An absolutely remarkable story from reporter Nick Turse, which appeared in the Asia Times, about a conference he attended where preparations were made and discussed for a coming 100 year long fight to take control of the world's urban slums and inner cities.
While Turse makes the obvious point that preparations are made for battles and conflicts that don't yet exist, raising the question of how military and weapons contractors know what's coming, there is an equally obvious conclusion to be reached that those who benefit the most from endless war will find a way to make their profitable fantasies into reality.
Excerpts follow, but you can read the whole story here. The details of the kinds of weapons these urban warfare planners are hoping to deploy in the United States, along with many other cities of the world, show that they are not waiting for urban warfare to break out beyond Iraq and Afghanistan :
Duane Schattle doesn't mince words. "The cities are the problem," he says. A retired marine infantry lieutenant colonel who worked on urban warfare issues at the Pentagon in the late 1990s, he now serves as director of the Joint Urban Operations Office at US Joint Forces Command. He sees the war in the streets of Iraq's cities as the prototype for tomorrow's battlespace. "This is the next fight," he warns. "The future of warfare is what we see now."
He isn't alone. "We think urban is the future," says James Lasswell, a retired colonel who now heads the Office of Science and Technology at the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. "Everything worth fighting for is in the urban environment." And Wayne Michael Hall, a retired army brigadier general and the senior intelligence advisor in Schattle's operation, has a similar assessment, "We will be fighting in urban terrain for the next hundred years."
In his tour de force book Planet of Slums, (Mike) Davis observes, "The Pentagon's best minds have dared to venture where most United Nations, World Bank or Department of State types fear to go ˇ [T]hey now assert that the "feral, failed cities' of the Third World - especially their slum outskirts - will be the distinctive battlespace of the 21st century." Pentagon war-fighting doctrine, he notes, "is being reshaped accordingly to support a low-intensity world war of unlimited duration against criminalized segments of the urban poor".
In Planet of Slums, Davis notes that the Rand Corporation, a non-profit think-tank established by the US Air Force in 1948, has been a key player in pioneering the conceptual framework that has led to the current generation of what's called, in the jargon of this meeting, "urban operations", or UO.
On the technological front, the Pentagon's blue-skies research outfit, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), sent its grandfatherly-looking deputy director, Robert F Leheny, to talk about such UO-oriented technology as the latest in unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and sense-through-walls technologies that allow troops to see people and objects inside buildings. While Leheny noted that 63% of DARPA's US$3 billion yearly budget ($600 million of it dedicated to UO technologies in the coming years) is funneled to industry partners, DARPA is only a part of the story when it comes to promoting corporate assistance in this 100-year-war growth area.
As you might imagine, smaller contractors are eager to climb aboard the urban warfare gravy train. At the conference, Lite Machines Corporation was a good example of this. It was vigorously marketing a hand-launched, low-flying UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) so light that it resembled nothing more than a large, plastic toy water rocket with miniature helicopter rotors. The company envisions a profitably privacy-free future in which urban zones are besieged by "swarms" of such small UAVs that not only peek into city windows, but even invade homes. According to a company spokesman, "You could really blanket a ground area with as many UAVs as you want ... penetrate structures, see through a window or even break a window," in order to fly inside a house or apartment and look around.
DARPA'S Leheny also extolled hovering UAVs, specifically the positively green-sounding Organic Micro Air Vehicle which brings to mind the "spinners" in Blade Runner or, even earlier in blow-your-mind futuristic movie history, V.I.N.CENT from Disney's The Black Hole. This drone, Leheny noted, has "perch and stare" capabilities that allow it to lie in wait for hours before fixing on a target and guiding in extended-line-of-sight or beyond-line-of-sight weapons. He also described in detail another DARPA-pioneered unmanned aerial vehicle, the WASP - a tiny, silent drone that spies on the sly and can be carried in a soldier's pack. Leheny noted that there are now "a couple hundred of these flying in Iraq".
During their PowerPoint presentation, the men from Lite Machines, for instance, showed a computer rendering of their micro-UAVs attacking an unarmed crowd gathered in a town square with a variety of less-than-lethal weapons like disorienting laser dazzlers and chemical gases (vomiting and tear-gas agents), while a company spokesman regretfully mentioned that international regulations have made it impossible to employ such gases on the battlefield. Undoubtedly, this was a reference to the scorned Chemical Weapons Convention, which has been binding for the last decade.
While the various speakers at the conference focused on the burgeoning inhabitants of the developing world's slum cities as targets of the Pentagon's 100-year war, it was clear that those in the "homeland" weren't about to escape some of its effects either.
For example, back in 2004, marines deploying to Iraq brought the Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) with them. A futuristic non-lethal weapon alluded to multiple times at the conference, it emits a powerful tone which can bring agonizing pain to those within earshot. Says Woody Norris, chairman of the American Technology Corporation, which manufactures the device: "It will knock [some people] on their knees."
That very same year, the LRAD was deployed to the streets of the Big Apple (but apparently not used) by the New York Police Department as a backup for protests against the Republican National Convention. In 2005, it was shipped to "areas hit by Hurricane Katrina" for possible "crowd control" purposes and, by 2006, was in the hands of US Border Patrol agents. In that same year, it was also revealed that the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department had begun testing the use of remote-controlled surveillance UAVs - not unlike those now operating above Iraqi cities - over their own megalopolis.
With their surprisingly bloodless language, antiseptic PowerPoint presentations, and calm tones, these men - only one woman spoke - are still planning Iraq-style wars of tomorrow. What makes this chilling is not only that they envision a future of endless urban warfare, but that they have the power to drive such a war-fighting doctrine into that future; that they have the power to mold strategy and advance weaponry that can, in the end, lock Americans into policies that are unlikely to make it beyond these conference-room doors, no less into public debate, before they are unleashed.
These men may be mapping out the next hundred years for urban populations in cities across the planet. At the conference, at least, which cities, exactly, seemed beside the point. Who could know, after all, whether in, say, 2045, the target would be Mumbai, Lagos, or Karachi - though one speaker did offhandedly mention Jakarta, Indonesia, a city of nine million today, as a future possibility.
All of these UO experts are preparing for an endless struggle that history suggests they can't win, but that is guaranteed to lead to large-scale destruction, destabilization, and death. Unsurprisingly, the civilians of the cities that they plan to occupy, whether living in Karachi, Jakarta, or Baghdad, have no say in the matter. No one thought to invite any of them to the conference.