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UPDATE*: To all my 17 readers (I am proud of you*) – Sorry I have updated this countless times in an attempt to tighten it up.

Antagonist, I was compelled to write a response to your post on Sanguinetti’s Terrorism, which got a little too unruly, so I am posting it here.

The BBC recently aired a Panorama investigation into the BAe scandal. A senior civil servant dropped a bombshell during the programme, describing the pressure that was put on him to halt investigating links to Prince Bandar of the House of Saud, BAe and Downing Street in the autumn of 2006. He was told displeasing Bandar would lead to the Saudis ceasing to cooperate with UK intelligence services on terrorism which could have led to untold numbers of UK citizens dying on our streets in terrorist attacks.

The investigations were dropped but in the meantime British taxpayers have been funding Bandar’s jet set lifestyle to the tune of several million UK£££s each year since the 1980’s. The British government promised to deliver us from terror but in actuality this is how it protects us. Once this would have been a scandal but not anymore! The incident illustrates the point that Sanguinetti makes, “Our general and the other strategists of the high political police also know that spectacular terrorism is always anti-proletarian, and that it is the pursuit of politics by other means: pursuit, however, of the anti-proletarian politics of all States.”

While Guy Debord points out the dangers of such tangled webs of deceit:

“So it is that thousands of plots in favor of the established order tangle and clash almost everywhere, as the overlap of secret networks and secret issues or activities grows ever more dense along with their rapid integration into every sector of economics, politics and culture. In all areas of social life the degree of intermingling in surveillance, disinformation and security activities gets greater and greater. The general plot having thickened to so that it is almost out in the open, each part of it now starts to interfere with, or worry, the others. All these professional conspirators are spying on each other without really knowing why, are colliding by chance and yet not identifying each other with any certainty. Who is observing whom? On whose behalf, apparently? And actually? The real influences remain hidden, and the ultimate aims can only be seen with great difficulty and almost never understood. So that while no one can say he is not being tricked or manipulated, it is only in rare instances that the manipulator himself can know if he is a winner. And in any case, to be on the winning side of manipulation does not mean that one has chosen the right strategic perspective. Tactical successes can thus lead great powers down dangerous roads.”

So I found myself perusing Debord’s criticisms of Sanguinetti’s text and then I had to reread Spectacle of the Society. Since then, Lenin’s Tomb has been expounding on conspiracy theories, and particularly 911 conspiracy theories, as a diversionary tactic of the ruling class. Debord pointed out how the Spectacle invites such endless commentary by we, the passive spectators, and how the discourse of power is a one-way dialogue in which everything is reduced to mere appearance (in this situation – the appearance of freedom of speech); there are things that cannot be said because they are bound to spoil the party.

You can discuss the conspiracy theory that some fanatical Arab men funded by the evil cave-dwelling Osama bin Laden conspired to fly planes into the Twin Towers and kill 3000 US citizens. This is an apparently acceptable truth because it is the official truth. You cannot, however, discuss why certain privileged white males residing in the US and the UK might want to see those towers come down or how that dreadful event enabled them to massacre one million Iraqis for oil and hegemony!

You can also make the case for how seeking to unravel what happened on September 11th has become heretical and that those who persist in trying to bring to light the nefarious deeds of those who have benefited from 911 are now engaging in useless dialogue because there is no way to ascertain the truth (this “truth” which only becomes something of relevance because it has been FOUGHT for). Do we have to wait for declassification in 30 years? And is this not bowing to ruling class demands that this dialogue be based on the factual record which we know they are more than happy to corrupt and redact? LT weakly argues that such lies will be impossible to untangle and further, his main point, they are diverting us from the task of fighting the institutions that perpetuate human suffering, human terror.

That’s Noam Chomsky’s line too, which is essentially an anarchist position (not a socialist one, I am perplexed that LT the Socialist advocates this line some 4 years after Chomsky’s book on 9-11). Pray tell when have anarchists ever usurped the institutions in the history of anarchist struggle? When people on the left join with those on the right in attempting to squash the search for truth about something as pivotal as 911 and the subsequent war on terror, Debord’s analysis that these competing ideologies are part of the Spectacle is borne out. Changing the institutions has a nice ring to it but it is futile, nothing short of recognizing that we don’t need them will suffice – however, that’s a truth too far.

