GIS and the War in Iraq: Embedded with the Troops

By Joe Francica

The one lesson we have learned from the war in Iraq is that spatial data is both ubiquitous and invisible.A conundrum? Not quite.But you've seen the flood of spatial information used throughout the media coverage: Earthviewer technology integrated with DigitalGlobe imagery has combined to give media talking heads the "bird's-eye view of downtown Baghdad.TV and newspaper reports are laced with battle plan maps. Oh, and then, the most famous map of all...Geraldo Rivera's "hand-drawn" map of the existing coalition force's position, clearly in violation of embedded media guidelines, and once again showing us why FOX Network has the reputation of a sleazy tabloid.

Baghdad - Before the Bombs - March 7, 2003 - Downtown (right) & Airport (left)
(Courtesy of ImageLinks & DigitalGlobe)

How invisible? Well, just don't peek too close inside the nose cone of a cruise missile for the GPS receiver, or the general's tent as he surveys the real-time battle taking shape on his laptop GIS.It's there...you'll just never hear about...yet.Oh, indeed, GIS in ruggedized laptops and workstations are there in full force.For battle management, weather, troop deployment, flight ops, and much more.

Yes, ubiquitous and yet some, at least by reading some of the Direction's Magazine Discussion Lists, you might think, would have you bemoaning the lack of the recognition afforded to "GIS" technology, or at least the mere mention of the acronym.OK, let's get over it.You'll never hear "GIS" mentioned by Peter Jennings or Wolf Blitzer, or Christiane Amanpour.That's fine...so long as its used.We see the maps, we see the satellite data.Unfortunately our "geocentric" view of the world would have us wanting some booming "Darth-Vaderish" voice proclaiming "THIS IS GIS."

I think we would all love some recognition of our profession, but let's not get hung up on it.We are doing our jobs, advancing the use and utility of a great tool.And whether on the front page or the web page no one sees, spatial information and technology has shown how invaluable a resource it has become, especially in wartime.And in this war, GIS is "embedded" with the troops.

Published Tuesday, April 8th, 2003

Written by Joe Francica



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