Amnesia and acts of killing

pretext_for_mass_murderI’ve discussed Joshua Oppenheimer‘s The Act of Killing – about paramilitary death-squads in Indonesia in 1965-6 – in an earlier post.  Larry Rohter provided a short backgrounder in the New York Times at the end of last week (much more here):

The events initially addressed in “The Act of Killing” are little known in the West: the slaughter of as many as a million people in Indonesia following the military’s seizure of power there in 1965. The victims were labeled Communists but included labor leaders, ethnic Chinese and intellectuals, with paramilitary groups carrying out the killings at the behest of the Indonesian Army and with the support of the United States and its allies, who worried that Indonesia, like Vietnam, would fall into Communist hands.

In Indonesia, the killings were “a kind of open secret, kept discreetly hidden so that if you wanted to, you could pretend it wasn’t happening,” said John Roosa, a scholar of Indonesian history at the University of British Columbia and the author of “Pretext for Mass Murder,” the leading book about the 1965 massacres. “So this film has become a provocation, an impetus for Indonesians to go back to the perpetrators and say, ‘Tell us exactly what happened.’ ”

Guernica now has a new interview (by Emma Myers) with Oppenheimer in which he talks at length about the background to the film and the process of filming itself:

‘I was developing experimental performative documentary methods in London and was asked to make a film [what would become The Globalization Tapes] by the International Union of Food Workers in a place where unions had been previously outlawed. I could have been sent to India, Colombia, Malaysia… but I was sent to Indonesia. I knew nothing about the country, but found myself in a plantation community outside of Medan. The biggest obstacle the workers had in organizing a union, I found, was fear: fear that stemmed from the fact that their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles had had a strong union until 1965, but were accused of being leftists and either killed or put in concentration camps for decades as a result. That was the first I had heard about the 1965-1966 genocide and it was clear to me that it had to be in the film. But even talking about it turned out to be scary for them, because the people who committed atrocities against their relatives were living all around them in this village. So I made the film with the plantation workers but realized I had to come back. I felt very close to this community. They were saying, “Please make a film about the genocide and how it has affected us.” I returned six months later to start working with them and found the process to be unsafe for them; the best way around this was to film the killers—who were much more willing to talk—instead of the victims.’

The Act of Killing

He talks in particular about the performative force of storytelling, the ethics of staging the killers’ fantasies (they were paid a small per diem sanctioned by the Arts & Humanities Research Council), and ends with a wonderfully sharp remark from Werner Herzog (one of his co-producers) about the political possibilities of art.

There’s now also an extended essay by another of the film’s co-producers, Errol Morris, over at Slate, in which he asks: ‘Is this a story about Indonesia or also a story about us?’  His answer takes that little clause in Rohter’s commentary – ‘Indonesia, like Vietnam‘ – and unpacks it to devastating effect.  His journey takes him back to his own film, The Fog of War, to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, and to the Vietnam War: the coup in Indonesia, he realises, took place in 1965, the same year that President Johnson escalated the war in Vietnam.  It’s a brilliant road-trip – a mix of interviews and scholarly research, of geopolitical critique and cultural sensibility.

You can see some clips from the film, and hear Herzog and Morris discuss it in this video from Vice.

Finally, there’s a commentary on the film by Slavoj Zizek at the New Statesman here. His starting-point is a familiar one:

The protective screen that prevented a deeper moral crisis was the cinematic screen: as in their real killings and torture, the men experienced their role play as a re-enactment of cinematic models: they experienced reality itself as a fiction. During their massacres, the men, all admirers of Hollywood (they started their careers as controllers of the black market in cinema tickets), imitated Hollywood gangsters, cowboys and even a musical dancer.

Here the “big other” enters: what kind of society publicly celebrates a monstrous orgy of torture and killing decades after it took place, not by justifying it as an extraordinary, necessary crime for the public good but as an ordinary, acceptable pleasurable activity? The trap to be avoided here is the easy one of putting the blame on either Hollywood or on the “ethical primitiveness” of Indonesia. The starting point should rather be the dislocating effects of capitalist globalisation which, by undermining the “symbolic efficacy” of traditional ethical structures, creates such a moral vacuum.

But he then spirals off into his own (I almost wrote ‘magical mystery’) tour d’horizon that ultimately brings The Act of Killing into the intimacy of our own, deeply personal spaces and their (non-)relation to an increasingly eviscerated and compromised public space.

For all that, I much prefer Morris’s take – and I greatly admire his method.  In the end, he asks a series of questions that are not about celebration or banalisation, important though they are, but about amnesia.

Obama’s signature

627227-signature-reveals-obama-039-s-secrets

For decades Presidents of the United States have used a machine to sign ‘personal’ letters.  According to reports, Obama used the ‘autopen’ to sign an extension to the Patriot Act when he was at a G8 summit in France and out of reach (more examples here).

autopen

But  others are never out of reach of Obama’s signature.  The ‘signature strikes’ carried out by Predators and Reapers also disclose a disconcerting entanglement of the ‘personal’ (these are not robotic: a network of human agents is actively involved and they have access to high-resolution full-motion video feeds) with the machinic (not least because the President doesn’t personally ‘sign off’ on them).  I’ve discussed them in detail here, and the Brave New Foundation has released an important video about them and the Dhatta Khel incident in March 2011 in particular.

Film-maker Robert Greenwald provides background to the video here and Arianna Huffington returns to it today.  Referring to Obama’s speech on 23 May 2013 – see my discussion here – she writes:

“Before any strike is taken,” he declared, “there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured — the highest standard we can set.”

Though signature strikes were not mentioned, some assumed language like “near certainty” and “highest standard” meant they were no longer going to be used. That assumption was proven wrong as just days later an administration official told the New York Times that signature strikes will continue in Pakistan, a statement the Times’ Andrew Rosenthal wrote“seem[ed] to contradict the entire tenor of Mr. Obama’s speech.”

Two weeks later, on June 9, a drone struck a vehicle in Yemen, killing not only several supposed militants, but also a boy named Abdulaziz. He was 10 years old. “Near certainty” and those new “clear guidelines” apparently weren’t enough for Abdulaziz. The administration refused to comment on the boy’s death, or the strike itself. So much for accountability and transparency. And just last week, a strike in Waziristan killed 16 people and wounded five others.