Ex-MI5 Whistleblower – Annie Machon on complacency around 9-11

To my mind 911 is the single most important event to have transpired in my life time and for that reason alone, I want to know what happened. The media have in no way attempted to answer the questions I have about what happened that day. If an investigator, after analyzing footage of the twin towers collapsing, then demonstrates that there is no way aeroplanes flying into them could have caused them to collapse on their own foot print, is that a conspiracy theory? That’s an attempt to discover what happened, surely? Those non-officials who have examined the collapse are looking at the same material the 9-11 commission contemplated and they are coming up with different conclusions. How so? Is it because the Commission chose to ignore certain annoying details because they did not fit in with the official truth?

Facts like the collapse of Building 7, or how kerosene that was able to melt the building trusses into molten pools of steel despite the fact that it burns at a lower temperature than that needed to cause steel to melt, and other facts about how office furniture that met with US fire safety regulations (i.e had to be resistant to fire) was able to burn and be turned to dust stand out as annoying details that to date pundits both bloggers and professional journalists keep shtum about.

The Spectacle can’t handle it, so it is not discussed. The very act of mentioning this then becomes a revolutionary act. Calling for people to shut up about it and get on with the task at hand, i.e. overthrowing the state (for whom or what, I ask) is no different to those reporters embedded with the US military who ask us to to trust them even though they are not reporting the whole truth because Saddam is a very bad man. Do we really need a new layer of very bossy white men to come in and sort out the mess for the rest of us? Who tell us we are not thinking right thoughts? Is this not where we are being led by such apathy towards truth and power?

Where were all these anti-conspiracy theorists when the US and UK were selling Iraq’s WMD? That is the most huge fucking conspiracy, leave out the theory part because we know who did what, when, where and why!

In the meantime, 911 is a sacred truth, always called upon by our leaders to justify the sickening carnage meted out on innocent people in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine; to convince us that rolling back civil liberties is for our own good and to stir up the reactionary forces of racism and xenophobia. It’s the only way to keep you safe to shop, for God’s sake… get out there and shop! Didn’t Bush say that a day or so after 3000 people died? “We have to fight them there to be safe here” to enjoy the Spectacle of the endless production of images and commodities that distinguish this way of life from those poor bastards being dragged from the scene of another car bomb on a stretcher to a hospital that has a generator providing electricity and no anaethetic since March 2003.

Sanguinetti and Debord were well aware of conspiracies and this document outlines some startling events that took place in Italy that point to the ruling class engineering events to achieve outcomes, not so different from those who sat down and put their signatures to various PNAC documents which proclaimed that nothing short of a new Pearl Harbour would bring in the new American Century. Then it was only a short step to create it, just like Pearl Harbour or the Reichstag fire.

Why the horror in saying in our own lifetimes that the State is ruthlessness enough to kill it’s own citizens, why wait 30 years to do so? The British State has shown it is quite capable of aiding and abetting the cold-blooded murder and torture of Iraqi people, it’s prepared to send it’s own men to die in a war that it’s subjects did not have the stomach for, how much different is it to kill it’s own citizens to achieve it’s objectives? How can we forget the IRA bombs and the fact that the public were never warned by officials despite the IRA transmitting warnings to the police. We could be forgiven for thinking that the State would have wasted no time in capitalizing on the deaths of a few citizens that it had allowed to occur.

Sanguinetti points to some ruling class tactics that will confuse us further. He says it is far easier to attack a simulated enemy than a real one and:

“…for the real enemy, the proletariat, power would like to refuse it even the status of enemy: if workers declare themselves to be against this demented terrorism, then “they are with the State,” if they are against the State, then “they are terrorists,” that is to say enemies of the common good, public enemies. And against a public enemy, everything is permitted, everything is authorised.”

The principal war is being carried out against the proletariat disguised as a war on Muslims. So in timely fashion a poll is conducted prior to the anniversary of the July 7th bombing which reveals that UK Muslims are highly skeptical of the war on terror and the government’s role in 7/7 – a quarter of those polled believed that government agents were involved with the terrorist attacks on 7/7 to howls of disbelief among the establishment’s scribes who opine that they find it difficult to believe (Muslim) people still believe this.

Moderate Muslims are attacked for not countering the extremism that leads a man, a neurosurgeon who it would seem had everything to live for, to apparently set himself on fire in the most ludicrous terror attack on an airport. Later extremists are introduced on Newsnight and published in the Guardian as ex-Jihadis! It is acceptable for reformed Jihadi Muslims to publish screeds blaming all terrorism on Islamic theology, but the same media is reticent about publishing wrong thoughts by “moderate” Muslims who question Western Imperialism. Hassan Butt “I feel absolutely nothing for this country. I have no problem with the British people…but if someone attacks them I have no problem with that either” has been the voice of Islamic radicalism in this country and no column inch has been spared in publicizing his hopes and wishes that Islamic terrorists bomb and maim the innocent on UK soil.

