Western military cartography and the "terror technique"

If you want an accurate representation of the world, I am reminded… get a globe! A two- dimensional geographical sketch of our planet just won’t do.

As I type away my thoughts for this article, right above the monitor, hanging on the wall, is a 4’ wide by 2 ½’ high Rand McNally world map that at times inspires and often emits some dynamic view of geopolitics: a Mercator projection flattening our globe which in my rectangular map has the land and oceans over the equator taking up twice as much space as those in the Southern Hemisphere… sans Antarctica, of course.

A great map, I’ve always told myself, thanks to the genius of a Flemish cartographer, Gerardus Mercator, whose map-making didn’t project so well with the Roman Church almost five centuries ago. But for all its value allowing true bearings of courses to be measured directly; for most of us, non-navigators, such map does distort things as you go north or south of the equator. As my eyes turn north, I see a Greenland considerably larger than all of South America, while the latter is in actuality eight times the size of the first. And, as if such were not enough, I see two Indias, two Chinas and a never-ending Russia as the geo-day is elongated by three hours in purposeful overlap.

Of course, I could replace my Rand McNally map with a Peters Projection map which is accurate to scale… but that would give unduly influence to parts of the world lacking it. So I’ll stick with my Rand McNally map keeping in mind that cartography is just art or technique for making maps; and that purposeful distortion must be taken into account.

And I can see that purposeful distortion being projected, coming out of that perennial hawk and former vice-president, Dick Cheney, who continues as the voice of evil after leaving office as the screamer for the political right… perhaps in an effort to drown the noise from those of us intent in bringing him to international justice for his leading role in torture and genocide. But the distortion neither starts nor ends in the figure of Cheney. The distortion, although often echoed in the halls of the State Department, really has its roots at that mausoleum of belligerence and epicenter for the defense of Corporate Capitalism: the Pentagon. Here, in this five-sided sepulcher-pantheon housing Mars’ dark angels is where cartography comes alive defining the empire. The cartography which a few decades ago used the “communism technique” projections to map the world is now using the “terror technique” projections to keep us in stride. Step aside Mercator and Peters, a new two-dimensional map of the planet has now been drawn, projecting the world according to how the American elite, and its Squires in Europe, want us all to view the geo-economic-political world.

On Tuesday, May 26, General George William Casey, Jr., the current Chief of Staff of the United States Army – 36th in the proud line – was telling a Washington audience that “Global Trends” (cartographic requirements, as I read it) could force our troops to remain in Afghanistan and Iraq for a decade; American commitment to PM Nouri al-Maliki to have US troops out of Iraq by the end of 2011 superceded by the “higher” US commitment to fight extremism and terrorism in the Middle East. And we should listen, and pay attention, to Gen. Casey (take-off from the original Lebanese name Kehdi), a serious soldier and voice for his peers at the Pentagon, with dozens of awards, decorations and badges, among them the “German Parachutist Badge – in bronze,” and the “Bundeswehr Gold Cross of Honor.” [Our military, 64 years after V-E Day, continues to be in awe of the Wehrmacht and its Commander-in-Chief.]

So we have drafted a two-dimensional map of the world, using the terror technique; or, at the very least, terror as we see it; paying no mind as to the actions we take that incur the terrorists’ wrath. We, Americans, are quick to label groups (Hamas, Hezbollah and the Talibans) and nations as terrorists, and rogues, if they stand in the way of our own Hegemonic desires to be the police force for the major capitalist powers in the world.

Has it occurred to us that maybe part of the world might be pointing the finger at us as a rogue, even if at times benevolent, state? Has anyone ever dared measure the social and economic harm we may have caused to others in the world, Cuba being a case in point? Our actions against Cuba for almost five decades were certainly roguish! Is that what we now intend to do in the Middle East?

Obama was quick to pay his dues at the Pentagon with the continuation of war policies in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, Netanyahu’s visit brought an even greater closeness to the sibling relationship between the United States and Israel.

Can we afford to let the Pentagon cartographers use the “terror technique” to map the world? After all, others could just as easily portray the US and Israel as rogue states.