EE: Report #7, 16—21 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.
In this issue: NGOs in Afghanistan; Nation Notes; Wikileaks; Political Activism and the Web; and, Public Anthropology Notes.
Previous issues are listed here.
[Special thanks to Catherine Moore, Lyn DeWald.]
The leading quote for this week comes from former Afghan Member of Parliament, Malalai Joya (more from Joya below):
“In the United States, many looked to the ballot box and hoped for real change when Barack Obama was elected President in 2008. To be honest, I never expected that he would be any different for Afghanistan than President George W. Bush. The truth is that Obama’s war policies have turned out to be even more of a nightmare than most people expected. Obama talked a lot about hope and change, but for Afghanistan the only change has been for the worse. After almost two years of Obama, the number of U.S. troops occupying Afghanistan has more than doubled. And the number of drone attacks in Pakistan has increased. Obama’s so-called surge of troops has resulted in increased Afghan civilian deaths. The documents released by Wikileaks prove what we have been saying about war in Afghanistan. There are more massacres by NATO forces than they wanted us to believe. Now the whole world should know this war is a disaster. All this is why, for our people, Obama is a warmonger, like another Bush. These are the reasons that throughout Afghanistan more and more people are taking to the streets to protest the U.S. occupation.”
NGOs SAY THE SOONER TROOPS LEAVE AFGHANISTAN, THE BETTER
In “Troop boost in Afghanistan ‘a mistake’,” we hear from Laurent Saillard, Director of the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief (ACBAR)—ACBAR has been “working with the people of Afghanistan since 1988 and represents more than 100 local and international non-government groups, including World Vision, Save the Children and Care International.”
Some of the key statements made by Saillard:
“International military presence is not going to make a big difference. Actually, the sooner the troops withdraw, maybe the better for the Afghans.”
“I’m afraid the momentum is such now that it is probably impossible to reverse it, reverse it and defeat the Taliban.
“More troops, more combat will produce more instability, more frustration and increase the level of anger of the population against foreign presence. So, no, it’s not going to help.”
“The security of aid workers mainly rely on the quality of their relationship with the community, on what we call acceptance, and not on the presence of foreign troops.”
Apparently a few “humanitarian aid workers,” as some in the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System actually dare to label themselves, do not realize that if you need an armed escort, it means you’re not wanted.
NATO murders a detainee
Afghan President Hamid Karzai is reporting that an Afghan died while in detention by coalition troops, and that he may have been murdered. ISAF said its detainee had been “found dead in his holding cell” in the southern province of Kandahar. Except that he was not just “found dead,” we learned a mere one day after ISAF’s attempt at understating and whitewash: in fact, the detainee had been shot in the head. A U.S. soldier is now in custody. He can expect not to be shot in the head while he is a detainee.
This Electoral Fraud Brought to You by NATO and Western Taxpayers
“This isn’t ‘Afghan good enough,’ as Petraeus and his friends are fond of saying. It’s not even progress. This is the theft of the government and the silencing of the voice of Afghans as the U.S. sings the praises of the ‘new Afghanistan.’ Only the most cynical could call this democracy.”—Robert Greenwald
In September Afghanistan completed what is now at least its third successive fraudulent election, with the aid and support of occupying forces. In “Afghanistan tosses out thousands of votes amid fraud probe” (LA Times) we are told that the Independent Electoral Commission has invalidated results from 571 polling centers—out of more than 5,500 that operated on election day. Votes from another 1,277 centers have been recounted and adjusted. Votes from 120 polling centers had been nullified because of “serious electoral violations.” Later in the week we learned that “1.3 million votes were disqualified out of 5.6 million — meaning about 23 percent of ballots — because of ballot-box stuffing or manipulated totals.” Even so, nearly 5,000 complaints of fraud and irregularities are still being investigated. In an earlier report also from the LA Times, “Thousands of complaints filed over Afghan elections,” by which time 4,169 complaints had been filed, we were told that of those complaints 55% are considered serious enough that they can shape the outcome if they’re upheld under investigation. Of 2,500 candidates, 175 have been accused of fraud. Out of those candidates accused of fraud, 25 are current members of parliament. On election day, 18 September 2010, more than 1,500 polling centres were shut down because of security concerns.
