Monday, December 28, 2009

Iraq snapshot

Monday, December 28, 2009.  Chaos and violence continue, US veterans continue to wait for their GI Bill benefits check, pretty much All Things Media Big & Small stay silent on counter-insurgency (much to their lasting and historical shame) and rumbles of discontent with Nouri emerge in the Shia communities. 
For the second weekend in a row, James Cameron's Avatar was the number one film at the box office. Bob Strauss (San Jose Mercury News) reports it took an estimated $75 million in ticket sales (North America) over the weekend and BBC notes it's total box office take (in North America only) so far is $212 million "and could be on its way to grossing more than $1 b[illion] (625.6 million pounds) worldwide."  Cameron's last film was Titanic which grossed more than $1.8 billion at the box office.  I know James and he more than deserves a plug but we open with that because it is Iraq related.  David Price is with Network of Concerned Anthropologists. Last week, he observed:
Fans of Avatar are understandably being moved by the story's romantic anthropological message favoring the rights of people to not have their culture weaponized against them by would be foreign conquerors, occupiers and betrayers. It is worth noting some of the obvious the parallels between these elements in this virtual film world, and those found in our world of real bullets and anthropologists in Iraq and Afghanistan.             
Since 2007, the occupying U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan have deployed Human Terrain Teams (HTT), complete with HTT "social scientists" using anthropological-ish methods and theories to ease the conquest and occupation of these lands. HTT has no avatared-humans; just supposed "social scientists" who embed with battalions working to reduce friction so that the military can get on with its mission without interference from local populations. For most anthropologists these HTT programs are an outrageous abuse of anthropology, and earlier this month a lengthy report by a commission of the American Anthropological Association (of which I was a member and report co-author) concluded that the Human Terrain program crossed all sorts of ethical, political and methodological lines, finding that:    
"when ethnographic investigation is determined by military missions, not subject to external review, where data collection occurs in the context of war, integrated into the goals of counterinsurgency, and in a potentially coercive environment -- all characteristic factors of the HTT concept and its application -- it can no longer be considered a legitimate professional exercise of anthropology."
The American Anthropological Association's executive board found Human Terrain to be a "mistaken form of anthropology". But even with these harsh findings, the Obama administration's call for increased counterinsurgency will increase demands for such non-anthropological uses of ethnography for pacification.    
Dropping back to the December 3rd snapshot:
The American Anthropological Association's annual meeting started yesterday in Philadelphia and continues through Sunday.  Today the association's Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with the US Security and Intelligence Communities issued their [PDF format] "Final Report on The Army's Human Terrain System Proof of Concept Program."  The 74-page report is a blow to War Criminals and their cheerleaders who have long thought that the social science could be abused or that the social sciences were pseudo sciences. 
Only a small number of outlets have covered the AAA's findings.  First up were  Patricia Cohen (New York Times), Dan Vergano (USA Today), Yudhijit Bhattacharjee (Science Magazine) and Steve Kolowich (Inside HigherEd). Another wave followed which included Tom A. Peter (Christian Science Monitor) reporting, "Today the program enjoys a core of supporters, but it's done little to address the concerns of anthropologists and, now, rising military complaints that the program has slowed the growth of the military's ability to train culturally sensitive warriors." Christopher Shay (Time magazine) added:
Two years ago, the AAA condemned the HTS program, but this month's 72-page report goes into much greater detail about the potential for the military to misuse information that social scientists gather; some anthropologists involved in the report say it's already happening. David Price, a professor of anthropology at St. Martins University in Washington and one of the co-authors of the AAA report, says the army appears to be using the anthropological information to better target the enemy, which, if true, would be a gross violation of the anthropological code. One Human Terrain anthropologist told the Dallas Morning News that she wasn't worried if the information she provided was used to kill or capture an insurgent. "The reality is there are people out there who are looking for bad guys to kill," she said. "I'd rather they did not operate in a vacuum." Price and other critics see this as proof that the anthropologists don't have full control over the information they gather and that commanders can use it to kill. "The real fault with Human Terrain is that it doesn't even try to protect the people being studied," says Price. "I don't think it's accidental that [the Pentagon] didn't come up with ethical guidelines."
Anthropologically informed counterinsurgency efforts like the Human Terrain program are fundamentally flawed for several reasons. One measure of the extent that these programs come to understand and empathize with the culture and motivations of the people they study might be the occurrence of militarized ethnographers "going native" in ways parallel to the plot of Avatar. If Human Terrain Teams employed anthropologists who came to live with and freely interact with and empathize with occupied populations, I suppose you would eventually find some rogue anthropologists standing up to their masters in the field. But so far mostly what we find with the Human Terrain "social scientists" is a revolving cadre of well paid misfits with marginal training in the social sciences who do not understand or reject normative anthropological notions of research ethics, who rotate out and come home with misgivings about the program and what they accomplished.
Now you might think National Public Radio, so fond of being seeing erudite (they wish), would be all over the study from a leading organization of social scientists.  You would be wrong.  It's not that counter-insurgency isn't discussed NPR, it is, it's just that they only do so to promote it.  (Ava and I wrote about that earlier this month.)  Similarly, the foundation grant heavy (bloated?) Democracy Now! has never taken on counter-insurgency.  It's refused to do so.  We've been covering it repeatedly in this community while Goody's been all over psychologists and blah blah.  But never alarmed by this.  You need to grasp that.
There's a lot of money being made in and off counter-insurgency.  And there are a lot of people who will not speak the truth.  You need to grasp that it's a bastardization of a science and you need to grasp that when such a thing happens, when science is used to attack a native people and a society is silent, you have the next Nazi Germany.  That's not hyperbole.  This has been going on throughout the decade and who will call it out.  Tom Hayden will do so as an aside approximately every 15 months or so.  That's still more than any of his peers.  Davy D of KPFA can't cover it because his hero Samantha Power is a counter-insurgency pusher.  She blurbed the manual with praise.  And what you're seeing is a left incapable of standing up to the war pushers, a left incapable of calling out the disgusting Sarah Sewall -- who may very well be the modern day Josef Mengele -- and a foundation backed attack on native people.  You've got the idiot Thomas E. Ricks -- an expert on nothing -- who can't stop going ga-ga over counter-insurgency (make he's sure he's called out the War Crimes trials, in fact make sure he's tried).  So much so that 'reporter' Thomas E. Ricks attacks the Vice President of the United States today.  Dumb ass Thomas E. Ricks wants to take on Joe Biden and wants to start false rumors (no, Joe Biden has not fallen asleep in meetings -- Thomas E. Ricks is LYING) because Joe Biden won't sign on 100% to Tommy Ricks' beloved war crimes. 
