Adam Fisher: When the wars come home — or, what’s behind a new $90 million fake city?

Last modified: Wednesday, February 19, 2014

NORTHAMPTON — I once read a wonderful latter-day fairy tale in which a man refused to go outside because he was convinced there was an alligator in the front yard that would eat him.

His friends did what they could to convince him otherwise — after all, when they looked out the window, they didn’t see any alligator. His friends talked and talked and urged and urged. They were loving and concerned. Finally, the man was convinced.

He went outside ... and the alligator ate him.

On Jan. 24, the U.S. Army’s Asymmetric Warfare Group cut the ribbon on a $90.1 million, 300-acre fake city at Fort A.P. Hill in Virginia. The site is about 60 miles south of Washington. The city contains a fake bank, soccer stadium, underground subway station with subway cars, train station with real train cars, an embassy and a mosque, according to the U.S. Army’s website.

The objective is to address possible — or, given the financial commitment, perhaps probable — combat in urban areas.

Some of the onlookers at the ribbon-cutting noticed that the new fake structures bore no resemblance to Baghdad or Kabul or anywhere else that the U.S. has lately been prosecuting its military adventures. Instead, it resembled a kind of Anywhere, USA, and it was hard not to speculate that in the future, the military might be forced to take up arms against its own citizens.

This speculation might be dismissed like the alligator in the front yard, except for a quietly mounting body of evidence.

A July 25, 2012, article in “Small Wars Journal” provided this overview of the problem: “If we face a period of persistent global conflict as outlined in successive National Security Strategy documents, then Army officers are professionally obligated to consider the conduct of operations on U.S. soil.

Army capstone and operating concepts must provide guidance concerning how the Army will conduct the range of operations required to defend the republic at home. In this paper, we posit a scenario in which a group of political reactionaries take over a strategically positioned town and have the tacit support of not only local law enforcement but also state government officials, right up to the governor.”

OK, it’s just speculation. A $90.1 million fake city is chump change in the Pentagon’s budget. Flag, mom, apple pie and mounting profits suggest the alligator is a figment of an overactive imagination. Or is it?

The 2012 article, like the fake city at Fort A.P. Hill, no doubt took a cue from a 2006 Army Military Police training manual which outlines responses to civil unrest both inside and outside the continental United States.

The manual states that “during operations to restore order, military forces may present a show of force, establish roadblocks, break up crowds, employ crowd control agents, patrol, serve as security forces or reserves and perform other operations as required.”

The internment and “re-education” of “dissidents” are addressed, as is the use of deadly force: “No warning shots will be fired.” Elsewhere, in a variety of settings, a Navy SEAL warned that the Obama administration was quietly asking top military brass if they would be comfortable disarming American citizens; Christians, tea party supporters and anti-abortion activists have been portrayed as a “radical terrorist threat”; and the Department of Homeland Security has suggested “liberty lovers” were domestic extremists.

Let me make it plain: I dislike paranoid, nut-job conspiracy theorists — the ones who come up with righteous yowls based on cherry-picked and sloppily applied information.

I dislike the tendency in others and I dislike it in myself. But Fort A.P. Hill is not exactly Area 51 (where all the aliens are stored, right?). It’s a $90.1 million reality as are the documents cited above. All the sweet reasoning in the world, all the patriotic explanations in the world, cannot dissuade the thoughts:

• Americans killing or applying police-state force to other Americans?

• “Democracy” turned on its head for “patriotic” reasons?

• $90.1 million in taxpayer money spent to keep taxpayers in line?

Given the economic disparities of these times, it’s hard not to ask, “If this is the direction the country is heading in, who benefits?” The country? Its citizens?

This is not a movie like “V for Vendetta.” This is not some made-up alligator.

Fort A.P. Hill and the thoughts that fueled it may be out of sight and out of mind by the time the next news cycle rolls around, but that doesn’t change the reality of the alligator.

Adam Fisher lives in Northampton. His column will appear on the third Wednesday of the month.


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