The Militarization of U.S. Culture

General David Petraeus' rocky first days as a lecturer at the City University of New York Though the United States of America shares with other nations in a history of modern state militarism, the past 65 years following its consolidation as a world military power after World War II, has seen a shift away from previous democratic characterizations of the state.  The last thirty years, with the rise of the neo-conservative Reagan and Bush administrations (2), began the abandonment of moral justifications for democracy building replaced by  bellicose proclamations of the need and right to move towards a national project of global security by preemptive military force .

In the process of global military expansion, the US population has been subjected to an internal re-education to accept the role of the U.S. as consolidating its hegemonic rule internationally in the interest of liberal ideals of wealth creation and protectionism.

The average citizen has slowly come to terms with a stealthly increasing campaign of militarization domestically in media offerings; from television, movies and scripted news networks to reinforce the inevitability of a re-configured society as security state. The effect has begun a transformation of how, as citizens, we undertand our roles and viability as workers and families in relation to this security state. This new order has brought with it a shrinking public common and an increasing privatization of publicly held infrustructure; libraries, health clinics, schools and the expectation of diminished social benefits for the poor and middle-class. The national borders are being militarized as are our domestic police forces in the name of Homeland Security but largely in the interest of business. The rate and expansion of research and development for security industries and the government agencies that fund them, now represent the major growth sector of the U.S.economy. Additionally, as the U.S. economy continually shifts from productive capital to financial capital as the engine of growth for wealth creation and development, the corporate culture has seen its fortunes rise politically and its power over the public sector grow relatively unchallenged by a confused citizenry who are watching their social security and jobs diminishing.

How increasing cultural militarization effects our common future will likely manifest in increased public dissatisfaction with political leadership and economic strictures. Social movements within the peace community, like NNOMY, will need to expand their role of addressing the dangers of  militarists predating youth for military recruitment in school to giving more visibility to the additional dangers of the role of an influential militarized media, violent entertainment and play offerings effecting our youth in formation and a general increase and influence of the military complex in all aspects of our lives. We are confronted with a demand for a greater awareness of the inter-relationships of militarism in the entire landscape of domestic U.S. society.  Where once we could ignore the impacts of U.S. military adventurisms abroad, we are now faced with the transformation of our domestic comfort zone with the impacts of militarism in our day to day lives.

How this warning can be imparted in a meaningful way by a movement seeking to continue with the stated goals of counter-recruitment and public policy activism, and not loose itself in the process, will be the test for those activists, past and future, who take up the call to protect our youth from the cultural violence of militarism.

The "militarization of US culture" category will be an archive of editorials and articles about the increasing dangers we face as a people from those who are invested in the business of war. This page will serve as a resource for the NNOMY community of activists and the movement they represent moving into the future. The arguments presented in this archive will offer important realizations for those who are receptive to NNOMY's message of protecting our youth, and thus our entire society, of the abuses militarism plays upon our hopes for a sustainable and truly democratic society.



Henry A. Giroux on "The Violence of Organized Forgetting"

By Victoria Harper, Truthout | Interview

Unintended but racistDiscussing his new book, Henry A. Giroux argues that what unites racist killings, loss of privacy, the surveillance state's rise, the increasing corporatization of US institutions and growing poverty and inequality "is a growing threat of authoritarianism - or what might be otherwise called totalitarianism with elections."

Victoria Harper: Your new book has a very provocative and suggestive title: The Violence of Organized Forgetting. How does the title work as an organizing idea for the book?

Henry A. Giroux: We live in a historical moment when memory, if not critical thought itself, is either under attack or is being devalued and undermined by a number of forces in American society. Historical memory has become dangerous today because it offers the promise of lost legacies of resistance, moments in history when the social contract was taken seriously (however impaired), and when a variety of social movements emerged that called for a rethinking of what democracy meant and how it might be defined in the interest of economic and social justice.

There Is No Future in War: Youth Rise Up, a Manifesto

Codepink -

Statement written by Ben Norton, Tyra Walker, Anastasia Taylor, Alli McCracken, Colleen Moore, Jes Grobman, Ashley Lopez

A peace sign printed on the American Flag is raised during a protest against the Vietnam War in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Archive / History Channel)Once again, US politicians and pundits are beating the drums of war, trying to get our nation involved in yet another conflict. A few years ago it was Iran, with “all options on the table.” Last year it was a red line that threatened to drag us into the conflict in Syria. This time it’s Iraq.

We, the youth of America, have grown up in war, war war. War has become the new norm for our generation. But these conflicts—declared by older people but fought and paid for by young people—are robbing us of our future and we’re tired of it.

There is no future in war.

We, the youth of America, are taking a stand against war and reclaiming our future.

War does not work. Period.

War does not work from an economic perspective

In 2003 US politicians orchestrated the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq based on blatant lies—lies that have cost the American people over $3 trillion.

Imagine what we could have done with this money:

Mission creep: the militarizing of America

THE PROGRESSIVEREVIEW From the March 1996 issue of the Progressive Review


The nomination of General Barry McCaffrey as drug czar symbolizes the nation's dramatic retreat from the principle of separation of military and civilian power. It further demonstrates the degree to which the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 -- which outlaws military involvement in civilian law enforcement -- is being ignored and undermined by both the drug warriors and the Clinton administration.

Disturbing as the McCaffrey appointment may be, however, it is only an unusually visible sign of something that has been going on quietly for a long time -- the military's steady intrusion upon, and interference with, civilian America.

In order to avoid violation of the law, General McCaffrey has retired from the military, but he will not retire from his military contacts, philosophy, loyalty and access. He is, after all, a man some thought in line to become the next chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

General McCaffrey headed the US Southern Command, which provides military backup for American policy in Latin America -- a policy long linked with support of dictatorships, suppression of dissidents, human rights abuses, death squads as well as chronically ineffective and corrupt management of drug smuggling. The price of this policy has been heavy: for example, over 100,000 people have been killed since 1960 in Guatemala, many of them by armed forces and police trained and supported by the US.

One former US ambassador to a Central American country says of Southcom, "I wouldn't even let them in the country" because Southcom would "inexorably militarize political problems." Today, he added, "very few countries outside of Central America welcome visits" from the commander of Southcom.

A Pentagon official describes Southcom's role as "military to military diplomacy." Rather then functioning like an old-fashion colonial army -- "they're not like the Bengal Lancers" -- they go in and work quietly with the local military to make sure the right elements are in charge and show them how to put down dissidents and how to interrogate.

The embassy military attaches are the point men in these operations. McCaffrey came into conflict with the State Department in his attempts to gain authority over the attaches and run his own foreign policy. Further, the Dallas Morning News reports that a year ago McCaffrey circulated a classified plan under which the military would assume direct control of the Latin American drug fight. The idea "drew the wrath of civilian agencies from the Drug Enforcement Administration to the CIA. It was a brash plan to fuse power now spread among dozens of agencies while raising the military from a limited support role. The proposal quietly died."

The Dallas paper noted that "colleagues widely describe [McCaffrey] as outspoken and strongwilled, a man whose self-esteem shone brightly even amid the white light of four-star egos."

One drug enforcement official told US News & World Report that under McCaffrey, Southcom's "idea of coordination was to brief you after their plan was fait accompli."

In its announcement of McCaffrey's drug czar appointment, the White House said:

He has spent his military career engaged in coordinated campaigns that are directed toward solutions and winning. He will not tolerate bureaucratic turf wars or grandstanding on this critical issue.

While his career may have been directed towards solutions, it was a goal McCaffrey never reached at Southcom. Southcom has gone through anti-smuggling strategies likes a Hollywood hooker through designer drugs. As recently as two years ago, for example, the military dumped its touted reliance on AWAC planes. Meanwhile the military virtually gave up on interdiction efforts in the Pacific. One source told the International Defense Review that "the Pacific is just too big to monitor properly."

The IDR also reported a shift towards attempting to stop drugs before they leave the source Latin American country: "The shift is due to a variety of factors, including the relatively low volume of drugs seized in transit; US budgetary restraints and a variety of organizational and force structure changes. . ."

