Wednesday, October 31, 2007

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Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, demanded Tuesday that State Department officials appear on Friday to answer questions about the immunity grants. Congress should also begin investigating growing evidence of an overly cozy relationship between the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and Blackwater. It appears that the bureau hired the contractors, supervised their activities, allowed them to use deadly force, began to investigate the long-simmering allegations of excessive use of force only after the outcry over the September shootings, and then promised some contractors immunity without asking permission from the Justice Department. This behavior is more disturbing given reports that Blackwater has hired former State Department officials at high salaries, raising questions about whether the "revolving door" presented a conflict of interest for investigators. Certainly Blackwater seems to have unwarranted influence in Washington, as evidenced by the letter it procured from the State Department ordering it not to disclose information to Waxman's committee. Who's in charge here, the U.S. government or Blackwater?

The above is from "Justice in Iraq" (Los Angeles Times editorial) and the key is the question: "Who's in charge here, the U.S. government or Blackwater?" The question can be carried over to explain the entire last seven years and possibly should include the second question: "Are there any adults in government?" John M. Broder and David Johnston's "U.S. Military Will Oversee Contrators" (New York Times) notes the immunity offered Blackwater by the State Department for the mercenaries September slaughter of Iraqi civilians in Blacwater and quotes US House Rep Jan Schakowsky declaring of the State Department, "It feels like they're protecting Blackwater." Indeed. From the article:

A Justice Department spokesman, Dean Boyd, said in a statement that Blackwater employees could be prosecuted despite the immunity deals, which were not authorized by federal prosecutors. He said that neither the Justice Department nor the Federal Bureau of Investigation could discuss the case, but said "any suggestion that the Blackwater employees in question have been given immunity from federal criminal prosecution is inaccurate."

The reporters note that the move to the Defense Department does not mean an end of conflicts since "the Defense Department has had its own difficulties controlling its nearly 130,000 contractors, who handle a variety of jobs including interrogations of prisoners and transportion of fuel and ammunition."

Alissa J. Rubin's "Iraq Cabinet Votes to End Security Firms'Immunity" (New York Times) notes the bill that would lift the Paul Bremer granted immunity for mercenaries operating in Iraq and that the measure "was written by the legal adviser to" puppet of the occupation, Nouri al-Maliki. Rubin also notes yesterday's deaths of 3 US service members from a roadside bomb.

James Glanz' "In Report to Congress, Oversight Officials Say Iraqi Rebuilding Falls Short of Goals" traces the waste of Iraqi and US monies. It fails -- in covering electricity -- to note that the small purported improvement also includes electricity from where? Who's been providing the country with electricity? Turkey and threatening to cut that contribution off. On Joseph A. Christoff ("director of international affairs and trade at the Government Accountability Office"):

For example, Pentagon statistics indicated that a drop in violence in Iraq over the past several months "was primarily due to a decrease in attacks against coalition forces," Mr. Christoff said in written remarks to a subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

Turning to Monty -- always desperate to be noticed. David Price's "Pilfered Scholarship Devastates General Petraeus's Counterinsurgency Manual" (CounterPunch) certainly gives little Monty some attention. But remembering how Monty had a meltdown once as a young girl, it should be noted she's never handled negative attention well. Which probably means she shouldn't pose as an academic while ripping off the work of others and not attributing entire passages copied from others. From Price's article:

