Logistics of the Encounter, Discourses of Precision, and Military Detention in the Persian Gulf War

Annual Conference for the Association of American Geographers, 2015

Session Title: Logistics and Power

In this paper, I explore the ways that US military discourses of precision war intersected with the logistics of war prison construction, supply, and management to shape the landscape of violence in the Persian Gulf War. The logistics of wartime detention are crafted during a war’s planning stages, and rely heavily on preemptively mapped expectations and imagined resource distribution structures, transportation systems, and waste streams. These spatial imaginaries ultimately affect the choice of sites for camps and establish the supply chains for their construction, staffing, and continued operation. Much of this relies on predictions about how a particular military strategy will be deployed and the number of detainees it will produce, their overall health and caloric requirements, and their cultural practices. During Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, many of these logistical decisions were underpinned by the extensive use of discourses of precision warfare. The power of these discourses—premised as they were on the concept of surgical warfare choreographed from a safe distance—assured that the capture of prisoners of war remained outside of initial logistical imaginaries. As a result, the situation behind the frontlines told a story not of precision guided missiles and a revolution in military affairs, but of spatial and administrative confusion that had an adverse effect on operations at the front. In this paper, then, I investigate the ways that the logistics of capturing interfered with the logistics of killing.