In “Pervasive Fraud: A Quarter of Afghan Votes to Be Thrown Out,” we learn that nearly a quarter of all votes cast will be thrown out. As Jason Ditz also reported in “Afghan Election Disaster: Evidence of Fraud Rises, Leaving Results in Doubt” :
“Though Western officials praised the election as a ‘success’ the data has shown a far lower than expected turnout, higher than expected violence and absurd levels of fraud. One provincial election chief was even arrested for overtly rigging votes, while the release of the preliminary vote results has been delayed by the overwhelming number of complaints.”
We also have a photo slideshow of the elections from one international election observer. American Caroline Wadhams of Democracy International, who was based in Kabul and deployed to Balkh and Samangan provinces, met with analysts, academics, journalists, parliamentary candidates, election officials, U.N. officials, NGO workers, and others from Afghanistan and abroad.
And what is probably the best item of them all, Robert Greenwald’s “Caught on Video: Ballot Stuffing in Afghanistan” :
As Greenwald writes,
“The backers of the current counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan have reminded us again and again over the past year-and-a-half that their strategy can’t work without a legitimate government in Kabul. If that’s the case, even they should admit that their plan is sunk.”
“And, while we continue to extol the virtues of democracy to the Afghans, we’re furiously funding and training a massive military force that will answer to a government full of election-stealing thugs. If the Kabul government can’t be trusted to run a legitimate election, they certainly can’t be trusted with U.S.-bought weapons and a massive U.S. taxpayer-funded military force.”
And as Greenwald points out in the video,
“In one clip, we can see an Afghan Border Police Officer dutifully standing watch as votes are stuffed for a particular candidate.
“In another, we see people with clearly marked fingers (the indicator that one has already voted) casting new ballots.
“In still other clips, we find clearly underaged voters casting ballots and people haggling over the price of a bought vote.”
Are the Peace Talks a Hoax?
Interesting, alleged peace talks, where every Taleban source denies that there any talks, or that they would even want such talks, and where the U.S. uses the opportunity to claim a “win.” Hakimullah Mujahed, former Taleban ambassador to the United Nations and a member of a government council tasked with exploring contacts with the Taleban, himself called the reports a “propaganda campaign” :
“If these people were sincere in taking part in negotiations, it would not be in the media, it would be secret and underground and through some friendly government.”
Indeed, we are presented with the preferred U.S. military gloss to justify the surge, ahead of a December review in Washington:
“the view of U.S. military commanders [is] that NATO troops have damaged the insurgency following the surge of more than 30,000 U.S. forces ordered by President Barack Obama”
“Richard Holbrooke, U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, attributed an increase in contacts with individuals linked to the Taliban to stepped up military pressure that NATO and its Afghan allies were placing on the insurgents.”
In the meantime, Kai Eide, a Norwegian diplomat and the UN’s former envoy to Afghanistan, played down reports of current negotiations:
“My feeling is that this is a lot of spin that the war strategy is working — that things are moving forward more than they are.”
Much like the spin presented on a daily basis, where it seems that NATO is not only killing massive numbers of Taleban, but they are all also senior leaders and commanders.
For their part, the Taleban issued two statements on their website: “Peace talks in conditions of the presence of foreign forces are meaningless and futile,” and, “Known figureheads and the Futile Reconciliation Slogans.” Both deny any participation of the Taleban, while denouncing the peace council set up by Karzai, and swear against any talks while the foreign occupation continues.
Arguing for Continued Occupation
In this highly suspect article by Praveen Swami in The Telegraph, quoting some unnamed “Taliban commander” –see “Taliban: ‘Britain is our greatest source of funding’” – two points are projected: one, Britain’s Muslim community is not to be trusted, because it supplies the Taleban with funding; two, it is important to continue the occupation, because as former Prime Minister Gordon Brown stridently exclaimed, it will help keep the Taleban off the streets of Britain. Here this unnamed commander says: “an attack on Britain and Europe could happen ‘at any time’.” Yes, we are scared, very, very scared.
In another equally suspicious, even offensively propagandistic piece by Praveen Swami in The Telegraph— “Al-Qaeda training camp uncovered in Tajikistan” –where major political opponents to the one-party dominance of dictator Emomali Rahmon are cast as allies of Al Qaeda—how convenient. Additional expedience is offered for the argument for open ended war in Afghanistan, seeing that Al Qaeda is so ominously omnipotent that it cannot be allowed a whole country to itself.
