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In General Discussions
Eric WarMurals
Aug 16, 2021
Irony Alert: Fake Battlefields Give Paintballers an Unrealistic Vision of War There is no doubt the cratered and littered landscapes in Brett Van Ort‘s photographs are battlefields. Look closer, and you’ll see they are playgrounds as well. THERE IS NO doubt the cratered and littered landscapes in Brett Van Ort's photographs are battlefields. Look closer, and you'll see they are playgrounds as well. They are paintball arenas, meticulously crafted with fake bunkers, gutted tanks and even downed helicopters to resemble the battlefields of Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan for people who like to play at war. For his series Imaginary Battlefields, Van Ort traveled to London, Los Angeles, Dallas and others cities across the US to document these theaters of warfare, and to prompt a debate. He believes paintballing in faux battlefields is highly problematic. “I feel the correlation made between the fields and the foreign place-names allow stereotypes and misconceptions to solidify,” says Van Ort. “Misconceptions further exacerbate the xenophobic suspicions aimed at the people who live in the real [foreign] landscapes.” Even though construction of these "imaginary battlefields" is informed, somewhat ironically, by photographs of war zones, they are still poor imitations of the topology and environments after which they are named. “Existing images from conflict-zones influence the design and layout of these paintball landscapes,” he says. “They create a more complete façade. This masquerade trivializes warfare and disconnects the general public even further from the wars our volunteer armies face.” Van Ort came upon the subject almost accidentally. Before Imaginary Battlefields, he photographed Bosnian landscapes riddled with land mines. Afterward, while researching the capabilities of land mines to further inform his work, Van Ort learned about paintball mines that douse victims with an explosion of paint. The more he looked at paintball fields, the more Van Ort came to regard the ballistic pastime as a mirror of society. Not only does paintball reflect attitudes toward war, it reflects our attitudes to the environment. Usually, paintball fields lie on the outskirts of cities. Like malls and suburbs, they are established on cheap land. Van Ort sees the paintballing culture as resource-heavy and lacking critical awareness toward land-use issues. “Trenches are dug and fortifications are made. This leaves the mark of man’s hand on the Earth. Paintball fields reveal our interaction with nature.” On the evidence of one massive Southern Californian complex, nature is to be tamed. There, 14 playing fields “represent” 14 countries with which the US has been involved in conflict over the past 70 years. Van Ort wonders how this affects players’ world views and if, when they leave the field, they want to know more about the history of those places. “Or, will the Imaginary Kuwait,” posits Van Ort, “with a plywood palace that looms over a sandy ridge riddled with trenches, be the take-home image?” https://www.wired.com/2014/11/irony-alert-fake-battlefields-give-paintballers-unrealistic-vision-war/
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In War Murals
Eric WarMurals
Aug 09, 2021
Branding Terror. The Logotypes and Iconography of Insurgent Groups and Terrorist Organizations A book about the visual identity of some of the world’s main terrorist organizations wasn’t going to remain unnoticed. When it was published by MERRELL last year, every single design blog and magazine wrote about it. Yet, i only discovered the existence of Branding Terror last month, when i had a ridiculously great time at the Graphic Design Festival in Breda (NL.) In a similar way to what happens with consumer goods, the name, slogans, and visual codes of a terrorist group are not only key manifestations of its identity, they also contribute to the reach and influence of the organization. An anecdote that appears in Artur Beifuss’ introduction to the book illustrates the importance and impact of this visual communication. A few years ago, an Italian amateur ­league football club adopted for its players’ shirts the logo of the Lebanese terrorist group Hezbollah, changing its name to ‘Zassbollah’ (a combination of ‘Hezbollah’ and the name of the team’s captain, Luigi Zasso) in the process. The book is authored by graphic designer and creative director Francesco Trivini Bellini and by writer and (ex)counter-terrorism analyst Artur Beifuss. Which means that the publication is obviously carefully designed but also that the information about the history, imagery, attacks, ideologies and capabilities of each of the 65 organizations has been meticulously researched. The authors of the book are conscious that they are dealing with a delicate topic. They approached it in an almost clinical way while acknowledging the suffering of the victims of terrorism. In his foreword to the book, Steven Heller, a design writer and former Art Director at the New York Times, wrote: The extreme violence committed in the name of these logos makes writing about them in terms of aesthetics or production values seem silly and irrelevant. Yet these terrorist groups are all brands, and are given a certain viability through branding methods. Branding is a tool that has no conscience or morality – it can be used for good or bad, and sometimes for both in tandem.
