Friday, August 04, 2006

Series in Critical Security 4

The previous post, SCS 3, outlines a recurrent topic in my research, the role of borders in globalilzation, governing through security, and identity formation. I really only have this one case study (i.e. American Southwest & Iraq) to go from, but I am continually finding new sources that sorrowfully reaffirm my hunches that something meaningful is circulating between these two places creating influences on how security policy is both made and implemented.

What inspired the paper, which lead to the previous post, was a video I found on Google Video. The video shows a slideshow set to a Kid Rock song, which at the end turns suddenly violent and switches to video clips of destruction, violence, and combat. The author of the video is a BORTAC (SWAT Unit) agent of La Migra sent on contract from the DHS to serve the DoD in Iraq on one of the many border security missions. Notice the iconography of desert patrols mixed with American periphenalia - very a la frontera. There are some important messages here about who BORTAC agents believe themselves to be: authors of violence and destruction, deliverer of law and order, and models of hyper-masculine heterosexual patriotism(contains graphic scenes). Go to video HERE.

[see comments section for more about this video]

US Border Patrol missions to Iraq are a small portion of Operation Steel Curtain, a tactical operation designed to gain control over the Iraq/Syria border region. Steel Curtain is still a larger part of Operation Hunter, designed to control the whole Anbar region. One could continue this scaling excercise to bringing Hunter into Operation Iraqi Freedom, the War on Terror, U.S. imperialism, and right back to Huntington's domestic/international racial hierarchy of civil-military relations (SCS 2).

Here you'll find a series of links to an official military news site HERE, a blog entry with first- and second-hand accounts of Operation Steel Curtain HERE, and a home video by a Marine from the 2nd Battalion, 1st Marines of the 81st Platoon HERE (contains graphic scenes) (try to pay attention to the lyrics of the soundtrack). My intent, is to offer a the multi-dimensional perspective on this "event."

I believe this layered and dimensional perspective is important to see and recognize becasue these "voices" are all contributing to the formation of security discourse. What is particularly interesting about the home videos from both the BORTAC agent and the US Marine is that they provide a glimpse into the interpretations, representations, and explanations that they tell to themselves and each other about thier experience. These are immensely important if we are to understand "what" the agents and soldiers are bringing back to la frontera with them from the Middle East. As the author of the Marines home video states on his website,

"From Cali to Falluja, San Diego Naval Station to the Syrian Border, 2/1 has been around the block."

The following links go to other videos. Someday this will turn into a real research paper comparing the discourse and rhetoric of these home videos and how they speak to the state-terrorism of border policing and the fascade of "national security."

  • Unofficial US Border Patrol Recruitment Video HERE (must have Windows Media Player)
  • US Marines 2/1: Operations Steel Curtain & Iron Fist HERE (contains graphic scenes)
Does anyone know if there are laws governing the taping or photographing of military missions while on duty? I seem to remember something about that. Well, after all, doesn't the military want to keep control over what images the public sees?


Blogger csperez said...

this is incredible! how'd you get all these posts up so quickly!

this might be a great series for the first issue of achiote...what do you think?


1:11 PM  
Blogger csperez said...

i almost forgot, wanted to say that i want to plug your blog on my next post if that's alright?

1:11 PM  
Blogger Jason Chang said...

Plug away my friend. Have fun in SD!

11:36 AM  
Blogger Seth Harwood said...

Hey jason,

Thanks for listening to the first podcast and commenting. Glad you liked it!! Hope you're still listening/checking in.

Like what I see here. Will read more.


7:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Chang

The video was not created by a BORTAC member as you stated, nor do we see ourselves in that light. You should look more closely at the images on the video. Your opinion is respected, but misguided.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Jason Chang said...

Mr. or Ms. Anonymous,
Thank you for finding this blog in the great wide web. I have been dying to talk with someone who knows more about this video. It is so interesting to me.
As for the author, I hoped that you could illuminate whose work this is so that I can understand thier perspective more.
I have gone through this video so many times I've almost memorized the lyrics to the song. In anycase, it seems that the visual queues found in the video are misleading or that I just simply don't know what I'm looking at. The later is probably the most true.
Please help me to understand some of the following things.
Title:"bortac OFO, BST iraq TDY"
what do these abbreviations mean?
Second, it is difficult to make out the left arm badges on most of the members of the team. What is this badge?
The photos from the port of entry, clearly show US Border Patrol badges on the team members? are these folks not border patrol? if so what unit and what is thier mission in Iraq? Are these regular field agents from USBP?
Also saw some uniforms with CBP written on them. Are these members from the Bureau of Customs and Border Enforcement?

Most of all, I hope that you return to INTER-FACE to continue this conversation. Please help me to understand how you view my perspective as misguided. I am more interested in telling an accurate story composed of the diversity of voices which constitute the situation, than I am about smearing the gov't.

5:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

OFO- Office of Field Operations
BST- British Summer Time?
TDY- Temporary Duty
BORTAC- is Border Patrol Tactical Unit. Those are certainly the guys you saw alongside the Marines. I dunno what the author of this article has against them considering that all they are doing is patroling a border and seizing weapons and money that is probably funding terrorism.

4:30 PM  

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