and control) sites.” More current estimates now put that number up over 1,400.

Despite advances in satellite imaging, infrared and sensor technology, and a flexing global panoptic muscle, detection methods have suffered accuracy due to the expansion of a subterranean urbanism that’s become increasingly more sophisticated at deflecting aerial surveillance. Whether burrowing into ancient mountain caves, or digging tunneled networks deeper than ever (or so we think), or whether these dank hallways merely skim the surfaces dipping under the border, the tunnelers have kept remarkably ingenuitive and entrepreneurial in their masterful escape routes and renegade economies that pulsate through them. Signs of desperation maybe but also that a real thriving form of opposition is in effect here. Perhaps these dark places are all united in a landscape solidarity against the "iminanent domains" of transnational corporatism. The article is much too long and dense to summarize here, so just read it, if you are interested in the sciences of bunker architecture, ground penetrating radar technology, seismic shockwaves, and mapping the earth’s gravitational fields from orbit. Fascinating stuff, to be sure.


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