I’m left thinking of those famous lines from Edward Fiztgerald‘s translation of The Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam:

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ, 
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit 
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line, 
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

Wandering in the ruins

Love-charm of bombsI’ve noted Lara Feigel‘s wonderful The love-charm of bombs before, and now there’s a short interview with her at the New York Times Arts blog here:

I was originally planning to write an academic study of war literature. But I kept finding that I was reading about the writers’ lives, rather than reading about their books, and especially about their passionate wartime love affairs. Once I had spent time in their archives and read their wartime letters and diaries, I started to think that it’s impossible fully to understand classic novels like Graham Greene’s “The End of the Affair” or Bowen’s “The Heat of the Day” without knowing about their lives, and seeing these books as urgent messages, written to lovers, and written out of an extraordinary time. A lot of parallels and shared experiences were emerging in the research, so it seemed obvious to tell the stories simultaneously, threading them together as in a novel.

Lara explains that, although she was trained as a literary critic and historian,

I enjoyed the challenge of acquiring new kinds of knowledge in researching this book. I read a few military accounts of the war, but I learned a lot of the war news from reading contemporary diaries and newspapers. I wanted only to convey as much as well-informed people knew at the time. After all, my writers weren’t military experts, just people who found themselves living through a complicated and long-drawn-out war.

I know just what she means (and for more on another project in which Lara crosses established boundaries, see this meeting of minds between neuroscientists, artists, philosophers and analysts, which she co-organized with Lisa Apignanesi).  In a similar sort of way I’m a geographer ‘by training’, whatever that might mean, but I’m content with the description largely because it gives me the freedom to pursue ideas and issues wherever they take me, often far beyond the bounds of any recognisable or at any rate nominal ‘geography’ – except that I always remember Dick Chorley‘s frequently repeated injunction when I was an undergraduate at Cambridge: “To ask, ‘Is that Geography?’ is the most un-geographical of questions.”  So I think geography is a discipline in the Foucauldian sense – it works to produce disciplinary subjects through a network of formal institutions (including university departments) and journals, through a canon of texts, and through a systematic series of examinations – but that’s about it.  I don’t think this makes Geography any different from a host of other ‘disciplines’, needless to say: it’s a route of entry into a rich and constantly changing intellectual-practical world, and unlike Richard Hartshorne and others of his ilk I insist that there’s a lot to be said for deviating from the path (or rather Path) and acquiring those ‘new kinds of knowledge’ that Lara talks about.

With that sort of license comes responsibility, too, of course, but that doesn’t mean conformity.  I’ve always liked E.P. Thompson‘s image of himself, working for the first time on early eighteenth- rather than ninteenth-century Britain in Whigs and Hunters – his best book – as a parachutist landing in occupied territory (occupied not least by Jack Plumb), burying his silk under a tree and night after night moving stealthily through the surrounding landscape, gradually coming to know it better and better: but on his own terms.  Perhaps he was channelling his late brother Frank who parachuted into Bulgaria during the Second World War to provide support to the partisans and who was summarily executed for his pains.

PIETTE Imagination at warWhich brings me back to Lara.  Asked to recommend a book about literature during the Second World War, she suggests Adam Piette‘s Imagination at war: British fiction and poetry 1939-1945 (1995): ‘a wonderful account of the oddness of the literary responses to the Second World War.’  D.J. Taylor wasn’t so sure, though I found Adam’s discussion of the war in the desert very helpful in enlarging my own view of those campaigns for ‘The natures of war’.

I know the sequel better, The Literary Cold War, 1945 to Vietnam (2009), which includes an invigorating discussion of Graham Greene‘s The Quiet American amongst many other good things (a novel much on my mind of late).  Adam runs the Cultures of the Cold War network whose website opens with a rapid-fire quotation from E.L. Doctorow:  ‘The bomb first was our weapon. Then it became our diplomacy. Next it became our economy. Now it’s become our culture. We’ve become the people of the bomb.’ Unfortunately, it appears the website then ran out of energy (sic), though there’s a useful Bibliography.

For me, the book I most admire is Patrick Deer‘s Culture in Camouflage: war, empire and modern British literature (2009).  He paints on a larger canvas than Imagination at war – the book covers the period 1914-1945, and there are definite advantages in doing so – and he seems to have read everything and to have thought about it all in depth and detail.  I was first drawn to it by his chapters on the Second World War, but as I re-work “Gabriel’s Map” for what I think, hope and pray will be a second new book (really), provisionally called War material, I’ve plunged back into his earlier accounts of the First World War.  They are brimful of incisive readings and artful insights.

“Gabriel’s Map” is all about the dialectic between the scopic regime constructed through the topographic map, the aerial photograph and the field sketch on the Western Front (‘cartography’) and the sensuous, haptic and thoroughly embodied knowledge of the troops on – and in – the ground (‘corpography’).  Here’s Patrick:  ‘If the emblematic figure for the collapse of vision was No Man’s Land, it was the strategist’s map that came to represent the struggle to recapture oversight, to survey and order the mud, chaos and horror of battle.’ So I’m now thinking much more about the very idea of No Man’s Land and the multiple ways in which soldiers apprehended its gouged terrain.

More on all that very soon, but here I just want to say that Culture in camouflage is gloriously intellectually promiscuous and also a rattling good read.  If you want to explore the idea of ‘war culture’ I’d recommend starting here, and returning to it again and again.  But pack Lara’s book for the journey because she also has much to show us not only about how to travel but also how to write.

Writing at a dead-line

BBC2 The Wipers TimesBack in the trenches again, revising “Gabriel’s Map”, and I see that the former President of the Royal Geographical Society – rather better known as Michael Palin (“This President is no more!  He has ceased to be…. This is an EX-PRESIDENT!!”) – appears in a new BBC2 drama [also starring Ben Chaplin and Emilia Fox, left] based on the story of The Wipers Times, a trench newspaper written and printed on the Western Front during the First World War.

This is Palin’s first dramatic role in twenty years (other then being President of the RGS).  Many readers will no doubt immediately think of the far from immortal Captain Blackadder in Blackadder Goes Forth (in which case see this extract from J.F. RobertsThe true history the Blackadder – according to Rowan Atkinson, “Of all the periods we covered it was the most historically accurate” – and compare it with this interview with Pierre Purseigle).

But since the script for The Wipers Times has been co-written by Ian Hislop (with Nick Newman) the Times is inevitably being described as a sort of khaki Private Eye: Cahal Milmo in the Independent says that ‘its rough-and-ready first edition was a masterclass in the use of comedy against industrialised death and military officialdom.’

