Pragmatic, applied geography: Baghdad

Do your students ever ask why we bother to study geography? Consider these sources for a one-day exercise in geography, world history or U.S. history:

How U.S. forces took back Baghdad

al Quaeda map of Baghdad, used to take back Baghdad by U.S. forces

Geographic Travels with Catholicgauze alerts us to this interesting story of applied geography.

The map of Baghdad, above, was found in a raid on an al Quaeda house in the past year. It details the organization of al Quaeda, especially with regard to shipping guns, ammunition and explosives into Baghdad.

Armed with this knowledge, U.S. forces set about severing each of the cells from each other, separating the pieces of the snake to kill the beast.

Here is the New York Times story. (So much for wild claims that “mainstream media” do not cover such news.) Here is the Fox News story, with a link to a .pdf version of the map.

A map drawn by Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi — who was killed last year by U.S. forces — turned up last December in an Al Qaeda safe house and essentially gave U.S. war planners insight into the terrorist group’s methods for moving explosives, fighters and money into Baghdad.

“The map essentially laid out how Al Qaeda controlled Baghdad. And they did it through four belts that surrounded the city, and these belts controlled access to the city for reinforcements and weapons and money,” said Maj. Gen. Bob Scales, a FOX News contributor who recently visited Iraq.

That’s what geographic knowledge can do. It can be the difference between peace and war, the difference between life and death.

2 Responses to Pragmatic, applied geography: Baghdad

  1. Onkel Bob says:

    I’m in graduate studies and we use the API on Google maps to create maps describing any number of situations. One favorite of mine is to use it to map McDonalds vs Burger King locations (or other fast food establishments) and guess – determine a locations viability and profit potential based on proximity to schools, highways, or other potential customers. In doing so students see how these restaurants cluster together.
    The best part is students learn multiple subjects in addition to geography – computer science, statistics, and business being just a few. If a students interest is in the sciences these can be incorporated too – map the presence of trees or shrubs, dinosaur finds, and so forth.
    Finally, there’s a huge amount of resources available for these endeavors. Just like Linux geeks, many people make their tools freely available for others to use and modify as they need. So you don’t need to start out being a Javascript programmer, you just end up as one.


  2. Crudely Wrott says:

    The ability to step back and view a wider picture is one of the very neat features of mind. To be able to examine the immediate surroundings and relate them to a larger context is useful in uncountable ways.

    If you find your self lost, with a map you can find yourself.
    If you want to find something in an unfamiliar place, a map can point the way and confirm your progress.
    If you want to understand the distribution of any sort of human endeavor or affliction, their is a map to show you.
    If you can’t agree with your neighbor about who should mow where, well, there’s a map that can help.

    There are maps of polio cases, fire damage, tidal zones, billboard density, broadcast station coverage, STDs, VIPs, crime, parks; you name it, there’s a map that shows it. In the rare case that there isn’t, you can make your own.

    Maps. Everyone should know about them.

    I like maps so much that I can, on occasion, draw a map of the lower forty-eight states that is not only recognizable, but pretty convincing too, in about five minutes. A piddling accomplishment until I observe how few others can. I wonder if they know where they are.


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