“One thing I’ve always tried to stress is the point that the mujahideen that are coming in from Britain should strike at the heart of the enemy which is within its own country, within Britain.

“Those mujahideen that are coming from America should strike, again, at the heart of America and I have always been in favour of this.”

That was in 2002. This has been followed by other cold rationalizations for terrorism in the West but his latest career move, following a damascene moment, sees Butt giving up terrorism to write for the Guardian!

Yet not so long ago Butt was featured on CBS

Like thousands of other young British Muslims, [Butt] became exposed to some of the most radical Imams in Britain – Imams who supported attacks on westerners all over the world and believed that they had a tacit agreement with the British authorities.

They could preach hatred, they could recruit followers, they could raise funds, and they could even call for Jihad – Holy war – as long as they didn’t call for attacks on British soil. London became such a safe haven for Muslim militants that it came to be known as “Londonistan.”

“Do you think this was an unspoken deal with the establishment? That, do whatever you want here as long as you don’t blow us up?” Simon asks Butt.

“Absolutely. I believe that sincerely,” Butt tells Simon. “That was an unspoken deal. And as a result of that, what tended to happen is the British government lost count of how many people were going abroad getting trained and coming back and going into operational mode as sleeper cells.”

If there was such a deal, it was shattered in July 2005, when the four suicide bombers blew themselves up on the London subway; three of the terrorists were born in Britain of Pakistani parents.

Hints of the connection of MI6 to Islamic terror networks. Is that why Butt has not been charged under the Terrorsim Act 2000 despite admitting to recruiting individuals for terrorism and his open incitement of terrorism?

In the meantime, Nick Griffin, leader of the BNP confidently asserts that the BNP are one crisis away from power. It seems that Nulabour are doing their best to bring this crisis about.

It is clear now that the media need not be concerned with presenting facts, these organs can print pretty much whatever they like, claims such as “45 minutes to WMD” are followed by hand-wringing mea culpas the next only to be topped by fantastical plots of bombs that can be constructed easily from ingredients found in an ordinary kitchen. No journalist need ever fear the response of an outraged public.

It is only necessary to believe as passionately in today’s hand-wringing mea culpa as one did in yesterday’s passionate defense of the war to rid Iraq of WMD, to nobly and selflessly bringing democracy and enlightenment to the people of Iraq. The public, we are told, have the memory of a goldfish and won’t remember what happened 3 seconds ago. That’s what they like to think but the news cycle is designed to turn over stories at such a vast speed, it is the media that is unable to recall what happened 3 seconds ago. So we can watch a BBC journalist pointing to Building 7 (Saloman Brothers Building) in the background of a New York skyline, proclaiming that Building 7 had collapsed when in actual fact it is still standing and clearly visible behind her. It collapsed some 20 minutes later, conveniently onto it’s own footprint!

Has the BBC to date offered a satisfactory explanation for this extraordinary act of premonition by one of their journalists?

There will be no mourning of the truth within the pages of their holy tributes to anorexic celebs and blatant propaganda, so why should they care if the public suspend all credulity when presented with the next plot? We all know the story will unravel as more details surface.

A similar poll carried out among other groups would have discovered similar levels of doubt as for instance in New York, following 911, a majority of New Yorkers expressed the view that the government knew about the impending attacks on the Twin Towers and allowed them to be carried out. Opinions that are borne out by documents published by the Project for a New American Century documents two years before 911, which argued that for the US to dominate the world “some catastrophic and catalyzing event – like a new Pearl Harbor” needed to happen.

In the UK it fell on Michael Meacher to address this in the press (This War on Terrorism is Bogus) and since then the whiff of whacko conspiracy theorist has attached itself to him. Saying the unthinkable in the society of the spectacle is never a good career move.

Elsewhere in the media, verisimilitude was given to stories of passports belonging to Saudi hijackers found lying on the streets of New York following the fireball that was intense enough to melt steel trusses of the Twin Towers but, inexplicably, not paper passports… That’s broadcastable, but reasonable doubts about the Spectacle will not be allowed to enter that one way discourse on power and on consumption of the image of the twin towers collapsing.

