TEHRAN, Iran (Reuters)—U.S. special forces dart through Iran’s underground nuclear facilities, gunning down any hapless Iranians standing between them and centrifuges that must be blown to bits.
Much to Tehran’s relief, this crack team exists only in a new U.S. computer game. But even these animated saboteurs are too close for comfort, downloadable into Iranian living rooms at the click of a mouse.
What could I do? I went over to Kuma Games to check it out. And, by golly, they do have a free downloadable war game—a First Person Shooter—based on the Iraq/Afghanistan War, with a side-trip to Iran.
The game’s trailer plays pounding music and starkly asks: “Diplomacy has failed … Is nothing to be done?”. U.S. troops then strafe a car, leap out of helicopters and prowl around menacingly before blowing things up.
Web site www.persianpetition.com, a forum for Persian speakers in Iran and abroad, posted a notice asking Kuma to withdraw the game on October 12. Since then it has got more than 5,000 signatures.
“We must make the Americans understand that Iran is different from Iraq and Afghanistan, where they just did what they wanted,” the petition read.
Well, maybe. I didn’t notice any pounding music, or anyone leaping from helicopters or strafing cars … which would be sort of counterproductive if you were trying to be stealthy anyway. Instead, the Raid on Iran scenario starts with you and three companions on the ground inside the Iranian compound, at night.
Overall the game system looks very much like the Doom/Quake 3D engine, with Middle East cityscapes in place of Phobos Station and realistic guys in kaffiyehs toting AK-47s, rather than cartoony demons tossing fireballs. The gameplay is identical (right down to the exact keyboard shortcuts) to other first person shooters like Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault. No worries about women, children, or bicycle repairmen on their way to work: Everything that moves is an enemy. You shoot them down at your maximum range. All cars are car bombs. Blow them up before they blow you up.
“Americans have a deep craving for an attack against Iran, but they are going to have to settle for this make-believe assault,” wrote the Kayhan daily, whose editor is appointed directly by Iran’s Supreme Leader.
In the Training Scenario, the first thing you do is sneak up and shoot a guy in the back while he’s guarding a vehicle. He has a beard and is wearing one of those Afghani felt hats. “Congratulations!” I thought when I saw that. “You’ve just blown away one member of the small but tenacious local Christian community. He was guarding that truck for his brother, the plumber. Now the brother’s ticked off—and he was previously pro-American. He has access to lots of threaded pipe. A friend of his cousin knows where to get explosives. His father-in-law is an electrician, and can rig a simple firing circuit. When your patrol gets greased by a pipe bomb two weeks from now, you’ll know the reason why.”
The particular game that’s giving Iran fits is last month’s scenario. Let’s take a look at it:
Kuma\War’s playable mission offers you the most plausible scenario to delaying or destroying Iran’s nuclear arms capabilities. As a Special Forces soldier, you infiltrate the facility at Natanz. But it won’t be easy. You’ve got a man on the inside, a scientist you need to rescue or he’ll surely be killed after the raid. Breech the perimeter and secure the evidence. Beat back the security forces and destroy the centrifuges. Never before has so much hung in the balance; never have we been so close to preventing world tragedy.
Two years ago, Iran’s 18-year secret affair with nuclear technology was exposed to the world. As details continue to emerge of black market nuclear equipment shipments from other rogue states, information technology transfers, and massive secret underground facilities, International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors are scrambling to keep up with Iran’s rapid progress. And the world waits anxiously.
Iran makes no secret of its nuclear ambitions, but claims their goal is peaceful civilian nuclear power—an endeavor that may seem superfluous in an oil-rich state, but well within their rights as a sovereign nation to pursue. Just this week, the head of Iran’s nuclear energy program announced its plan to enrich nearly 40 tons of raw uranium—a necessary step in developing nuclear power for the country. But many on the world stage call this a transparent sham: The state of Iraq’s reactors shouldn’t require uranium conversion for another decade.
If the goal is, as they suggest, becoming Islam’s first nuclear state, there’s no time like the present. With the U.S.’s gulf forces firmly entrenched elsewhere—137,000 troops in Iraq; another 10,000 in Afghanistan—Iran may consider this the perfect time to initiate its longstanding plan to launch a nuclear weapons program.
Given the alarmingly advanced state of Iran’s nuclear program, the US military might well consider an all-out assault against Iran’s nuclear installations. But preemptive strikes carry grave repercussions: Iran’s retaliation options includ a devastating disruption of oil shipments from the Persian Gulf, attacks on US Naval installations throughout the Middle East, and, perhaps most frightening of all, summon their terrorist allies in widespread factions like Hezbollah to initiate vicious terrorist attacks against Americans on every continent.
The stakes are high—still, Iran’s nuclear means and shadowy intentions cannot be ignored. The War on Terror is not about retribution for the attacks of 9/11 or taking out dictators who brutalize the innocent. It’s about keeping weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of the rogue states and non-state organizations most likely to use them…and the risk here couldn’t be clearer.
