Thursday, January 14, 2010

Words have meaning?






All last month, we had to endure a bunch of liars or idiots insisting the US was so 'noble' or uninterested in Iraq oil (hard to tell which assertion produces more laughs) and that was demonstrated by the US not being involved in recent biddings. You had to be really stupid not to notice the board of directors of those companies (identified as 'foreign' by the US press, they sure had a lot of Americans on their boards). Apparently all the laughs that could be have been wrung out of that so today Timothy Williams (New York Times) reports, "A wave of American companies have been arriving in Iraq in recent months to pursue what is expected to be a multibillion-dollar bonanza of projects to revive the country's stagnant petroleum industry, as Iraq seeks to establish itself as a rival to Saudi Arabia as the world's top oil producer."

Meanwhile in the US former journalist Thomas E. Ricks has taken to huffing publicly about James Cameron's box office smash Avatar. (Disclosure, I know Cameron and consider him a friend.) What could make a pudgy former journalist so angry? The answer is staring everyone in the face. Last week, Ruth noted WBAI's The Arts Magazine (airs each Tuesday from two in the afternoon until three in the afternoon) when Louis Proyect was the guest for the first half-hour.

Louis Proyect: And even though it's set some time in the distant future and on a distant planet, it's very obvious that it's about what's happening now in Iraq and Afghanistan. It just amazes me that anybody you know could think otherwise about this movie.

Prairie Miller: Yeah and then there's this attitude of rejecting this film outright because there's money behind it, there's Rupert Murdoch and whatever happened to the notion, the Marxist notion, of seizing the means of production? In this case of cultural production, you know, for other means. I mean this is amazing. He, Cameron has said about his film that there's a sense of e -- "There's a sense of entitlement. 'We're here, we're big, we've got the guns and, therefore, are entitled to every damn thing on the planet'." And incidentally, Cameron, who's a Canadian, he admirably dropped his application for American citizenship after Bush was elected in 2004 so there's much more than meets the eye concerning the attacks on this film.

Louis Proyect: Yeah. I'm glad we're in 100% agreement on this one because I thought we would be, Prairie.

Prarie Miller: Now you came up with some study about anthropological imperialist invasions. What was that about?

Louis Proyect: Yeah, right now, you have people working in Afghanistan -- and I think they were in Iraq as well -- who were anthropology professors who agreed to work with the military to win the hearts and minds of 'the natives.' And there's a huge controversy about this. They just had a convention of the American Anthropological Association where they-they went on record as being opposed to that. The idea is that what they want to use are what you might call professional techniques to figure out how to control a population combining measures that might improve their life somewhat but at the same time soften them up to accept a military occupation. And quite frankly, the-the anthropologists who are involved in this business are, you know, I don't think they have the right to teach. I mean, what they're doing, I think it's a kind of war crime. And Avatar deals with this because Sigorney Weaver, who's one of the major characters, is an anthropologist trying to pacify the local population. Well, I think your listeners would want to see the movie. I don't want to give too much away, too much of the plot. But it just has to do with how the professions in the United States, including psychologists by the way, who worked in Guantanamo, to-to get -- to make sure that torture was being carried out in such a way that people wouldn't be completely broken and capable of giving information. I mean, this is just horrible.

That edition of The Arts Magazine is available at the WBAI archives for 80 more days.
To refresh, from 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."

David Price is a member of AAA and with Network of Concerned Anthropologists. He reviewed Avatar:

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.

Thomas E. Ricks hates Avatar (and huffs and blogs to be sure we all know). Here's what those paying attention know: Ricks is this century's Walter Lippmann and that's not a compliment. He left journalism to whore for counter-insurgency. He has no ethical training and he thinks that general studies major (journalism degree) qualifies him for something. It doesn't qualify him for humanity and he's unable to address ethics. (Don't forget his stamping of feet at the AP last year.) He's a joke. He's a War Criminal now and he's joke.
Kelley B. Vlahos (Antiwar) addressed Ricks most recently earlier this week:In high school, there are always the Cool Kids. In the Washington military establishment, there are always the Cool Kids. Walking conflict ofinterest Tom Ricks loves to write breathlessly about Washington's prevailing Gang with the Name -- the COINdinistas -- most of whom now roost in the Pentagon or at the Center for a New American Security, which hired Ricks away from a full-time job at the Washington Post to do just what he's doing now: shamelessly promoting the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).But even the cool kids will eventually fall out of style. Like haughty Heidi Klum says, "In fashion, one day you're in, the next day you're out!" Perhaps that's why Ricks' latest Foreign Policy panegyric to his friends seems even more cringe-worthy and awkward than usual, mainly because this gushing yearbook entry -- dated December 2009 -- could have been written a year ago. Today, it tastes like slightly overdone steak. Stick a fork in it… you get the picture. Under the subheading, "Who knows everything there is to know and more about counterinsurgency and its current role in U.S. military strategy? These guys," Ricks effuses: "Pushed and prodded by a wonky group of Ph.D.s, the U.S. military has in the last year decisively embraced a Big Idea: counterinsurgency. Not everyone in uniform is a fan, but David Petraeus and the other generals in charge of America's wars are solidly behind it. Here are the brains behind counterinsurgency's rise from forgotten doctrine to the centerpiece of the world's most powerful military…"No. 1 on the list: Petraeus, or "King David," "who rules the roost," according to Ricks. He's followed by John Nagl, the former Army officer and Rumsfeld aide who now "beats the COIN drum" and might find himself in a "top Pentagon slot in a year or two"; Australian COIN-whisperer David Kilcullen, currently one of McChrystal's key eggheads, whom Ricks calls "the Crocodile Dundee of counterinsurgency"; Janine Davidson, a Pentagon policy-pusher who Ricks says is "now sitting at the adult table"; Dave Dilegge, editor of Small Wars Journal, which is "avidly read by everyone from four-star generals to captains on the ground in Iraq"; and Andrew Exum, another CNAS wonk, Iraq vet, and blogger, who "in his spare time has been known to play paintball against Hezbollah – no joke."

