Border forts

It’s interesting how news about the war in Iraq dribbles out. Today’s local paper has a front-page story about a James Vandenberg, a Little Rock architect who serves in the Civil Engineering Corps, U.S. Navy Reserve Seabees. He recently spent 10 months in the Al Anbar region of Iraq. Here’s the part of the story that makes me wonder what in the heck is going on over there:

He and his team worked to build 32 Beau Geste-style forts, with rounded corner towers and a center courtyard, along 550 miles of the border between Al Anbar, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

I don’t know much about what it takes to manage artificial borders, but 32 forts certainly doesn’t sound much like a temporary occupation to me. Are we trying to keep people in or out? Do we have similar numbers of “forts” (interesting how we don’t call them that here in the US unless they’re quaint relics from our Indian-killing days) along our California and Arizona borders with Mexico (approx. 500 miles)?

Apparently the forts are quite easy to destroy — many were destroyed with landmines during construction. Vandenberg said there were about 320 such forts throughout Iraq’s border areas. Why? Is that common for all countries in that region? Did we destroy the ones that were already there, or is this new construction?

Vandenberg’s team also built a hospital, which I think is a good thing. Unfortunately, it was built to replace one destroyed by “Allies” during the war (because “Iraqis had taken over the hospital and were using it as an intelligence center”). Isn’t it amazing how there is never unjustified collateral damage? It’s always because “Iraqis had taken over” (who else?) or because of Syrian infiltrators or because the country is “infested” with insurgents. Kinda like when Israel continues to kill an apparently endless supply of “top Hamas leaders” (must be more chiefs than Indians in that tribe!)…

Photograph of Dhafeer Fort near the Liwa oasis by Michael Wing, Feb 24, 2011. or or

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