Fighting City, Boomtown, Police training village
The city is a disputed terrain, not only in an extended sense. In the build-up to the Irak war, far-reaching debates broke out on whether the US commando in the guerilla war of the three-block war (General Charles Krulak, US Marine Corp) was exhausted. It turned out differently, Allied troops conquered the Iraqui cities as if marching through. The British army, trained in Belfast street fighting, was particularly praised in taking over Basra, for its tactics of taking contact with the local population. In place of a helmet they took off a cap, or looked the conquered people straight in the eyes, unlike the US soldiers keeping their distance in mirrored sunglasses.2 They nevertheless verified sceptical predictions, though in the form of daily small battles of local resistance and the guerilla tactics against the occupying powers.
This street fight is a war taking place after the real war and primarily aimed at civilians. The fight against terror, which according to US president Bush is an endless battle against so- called terrorists, knows no bounds. It takes place in the middle of everyday life. Pictures can be downloaded from the Internet by the megabyte, which show the soldiers in the Battle of Baghdad in urban terrain, where police and military actions cannot be distinguished from one another. Is a demonstration being broken up here, marking ground through sheer presence, or are presumed militia of the old regime being liquidated?
What began in 1968 as part of a “global” movement3, suddenly became the militant responsibility of paramilitary troops in Northern Irish (London) Derry on the 5th of October 1968. The first civil rights demonstration under the direction of student leader Bernadette Devlin aimed against the British supremacy just as much as against Catholic stuffiness. The bloody smashing of the march, brought about by police bullets simultaneously froze the civil rights movement.
Since then the Royal Ulster Police and British Army have occupied the northern part of Ireland. The British protectorate is supported by secret service troops and informers.
The dirty guerilla war in Northern Ireland could soon jump to the City of London, the government buildings or the financial district Docklands. The electronically supported fortification of Great Britain with its ring of steel stands for an aggressive model of city control. The accepted blanket video surveillance in Great Britain was justified with the threat of Northern Ireland terrorism. 4
The lines of conflict are particularly clearly delineated in Belfast. Here there are clearly divided residential areas, at least the working (or unemployed) class and mixed terrain (inner city shopping area, entertainment area, university district, villa area).
In addition, there are the office complexes blocked off by fences and guards, directly opposite the almost bankrupt wharf which once constructed the Titanic.
The police and military take cover in forts fending off car bombs and Molotov cocktails with metal, concrete and chicken wire constructions. They drive secured Landrovers as police cars, a bizarre mix of street tank and colonial car, which even today may be used in conflicts or during marching season to block the street off with fold-out gates.
Railroad lines or motorway, but also factories and hospital premises function as a
cordon sanitaire. Even today, the gates which divide the city and reroute the urban traffic are closed at night, as in the Middle Ages.
Bus lines, which previously connected tangentially different areas, are led in a star formation over the centre since the troubles. Also, the previously countless bus lines across the island have been capped at the border.
With the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 there was a cease-fire in Northern Ireland. 5
The promise of normality, which the announcement of projects and new buildings exude,
is not redeemed in the workplace or residential areas, rather in consumer and leisure areas. The stadium Odyssee is deliberately designed for ice sport and is intended to bring the enemy parties together as, unlike football, ice hockey is not confessionally divided. Shopping centres, muliplexes, pub miles and other places of commercial public use function as meeting points beyond the usual and practiced dividing lines.
Behind the building signs are the ruins and fallow land which had to be artificially set up in the previously British Fighting-City on the outskirts of Berlin. The social divide cannot simply be solved structurally. The boomtown Belfast has for too long been destroyed in its urban substance, but also socially, so that an advance in confidence in growth and prosperity may occur. One can still see the coloured markings on the kerb which mark out the area as republican (orange,white and green of the Irish flag) or unionist (the red, white and blue of the British Union Jack).
House battle and Northern Ireland were part of the standard training of the British army. The education practice planned to train the soldiers in street fights in order to later put them in real conflicts in Belfast or (London)Derry.
So-called “Fighting Cities” served as training grounds for urban areas, as they can be found in Berlin-Ruhleben or Westphalian Senne.
The Essen photographer Claudio Hils in his picture reportage volume Red Land -Blue Land 6 researched the military terrain Sennelager, which reaches along the desolate moor landscape between Paderborn, Bielefeld and Detmold.
Kaiser Wilhelm II had already reserved the sandy Areal area for his army.
