Encircling Empire: Report #8, 21 October-11 November 2010


EE: Report #8, 21 October—11 November 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 Kazi Mahmood, and Bill Jacobson]

The special focus this week is the monumental Wikileaks Iraq War Logs release, which transpired since the last EE Report, as well as materials on militarization and militarism, and the Canadian non-withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Our leading quote for this week comes from John Parker, on the topic of Wikileaks and the intellectual deficits of journalists embedded with the Pentagon:

“The career trend of too many Pentagon journalists typically arrives at the same vanishing point: Over time they are co-opted by a combination of awe — interacting so closely with the most powerfully romanticized force of violence in the history of humanity — and the admirable and seductive allure of the sharp, amazingly focused demeanor of highly trained military minds. Top military officers have their s*** together and it’s personally humbling for reporters who’ve never served to witness that kind of impeccable competence. These unspoken factors, not to mention the inner pull of reporters’ innate patriotism, have lured otherwise smart journalists to abandon – justifiably in their minds – their professional obligation to treat all sources equally and skeptically.”


The big news since the last EE Report was the release of 391,832 secret records that cover the U.S.’ Iraq War between 2004 and 2009, now being hailed as the biggest leak of official documents in history (that might be questionable, but certainly the most publicly accessible leak of that size). The logs can be accessed here:

Wikileaks teamed up with several news organizations, more this time than with the Afghan War Diary. You can find each organization’s dedicated pages below (Le Monde, at the time of writing, appeared to be the only one not to have a special Iraq War logs section), ranked in order of descending preference:

These are some of the stories that came out about the release which we recommend:

  1. United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: “Iraq / Wikileaks: statement by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.”
  2. Iraq War Veteran, Josh Stieber’s Letter to Congress: “An Iraq Surge Vet on Wikileaks: An Open Letter on the Needed Response to the Upcoming Wikileaks Report.”
  3. Amnesty International USA: “Iraq’s Apt Pupils.”
  4. Salon: Glen Greenwald, “The Nixonian henchmen of today: at the NYT” – but also read how NYT readers trounced the published smears about Assange, excellent commentary. In addition, more comments slamming NYT appear in Reddit, and CNN’s Atika Shubert, who wanted to do a personal character interview about sex allegations, prompting Julian Assange to walk out, gets torn to shreds by viewers on her Facebook page.
  5. As a follow up, Greenwald has this striking article comparing international media with NYT’s coverage on the issue of torture, underplayed by the NYT: “NYT v. the world: WikiLeaks coverage.”
  6. See the “The New York Times Torture Euphemism Generator!
  7. The Guardian: Pratap Chatterjee, “Iraq war logs: Wikileaks’ virtual memorial.”
  8. The Guardian: “WikiLeaks Iraq war logs: Nick Clegg calls for investigation of abuse claims.”
  9. The Independent: “Patrick Cockburn: Echoes of El Salvador in tales of US-approved death squads.”
  10. The Telegraph: “Wikileaks: UN calls for US to investigate torture claims revealed in leaked reports.”
  11. Associated Press: “WikiLeaks urges US to probe alleged rights abuses.”
  12. Reuters: “Factbox: U.S. report to U.N. Human Rights Council.”
  13. Agence France Presse: “Human rights campaigners voice disappointment with Obama.”
  14. World Socialist Web Site: “Mounting evidence of British war crimes.”
  15. The Telegraph: “Wikileaks Iraq war logs: key findings.” (See links within to further related articles.)
  16. The Iraqi response? Their “Minister of Human Rights” appears in “Iraq has the right to sue WikiLeaks, says minister of human rights.”
  17. One Israeli Knesset member’s response: “Ben Ari files UN complaint on US over Wikileaks reports.”
  18. Raw Story: “Fox News editorial: WikiLeaks employees should be declared ‘enemy combatants’
  19. Jonah Goldberg: “All Quiet on the Black-Ops Front: Why isn’t Julian Assange dead?
  20. Stephen M. Walt: “In Defense of Wikileaks.”
  21. Ellen Knickmeyer: “WikiLeaks Exposes Rumsfeld’s Lies.”
  22. John Parker: “Lack of WikiLeaks coverage disturbing, but not surprising.”
  23. Allen Moore: “Julian Assange: Life is Hard in a World Without Hippies.”
  24. Journalism.co.uk: “Journalists across globe sign petition in support of WikiLeaks.”


Digging in for the Long Haul in Afghanistan: How Permanent Are America’s Afghan Bases?” by Nick Turse features some of his work on the construction of multiple permanent bases in Afghanistan—and we learn of Turse’s amazing new edited volume, with some of the best contributors one can imagine: The Case for Withdrawal from Afghanistan.

Here is one key extract from the article above:

Major General Kenneth S. Dowd — the Director of Logistics for U.S. Central Command for three years before leaving the post in June — offered this partial account of the ongoing Afghan base build-up in the September/October issue of Army Sustainment, the official logistics journal of the Army:

“Military construction projects scheduled for com­pletion over the next 12 months will deliver 4 new runways, ramp space for 8 C−17 transports, and parking for 50 helicopters and 24 close air support and 26 intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance aircraft. This represents roughly one-third of the air­field paving projects currently funded in the Afghanistan theater of operations. Additional minor construction plans called for the construction of over 12 new FOBs and expansion of 18 existing FOBs.”

If Dowd offered the barest sketch of some of the projects planned or underway, a TomDispatch analysis of little-noticed U.S. government records and publications, including U.S. Army and Army Corps of Engineers contracting documents and construction-bid solicitations issued over the last five months, fills in the picture.  The documents reveal plans for large-scale, expensive Afghan base expansions of every sort and a military that is expecting to pursue its building boom without letup well into the future.  These facts-on-the-ground indicate that, whatever timelines for phased withdrawal may be issued in Washington, the U.S. military is focused on building up, not drawing down, in Afghanistan.


No. See “Afghan plan includes up to 1,000 troops,” and “NATO says 900 trainers needed for Afghan forces.” The Prime Minister promised to respect Parliament’s will (not to mention that of the majority of Canadians), that after two extensions of the Canadian mission, there would not be a third, and the “military mission” would end. Then came the weasel words as the U.S. ratcheted up pressure on Canada to stay—it became a “combat mission” instead, that would end, but a “military training mission” would take its place. In the meantime, the B Team to the ruling Conservatives, euphemistically known as the “Liberal Party of Canada,” has apparently signed on to the deal. The Canadian peace movement has of course reacted—see the Canadian Peace Alliance’s “A Better War is Not Possible. Don’t Extend It. End It.


“The Pentagon is the largest single consumer of oil in the world, using one-quarter of the world’s jet fuel. Yet the military’s use of energy and contribution to global warming is rarely discussed. Barry Sanders tackles the relationship between militarism and environmental destruction in his recent book The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism. Sanders is a prolific author and was, until his retirement a professor of the history of ideas and English at Pitzer College in Claremont, California.”


Written by Rick Rozoff, “Southeast Asia: West Completes Plans for Asian NATO,” the article gives us a detailed overview of plans for a U.S. coordinated military pact in Asia, an Asian extension of NATO, that would seem to relieve the need for direct U.S. intervention in future conflicts. This seems to be motivated by a realization of the fact that “for the first time in half a millennium the founding members of NATO in Europe and North America are confronted with a planet not largely or entirely under their control.”