And suddenly, some “good news,” thanks to The New York Times’ dutiful service to the U.S. military, and in good time for a review of the “surge” just a few weeks away: “Coalition Routs Taliban in Southern Afghanistan.”
Australia: Failure in Afghanistan; Parliamentary Debate
See “Troops ‘overwhelmed and cannot defeat Taliban’” : Australian Defence Brigadier Mark Smethurst says the Taleban have overwhelmed foreign forces and, this report tells us,
“While successive governments have stated we are in Afghanistan to deny al-Qaeda terrorists a base, the brigadier says the key reason is to maintain the U.S. alliance.”
He does not call for withdrawal from Afghanistan—even if much of what he outlines is a recipe for prolonger, costlier failure—and emphasizes that the coalition must not be seen as failing in Afghanistan.
What we can say is that it is more likely is that failure will indeed happen, along with an intense media blitz to cover up the failure and make it look like success, even while NATO has already promised itself that it will not get bogged down in any more Afghan-like adventures in the foreseeable future.
For Smethurst’s original report, see: “Called Creating Conditions for the Defeat of the Afghan Taliban: A Strategic Assessment.”
This week also saw the start of debate in the Australian federal parliament on the war in Afghanistan. Defence Minister Stephen Smith of course defends the war saying, “We are there because it is in our national interest to be there.” He also dismissed the Smethurst paper above, saying “we” have come “a long way” since that paper was written. That is not the general consensus, unless by coming a long way he means a significant deterioration in NATO’s situation. The Australian Department of Defence also presented the following “fact sheets” to support the government’s side in the debate.
While the two dominant parties, the Labour and Liberal parties, are led by those supporting continued involvement in the Afghan war, one Liberal MP broke ranks and said there was no longer any logic behind Australia’s military presence in Afghanistan. See: “MP breaks ranks ahead of Afghanistan debate.”
This is a critical, even momentous debate for Australia: it is the first time in nine years that Australia’s parliament is even seriously debating the issue of participating in the occupation of Afghanistan.
For more on the parliamentary debate, see:
“Talk won t turn tide” (The Age) – where we read that Tony Abbott, head of the Liberal Party, went as far as declaring that the Taleban had intentions of imposing their “brutal system” on “the whole world.”
“More Australian soldiers will die in Afghanistan, warns Smith” (Sydney Morning Herald) – in which Defence Minister Stephen Smith claims that the Afghan intervention is in Australia’s “national interest” – and what an incredibly expansive, adventurous, over reaching and costly “national interest” that is.
Kevin Rudd, former Prime Minister and current Foreign Minister, also published his “Parliamentary Statement on Afghanistan,” which is as idealistic and simplistic as any “neo-con” speech one has ever heard about the Afghan war. The speech, a collection of what could easily be tweets, makes these points among others:
“what is our national mission in Afghanistan today?
“Put simply, it is to help protect innocent people, including innocent Australians, from being murdered by terrorists.
“Put simply, it is to support our friends and our allies in achieving this mission.
“Put simply, it is to work with them to defend, maintain and strengthen an international order that does not tolerate terrorism.”
Put simply, it falls on all these points, as an amateurish piece of transparent fear-mongering and questioning allegiance to a foreign policy made for Australia in Washington DC. While declaring support for the U.S., oddly enough Rudd goes so far past Obama that he does not realize, in arguing for what is effectively a permanent occupation of Afghanistan.
Covering the Afghanistan debate in parliament, via twitter, were:
Canada: What Was Achieved in Afghanistan? Why Canada Withdraws
More from Malalai Joya: “more Canadian troops have died. Why are Obama and Harper wasting so much money on this war when they cannot give jobs or even houses to their own poor people? There are many homeless in Vancouver, but instead Harper spends billions of dollars and new weapons of war…. Afghans don’t want so-called democracy and so-called elections where guns and money have the first and last word. Your foreign minister, Peter MacKay, and your Prime Minister Harper call this ‘democracy’ and ‘progress.’ But Afghans call this a bad joke.”
“Today Stephen Harper and the Canadian government are trying to deceive the Canadian people about the war in Afghanistan. Harper is speaking out of both sides of his mouth. On one side, he is saying Canadian troops will leave Afghanistan in 2011. But on the other side Harper is saying to US and NATO, don’t worry, Canada will stay with troops and help in different ways to occupy Afghanistan. And Harper is saying that Canada will stay to do ‘training’ of troops of puppet Karzai regime. We Afghan people don’t need any more ‘training’ from Canadian government after 2011. We Afghans don’t want any more bombing after 2011. We Afghans don’t want any more torture by NATO and Afghan puppet forces. We Afghans don’t want any more occupation by NATO. Instead of staying after 2011, it is better that Canadian troops leave sooner, leave now.”