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Porta Potty Art
In General Discussions
Eric WarMurals
Aug 09, 2021
Chuck Norris and Henry V in Port-a-Johns. With Armored Penguins. BY WESLEY MORGAN ALI AL-SALEM AIRBASE, Kuwait — Like many who have spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan, I have come to consider latrine graffiti as something of an art form — the only interesting entertainment to be found on many dismal patrol bases and outposts. Chuck When I seat myself in a latrine and find that some arm of the military powers-that-be — a local contractor, a junior officer, I don’t really know — have spray-painted over the crude art that I so enjoy, I feel a bit frustrated. What else, after all, am I supposed to read in the cubicle? What other character does a largely prefabricated combat outpost have? I first encountered latrine graffiti on my way north to Baghdad in the summer of 2007, at the Kuwaiti purgatory called Ali al-Salem Air Base. Odor aside, what I noticed was the vivid obscenity of the things scrawled there. Words were everywhere — poetry, rap, curses, illegible scribblings. Chuck2A signed portrait of Chuck Norris on the wall of a base in Mosul, Iraq But what the eye jumped to were the drawings: huge, extraordinarily explicit pornographic drawings. Fifteen-month tours in a war zone devoid of Internet pornography, it appeared, brought out the artist in many soldiers. Evidence, I suppose, that for all the millions of dollars spent on it, training cultural sensitivity to traditional Muslim mores into American servicemen of the YouTube generation is something of a Sisyphean task. From that first latrine stall on, I would make a point of looking carefully at what sorts of messages soldiers had scrawled in what sorts of places. Whole conversations develop on those walls next to the Hustleresque art, from the inscrutable to the heart-wrenching. Here and there, something stands out in my mind as so bizarre that I might almost have dreamed it. One was a drawing of penguins carrying rifles and clad in body armor. Another was this perfectly rendered passage from Henry V: Let me speak proudly: tell the constable, We are but warriors for the working day, Our gayness and our gilt are all besmirched With rainy marching in the painful field. There’s not a piece of feather in our host — Good argument, I hope, we will not fly — And time hath worn us into slovenry, but by the mass, our hearts are in the trim. … And my all-time favorite: THE NEW WORLD ORDER IS NEAR MARTIAL LAW FOOD RATIONS Middle Class Will Be Destroyed The illuminatie will kill you thru [OBSCENITY] Govt controlled poison immunizations [VULGARITY] THE BED! Some themes appear again and again in downrange port-a-johns. Two that I have often seen blended in graffiti form are unit pride and the American soldier’s abiding love for Chuck Norris. Invariably, if a soldier from one unit has left a message or insignia-themed image on latrine walls, a soldier from some other unit will have altered it. I have noticed more than once, for example, the phrase “If you ain’t cav, you ain’t [VULGARITY]…” appended with, “So if you are cav, you are [VULGARITY]…” When this blends with the ubiquitous Chuck Norris facts (e.g., Chuck Norris killed Zarqawi), the following effect appears: Chuck Norris was in 1-9 CAV!!!!! 2-69 Armor Bravo 3/7 E/52 Inf HOOAH Esprit de corps, bathroom style. Besides Chuck Norris and balloon-breasted women, perhaps the most common thread is the endless supply of obscenities and insults directed toward noncombat soldiers: square foot after square foot of latrine wall is taken up by vitriolic messages from infantrymen and cavalry troopers to the people they contemptuously term POGs (people other than grunts) or fobbits (denizens of F.O.B.’s, Forward Operating Bases). Of course, especially in these war zones, mortar rounds can fall equally on anyone — an airborne Ranger or a supply clerk. But, as in Normandy and Vietnam, in many minds the distinctions remain stark between those who seek a fight — infantrymen, cavalry troopers, advisers — and everyone else, for whom danger is real but not the objective. This thread is absent, though, from certain latrines: the ones on combat outposts, patrol bases and joint security stations, the tiny, besieged bastions that made up the Army’s forward line in Iraq at the height of the violence. The level of explicit pornographic content remained steady, but the sense of petty rage — over who was a fobbit and who a joe, for example — seemed to give way to a darker combination of anger and reflection over more serious matters. Even at Ali al-Salem, the safest base in theater, death left its signs. On their way to and from mid-tour leave, many soldiers draw memorials to comrades they lost in Baghdad or Baquba — and now, I’m sure, Kandahar or the Korangal. I saw one grim little memorial there that had been left untouched for a full year while all the obscenities, insults, and cartoonish depictions of sex around it had long since been painted over: It was the name of a sergeant, then “Ramadi, 08/2006, Never Forgotten.” Below this, in a different-colored pen, someone else had carefully written out a line of Scripture that I have since come to associate with combat soldiers. The verse, which I have now seen more than once in tattoo form, read: Then said the Lord, “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” Then said I, “Here am I, send me.”
