Rene -- Journalisms -- Interview with Trevor Paglen -- The Black World of the Military -- 08.15.05 -- 02.09.05
Rene -- Journalisms -- Interview with Trevor Paglen -- The Black World of the Military -- 08.15.05
Rene: Before we officially begin the interview, I thought it may be good to begin with some of your key research findings.
Trevor: Ok, here’s the super-condensed version of what my basic findings are so far:
1) The military has a whole “shadow” infrastructure composed of what are usually called “Special Access Programs.” Special Access Programs are set up in such a way that their very existence is usually classified; they are programs that “don’t exist.” The amount of money dedicated to these sorts of programs is astronomical, probably around $30 billion annually.
2) That these kinds of military expenditures do not happen in a vacuum; they entail producing some bizarre forms of space. “Black budget” military spending is far more pervasive than I had ever imagined – money (and thereby certain forms of space) extend from remote “secret bases” in the desert to downtown high-rises, and from “things that go bump in the night” on military land to the most innocuous corners in the halls of the academia. The “black world” is truly global. Furthermore, “black world” spending is not an obscure “special case” of militarism: the infrastructures dedicated to it and the land it occupies achieve the scale of cities in the first instance, and small countries in the second.
3) The military is far more capable than I would have imagined at keeping secrets. To give you an example, I’ve been able to figure out that between 6 and 11 still-classified airplanes have been built in the last twenty years. There is almost no direct, publicly available evidence for the existence of a single one. The amount of money and people that you need to build a single airplane is absolutely enormous.
4) The socio-economic relationships and bureaucratic capacities developed in order to perform classified research, development, procurement, and testing have become increasingly generalized throughout the state. The Department of the Treasury, for example, has taken on far more characteristics of the National Reconnaissance Office than vice versa.
5) The “black world” of classified spending is not only a socio-political regime, but an ecological one as well. With the introduction of strange chemicals and other materials to the landscape, classified military programs become a source of ecological mutation. The forms of these mutations are themselves classified, but they have often meant death (this is a very long discussion). Like capitalism, “black world” spending has a particular metabolic relationship to nature and to the land.
6) The “black world” is a highly racialized landscape, whose reproduction presupposes the practical “non-existence” of certain groups of people. In the US itself, this usually means Native American communities. Moreover, the “black world” of domestic militarism mirrors the “black worlds” traditionally associated with empire: the American Frontier, the Belgian Congo, the Mekong Delta, the West Bank, and so forth.