In other words, it didn't work and it cost too much money. But there is no evidence that the source country approach is any better. One study found that such strategies were, in fact, seven times as costly as controlling demand through education and medication.

Furthermore, they do substantial damage to the stability and democracy of the targeted country. Thirty religious, health, and human rights activists wrote Secretary of State Warren Christopher complaining about American trained and encouraged anti-narcotics operations in Bolivia. The letter describes well the sort of drug policy fostered by Southcom and other US agencies:

Since mid-January, the Bolivian anti-narcotics police have undertaken massive sweeps in the Chapre, arbitrarily detaining over three hundred people. Those detained are typically held several days and released without charges; indeed, without even being presented to a judge . . . Neither Bolivian law nor international human rights standards permit these warrantless arrests of individuals against whom there is no evidence of participation in criminal conduct. The government is clearly using police powers to stifle lawful political opposition . . . The Bolivian anti-narcotics efforts also continue to rely on special judicial procedures that violate fundamental due process considerations. Under Bolivia's Law 10008, those who are formally charged with drug offenses -- no matter how minor -- are imprisoned without the possibility of pretrial release and must, even if acquitted, remain in prison until the trial court's decision is reviewed by the Supreme Court, a process that takes years. The US government provided funding for the salaries and expenses of special prosecutors for the anti-narcotics courts.

As the military zig and zags in its Latin American anti-drug tactics, these operations retain one common attribute: failure. Between 1994 and 1995, for example, coca leaf production rose seven percent in Bolivia, Colombia and Peru. The drug trade continues so merrily along that the radio stations on the Mexican border are even mocking counter-drug efforts with ballads celebrating famed traffickers.

The model of a modern major general

Rather than pointing out such facts, press reaction to the McCaffrey appointment has been overwhelmingly favorable. This is perhaps not surprising. The media is increasingly composed of journalists who have had no military experience and who see war as just another movie script, even if the battle is on our borders or in our own cities.

These new journalistic romanticists are easy prey for Pentagon flacks and the drug warriors. Their understanding of such matters comes not from experience and history, but from Stalone and Schwarzenegger. So badly was the Iraqi War covered, for example, that Americans still don't know how many of the enemy were killed. Or that the UN Food & Agriculture Organization found that over a half million Iraqi children may have died as a consequence of the economic sanctions we imposed after the conflict.

Meanwhile, in dangerous counterpoint, the American officer corps is increasingly composed of those who have had no democratic experience. With the end of the draft and the professionalization of the services, the leavening effect of reserve and national guard troops has greatly diminished. Further, officers like Colin Powell and Barry McCaffrey earned their spurs and their medals almost entirely in the defense of non-democratic regimes -- from troglodytic sheiks in the Gulf to corrupt generals in Vietnam to drug-pushers in Latin America.

The untold truth is that the post-WW2 American military hasn't that much to be proud of. It fought to a draw in Korea, was humiliated in Vietnam, removed a drug dealer from Panama but left all his peers and all the drugs, slunk off from Somalia and was careful not to hang around too long in Haiti. As for the Gulf -- well, Bush and Thatcher were ousted from office in its wake, but not, unfortunately, the intended target.

The one place where the modern American military has been successful is right here in the US, where it has long occupied much of the budget and captured many of the politicians. The sanctity of defense spending is so taken for granted that cutting it was hardly mentioned in the recent budget debates.

Like any good army, the troops have secured their own base first, moving quietly into key civilian posts at the Pentagon. Says one official, "They want to fill the DOD jobs with industry people but the pay isn't high enough, so they get military. The military is willing to whore for industry." The latter, in turn, gladly hires them upon retirement.

Many of these officers are part of an over-staffed brass brigade that developed in the wake of the Cold War and which helped to gobble up the "peace dividend." With their seepage into civilian billets, an important protection against a military takeover -- direct civilian control of the military -- is quietly and steadily being eroded.

Perhaps all this isn't so surprising when one examines the real metier of a modern major general. It is not, after all, fighting wars -- for there doesn't exist an enemy capable of challenging us. The US defense budget is 120 times the combined strength of the nine next biggest military spenders, and 1,600 times that of six adversarial favorites: Cuba, Syria, Iran, Iraq, North Korea and Libya. In truth, the modern major general's trade consists of occupying, managing and manipulating weak and disorganized small countries, not infrequently primarily for domestic political reasons.

This is the trade for which Powell and McCaffrey were trained and helps explains why each feels comfortable in domestic politics. Where easier to practice the civil and psychological operations they mastered than right here at home? After all, what is the war on drugs but "low intensity" or "non-conventional" warfare? If a Pentagon memo can label Israel a "non-traditional adversary," then why not our own inner cities as well? We're all Northern Ireland now.

The quiet creep

The McCaffrey nomination also follows a dramatic increase in the use of the military and its resources, especially the National Guard, in domestic law enforcement -- from Waco to Ruby Ridge to the inner city. It also follows greater intrusion of the military into high schools, the use of troops on the Mexican border for the first time in modern history and sporadic proposals to involve the Army in everything from inner city works projects to concentration camps for first time drug offenders.

Bill Clinton, who has rarely seen a civil liberty worth standing up for, even submitted legislation last year that would have virtually overturned the Posse Comitatus Act. His bill would have allowed the military to provide "technical assistance" to civilian law enforcement, a term Clinton himself defined as including "conducting searches, taking evidence, and disarming and disabling individuals." So awful was this measure that even Casper Weinberger and Sam Nunn objected. As the director of the Florida ACLU, Robbyn E. Blumner, wrote in the St Petersburg Times:

Throughout history and around the world, involvement by the armed forces in civilian law enforcement is one of the trademarks of a repressive regime. Yet the administration's proposals would chip away at the wall that separates the two and, by that action, greatly enhance the power of the presidency. In the wrong hands, the results could be devastating to freedom.

Much of the military's intrusion has been accomplished without public notice. For example, the Pentagon has greatly expanded JROTC programs. Last year, the American Friends Service Committee found retired military personnel teaching approximately 310,000 students, ages 14 and up, in about 2200 high schools (with another 700 on the docket). As the AFSC pointed out:

Public schooling strives to promote respect for other cultures, critical thinking and basic academic skills in a safe environment. In contrast, JROTC introduces guns into the schools, promotes authoritarian values, uses rote learning methods, and consigns much student time to learning drill, military history and protocol, which have little relevance outside the military.

It pays off, though, for the Pentagon. Although the JROTC denies it is engaged in recruiting, 45% of all cadets completing the program sign up, mostly as enlisted personnel. AFSC also found that JROTC programs are more often found in schools with a high proportion of non-white students -- now providing 54% of all cadets -- and in non-affluent schools.

And what are these cadets being taught? Says the report:

A comparison of the JROTC curriculum and two widely used civilian high school civics and history textbooks demonstrates that the JROTC curriculum falls well below accepted pedagogical standards. Units on citizenship and history are strikingly different from standard civil texts on these subjects.

For example, . . . the JROTC text portrays citizenship as being primarily achieved through military service, provides only a short discussion of civil rights; and downplays the importance of civilian control of the military. . . .

In comparison to the civilian history text, historical events in the JROTC curriculum are distorted . . History is described as a linear series of accomplishments by soldiers, while the progress engendered by regular citizens is marginalized. America's wars are treated as having been inevitable.

While it claims to provide leadership training with broad relevance, in fact the JROTC curriculum defines leadership as respect for constituted authority and the chain of command, rather than as critical thinking and democratic consensus-building . . . Finally, the text encourages the reader to rely uncritically on the military as a source of self-esteem and guidance.

Further, at a time that schools are trying desperately to discourage violence, the JROTC is teaching students how to kill more effectively. It is also teaching them -- in a text that addresses the "Indian menace" that "Fortunately the government policy of pushing the Indians farther West, then wiping them out, was carried out successfully. "

Colin Powell's army

And just where did the idea come from for the expansion of military indoctrination in our high schools? From none other than that very media model of a major modern general: Colin Powell.