So it was, but the appropriate critical comparison is with Punch, which Esther MacCallum-Stewart pursues in ingenious depth here.  The French satirical magazine Le canard enchaîné (which is in many ways much closer to the Eye) started publication in 1915 and was much more critical.  But for most of the war, MacCullum-Stewart says, Punch enforced ‘a strict code of “comedy as usual” interspersed by patriotic statements which hardly pastiched anything except an enduring capacity for the British to show a stiff upper lip to all comers.’

That soon wore thin on the Western Front, and when Captain Fred Roberts – played by Chaplin – found a printing-press amongst the rubble of Ypres (“Wipers”) in February 1916 the Times was born (though a shortage of vowels meant that only one page could be set up and printed at a time).

Wipers Times No 1

The title of the paper changed as the Division was re-deployed time and time(s) again.  It had many targets in its sights, including the warrior poets:

‘We regret to announce that an insidious disease is affecting the Division, and the result is a hurricane of poetry. Subalterns have been seen with a notebook in one hand, and bombs in the other absently walking near the wire in deep communication with their muse.’

This is one of the most widely quoted passages in the paper, but MacCallum-Stewart explains that this is precisely because it could be squared with the mythology of the war which so many other contributions worked to undermine.

You can find other extracts here but my favourite – given how mud works its way into a central place in “Gabriel’s Map” and into one of the vignettes in “The nature of war” – is this satirical version of Rudyard Kipling‘s If (Kipling wrote the original in 1909 as advice to his son –”If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs…”: celebrated by the Daily Mail here):

If you can drink the beer the Belgians sell you,
And pay the price they ask with ne’er a grouse,
If you believe the tales that some will tell you,
And live in mud with ground sheet for a house,
If you can live on bully and a biscuit.
And thank your stars that you’ve a tot of rum,
Dodge whizzbangs with a grin, and as you risk it
Talk glibly of the pretty way they hum,
If you can flounder through a C.T. nightly
That’s three-parts full of mud and filth and slime,
Bite back the oaths and keep your jaw shut tightly,
While inwardly you’re cursing all the-time,
If you can crawl through wire and crump-holes reeking
With feet of liquid mud, and keep your head
Turned always to the place which you are seeking,
Through dread of crying you will laugh instead,
If you can fight a week in Hell’s own image,
And at the end just throw you down and grin,
When every bone you’ve got starts on a scrimmage,
And for a sleep you’d sell your soul within,
If you can clamber up with pick and shovel,
And turn your filthy crump hole to a trench,
When all inside you makes you itch to grovel,
And all you’ve had to feed on is a stench,
If you can hang on just because you’re thinking
You haven’t got one chance in ten to live,
So you will see it through, no use in blinking
And you’re not going to take more than you give,
If you can grin at last when handing over,
And finish well what you had well begun,
And think a muddy ditch’ a bed of clover,
You’ll be a soldier one day, then, my son.

Wipers_Times_4 German 4th Army trench newspapers

There were many other trench newspapers produced by the different armies on both sides. On the Allied side there were 100 or so British ones, for example, and perhaps four times as many French ones; there were perhaps 30 Canadian ones, and more Australian ones. Graham Seal has just published the first full-length study of Allied trench newspapers: The soldier’s press: Trench journals in the First World War (Palgrave-Macmillan 2013); you can sneak an extensive peak on Google Books (though contrary to what it says there, an e-edition is available at a ruinous price).  As you can see from the image above, there were also trench newspapers on the other side too: see Robert Nelson, German soldiers newspapers of the First World War (Cambridge University Press, 2011).  He also wrote a more general and thoroughly accessible survey of trench newspapers in War & History [2010] which is available here.

In the final edition of the Times, published after the end of the war, Roberts – by then a Lieutenant-Colonel – wrote this:

“Although some may be sorry it’s over, there is little doubt that the linemen are not, as most of us have been cured of any little illusions we may have had about the pomp and glory of war, and know it for the vilest disaster that can befall mankind.”

Bombing Japan

I’ve drawn attention to the remarkable work of Cary Karacas before, notably the mesmerising essay he co-authored with David Fedman, ‘A cartographic fade to black: mapping the destruction of urban Japan in World War II’ [Jnl. historical geography 38 (2012) 306-28], which quite rightly won the prize for the paper published in the journal that made ‘the greatest contribution to the advancement of scholarship in historical geography’ in 2012; it’s available here.  Bombing depends upon a whole series of cartographic visions, and there is something exquisite about using maps to expose rather than plan violence from the air like this.

AAF-Target-Chart-Japan-No293-Tokyo-e1315753005250

You can also get a sense of their work from this beautifully illustrated essay by Eric Jaffe for the Atlantic last year, ‘Mapping urbicide in World War II’, and from this special (open-access) issue of Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Cary edited with Bret Fisk on ‘The fire-bombing of Tokyo: views from the ground’.

Working with Bret and translator Eri Tsuji, Cary also launched a new website, Japan Air Raids.org, which is a bilingual (hooray!) digital archive providing an extraordinary range of primary and secondary materials on the US bombing of Japan in the Second World War.

In Japan it took over twenty years following the end of the World War II before people began to make a concerted effort to remember the incendiary raids that destroyed a significant percentage of most of Japan’s cities, wiped out a quarter of all housing in the country, made nine million people homeless, killed at least 187,000 civilians, and injured 214,000 more (source). Thanks to the many Japanese citizens who over the last forty years have labored to write down survivor accounts, locate and preserve various records, and analyze the destruction of urban Japan (and the concurrent suffering and social upheaval that occurred), the history of the air raids has taken root in Japan in a variety of ways. Numerous books and articles have been published, resource centers and peace museums have been built, and both individuals and associations continue to carry out important research.

Outside of Japan, the lag time to look closely at the impacts of the air raids is even more pronounced. In 1977, historian Gordon Daniels lamented the fact that academics had largely ignored the air raids on Japan – and the so-called Great Tokyo Air Raid in particular – as a subject of inquiry. Little has changed since this observation. While a handful of important English-language books and articles have appeared since then, most deal with the topic strictly from the standpoint of examining, and on occasion criticizing, U.S. strategic bombing doctrines and campaigns. Analyses about what the air raids entailed for the Japanese civilians on the ground and the cities in which they lived have yet to be written. Consequently, interested citizens and intellectuals who cannot read Japanese have minimal access to materials that shed light on the devastating effects of the incendiary bombing campaign on Japanese communities, cities and society. Additionally, while considerable English-language primary and secondary source documents related to the air raids exist, to date they have been beyond the reach of most people save for a handful of individuals who possess the inclination, time and resources required to visit the physical archives holding them.

