“Urban Warrior”, the Marine Corps wargame in which 6,000 Marines will practice invading Oakland and Alameda March 15-18, followed by an exposition of military hardware and ships at Jack London Square March 19-21, is an incredibly insidious exercise in militarism and US corporate global domination. Using Harrier jets, helicopters, hovercraft, humvees, armored personnel carriers and firing thousands of rounds of blank ammunition, the wargame is ostensibly designed to test the Marines ability to fight in an “urban” context.
Marine Corps commanders reason that as globalization and US corporate domination concentrate billions of poor people world-wide into dense urban areas, the Marines have to be prepared to put down the inevitable rebellions that will develop. A 1997 press release from the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL), which is organizing the Oakland invasion, notes that by 2020, 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities and that the “many areas will have scarce resources . . . As populations grow and resources shrink even further, the chances for conflict will naturally grow. . . Tactics and doctrine must be refined and modified . . . to meet the challenges of future urban warfare.”
According to Lt. Gen. John Rhodes, commander of the US Marine Corps Combat Development Command at Quantico, Virginia, which hosts the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory, “there is a good chance we are going to fight in the urban environment, whether it’s skyscrapers, a slum or urban sprawl. . . [F]uture Marines will fight in the air, in buildings, on the streets and in subways or sewers – simultaneously.”
The Marines have been the premiere arm of US imperialism for over 200 years, conducting over 400 invasions or military interventions. Most of these have been to protect US corporate interests and property, and almost all have been against third-world poor people fighting for freedom from US economic domination.
Of even more concern for domestic activists are Marine claims that Urban Warrior will practice “counter-terrorist” tactics. These may secretly be for use on US soil. During Urban Warrior, the Marines will test “non-lethal” riot control gear and in other wargames over the last two years, the Marines have tested drones that can drop smoke or pepper spray for crowd control.
In similar war games taking place in Monterey on March 13, local students will play “urban terrorists.” “We will eliminate the terrorist threat and we will simulate the release of biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction, in this case something like anthrax, although it will actually just be water,” said Marine Lieutenant Colonel Gary Schenkel.
It doesn’t take much stretch of the imagination to realize that crowd control and “counter-terrorism” tactics designed for overseas urban areas are also highly useful to suppress political dissent or riots here at home. Perhaps it is no accident that Urban Warrior will be conducted in Oakland, where grinding poverty make future riots likely. Similar urban wargames conducted by the Marine Warfighting Lab over the last two years have been in Chicago, New York, Charleston, NC and Jacksonville, FL, all cities with large poor and non-white populations.
As to training to fight “terrorism”, one side’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. Earth First! and other non-violent groups in the US have been termed “terrorist” by right-wing bureaucrats and corporations threatened by protests.
Whether the Marines are training to suppress people’s movements overseas or at home, the Marines serve a single master: US corporate capitalism. The military and the government, observing the growing problems of global poverty and urban desperation, are more interested in learning how to kill the urban masses than feed them, because US corporate interests require global urban poverty to more effectively extract cheap labor for overseas production.
Even putting aside the geo-political implications of a well-trained Marine Corps fighting “insurgents” in “dense urban neighborhoods”, Urban Warrior is terrible for the City of Oakland. In a city ravaged with street violence, the wargame teaches the “government approved” way to solve problems. As one anti-Marine flyer put it “A Marine invasion, guns ablazing, is a poor example for communities like ours struggling to rid themselves of violence.”
The military exercise and the exposition at Jack London Square following it appear designed as a propaganda blitz in favor of bloated military budgets. Further, at a time when the military services are having difficulty meeting their quotas with voluntarily recruiting, the wargames are designed to attract disadvantaged Oaklanders into the services.
Oakland Mayor Jerry Brown and Alameda Mayor Ralph Appazzetto have welcomed the Marines with open arms (and without any public notice, discussion or democratic process), “drooling at the Marines’ bizarre promise to spend $4.5 million on shopping while they are here” according to one flyer. Each of the 6,000 Marines would have to spend $750 during their brief stay in Oakland to drop $4.5 million on the local economy, which seems unlikely given that they won’t have to pay for lodging or food.
Given the massive annual flow of money from Oakland to Washington to fund the $300 billion plus military budget, maybe Mayor Brown should try fighting to reduce useless military expenditures so a few crumbs can be sent to Oakland, not blindly supporting the 900 pound gorilla. One of the few ways a Marine might spend $750 in 4 days is on prostitution, which brings to mind Mayor Brown and his rationale for supporting “Urban Warrior”.
Oakland residents have already held one protest against the wargames, and others are planned. Some creative souls have suggested huge toddler birthday parties on the beach prior to the invasion, or topless swimming to distract the marines as they come ashore. Another idea is to assist the marines in their simulated urban warfare by creating massive traffic jams around the exercises, such as those that would surely result from any invasion. One action group plans to confront Mayor Brown at all of his public appearances and drown out his public addresses with a recording of The Marine Hymn. Other creative ideas are of course welcome during the occupation.
What You Can Do
Contact the Ad Hoc Coalition to Stop the Urban Warriors at 510-654-5628 or the Coalition Against Urban Warfare at 510-834-2630 for more information. Protests against Urban Warrior are scheduled for March 15 from 8 a.m. – noon to protest the landing of the Marines. Another protest is scheduled from Noon-3 p.m. at Jack London Square to protest the exposition of military hardware there that will follow the wargames.