EE: Report #5, 01—08 October 2010
Encircling Empire Reports is a selection of essays, blog posts, and news reports covering a given time period. They are intended to be useful for those interested in: ● contemporary and critical political anthropology ● public anthropology ● imperialism and imperial decline ● militarism/militarization ● the political economy of the world system ● hegemony and soft power ● counterinsurgency ● revolution ● rebellion ● resistance ● protest ● activism ● advocacy ● critique.
Previous issues are listed here.
[Special thanks to Guanaguanare, Douglas Smith, Jen_H, Gaby Verdier, and Hameed]
Thursday, 07 October, marked the ninth anniversary of the start of the U.S. war in Afghanistan. We now enter the tenth year. May it be the last. See the great defenders of human rights that the U.S. has as its allies in Afghanistan in Chris Sands’ “Afghanistan Nine Years On,” in Le Monde Diplomatique. Meanwhile, as billions of dollars are poured into the Afghan war effort, nearing half a trillion so far, in the U.S. “cities around the country have made steep cuts to stay afloat, from layoffs of firefighters and police officers to turning off street lights.”
“We will preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we will sentence them to take the first step into a thousand years of darkness.”–Ronald Reagan
In this issue we talk about “empire within;” internal colonialism and the marginalization and expropriation of indigenous communities; conservative American critiques of foreign interventionism; the militarization of politics in the U.S., and military revolt; the militarization of U.S.-Latin American relations; contesting imperial media; anti-imperialist political efforts using social media; using immigration policy to keep out foreign speakers who criticize Israeli and U.S. occupations; the movement for an academic boycott of Israel; framing Wikileaks; developments affecting the tenure and electoral success of radical democracies in Latin America, most notably in Ecuador, Venezuela, and Brazil; and, book reviews, and Public Anthropology Notes.
Our “nation notes” for this week cover: Afghanistan, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Ecuador, Hungary, Pakistan, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa, and Venezuela.
In other words, it’s another packed issue.
ISOMORPHIC OPPRESSION: DEFEATING THE EMPIRE WITHIN
Guanaguanare’s extract, “Political Discourse—Ashis Nandy,” outlines Nandy’s critique of third world developmentalist elites that have failed to eradicate domestic oppression, if not enhancing it. He refers to his principle of isomorphism in the reproduction of oppressive dynamics: “The principle of isomorphism says: what you do to others you ultimately do to yourself, for ‘the wages of sin is the kind of person you are.’ When reversed, the principle becomes; what you do to yourself or to your kind you cannot but invite others to do the same to you, and to your kind.”
CONTESTING EMPIRE IN THE MEDIA
“The empire is being contested; it’s being competed in their own speech, in their own media, in their own terrain you have this kind of response” –Andres Izarra, TeleSUR.
For more, see “It’s official: RT is the enemy,” to read the statement (and very clumsy retraction) by the Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, overseeing US media directed at foreign audiences, who “says his organization needs more money to fight its enemies. Namely, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and China.” The critical responses are very illuminating. This is one of the relevant videos:
Afghanistan: You Might Be a Victim of Taleban Propaganda If…
…you don’t believe that the U.S./NATO occupation is actually winning the war in Afghanistan. According to the Washington Post:
“The Taliban in recent months has developed increasingly sophisticated and nimble propaganda tactics that have alarmed U.S. officials struggling to curb the militant group’s growing influence across Afghanistan. U.S. officials and Afghan analysts say the Taliban has become adept at portraying the West as being on the brink of defeat, at exploiting rifts between Washington and Kabul and at disparaging the administration of President Hamid Karzai as a ‘puppet’ state with little reach outside the capital….
“As the radical Islamist movement steps up conventional grass-roots propaganda efforts and polishes its online presence – going so as far as to provide Facebook and Twitter icons online that allow readers to disseminate press releases – the U.S.-led coalition finds itself on the defensive in the media war…. ‘It’s been getting better,’ a U.S. intelligence official in Kabul said of the Taliban’s media strategy. ‘It’s become increasingly complex. It’s definitively something we worry about’.
“‘They are not fighting a war that involves military victories…Everything they do is to create a perception that the government can’t win’.”