By taking advantage of technological developments that allow for digitization, storage, and global retrieval of documents, we hope that this digital archive will play an important role in encouraging people to learn about and further research this area, and in fostering collaboration among a variety of individuals and groups. Additionally, by democratizing archival access to materials related the Japan air raids, we hope to open this field to the general public, scholars, professional and lay researchers, university students, and even middle/secondary school educators and their pupils.

Japan Air Raids.org screenshot

The project is ongoing, but it’s already clear that this is a stunning achievement – visually, intellectually and politically – and a truly generous and absolutely indispensable resource.

Baghdad is still burning

One of the very best blogs to be written out of Baghdad while the city was under US military occupation was Baghdad Burning.  Written by a young Iraqi woman who called herself “Riverbend“, it documented everyday life in a city being torn apart by military and paramilitary violence and provided a spirited series of commentaries on US and Iraqi politics.

In September 2007 Riverbend and her family finally left Baghdad:

Baghdad Burning.002

They crossed the border into Syria and took refuge in Damascus.  ‘Syria is a beautiful country,’ Riverbend wrote in her last post on 22 October 2007:

‘… at least I think it is. I say “I think” because while I perceive it to be beautiful, I sometimes wonder if I mistake safety, security and normalcy for ‘beauty’. In so many ways, Damascus is like Baghdad before the war – bustling streets, occasional traffic jams, markets seemingly always full of shoppers…’

And she described a newly strange sense of being at home:

‘Walking down the streets of Damascus, you can hear the Iraqi accent everywhere. There are areas like Geramana and Qudsiya that are packed full of Iraqi refugees. [You can find some extraordinary photographs by Gabriela Bulisova of Iraqi refugees in Damascus here and a revealing guide to being an Iraqi refugee in the city here].  Syrians are few and far between in these areas. Even the public schools in the areas are full of Iraqi children….

‘We live in an apartment building where two other Iraqis are renting. The people in the floor above us are a Christian family from northern Iraq who got chased out of their village by Peshmerga and the family on our floor is a Kurdish family who lost their home in Baghdad to militias and were waiting for immigration to Sweden or Switzerland or some such European refugee haven.

The first evening we arrived, exhausted, dragging suitcases behind us, morale a little bit bruised, the Kurdish family sent over their representative – a 9 year old boy missing two front teeth, holding a lopsided cake, “We’re Abu Mohammed’s house – across from you- mama says if you need anything, just ask – this is our number. Abu Dalia’s family live upstairs, this is their number. We’re all Iraqi too… Welcome to the building.”

I cried that night because for the first time in a long time, so far away from home, I felt the unity that had been stolen from us in 2003.’

After that – silence.

The blog was transformed into two books, both published by the Feminist Press at CUNY with the same title, and inspired several stage plays and a BBC radio adaptation in 2007.

Baghdad Burning.001

It has also been the subject of a stream of academic commentaries that shows no sign of slackening: see, for example, Wayne Hunt here, Amira Jamarkan here, Francesca Maioloi here, Nadine Sinno (Chapter 9 of Feminism and war here), plus these subscriber-only essays: Wes Attewell, ‘ “Every Iraqi’s Nightmare: blogging peace in occupied Baghdad’ [Antipode 44 (3) (2012)]; Wisam Khalid Abdul Jabbar, ‘Riverbend’s blogosphere: mockery and menace in colonial discourse’ [Critical discourse studies 10 (3) (2013); and Tess Pierce, ‘Singing at the digital well’ [Feminist formations 22 (3) 2010].

But on 9 April 2013, ten years since the fall of Baghdad to U.S. troops, Riverbend returned – to the blogosphere at least.  In her post, she lists the lessons of the war and the occupation, ‘probably’, she writes, ‘for the last time’:

‘We learned that while life is not fair, death is even less fair – it takes the good people. Even in death you can be unlucky. Lucky ones die a ‘normal’ death… A familiar death of cancer, or a heart-attack, or stroke. Unlucky ones have to be collected in bits and pieces. Their families trying to bury what can be salvaged and scraped off of streets that have seen so much blood, it is a wonder they are not red. 
We learned that you can be floating on a sea of oil, but your people can be destitute. Your city can be an open sewer; your women and children can be eating out of trash dumps and begging for money in foreign lands. 
We learned that justice does not prevail in this day and age. Innocent people are persecuted and executed daily. Some of them in courts, some of them in streets, and some of them in the private torture chambers.’

Riverbend hasn’t returned to Baghdad, where violence (which never went away) has intensified over the last six months and headlines – now tucked away on the inside pages of European and American newspapers – are once again recording ‘another day of slaughter‘.  You can find contrasting reports on conditions in Baghdad now here (“Everyone has his own map of familiar, reassuring, “stabilised” places, and other areas where they dare not return”), here (‘“Before we at least had the security to go anywhere,” Salbi said. “We go out like normal, but we don’t have the security of knowing we will come back. If someone is running even a half an hour late, you start worrying about bombs”‘), here (“… the sprawling, less well-to-do neighbourhoods, such as Ghazaliya, Dora and Saidiya still feel angry and tense. The concrete walls and armed checkpoints, put up during the American occupation at the height of the sectarian violence, remain in place. They still function to control the population, limiting access in some neighbourhoods to a couple of exits that can be easily sealed off”), and here (“Baghdad looked like a city scarred by death and despair. The sense of fear among ordinary Iraqis, exhausted and traumatized by the foreign occupation and years of fratricide, is overwhelming. Across the capital lie abandoned houses”).