Little lesson today in: You are who you get in bed with. You are everything they were exposed to. So when someone's already has two arrests -- pay attention, Amy Goodman -- for attempting to have sex with a minor, you avoid them. You don't promote them as 'good' people. We've gone over that repeatedly but have to hit on it again today because Pig got busted and charged again. Laura Rozen (Politico) notes it here. If we had a working left, a functioing one, Pig would have been shunned long ago. But see, when the victims would be female, so much of the left doesn't give a damn. That includes women, we've named Amy Goodman. There's Laura Flanders as well. Rachel Maddow. All these 'strong' women who couldn't say no to Pig and kept booking him on their shows. We've called it out repeatedly here while so many women have WHORED themselves and others. That's not to let the men off. But it's especially disgusting when women -- hey, Lila Garrett -- we're talking about your WHORING ASS too -- give space for sexual predators. From the February 5, 2008 snapshot:

What the election cycle has demonstrated on the Democratic side is how much women are still devalued and hated. Don't kid that it's not so. Like Laura Flanders has no problem bringing the Pig (twice busted for attempting to set up sex with an underage female online) onto her radio program, Common Dreams has no problem posting him. They've got him up today. But they didn't post Steinem and they didn't post Morgan. With Pig, we're supposed to overlook the busts. It's more important that his 'voice' be heard than that he's a predator and, thing is, women know that argument because we've heard it over and over, decade after decade. Gender is the greatest barrier. All women are told to wait -- over and over. Ask Flanders why she was so offended about Gary Glitter but thought nothing of repeatedly booking Pig on her program? Ask her to explain that. Ask Amy Goodman to. Ask Katrina vanden Heuvel why she, the mother of a teenage daughter, thinks his rambles are worth carrying at The Nation? Big media had the sense to wash their hands of him when the arrests came out. Not little media. Because you've got a lot of queen bees who won't use their voices, they don't want to look 'bitchy' or 'assertive' or 'demanding.' How's that working out for you?

For those who don't know, Laura wouldn't join us in protesting Pig. She kept bringing Pig on air. But in the dying days of her bad radio show, she wanted to insist that a sports team stop using a Gary Glitter song because . . . Gary was a sexual predator. It offends her . . . at sporting events. Apparently. Lila Garrett, Laura Flanders, Katrina vanden Heuvel, Amy Goodman and a host of others better be willing to note Pig's latest arrest -- this would be his third sexual predator arrest for those paying attention -- and maybe explain why they continued to publish him or bring him on as a guest? They also never called him out when he attacked Cindy Sheehan. From the May 29, 2007 snapshot:

Now here's how polite society worked once upon a time, when someone was reported to have been twice busted for pedophilia, that was really it for them. They didn't get write ups, they didn't pen op-eds. They weren't invited on programs to chat. But for some reason, Pig Ritter is seen as a voice the 'left' needs to adopt. Scott Ritter was allowed to repeatedly attack Cindy Sheehan on his joint-tour in 2006 (The Sky is Falling Tour -- DVD set retails for $19.99 unless you're going for the NC-17 version) and everyone looked the other way and most of the press (big and small) just chuckled. That's why he felt brave enough to issue the nonsense in an interview proper (and one that didn't require him to be handcuffed -- how novel that must have been for him).The peace movement needs to be inclusive, no question, but that doesn't translate as: "Because we have the Peace Mom, we need to have the Pedophile Man." That's not inclusion, that's stupidity on ever level (including legal liabilities should anything happen to an underage female). We washed our hands of him a long time ago in this community. He is "pig" when noted here for any reason. His name is being mentioned here (for the first time since he went public in attacking Sheehan) only because there are some who seem unable to believe it could be true. Well it is. And it's equally true that you need to ask your outlets why they have repeatedly featured a man who will not explain his criminal busts and allows to stand the mainstream media's reporting that they were for attempting to hook up with young (underage) girls online. It is amazing that the same independent media that wants to scream 'crackpot' and 'crazy' to make sure they are not associated with certain groups is perfectly happy to break bread with a pedophile. Repeatedly.

The Sky Is Falling Tour? He did that with Sy Hersh. And I'd love for Hersh to claim he had no idea about Pig's history. He knew all about Pig's history and I'm laughing, Sy, because a lot of us warned you Pig would get arrested again. It's on you, Seymour, it's on your reputation now. We've noted this topic too many times to count and there's good chance we'll return to it tonight for "I Hate The War."

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