December 6-12, 2006

home | north bay bohemian index | columns | the byrne report

The Byrne Report

Urban Operations

By Peter Byrne

Did you know that the U.S. Northern Command just tightened its control over Northern California? "NORTHCOM" is the combatant command created by the Bush administration to control armies on the move inside the so-called North American battle space, which includes Mexico and Canada. The self-described job of NORTHCOM is to repel invaders, eliminate drug dealers and "terrorists," and control civil disturbances. To spot these nuisances, NORTHCOM runs an intelligence "fusion center" at its headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo. It correlates electronic data collected from military and commercial sources with duly recorded suspicions forwarded by local law enforcement agencies and neighborhood watch groups.

On Nov. 19, NORTHCOM's 9th Reconnaissance Wing announced the deployment of the Global Hawk at Beale Air Force Base in Yuba County. On that day, the Air Force's newest unmanned spy plane flew its first official combat command mission over the continental United States. Beale will soon host a dozen of these $132 million war-fighting machines, which can fly at 65,000 feet for 34 hours while leisurely photographing Americans and uploading their pixels to the fusion center at Colorado Springs. Privacy? Fuhgeddaboutit.

In the Middle East, the Global Hawk's main activity is targeting houses and individuals for instant destruction by Hellfire missiles. It is difficult to conceive of a legitimate peacetime application for this harbinger of death in American airspace. Global Hawk "pilots" fly by remote control from ground-based control booths the size of shipping containers.

Concurrent with the deployment of Global Hawk, NORTHCOM ran a military-law enforcement exercise in the North Bay called Golden Guardian. The operation tested the intelligence-gathering and combat-command capabilities of local police forces and homeland-defending troops known as U.S. Army North during a simulated earthquake. Army North's Soldiers (the S is always capitalized in Rumsfeldspeak) are charged with "interdicting" enemies of the corporate state to "protect the American people and their way of life."

Hey! Since when did our way of life include 24-hour surveillance by Global Hawks and interdiction by Soldiers? Who is the enemy? Us?

On Oct. 26, the Army released an updated field manual for Soldiers called "Urban Operations." The manual declares, "The goal of modern warfare is control of the populace." That goal applies to domestic as well as foreign operations: "From the mid-1950s through the 1990s, the Army conducted UO [urban operations] in the U.S. . . . during civil unrest and anti-Vietnam [War] protests."

Urban warfare doctrine targets poor inner city neighborhoods for destruction and occupation whether they are in Third World countries or festering inside the homeland. "Urban Operations" warn Soldiers that youth gangs in Los Angeles, known collectively as "Threats," temporarily united to fight Soldiers during the policing of the Rodney King riots in 1992. Ignoring the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, which generally prohibits Soldiers from acting as law enforcers, the manual calls for "full spectrum" urban operations (led by NORTHCOM), which combine law enforcement and military operations with air support against the Threat flavor of the day.

"Urban Operations" makes it clear that, as in Fallujah, Panama City and occupied Palestine, sections of rebellious cities will be exploded by air strikes or plastic explosives because "rubble piles provide excellent covered and concealed positions" for invading Soldiers. "Shantytowns" may be "knock[ed] down and traversed [by tanks] without affecting mobility at all." Destruction of neighborhoods and vital infrastructure is termed "a necessary shaping operation." It is done to keep "insurgents" from merging with and politically mobilizing the populace.

Taking a lesson from the Pentagon, "Urban Operations" warns, "[T]hreat forces may not abide by international agreements, such as the Geneva Conventions." Nor will the idle, young, politically active, dark-skinned criminals necessarily play fair with Global Hawk budgets: "Threats will [use] decoys to absorb expensive and limited precision-guided munitions as well as cause misallocation of other critical Army resources." Hint, hint.

Even worse: "[A] disgruntled civilian population may attack or disrupt commercial activities as a political statement against the United States."

Beware: "[T]errorist elements . . . may also employ 'rent-a-crowds'—civilians paid or incited to demonstrate against military forces armed with only sticks, stones and Molotov cocktails." Taking a cue from Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet, "Urban Operations" recommends that Soldiers use sports stadiums as interrogation centers and holding facilities for the disgruntled masses.

As a final warning, Soldiers are reminded that video is a two-edged sword: "[N]egative visual images of military operations presented by the media can change political objectives. . . . Commanders should . . . induce cooperation between the media and Army forces . . . successfully engaging the media as a force multiplier."

And that is why you knew little or nothing about NORTHCOM and Global Hawk until today. Force multipliers don't report on those things.

Contact Peter Byrne or send a letter to the editor about this story.