Snapshots of a tangled mosaic.  You can find an overview, with graphs and maps, here and a backgrounder to that article here.  Below I’ve reproduced a map from the Institute for the Study of War; despite the military language (SIGACTS are ‘significant acts’), the map was compiled by ISW ‘from available open-source news reporting from Iraqi and western media. Where possible, the attacks were cross-referenced with other sources.’ In consequence the map does ‘not provide an exhaustive account of security incidents in Iraq during the period in question’ but indicates ‘concentrations of violence.’  But the continuity of military language – and military cartographic conventions which I discussed in “Seeing Red” (DOWNLOADS tab) – is about more than the neo-conservative ideology of the ISW: it also speaks to the resurgence of violence noted in many of those recent press reports:

Baghdad Belts SIGACTS July-August 2012

Casualty figures in Iraq are now at their highest level since June 2008.  Iraq Body Count is still maintaining its grim but necessary tabulations – though some critics insist that these gravely underestimate the true figures – and in its most recent report notes:

The US/UK-led invasion of March 2003 has brought a decade of high and low intensity armed conflict to Iraq. But this conflict is not yet history. It remains entrenched and pervasive, with a clear beginning but no foreseeable end, and very much a part of the present in Iraq. In major regions of the country armed violence continues to exact a remorseless toll on human life, young and old, male and female, across society.

The US/UK-led invasion of March 2003 has brought a decade of high and low intensity armed conflict to Iraq. But this conflict is not yet history. It remains entrenched and pervasive, with a clear beginning but no foreseeable end, and very much a part of the present in Iraq. In major regions of the country armed violence continues to exact a remorseless toll on human life, young and old, male and female, across society.

Riverbend is no longer in Damascus either, where violence has also intensified during the civil war, especially since last spring (see this sequence of maps compiled by the New York Times here):

Damascus violence March-May 2012

 Damascus violence June-August 2012

Damascus violence September-November 2012

Many Iraqis have been forced out of Damascus by the fighting and returned to Baghdad, shaken by the reappearance of sectarian violence, but Riverbend explains:

‘I moved before the heavy fighting, before it got ugly. That’s how fortunate I was. I moved to another country nearby, stayed almost a year, and then made another move to a third Arab country with the hope that, this time, it’ll stick until… Until when? Even the pessimists aren’t sure anymore. When will things improve? When will be able to live normally? How long will it take?’

I hope she isn’t in Cairo.

Deconstruction on the map

There have been many maps tracking the course of military and paramilitary violence in Syria.  They include general ‘situation maps’ like this one from Canada’s National Post early last year (and whatever I think about the politics of the paper, its graphics are often outstanding):

National Post 13 January 2012

Or this one from the New York Times on 12 March 2013 (and, as Brian Harley would have been the first to remind us, the very titles of the maps tell their own stories of uncertainty, sympathy and affiliation: but ‘Map of the dispute in Syria’?  I understand ‘conflict’, ‘civil war’, ‘uprising’ – but ‘dispute‘?!).

Map of the dispute in Syria NYT

Other sites have tried to capture the fluidity of the situation through a series of updated though largely conventional maps, like Political Geography Now‘s maps of ‘rebel activity’ here and a very different, quite remarkable series of ‘military maps’ here (though as far as I can see no information on sources is provided).  The BBC‘s ‘Mapping the Conflict’ interactive is here and its earlier attempts at ‘Mapping the Insurgency’ are here.  Relief Web‘s bi-weekly mapped updates on the refugee crisis are all here.

Some of the most imaginative crowd-sourced maps are provided by Syria Tracker here (and more on the project’s data mining and crowd sourcing from iRevolution here). One of the most ambitious interactive projects, reported by the Guardian and master-minded by the New Scientist, is this one, which uses the open-source QGIS to extract and locate violent events recorded on the new Global Data on Events, Location and Tone database (though, for reasons that will be obvious to most geographers, the hexagons give me another pause for unquiet thought); you can access the interactive via the NS here:

NS Charting Syria's Civil War

All of these maps suffer from inevitable imperfections and deficiencies of data, and they all process and manipulate what they have in different ways (not least by the boundaries they draw around their maps: see this more porous map of the internationalization of the war from Foreign Policy).

We all surely know that none of these representations can be innocent – which brings me to other, more specific mapping projects, like this crowd-sourced map of rape as a military weapon from Women under siege; the live, interactive map is here.

Sexualized violence in Syria

You can find a detailed discussion of the project up to July 2012 by the project’s director Lauren Wolfe here (and an excellent interview here):

‘To step back from the red dots on our map and try to understand the sexualized violence of Syria’s war, our team of doctors, activists, and journalists has taken the 81 stories we’ve gathered so far, from the onset of the conflict in March 2011 through June 2012… Many more victims are included in these reports, but the vagueness of much of the information does not allow us to give an estimate of the total number…. Our data, though largely anecdotal, gives us a sense of the scope and impact of sexualized violence in Syria. It appears to be widespread, not limited to any particular city, and often involves rape.

“The data we have so far suggest sexualized violence is being used as a tool of war, although possibly haphazardly and not necessarily as an organized strategy,” said Dr. Karestan Koenen, associate professor of epidemiology at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University and the lead epidemiologist on the mapping project. “These reports indicate that post-conflict intervention will need to address the consequences of sexualized violence for victims.”

More on that and the possibilities of what we might call forensic cartography from Laura Bates at Open Democracy here:

The crowdmap may serve another vital function in the future, when the information might be used to help drive prosecutions and bring perpetrators to justice. Wolfe hopes that collecting these reports now will give us a base from which to pursue more detailed investigations on the ground post-conflict “to turn our documentation into evidence that could be used in future war crimes trials”. This is vital when dealing with a crime which carries so much stigma that “stories are usually gathered after the fact, when much has been lost to shame and the destruction of evidence.”

Another potential instance of forensic cartography is this map from Human Rights Watch of sites where, despite denials by the Syrian Army, there is evidence of cluster bombs being used (more here):

2012MENA_Syria_Clusters_Map_1022-1

Apart from the forensic possibilities, all of this must seem desperately depressing – so many violent deconstructions of the material map – but a Syrian activist, Omar al Assil, has produced a map (of sorts – it’s a web of associations, technically a force-directed graph: plotting physical locations of activists would obviously be inviting reprisals) of non-violent activism in Syria; you can read about it courtesy of Amnesty International here and check out the interactive here.  Incidentally, unless it’s a temporary glitch, Amnesty’s own Eyes on Syria project seems to have shut both of them…

Non-violence map of the Syrian uprising

 “In the [Syria Non-Violence Movement] we believe that there is still a room for peaceful struggle and creativity amid all this chaos. Many people thought that the non-violence came to an end and this is a small step to show them that it is still there and they are using it or working with it on daily basis. So mainly it was to motivate people and the other aim is to document all these activities so interested people can have access to it easily.”

Taken together, these last maps say something about the courage of people’s convictions – and perhaps even the (I fear faint) possibility of cartographic convictions.