“In the end he cultivated imperial expectations in real Wüstenland residents.” 7
From 1933 a “Russian village” was set up here as a village camp dummy with a draw well. In 1939 the armed forces rebuilt the 11,000 hectare area into a military area with incorporated tank testing institute. The village Haustenbeck had to be hastily cleared for this purpose. After the war, the rest of the village was searched for building materials, plundered and extensively destroyed.
In 1955 the British Rhine army founded the STC (Sennelager Training Center),
to test according to need in the Korean war (tank landing), crossing the Volga,
(basin), the occupation of Northern Ireland (village dummy Tin City, interiors),
the first Gulf war (trenches and seized Iraqui tanks) or the Kosovo war (digital battle plan on the computer screen).
Foreign military forces could also book the battle zone. The area remained a barrier zone (apart from rarely opened transitory streets) for everyone else.
The terrain for street battle was completely covered with video cameras, like the Fighting City in Berlin, for the planning team to be able to better supervise and control the simulated battle. In real battles unmanned camera drones in combination with flying commando central AWACS have long since taken over this role.
Police Training Village
Even before their retreat from post-reunification Germany, the Britons considered tearing down their Westphalian fighting village, to build a more modern city setting.
In Berlin-Ruhleben a new city stands in tower block style beside the old tiled village.
Even canals, car bridges and an underground line lead through the instrumentalised landscape of Ruhleben.
The scenario between tower block and supermarket, often used for early evening TV series, is made of raw tower blocks and embedded in a landscape grown wild.
With the retreat of the Allies from Berlin the replacement city fell into the hands of the civil order powers. After cavalry and British occupying troops, now police troops come from around the country and pay to train in the area. A police administrator – called the “mayor” by his colleagues in the station – works as appointment co-ordinator here.
What was already built with money from the Federal Republic – although under the exclusive administration of the Britons - is now, after their retreat, a terrain for police storming of houses, for abseiling from simulated helicopter skids, for dog training, or to simulate action on the 1st of May. As in the seventies Kreuzberg was released for demolition within the frame of area sanitation, the allied US troops of West Berlin practiced urban warfare in the ruined area. In order to train a better municipal warfare, real cities were increasingly used as areas for manoevres.
The Battle of Seattle as a turning point of movements critical of globalisation, the paramilitary interventions in the war on drugs or the (secret) police of various facilities in the anti-terror battle let the boundaries between policed army and militarised police blur.
“An enemy who does not own his positions any more, does not present himself, does not fight battles, rather through discontinuous blows, which can take place everywhere, and in addition seems to gain strength through military or police reprisals. Such an enemy may no longer be defeated by a strategy which is still, and increasingly, obligated to a linear way of thinking”, is how the US American philosopher
Samuel Weber describes the endless civil war. 8
1. The Handbook for Joint Urban Operations published in May 2000 by the US Joint Staff indicates in the chapter “Case Studies of Urban Operations” seven exemplary city terrains: Grozny/ Chechnya,
Panama City, Port-au-Prince/ Haiti, Mogadischu/ Somalia, Belfast/ Northern Ireland, Sarajevo/ Bosnia
and Monrovia/ Liberia.
2. More US soldiers have died in the urban post-war than in the actual battle action.
3. Chris Marker’s documentary film Rot liegt in der Luft connects the student revolts in Paris, Berkeley
or Berlin with the post-colonial uprisings in Trikont and so puts right the image of the ‘68 movement as one belonging only to the Northern prosperous zones.
4. Altogether the home country of video surveillance reached a total of 1.5 million devices in the Autumn of 2002, according to estimates of the London organisation Privacy International. Other sources even talk of 2.5 million. Cameras which guard private homes, land, factories or businesses are not even included in this number. On an average day, according to a popular estimate, a pedestrian in the larger English cities will be filmed at least three hundred times. See also the book contribution by Michael Zinganel.
5. The Good Friday Agreement was signed by parties from all sides and the British and Irish government that they would overcome the conflict and together let peace, democracy and justice become a reality in the North of Ireland. In two referendums 90% of the inhabitants of the Republic of Ireland and 71% of Northern Ireland voted in favour of the agreement.
6. Hils, Claudio/ Eifert-K.rnig, Anna M./ Sch.nlau, Rolf (2000): Red Land - Blue Land, Stuttgart
7. Close conflict in the doll’s house, in: Der Spiegel (8.1.2000)
8. Wild wars of peace, in: Frankfurter Rundschau (31.1.2003)