GIS and the Art of War

The hypothesis of MO in the Intro GIS course:

Since we talked in class about GIS as a tool for war, I thought that it would be good to find an application about one of the most controversial wars, the war in Afghanistan. This war implicated the U.S. alone. We know that the Pentagon bought the commercial rights of the images of Afghanistan that can be distributed since 9/11, so we might think of a reason for that: maybe stopping the terrorism is not their ultimate goal. Maybe they target a more ‘in-depth’ objective.

This article explains the technologies, such as maps, sensors and aircrafts, used to cover the country of Afghanistan. The introduction is particularly interesting since I pose a hypothesis of hidden truth as a motive for the U.S. to engage in a war in Afghanistan. The primary source of images for the US to map the Afghanistan are optical satellites, such as the French SPOT, the Indian IRS, the European ERS-2 and the Canadian Radarsat. The advantage of these last two is that they can operate under all weather conditions, as well as during the day or night. Two of the Lacrosse satellites that belong to the U.S. were operational before September 11, 2001. One of these satellite has a resolution of 1 to 2 meters per pixel. Some satellites are comparable to the Hubble telescope in terms of targeting specific points at a very high resolution. This might be considered ‘defective’ because the satellites can observe an area for only 10 to 15 minutes a day. A solution to this problem is the use of aircraft, which can observe a specific area through clouds for a longer period of time. Furthermore, these aircraft, at any altitudes, cannot be reached by Taliban weapons. The most effective of these technologies is the U-2 aircraft, which operates with electro-optical (EO) and infrared (IR) imagers and can exchange data in real time with the ground stations.

In this selection from the National Geographic, there are examples of the type of maps the US created on Afghanistan. You can select different views among the cities and attacks, the satellite view, the northern alliance, Taliban and refugees, the ethnic groups and the drought and vegetation. It appears that the US authorities know everything about Afghanistan. With their high surveillance technology, they can observe whomever they want, whenever they want. They know the behaviour of people, they know where the supposed “terrorists” are, they know where the civilians are and they know what those people do each single day of their life. I presume they can even spy these people on their telephone lines. As we can see, the Afghan community is completely checked and watched. The US has the absolute power over them. This power is the ultimate goal of the war in Afghanistan because it is the key to give the US the freedom of their political and especially economical actions, without any restrictions, over this country.

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