Taleban Don’t Twitter
The U.S. military, and its media mouthpieces in the U.S. such as the Washington Post (see this very funny piece from which the quotes above came: “U.S. struggles to counter Taliban propaganda”) have become increasingly post-modern: there is no real reality outside one’s mind, and victory or loss is purely a function of labeling and spin, there are no objective and concrete developments on the ground to which we can all refer. NATO and the U.S. are winning, if you have the correct mindset—and they are losing if you are a victim of Taleban spin.
Indeed, the Taleban’s spin machine is so complex now that they have Twitter and Facebook buttons! And how do we know it’s propaganda? Simple: it repeats the exact same things said about the Karzai administration that have been said by Washington, that it is corrupt and lacks popular support—because the reality is that Karzai’s regime is pristine, and wildly popular across all of…oh wait.
In the meantime, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan website, which is more often than not the target of jamming that prevents it loading, gets virtually no mention in Twitter, ever. Indeed, few seem to know the Taleban have a website (if it’s up), or may doubt that it is really their site. Their YouTube channel is virtually dead. As for their Twitter and Facebook buttons…I am not seeing any.
Clearly, the U.S. and NATO would have had this war in the bag by now, were it not for all those Twitter and Facebook buttons getting in the way. Is there anything to cheer NATO up? Yes, as the story indicates…the U.S. successfully mounted the Aisha hoax that won over…Americans, the target constituency of the Taleban? If it doesn’t make any sense, not to worry: it’s not supposed to.
As for Twitter, according to this article from the Annenberg School of Communication, “The Unused Weapon In Afghanistan? Twitter” (which with rapid ease labels the Taleban “terrorists”) it doesn’t seem like having a Twitter campaign would do anything for the Taleban. Besides, they are too busy kicking real ass in meatspace to think about polishing up their MySpace profile or creating Facebook groups. Indeed, contrary to the propaganda above, the Annenberg propaganda concludes: “The terrorists don’t seem to [sic] up-to-date on the newest social media technology.” No really? Taleb don’t Twitter?
[For how a movement really mounts a sophisticated online effort, see the item on Hugo Chávez and Twitter under Venezuela below.]
Australia: Debating Afghanistan
“In fact I believe it was the great lie of the federal election campaign. Of course we went to Afghanistan in November 2001 in response to 9/11 and I believe that was a legitimate reason for joining in the invasion. But to say that these days we are there to fight terrorists in order to protect Australia from terrorism is a lie. The fact is that most of the violence in Afghanistan now is being fought by what I’d call Afghanistan nationalists who are fighting what they perceived to be an army of occupation and hence I believe it’s a lie to say we’re there fighting terrorists and I believe peace won’t come to Afghanistan until foreign troops are gone.”—Andrew Wilkie
INSIGHT, a program aired on Australia’s multicultural public broadcaster, SBS, featured a studio discussion with Andrew Wilkie, a prominent Independent Member of Parliament, ex-military, who has argued emphatically that Australian intervention in Afghanistan is premised on “a great lie.” Other members of the military in the audience, and some Afghans resident in Australia, were in the audience to challenge him and to challenge other audience members, also Afghans. Present also, and offering a pro-war perspective, was a widow of an Australian soldier killed in Afghanistan. Many of the moral and political debates will be very familiar to American viewers. The common refrain of those arguing for Australia to remain in the war was that “the job is not finished.” Major General Jim Molan, Australia’s highest ranking officer deployed to Iraq (yes, Australia goes wherever the U.S. goes) had this to say about “Taleban propaganda” a truly remarkable statement of fantasy motivated by an obvious attempt to smear and diminish:
“I think they’ve been remarkably successful in the western world because they have a very slick propaganda and media operations network and they’re very good at that. So the picture that we see through the media and through commentators is a lot different to what’s actually happening on the ground in Afghanistan.”
You can watch it online or download a copy of the transcript of the entire program.
Brazil: President (?) Dilma Rousseff, Former Guerrilla
Joining other former guerrillas, and former guerrilla movements, elected to office in Uruguay (see José Mujica), Nicaragua (see Daniel Ortega), and El Salvador (see FMLN), Brazilians massively supported Dilma Rousseff, but not enough to avoid a runoff vote after the first round occurred on Sunday, 03 October 2010, where she won by 46.9% to 32.6% against her main rival. Dilma, besides being a Marxist guerrilla in the 1960s, was also imprisoned and tortured under the military dictatorship. With the passage of time, she became less of a firebrand and more of a “pragmatic bureaucrat” as some media have described her. Interestingly, both of the main contenders vow to continue the policies of two-term President Lula Ignacio da Silva. The runoff vote is on 31 October.