These aren't just 'fact-finding' missions (for the military), these are experiments carried out in the field.  And these expermients can result in death.  No social scientist should be in bed with the military.  Anyone who thinks otherwise is completely stupid (Thomas E. Ricks) or completely unethical (Monty McFate).  And we started covering it, honestly, because I know the liar Monty McFate and she was shooting off her mouth (with lies as always) to the idiot George Packer (who never learned to fact check).  That's why it landed on our radar December 20, 2006.  We have now been covering it for over three years.  And where's our 'brave' 'independent' media?
Two years ago, David Price was part of a panel (with pro-counter-insurgency advocates Monty McFate, Col John Agoglia and Lt. Col. Edward Villacres -- a three-to-one imbalance) on The Diane Rehm Show (see the October 11, 2007 snapshot for a transcript of some of the exchanges).  Search in vain for serious explorations of this issue.  Now everyone can bore you to death demonizing Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann -- and no one's ever supposed to notice that the same sexism Barack unleashed among 'progressives' in 2008 continues to run wild and trample on equality -- but you can't deal with the things that really matter.  If it were you or your child being 'studied' by the occupiers so that they could enslave you, it damn well would matter to you.  But it happens 'over there' and as long as 'over there' doesn't show up on your TV screens, it appears everyone's not wanting to rock the boat or risk offending Harvard or, yes, the "the Kennedy School of Government".  And while America's salivates over another round of "Bash the Bitch" (it's amazing how often that game is played), don't for one damn minute think anyone's being informed.
Amy Goodman won't call it out, she's too wrapped up in War Hawk Sammy Power.  Remember?  Remember her interview with Sammy?  Best if you caught it on WBAI because WBAI was in fundraising mode and there was Amy raving over her while trying to get people to call in and 'support independent media.'  Amy was raving that Samantha Power "'might be the next Secretary of State" and, growing more excited in her pitch, qualifiers fell away and you were left thinking not only would Power be Secretary of State, if Barack won the general election, but Samantha Power was right up there with Mother Teresa, maybe even ahead of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, to hear Amy rave on air.  You can't take those moments back and those moments -- and Goodman's silence on counter-insurgency -- are very telling.
This refusal to question the counter-insurgency movement is a undemocratic refusal and it's completely against the norms of an open society.  But that's what's taking place in the United State right now.  Few will question it.  Few will even bother to report on it.  The findings of the American Anthropological Association are perfectly in keeping with the tenets of social science.  There's nothing controversial about the study the organization issued. There's something very controversial about the group-think that refuses to question counter-insurgency.  And when you grasp that Amy Goodman couldn't stop caterwauling about "we never see where the bombs drop" and yet refuses to devote even one damn segment in all these years to counter-insurgency, you realize how pathetic she and 'independent' media are.  Now, in fairness, she will talk counter-insurgency .  . . in past decades.  But as she herself whined, if we can't talk about the war before it starts or while it's going on, when can we talk about it?  After it's over!!!!! When it's too late!!!  Amy Goodman needs her words tossed back in her face.
We've noted the number of Iraqi Christians as 800,000 often quoting one media outlet on that or another.  An e-mail to the public account ask that we note Help Iraqi Christians (which we just did) and they note there were an estimated one million Iraqi Christians (in Iraq) at the start of the Iraq War.  Their source is the US State Dept.  If you go to the 2006 State Dept report, it reads, "According to official estimates, the number of Christians decreased from 1.4 million in 1987 to fewer than 1 million with Catholics (Chaldeans) compromising the majority. Christian leaders eastimated that approximately 700,000 Iraqi Christians lived abroad."  Though the report uses "fewer than 1 million" (and 800,000 is fewer), if you look at the numbers it's not so simple.  In fact, there numbers add up to over one million -- the State Dept numbers in that report (which may be not checking their figures or switching to pre-war numbers without including that notification).  But we will now say "an estimated 1 million" when referring to the number of Iraqi Christians in Iraq at the start of the Iraq War.
Friday, Bushra Juhi (AP) reported that Bartela was placed under curfew after a conflict between Iraqi Christians and Shi'ite Muslims over decorations.  UPI states 5 Chrisitans and 5 Shi'ites required hospitalization.  A number of outlets take the position that Shias were wrong or Iraqi Christians were in the wrong.  I have no idea.  (I don't think the outlets do either.) But what is known is that Bartela (also spelled "Bartella") is a village with a majority Christian population.  Many have long reported on that including Alice Fordham (Times of London) back on December 18th.  That does not mean that reports of Shia entering Bartela and ripping down Christian decorations (as reported in Christian media) are true.  But it is worth noting that only the Christian media (here for the Christian Post article by Ethan Cole) bother to note that the village is mainly Christian.  That's a key detail to the story and it is telling that a number of outlets (including those trying to play it down the middle -- CNN among them) refused to identify the village as what it was.
Violence continued over the holiday weekend.  As Third noted, " Friday 9 were reported dead and 25 injured; and Saturday 11 were reported dead and 36 reported wounded" while Sunday saw 7 reported dead and thirty-six wounded. Today Reuters notes the US military and Iraqi forces shot dead 1 person and arrested a second.
And on the 'freedom' front, in 'liberation' news, Alsumaria reports, "Strict traditions and social conventions are back in the spotlight in Iraq with the decision of Iraq's Education Ministry to separate boys and girls in Sadr City schools. The Ministry's surprising decision spurred mounting debates. Decision advocators confirm that social and religious status in Sadr City does not permit to mix boys and girls in schools." KUNA meanwhile reports, "Some 9,000 Iraqis registered as refugees in Jordan are now resident in third countries, out of 17,000 the UN Refugee Agency recommended be repatriated and out of an overall 53,000 refugees."
In Iraqi political news, Meanwhile Qais Mizher (Washington Post) reports Shi'ites demonstred against Nouri al-Maliki in Karbala on Sunday. And distaste for Nouri may be spreading throughout the Shia communities.  Saad Fakhrildeen and Ned Parker (Los Angeles Times) report the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani has repeatedly delivered sermons on "the government's failing" and Friday, Sayed Ahmad Safi "delivered a scathing critique of the political establishments to the tens of thousands gathered for the religious rites" declaring, "More than 50% of our people live in poverty in a rich country, but when we see all the circumstances this poses a question mark. Why is there not a quorum in the Parliament? Why is there no legislation [passed]? Why don't the executives come spontaneously without an invitiation.":

