Cares and Conceits, v1

Ahoy there! So, first things first. Efforts at MODULO are going to start heating up soon, as far as publication is concerned. We’re planning to step up our submissions drive in the next week or so, and to hopefully work on the magazine over the course of the fall. Until then, however, you can look forward to selected works appearing on this blog-roll. Interspersed among these works you will from time to time find something resembling this post, which is the first entry in what I hope to be an ongoing blog-like series…and so along the lines of volume one, or v1, by way of a beginning, my mind takes me on the following journey, through events past and present…

So, Iran has developed its own “long range military drone”, the “Karrar” (or, as Ahmadinejad referred to it, the “ambassador of death”), capable of executing “bombing missions against ground targets and flying long distances at a high speed.” It might be interesting note its similarity to the Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka (“cherry blossom”) rocket-propelled kamikaze jet or “flying torpedo”

such as was crashed into the USS Essex, as is seen here

or, perhaps more pertinently, one might notice the Karrar’s resemblance to the V1 “robot” or “flying bomb” used by the Nazis to, more or less blindly, strike targets in Great Britain during the Blitz.

Along with the V2 rocket (the dark, unseen arbiter of Thomas Pynchon’s “Gravity’s Rainbow”), the V1 “Kirschkern” (or “cherry pit,” curiously linking it to the “cherry blossom” of the kamikaze jet) was the weaponized product of an effort led by the young Werner von Braun under the auspices of furthering a then relatively unexplored branch of aeronautics, that is, rocketry, which is itself  the earliest form of man’s long engagement with the science of mechanized flight. It is, however, important to note that ever since the Chinese, around 1000 CE, stuffed gunpowder into bamboo rods, creating the first self-propelled projectiles, rockets in the first sense were conceived of as incendiary weapons,

evolving then into fireworks, then into the ostensible mode of interspacial transportation for the world of tomorrow. The effort of the Nazi’s during WWII was furthermore the realization of a dream engrained in the popular bourgeois fictions of  fin-de-siecle and early 20th century Europe and America, an even more Icarian mutation of the dream of flight. Such fictions as are in question include Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon and it’s sequel Around the Moon (which bear striking similarities to the actual Apollo program),


along with H. G. Wells’ The first Men in the Moon and Fritz Lang’s Frau im Mond, which themselves feature the foreshadowing themes of imperialism (Wells) and capitalistic greed (Lang). In the case of Verne, the fact that his three protagonists are shot into orbit in a bullet-like capsule out of a giant gun barrel, all in an effort organized by a society of weapons designers and enthusiasts known as “The Gun Club” is, well, quite telling.

At any rate, as von Braun later put it, he and his peers had to submit their vision of rocket-propelled space travel to the political demands of the time, and yet, the truth is, von Braun took of advantage of the Führer’s interest in the idea in order to bring it to fruition, albeit as a weapon, and willingly exploited KZ-labor from Mittelbau-Dora to build his rockets in a secret subterranean factory called the Mittelwerk.

In what was referred to by the Pentagon as “Operation Paperclip,” in the final months of the war, German scientists (including von Braun and many other technicians from the Mittelwerk) and rocket materials were secretly scooped up by the Allied forces and ferried back to England in an effort to keep them from falling into the hands of the advancing Russian forces. These scientists, the confiscated rocket engines and fuselages, rocket-propelled aircraft and navigational equipment, which were all decades ahead of the technologies developed in American and British efforts (beyond this, the Nazis were even constructing a heavy water nuclear reactor at Haigerloch), – these Nazi technologies formed the basis for the Golden Age of American Aeronautics (the X-plane and Apollo programs) and themselves fueled the power- and arms-struggle that later instigated the Cold War.

Ultimately, the V1, with its pulse jet, is the forerunner of the modern cruise missile, and the V2, Hitler’s “robot bomb” (in Adorno’s parlance) that was the great terror of the Blitz, the archetype of the 180 million horse-power “Saturn V” of the Apollo program,

which von Braun, along with other German scientists developed and oversaw. The questionable ties of von Braun and his team to the Nazi years – The KZ-labor used, the ultimate ends towards which their inventions were utilized – cast shadows over the achievement of space-flight and the odyssey to the moon, which one might go as far as to say that it is a kind of continuation, in however supposedly depoliticized and -weaponized a light one wants to see them in, of the Nazi rocket programs undertaken by von Braun at Peenemünde and later at Mittelwerk.