Dilma is also in Twitter.
Canada: George Galloway Finally Lands, Federal Government Told to Take Off
Last year, the federal government of Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper blocked entry to George Galloway, who was to speak at a number of universities, including Concordia University. The claim was that he represented a “threat.” The same excuse was used to keep out Medea Benjamin of Code Pink. Meanwhile George W. Bush has had a number of private speaking engagements across Canada since he left office. The Minister of Immigration, Jason Kenney, personally interfered in Galloway’s case, to keep him out because he disagreed with Galloway’s political views. This was obvious to everyone in Parliament, where the government’s censorship decision was widely denounced.
Now that Galloway is “armed with the ruling of Federal Court Judge Richard Mosley, who made it clear that the Conservative government used the Immigration Act to prevent Galloway from entering Canada because they disagreed with his political views — not because he presented any threat to Canadians,” he is finally in Canada (see Rabble.ca).
For background news reports, see: “Canada blocks outspoken British MP” (The Star, 20 March 2009); “George Galloway banned from Canada” (The Guardian, 20 March 2009); and, “Galloway vows to sue Canadian government” (CBC News, 03 October 2010).
Central America: Honduras, Costa Rica, and Panama under U.S. Intervention
Elena Zeledon’s “The Fuse is Lit: The Rise of the Mass Movement in Central America and the Desperate Response of Imperialism,” is well worth reading. From a socialist analytical perspective, this roundup details recent workers’ and indigenous struggles across the region. It also deals with what comes in the next section, under Costa Rica, about the U.S. remilitarization of the isthmus, and the creation of up to seven new military bases in Panama to be used by the U.S.
Costa Rica: The Marines Have Landed. Why?
A few months ago (the operation is ongoing) noted Argentine sociologist Atilio Boron wrote “Why are Marines disembarking in Costa Rica?” In many ways the events described are similar in rationale to the mission of the U.S.S. Kearsarge, written about here previously, only more massive. On 01 July, the Costa Rican Congress authorized the entry of 46 warships from the U.S. Navy, 200 helicopters and combat aircraft, and 7,000 Marines. Boron argues that this “invitation” likely emanated from the White House, and not Costa Rica. President Laura Chinchilla, long tied to USAID, was strongly supportive of what was ostensibly sold to Costa Ricans as a drug interdiction exercise. Boron notes the irony in the logic: in Colombia and Afghanistan, since the arrival of U.S. forces, drug production has skyrocketed, and the U.S. itself remains the number one producer of marijuana. Boron asks, among other questions:
“Isn’t it perhaps useful to U.S. interests to have a Latin America characterized by a proliferation of “failed states,” – eaten away by the corruption generated by drug trafficking and the consequences that ensue: social disintegration, mafias, paramilitaries, etc. – that for this very reason are incapable of offering the least resistance to imperial designs?”
While in Costa Rica, U.S. forces can wildly enjoy themselves, as they benefit from complete immunity to prosecution from the Costa Rican justice system. To better understand this development, Boron argues:
“This U.S. government initiative must be situated in the context of the growing militarization U.S. foreign policy, whose most important expressions in the Latin American framework have been, until now, the reactivation of the Fourth Fleet, the signing of the Obama-Uribe treaty, the de facto military occupation of Haiti, the construction of a wall of shame between Mexico and the United States, the coup d’etat in Honduras and the later legitimization of the electoral fraud that elevated Porfirio Lobo to the presidency, the concession of new military bases by the reactionary government of Panama, to which is now added the disembarkation of Marines in Costa Rica. Of course, all these moves are articulated within the maintenance of the blockade and hounding of the Cuban Revolution, and the ongoing harassment of Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador….”
For more, see this extensive post on CostaRicaBlogger.com: “There’s a WAR Ship In Costa Rica!”
Costa Rica was the first country in the world to abolish it’s army. Now it has one for the rest of 2010.
Guatemala: Victim of U.S. Crimes against Humanity
On 01 October the BBC reported this story, “US sorry over deliberate sex infections in Guatemala: …The United States government has apologised for deliberately infecting hundreds of people in Guatemala with gonorrhoea and syphilis as part of medical tests more than 60 years ago.” None of those who were infected consented, with the targets of the experimentation being prisoners and mentally ill patients. Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom has accused the U.S. of crimes against humanity (that long list of crimes just got longer).