Drones and civilian casualties in Afghanistan

I’ve been urging for some time now that the debate over drone strikes must not neglect what has been happening in Afghanistan: hence “From a view to a kill” (DOWNLOADS tab) and the much longer version to appear in The everywhere war.  According to a report on the Guardian website posted late on Tuesday by the resourceful Spencer Ackerman, ex-Danger Room (now sadly itself an ex-site), ‘A study conducted by a US military adviser has found that drone strikes in Afghanistan during a year of the protracted conflict caused 10 times more civilian casualties than strikes by manned fighter aircraft.’  The period under analysis (from mid-2010 to mid-2011) followed a series of measures announced by General Stanley McChrystal to reduce civilian casualties from air operations, and coincided with a dramatic increase in the number of drone strikes (which continued to increase through 2012).

The study in question was carried out by Larry Lewis for the Joint Coalition and Operational Analysis (JCOA), a division of the Joint Staff J7 whose work is summarised in the following slide (which comes not from Edward Snowden‘s cache but from here):

JCOA

Notice ‘Civilian casualties in Afghanistan’ is #6 on the list of major studies.  The completed study is called Drone Strikes: Civilian Casualty Considerations and, apart from the Executive Summary that was published on 18 June, remains classified.  The opening paragraph is the primary source for Spencer’s story, and here it is:

‘The US government has described drone airstrikes in operations outside declared theaters of armed conflict as surgical and causing minimal civilian casualties. Analysis of air operations in Afghanistan, combined with a review of open-source reports for drone strikes in Pakistan, suggest that these fell short of intended goals. Specifically, drone strikes in Afghanistan were seen to have close to the same number of civilian casualties per incident as manned aircraft, and were an order of magnitude more likely to result in civilian casualties per engagement. Specific causal factors were identified that contributed to the relative propensity of drones to cause civilian casualties. Tailored training that addresses these causal factors could aid in reducing civilian casualties in engagements involving drones. While processes and operating forces in Afghanistan can differ from those in operations outside declared theaters of armed conflict, the factors above suggest that a dedicated analysis of civilian casualties in such operations would be worthwhile.’

The key sentence is in bold, and a version of it reappears in an essay, ‘Changing of the Guard: civilian protection for an evolving military’, that Lewis wrote with Sarah Holewinski, Executive Director of the Center for Civilians in Conflict and which appears in the latest issue of PRISM 4 (2) (2013), a journal of the Center for Complex Operations at the National Defense University (the press release from Civilians in Conflict is here).  The authors’ central concern is that ‘as Washington shifts its focus from counter-insurgency to counterterrorism, and from large-scale ground operations to more discrete and oftentimes-unmanned operations, the progress U.S. forces have made on preventing and mitigating civilian harm may soon be lost.’

They consider the risks attendant upon the increased reliance on Special Operations Forces – something that readers of Jeremy Scahill‘s Dirty Wars will need no warning of –  but also those that are likely to flow from an increased use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS):

‘America’s use of force will increasing rely on new technologies, including air force capabilities to penetrate enemy defenses and strike over long distances. Unmanned Aerial Systems, sometimes referred to as “drones,” saw major use in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are slated for a big leap in funding. The Pentagon called for a nearly one-third increase in its fleet in the years ahead.

‘The use of UAS can have military advantages for avoiding civilian casualties in armed conflict, if used with that intent in mind. Their systems feature precision weapons, their sensors have increasingly high-resolution imagery to assess the ground situation, and back in the control room, trained imagery analysts scrutinize a target area prior to engaging, which isn’t always possible in a full ground operation.’

They list a series of familiar objections to the use of these remote platforms in areas outside ‘traditional combat theaters’, but they are also critical of  claims about their forensic capacity inside war-zones:

‘The assumption that UAS strikes are surgical in nature is … belied by research on recent combat operations in Afghanistan. There, UAS operations were statistically more likely to cause civilian casualties than were operations conducted by manned air platforms. One reason was limited training for UAS operators and analysts in how to minimize civilian harm. adding or improving training on civilian casualty prevention is a resource decision in direct tension with the increasing demand for more uaS and more operations, since additional training on civilian protection means time must be taken from somewhere else including the mission itself.’

They don’t say much about the reasons for this, except that they then criticise the ‘clandestine use of UAS by the US government’ because it raises ‘significant concerns that civilian casualties will not be properly monitored or investigated and thus called into question’ and then, several paragraphs later, they note that non-covert operations in Afghanistan ‘are replete with examples where all the engaged individuals were believed to be combatants, but a later investigation found many or all were civilians misidentified as combatants.’

Attachment TAB A (Part 22 of 28) FOIA 10-0218 Uruzgan - Pages 1751-1800 (dragged) 1

A key issue, then appears to be misidentification, and in my examination of one hideous incident in Uruzgan province in Afghanistan in February 2010 (in “From a view to a kill”; see also the image above) – an analysis I develop in my more detail in The everywhere war – I suggested that the high-resolution video feeds from these remote platforms engender an intimacy with ground troops that belies the physical remoteness of the drone operators.  They routinely claim to be not 7,500 miles from the battlespace but just 18 inches – the distance from eye to screen – and this immersive capacity (which these feeds do indeed share with videogames) predisposes them to view virtually every proximate Afghan action as hostile:

‘… the greater incidence of civilian casualties when close air support is provided to ‘troops in contact’ may result not only from time-critical targeting and its correspondingly ‘fewer checks to determine if there is a civilian presence’ … but also from the persistent presence of the [UAS] and its video feeds immersing its remote operators in, and to some substantial degree rendering them responsible for the evolving situation on the ground. This predicament, in which proximity not distance becomes the problem, cannot be resolved by tinkering with the Rules of Engagement; high-resolution imagery is not a uniquely technical capacity but part of a techno-cultural system that renders ‘our’ space familiar even in ‘their’ space – which remains obdurately Other.’

I don’t know if this forms part of the classified report, of course, but in an earlier report, Reducing and mitigating civilian casualties: enduring lessons (dated April 2013) Lewis emphasised the importance of using ‘discrimination tools’ in ‘situations where forces need to discern whether an individual is demonstrating hostile intent’ – but what he seemed to have in mind was another technological fix, ‘higher-resolution imagery or night vision devices’, whereas the root of the problem may well not be the power to see but the capacity to make sense of what is seen.

In any event two other questions remain.