Even if the State had not engineered the terrorist attacks, it certainly has not been shy in capitalizing on them. Afterwards, Donald Rumsfeld advertised the formation of the Proactive Pre-emptive Operations Group, or P2OG, which he said would provoke terrorist attacks, then requiring “counter-terror” reprisals by the US on countries harbouring terrorists.


It is necessary to ensure that “ .. the spectators must certainly never know everything about terrorism, but they must always know enough to convince them that, compared with terrorism, everything else must be acceptable, or in any case more rational and democratic.” (Debord) and by this standard it is then permitted to execute Brazilians in the underground or shoot Muslims in their homes. Today it is Muslims who have had their most basic right to life overturned by the State in the name of protecting citizens from terrorism.

Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (part of our Human Rights Act) protects the right to life and places onerous obligations on the State to protect the lives of all us. This principle places tight limitations on the use of deliberate and lethal force.

Such action is the gravest of steps in a democracy. It can only ever be justified where “absolutely necessary”; where there is no other way of effectively protecting the lives of others.

Even in the context of a suspected suicide bomber, Article 2 requires that everything possible is done to avoid a moment where lethal force is the only viable means of preventing the suspect from detonating a device and bringing injury and death to others. However, there may be situations where lethal force is the only means of protecting huge loss of life.

Tomorrow it will be everyone else

When all the laws of the State are in danger, “there only exists for the State one sole and inviolable law: the survival of the State.” It is interesting how every terrorist act has occurred just when that survival looked tenuous, when the state was in crisis and rocked by scandal. Harpies Blair, Blunkett or Reid would shriek of impending terrorist attacks and it mattered not one jot to the supine media that no evidence, intelligence or facts were presented.

“The only attack capable of fatally wounding the State is today uniquely that which consists of denouncing its terrorist practices, and violently denouncing them.”

Think Madrid.

We Need More Attacks on American Soil

“In his first interview as the chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party, Dennis Milligan told a reporter that America needs to be attacked by terrorists so that people will appreciate the work that President Bush has done to protect the country. ‘At the end of the day, I believe fully the president is doing the right thing, and I think all we need is some attacks on American soil like we had on [Sept. 11, 2001],’ Milligan said to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, ‘and the naysayers will come around very quickly to appreciate not only the commitment for President Bush, but the sacrifice that has been made by men and women to protect this country.’”

Another salient point, these acts of terror are like a drug and must be managed because each new act looks less terrifying than the one preceding it. Nothing can compare to 911 and since 7/7/05 acts of terror in the UK have now been reduced to the constant streaming of farcical spectacles of exploding cars driving into airport terminals (no doubt aided and abetted by the technologically superior Iran) or Somalis looking ominously out of the media, suspected of plots uncovered by mind-readers which is enough to ensure that they are held behind bars for 28 days awaiting their day in a kangaroo court and all relayed to us by breathless commentators on 24 hour news channels.

This latest Piccadilly/Glasgow incident became a full scale terrorist event within a day, it was enough to cause disruption to the fourteen thousand spectators that were waiting to watch the matches at Wimbledon in person and don’t mention the people taking flights that weekend, in what has now become an annual disruption preceding the anniversary of July 7th. Details were leaked slowly on a continuous loop. Gas canisters, we were informed, were being carried in a Mercedes that had crashed. The gas canisters became a device. The upgrading to a device was followed by the news that there were nails involved and it was inevitable that a demonstration of the lethality of this device was followed the next day at Glasgow Airport in an event that killed exactly nobody. Fortunately. While in Iraq real car bombs continue to detonate killing scores of people on a daily basis. In the meantime a suicide letter was recovered from the burnt-out Cherokee at Glasgow Airport, proving once again that the fiendish Al Qaeda are more competent at making fire-proof paper than bombs.

Thus demonstrating another truism from Sanguinetti’s pamphlet – that it is essential bloodless rehearsals for future acts of terrorism are carried out first. These acts are mere rehearsals preparing the public for future spectacles.

