Swans Commentary » swans.com April 23, 2007  



Bridges, Walls, And Gated Communities


by Fran Shor





(Swans - April 23, 2007)  The truck bomb that destroyed the Sarrafiya Bridge in Baghdad on April 12, 2007, did more than kill innocent civilians and sever the city into two equally desperate halves. It was another punctuated reminder of the hollow rhetoric of the Bush administration about "progress" in the Iraq War.

That same day in the so-called "Green Zone," an area of Baghdad surrounded by walls and myriad check points and monitors, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive device in the cafeteria of the Iraqi Parliament Building. Once more, there were several deaths and scores injured. Again, the delusions of the Bush administration and their supporters in Congress and the media were torn asunder by such a brazen act of violence.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon's "surge" was meeting with intense resistance in Baghdad even in the face of aggressive counter-insurgency tactics. According to Robert Fisk's recent report in The Independent, that counter-insurgency is premised on a strategy of establishing "gated communities" throughout the city. The US and Iraqi military will wall off neighborhoods and set up extensive pass systems that will require myriad arrests. In effect, the civilian population not shunted into already overcrowded prisons will themselves be incarcerated in these "gated communities" ("Divide and Rule - America's Plan for Baghdad," The Independent, 11 April 2007).

With more troops and National Guard being rushed off to Iraq, the imperial designs of the Bush administration lay in ruins. Those ruins are evident not just in the broken bridges and wrecked walls of Baghdad, but also in the domestic failures fostered by the arrogance and incompetence of policymakers in Washington, D.C.

Recalling the colossal ineptitude of the federal government before and after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans and other coastal cities were dotted with smashed infrastructure, including inadequate levees and outmoded bridges. Yet, there were also incidents of ethnic/racial animosity that should give US citizens pause in their denunciation of sectarian violence in Iraq. In the midst of the battering of New Orleans by Katrina, hundreds of residents of the city fled the floodwaters by trying to cross the Crescent City Connection Bridge into the suburb of Gretna. However, they were viciously repulsed by Gretna police who fired warning shots in the direction of the fleeing crowd. The Gretna police chief justified this action by asserting that "if we had opened the bridge, our city would have looked like New Orleans does now, looted, burned, and pillaged."

Gretna is only one example of the US version of "gated communities" that seek to keep out the dark hordes of paranoid white supremacist imaginations. Another version of this racist/nativist attitude is manifest in the loopy plans for a massive wall along the US/Mexico border. Somehow, this desire to wall off El Norte is a further example of an imploding imperial system that creates the global economic and social dislocations that drive migrants to seek refuge in a land which has become even more inhospitable to the stranger.

As the poet Robert Frost once wrote in Mending Wall, "something there is that doesn't love a wall." This remains true whether along the US/Mexico border or in Baghdad's "Green Zone." For that matter, the insularity of gated communities, from Baghdad to San Diego, is an admission that reality is too difficult to confront. Such gated communities, both here and abroad, may offer seeming protection from those very forces created by those blinded by their own delusions. In fact, the repression and insularity represented by "gated communities" only walls off what promises to fester and explode.

While the US imperial project in Iraq and Afghanistan flounders, with violent resistance and sectarian conflict increasing, the neoconservative's projections of instant "democracy" and "progress" seem even more ludicrous. Attempting to drive government domestic spending on social programs into the ground, the neoconservative geopolitical grab for global dominance, oil resources, and military bases is driving military spending to exorbitant levels. The building of bridges, walls, and gated communities within this fracturing paradigm are really last ditch efforts to protect an imperial racket that has lost its capacity to deliver the goods, except to those corporate and mercenary scavenger companies like Halliburton and Blackwater. Instead, we are witness to only more and more destruction and devastation.

Everywhere that US imperialism will try to build its remaining walls will undoubtedly be scaled by growing bands of insurgents, migrants, and miscreants. Identifying with those who seek to tear down such walls, let us recall the lyrics of a song by Los Lobos, that driving rock band from East Los Angeles: "Some day that wall will tumble and fall/And the sun will shine that day."


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Internal Resources

Also by Fran Shor: Imperial Residues And Resonances (July 2006)

Patterns which Connect

Arts & Culture


About the Author

Fran Shor, a Professor in the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies at Wayne State University in Detroit, teaches courses in the fields of historical and cultural studies. He is the author of two books, Utopianism and Radicalism in a Reforming America, 1888-1918 and Bush-League Spectacles: Empire, Politics, and Culture in Bushwhacked America, and scores of articles in academic journals. He has also published extensively on Websites such as Common Dreams, CounterPunch, and History News Network. A veteran activist in peace, justice, and international solidarity campaigns, he is a long-time board member of the Michigan Coalition for Human Rights and Peace Action of Michigan.



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Published April 23, 2007