First, during the period under analysis drone strikes accounted for around 5 – 6 per cent of total weapon releases by all aircraft in Afghanistan, but many of the conventional strikes nevertheless relied on persistent surveillance of targets from Predators or Reapers and then attacks by helicopters or fighter-bombers (which was the case in the Uruzgan attack).  Does Lewis’s statistical analysis shed any light on the difference (I assume there is one) between a UAS acting as a ‘hunter-killer’ and a UAS providing only real-time ISR as part of a networked operation?

Second, what is the difference between ‘an incident’ and an ‘engagement’ in the first extract I’ve quoted?  This is a substantive issue of considerable moment: if drone strikes produce a roughly similar number of civilian casualties as conventional strike aircraft ‘per incident’ but ten times the number ‘per engagement’, it’s vital to know the difference. Protagonists of remote operations will undoubtedly seize on the first, critics on the second.

I’m trying to chase down the difference. To be continued…

Safe bombs and refusing pilots

lebanon_map_jul12-Aug06My first attempt to think through the histories and geographies of bombing from the air was, appropriately enough, a plenary address to the Arab World Geographer conference in Beirut in 2006 – a meeting which had had to be postponed until December as a result of Israel’s summer-long attack on Lebanon.  Registrations fell away, especially from the United States and the U.K., but we had a wonderfully lively meeting.

I eventually turned my presentation – which, under the title “The death of the civilian”, developed the twin genealogies of the target and the civilian to address Israel’s bombing of southern Lebanon and Beirut – into an essay for the journal: “In another time zone, the bombs fall unsafely: Targets, civilians and late modern war” (published in 2007: see DOWNLOADS tab).

I began like this:

My title comes from a poem by Blake Morrison, ‘Stop’, which was reprinted in an anthology to aid children’s charities in Lebanon compiled by Anna Wilson after the Israeli assault on that country during the summer of 2006.  The poem speaks directly to the ideology of late modern war – to what Christopher Coker praises as the ‘re-enchantment’ of war through its rhetorical erasure of death– and to its dissonance from ‘another’ time and space where bombs continue to ‘fall unsafely’.  It begins like this:

 ‘As of today, the peace process will be intensified

through war.  These are safe bombs, and any fatalities

will be minors.  The targets are strictly military

or civilian.  Anomalies may occur, but none

out of the ordinary.  This release has been prepared by

official Stop.’

 Morrison perfectly captures the hypocrisy of war – the malevolent twisting of words to mean the opposite of what they say, the cosmetic face of public war put on to conceal the harrowing face of private death – and also the intimacy of the furtive, fugitive relationship between ‘targets’ and ‘civilians’ in late modern war. In what follows, I will try to lay that relationship bare by reconstructing its historical geography.  In doing so, I will also show how our meeting in Beirut to discuss ‘the European-Arab encounter’, less than six months after Israel’s war on Lebanon, must confront the connections between the political and military strategies mobilized during the summer of 2006 and a series of colonial encounters between Europe and the Arab world in the years surrounding the First World War. 

That remains one of the primary motivations for my Killing Space project.

But 2006 was not the first time that Israel had sent its fighter-bombers into the skies over Lebanon.  What I did not know when I prepared my presentation was that during the bloody invasion of Lebanon in 1982 a number of Israeli Air Force pilots had refused to bomb ‘non-military targets’.  Now there is still fierce debate over the distinction between ‘military’ and ‘non-military’ targets, and over the civilian casualties that may nevertheless result from bombing ostensibly ‘military’ targets, both in principle and in practice, and it’s an argument which is conducted on legal and ethical terrains (though we hear much more of the former than the latter).  But here I’m particularly interested in the act of refusal itself: less in the application of abstract, formal principles – important though these are – and more in the personal, rational and affective moment of abjuration.

Hagai TamirIn 2002 Ha’aretz published interviews by Avihai Becker with three IAF officers who had formally refused; the testimonies of two of them were already known, but it’s the third that I want to describe here. Hagai Tamir, a major in the IAF, grew up as one of what he calls ‘the lyric pilots’, consummating a love of flight itself:

“I wanted to feel like a bird. The whole idea of the plane as a war machine was much less appealing to me. The concept of a plane as a platform for weapons was foreign to me so I enjoyed the aerobatics much more than I did dropping ordnance. Even during my compulsory service as a young pilot, I didn’t derive any pleasure from it.”

After his compulsory military service and his move to the reserves, Tamir trained as an architect and this enhanced his sense of unease, even disengagement.

“Who knows better than me, an architect, how hard it is to build a city? So at least, don’t rejoice when you destroy houses. It takes a lot longer to build a city than it does to strike a target.”

In June 1982, one week into the invasion of Lebanon, Tamir was flying over the port city of Saida (Sidon), near the Ain El Helweh refugee camp:

“We flew in tandem above the place. The liaison officer who was with the ground forces informed me of the target, a large building on top of a hill. I looked at it and to the best of my judgment, the structure could have only been one of two things – a hospital or a school. I questioned the officer and asked why I was being given that target. His reply was that they were shooting from there. There were a thousand reasons why I didn’t think I should bomb the building. I asked him if he knew what the building was. He said he didn’t. I insisted that he find out. He got back to me with some vague answers.”

Tamir was not satisfied by the response, reported a ‘malfunction’, cut off radio contact and did not release his bombs (on some accounts, he dropped them into the sea).

The episode is significant for several reasons.  The first is that this was an intensely personal decision: Tamir did not publicise it (though the IAF did investigate the incident), and it made no material difference to the outcome since the accompanying aircraft went ahead and levelled the building (which was indeed a secondary school for boys).  Even so, Tamir was not alone; others refused similar orders, and although it’s difficult to gauge how far the ripples caused by these refusals travelled into 2006 and beyond – see Asher Kaufman‘s thoughtful discussion in Shadows of war: a social history of silence in the twentieth century here – twenty years later Tamir did join 24 other active, reserve and retired Air Force officers in signing a public letter refusing to carry out air strikes in occupied Palestine (and who were roundly abused for doing so: see here and more on the Courage to Refuse movement here).

The second is that, even though Tamir confided what happened over Saida only to his family and close friends, the story spread through the town, embellished in the telling and re-telling: so how did the people know, and what significance did they see in it?