Is it possible to even begin to imagine the horror…

‘this space that you look at, this room that you look at, is nothing but your interpretation of it. […] The question is how do you interpret the alley? […] We interpreted the alley as a place forbidden to walk through and the door as a place forbidden to pass through, and the window as a place forbidden to look through, because a weapon awaits us in the alley, and a booby trap awaits us behind the doors. This is because the enemy interprets space in a traditional, classical manner, and I do not want to obey this interpretation and fall into his traps. […] I want to surprise him! This is the essence of war. I need to win […] This is why that we opted for the methodology of moving through walls. . . . Like a worm that eats its way forward, emerging at points and then disappearing. […] I said to my troops, “Friends! […] If until now you were used to move along roads and sidewalks, forget it! From now on we all walk through walls!” Frieze

A shocking article follows on how the distinction between the interior (domestic) landscape and public urban spaces is continuously being blurred. Homes now become thoroughfares and conduits for the IDF in Israel’s so-called “occupied territories”, as the setting for wars stops being something that happens “out there”. Private homes and living rooms become the setting for conducting warfare. Into these private spaces the paraphernalia of war is becoming as acceptable as the family photo on the mantle-piece. The destructive force of electric drills and stun grenades are used to puncture the peace and serenity of the family home. Holes are drilled through walls to create safe spaces for soldiers to move through as they give up the “dangerous and deadly alley-ways”. What shocks me here is that this form of blurring the distinction between the public and the private, the inside and the outside, this “infestation” of our private spaces destroys any lasting idea that the “war” will be carried out in zones which are recognised as battlefields but increasingly in our homes and as that happens the geographic boundaries of war is spread so that those inside are no different from those outsiders that invade their homes with drills and stun grenades. The private unarmed citizen becomes a combatant too whose private space is one that can be invaded in order to search and destroy those who resist such debasement. Surely that is all of us? The distinction between the combatant and the civilian is lost within this. Inside the home lurks an enemy seeking to use the sanctity of this space to inflict harm on the shock troops. So the argument goes. Read on…

The Art of War

IDF drill through walls

The Israeli Defence Forces have been heavily influenced by contemporary philosophy, highlighting the fact that there is considerable overlap among theoretical texts deemed essential by military academies and architectural schools by Eyal Weizman

The attack conducted by units of the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) on the city of Nablus in April 2002 was described by its commander, Brigadier-General Aviv Kokhavi, as ‘inverse geometry’, which he explained as ‘the reorganization of the urban syntax by means of a series of micro-tactical actions’.1 During the battle soldiers moved within the city across hundreds of metres of ‘overground tunnels’ carved out through a dense and contiguous urban structure. Although several thousand soldiers and Palestinian guerrillas were manoeuvring simultaneously in the city, they were so ‘saturated’ into the urban fabric that very few would have been visible from the air. Furthermore, they used none of the city’s streets, roads, alleys or courtyards, or any of the external doors, internal stairwells and windows, but moved horizontally through walls and vertically through holes blasted in ceilings and floors. This form of movement, described by the military as ‘infestation’, seeks to redefine inside as outside, and domestic interiors as thoroughfares. The IDF’s strategy of ‘walking through walls’ involves a conception of the city as not just the site but also the very medium of warfare – a flexible, almost liquid medium that is forever contingent and in flux.

Contemporary military theorists are now busy re-conceptualizing the urban domain. At stake are the underlying concepts, assumptions and principles that determine military strategies and tactics. The vast intellectual field that geographer Stephen Graham has called an international ‘shadow world’ of military urban research institutes and training centres that have been established to rethink military operations in cities could be understood as somewhat similar to the international matrix of élite architectural academies. However, according to urban theorist Simon Marvin, the military-architectural ‘shadow world’ is currently generating more intense and well-funded urban research programmes than all these university programmes put together, and is certainly aware of the avant-garde urban research conducted in architectural institutions, especially as regards Third World and African cities. There is a considerable overlap among the theoretical texts considered essential by military academies and architectural schools. Indeed, the reading lists of contemporary military institutions include works from around 1968 (with a special emphasis on the writings of Gilles Deleuze, Félix Guattari and Guy Debord), as well as more contemporary writings on urbanism, psychology, cybernetics, post-colonial and post-Structuralist theory. If, as some writers claim, the space for criticality has withered away in late 20th-century capitalist culture, it seems now to have found a place to flourish in the military.