The report documenting these acts is by Susan Reverby at Wellesley College, and can be downloaded here. Perhaps even more shocking is that the period of experimentation (1946-1948) was during the tenure of President Juan José Arévalo, whose government gave permission for the tests. Arévalo was the head of relatively revolutionary party later overthrown by the U.S.
Reverby, who was researching files on the Tuskegee experiments, learned of the documents almost by accident: “I was in the archives of the University of Pittsburgh looking at the papers of the surgeon general at the time. And the papers there were also the papers of a man named John Cutler, who had also been involved in the Tuskegee study. When I opened the boxes of the Cutler papers, there was nothing in it about Tuskegee, but there was everything about this Guatemala study.” (“U.S. apologizes to Guatemalans for secret STD experiments.”)
Ecuador: Coup Attempt against Rafael Correa
Those who did not benefit form following the breaking news in Twitter as it happened, with links to live video streams and tweets from people on the ground, you can see Guanaguanare’s good roundup of news, “Reports of an Ongoing Attempt at Coup d’Etat in Ecuador.” In question was the slowness of the U.S. State Department in transitioning from statements that said the U.S. was merely “monitoring” the situation, to when it condemned “violence” and expressed support for Correa—after the attempted coup appeared to be failing.
As for USAID and especially the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), which fund opposition groups in Ecuador, there was total silence. See Guanaguanare’s translation/reproduction of an excellent article by Eva Golinger, in “Ecuador: The Right Attacks ALBA,” ALBA being the “Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America.” Guanaguanare precedes this with an account of the NED, and its silence.
Perhaps even more stunning is this report from Jean-Guy Allard, “Quito’s Police: CIA breeding ground.” Here is an extract:
“The uprising by putschist elements of the Ecuadoran police against President Rafael Correa confirms an alarming report about the infiltration of the Ecuadoran police by U.S. intelligence services released in 2008, which indicated that many members of the police corps developed a ‘dependence’ on the U.S. Embassy.
“The report made clear that the Ecuadoran Police ‘maintain informal economic dependence on the United States, to pay for informants, training, equipment and operations.’
“The systematic use of corruption techniques by the CIA in order to acquire the ‘goodwill’ of police officers was described and denounced on many occasions by the ex-CIA agent Philip Agee who, before leaving the agency’s ranks, was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Quito.
“In his official report, distributed at the end of October 2008, the Ecuadoran Defense Minister Javier Ponce revealed how U.S. diplomats dedicated themselves to the corruption of the police as well as officers from the armed forces.”
Meanwhile, the Associated Press in “Ecuador revolt: Attempted coup or uprising?” seems to place most of the blame on President Correa, and largely diminishes the events as a protest that got out of control. It is hard to understand how a spontaneous and wild lack of control involves methodically seizing control of the airport, police barracks, a media outlet, and blocking highways. Though slightly more nuanced, the Christian Science Monitor echoes some of the same points of view as AP in “State of siege in Ecuador as Rafeal Correa takes on rebel police.” While the U.S. went silent and said it was merely “monitoring” the situation when all other Latin American presidents denounced the events and expressed support for Correa.
UNASUR, the union of South American nations, expressed a clear statement of support for Correa and denounced the events as a coup d’etat.
[For more on Ecuador, see this week’s “Public Anthropology Notes” below.]
Hungary: Awash in the Blood of Development
Take a close and long look at these stunning photographs of the toxic sludge deluge raging across Hungary on its way to the Danube:
A flood of toxic sludge.
Pakistan: Choking NATO, U.S. Creates Fake Terror Alerts, Assassinating European Citizens in Pakistan
For the entire week, Pakistani Taleban fighters have been destroying dozens upon dozens of stationary trucks supplying NATO forces in Afghanistan, backed up inside Pakistan after the Pakistani government finally decided to do the responsible thing (at least for now): not allowing its territory to be used for conducting war in another nation and not allowing use of the same territory for U.S. bombing runs on villages and military outposts inside Pakistan.