Following the LA uprising in 1992, writes Steven Stycos in the Providence Phoenix, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff "proposed a massive expansion of the program. Powell urged the new units be targeted to inner-city youth as an alternative to drug use and gang membership." In New England the number of students involved nearly tripled.

Was Powell seeking citizen officers to balance the academy-trained military? Absolutely not. The JROTC students are grunt-fodder. Besides, while referring to ROTC as "vital to democracy," Powell closed 62 college-based ROTC units during this same period. The inevitable result was that the proportion of academy-trained officers rose and the role of the citizen-officer diminished.

You may recall that Powell was the man whom the media pushed for president, depicting him as in the mold of Dwight Eisenhower. The media forgot to tell us that while Eisenhower warned of a growing military-industrial complex, Powell has been one of its biggest beneficiaries and boosters. While Eisenhower fought to restore democracy, Powell fought to preserve sheikdoms. While the Eisenhower-era military followed the wartime orders of strong civilian leaders like Churchill and Roosevelt, the Powell-era military won't even follow Bill Clinton's orders in peacetime. While Eisenhower was part of a unique military demobilization after the Second World War, Powell was among those who prevented demobilization after the Cold War. On top of which he wants kids to know that the Indians were a menace.

Taking charge of the drug war

One might further ask just when it became the business of the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to set policy on drugs and urban gangs, but in today's Washington the question won't produce more than a shrug. Thus when, upon McCaffrey's appointment, Clinton transferred $250 million from the Pentagon to the drug czar's office, no one took notice. The accounts are already heavily commingled.

Browsing DOD literature makes this clear. For example, there is the Manual for Civil Emergencies that says it applies not only to the various branches of the military services but

serves as a reference for other Federal, State and local agencies on how the Department of Defense supports civil authorities and DOD assets can be used to support civilian leadership priorities in returning their communities to a state of "normalcy."

Those are DOD's quote marks around the last word -- a reminder that what may be normal to a general may not seem normal to an ordinary citizen. You have to watch the language carefully. For example, the manual defines hazards as "natural or man caused events, including, without limitation, civil disturbances, that may result in major disasters or emergencies."

And what are civil disturbances?: "Riots, acts of violence, insurrections, unlawful obstructions or assemblages, group acts of violence and disorder prejudicial to public law and order. . ."

In short, words are so broadly defined as to mean almost anything the Pentagon wants them to mean -- right down to a noisy crowd at the street corner. As Mort Sahl once pointed out, a federal conspiracy is now defined as "whenever two or three are gathered together."

Another unnerving manual is the resource guide for the 1994 Counterdrug Managers' Course at the National Interagency Counterdrug Institute at Camp San Luis Obispo CA. In it we learn that among the problems ordinary cops may face is that "the vast DOD bureaucracy will overwhelm the requesting law enforcement agency."

The manual adds reassuringly, "To date such fears have proven to be unfounded. DOD has not become a law enforcement agency . . There is, however, much that DOD can do without usurping a police role."

A few pages on, however, the manual lists what some of these things are:

In appropriate cases, armed forces personnel and equipment will be detailed directly to law enforcement agencies to assist in the fight.

The Department of Defense will be prepared to assist the Department of Justice with its responsibilities for incarceration and rehabilitation of drug criminals, through means such as training federal, state, and local personnel in the conduct of rehabilitation-oriented training camps for first-offense drug abuses and providing overflow facilities for incarceration of those convicted of drug crimes.

[DOD will] arrange for assigning military personal to federal drug law enforcement agencies and the ONDCP [the office of the drug czar] to perform liaison, training, and planning functions as appropriate to assist in implementation of the National Drug Control Strategy and the DOD guidance for implementation of that strategy.

[DOD will] review the potential for DOD to provide temporary overflow facilities, upon the request of appropriate federal, state, or local authorities, for incarceration of individuals convicted of drug crimes.

Verbal shell games are being played here. On the one hand, the Defense Department is declared not to be a law enforcement agency; on the other, its personnel and equipment "will be detailed directly to law enforcement agencies to assist in the fight."

Such postmodern linguistic mush is a key part of the camouflage used to conceal the military's mission creep. For example, the Navy is prohibited by the Posse Comitatus Act from engaging in domestic law enforcement, so the Coast Guard gets around this by hoisting a Coast Guard flag on any naval vessel it wants to use. The ship thereupon becomes a Coast Guard vessel -- for the sole purpose of circumventing the law.

Of particular concern to anyone wishing to retain a democracy in the US are the oblique references to concentration camps for drug offenders. To be sure, the manual prefers Maoist phraseology -- "rehabilitation-oriented training camps" -- but it means the same thing. This idea may have been launched some years back by a former high US drug official named Robert Dupont, who proposed in the Washington Post that there be mandatory drugs tests for those attending school or getting a driver's license. Those who failed drug tests repeatedly would be incarcerated in "large temporary health shelters." There would be some invasion of privacy and civil rights, the doctor admitted, but "this is a price we would need to pay for life in a modern, interdependent community."

The concentration camps, the manual notes, could also be used to provide "temporary overflow facilities . . . for incarceration of those convicted of drug crimes" at the request of "appropriate" officials.

Both Dupont and the manual use the word temporary. Does this refer to the quality of the gulags' construction or to the transitory nature of their need? And if the latter, then what precisely are the conditions under which temporary overflow facilities would be required? One thing history teaches us is that drug use rises and falls in a stately fashion; there are no sudden mass LSD binges or waves of ecstasy parties that sweep the nation. On the other hand, what can change rather rapidly is the government's desire and willingness to lock persons up --such as under martial law.

Finally, the manual indicates that not only are military personnel assigned to the drug czar but that the nation's domestic drug strategy is subject to "DOD guidance for implementation of that strategy." In other words, under McCaffrey our drug program will be run by a general, aided by military personnel, funded by military dollars and guided by military policy. In short, it is not unlike the sort of arrangement McCaffrey's Southcom has worked out for places like Bolivia and Colombia. Our cities have become just another third world country to keep under the military's control.

The handwriting has been on the wall for a long time. In speaking before the 1991 National Guard Association Conference, Lt. General John B. Conaway, Chief of the National Guard Bureau, said:

Our commander in chief has declared war on drugs. Our mission as America's National Guard in this war is clear: make America drug-free in as short a time as possible using any means necessary no matter what the cost.

So between January and August of the following year, the National Guard made nearly 20,000 arrests, searched 120,000 cars and searched over 1200 buildings. Said one National Guard official, "The National Guard is America's legally feasible attitude-change agent."

The regular Army, however, was anxious to get in the act as well. Lt. Gen. J. H. Bindford Peay III, the chief of staff for operations and plans, asserted in an Army publication a few years back that military forces are required for such purposes as internal peacekeeping, anti-drug operations and support of civil authorities to maintain stability in a rapidly changing America. Said Peay:

We can look forward to the day when our Congress repeals the Posse Comitatus Act and allows the Army to lend its full strength towards making America drug-free.

And Inside the Pentagon quoted the commander-in-chief of the US Special Operations Command saying in a speech:

[Drugs are] the greatest threat that is out there . . . We've got to get our stuff together. The battle is not going to be won in the source countries or in the transit countries. The battle is going to be won here in the United States and we better start doing something about it.

Major General Barry McCaffrey reporting for duty, Sir.

Such dreams have been partly realized without even bothering to repeal the troublesome Posse Comitatus Act. Thus we now find Army reservists working with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation in anti-pot forays. Said one Army official:

We want the public to become more aware of what we're doing. This is an ongoing war on our soil. We want people to see the Army involved in a war right here -- a war against drugs . . . We're fighting a war in our own hometowns -- a war we'll fight every day until, finally, we win.

Over-flights and litterbugs

Considerable benefits accrue to those civilian law enforcement agencies that kowtow to the military. For example, AP has reported that the Pentagon intends to give police departments 2,000 of its helicopters over the next few years. On the other hand, when Arizona Governor Fyfe Symington spoke of using the state national guard to keep the Grand Canyon open during the recent budget crisis, the Pentagon went on alert and prepared to federalized the Arizona militia if necessary to prevent any such residual display of states rights.