I conducted an interview with Kokhavi, commander of the Paratrooper Brigade, who at 42 is considered one of the most promising young officers of the IDF (and was the commander of the operation for the evacuation of settlements in the Gaza Strip).2 Like many career officers, he had taken time out from the military to earn a university degree; although he originally intended to study architecture, he ended up with a degree in philosophy from the Hebrew University. When he explained to me the principle that guided the battle in Nablus, what was interesting for me was not so much the description of the action itself as the way he conceived its articulation. He said: ‘this space that you look at, this room that you look at, is nothing but your interpretation of it. […] The question is how do you interpret the alley? […] We interpreted the alley as a place forbidden to walk through and the door as a place forbidden to pass through, and the window as a place forbidden to look through, because a weapon awaits us in the alley, and a booby trap awaits us behind the doors. This is because the enemy interprets space in a traditional, classical manner, and I do not want to obey this interpretation and fall into his traps. […] I want to surprise him! This is the essence of war. I need to win […] This is why that we opted for the methodology of moving through walls. . . . Like a worm that eats its way forward, emerging at points and then disappearing. […] I said to my troops, “Friends! […] If until now you were used to move along roads and sidewalks, forget it! From now on we all walk through walls!”’2 Kokhavi’s intention in the battle was to enter the city in order to kill members of the Palestinian resistance and then get out. The horrific frankness of these objectives, as recounted to me by Shimon Naveh, Kokhavi’s instructor, is part of a general Israeli policy that seeks to disrupt Palestinian resistance on political as well as military levels through targeted assassinations from both air and ground.

Goya Disasters of war

If you still believe, as the IDF would like you to, that moving through walls is a relatively gentle form of warfare, the following description of the sequence of events might change your mind. To begin with, soldiers assemble behind the wall and then, using explosives, drills or hammers, they break a hole large enough to pass through. Stun grenades are then sometimes thrown, or a few random shots fired into what is usually a private living-room occupied by unsuspecting civilians. When the soldiers have passed through the wall, the occupants are locked inside one of the rooms, where they are made to remain – sometimes for several days – until the operation is concluded, often without water, toilet, food or medicine. Civilians in Palestine, as in Iraq, have experienced the unexpected penetration of war into the private domain of the home as the most profound form of trauma and humiliation. A Palestinian woman identified only as Aisha, interviewed by a journalist for the Palestine Monitor, described the experience: ‘Imagine it – you’re sitting in your living-room, which you know so well; this is the room where the family watches television together after the evening meal, and suddenly that wall disappears with a deafening roar, the room fills with dust and debris, and through the wall pours one soldier after the other, screaming orders. You have no idea if they’re after you, if they’ve come to take over your home, or if your house just lies on their route to somewhere else. The children are screaming, panicking. Is it possible to even begin to imagine the horror experienced by a five-year-old child as four, six, eight, 12 soldiers, their faces painted black, sub-machine-guns pointed everywhere, antennas protruding from their backpacks, making them look like giant alien bugs, blast their way through that wall?’3

Naveh, a retired Brigadier-General, directs the Operational Theory Research Institute, which trains staff officers from the IDF and other militaries in ‘operational theory’ – defined in military jargon as somewhere between strategy and tactics. He summed up the mission of his institute, which was founded in 1996: ‘We are like the Jesuit Order. We attempt to teach and train soldiers to think. […] We read Christopher Alexander, can you imagine?; we read John Forester, and other architects. We are reading Gregory Bateson; we are reading Clifford Geertz. Not myself, but our soldiers, our generals are reflecting on these kinds of materials. We have established a school and developed a curriculum that trains “operational architects”.’4 In a lecture Naveh showed a diagram resembling a ‘square of opposition’ that plots a set of logical relationships between certain propositions referring to military and guerrilla operations. Labelled with phrases such as ‘Difference and Repetition – The Dialectics of Structuring and Structure’, ‘Formless Rival Entities’, ‘Fractal Manoeuvre’, ‘Velocity vs. Rhythms’, ‘The Wahabi War Machine’, ‘Postmodern Anarchists’ and ‘Nomadic Terrorists’, they often reference the work of Deleuze and Guattari. War machines, according to the philosophers, are polymorphous; diffuse organizations characterized by their capacity for metamorphosis, made up of small groups that split up or merge with one another, depending on contingency and circumstances. (Deleuze and Guattari were aware that the state can willingly transform itself into a war machine. Similarly, in their discussion of ‘smooth space’ it is implied that this conception may lead to domination.)

