Thursday, December 03, 2009

I Hate The War

Released by an ethics commission at the American Anthropological Association meeting in Philadelphia, the "Final Report on The Army's Human Terrain System Proof of Concept Program," looks at a controversial program embedding 5-person teams of social scientists with soldiers since 2005. Three HTS researchers have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, adding to debate over the effort.

The above is from Dan Vergano's "Army anthropology program in Iraq criticized" (USA Today) while Yudhijit Bhattacharjee (Science Magazine) quotes the chair of the panel, Robert Albro, stating, "Human terrain teams in the field cannot in any reasonable sense of the word be carrying out anthropological field work." It should be the big story but rather it will be or not, I have no idea. We covered it in the snapshot today and that led to the usual counter-insurgency trash (including Monty herself using a sock puppet she seems unaware most people long ago grapsed was her) showing up at the public e-mail account to insist that (a) counter-insurgency is needed and (b) it saves lives.

What is that, b, what is that? "Lobotomy gets 'em home!" Is that what you're basing the science on? (In Frances, starring Jessica Lange, the doctors brag of their barbaric lobatomies and insist that these procedures "gets 'em home" and out of the institution.)

There are a lot of ways you can save lives -- if you prepared to act in an unethical and/or illegal manner. You can, for example, shoot every suspect dead. That might result in a drop in crime -- as long as you didn't count the murder of suspects as the crime it is.

There are no ethics in the world of counter-insurgency cheerleaders. You sort of, for example, picture Thomas E. Ricks rising off the nude, bound body of a gagged woman woman and saying, "I did you a favor." Extreme? I don't think so. But then I remember the past. And I remember how counter-insurgency was (rightly) seen in an earlier time. It is an attempt to colonize a people, it is a war against the native people. And they are misusing social sciences, they are degrading them and their behaviors are completely unethical. The fact that the bulk of them -- such as Ricks -- have no background or training in the social science is no excuse.

Counter-insurgency is supported by many fools because it "works." There is no proof that it works and, historically, any benefits it has had have been short-term ones. It violates ethical codes and that doesn't "work." Any time you have a field of study and you encourage and reward the violation of ethics, you're asking for future problems. An ethical code exists not as something to aspire to but as the bare minimum that all professional must maintain. When you attack the bare minimum, when you toss it out, you're opening the door for many other serious abuses to take place.

Let's not give the trash all the space. There were a number of e-mails from people who were just learning of counter-insurgency today and that's wonderful because that demonstrates that the counter-insurgency cheerleaders do not have the hold on the American people that they wish they did. For those wishing to find out more on the topic, David Price has written on this topic repeatedly and you can find more on the topic and on his work at the Network of Concerned Anthropologists. And that's just for starters.

Some noted that I mentioned Price's "Human Terrain Systems, Anthropologists and the War in Afghanistan" (CounterPunch) in an early morning entry today and wondered if I knew the panel was releasing their report today? Yes. I was on the phone with a friend who reminded me of that when I said something to the effect of, "I need to link to Price's piece." The reply was, "Well do it now, remember the study comes out today." And, by the way, you can also use that link, go to CounterPunch and search "David Price" and find other of his articles on this topic. (Or you can Google "David Price" and "CounterPunch" to find other articles.)

A visitor who has written repeatedly over the last three months asking about the snapshots wrote again and says someone answering his last e-mail said I'd probably write about the snapshots at some point on a Thursday night "but you still haven't." I don't know that I got the message. I may have. On Thursday nights, I'm just trying to type something up so I can go to sleep.

But I will cover it briefly and use today's snapshot as the reference. The snapshots are dictated. Often, they're dicated in one phone call, but not always. Today, as I left a hearing this morning, I dictated a lenthy section on that hearing. Some of it made it into the snapshot. Some didn't.

I'm dictating in one cell phone and speaking in another (often with other calls waiting on Kat or Ava or Wally's cell phone). The idea that I've got it in my head (the snapshot) when I start dictating is wrong. I'm counting on friends to tell me they saw this or their own outlet has that. And I'm including all of that and it goes very quickly stopping only if I'm confused or see a different angle than what's being offered. At which point, I'll say, "Stop. Walk me through this because I'm confused."

Now that may mean a friend at ___ has something domestic here in the US and I'll go ahead and dictate that then. The next call might be something in Iraq and I'll dictate that there. Near the end of the calls, the snapshot has shaped up into something on its own and it's time to reassemble it.

That's why it's done in e-mail. It's every easy to shift things around.

The hearing, for example, is now at the end. I said something to the effect of, "Drop the hearing after the last . . ." and I said take out this and that. Among the removed portions was the actual exchange which I'd dictated in full but we did not have room for it anymore. So it had to be dropped. If you read that section, you'll see one sentence I forgot to ask be pulled and you may think, "Wait this isn't opening the snapshot." It's not. Originally, the plan was for it to open the snapshot even though it had nothing to do with Iraq.