Also see this article in The Guardian: “Barack Obama accused of exaggerating terror threat for political gain.” A Pakistani diplomat has launched a scathing attack on the White House while European intelligence claims that the raised terror alerts are “nonsensical” –here are some extracts:
“‘I will not deny the fact that there may be internal political dynamics, including the forthcoming mid-term American elections. If the Americans have definite information about terrorists and al-Qaida people, we should be provided [with] that and we could go after them ourselves,’ Hasan said.”
“Dismissing claims of a developed, co-ordinated plot aimed at Britain, France and Germany, European intelligence officials also pointed the finger at the US, and specifically at the White House. ‘To stitch together [the terror plot claims] in a seamless narrative is nonsensical,’ said one well-placed official.”
“By making it clear that the US drone strikes were pre-emptive, and were not in any way combating an imminent threat, European officials raised fresh questions – this time directly involving a British national – about the legality of the attacks, which could be viewed as assassinations.”
Paraguay: Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Amnesty International, Condemn Mistreatment of Indigenous Community
In “Third ruling condemns Paraguay for its treatment of Indigenous Peoples,” we read that the government of Paraguay is ignoring a ruling from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (about the Court), which demanded that the state return land to the traditional owners, the Xákmok Kásek community, on which they depended for hunting, fishing, and gathering. The land consists of 10,700 hectares, which had been turned over to private ownership. The Xákmok Kásek, like Yakye Axa and Sawhoyamaxa communities, are forced to live a life of misery on the margins. The Court “found Paraguay legally responsible for the death by preventable causes of thirteen members of the Xákmok Kásek community,” and Amnesty International has joined the international protest of Paraguay.
For more, please see “Application with the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of Xákmok Kásek Indigenous Community of the Enxet-Lengua People and Its Members (Case 12,420) against the Republic of Paraguay.”
For the Court rulings, in Spanish only, “Corte IDH. Caso Comunidad Indígena Xákmok Kásek. Vs. Paraguay. Fondo, Reparaciones y Costas. Sentencia de 24 de agosto de 2010 Serie C No. 214.”
Peru: Aliens in Their Own Nation
“…the treatment of indigenous Peruvians in Lima’s media: seen but not heard; portrayed, but not listened to.
“News anchors repeatedly mispronounced the names of indigenous leaders. Mainstream media soon adopted the same vocabulary as the government to describe the events. Police officers were ‘assassinated’ while indigenous protesters were ‘deceased’ (‘fallecidos’). When indigenous leaders were interviewed by some reporters, such as Rosa María Palacios, they were ridiculed for not speaking Spanish fluently even though none of the reporters were able to speak to the protesters in their native Awajún.”
What an alien technology the media appear to be in Peru, where indigenous protesters are, if shown on TV cameras, not translated because none of the elite urban media studios has speakers of Peru’s different indigenous languages. From Mexico City, David “Oso” Sasaki, who works for the Latin America Information Programs of the Open Society Institute, writes up the story of the media and indigenous protests in Peru in June 2009 in “Indigenous Protests, Wikileaks and Online Subtitles.”
[Posts on the Peruvian indigenous protests on this site include: “Resisting Free Trade, Racism, and the State: Peru’s Amazonian Indians Fight Back;” “The Peruvian Massacre and a “Socialist” Fig Leaf for World Capitalism;” and, “Peru’s Amazonian Massacre: Links to Reports and Action Resources.”]
South Africa: Boycotting Apartheid Again
“Almost four decades later, the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions is gaining ground again in South Africa, this time against Israeli apartheid,” we read in Electronic Intifada’s “In defense of South African academics’ boycott call.” Anthropologist Mahmood Mamdani has also been involved in supporting the boycott, joining a growing list of anthropologists worldwide who support an academic boycott of Israel.
“Earlier this month, more than 100 academics across South Africa, from over 13 universities, pledged their support to a University of Johannesburg initiative for ending collaboration with the Israeli occupation. The campaign has since grown to include up to 200 supporters. The nationwide academic petition calling for the termination of an agreement between the University of Johannesburg and the Israeli Ben-Gurion University of the Negev has attracted widespread attention. With the recent endorsement of some of the leading voices in South Africa, such as Kader Asmal, Breyten Breytenbach, John Dugard, Antjie Krog, Mahmood Mamdani, Barney Pityana and Desmond Tutu, the statement confirms the strength of the boycott call in South Africa:
“‘As academics we acknowledge that all of our scholarly work takes place within larger social contexts — particularly in institutions committed to social transformation. South African institutions are under an obligation to revisit relationships forged during the apartheid era with other institutions that turned a blind eye to racial oppression in the name of ‘purely scholarly’ or ‘scientific work’.”