While the European states doggedly pursue a diplomatic solution, President Bush has declared “all options are on the table” With the possibility of military action looming, Kuma\War has compiled what our experts believe to be an extremely plausible scenario for delaying or destroying Iran’s nuclear arms capabilities without kick-starting World War III.
As a Special Forces soldier in this playable mission, you will infiltrate Iran’s nuclear facility at Natanz, high in the mountains. But breaching the security cordon around the hardened target won’t be easy. Your team’s mission: Infiltrate the base, secure evidence of illegal uranium enrichment, rescue your man on the inside, and destroy the centrifuges that promise to take Iran into the nuclear age. Never before has so much hung in the balance… millions of lives, and the very future of democracy could be at stake.
Well, aside from a couple of errors of fact: Iran won’t be Islam’s first nuclear power. That would be Pakistan. I can’t think of a single country that isn’t, or shouldn’t be, working on alternative energy sources. One could argue that Iran, more than anyone, has a pretty good handle on when their oil reserves will run out. The baseline assumption that any development of nuclear power must mean nuclear weapons is poorly supported (despite Bush’s wishful thinking), and the question of whether the US has the right to send troops to any country, any time, on any pretext, to shoot the place up, hasn’t been answered in the affirmative.
You want another, even more plausible, scenario? Your troopers make it into the secret underground base and discover that there isn’t a centrifuge, that there isn’t any weapons-grade uranium, that the Secret Defector Scientist was fibbing … and after that they’re all captured to stand trial in downtown Tehran.
Ah well! As a player of this game, you don’t have to worry your head about that. All you have to do is mow down scores of Iranian troops. Anyone who’s spent as much time as I have playing Tomb Raider won’t have any problem completing the mission.
First objective: Find the centrifuge. Okay, you do that (its exact location is helpfully marked on the map — Laura Croft never had it so easy). You’re rewarded by being told that you now have a sample of weapons-grade uranium. Next objective pops up: Find and kill all the Iranian scientists. Fortunately their barracks is nearby. So you do that, even though they’re unarmed civilians. There are some Iranian troopers scattered in the mix to keep it interesting. You’re rewarded by being given Iran’s Secret War Plans (even though that would be a silly place for ‘em to keep such plans).
Next task: Blow up the centrifuge. So back you go, and weirdly you can’t blow up the centrifuge by pumping 40mm grenades into it. You expend all the 40mm grenades on hand. Did anyone think to bring along any C4? No, I thought you packed it! You knew we were going to have to blow up a centrifuge and no one brought any C4? What kind of chickenshit outfit is this? No C4. Oh well. But! Happy thing, just a few rifle rounds makes the centrifuge blow up. Task complete!
New objective: Rescue the Defector Scientist. Oops — you just killed all the scientists. Wouldn’t rescuing the guy first have been a better idea? No worries, he’s in a different location. Maybe he knew the raid was coming. Weren’t any of those other scientists his friends? How about the new kid, the mathematician who made such good coffee and always had a kind word and a joke? Hey, Ali, why don’t you go downtown tonight for ice cream? You aren’t listening, Ali: You want to go downtown tonight for ice cream—and don’t hurry back. Just do it, okay? Anyway—Defector Scientist is rescued. Hurrah! Go us!
Next objective: Get to the extraction point. No problem, since the Iranians still haven’t noticed that there’s a raid going on and haven’t organized any sort of decent defense, and the Defector Scientist you’re bringing along is invisible. Weirdly, no matter how you try, you can’t shoot out the streetlights on poles. Get to the extraction point, game over, you win! You get a nice blurb on how Iran will never be a threat to peace and democracy now, no sir, you betcha.
This is someone’s propaganda arm; that seems clear. From the fact that Kuma gets retired US generals to do video commentary, we can make some guesses as to whose propaganda it is.
Here’s a Kuma Games press release, and here’s their video about their game version of John Kerry’s Silver Star, which they produced in time for the elections. Astute watchers of TV commercials will be able to tell which side they come down on.
Brief commentary on this month’s mission scenario: “The Crime of Dujay: Saddam’s Revenge.” Our mission, should we choose to accept it, is to assassinate Saddam Hussein. Here’s the description:
In the restive village of Dujayl, Iraq, the villagers are encouraged by Shiite preachers to rise against Saddam Hussein, the country’s dictator and the man responsible for invading neighboring Shiite Iran. But these were simple villagers, not a militant force. What attack could they possibly wage against the most powerful, well defended man in Iraq? Something simple, yet effective: an ambush.
Al-Dujayl, Iraq—July 8, 1982: Under orders from President Saddam Hussein, Iraq is in the midst of invading Iran. The conflict leaves Iraqi Shia towns like Dujayl on edge, and soon, preachers call upon the restive villagers to carry out a homemade Islamic revolution. In a perfect storm of opportunity and rebellion, Saddam comes to town—and the townspeople attack.