Of course, bringing the might of the Pentagon to bear on recalcitrant pot planters is not quite as heroic as defeating the Evil Empire. And it can have some peculiar results. For example, citizens in Monterey County CA have been complaining about a US Marine invasion of the Los Padres National Forest and nearby private lands. These incursions are part of Operation Alliance run by a intergovernmental "coordination center" that handles military-civilian actions in California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas. The operation is under the control of Joint Task Force 6 in El Paso, which according to a Forest Service memo, "is now scheduled to handle all military drug raids done thru local law enforcement in the lower 48 states and Puerto Rico. The Forest Service gets military support by going through Operation Alliance." (All military drug raids? Apparently no one has told the Forest Service that the Pentagon is not a law enforcement agency.)

For example, Mission JT-105-96 carried out "approximately October 5 through October 31, 1995" included:

Military over-flights and photography of National Forest Service land

Aerial reconnaissance about 500' from the ground, but allowing aircraft as low as 100' for "confirmation" and as low as 75' for "inserting and extracting military personnel via rappel, fast-rope and spy operation."

"Listening/observation posts on National Forest and National Forest Wilderness areas" and "overnight bivouac."

Landing aircraft in the wilderness area in emergencies.

A situation report from one of the Marine teams described finding a "garden" and then tracing the waterlines to it. Later that afternoon a jogger wandered into their midst. They gave him a drink of water and lied to him about their purpose, claiming that they were training.

On October 15th Team Two was discovered by a woman on horseback who was clearly not pleased to find them. They repeated their lie about training. She said she feared for her daughter's safety and that they had trespassed and broken a water main. She also blew the whistle on the operation when she got back to safety. Soon thereafter both Congressman Sam Farr and the Monterey Herald called and the "mission was compromised."

There were other complaints. An investigative report cited

allegations made by concerned residents that this patrol had established a campfire, littered, defecated and left soiled toilet paper in an exposed condition in the watershed that supplies water to several homes.

The investigator found the allegations were true but happily had not occurred on private property.

The Civil Liberties Monitoring Project, formed by local citizens twelve years ago when the first assaults began, counted 100 complaints of invasions of privacy and illegal searches in 1995. There was also "a surprising amount of damage from helicopters."

According to CLMP:

Helicopters overflights are often conducted at or near tree-top level (say 150' from the ground) despite an agreement by law enforcement to maintain a 500' height except when actually landing or taking off. The noise from these low flights is incredibly loud, causing much disturbance to wildlife, domestic animals and of course, human beings. A sudden loud noise from above triggers fight or flight response in most birds and animals. Much of the injury to animals is impossible to document in a largely forested rural area like the Mateel, but we have documented the deadly injury to a horse, death of a deer and its fawns, stampeding of cattle and destruction of eggs and young birds in the nest at several commercial aviaries. This latest effect is especially disturbing as we have several endangered species of birds in our forests including the spotted owl.

Adults can generally handle the effects of overflights. They get angry, call their congressperson, call the local sheriff, and make complaints. They document their grievances with us. This reduces the long-term effects upon them, if you don't count a deep and abiding distrust of law enforcement and government in general. Two groups cannot handle the psychological effects well, however. They are children and Vietnam vets with flashback problems. We have documented cases of children becoming fearful of going outside, where they had previously enjoyed gardening with their parents; of nightmares about helicopters, and similar effects . . .

Vietnam vets flashbacks are well known, and we are seeing them here. In the worst case the vet was simply advised by his doctor to abandon his home and leave the area until the raids ended.

Military lurkers

One of the ways the military conducts its domestic version of psychological and civil operations is to spy on American citizens. As far back the early 40s, for example, Army intelligence kept tabs on the likes of organizer Saul Alinsky. The practice blossomed with the civil rights and peace movements, possibly even, in the view of some investigators, including direct involvement of Army agents in the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.

Today, the practice continues albeit in modern garb. According to the Computer Fraud and Security Bulletin, the National Security Agency is already spying on the Internet by "sniffing" data at key router and gateways hosts. NSA is also said to have made deals with Microsoft, Lotus and Netscape to prevent anonymous e-mail or encryption systems on the Net.

And last July, Charles Swett, who works for the Pentagon office handling "special operations and low intensity conflict" wrote an internal memo titled: Strategic Assessment: The Internet. The report, uncovered by the Federation of American Scientists, provides an overview of the Internet, particularly its usefulness for spying on both Americans and foreigners and for spreading disinformation during psychological operations.

Of course, Swett didn't use those words, so to be absolutely fair let's quote the man:

The Internet could also be used offensively as an additional medium in psychological operations campaigns and to help achieve unconventional warfare objectives. Used creatively as an integral asset, the Internet can facilitate many DOD operations and activities. . .

The Internet is a potentially lucrative source of intelligence useful to DOD. The intelligence can include . . . information about the plans and operations of politically active groups.

Networks of human sources with access to the Internet could be developed in areas of security concern to the US, and these sources could be oriented to seek specific needed information. If contracted and managed correctly, such a system could be much more responsive and efficient than the current complex, unwieldy, intelligence tasking and collection processes we must use.

If it became widely known that DOD were monitoring Internet traffic for intelligence or counterintelligence purposes, individuals with personal agendas or political purposes in mind, or who enjoy playing pranks, would deliberately enter false or misleading messages. Our analysis function would need to account for this. A great deal of "brain power" exists on the Internet, and if it could be harnessed and channeled for productive purposes, it might be a useful addition to DOD's informational and political assets. Any such use, of course, would have to be protected by appropriate security measures.

It would be possible to employ the Internet as an additional medium for Psychological Operations (Psyops) campaigns. E-mail conveying the US perspective on issues and events could be efficiently and rapidly disseminated to a very wide audience. DOD intelligence agencies should investigate the role of the Internet in helping coordinate the operations of political activists and paramilitary groups in regions of interest.

The Internet should be incorporated in our Psyops planning as an additional medium.

Means of employing the Internet offensively in support of our unconventional warfare objectives should be employed.

While the talents of civ ops and pys ops could be clearly quickly turned from third world lands to our own, Swett specifically declares that his recommendations "should be carried out only in full compliance with the letter and the spirit of the law, and without violating the privacy of American citizens."

Yet Swett himself sets a poor example. After all, he has already been spying on us. And his report gives a strong sense of what the forthcoming dossiers of the Pentagon's Internet strategic assessment office will look like.

For example, he sees as "startling" the use of the Internet to organize against the Contract with America with its charges that it, in effect is encouraging "class war, race war, gender war, and generational war."

He lumps as fringe groups the white supremacist National Alliance, the Michigan Militia, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Earth First, and People for Ethical Treatment of Animals.

He quotes from the Wall Street Journal:

Fringe groups are increasingly going on-line, gathering converts and seeking validation on the Internet. The network's far-flung links and low-cost communications are a boon to backwater groups that can't afford to use direct mail to make their pitches . . . The more a group is shut out of the mainstream, the more likely it is to go on-line.

Swett takes particular interest in the Institute for Global Communications and the Association for Progressive Communications, which he describes as "largest and most active international political groups using the Internet." He calls IGC/APC (used by the Review among tens of thousands of others in the US and elsewhere) as "clearly a left-wing political organization." And he informs his Pentagon colleagues that its conferences addresse subjects such as:

Lists of companies and/or products to be considered for a boycott . . . State security activities, surveillance, tapping The Left List Aid in the planning and execution of campaigns to end the nuclear weapons era.

Information relevant to the campaign opposing US military bases in Australia and the Asian-Pacific region. News, announcements and information from War Resisters International, on all aspects of anti-militarist and nonviolent action worldwide. Information and discussion regarding the anarchist and anti-authoritarian movement and non-hierarchical organizing.

Alarmed by all this, Swett shows the spook's unique perspective on matters political, lumping anti-authoritarian movements and non-hierarchical organizing as among the threats the Pentagon should keep its eye on. He also notes that "groups of conspiracy theorists exchange e-mail explaining their often bizarre theories about conspiracies conducted by the US government in general and DOD in particular."