Venezuela: Another Electoral Victory for Chávez’s Socialists, but Dissatisfaction Looms
After almost 12 years in power, Hugo Chávez keeps raking in electoral victories. In the latest, the parliamentary elections on 26 September 2010, the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) won 60% of the seats in parliament, or 97 seats compared to the opposition Democratic Unity’s 65 (Golinger says 98 seats). However, as Reuters explains, behind this is the fact that the actual number of votes cast reveals a much slimmer margin: “Chavez’s ruling Socialist Party won last weekend’s vote by a slim margin, taking 5.45 million votes or 48.9 percent compared with 5.33 million votes or 47.9 percent for the newly united Democratic Unity umbrella group.” Comandante Hugo is not entirely pleased with the results, and has promised a new wave of radicalization to further displace the private sector and increase benefits to the working class. On the campaign trail, he even promised discounted appliances from China, and a “Good Life” credit card. As Reuters reports, he is proceeding with the nationalization of 250,000 hectares of privately owned land, the nationalization of the lands of Britain’s Vestey family.
Eva Golinger writes that the elections were also “A Win for US Interference.” She notes that there is a lot to celebrate about the electoral victory of the PSUV, which is merely three years old. Despite that, “some key areas were lost to opposition forces.” Her analysis of the reasons behind those losses tries to strike a difficult balance between U.S. hostility and “internal errors,” of which there were many serious ones. Golinger does not lay blame for the losses at the doorstep of the U.S., but she does note:
“Another important factor influencing these elections was the multimillion-dollar support the opposition campaign received from US agencies, such as USAID, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), International Republican Institute (IRI) and National Democratic Institute (NDI). These agencies, backing the opposition to Chavez for years, achieved a major result; their most loyal agents won top seats in parliament. During the past eight years, US agencies have been working hard to strengthen opposition forces and help them return to power in Venezuela. The result of Sunday’s elections is their most important victory to date.”
Golinger also says that two of the successful parties in these elections, Primero Justicia (barely starting in Twitter) and Un Nuevo Tiempo (UNT) (also in Twitter), “were created under 10 years ago with U.S. funding and strategic advice.” Now that the opposition have made such gains, Chávez’s bloc has lost its two-thirds majority in parliament, which would have rendered the opposition effectively powerless.
An extensive analysis of the vote, by Gregory Wilpert, “A New Opportunity for Venezuela’s Socialists,” is also worth reading, especially as he explains Venezuela’s complicated balloting. In particular Wilpert highlights how important these elections were, since the National Assembly (AN) is more powerful in Venezuela than Congress is in the U.S.: “Not only does the President not have the right to veto legislation, but the AN appoints all members to three of the other four branches of government: the Supreme Court, the Attorney General, the Comptroller General, the Human Rights Ombudsperson, and the National Electoral Council.”
In the meantime, members of the Venezuelan opposition gained no credit by scorning and ridiculing the Ecuadorian coup attempt as a mere show or farce—see: “Venezuelan Opposition Dismiss Ecuador Coup Attempt.” When Chávez led a failed coup in 1992, nobody in the Venezuelan ruling classes was laughing. If the same events happened in the U.S., few would dare call it a mere “show” or a “self-coup.”
Now, back to Twitter. Hopefully some academic(s) will write papers or books about how the Venezuelan governing party has made effective and sophisticated use of social media, in a way that is probably quite distinctive outside of the U.S. Besides Chávez’s blog, and very active Twitter account (which he uses to rally supporters in Twitter, and for exchanging public tweets with other Latin American presidents), the PSUV has its own website, and another equally active Twitter account, as well as that of its youth wing in Twitter. This is where it gets interesting. In addition to mass producing blogs for each of its many electoral candidates (such as this one, to take one example from dozens listed on the front of the PSUV main website), it has stacked Twitter with accounts for dozens of operatives, many of them relatively anonymous yet in party uniform, such as DeltaAmacuroC1 and DeltaAmacuroC2, producing a greater force of numbers and message amplifiers. In addition, there are allied sites and accounts, such as the website of the Frente Francisco de Miranda, and its Twitter account. Merely documenting how all of these relate and correspond with one another, online and in public view, would be quite a task in itself, looking at which messages and at what time, around which issue, are forcefully moved to higher visibility through followers’ retweets for example.