From the palm groves that line the path of the presidential convoy, 19 villagers ambush Saddam’s motorcade. But the revolutionists target the wrong vehicle. The failed assassination attempt leaves 8 bodyguards dead and Saddam Hussein unscathed, but unimaginably vengeful.
Saddam faces trial October 19th for orchestrating the horrific events that follow. The Iraqi president sends his bodyguards back to Dujayl, where 15 people are killed immediately, and within days, 143 villagers are publicly executed in show trials. 1,500 residents are arrested and imprisoned for years, and the remainder of Dujayl’s populace simply vanishes.
For Saddam Hussein, the Dujayl massacres kick-start a series of ruthless strikes against his own people. In the following year alone, 8,000 Iraqi Kurds will be executed on Saddam’s command.
What would it be like to go back in time to 1982, to have the opportunity to change history forever? In Kuma\War’s playable mission, you experience Dujayl as a thriving town on the brink of revolution. As a young Iraqi villager, it’s up to you to execute a deadly ambush for Saddam Hussein.
If only for a moment, turn back the hands of time by stopping a ruthless killer in his tracks. The future of Dujayl—the very future of Iraq—hinges on how well your ambush is executed. Keep your eye on the target and stay well concealed. This is your opportunity, if only for a moment, to save the Middle East from the decades of sorrow that come to bear under the reign of Saddam Hussein.
So I played this one. First of all, in the game, it’s just me. My first question is, Where the Fuck are the other 18 guys I’m supposed to have on my team?
Second, I’m dropped in while the action is in progress, not the night before to do planning and go for position.
Third, there are bounds on the game so I can’t go for position while the action is in progress. (Second floor of that building across the street to the north looks pretty good; it would yield defilade fire on the entire caravan.)
If I’m a young Iraqi with a burning hatred of Saddam and an AK-47, and I suddenly find myself all alone in a palm grove with no clear shot while Saddam and his Republican Guard are already passing by … I say “Bugger all this for a lark,” go home, and wait for a better opportunity.
If I’m running an ambush, I want: Two guys with RPGs. A command-detonated claymore or two. A high observation point. Camouflaged and concealed firing positions in two locations at right angles to each other, at a place where I can get a crossfire going. Better if it’s somewhere folks will have to slow down (road curve or intersection).
Pop the lead and trail cars with the RPGs, pop the claymores when the security people come boiling out, then turn to with the riflemen to take down the rest of the folks in the killing zone.
Command and control from a mile away.
How to survive an ambush:
If you find you’re in an ambush anyway:
Here’s how to win that game scenario:
Run as fast as you can to the north edge of the map, then work your way east to the road using cover and concealment. That way all the fire is coming from one direction.
Work your way back south along the road to the center of the map, crawling from tree to tree, shooting down the guards as you go and collecting their ammunition.
Saddam will have helpfully parked his car in the center of the map to wait for you. When you get near he’ll leap from his car and run north up the road, toward you. Shoot him. You win.
Before I go, I think I’ll talk about one more Kuma game scenario: “Escape from Asadabad”
As the lone survivor of a group of Navy SEALs, you’ve been trained to survive in the wilderness, but it takes tremendous tenacity to evade the Taliban forces that have murdered your team mates. A long, unforgiving course will lead you to the safety of a friendly village, where you can be rescued by US forces.
This refers to the events in Afghanistan last June. I’m sure you recall it — a helicopter was shot down.
So there I am, playing this game, first person as this SEAL, and the very first objective in the game is I’m required to find and kill all the members of a Taliban mortar team.
And I’m instantly “Da fuck?!” because I’m in a survival/evasion/resistance/escape situation. If I’m evading, I’m going to avoid all contact with the enemy. There’s one of me. There’s hundreds of them. My goal is to get back to friendly lines.
If I start shooting up mortar teams, what have I done? First, I’ve informed the bad guys that I’m alive. Second, I’ve told them exactly where I am. Third, I’ve told them when I was there. Not only that, but I’ve pissed ‘em off enough that they’ll put some real effort into finding me. (There’s a difference between “Sweep the area to see if there’s anyone else,” and “There’s someone else—sweep the area.”) What kind of buffoonery is this?
The CNN story says:
Other Kuma games have been criticized in the United States for their realistic portrayal of current events, including recent battles.
Realistic, my ass.
A guy in an evasion situation attacking folks? That’s about as realistic as a fifteen-foot pink dinosaur shopping at Macy’s. The thing is, in the blurb for that scenario, they go on and on about how highly trained in survival SEALs are. Well, I took that same course, and y’know what? No one said a thing about how great a plan it would be to go sniping at mortar teams if you happen to see one on your way out of town.
Regardless of whether running around Iran blowing away Iranian troopers is a good thing to do, the evasion that they show will get people who try it killed. You make contact with the enemy and the first thing that’ll happen is some guy with a big map and a radio is going to start laying down concentric circles on that map—and you, chum, are going to be dead center of that target.