Inasmuch as rockets have always been bombs, so too are the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles used today in Afghanistan and (I think) Iraq ultimately related to the radio-controlled flying bomb, inasmuch as they are prone to malfunctions and their strike capabilities inexact, as one document released in the WikiLeaks “Afghan War Diaries” cache seems to evidence. The fact that the afore mentioned case is taken out of context, only one in the tens of thousands of UAV sorties flown in Afghanistan, and that this may or may not be fair ground for condemnation (as is contested, predictably, here), is besides the point. The point is that, along side the many “covert” sorties flown by UAVs in Afghanistan and in Pakistan, resulting often in civilian casualties (how do you really differentiate between a suspected terrorist and an affirmed civilian, anyway?), the strike capabilities of a combat UAV are by nature problematic, because they are, after all, remote-controlled, unmanned aircraft carrying fuel and ordinance.

The idea of the UAV is so attractive because it eliminates the potential for the loss of human life (that is, the lives of pilots), but the fact that the craft’s human operator is oftentimes half a world away makes it impossible to truly apprehend the situation on the ground, and, more importantly, the sortie’s actual parameters within reality. This is the problem with reconnaissance in general, which is itself intensified when it is collected with the UAV.

(Quick aside: I once had the fortunate opportunity to spend 10 days in the psychiatric ward at Landstuhl medical center, where I met a young Floridian NCO about my age who had been assigned to intelligence in Afghanistan, and who had hysterically pulled his M16 on his superiors a few days prior and was sent to the psych ward to await a flight back the states to be court-martialed. Besides telling me of his desire to apply to become a Wiccan chaplain, his interest in the Magic card game and the conspiracies and intransigencies his jealous superiors were plotting and committing against him – besides this he told me of an incident where he was responding to a call from a convoy for recon along a certain juncture of their route known for ambushes. After going over the UAV and ground recon, he told them it was ok to proceed. The convoy was ambushed and several soldiers, including a colonel, were KIA. It was this event, he said, that had caused him to eventually “lose it.” Also, among the other inmates of the psych ward was a certain Captain who, in a tired and rehearsed fashion, as if he had done it too many times to be embarrassed, during a group session told the rest of us that he was the grandson of a famous poet, John Berryman…)

Precision and bombing are two irreconcilable categories; one is an idea that the other, an action, cannot possibly be made to actualize because of its very destructive, hence imprecise, nature; to combine them into one word is to utter an oxymoron, to create an impossible idea, a cipher instrumentalized to ward off any moral or ethical reaction to what is really going on, which is itself camouflaged by the cipher of “precision-” or “strategic bombing” and, moreover, by distance: the distance between the plane and the ground (in the case of WWII, some 25,000+ ft.), the UAV operator in Germany or California and the UAV firing a hellfire missile in Pakistan. America has hidden behind the term precision bombing inasmuch as any enterprising empire has obscured its heinous acts within jargon and behind distance; all the great war crimes – the indiscriminate “strategic” bombing of countless German cities

and the nukes dropped over Japan not excluded from the ranks of the Holocaust – were committed in an effort to keep the enemy at a distance, from gaining a foothold, from growing in strength, from coming closer. This – the capability for the combatant to obscure himself in distance, to be absent from his heinous act – is the basis and the essential truth of the UAV, as it was of the rocket, and of the bullet for that matter, and the sword even. Come to think of it, the first death (according to the Bible) was an act of fratricide, as all murder is, which was itself committed with an instrument: Cain struck Abel, his brother, with a rock. The instrument has always spared the murderer from having to touch the victim, to have to kill him with his own hands; it has served to keep the murderer at a distance from the murdered, and to perhaps erase the act’s memorial claim upon the agent after he has committed it. So that he might say “it was not I” and maybe even believe it himself. What such eventualities as the WikiLeaks release of the AWD’s  more or less offer are moments of clarity – windows into the heart of the inexplicable acts of modern warfare – that, above all, serve to collapse the distance.

Plus, Ahmadinejad just looks so good in an SS uniform…



Tags: , , , , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: