Locating spatial practices of violence in Baghdad This book looks to the city of Baghdad to illustrate how the US military is today engaged in hybridized and experimental behaviour. Specifically, this book argues that the spatial practices of violence in Baghdad are a figure of a truly ‘new’ security problematic that is not easily confined within the ‘geomythography’ of contemporary security debates, but which instead is related to the US military’s self-reflexive response to a multiple, slippery, and uncertain real.1 This chapter outlines the study on which this book is based, exploring 1st Cavalry Division’s use of a new command and control technology, Command Post of the Future (CPOF, pronounced ‘c-pof ’). The study consists of interviews carried out with returned soldiers from 1st Cavalry who had been operating in Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom Phase II (the phase immediately after the invasion, that lasted roughly from April 2004 to April 2005). These interviews, undertaken at the Cavalry’s home base of Fort Hood, Texas during June 2005 (about two months after the Division’s return from deployment), took place at nearly every level throughout the Division command structure, from senior members of the Commanding General’s staff in the Divisional Headquarters, through to enlisted men who worked in Battalion-level Tactical Operations Centres (TOCs). All of the interviewees worked in some way with CPOF.2 The interviews also encompassed the civilian contractors supporting CPOF who deployed with 1st Cavalry to Baghdad to troubleshoot the new system. These contractors had the advantage of having seen CPOF as used by the Cavalry’s replacement force, 3rd Infantry Division, after 1st Cavalry’s return home in 2005, providing them with insight into alternative modes of using the technology. These interviews were supplemented by observation of 4th Infantry Division (with whom 1st Cavalry share Fort Hood) using CPOF in a simulated Iraq-style environment, as well as observation of classes of new soldiers from both 1st Cavalry and 4th Infantry Division learning to use the technology. 1st Cavalry Division is one the US Army’s premier Divisions (one of two socalled Digital Divisions) at the time of research, and as such, offers an excellent location from which to study the novelty of the ways in which the US Army has

engaged the complex situation in Baghdad. Its situation, however, should not be over-generalized. 1st Cavalry entered the war at a precarious stage, and its experience in Baghdad is far from universal. Briefly put, when 1st Cavalry arrived in April 2004 the US military had effectively destroyed the Baathist regime, and was facing only the early stages of an insurgency which was undefined in its scope and ambitions. Parts of the insurgency derived from the (ethnically Sunni but secularly motivated) irregular forces, or Fedayeen, established by Saddam Hussein’s regime as a form of civil defence; parts were inspired by a Sunni religious jihad, including those mujahadeen coordinated by al-Qaeda. In Sadr City, meanwhile, an explicitly religious, but at this stage still ostensibly ‘patriotic’ and ‘nationalistic’ Shi’ite militia, the Mahdi Army, began resisting the American occupation just as 1st Cavalry assumed command.3 While it was a dangerous time to be a Westerner on the streets of Baghdad (at least outside of the Green Zone), there were some signs of a ‘normal’ Iraqi life resuming in the city proper. Politically, during this period, the Coalition Provisional Authority transitioned sovereignty to an unelected Iraqi government on 29 June 2004, and elections to determine the country’s constitution (and subsequent democratic future) were held in November of that year. There were high hopes that a democratically elected, publicly legitimate government would be able to stem the insurgency. Funds for reconstruction, however, continued to be disbursed largely through US military as well as international civilian agencies. Importantly, and as I have noted elsewhere, few of the concerns that dominated discussion of Iraq (and particularly Baghdad) from 2006 were apparent at the time (Croser 2007a: 4). In 2006, with the formation of rival Shi’ite and Sunni militias (death squads), the dramatically escalating nature and number of targeted attacks against civilians, the Parliament’s inability to form a stable government, interference by Iran and Syria, and mass refugee flows, Iraq teetered on the brink of civil war. In 2004, however, while it was certainly bloody, the situation did not yet seem as intractably insoluble as it did later.4 In particular, 1st Cavalry’s form of engagement with Baghdad during this period took a very different form to that taken on its return in August 2006. Further, CPOF is a small technology and does not begin to contain the entire 1st Cavalry’s experience of Baghdad. It does not, for example, address important issues such as patrol tactics, taking and dealing with prisoners, and the training of the Iraqi National Guard. It is a technology that is confined to command posts, and does not (explicitly) travel to and with the soldiers on the street. However, CPOF ’s form as a command and control technology opens it onto a world of spatial practice that is largely ignored by doctrine or concepts of war. Doctrine dictates spatial orderings by producing knowledge about the battlespace in the abstract (knowledge about a generic battlespace, a generic enemy). Eventually, through a process of education and institutional memory, this is routinized through tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs). In this, Foucault’s discussion of dressage explored in Chapter 1 of this book is a discussion of doctrine, emphasizing as it does the routine and pre-determined activities of the eighteenth-century military. Command as it is studied in this book, however, is

implicated in spatial orderings through its involvement in the production and organization of a flow of knowledge about the battlespace in specific. To study command practices, then, is to produce an everyday praxiography of power/ knowledge/space regarding the battlespace, and one that does not overly circumscribe the similitude of the repetition of the everyday. This following chapter addresses how CPOF not only is a part of the US military’s attempt to operationalize an uncertain and slippery real, but also is implicated in creating the conditions by which that real escapes the US military’s grasp. This chapter sets the stage by establishing the basis by which CPOF can be seen to be operationalizing (properly ontological) multiplicity. That is, this chapter answers the question: How does an institution such as a US Army Division produce multiplicity through a singular command and control technology? The following chapter will explore further questions, such as: How does a US Army Division organize multiplicity once it is produced? What happens to the way the Army operates if multiplicity is allowed to exist – or is even encouraged? Answering these questions indicates that in Baghdad the US military is configuring spaces of violence in new and creative ways.