Saturday, December 02, 2006

Another Stall, Another Ruse

What in hell does that mean!? Bush is going to hand over protection of Baghdad to Maliki!??? Maliki's got nothing to work with! An army that deserts to vartan (homeland) because that's what old tribal lashgars (lineage-based fighting forces) are all about! You defend territory based on traditional tribal land tenure. That's why they all said they would join up if they could remain in their home territories!! Get the story!?? If there is no Iraqi identity now, how can there by an Iraqi army? The truth here is that Bush is nuzzling Maliki to take over so that when he fails and we must leave to remove ourselves from 'harm's way,' (I love that one), Bush can say the Iraqis failed, not the US forces! It's a prelude to our bow-out, duplicitous, disingenuous and down right disgusting! (For a fine history of the history of American imperialism, read
www.answer@actionsf.org ;
"Baker Commission -- Another Study Group Charade Politicians Fiddle: Iraq Burns" It's a must and spread it around widely! Like Viet Nam, no one will take the responsibility for getting out because it will look like another US failure. It took years for the US to extricate itself from Viet Nam even when EVERYONE agreed we had to go. Years of more carnage, killing and maiming and displacements on a colossal scale. And do you think this new Congress will do it? Not on your life! Who's gonna stand up and cut off funds for the war? If they had guts and some integrity, they would deploy all our troops to a safe off-site, then cut off funds and show that they mean business. Here we go again, people: Imperialism and its fall-out rears its ugly head again. Have we learned nothing from the European debacle in the Middle East in the mid 29th century? Wasn't defeating the Ottoman empire enough? What, no spoils for the Arabs!? Only now, the Arabs are stronger, better armed, militarily creative, and ready to take on imperialism in any stripe, along with the complicit Arab governments that have sustained mandate territory regardless of the disguise of Arab nation/states. Make no mistake, Arab grandchildren have inheriterd and internalized the rage brought on by foreign domination. And in this age of sophisticated self-sustained weaponry which anyone can obtain, the west will be attacked for generations. What we need to do is withdraw from Iraq, support whatever government takes shape there, talk directly to Iran, Syria and any other nation with vested interest and bring every group to the table to discuss survival. They still don't get it. Imperialism is over! The bottom now speak directly to the top thru threat, insurgency, terror because they have the means, for the first time, to destroy innocent foreign populations. The world has never seen weapons of this magnitude before. S0 what political responses need to evolve to face this emergent world situation? Someone better come up with something, fast!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Myth, the Maker and the Mayhem

Can you believe it? Can you freekin' believe it? Our President is still committed to the disproven idea that al Qaida is the trouble in Iraq!! Such dangerous and erroneous thinking permits the support of 'winning' in Iraq, defeating an identified enemy and "staying the course" when he says he is not 'staying the course.' Everyone who is credible and knowledgable about things Iraqi and the Middle East knows the civil war in Iraq is a brutal conflict between indigenous groups (though at base more tribal than sectarian) who, in the absence of a totalitarian and repressive regime are fighting for control of resourses, oil revenues and access to the larger markets and political world. This power vacuum was created by the invasion of American troops where insurrgents now are growing the capacity to challenge America's occupation! Yes, it is true that bin Laden is obsessed by occupation of Muslim lands, especially his homeland, Saudi Arabia, (that's one reason they kicked him out) but so is every faithful Muslim who is motivated by the Quranic prescription of jihad, which, as we all know by now is NOT holy war but is the obligation of every Muslim to DEFEND Islamic lands from occupation. Thus, by creating the myth that al Qaida is the cause of turmoil in Iraq, the President can continue the faulty logic to 1. Iraq is the battlefield in the war against terror, 2. if we have a defined enemy in Iraq, whether real or not, we cannot "cut and run" and 3. And probably the most outrageous extensions of sustained mythology, if we leave Iraq, the "enemy" will follow us here! This is the most transparent "boogie-man" hoax of them all! When we finally leave Iraq, and at this rate it will look more like Vietnam than imagined with Americans scrambling up ropes to evaculating helicopters, the "factions" (there are more than 35 known militias at this time) tribal, ethnic, sectarian will sort out their identities and fight for power and populace. One 'group" will win by sheer force and every other competing group will make deals for inclusion. When left to their own resources, Arabs are great at making deals; negotiations are inclusive, subtle, nuanced, decisions are usually concensus based within an ethos of autonomy and political fluidity. After our nation has made it clear through the recent mid-term elections that we reject the President's understanding and continuation of the invasion, he continues to persist in presenting us with a mythic confrontation that has no basis in reality. So now, what do we do?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

He Still Doesn't Get It!!