The really major news that broke this week, thanks to the “detective” work of Göran Rudling, has been assembled and outlined in Rixstep’s “Assange Case: Evidence Destroyed Over and Over Again.” We are shown evidence that Anna Ardin, one of Julian Assange’s two accusers, is partying up and enjoying herself during and after the time she is supposedly being “sexually molested.” She went to some lengths to eliminate the tweets that provide this evidence, but was clumsy, and left them up on one of her blogs. After she was confronted with this, she quickly deleted comments pointing this out, took down her blog, then launched it again with all of the tweets removed. It now seems even more likely that this was a set up and that Ardin engaged in false accusations, which under Swedish law carry a two year prison sentence. Perhaps Assange will consider suing for defamation.
“Australian spies ‘may have tracked’ WikiLeaks founder,” says a report from AFP: “Australian spy agencies may have helped trace the movements of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.” What is not revealed is with which intelligence services of other states the information was shared.
AGAINST LIBERAL IMPERIALISM
Elbridge Colby, no anarchist rebel but rather someone who has served in the Pentagon and various national security positions, writes the following explanation of the “true conservative” position on wars abroad in his article “A Truly Conservative Defense Policy”:
“In a recent Washington Post op-ed article, those paladins of muscular interventionism Danielle Pletka and Thomas Donnelly argue that American conservatism calls for placing the advancement of freedom abroad at the center of our foreign policy. This is surely a policy that is stirring and vigorous and one that calls upon traditions deeply rooted in U.S. history. But is it conservative?
“The answer has to be no. Of course there is no single ‘conservative’ foreign and defense policy. But there are certain fundamentals of a conservative approach, fundamentals consistent with a conservative approach to domestic policy or the law or social life. Condensed, the conservative approach is animated by a deep sensibility for and humility in the face of the limits of what can be achieved by government and other organs of social rationality; by the central importance — but difficulty — of preserving and advancing liberty, order, prosperity, and good values in a complex and imperfect world; by an awareness of the often unpredictable dangers of excessive ambition; and by a profound sense that government is the servant of the people’s interests, and thus should never risk its citizens’ lives or resources lightly.”
One thing Colby neglects, as a benefit of excessive defense spending and the waste that ensues, is that it produces pretty pictures like these, of multi-million dollar B-52s on their way through various stages of cutting, put on display at the AMARC Boneyard (Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base) in Tucson, Arizona, so that Russian satellites can photograph them and verify compliance with the terms of the START treaty:
MILITARISM VERSUS CONSTITUTIONAL DEMOCRACY IN THE U.S.
Fabius Maximus is the collective name of five U.S. military authors, some retired and some active duty, that tends to take an independent and critical stance of militarization of civilian decision-making and foreign policy, as well as criticizing “long war” advocacy, imperial overstretch, and so forth. It is mistaken as a “leftist” website almost as much as it is mistaken for a Republican website. When FM alerts us to political moves within the military, writing as critical insiders and those well acquainted with the institutions they served, many take notice.
Thanks to FM (“The insurgency widens – another crack in civilian control of our military”), please take note of the storm of debate that is growing around the article by Andrew R. Milburn (Lieutenant Colonel, USMC) published in Joint Force Quarterly, 4th Quarter 2010, titled “Breaking Ranks: Dissent and the Military Professional” :
“There are circumstances under which a military officer is not only justified but also obligated to disobey a legal order. In supporting this assertion, I discuss where the tipping point lies between the military officer’s customary obligation to obey and his moral obligation to dissent. This topic defies black-and-white specificity but is nevertheless fundamental to an understanding of the military professional’s role in the execution of policy. It involves complex issues—among them, the question of balance between strategy and policy, and between military leaders and their civilian masters….”
You can also read a critique by Richard Kohn, military historian at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill—“Richard Kohn fires a warning flare about a Joint Force Quarterly article” –where he characterizes Milburn’s quasi-insurrectionist piece as “an attack on military professionalism that would unhinge the armed forces of the United States.”