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In War Murals
Eric WarMurals
Jul 09, 2021
Afghan Graffiti How a street art campaign in Kandahar City got under the Taliban's skin. “There is a lot of painting, but there has never been any spraying. Painting is for advertisements, but what I’ve learned over the last month is that spraying is not just an artistic medium, it’s a political medium.” As far as anyone can tell, the Kandahar graffiti campaign is the first of its kind in Afghanistan. The artists working on the project learned to paint by downloading YouTube tutorials and then taught other young artists in isolated and abandoned parking lots, away from the skeptical eyes of both the Taliban and the Afghan security forces. Though the project had the official nod of the government, the fear that working in the open would provoke Taliban retaliation or wear on the anxieties of the government forces who might nix a mural midway meant the artists had to work fast. But the Taliban soon took notice. When the Associated Press, Agence France-Presse, and local media began running photos of the murals to illustrate their election stories, Haidar Mohmand and the artists (whose identities must be protected for security reasons) began receiving cease and desist phone messages from local Taliban. “That’s how we are measuring our impact,” Haidar Mohmand told me. “In Kandahar, the Taliban isn’t threatening the IEC [Afghanistan’s Independent Electoral Commission, which has come under attack recently in Kabul] they are giving us phone calls because they know these kind of messages, especially in a place like Kandahar, can have an impact on getting people to the polls.” The response from the community has been overwhelmingly positive; evident in the way that motorists and pedestrians were slowing down to take a look as some of the 30 murals across town that we visited, and the instant crowd of 30 that formed when the artists took to the street to create the final two pieces in the week before the elections.
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Deployment Blogs
In General Discussions
Deployment Blogs
In General Discussions
Eric WarMurals
Jul 09, 2021
James Aalan Bernsen: Political, historical and cultural commentary from the halls of the Texas capitol to the sands of Iraq. From the perspective of someone who's seen and done it all. Graveyard of old T-Walls https://aalan94.blogspot.com/2008/06/graveyard-of-t-walls.html Among the most ubiquitous things on a U.S. base overseas are security barriers. They range from the lowly sandbag wall to the low, but more stout Jersey barrier to the massive T-Walls. They're used on our bases, out in town to protect Iraqi neighborhoods - everywhere. In fact, the concrete wall-building industry is one of the biggest industries in Iraq right now. Hesco barriers. A frame of wire and cardboard filled with sand. These are portable, easy to put up and you just add sand. They're better than nothing, but certainly not ideal. Over in a far corner of our base - so close to the edge that you can look over the wall into a Baghdad neighborhood - is a place where T-walls go to die. Or at least to wait. Most of the early T-walls are about five feet tall and built with long horizontal bases. These served lots of purposes, but they were far from perfect, and were less than ideal when it came to force protection - see my post on the rocket shrapnel that hit my trailer. The military decided, perhaps to the taxpayer's chagrin, but definitely to our relief, to build tall, vertical T-walls that reached up 12 feet or more. T-walls of the larger variety. These have become such iconic symbols of life in Iraq that generals give miniature replicas out as departing gifts to their subordinates. But though the trend is moving towards the larger T-walls replacing everything, there are still tons of other kinds around. Many folks have taken to decorating them. At the Baghdad International Airport, there's a row with a T-wall painted with the flag of each of the 50 states, and signed by soldiers from those states. Some of the drawings are crude, but most are elaborate and well-done. But, as I said, T-walls outlive their usefulness at some point. With the Hesco barriers, it's easy. You just dump the sand - which they do over on the golf driving range - and then send the barrier frame to be recycled. T-walls, however, are a different problem, hence the graveyard: It's not exactly China Lake, California and B-29s, but these desolate remnants to our military past will be a reminder long after we're gone of what it was like at the peak of the war. Walking to lunch one day, an Army captain friend of mine nodded to some of the barriers we passed on the way. "What do you think will happen to these things when we're gone," she asked. "I don't know. Maybe they can lay them on their sides and use them for road beds. Or for canals," I said, not too convincingly. The truth is, there probably isn't any good use for them other than making walls, and hopefully, Iraq will one day get to the point where walls aren't all that necessary anymore. Still, they're big, they're heavy, and there here, and they will likely still be here for generations - if not centuries. Kind of like the Marsten Mats I kept running across in France that were left over from D-Day, T-walls will endure long after the American military is gone.
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Good place to purchase mini souvenir T-Walls?
In General Discussions
Links to other deployment art & WarMural discussion found on the internet.