Speaking of Prime Minister Harper, the New York Times chose to focus on one side of his mouth—see “Canada Poised for 2011 Withdrawal From Afghanistan,” where we read:
“[no one] should assume that Mr. Harper’s fondness for the military will prompt him to find a way around that [2011 withdrawal] deadline. Not only is the Canadian public weary of deaths and controversies generated by the fighting, but there also are increasing signs that many in the military, and perhaps even Mr. Harper himself, think it’s time to leave the battlefield in Afghanistan.
“After earlier championing the Afghan mission, Mr. Harper has since been careful never to suggest that the deadline might be extended. Unofficial talk in the Canadian bureaucracy and military indicates that he is now frustrated by the situation and the lack of a clear end. His most blunt public assessment came last year during an interview with CNN.
“‘We’re not going to win this war just by staying,’ Mr. Harper said. ‘Quite frankly, we are not going to ever defeat the insurgency’.”
For more NYT coverage specifically focusing on the U.S.’ allies in the war in Afghanistan, see this.
Haiti: The Impacts of Bill Clinton and Neoliberal Dogma
On Anthropology Works, see Alex Dupuy’s “Ideological dogmatism and United States policy toward Haiti,” detailing the tragic confluence of political economic decisions, often imposed on Haiti, that created the depth of misery and inequality witnessed today. Dupuy recounts the failures of what is elsewhere known as industrialization by invitation in creating anything resembling sustainable development. In addition, Haitian trade barriers to food imports were removed, creating both food dependency and undermining Haitian agriculture, which would prove disastrous. Read the article for details of how the Clinton administration in the U.S. directly intervened to further Haitian vulnerability, dependency, and extreme poverty.
Pakistan: U.S. Sends “Aid” to Itself
It is difficult to imagine a phonier, more transparently manipulative form of “aid” than the one to be sent by the U.S. to Pakistan:
“The U.S. is preparing a new USD 2 billion security assistance to Pakistan over the next five years to bolster the country’s anti-terrorism capability.”
That’s not “aid” – that is payment for local forces to do the job of the U.S. for the U.S., as if the purpose of the Pakistani state was to pursue the interests of the U.S., which it has in fact been doing, and which is untenable.
UK: The Costs of Junior Partnership Catch Up, U.S. Applies Pressure
Britain is instituting the “largest cuts to public spending since World War II…aimed at virtually eliminating Britain’s deficit, which stands at over 10 percent of gross domestic product,” and as part of that, cuts to military spending. The government is promising cuts “likely to total as much as 3 billion pounds ($4.8 billion) from the defense ministry’s annual budget of about 37 billion pounds ($59 billion).” The cuts will include a reduction of more than 7,000 army troops, and personnel from the air force and navy will be cut from Britain’s ranks of about 175,000.
We are also told that “the U.S. has already raised worries that cuts could leave its ally unable to take on a major role in military missions in the future.” Jim Townsend, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Europe and NATO said:
“This is not a time where you can slacken in the need to keep strong and to invest in your military.”
Obama reportedly told Prime Minister Cameron that “he hoped the changes would allow the U.K. to ‘retain the full spectrum of military capabilities that permits our forces to partner effectively together around the world’.”
Apparently the expectation was that the UK would make the investments in the same advanced military technologies as the U.S., to ensure “interoperability.” That is expecting a lot, of an economic basket case whose defense cuts are far too modest, to support U.S. hopes of global dominance.
U.S. Ground Zero Politics: Where War Crimes and Racism Combine to Increase One’s Electoral Chances
If there was ever a great representative, in the flesh, of imperial degeneration, it is Ilario Pantano, celebrated war criminal turned politician:
“From accused murderer to member of Congress? An ex-Marine who killed two unarmed Iraqis and embraces Islamophobia could wind up in Congress.”
From Concordia University’s student newspaper, The Link, comes another good article, this time about Wikileaks—see Nadim Kobeissi’s “The Internet War” :
“The resulting aggression we see today is a sign of a shock at the dimensions of the fight. No nation has ever fought, or even imagined, a war with a nation that has no homeland and a people with no identity. And thus does the U.S finds both its rulers and its laws punishing the truth-speaking and fighting those who stick by their own motto of truth and bravery.”