If this all sounds a tad familiar; it is. Only the source material back then was hard copy and it was deposited not on hard disk at the Pentagon but in the files of J. Edgar Hoover.


The military's extraordinary role in contemporary civilian life can be traced back at least to the Carter administration. In a July 1983 series in the San Francisco Examiner, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Knut Royce reported that a presidential directive had been drafted by a few Carter administration personnel in 1979 to allow the military to take control of the government for 90 days in the event of an emergency. A caveat on page one of the directive said, "Keeping the government functioning after a nuclear war is a secret, costly project that detractors claim jeopardizes US traditions and saves a privileged few." According to Royce there was a heated debate within the Carter administration as to just what constituted an "emergency."

The issue arose again during the Iran-Contra affair, but even in the wake of all the copy on that scandal, the public got little sense of how far some America's soldiers of fortune were willing to go to achieve their ends. When the Iran-Contra hearings came close to the matter, chair Senator Inouye backed swiftly away. Here is an excerpt from those hearings. Oliver North is at the witness table:

REP BROOKS: Colonel North, in your work at the NSC, were you not assigned, at one time, to work on plans for the continuity of government in the event of a major disaster?


SEN INOUYE: I believe that question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area so may I request that you not touch on that.

REP BROOKS: I was particularly concerned, Mr. Chairman, because I read in Miami papers, and several others, that there had been a plan developed by that same agency, a contingency plan in the event of emergency, that would suspend the American constitution. And I was deeply concerned about it and wondered if that was the area in which he had worked. I believe that it was and I wanted to get his confirmation.

SEN INOUYE; May I most respectfully request that that matter not be touched upon at this stage. If we wish to get into this, I'm certain arrangements can be made for an executive session

With few exceptions, the media ignored what well could be the most startling revelation to have come out of the Iran/Contra affair, namely that high officials of the US government were planning a possible military/civilian coup. First among the exceptions was the Miami Herald, which on July 5, 1987, ran the story to which Jack Brooks referred. The article, by Alfonzo Chardy, revealed Oliver North's involvement in plans for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to take over federal, state and local functions during an ill-defined national emergency.

The Constitution does not directly address the question of what should happen in the midst of a major national catastrophe. But neither does it give the slightest support to notions of turning matters over to non-elected civilian or military officials with plenary powers. The best guide is to be found in Amendment Ten which states that the powers of the federal government are those delegated to it by the states and the people. The states and the people have not delegated the power of martial law. Thus in a true crisis (such as a nuclear attack) the answer seems quite plain: the country would be run as a loose confederation of fifty states until a legitimate federal government could be re-established. In the interim, the highest officials in the land would be the governors.

According to Chardy, the plan called for 'suspension of the Constitution, turning control of the government over to the Federal Management Agency, emergency appointment of military commanders to run state and local governments and declaration of martial law.' The proposal appears to have forgotten that Congress, legislatures and the judiciary even existed.

In a November 18, 1991 story, the New York Times elaborated:

Acting outside the Constitution in the early 1980s, a secret federal agency established a line of succession to the presidency to assure continued government in the event of a devastating nuclear attack, current and former United States officials said today.

The program was called "Continuity of Government." In the words of a recent report by the Fund for Constitutional Government,1 "succession or succession-by-designation would be implemented by unknown and perhaps unelected persons who would pick three potential successor presidents in advance of an emergency. These potential successors to the Oval Office may not be elected, and they are not confirmed by Congress.

According to CNN, the list eventually grew to 17 names and included Howard Baker, Richard Helms, Jeanne Kirkpatrick James Schlesinger, Richard Thornberg, Edwin Meese, Tip O'Neil, and Richard Cheney.

The plan was not even limited to a nuclear attack but included any "national security emergency" which was defined as:

Any occurrence, including natural disaster, military attack, technological or other emergency, that seriously degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States.

This bizarre scheme was dismissed in many Washington quarters as further evidence of the loony quality of the whole Iran/contra affair. One FEMA official called it a lot of crap while a representative for Attorney General Meese described it as 'bullshit."

The problem is that there is a long history of compatibility between madness and totalitarian takeovers, Adolph Hitler being a prime but far from lone example. Further, there is plenty of evidence in this case that the planning was far more than simply an off-the-wall brainstorm. At least one report found that the US Army had even gone so far as to draft a legal document providing justifications for martial law.

Nor was the planning limited to crises involving the total breakdown of society as in the aftermath of a nuclear attack. Among the justifiable uses of martial law were "national opposition to a US military invasion abroad" and widespread internal. dissent.

At least one high government official took the plan seriously enough to vigorously oppose it. In a August 1984 letter to NSC chair Robert McFarlane, Attorney General William French Smith wrote:

I believe that the role assigned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the revised Executive Order exceeds its proper function as a coordinating agency for emergency preparedness . . . This department and others have repeatedly raised serious policy and legal objections to the creation of an 'emergency czar' role for FEMA.

FEMA was clearly out of control. Another memo, written in 1982 to then FEMA director Louis Giuffrida and given only tightly restricted circulation even within the agency, made this astonishing assertion:

Over the long term, the peacetime action programs of FEMA and other departments and agencies have the effect of making the conceivable need for military takeover less and less as time goes by. A fully implemented civil defense program may not now be regarded as a substitute for martial law, nor could it be so marketed, but if successful in its execution it could have that effect.

The memo essentially proposed that the American people would rather be taken over by FEMA than by the military. When those are the options on the table, you know you're in trouble.

The head of FEMA until 1985, General Louis Giuffrida, also once wrote a paper on the Legal Aspects of Managing Disorders. Here is some of what he said:

No constitution, no statute or ordinance can authorize Martial Rule. [It commences] upon a determination (not a declaration) by the senior military commander that the civil government must be replaced because it is no longer functioning anyway . . . The significance of Martial Rule in civil disorders is that it shifts control from civilians and to the military completely and without the necessity of a declaration, proclamation or other form of public manifestation . . . As stated above, Martial Rule is limited only by the principle of necessary force.

Those words come from a time when Giuffrida was the head of then-Governor Reagan's California Specialized Training Institute, a National Guard school. It was not, for Giuffrida, a new thought. In 1970 he had written a paper for the Army War College in which he called for martial law in case of a national uprising by black militants. Among his ideas were "assembly centers or relocation camps" for at least 21 million "American Negroes."

During 1968 and 1972, Reagan ran a series of war games in California called Cable Splicer, which involved the Guard, state and local police, and the US Sixth Army. Details of this operation were reported in 1975 in a story by Ron Ridenour of the New Times, an Arizona alternative paper, and later exhumed by Dave Lindorff in the Village Voice.

Cable Splicer, it turned out, was a training exercise for martial law. The man in charge was none other than Edwin Meese, then Reagan's executive secretary. At one point, Meese told the Cable Splicer combatants:

This is an operation, this is an exercise, this is an objective which is going forward because in the long run . . . it is the only way that will be able to prevail [against anti-war protests.]

Addressing the kickoff of Cable Splicer, Governor Reagan told some 500 military and police officers:

You know, there are people in the state who, if they could see this gathering right now and my presence here, would decide their worst fears and convictions had been realized -- I was planning a military takeover.

The Reaganites were not, however, the only ones with such thoughts. Consider this from a NSC directive written by Frank Carlucci in 1981:

Normally a state of martial law will be proclaimed by the President. However, in the absence of such action by the President, a senior military commander may impose martial law in an area of his command where there had been a complete breakdown in the exercise of government functions by local civilian authorities.

The military coup of 2012

To those who would dismiss all the foregoing as the fantasies of a paranoid conspiracy theorist, I fully understand. Such are our times, such is the propaganda in which our minds swim, that the real can frequently, almost inevitably, seem but a mirage.

But how about this? In the winter 1992 issue of Parameters, the quarterly of the US Army College, there appeared an article by Lt. Col. Charles J. Dunlap Jr. USAF Dunlap was a graduate of St. Joseph's University, Villanova School of Law, the Armed Forces Staff College, and a distinguished graduate of the National War College. In 1992 he was named by the Judge Advocates Association as the USAF's outstanding career armed services attorney. In short, not your average paranoid conspiracy theorist.