In War Murals
Eric WarMurals
Dec 08, 2020
THE MEMORIAL MAPPING PROJECT: TRANSNATIONAL 9/11 MEMORIALS Welcome to Memorial Mapping, a digital scholarship venture {via UNIVERSITY OF NOTRE DAME AMERICAN STUDIES] dedicated to geographically locating memorials around the world to learn about historical memory in an increasingly transnational world. By using Memorial Mapping, teachers and students can explore what, how, and why people make memorials in order to better understand their priorities, values, and identities. Critically thinking about memorials helps us to more accurately remember the past, to develop a more nuanced understanding of the present, and to move into the future as more informed global citizens. Memorial Mapping: Transnational 9/11 Memorials In particular, this pilot project, "Memorial Mapping: Transnational 9/11 Memorials," focuses on the numerous 9/11 memorials built outside of the United States. In all, citizens from 92 different countries were killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Accordingly, the global circulation of 9/11 memorials is unusual, as permanent commemorations of the tragedies of particular nations are typically confined to those nations. "Memorial Mapping: Transnational 9/11 Memorials" provides an interactive map and geographic database of these memorials’ locations, styles, subjects, dedication histories, and audiences. It is intended as an online digital archive available to all that coordinates data and considers the cultural and political determinants motivating such memorials.
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Deployment Blogs
In General Discussions
Eric WarMurals
Nov 12, 2020
Sleepless in Baghdad- Diyala: Hope at a High Cost War Dead Memorial - FOB Warhorse, Diyala Governorate, Iraq I was in Diyala this week at Forward Operating Base Warhorse. We were visiting agricultural development programs and got outside the wire on two days. I was struck by the number of Iraqi security forces (army and police) that I saw on the roads, in the towns, and near key infrastructure. At one point we were able to talk with Iraqi soldiers. One gets a sense that security is improving in Diyala Province. As the security improves, businessmen are coming back and starting to invest. I met a dynamic pair of brothers who have already connected to an American firm (in Alabama, no less) and are starting a very interesting poultry operation. There are other potential investments and while access to water remains a concern and a major constraint, it is hard not to be hopeful that maybe we are turning a corner. The brothers said they are going to develop their region with or without the government's support. I love to see that entrepenuerial fire and the determination that comes with it. I'd bet on the brothers making it. We will do our best to help them and others make their dream a reality. On the trip I began trying to read Ernesto "Che" Guevara's, "Guerrilla Warfare." I'll post my notes later but one passage is key to our approach here and in Afghanistan: "... the postive quality of guerrilla warfare is precisely that each one of the guerrilla fighters is ready to die, not to defend an ideal, but rather to convert it into a reality."  We have to have vision and fight to make that vision a reality. We aren't defending a regime or an economic system - we are fighting to ensure that our children have a better, more secure world. It's complicated and it's costly but as long as we are engaged we have to make sure that we have a national vision that supports and strengthens our effort. If that vision falters, then we need to get our kids out of harm's way. What I saw out here in one of the primary battlegrounds with Al Qaeda is solid progress - we have to help the Iraqis take advantage of this chance for the future. A safer world and one in which their vast oil resources don't end up being used to finance a war of attrition against us. It could happen anyway but we are doing the right things now. If we can do it here in Diyala, I believe we can do it anywhere.  Diyala was a highly contested area -- Al Qaeda in Iraq made the area a stronghold even going so far as to establish their shadow government here.  The fighting by our soldiers reached a high point during 2006 to 2007 with the 3 BCT 1 CD (Third Brigade Combat Team, First Cavalry Division), which served at FOB Warhorse from November 3, 2006 through November 27, 2007, taking over 100 killed (almost a third of all our losses here from 2003 to the present).  The map below shows the fight that took place in driving AQI out of their strongholds (the red areas were controlled by AQI) in 2006 to a very limited area by the end of 2007.  The AQI strategy showing in a panel on the slide below was one of encirclement of Baghdad by taking the outlying areas near the city and then moving into Baghdad itself. During my trip to  Diyala I stayed at FOB Warhorse.  While I was there I stopped by the memorial our American soldiers killed in action since 2003.  We have lost 315 soldiers since 2003 in Diyala Province. Since April 22, 2003, eight units have served at FOB Warhorse (from Right to Left on the Memorial): 2 BCT 4 ID (Second Brigade Combat Team, Fourth Infantry Division) - April 22, 2003 through March 18, 2004. This unit suffered 27 killed in action. 3 BCT 1 ID (Third Brigade Combat Team, First Infantry Division) - March 18, 2004 through February 21, 2006. This unit suffered 35 killed in action. 3BCT 3 ID (Third Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division - "Rock of the Marne") - January 9, 2005 through January 11, 2006. This unit suffered 34 killed in action. 3 BCT 4 ID (Third Brigade Combat Team, Fourth Infantry Division) - January 11, 2006 through November 3, 2006. This unit suffered 19 killed in action. 3 BCT 1 CD (Third Brigade Combat Team, First Cavalry Division) - November 3, 2006 through November 27, 2007. This unit suffered 104 killed in action. 4 SBCT 2 ID (Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Second Infantry Division) - April 12, 2007 through June 1, 2008. This unit suffered 54 killed in action. 2 CAV Regiment (Second Calvary Regiment) - 2008 - 2009. This unit suffered 32 killed in action. 1 / 25 SBCT (First Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry) - September 2008 - October 2009. This unit suffered 10 killed in action.'
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