“The only way this war will end is if both sides realize that this is the closest we have come to a war-of-the-worlds: the Internet and the real world are that far apart. This is a battle of applied ethics: informatio n transparency versus the ideal that some are more fit to know than others.”
Pentagon & NATO Now Admit “No Harm Done” But At Yale They Still See Dead People
This is one of our top recommendations for this week, Glenn Greenwald’s scathing review of mainstream media propaganda that followed lockstep behind early Pentagon assertions that Wikileaks’ release of the Afghan War Diary would put U.S. soldiers at risk as well as Afghan informants. Instead, NATO is now saying that there has not been a single case of an Afghan informant needing protection or to be moved to avoid reprisal, and the Department of Defense says that no sensitive intelligence was released. Yet, examine the calls for attacking Julian Assange and the wild claims that he had aided and abetted Al Qaeda and the Taliban, in Greenwald’s “How propaganda is disseminated: WikiLeaks Edition.”
Senator Carl Levin: “there quite clearly was damage”
Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell: “already threatened the safety of our troops”
Conn Carroll, Heritage Foundation: “[Assange] is a murderer of American and Afghani people. His carelessness has killed people.”
Liz Cheney: “He has blood on his hands.”
And now the Yale Political Union: “Resolved: Wikileaks should not have published classified documents” where a speech affirming that Wikileaks was wrong, stated: “it is never acceptable to sacrifice real human beings for abstract concepts….many lives were lost and will likely continue to be lost, and so many resources have been needlessly squandered….For all the lives lost as a result of his disastrously didactic ego and unabashedly narcissistic drive to see his name in lights, I hope Assange and his cohorts rot in hell.”
Pentagon Tries to Push Media to Ignore Wikileaks
Pentagon spokesman, Colonel David Lapan issued instructions to the mainstream media (how unusual to do this so publicly, when normally they understand each other so well in private): “News organizations should be cautioned not to facilitate the leaking of classified documents with this disreputable organization known as WikiLeaks. The concern is that WikiLeaks as an organization should not be made more credible by having credible news organizations facilitate what they’re doing.”
Sweden Continues: This Time It’s a Denial of Assange’s Residency Application
As the Swedish state continues to let dangle in the air the rape and sexual violence allegations—two months later, still “investigating” (perhaps rape is a much more subtle, ambiguous, and mysterious thing than any of us realized)—it has landed another punch against the editor-in-chief of the organization that condemns the Afghan war and NATO (i.e., the same war in which Sweden has invested itself militarily and politically, along with allies who form part of NATO). Now Sweden, for “reasons unknown,” has denied Julian Assange’s residency application.
Wikileaks Fights Wired…about a release date?
In a recent article, Wired printed the following: “Measured by size, the database will dwarf the 92,000-entry Afghan war log WikiLeaks partially published last July. “It will be huge,” says a source familiar with WikiLeaks’ operations, who spoke on condition of anonymity. Former WikiLeaks staffers say the document dump was at one time scheduled for Monday, October 18, though the publication date may well have been moved since then.”
It is claimed that over 700 news media published stories based on Wired’s claim. Julian Assange says they were wrong to reproduce that claim.
@wired has spoken to no ‘staffers’. No publication dates have slipped. @wired has agenda, doesn’t check facts and is not to be trusted.
Indeed, Wired’s controversial Kevin Poulsen, and Kim Zetter, make no indication whatsoever that they got their information from, or ever tried contacting, the only legitimate source on what is to be released and when, which would be Wikileaks itself.
Wikileaks stated before the tweet above:
Where do all these claims about WikiLeaks doing something on Iraq today (Monday) come from? A single tabloid (cont) http://tl.gd/6hqu1n
When the first reports came out that Wikileaks would release a massive number of Iraq war documents, the only statement from it was:
We have no comment as to the claim that our next release is related to the Iraq war.
The story first came via Newsweek on 09 September. It is still not clear, giving this growing list of anticipated releases, what Wikileaks will publish, and when (especially given that the site has been down for weeks).