Dunlap's article was called The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012. In it, he pretends to be writing to a fellow military colleague in 2012, explaining how the coup had occurred. With eerie precision he described America's current state:

America became exasperated with democracy. We were disillusioned with the apparent inability of elected government to solve the nation's dilemmas. We were looking for someone or something that could produce workable answers. The one institution of government in which the people retained faith was the military.2 Buoyed by the military's obvious competence in the First Gulf War, the public increasingly turned to it for solutions to the country's problems. Americans called for an acceleration of trends begun in the 1980s: tasking the military with a variety of new, non-traditional missions, and vastly escalating its commitment to formerly ancillary duties.

Though not obvious at the time, the cumulative effect of these new responsibilities was to incorporate the military into the political process to an unprecedented degree.

Dunlap quoted one of Washington's journalistic cherubs, James Fallows, in a 1991 article:

I am beginning to think that the only way the national government can do anything worthwhile is to invent a security threat and turn the job over to the military . . . The military, strangely, is the one government institution that has been assigned legitimacy to act on its notion of the collective good.

Dunlap recounted the slow attrition of civilian independence from the military:

In 1981 Congress passed a bill, the Military Cooperation with Civilian Law Enforcement Agencies Act "specifically intended to force reluctant military commanders to actively collaborate in police work. By 1992, combating drugs had been declared a "high national security mission."

By this same time, the military had become deeply involved in environmental cleanup, and would regularly show up in uniform in high crime areas.

The balance of power between the various services was being undermined by an emphasis on "jointness," thus weakening an internal check on the military.

Dunlap then imagined what might happen next:

Other problems were transformed into "national security" issues. As more commercial airlines went bankrupt and unprofitable air routes were dropped, the military was called upon to provide "essential" air transport to the affected regions. In the name of national defense, the military next found itself in the sealift business. . . .The nations' crumbling infrastructure was also declared a "national security threat." As was proposed back in 1991, troops rehabilitated pubic housing, rebuilt bridges and roads, and constructed new government buildings . . . . Voices in both Congress and the military had reached a crescendo calling for military involvement across a broad spectrum of heretofore civilian activities. Soon, it became common in practically every community to see crews of soldiers working on local projects. Military attire drew no stares.

Not so long ago, Stephen Rosenfeld of the Washington Post wrote a bizarre and scary column praising one of the Army's advocates of Dunlap's bad dream. Rosenfeld described US Army Major Ralph Peters this way:

At home, use of the military appears inevitable to him -- though not yet to an American consensus -- "at least on our borders and in some urban environments" . . . He deplores our military's reluctance to join the war on drugs, which he attributes to a fear of failure. He would dutifully prepare for the traditionally 'military' missions, plus the new one of missile defense. But he would be ready to engage with drugs and crime, terrorism, peacekeeping, illegal immigration, disease control, resource protection, evacuation of endangered citizens . . .

What Dunlap was described and Peters advocated was not a bold military stroke against the civilian government, but simply a coup by attrition. Wrote Dunlap:

By the year 2000 the armed forces had penetrated many vital aspects of American society. More and more military officers sought the kind of autonomy in these civilian affairs that they would expect from their military superiors in the execution of traditional combat operations . . . They convinced themselves that they could more productively serve the nation in carrying out their new assignments if they accrued to themselves unfettered power to implement their programs.

By 2012, it was all over.

Col. Dunlap's calculations are that we have about 16 years to come up with an alternative approach.

And he may be a bit optimistic.

1 The author is on the board of the Fund for Constitutional Government but did not work on this report.

2 This remains true. A recent poll showed that 47% of Americans have a great deal of confidence in the military. The Supreme Court, colleges and medicine were lumped at about 30% and every other majori institution lagged far behind. Only 15% have high condidence in the white House and only 10% in Congress.



The Consensus Behind Militarism

Jeff Cohen -

While the U.S. media has some spirited debate over politics and social issues – i.e. Fox News vs. MSNBC – there remains a broad consensus about foreign adversaries whose behavior is almost always cast in the harshest light, a reality that colors how America reacts to the world, as Jeff Cohen writes.

Jeff Cohen of F.A.I.R.I spent years as a political pundit on mainstream TV – at CNN, Fox News and MSNBC. I was outnumbered, outshouted, red-baited and finally terminated. Inside mainstream media, I saw that major issues were not only dodged, but sometimes not even acknowledged to exist.

Today there’s an elephant in the room: a huge, yet ignored, issue that largely explains why Social Security is now on the chopping block. And why other industrialized countries have free college education and universal healthcare, but we don’t. It’s arguably our country’s biggest problem – a problem that Martin Luther King Jr. focused on before he was assassinated 45 years ago, and has only worsened since then (which was the height of the Vietnam War).

That problem is U.S. militarism and perpetual war.

In 1967, King called the United States “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today” – and said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

Nowadays MSNBC hosts yell at Fox News hosts, and vice versa, about all sorts of issues – but when the Obama administration expanded the bloody war in Afghanistan, the shouting heads at both channels went almost silent. When Obama’s drone war expanded, there was little shouting. Not at MSNBC, not at Fox. Nor at CNN, CBS, ABC or so-called public broadcasting.

The De-Militarization of Colombia. Ending US Military Presence: Pillage, Promise and Peace

James Petras -


Indigenous residents escort Colombian soldiers to deliver them to authorities in Caldono in the province of Cauca, July 18, 2012. — Reuters picWe live in a time of great destruction and grand economic opportunities and Latin America is no exception. In the global context, the US Empire is engaged in destructive wars ( Afghanistan , Iraq , Pakistan , Libya , Yemen , Somalia and Haiti ). In contrast China, India, Brazil, Argentina and other “emerging economies” are expanding trade, investments and reducing poverty. The European Union (EU) and the United States (USA) are in deep economic crises. The EU “periphery” ( Greece , Ireland , Portugal , Spain ) are totally bankrupt. The US “dependencies” in North America ( Mexico ), Central America and the Caribbean are virtual narco-states plagued by mass poverty, astronomical crime rates and economic stagnation. The US dependencies are plundered by foreign multi-nationals, local oligarchs and corrupt politicians.

Colombia stands at the crossroads: it can follow in the footsteps of its predecessor, narco-President Alvaro Uribe and remain a military dependency, a lone outpost of the US Empire in South America . Colombia can remain at the margin of the most dynamic world markets and at war with its people or via a new socio-political leadership it can effect a profound reorientation of policy and consummate a transition toward greater integration with the dynamic markets of the world.

Colombia has all the objective ingredients (material and human resources) to be part of the dynamic new order. But first and foremost it must shed its role as the militarized vassal of the United States and an object of exploitation by a rentier oligarchy. Colombia must cease backing US coups ( Honduras , Venezuela ) and threatening its neighbors ( Ecuador ).

Colombia cannot develop its productive forces and finance the modernization of higher education and upgrade technical training and expend billions on the hundreds of thousands of military, paramilitary, police and intelligence operatives. The military repressive apparatus is directed at repressing the most productive, creative e and motivated sectors of the labor force. Prosperity depends on civil peace which depends on the profound demilitarization of the Colombian state. The connection between economy and military is clear. China spends one tenth of the US military budget but grows five times faster. Brazil ’s independent foreign policy and realignment with the Asian market has led to high growth, while Mexico , as a satellite of the North American Free Trade Treaty, is a stagnant, failed state.

De-Militarization: The Specificities of Colombia:

Colombia is the most militarized society in Latin America , with the highest number of civil society victims. “Militarism” in Colombia includes the largest active military force operating within state boundaries and being the largest recipient of military financing from the greatest militarist power in the world. As a subordinate client of the US Empire, Colombia has the worst human rights record, as far as the killing of journalists, trade unionists, peasant activists and human rights advocates.