In that same section, there's a word that's the wrong tense or something. There are grammarians e-mailing on that tonight. I may have said the wrong word, the wrong word may have been heard, or I may have said, "That sentence with [. . .], pull out the section on [. . .] right in the middle." I'm not looking when I'm editing. So that can effect it as well. Some people I dictate to do spell checks. Some do not. I don't do a spell check on the morning entries when I type them up. It is what it is and I'm tired of being online. But even if I weren't tired -- and please understand, if I'm typing up an entry I'm juggling two or three phones trying to find out what's going on in Iraq as I write those entries -- I wouldn't do a spell check. It is what it is. There are many wonderful Goldie stories but my favorite Goldie Hawn story is when she's acting in Seems Like Old Times. She's finished playing Judy in Private Benjamin. But Goldie wasn't just the actress in that movie, she was also the producer. And while the film's done shooting, her job as producer continues. Some problem arises on Private Benjamin. She dictates a memo which is typed up and handed to her to sign on the set of Seems Like Old Times. She places it down on the table in front of her and signs it. Everyone laughs and she has no idea why until she sees the tomato sauce on the back of the memo. She sat it down on a plate of food. She looks at it, calculates the time it will take to type up another memo, shrugs, wipes off as much of the sauce as she can and sends the memo on to Warner Bros. I love Goldie anyway, she's a great person, but that's the reality of what you have to do if you're doing a number of things. It is what it is. Is it perfect? No. But I'm not perfect and neither is life. So we do as much as we can and we accept that everything will not be perfect.

Today, at the end of the snapshot, we have a ton of things I've been trying to work in all week. Some made it and had to be edited out because the snapshot was too long. But we got in as much as we could today and as much as we could stand. Could stand? It's pushing it if the e-mail is 90K. It works best at 80K. After it hits 90 or above, there's a chance it will not 'hit' this website when it's e-mailed to it. That's why there are sometimes two or three or more Iraq snapshots up here on one day. They didn't hit, so they were sent again. And all of those? They were in the right K size. But if it goes over X it won't hit.

Why is that a problem? If it's e-mailed, all the other community sites (which re-post the snapshot) can just copy and paste it in and not have to worry about spacing. If I dictate it and the person I'm dictating it to does a post in Blogger, the whole snapshot runs together, no paragraph breaks, no breaks at all. So that's why the snapshot is always done by e-mail. (It started out that way by accident because one friend wasn't comfortable with Blogger/Blogspot. So he would e-mail the snapshot. When we heard how much easier it was to just copy and paste, we just made the snapshot an e-mail.)

On corrections, they do not appear in the snapshot. They go into the first snapshot after I'm aware of a problem. Why? If I go in and correct it, I've messed it up. Meaning, anyone trying to copy and paste is not going to have the parargraph breaks and it's all going to run together when they try to paste it in at their site. So since it is dictated, we treat it like a radio show, meaning it's already out there. We can't take it back from your ears. But in the next one, we can note a correction if there needs to be one.

Do I not know that I missed ___ and/or ___ today/yesterday/last week/last month . . .? It's called a "snapshot." It's not the "Iraq Encylopedia." We miss many, many things because I miss many, many things. We also ignore some things because I don't think they're that important or as important as something else that's happening that day.

The last two weeks, I would've liked for us to have had time for the oil issue. But the Iraq Inquiry is going on in London and not getting real attention outside of the British press. So I can't walk away from that. There's another inquiry that's been going on that we've had to skip because there's just not time and space.

Today, along with cutting out the exchange from the US Congressional hearing, we had to cut out a lot of excerpts from the Iraq Inquiry that I wanted to include. We did not cut out the Australia section though it was considered for a cut. But we have a number of community members in Australia and Australia was mentioned for the first time, the remarks in the Inquiry were kind of catty and rude and we needed to include that catty and rude excerpt. But other parts had to be cut. The section on the American Anthropological Association's report was much, much longer as dictated but we had to cut that down as well. Some things that do get a few lines or even a paragraph, some topics, end up pulled due to the snapshot being too long.

What's the right size? I would like it no more than 50K and have repeatedly promised here that it would be that from now on because I don't want to spend the time on longer. And that's last for about a day or two and then someone's telling me on the phone, "Oh, you have to include ___. Do you know how long we worked on this report? You have to include ___." And I include it, and then there's another have to include, and then there's another. And pretty soon we're back up to 70K and then 80K and then 90K.

Some things that get cut pop up later. A hearing that I attended today might, might, be able to fit in tomorrow's snapshot. I doubt it though. (This hearing was on veterans.)

But there's always more than enough which goes to the vistor's original question of why do we do the snapshot. In 2006, we started it because it was asked for. And then I made the point that I didn't have time to do two different things that the community wanted and stated they needed to decide which they preferred and then that's what we'd do. They voted on the Iraq snapshot and they voted on it because Iraq was falling off the radar. It's continued to fall off the radar but so far I've never had a day where the problem was, "There's nothing to put in the snapshot today!" There's always more than enough.

It's over, I'm done writing songs about love
There's a war going on
So I'm holding my gun with a strap and a glove
And I'm writing a song about war
And it goes
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Na na na na na na na
I hate the war
Oh oh oh oh
-- "I Hate The War" (written by Greg Goldberg, on The Ballet's Mattachine!)

Last Thursday, ICCC's number of US troops killed in Iraq since the start of the illegal war was 4363. Tonight? 4367.

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