Mike Davis: Urban Warfare Is the American Military's Worst Nightmare





Mike Davis, in www.tomdispatch.com, a weblog of the Nation Institute (April 19, 2004):

The young American Marine is exultant."It's a sniper's dream,' he tells a Los Angeles Times reporter on the outskirts of Fallujah."You can go anywhere and there so many ways to fire at the enemy without him knowing where you are."

"Sometimes a guy will go down, and I'll let him scream a bit to destroy the morale of his buddies. Then I'll use a second shot."

"To take a bad guy out," he explains,"is an incomparable"adrenaline rush." He brags of having"24 confirmed kills" in the initial phase of the brutal U.S. onslaught against the rebel city of 300,000 people.

Faced with intransigent popular resistance that recalls the heroic Vietcong defense of Hue in 1968, the Marines have again unleashed indiscriminate terror. According to independent journalists and local medical workers, they have slaughtered at least two hundred women and children in the first two weeks of fighting.

The battle of Fallujah, together with the conflicts unfolding in Shiia cities and Baghdad slums, are high-stakes tests, not just of U.S. policy in Iraq, but of Washington's ability to dominate what Pentagon planners consider the"key battlespace of the future" -- the Third World city.

The Mogadishu debacle of 1993, when neighborhood militias inflicted 60% casualties on elite Army Rangers, forced U.S. strategists to rethink what is known in Pentagonese as MOUT:"Militarized Operations on Urbanized Terrain." Ultimately, a National Defense Panel review in December 1997 castigated the Army as unprepared for protracted combat in the near impassable, maze-like streets of the poverty-stricken cities of the Third World.

As a result, the four armed services, coordinated by the Joint Staff Urban Working Group, launched crash programs to master street-fighting under realistic third-world conditions."The future of warfare," the journal of the Army War College declared,"lies in the streets, sewers, high-rise buildings, and sprawl of houses that form the broken cities of the world."

Israeli advisors were quietly brought in to teach Marines, Rangers, and Navy Seals the state-of-the-art tactics -- especially the sophisticated coordination of sniper and demolition teams with heavy armor and overwhelming airpower -- so ruthlessly used by Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza and the West Bank.

Artificial cityscapes (complete with"smoke and sound systems") were built to simulate combat conditions in densely populated neighborhoods of cities like Baghdad or Port-au-Prince. The Marine Corps Urban Warfighting Laboratory also staged realistic war games ("Urban Warrior") in Oakland and Chicago, while the Army's Special Operations Command"invaded" Pittsburgh.

Today, many of the Marines inside Fallujah are graduates of these Urban Warrior exercises as well as mock combat at"Yodaville" (the Urban Training Facility in Yuma, Arizona), while some of the Army units encircling Najaf and the Baghdad slum neighborhood of Sadr City are alumni of the new $34 million MOUT simulator at Fort Polk, Louisiana.

This tactical"Israelization" of U.S. combat doctrine has been accompanied by what might be called a"Sharonization" of the Pentagon's worldview. Military theorists are now deeply involved in imagining how the evolving capacity of high-tech warfare can contain, if not destroy, chronic"terrorist" insurgencies rooted in the desperation of growing megaslums....


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