Turning to the US, in the December 24th snapshot, we were noting the veterans were still not receiving their GI Bill benefits for the fall semester of 2009 -- the semester that has ended. And we were noting how the VA went before Congress in October and declared they needed no more funding, no more workers, they were on top of it, it was a glitch (one they attempted to blame on universities initially before they learned colleges weren't going to be played by a bunch of lazy VA workers) and they were on it.  They said only a few "thousands" didn't have their checks yet.  And a few "thousands" still don't have their checks.  Where is the outrage?  Over the long holiday weekend, stories emerged that may help put a human face on those who are suffering because the VA can't do the damn job they're supposed to.  Joe Seelig (Highlands Today/ Tampa Tribune) reported:
Howard Jenkins is the local veterans employment representative for the Heartland Workforce in charge of the Veterans Work Study Program. He said he didn't know the number of students other programs have, but it is a big problem.            
He's spoken with his counterparts in similar programs in Florida and they are having problems, too, he said.                   
"I have one that's affected also," said Jenkins. "He hasn't gotten paid for the hours he's been working here. He started working in October. He's never been paid. The Veterans Work Study Program augments their standard of living while they go to school."                     
Many of these veterans have families with children, he said.                    
"The young man I have is working for college for next semester," he said. "There are about 90 veterans signed up for classes at SFCC (South Florida Community College)."             
About 277,000 veterans have signed up for school under the GI Bill across the country and only about 50,000 had been processed, he said.
Tom Tiefry, an Eastern Michigan University student and U.S. Marine, is among the thousands waiting for his money. Without any income, the Afghanistan war vet has been draining his savings, can't move out of his mom's home in Gibraltar and hopes his beat-up 1994 Chevrolet Camaro can survive the commute during the Michigan winter.                                   