In sum, this is the way that Wikileaks characterized Wired, and it is a generally accurate and reasonable assessment:
But Wired’s blog is not just any source that lacks credibility. It is a known opponent and spreader of all sorts of misinformation about WikiLeaks. This dramatically ramped up since we demanded an investigation into what role they played in the arrest of the alleged journalistic source, US intelligence analyst Bradley Manning:
We condemned Wired magazine for that conduct and the magazine has been oppositional ever since. The two blogs concerned, ‘Threat Level’ and ‘Danger Room’, while having produced some good journalism over the years, mostly now ship puff pieces about the latest ‘cool weapons system’ and other ‘war tech toys’ as befits their names – ‘Threat Level’ and ‘Danger Room’.
These two blogs, and in particular editor Kevin Poulsen, have been responsible for a tremendous amount of other completely false information about WikiLeaks.
A post today on ‘Danger Room’ begins with:
‘We’re still waiting for WikiLeaks to make good on its pledge to reveal hundreds of thousands of US military documents on the Iraq war.’
WikiLeaks does not speak about upcoming releases dates, indeed, with very rare exceptions we do not communicate any specific information about upcoming releases, since that simply provides fodder for abusive organisations to get their spin machines ready.
How does Wired respond? In part by repeating irrelevant personal comments: “Assange is notoriously sensitive to critical press. He has a strong personality, and at times his reaction reflects that.”
For some background on the connections between Wired’s Kevin Poulsen and the hacker that entrapped Bradley Manning, read this excellent in-depth review by Glenn Greenwald: “The strange and consequential case of Bradley Manning, Adrian Lamo and WikiLeaks.”
But the problem now is that Wikileaks has gone much further in its denunciations of the press. Referring to an AFP article (no link), Wikileaks tweeted: “AFP is incorrect. We did not say we were publishing something on Iraq.” Strictly speaking, that is true, all Wikileaks said was “no comment.” However, it was Newsweek that reported statements by Iain Overton, editor of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, who informed Newsweek that “his organization has teamed up with media organizations—including major television networks and one or more American media outlets—in an unspecified number of countries to produce a set of documentaries and stories based on the cache of Iraq War documents in the possession of WikiLeaks.”
POLITICAL ACTIVISM AND THE WEB
Biz Stone, co-founder and creative director of Twitter Inc., produces a response to Malcolm Gladwell: “Exclusive: Biz Stone on Twitter and Activism.” Everyone is an expert on activism these days, seemingly by virtue of being experts on social media. Interesting, because being an expert on issues concerning newsprint did not make one an expert on the Communist revolution in 1917. Stone’s argument in this article? Little things can make a big difference. He is unable to point to any “big difference” beyond media hype of discrete events. Sometimes little things are just that.
Evgeny Morozov’s forthcoming book, The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom, argues instead that “we must stop thinking of the Internet and social media as inherently liberating and why ambitious and seemingly noble initiatives like the promotion of ‘Internet freedom’ might have disastrous implications for the future of democracy as a whole.” Though the book is still being prepared, two chapter excepts are being made available online: chapter 1 and chapter 7.
PUBLIC ANTHROPOLOGY NOTES
A new publication of direct interest to those interested in contemporary issues of militarism and empire is:
Breaking Ranks: Iraq Veterans Speak Out Against the War
Edited by Matthew Gutmann and Catherine Lutz
Berkeley: University of California Press, 2010
Breaking Ranks brings a new and deeply personal perspective to the war in Iraq by looking into the lives of six veterans who turned against the war they helped to fight. Based on extensive interviews with each of the six, the book relates why they enlisted, their experiences in training and in early missions, their tours of combat, and what has happened to them since returning home. The compelling stories of this diverse cross section of the military recount how each journey to Iraq began with the sincere desire to do good. Matthew Gutmann and Catherine Anne Lutz show how each individual’s experiences led to new moral and political understandings and ultimately to opposing the war.
In connection with this, see the full text of the review by Zoe Wool, “Breaking Ranks” : “…In their curation of the stories, Gutmann and Lutz also demonstrate the ways that war insinuates itself into civilian life in America, making military service seem like the best possible option for many Americans whose lives are made hard or unstable by the exigencies of family expectations, national pride, poverty, and youth.… Breaking Ranks strikes me as an important, accessible, and eminently teachable book that speaks of the conflicted experiences of soldiers in war, the political failings of America’s doctrine of pre-emptive war, and the contingent evolution of personal conflict into political action. It would be well suited to undergraduate classes on war, trauma, social movements, public or activist anthropology, and—given its format—methods courses that discuss life-story interviews and practices of ethnographic writing.”