Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Facts on the Ground

An article by Nick Turse describes the DoD’s worldwide land holdings:

The DoD's "real property portfolio," according to 2006 figures, consists of a total of 3,731 sites. Over 20% of these sites are located on more than 711,000 acres outside of the U.S. and its territories. Yet even these numbers turn out to be a drastic undercount. For example, while a 2005 Pentagon report listed U.S. military sites from Antigua and Hong Kong to Kenya and Peru, some countries with significant numbers of U.S. bases go entirely unmentioned -- Afghanistan and Iraq, for example.
The DoD also dabbles in landscaping, architecture, and urban design on land it doesn’t own. As a logical complement to the barricades - or peace walls, if you prefer - that partition Iraqi neighborhoods, the city of Karbala will be “protected” with a massive trench:
The Karbala trench will create a 10-foot-deep crescent, buttressing approaches from the Sunni Muslim stronghold of Ramadi, about 70 miles northwest of Karbala, to the main highway running south to Najaf. Police towers will punctuate the trench, which will funnel traffic to checkpoints outside the city center.
At least one resident of Karbala seems skeptical:
"If the trench will prevent car bombs, let them make a thousand trenches," said Haider Abdul Razzaq, 39, who runs a hotel for pilgrims. "But I'm afraid the trench wouldn't stop the terrorists from their plans to kill civilians if they couldn't reach the shrines."
That’s defeatism, pure and simple. And besides, why should you make a thousand trenches, when you can dig a single thousand-foot trench and patrol it with drones designed for urban canyons?

Meanwhile, the Monolithic Dome Institute is bringing us a step closer to our Dark Green Future.
[The] temporary structures are inexpensive and easy to build and provide efficient heating and cooling, according to [REF Power Surety Task Force chief Daniel] Nolan. The vinyl domes are inflated and then sprayed internally with insulation to give them form, he explained. Concrete is sprayed on the inside to make them more structurally sound, and Nolan said there is potential to spray concrete on the outside to add ballistic protection...
The MDI is excited about the carceral applications of their buildings, and with good reason:
Can a Monolithic Dome be designed as a prison or jail? The answer is an emphatic Yes. In fact, if there are any buildings that ought to be Monolithic Domes, they are jails and prisons.

Consider just a few of the advantages of the dome over conventional designs:
  • Monolithic Domes cost less to build, operate and maintain.
  • The domes' interiors can be open and clear, free of supporting pillars or columns and free of walls that create hiding places. That openness provides clear views of all activities at all times, and those better sight lines translate into less staffing, and that's where the big money is saved.
  • A Monolithic, steel-reinforced concrete shell is impenetrable. Inmates simply cannot chisel or knife their way through it.
Interestingly, the firm was initially reluctant to brand itself as a supplier of prison buildings.
[W]hy haven't we pushed harder on jails? It's my wife's fault. One day Judy said to me, "David, do you really want your Monolithic Domes best known as prisons and jails?" I didn't.

Till then, we had been constructing bulk storages and a few designed buildings. Had we started with prisons and jails, we probably would not have been able to get into the school and church market.

But now that Monolithic is somewhat established in church and school design, incorporating prison design into what we offer should not strike potential clients as "weird."
Weird? Hardly. In fact, it’s easy to imagine these energy-efficient domes springing up across Iraq like pieces on a Go board:
Go is a territorial game. The board, marked with a grid of 19 lines by 19 lines, may be thought of as a piece of land to be shared between the two players….

The players normally start by staking out their claims to parts of the board which they intend eventually to surround and thereby make into territory. However, fights between enemy groups of stones provide much of the excitement in a game, and can result in dramatic exchanges of territory.
All this can be viewed, if you like, as a preamble to Bryan Finoki’s interview with Neil Smith on the military planks of capital accumulation:
The spatial dimensions of military power are in the end tied to economic interests. The proliferation of U.S. military bases around the world is precisely about pacifying all regions of the world to enable and facilitate massive capital investment. How better to do so that to send the city re-builders in with the city destroyers. Turnover time is reduced to almost zero. I'm not suggesting that specific wars, invasions, or urban military projects are organized with all of this fully in mind; rather, a certain military intent and economic logic finds themselves working hand in hand.
(Image at top: "Possible design for a typical cell block," via the Monolithic Dome Institute.)

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