"It's very frustrating," said Tiefry, 23.                                       

He made a commitment to his country for four years of service and views the delay in his GI Bill funds as the government not honoring its commitment to him.

"My word was good," Tiefry said. "But it wasn't a given that their's was. It never crossed my mind that this sort of thing could happen."                

 Patricia Alex (New Jersey Record) reports:

The delays had thousands of vets who served in Iraq and Afghanistan scrambling to pay rents and mortgages, and fearful they would not be able to continue school next semester.                           
"It's been three months of going into debt," said Chris Mazzoccchi of Saddle Brook, who served with the Marines in Iraq. Mazzocchi, 24, quit his job in ground service at Teterboro Airport to take advantage of the bill and began studying criminal justice at Bergen Community College this semester.                       
He is entitled to tuition reimbursement and a housing allowance of $2,033 a month, he said.                     
Idiot of the month is Mark K. Matthews (Orlando Sentinel) who 'reports' this morning on the delay, "A major problem has been the sheer number of applicants. Under the new GI Bill, recent veterans are allowed to transfer their benefits to children and spouses -- increasing an already inflated pool of new students."  No, Marky, you stupid idiot, that's not true.  And why do I know that's not true?  Because the VA was specifically asked that in a Congressional hearing in October.  I was there, Marky, where the hell were you?
Back in October, AP owned this story and the reason may be because they are one of the few outlets that still covers Congressional hearings.  No surprise, they are the ones (specifically Kimberly Hefling) who broke the story last week.  No surprise, a lot of idiots like Mark K. Matthews, who couldn't get off their fat asses (he's in DC) and sit through a hearing, are yet again offering defenses for the VA.  Repeating, that had nothing to do with it.  This was addressed in a Congressional hearing that you should have been present for Mark K. Matthews.

So where does is stand right now?  Here's what the VA management hopes (three sources), they hope they can get the checks out (or all but 100 out) no later than January 5th (out in the mail, not received) and then, when Congress is back in session, the VA's attitude will be: "Oh, we already took care of it."  If that happens and Congress lets them get away with it with no objections, not one member of Congress deserves to be re-elected.  The VA swore in October, to Congress, that they were on it, that this was all being handled and no more problems and they were so on top of it, they didn't need additional money and they didn't need additional employees.  The VA lied to Congress.  And the VA shut out Congress.  Three different members of Congress, in an open hearing, told the VA that if there were any other problems with this program, Congress needed to be notified immediately and the VA swore it would happen.  Last week, Congress was notified . . . when Kimberly Hefling started filing AP reports on this subject.
Lastly,  KPFA's Flashpoints Radio is facing serious cuts while other programs don't appear to be.  For example, I can think of one mid-day program airing three times a week with two hosts.  Strange because when one of the hosts was in management just a blink ago, the show got by just fine -- for months and months -- with just one host. Local Station Board member Henry Norr (at The Daily Censored) writes about what is seen as a targeted attack on Flashpoints and we'll note the last paragraph of the article: "To express support for Flashpoints, write to general manager Lemlem Rijio at and turn out for the first meeting of the new LSB, now set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 11, 2010 (disregard dates announced earlier) at the Humanist Hall, 390 27th St. (near Telegraph), Oakland." For those who've never listened to KPFA's Flashpoints Radio, it remains the only program on KPFA that addresses the Iraq War.  The Iraq War doesn't exist on KPFA without Flashpoints.  That's reality.  And remember just a second ago we were talking about a co-host of another program who could be let go?  When that co-host was in management she was all for "The War Comes Home."  It was going to be this, it was going to be that.  It was going to be all over Pacifica and cover the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars.  A lot of money was put into that project.  Where did the money go?  The show barely aired and that 'hard hitting' website that was supposed to back it up?  If you care about "Santos Grill und die Gartenparty wird gelingen" (which is German and announces that the grill and the garden party will be successful) you should check out the website for War Comes Home.  How the hell did KPFA not only lose their website but lose it to a German grill cook?  And it's real cute how, at the bottom, it reads: "Copyright 2009, All rights reserved."  Grill cooking.  I really would love to hear where the money for The War Comes Home project went.  And if Pacifica can't pay for websites, they need to return to Blogspot.  That is where Wake Up Call (WBAI), for example, used to be.  But someone needs to find out where the money for War Comes Home went because it was supposed to be funded.