Dissecting Baghdad’s Insurgent Airspace

Bryan Finoki, on Baghdad’s Subtopic Rotor Space: in A Perpetual Motion War on Terror, he’s written a wonderful piece at Subtopia describing the silhouette of a Blackhawk’s rotors cast down upon Tahriat Square in Baghdad. The image, as Bryan notes, is unremarkable; its implications, on the other hand, are something else altogether, especially given his recent coverage of Blackwater operations within the US. Flavor:

Not knowing anything about this square or the neighborhoods that spoke off around it, it looks like any other shot of a routine aerial patrol cruising over the mean streets of Baghdad ‘round the clock for insurgent movements and suspicious activity. This spot, for all I know, could be anywhere in the city and a notorious mainspring for violence; or, it could be one of the most peaceful places on the planet, who knows?


I guess what I see is not only a circular park but a representation of Iraq’s capital city laid out in its entirety in the form of some sort of urban timepiece; the way the paths cross and pass through and the trees line the periphery at even intervals spaced apart, it’s as if Baghdad has been reorganized into a kind of contemporary shadow clock haunted by the specter of foreign invasion and neverending conflict.


Certainly, I’m reading way too much mumbo jumbo into this, but, there is the war machine lodged in the cradle of civilization; its precision blades rotating and sweeping violently across the face of modern Baghdad like Leviathan clockhands that have seized control of history and time itself. Somehow superior to the sun’s own momentum this shadow of war remains fixed at the center of Baghdad’s image and place in time right now. The Blackhawk’s crusading swords dissect the airspace of Iraq’s temporal sovereignty delivering a chronographic-like stoppage of time across the city as the Gods of War have seen fit to hack the moment – and as if the entire metropolis were completely calibrated to the time/space dials of U.S. occupation.

But, alas, the distant subtopic is universally dystopic:

Look at the photo once more though and you may find it’s not even Baghdad at all. Listen carefully. Overhead the Blackhawks are circling. Nearly everywhere now from San Diego to Afghanistan the skies are filled with these propellers and others just like them synchronizing the invisible gear trains of conflict across every time zone. They are the symbolic clockworks of a wartime economy, and this image to me just seems like a giant time stamp for it all.

The reference to clockwork is an interesting turn of phrase. In a forthcoming book on The Scientific Way of Warfare, Birkbeck College Lecturer Antoine Bousquet explores how technology and scientific metaphor has shaped military thinking over the last 200 years, and how that relates to the emergence of non-linearity in contemporary conflict.  Clocks and clockwork are the original metaphor governing earlier battlefields of modernity, a retrograde artifact in today’s cybernetic and chaoplexic battlespace. But I digress: there’s more to Bryan’s piece. Go read it.

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One thought on “Dissecting Baghdad’s Insurgent Airspace

  1. Good stuff. Reminds me of the Leviathan in Clive Barker’s Hellraiser although I’m buggered if I can find a reference to it.

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