I asked Naveh why Deleuze and Guattari were so popular with the Israeli military. He replied that ‘several of the concepts in A Thousand Plateaux became instrumental for us […] allowing us to explain contemporary situations in a way that we could not have otherwise. It problematized our own paradigms. Most important was the distinction they have pointed out between the concepts of “smooth” and “striated” space [which accordingly reflect] the organizational concepts of the “war machine” and the “state apparatus”. In the IDF we now often use the term “to smooth out space” when we want to refer to operation in a space as if it had no borders. […] Palestinian areas could indeed be thought of as “striated” in the sense that they are enclosed by fences, walls, ditches, roads blocks and so on.’5 When I asked him if moving through walls was part of it, he explained that, ‘In Nablus the IDF understood urban fighting as a spatial problem. […] Travelling through walls is a simple mechanical solution that connects theory and practice.’6

To understand the IDF’s tactics for moving through Palestinian urban spaces, it is necessary to understand how they interpret the by now familiar principle of ‘swarming’ – a term that has been a buzzword in military theory since the start of the US post cold War doctrine known as the Revolution in Military Affairs. The swarm manoeuvre was in fact adapted, from the Artificial Intelligence principle of swarm intelligence, which assumes that problem-solving capacities are found in the interaction and communication of relatively unsophisticated agents (ants, birds, bees, soldiers) with little or no centralized control. The swarm exemplifies the principle of non-linearity apparent in spatial, organizational and temporal terms. The traditional manoeuvre paradigm, characterized by the simplified geometry of Euclidean order, is transformed, according to the military, into a complex fractal-like geometry. The narrative of the battle plan is replaced by what the military, using a Foucaultian term, calls the ‘toolbox approach’, according to which units receive the tools they need to deal with several given situations and scenarios but cannot predict the order in which these events would actually occur.7 Naveh: ‘Operative and tactical commanders depend on one another and learn the problems through constructing the battle narrative; […] action becomes knowledge, and knowledge becomes action. […] Without a decisive result possible, the main benefit of operation is the very improvement of the system as a system.’8

This may explain the fascination of the military with the spatial and organizational models and modes of operation advanced by theorists such as Deleuze and Guattari. Indeed, as far as the military is concerned, urban warfare is the ultimate Postmodern form of conflict. Belief in a logically structured and single-track battle-plan is lost in the face of the complexity and ambiguity of the urban reality. Civilians become combatants, and combatants become civilians. Identity can be changed as quickly as gender can be feigned: the transformation of women into fighting men can occur at the speed that it takes an undercover ‘Arabized’ Israeli soldier or a camouflaged Palestinian fighter to pull a machine-gun out from under a dress. For a Palestinian fighter caught up in this battle, Israelis seem ‘to be everywhere: behind, on the sides, on the right and on the left. How can you fight that way?’9

Critical theory has become crucial for Nave’s teaching and training. He explained: ‘we employ critical theory primarily in order to critique the military institution itself – its fixed and heavy conceptual foundations. Theory is important for us in order to articulate the gap between the existing paradigm and where we want to go. Without theory we could not make sense of the different events that happen around us and that would otherwise seem disconnected. […] At present the Institute has a tremendous impact on the military; [it has] become a subversive node within it. By training several high-ranking officers we filled the system [IDF] with subversive agents […] who ask questions; […] some of the top brass are not embarrassed to talk about Deleuze or [Bernard] Tschumi.’10 I asked him, ‘Why Tschumi?’ He replied: ‘The idea of disjunction embodied in Tschumi’s book Architecture and Disjunction (1994) became relevant for us […] Tschumi had another approach to epistemology; he wanted to break with single-perspective knowledge and centralized thinking. He saw the world through a variety of different social practices, from a constantly shifting point of view. [Tschumi] created a new grammar; he formed the ideas that compose our thinking.11 I then asked him, why not Derrida and Deconstruction? He answered, ‘Derrida may be a little too opaque for our crowd. We share more with architects; we combine theory and practice. We can read, but we know as well how to build and destroy, and sometimes kill.’12

In addition to these theoretical positions, Naveh references such canonical elements of urban theory as the Situationist practices of dérive (a method of drifting through a city based on what the Situationists referred to as ‘psycho-geography’) and détournement (the adaptation of abandoned buildings for purposes other than those they were designed to perform). These ideas were, of course, conceived by Guy Debord and other members of the Situationist International to challenge the built hierarchy of the capitalist city and break down distinctions between private and public, inside and outside, use and function, replacing private space with a ‘borderless’ public surface. References to the work of Georges Bataille, either directly or as cited in the writings of Tschumi, also speak of a desire to attack architecture and to dismantle the rigid rationalism of a postwar order, to escape ‘the architectural strait-jacket’ and to liberate repressed human desires.
In no uncertain terms, education in the humanities – often believed to be the most powerful weapon against imperialism – is being appropriated as a powerful vehicle for imperialism. The military’s use of theory is, of course, nothing new – a long line extends all the way from Marcus Aurelius to General Patton.