The third is that the story has become the subject of a remarkable multimedia installation by Beiruti artist Akram Zaatari, Letter to a refusing pilot, which is the only artwork representing Lebanon at the 55th Venice Biennale this year.  Zaatari describes himself as

‘an architect, a documentary filmmaker, and an ethnographer working in the art world, so I use the tools and approaches that I have learned from those three disciplines. I have no particular method to apply, otherwise it would make my work too simple. I enjoy reflecting on complex social and political issues particularly related to geographies.’

You can find images and a commentary on the Biennale installation here and here, but Zaatari explains his project like this:

“The importance of the story is that it gives the pilot a human face. It gives what he is about to bomb, which is considered terrorist ground, it also gives that a human face. I think it’s important to remember in times of war that everyone is a human being. Taking it to this level humanizes it completely, and we’re not used to this at all.”

Zaatari was born in Saida – in fact his father founded the school that was the target of the IAF attack – and the film that is the heart of the art-work is, like Tamir’s decision, an intensely personal one whose resonances reach far and wide.  Zaatari met with Tamir, and the film affirms the Israeli pilot’s original impulse to fly: hands draw paper aeroplanes and, at the end of the film, two boys climb up to the roof of the school and launch them into the air.  The film is cut with family photographs and Zaatari’s own diary entries from the invasion too: you can find copies of the film on You Tube starting here.

ZAATARI Letter to a refusing pilot

On the opposite wall, separated and joined by a single red cinema seat, another (shorter) film silently projects the hillside overlooking Said being systematically bombed.  The sequence derives from a series of photographs Zaatari took in 1982.

ZAATARI Saida 6 June 1982

From that seat, the viewer is invited to watch only that film, facing away from the more personal, vividly human story being told by the first film.  Negar Azimi provides a fuller discussion of the installation here, and she concludes that ‘by placing each one of us, alone, within the generous frame of the work, it seems to remind us that, not unlike the pilot, we are sometimes caught up in vexed circumstances beyond our control.’ Certainly the title of the work directly addresses the pilot and so, by extension, perhaps the pilot-observer that late modern war has invited those of us who watch wars from a safe distance to become.

5367

Perhaps.  But this is a multi-layered work, and there are other readings.  Near the beginning of the personal memory-film, and before the title appears on the screen, gloved hands turn the pages of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry‘s The Little Prince, which Negar describes as a ‘much-adored 1943 tale of youthful existentialism’.  The point here, I take it, is to reinforce or reinscribe the acknowledged affinities between Zaatari’s work and Albert Camus‘s Letters to a German friend (“I should like to be able to love my country and still love justice.”)

But, as she also, notes Saint-Exupéry was ‘a famous war-time aviator’, and in that role he had a decidedly different view of things that speaks directly to (or rather from) the object record-film of the bombing:

Saint-Exupéry.001

Much of Zaatari’s work, as he confirms in this exceptionally rich conversation with Chad Elias for the Tate in 2011, asks us to ‘rethink what it means to witness, survive, or even document a war’. With that in mind, in gazing at the image stream of bombs, with our backs to the lifeworld that was also for many a deathworld, is it not possible that we are also being invited from that single red chair to adopt the position of Walter Benjamin‘s Angel of History?

‘It sounds like a whisper’

BUNGE Fitzgerald 1st edn

BUNGE Fitzgerald 2nd ednRemember Bill Bunge‘s Fitzgerald: geography of a revolution (1971)?   Trevor Barnes and Nick Heynen celebrated its republication in 2011 by the University of Georgia Press:

‘Forty years after its publication, Fitzgerald remains fresh, energetic, compelling, and relevant. One of Bunge’s purposes in Fitzgerald was to do human geography differently. He pushed the discipline in a new direction, helping to transform it into something else. If we see Fitzgerald differently now compared to when it was written it is because the discipline in which we gave become socialised has significantly altered. Fitzgerald helped to change it. We all contain, perhaps more than we would like to think, perhaps more than we would like to know, a little bit of Bunge, a little bit of Fitzgerald.’

You can find the full set of commentaries in Progress in human geography 35 (5) (2011).  What distinguished Fitzgerald, apart from its driving, passionate narrative, was a series of remarkable, original and imaginative maps of the Detroit neighbourhood where Bunge made his home.  These were not decorations – many of them were deeply troubling – but an indispensable means of driving the argument home.

Now Denis Wood has followed in Bunge’s footsteps – readers will surely know The power of maps (which he wrote and later re-thought with John Fels) – using maps to tell a series of exquisitely layered stories about Boylan Heights in Raleigh, North Carolina in Everything sings: maps for a narrative atlas (2013).  His publisher Siglio explains:

Iconoclastic geographer Denis Wood has created an atlas unlike any other. He surveys his small, century-old neighborhood in Raleigh, North Carolina by first paring away the inessential “map crap” (scale, orientation, street grids), then by locating the revelatory in the unmapped and unmappable: radio waves permeating the air, the paperboy’s route in space and time, the light cast by street lamps, Halloween pumpkins on porches. His joyful subversion of the traditional notions of mapmaking forge new ways of seeing not only this particular place, but also the very nature of place itself.

DENIS WOOD Everything Sings

In a long and lively interview about the book, re-published today on Guernica, Denis argues:

Maps are just nude pictures of reality, so they don’t look like arguments. They look like “Oh my god, that’s the real world.” That’s one of the places where they get their kick-ass authority.

If you’re having trouble explaining the politics of ‘deconstructing the map’, then this may be a good place to start.  And do click on the thumbnails above the interview for a selection of 20 images from the expanded edition of Everything sings.  More on Denis’s work and access to his writing (and much more besides) at his website here.

WAINWRIGHT GeopiracyOf course other, markedly ugly narratives can be inscribed on the world through maps.  Fitzgerald was a collaborative project, and it drew on the work of the Detroit Geographical Expedition.  But there have been other, decidedly invasive ‘geographical expeditions’ – like the American Geographical Society’s Bowman Expedition (Zoltan Grossman provides a rich series of sources here, and Joel Wainwright‘s Geopiracy: Oaxaca, militant empiricism and geographical thought (2012) is indispensable).  So it’s good to know that Denis is currently completing another book (with Joe Bryan), Weaponizing Maps: bringing the conquest home, which is an incisive analysis of military mapping of indigenous populations in Canada, Colombia, Honduras, Mexico and Nicaragua and the imbrications of cartographic Reason with contemporary counterinsurgency.

I expect both Bill Bunge and Tracy Chapman would agree there’s a revolution needed there too.