State and para-state violence, however, is not random; over 4 million Colombian farmers, peasants and rural intermediaries have been forcibly dispossessed and their lands seized by big landowners, narco-traffickers, generals and businesspeople allied with the government. In other words State terror and mass dispossession is a peculiarly Colombian method of “capital accumulation”. State violence is the method to secure the means of production to increase agro-exports at the expense of family farmers.

In Colombia , state and para-state extermination replaces the market and “contractual relations” in effecting economic transactions. The unequal relations between a militarist state and popular civil society movements has been the principal impediment to a transition from an oligarchical political regime to a pluralistic representative democratic electoral system.

Colombia combines 19th century forms of elite representation with highly developed 21st century means of military repression: a case of combined and uneven development. As a result we find ‘unbalanced growth’; an overdeveloped military, police, paramilitary apparatus and underdeveloped social and political institutions willing and capably of engaging in negotiations through reciprocity and compromises within a civic framework.

The state culture of “permanent war” undermines the conditions of trust and reciprocity and raises unacceptable risks to any social and political interlocutors.

Within the militarized state – especially because of its deep-rooted links to regional US military institutions – only “negotiations” which reinforce the current socio-economic order and political institutional arrangement are acceptable. Even recognized “peace mediators” engage in one-sided “negotiations” demanding unilateral concessions from insurgents and rarely make demands for reciprocal concessions from the State.

Most Latin American countries which have gone through a transition from dictatorial rule to electoral politics have respected opponents; only Colombia has murdered the entire political leadership and activists – from the Patriotic Union – who converted from armed to electoral struggle. No other Latin American (or European or Asian)opposition has experience the state violence inflicted on the Union Patriotica (UP): the murder of 5,000 activists including Presidential and Congressional candidates.

South America ’s current center-left regimes, their thriving economies and the free and open social movement struggles, are a product of social upheavals (between 1999-2005) which ended ‘militarized politics’. Popular revolts in Bolivia , Argentina , Ecuador , and Venezuela cleared the way for the Center-Left. In Brazil , Uruguay and Chile social movements helped displace rightwing regimes.

As a result of mass struggles and popular uprisings, center-left regimes pursue relatively independent economic policies and progressive anti-poverty programs. They have raised living standards and provide political and social space for continued class struggle.

Colombia is one of the few countries which have failed to make the transition from a right-wing militarist regime to a center-left welfare and development model, because unlike the rest of Latin America it has yet to experience a popular uprising, resulting in a new political configuration.

Peace Settlements: Central America or Indo-China?

“Peace settlements” produce winners and losers and reflect the external and internal correlation of forces. The process of negotiation, including who is consulted in setting priorities and making concessions ,is central to the future trajectory of the “peace process”.

Recent history provides us with two diametrically opposed ‘peace processes’ with dramatically different consequences: the Indo-Chinese peace settlement of 1973-75 and the Central American peace settlements of 1992-1993. In the case of Indo-China and more specifically the Vietnamese-US peace settlement, the National Liberation Front (NLF), secured the withdrawal of the US military forces, the dismantling of US military bases and the de-militarization of the state. The NLF agreed to a process of political integration based on the recognition of certain basic socio-economic and political reforms, including agrarian reform, the repossession of farms by millions of displaced peasants and the prosecution of civilian and military officials charged with crimes against humanity. The FLN negotiators made political concessions but were in close consultation with their mass base of peasants, workers and professionals. They upheld the principle of democratizing the state and demilitarizing society as essential conditions for ending the war.

Over the past 35 years, Vietnam has evolved from an independent socialist toward a mixed public-private capitalist economy, transiting toward higher growth and higher living standards but increasing inequalities and greater corruption.

In contrast, the Central American peace agreements signed by the guerrilla leaders led to the end of armed conflict and the incorporation of the insurgent elite into the electoral system. However, there were no basic changes in the military, economic and social system. None of the mass popular organizations were consulted. The bulk of the armed fighters, both popular insurgents and paramilitary mercenaries, were discharged and became an army of “armed” unemployed. Over the past 20 years, criminal gangs have taken over large swathes of Central America, while the ex-Farabundo Marti guerrilla elite and their Guatemalan/ Nicaraguan colleagues, have become affluent businesspeople and allied with conservative electoral politicians. They are protected by private bodyguards and oblivious of the conditions of 60% of the population living below the poverty-line. The “peace accords” in Central America served as a vehicle for social mobility for the guerrilla elite. They did not end the violence. Every year more people meet a violent death than were killed during the years of civil war.

The Vietnamese and Central American peace agreements took place during different international moments. In the 1970’s the Soviet Union and China provided broad international material and political support to the Vietnamese. During the Central American peace negotiations, the Soviet Union disintegrated, China was turning to capitalism and Cuba was facing a “special period” of economic crises because of the loss of Soviet aid and trade.

Clearly the change in the international correlation of forces influenced but did not determine the unfavorable results in Central America . In less than a decade after the disastrous Central American peace accords, Venezuela , under President Chavez, proceeded to defeat a coup and advanced toward a socialist transformation. Popular revolts overthrew neo-liberal rulers in Argentina , Bolivia , Ecuador and elsewhere. The end of the USSR did not end successful class struggles in Latin America .

The reactionary political correlation of forces of the 1990’s has changed dramatically. By 2011, only Central America , Mexico and Colombia remain as islands of reaction in a sea of resurgent leftism and popular struggles in South America, North Africa and South Asia .

The Central American peace settlement, with its acceptance of the militarized state, linked to agro-mineral export elites and narco-criminal gangs has become a monument for a failed “peace process”. The Vietnamese peace settlement, while far from perfect, at least has provided peace, security, agrarian reform, and higher income for the peasantry and workers. No doubt Colombia has historical and structural differences with Central American and Indo-China.

The armed social movements in Colombia have a specific history which preceded the Central Americans insurgents by many years and has developed political ties with certain regions and social movements which have endured over time. Unlike Central American and Vietnam insurgents they are also not dependent on “external” supporters. Above all the failed experience with “political reconciliation” in Central America has caused Colombian insurgents to raise significant conditions regarding the peace process, namely demilitarization and socio-economic reforms (agrarian reform and land recovery for the dispossessed). “Peace at any price” will only lead to new and equally virulent forms of violence, as is the case today in Mexico with 10,000 killings a year 7,000 murders a year in El Salvador and an equal amount of homicides in Guatemala .

The Vietnam experience of peace via social justice and de-militarization seems to ensure a modicum of prosperty. Certainly the international correlation of forces has dramatically improved. Latin America has replaced neo-liberal puppet regimes. The Latin American economies have found dynamic Asian markets independent of the US . Popular revolts in the Middle East and Asia – from Tunisia to Afghanistan are forcing the US military to retreat. The international and regional context is very favorable if Colombia can take advantage of it. The method and modes of struggle ,those which unite popular movements without distinction, should be openly discussed and resolved without exclusions . The insurgency is part of the solution, not the problem. The key to a successful dialogue is the demilitarization of the state-ending the US military presence, terminating Plan Colombia and converting military spending to economic and social development.


The Maimed – On Eleven Years of War In Afghanistan

Chris Hedges -

Illustration by Mr. FishMany of us who are here carry within us death. The smell of decayed and bloated corpses. The cries of the wounded. The shrieks of children. The sound of gunfire. The deafening blasts. The fear. The stench of cordite. The humiliation that comes when you surrender to terror and beg for life. The loss of comrades and friends. And then the aftermath. The long alienation. The numbness. The nightmares. The lack of sleep. The inability to connect to all living things, even to those we love the most. The regret. The repugnant lies mouthed around us about honor and heroism and glory. The absurdity. The waste. The futility.

It is only the maimed that finally know war. And we are the maimed. We are the broken and the lame. We ask for forgiveness. We seek redemption. We carry on our backs this awful cross of death, for the essence of war is death, and the weight of it digs into our shoulders and eats away at our souls. We drag it through life, up hills and down hills, along the roads, into the most intimate recesses of our lives. It never leaves us. Those who know us best know that there is something unspeakable and evil many of us harbor within us. This evil is intimate. It is personal. We do not speak its name. It is the evil of things done and things left undone. It is the evil of war.