Future military attacks on urban terrain will increasingly be dedicated to the use of technologies developed for the purpose of ‘un-walling the wall’, to borrow a term from Gordon Matta-Clark. This is the new soldier/architect’s response to the logic of ‘smart bombs’. The latter have paradoxically resulted in higher numbers of civilian casualties simply because the illusion of precision gives the military-political complex the necessary justification to use explosives in civilian environments.

Here another use of theory as the ultimate ‘smart weapon’ becomes apparent. The military’s seductive use of theoretical and technological discourse seeks to portray war as remote, quick and intellectual, exciting – and even economically viable. Violence can thus be projected as tolerable and the public encouraged to support it. As such, the development and dissemination of new military technologies promote the fiction being projected into the public domain that a military solution is possible – in situations where it is at best very doubtful.

Although you do not need Deleuze to attack Nablus, theory helped the military reorganize by providing a new language in which to speak to itself and others. A ‘smart weapon’ theory has both a practical and a discursive function in redefining urban warfare. The practical or tactical function, the extent to which Deleuzian theory influences military tactics and manoeuvres, raises questions about the relation between theory and practice. Theory obviously has the power to stimulate new sensibilities, but it may also help to explain, develop or even justify ideas that emerged independently within disparate fields of knowledge and with quite different ethical bases. In discursive terms, war – if it is not a total war of annihilation – constitutes a form of discourse between enemies. Every military action is meant to communicate something to the enemy. Talk of ‘swarming’, ‘targeted killings’ and ‘smart destruction’ help the military communicate to its enemies that it has the capacity to effect far greater destruction. Raids can thus be projected as the more moderate alternative to the devastating capacity that the military actually possesses and will unleash if the enemy exceeds the ‘acceptable’ level of violence or breaches some unspoken agreement. In terms of military operational theory it is essential never to use one’s full destructive capacity but rather to maintain the potential to escalate the level of atrocity. Otherwise threats become meaningless.

When the military talks theory to itself, it seems to be about changing its organizational structure and hierarchies. When it invokes theory in communications with the public – in lectures, broadcasts and publications – it seems to be about projecting an image of a civilized and sophisticated military. And when the military ‘talks’ (as every military does) to the enemy, theory could be understood as a particularly intimidating weapon of ‘shock and awe’, the message being: ‘You will never even understand that which kills you.’

Eyal Weizman is an architect, writer and Director of Goldsmith’s College Centre for Research Architecture. His work deals with issues of conflict territories and human rights.

A full version of this article was recently delivered at the conference ‘Beyond Bio-politics’ at City University, New York, and in the architecture program of the Sao Paulo Biennial. A transcript can be read in the March/April, 2006 issue of Radical Philosophy.

1 Quoted in Hannan Greenberg, ‘The Limited Conflict: This Is How You Trick Terrorists’, in Yediot Aharonot; (23 March 2004)
2 Eyal Weizman interviewed Aviv Kokhavi on 24 September at an Israeli military base near Tel Aviv. Translation from Hebrew by the author; video documentation by Nadav Harel and Zohar Kaniel
3 Sune Segal, ‘What Lies Beneath: Excerpts from an Invasion’, Palestine Monitor, November, 2002; 9 June, 2005
4 Shimon Naveh, discussion following the talk ‘Dicta Clausewitz: Fractal Manoeuvre: A Brief History of Future Warfare in Urban Environments’, delivered in conjunction with ‘States of Emergency: The Geography of Human Rights’, a debate organized by Eyal Weizman and Anselm Franke as part of ‘Territories Live’, B’tzalel Gallery, Tel Aviv,
5 November 2004
5 Eyal Weizman, telephone interview with Shimon Naveh, 14 October 2005
6 Ibid.
7 Michel Foucault’s description of theory as a ‘toolbox’ was originally developed in conjunction with Deleuze in a 1972 discussion; see Gilles Deleuze and Michel Foucault, ‘Intellectuals and Power’, in Michel Foucault, Language, Counter-Memory, Practice: Selected Essays and Interviews, ed. and intro. Donald F. Bouchard, Cornell University Press, Ithaca, 1980, p. 206
8 Weizman, interview with Naveh
9 Quoted in Yagil Henkin, ‘The Best Way into Baghdad’, The New York Times, 3 April 2003
10 Weizman, interview with Naveh
11 Naveh is currently working on a Hebrew translation of Bernard Tschumi’s Architecture and Disjunction, MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass., 1997.
12 Weizman, interview with Naveh