Writing in the Glasgow Herald, Alastair Mabbott argues that Stephen Graham's Cities Under Siege has "the potential to be an agit-prop classic," but laments the fact that it is not geared towards a more "general" audience. Linking Graham's discussion of the way that "'military dreams of high-tech omniscience' have lodged firmly in the civilian sphere," to the recent crack down on the Occupy movement, Mabbott writes that, "there couldn't have been a more timely moment for publication."
In a considered response to Graham's book, Mabbott advises us not to, "rush to the window to see what's changed" outside, as we are "unlikely to spot the difference straight away": our cities are gradually transforming, being "reshaped for military convenience." The tactics learned in Iraq and Afghanistan have come full circle and are now being applied to cities at home. Mabbott points out that, "after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the US Army talked of reclaiming New Orleans from 'insurgents.'" He goes on to elucidate Grahams "dystopian vision," suggesting that,
If Orwell's vision of a boot stamping on a human face sounded too melodramatic a vision of the future for you, then try to imagine the city you live in functioning like an airport, an image of all-too-convincing banality.
On reading Stephen Graham's Cities Under Siege, Nicholas Lezard is gripped with an uneasy fear about the spread of military strategies from warzones to domestic cities in the US and Europe. The fact the book is well referenced and the author "knows whereof he speaks ... has the facts at his fingertips, and he is able to make connections" only makes matters worse, as he explains in his review for the Guardian.
The combination of mainstream US politicians' contempt for cosmopolitan populations, increased urban surveillance and the generalisation of Israel's strategies against Gaza—described by Graham as "a mere ‘terrorist infrastructure’ to be destroyed in toto”—raise for Lezard a terrifying spectre of militarised dystopian state so real that "you begin to wonder whether books like this will be allowed to be published for much longer."
The prospect of this nascent potential cityscape of political violence, "the kind of society whose aim is to monitor and control every single inhabitant", far from scaremongering is already underway:
Look, you're just going to have to read this book. Because what's happening in Baghdad and other contested or occupied cities - not just the surveillance, but the militarisation too - is going to happen here. In some cases it already is, or there are in place contingency plans for it, should serious trouble arise.
Visit the Guardian to read the review in full.
An excellent review of Stephen Graham's Cities Under Siege in the October edition of Red Pepper:
The Pentagon's vision of the city is made up of many different components, from Christian fundamentalism, cyberpunk fantasies of urban breakdown and a right-wing aversion to the cosmopolitanism of the modern city to a generalised 'othering' of the Arab world ...
All these tendencies are dissected by Graham in sharp, lucid and elegant prose. Whether analysing the dystopian implications of military robotics, deconstructing orientalist fantasies in the mock 'Arab' cities constructed by the US and Israeli armies, or analysing the phenomenon of "ubiquitous borders," Graham is consistently insightful and compelling. He has produced an indispensable analysis of the dark fantasies that the military imagination is seeking to realise in the coming century.
Visit Red Pepper to read the full article.