FM provides a great range of articles detailing how “the military is working against us” in their overview, “Our growing domestic insurgency: revolt of the generals” :
“Slowly over the past five years evidence has accumulated that our military leaders have grown so powerful that they can — and increasing do — challenge the nation’s civilian leaders for control of foreign policy (rather than jointly set it, as they have since WWII)….Long wars and big military forces shift political power from civilians to the military. It’s slow but inexorable, the price paid for the choices we made. Hoping to avoid paying that price is just another form of dreaming….The Tea Party will support the generals….The price paid by the Republic will probably be high. Perhaps very high.”
Similar to our own appraisal of Bob Woodward’s Obama’s Wars in our last EE Report, FM finds fault with Obama’s weakness and Woodward’s gloss in “Obama vs. the Generals” –here are some selections from that post:
“The President lacks confidence in his national security judgments. He feels he needs approval from a ‘grownup’ in the form of a Republican Secretary of Defense.”
“Obama is more careful and analytical [than Bush], but ultimately needs approval from others.”
“I just don’t know that you can command the respect of your national security professionals if you allow them to stonewall you, rig analytical exercises, and then win debates through threats of resignation.”
For more on the U.S.’ increasingly out of control military, see FM’s “Can Obama, or anyone else, outmaneuver the war advocates?”
[FM also has posts about the Human Terrain System]
THE CHRISTIAN CRUSADERS’ AIR FORCE OF AMERICA
See this article in TruthOut by Mike Ludwig, “‘Underground’ Group of Cadets Say Air Force Academy Controlled by Evangelicals.” A whistle blower has revealed that “some cadets must pretend to be evangelical Christians in order to maintain standing among their peers and superiors.” One imagines that it is only pretense that can be possible: after all, would Jesus have flattened Falluja?
PUBLIC ANTHROPOLOGY NOTES
Patrick C. Wilson, who teaches in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Lethibridge (Alberta, Canada), published “Food sovereignty and indigenous identity in Andean Ecuador,” in the Lethbridge Herald. It is an interesting yet short article on how indigenous cultural resurgence in Ecuador has sought to overturn some of the damage of the local program that was part of the Green Revolution of the 1950s/60s, known as the Andean Mission. The results of that Mission included monoculture, reliance on chemical fertilizers and pesticides, decline in crop varieties, detrimental dietary changes, changes in forms of house construction deemed to be “more modern” and transplantation of trees unsuited to the local ecology. Wilson explains that cultural anthropologists “argue that development is inherently cultural, as it reflects the cultural beliefs of those designing and working on the projects. This means that international development (as well as local development initiatives) carry cultural meanings that may or may not be suited for the places where development projects are being implemented.”
Thanks to Somatosphere, we have a book review of a new publication in anthropology on issues related to this report: Contemporary States of Emergency: The Politics of Military and Humanitarian Interventions, edited by Didier Fassin and Mariella Pandolfi and published by Zone Books at MIT. The publisher’s description of the book is as follows:
“From natural disaster areas to zones of conflict around the world, a new logic of intervention has emerged. This new post-Cold War international order combines military action and humanitarian aid, conflates moral imperatives and political arguments, and confuses the concepts of legitimacy and legality. The mandate to protect human lives, however and wherever endangered, has thus promoted a new form of military and humanitarian government that operates in a temporality of urgency, moving from one crisis to the next, applying the same battery of technical expertise — from army logistics to epidemiological management to the latest administrative tools for forging ‘good governance.’ In the name of the right to intervene, this new strategy challenges national sovereignties and deploys economic powers. Not only does it take charge of people’s lives, it also reduces their histories and expectations to bare lives to be rescued.
“Drawing on the critical insights of anthropologists, legal scholars, political scientists, and practitioners from the field, Contemporary States of Emergency first examines the historical antecedents as well as the moral, juridical, ideological, and economic conditions that have made military and humanitarian interventions possible today. It then addresses the practical process of intervention in global situations on five continents, illustrating the diversity as well as the parallels between contemporary forms of military and humanitarian interventions. Finally, it investigates the ethical and political consequences of the generalization of states of emergency and the humanitarian government that they entail. The authors thus seek to understand a critical question that confronts the world today: How and why have military and humanitarian interventions transformed the international order such that what was once a logic of exception has now become the rule of contemporary global politics?”
For anthropology texts on imperialism, intervention, national security, and the war on terror (along with some that can be extracted to create a reading list for a Public Anthropology course), see this comprehensive list from AJP:
Anthropology and Empire: Recommended Books.