“Useless Anthropology”: Strategies for Dealing with the Militarization of the Academy

Maximilian Forte -

militarized universityOne does not need to seek employment with the Pentagon, take part in counterinsurgency, or work for the Human Terrain System in order to provide useful, even if involuntary, support for the national security, intelligence and military goals of the U.S., or any NATO state for that matter. In fact, one does not even need to be an American anthropologist in order to provide the U.S. military and intelligence with the information they seek. One needs to simply produce useful anthropology and not be mindful of the consequences of how it can be used by unintended audiences, now or in the future, to support agendas of which one may have limited awareness and even less desire to support. With this and much more in mind, my ambition is to seek the creation of a useless anthropology, and while some would say I was always on the right track for achieving that, I think more of us need to share a goal of producing useless research, to make worthless contributions, and by useless I mean useless to power, to empire, to domination, to regimes of scrutiny and inspection of the periphery. And not just useless, but even toxic and repulsive to the scientists of conquest – an anthropology of both withdrawal and resistance, free of false dilemmas that work to support business as usual, willing to set fire to the crops we planted if it stops them from being harvested by the tyrant, liberating ourselves from being our own best hostages. The idea is to refuse further engagement with the international traffic in information and knowledge that supports the workings of empire, capital, and the state.

In this presentation I seek to make three main points. First, to indicate some of the ways that all of us can be even unwillingly useful in supporting U.S. military and intelligence interests. Second, to reflect on the meaning of useful anthropology. Third, to point the way to possible alternatives, that could entail unthinking anthropology as we know it.

With reference to the first point, Gerald Sider made the point that at this moment in history “there is no such thing as an innocent anthropology” (p. 43). We know now that the U.S. military and intelligence are looking for ways of incorporating scholars in producing a global surveillance net. One way is to bring social scientists on counterinsurgency and pacification missions. Another is to have them conduct analysis of stolen Iraqi documents (see here and here), or to conduct fieldwork in areas of emerging or potential threat and describe the radicalization process and ways of counteracting it, as part of the Pentagon’s Minerva Research Initiative, managed in partnership with the National Science Foundation. Another is to comb through open access electronic resources. And yet another is just to get everything for free, by scanning, copying, seizing any or all electronic devices or written records from researchers as they enter the United States whether returning home to the U.S., or just traveling through, U.S. Border Patrol and Customs agents can: scan and hold laptops indefinitely; they can make electronic copies of hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, iPods, pagers, beepers, video and audio tapes; and, they can seize papers, documents, books, pamphlets, or even litter. This is also true of Canada and the UK.

Open access publishing, and publishing in electronic formats that are thus amenable to automated harvesting, is a critically important way that ethnographic data can be used by the national security state without the willing participation of researchers. “Intelligence does not have to be secret to be valuable!” says the website of the University of Military Intelligence, regarding open access resources, which takes us to Intelink-U, part of the U.S. Army’s Foreign Military Studies Office, emerging from the Open Source Information System which serves the US intelligence community with open source intelligence. Among Intelink-U’s subscriptions is the University of New Mexico’s Latin America Database, as well as EbscoHost Databases. The Foreign Military Studies office is also in the process of creating the World Basic Information Library (WBIL), which promotes the concept of “distance drilling” telling us that: “About 85% of requirements in the intelligence business can be met with open source, unclassified sources, and can be exploited by qualified military reservists working by telecommuting. The WBIL has remotely located reservists from all four branches of the service doing ‘virtual’ collection and production utilizing their home Personal Computers.” ?Also, the Information Operations Advisory Task Force states that it has a “requirement to provide US Forces [in] Afghanistan…with the capability to collect, analyze, and disseminate open source (i.e. sociological or anthropological) information.”

With reference to the second point of this presentation, the bases for a useful anthropology, let us note that useful, objective, neutral, and scientific, are once again the buzzwords for an anthropology aligned with power, in the service of the national security state, while rhetorically attempting to move the militarization of the academy beyond the sphere of “politics”. Criticism is political; support is scientific. If you oppose military objectives, you are biased; if you provide practical knowledge, you are objective, and objective is good, just like machines are good. On the other hand, military interest in anthropology is to a significant extent the perhaps unintended outcome of anthropology’s success in marketing itself. The compulsion in this discipline, from the time before its institutionalization in universities, has been to market itself to power as a useful science, with valuable contributions to make, later boasting of the vital importance of ethnography as anthropology’s unique contribution, so much so that anthropology and ethnography are wrongly equated. We wanted the attention of elites, and now we’ve got it. The military is interested in both culture and ethnography. In an article in National Defense Magazine, we are told that “A deeper understanding of culture has become an official part of Marine Corps strategy.” Meanwhile, General William “KIP” Ward, Commander, United States Africa Command, said this about the Pentagon’s work in Africa:

“A lot of activity goes on in the continent through our non-government organizations. Academia is involved. When I was in previous assignments, someone came to me and would talk about, well, ‘Ward, you need to get a cultural anthropologist on your team.’ I said, what! A cultural what? Anthropologist? To do what? Get out of here. Or, ‘Ward, you need to have someone to help you understand the human dimension. You need some human terrain analysis.’ I said, ‘what? Get out of here.’ But it’s important, and where do those skills, talents reside — academia.”

But for more academics to be more useful, they need to get over certain twinges of moral compunction. In the minds of the state and military some of us have already reverted to being a tool of imperialism, assuming we were ever anything else. Not serving imperialism is routinely called “retreating from the world” by some. Montgomery McFate, the anthropology PhD who has been the most prominent spokesperson for the Human Terrain System, wrote in a military journal that,

“Over the past 30 years, as a result of anthropologists’ individual career choices and the tendency toward reflexive self-criticism contained within the discipline itself, the discipline has become hermetically sealed within its Ivory Tower….anthropologists still prefer to study the ‘exotic and useless,’ in the words of A.L. Kroeber….The retreat to the Ivory Tower is also a product of the deep isolationist tendencies within the discipline.” (p. 28)

She doesn’t stop there, unfortunately, she notes that,

“frequently backed up by self-reflexive neo-Marxism, anthropology began a brutal process of self-flagellation, to a degree almost unimaginable to anyone outside the discipline….The turn toward postmodernism within anthropology exacerbated the tendency toward self-flagellation….(also) This movement away from descriptive ethnography has produced some of the worst writing imaginable.” (p. 28)

In this regard, she merely echoes some of the conservative and often overwrought backlash within the discipline over this trend that it imagined to be postmodern, whatever that is, apparently being self-critical is evil.

With reference to the third and final point of this presentation, looking for alternatives and options to cooptation, for less useful anthropologies, I was inspired by Sider’s ideas about how a partisan anthropology, done “to help the victims of currently intensifying inequalities,” might begin, and it would begin in “the design of fieldwork and in the context of understanding struggle” (p. 44). He advocates against interviews, against asking questions of so-called informants, and against any form of recording data. Asking questions, he notes, is a seemingly simple act that opens our work to use by those who seek to dominate and control the people we study (p. 45). There are other ways we can work, he says, less open, but not impervious, to subsequent manipulation. Other options include choosing research projects that, in the eyes of the national security state, are entirely useless, and to write up the results in very esoteric language, with ample self-criticism. Another option is do to more “research at home” either collaborating with persons who are not the subject of either a moral panic or some hyperbolic national security hysteria, or, producing critiques of the way elites exercise power and enforce inequalities and injustices. Another option is open source ethnography done online, to collaborate with the producers of online information of ethnographic value, remixing it so that it becomes problematic to military examination. Not publishing in open access formats is another option, especially once the work is not funded by a public agency, the argument that “the public has a right to the research it funded” vanishes into irrelevance. We can also imagine experimenting with forms of research communication that defy easy understanding and conventional requirements of the military planner’s database, such as fictionalized ethnographies; ethnographic poetry; open source cinema (see here also); theatrical coproductions, and so forth.

What we cannot do, however, and pretend to be innocent about it, is simply to leave here today and continue to conduct business as usual.


For more examples of open source cinema that I have tried, see some of my recent productions, such as: Sour Chutney, West India, and Deep Obeah.

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