Last year, the anthropologist Roberto Gonzalez determined that anthropologists Montgomery McFate and David Kilcullen authored sections of the Manual and contributed to new Iraq counterinsurgency programs, relying on embedded military ethnographers in "Human Terrain System" teams, using anthropologists to assist troops making judgments in the field, employing cultural knowledge as a weapon of "pacification." Drs. McFate and Kilcullen have become media darlings. Kilcullen took on warrior-anthropologist status in last year's uncritical New Yorker profile by George Packer; profiles of McFate in the New Yorker, the S.F. Chronicle Magazine, and More (a glossy women's magazine "celebrating women 40+") sculpt images of Kilcullen and McFate as heroic soldier-thinkers, uncompromisingly harnessing knowledge for the state's agenda. This media campaign provides McFate with frequent opportunities to characterize her critics publicly (as she recently did in the Wall Street Journal) as having no ideas about the military beyond "waving a big sign outside the Pentagon saying, 'you suck.'" While such outbursts make Dr. McFate seem like a character right out of Team America, the military and intelligence community takes her and her work very seriously.
Montgomery McFate holds a Harvard law degree and a Yale anthropology Ph.D. and has worked for various organizations linked to U.S. military and intelligence agencies, including RAND, the Office of Naval Intelligence, and the Institute for Defense Analysis' Joint Advanced Warfighting Program. She is currently the U.S. Army's Human Terrain System's Senior Social Science Adviser. McFate's current role as Senior Social Science Adviser for the Human Terrain program demonstrates how the military is implementing the Manual's approach to the use of culture as a battlefield weapon. Human Terrain Teams are now embedding anthropologists with troops operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some Human Terrain anthropologists have publicly identified themselves (the anthropologist Marcus Griffin even writes a blog on limited elements of Human Terrain work while working in Iraq), while others do not disclose their identity. Human Terrain anthropologists use ethnographic knowledge to advise and inform troops in the field while traveling with armed escorts and are, in some instances, themselves armed and wearing uniforms, yet McFate maintains that these anthropologists are in compliance with basic anthropological ethical standards, mandating that participants in research projects participate under conditions of voluntary informed consent.
In a recent exchange with Dr. McFate, Col. John Agoglia and Lt. Col. Edward Villacres on the Diane Rehm Show, I pressed McFate for an explanation of how voluntary ethical informed consent was produced in environments dominated by weapons. In response, McFate assured me that was not a problem because "indigenous local people out in rural Afghanistan are smart, and they can draw a distinction between a lethal unit of the U.S. military and a non-lethal unit." It also remains unclear how Human Terrain Teams comply with basic ethical standards, mandating that their research does not result in harm coming to the individuals they study as a result of their work.
Human Terrain research gathers data that help inform what Assistant Undersecretary of Defense John Wilcox recently described as the military's "need to map Human Terrain across the Kill Chain". The disclosure that anthropologists are producing knowledge for those directing the "kill chain" raises serious questions about the state of anthropology.

Price demolishes any claim Monty might think she has to be considered a 'scholar' or an 'academic' by demonstrating her shoddy methods (theft). (Monty better hope that no one asks the question: "How far back does this go?") It's an amazing piece by Price and one that should garner huge attention. Once more from the article:

In this sense, Montgomery McFate's selective use of anthropology -- which ignores anthropological critiques of colonialism, power, militarization, hegemony, warfare, cultural domination and globalization -- provides the military with just the sort of support, rather than illumination, that they seek. In large part, what the military wants from anthropology is to offer basic courses in local manners so that they can get on with the job of conquest. The fact that military anthropologists appear disengaged from questioning conquest exposes the fundamental problem with military anthropology.
I'm sure that Chapter Three's authors had no idea the Manual would receive such public scrutiny; and that notions of University of Chicago Press distribution were not on the horizon when these identified passages were lifted. It remains unclear how these unattributed passages entered the Manual. If the Army or the Chicago Press care about scholarship, they will conduct an investigation and make public their findings. There's plenty of blame to go around. It would be simple to blame Gen. Petraeus and the University of Chicago Press for running such a sloppy operation, but Montgomery McFate's areas of expertise are those consistently coinciding with the chapter's pilfered passages. I have such high respect for Jon Nagl's academic work and sense of propriety that I cannot imagine his knowing involvement in such sloppy work, but his name, as a significant element in the public face of this project, is sullied. These commandeered passages make curious McFate's insistence that "it is the nature of knowledge to escape the bonds of its creator; to believe otherwise is to persist in a supreme naivety about the nature of knowledge production and distribution." We are left to wonder how much unattributed "escaped" knowledge appears in classified documents, now sequestered beyond the public's view.

Network of Concerned Anthropologists is an group of anthropologists attempting to stop the betrayal of the field.

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