I've been working on a piece about tribalism and the hidden dimension in Iraq today which is still basically tribal. Hope I can get it out soon!Listening today to the President at his news conference was painful. The man still doesn't get it! He continues to talk in terms of "victory," "getting the job done," of not leaving Iraq until Maliki and his government can stand on its own. Well, a central government of any stripes will not stand on its own when: 1. There is an invader present in the country! Simple as that! That is the reason jihad is being played out! Pure and simple. It's not "holy war" we are faced with. We are facing the Quranic obligation for all Muslims to rid their territory of INVADERS! Nothing in the Koran or other Islamic holy books translates, as far as I know, as "holy war!" 2. When militias are the only means of security and protection for most people! The whole idea of disarming militias is preposterous! Is the central government in Iraq capable to creating security for anyone at this stage of the conflict? If anything, the militias, which I argue represent the only protection for large groups of people, even in the face of 'death squads' and the machinations of Al Qaida! When, in world history, did militias ever give up their arms before? Especially in a basically tribal world where central government never played a decisive role in the lives of people!? 3. The representation of conflict between Sunni and Shi'a is not the main story in Iraq today. There are estimated to be 35 named militias at the present time yet we never hear of them, who they are, what they represent, what they want. The conflict we have conceptualized is not the whole, nor the most important story. Bush knows nothing about it and continues to think in terms of 'liberating' an ungrateful people who, with full American support will one day soon develop a national identity which formerly existed only in the mind of Saddam Hussein! He still doesn't get it! And what's sadder is that he never will regardless of his empty effort to cooperate with the new Congress!

Monday, September 18, 2006

Beware the Propagandists

C’mon fellas, whip out the ole schoolyard bullying, shaming, you know, all the stuff that is “American cliché character of bravery, blind loyalty and the stigma of cowardice. Here’s how it goes today regarding the American invasion of Iraq and its subsequent occupation, and the necessity to radically change a failed policy which gave rise to failed strategy.
Appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press," Virginia’s Republican Sen. George Allen and Democratic challenger James Webb .Allen steadfastly defended Bush's Middle East policies saying that "staying the course" in Iraq means "that we don't tuck tail and run, that we don't retreat, that we don't surrender." Translation: We stay the course so that we don’t behave like defeated animals who run from danger. Americans ‘stand their ground’ in the face of better judgment, new strategy, and a reasoned response to what’s happening on the ground. Americans stay the course, they don’t give up, they don’t run! Well if that’s the case and that is built into our sense of honor, morality and just plain guts then Americans are in for a big surprise. A deadly surprise. In the face of small, heavily armed local groups who are fighting on their own turf and therefore know what and who is where, when to appear and disappear, when to strike and when to lay low, our strategy, now invoked by the bravado of former war tactics and supported by American ideas of bravery, resolve and diligence, will lead us down the road to defeat. But hasn’t this tactic by our incompetent and dangerous administration been the bedrock of their propaganda? We are shamed to question the war, suspicious when anyone comes up with a new approach, a new plan, a new understanding of what the job is over there. “We won’t leave until the ‘job is done," whatever that means. What is the job? They say we will leave Iraq (“step down”) when the Iraqi’s can stand up for themselves. Just what does that mean? We already know that the emerging government cannot, by structure, ethnic, religious and and tribal identities provide security, law and order in any measure of success in Iraq today. It is a know fact that the governments own army and police force has been infiltrated by insurgents, terrorists and the militias of separatists. The gross and widespread torture and killing of Iraqis by Iraqis, sometimes over 100 a day in Baghdad alone, has no clearly defined purpose that’s known to us. What is this all about? Is it about intersect strife between Shia’ and Sunni that our government has created by the invasion alone? Is it rampant and purposeless rage that is a consequence of years of oppression by Saddam, by years and years of embargo, where basic food, medicine and other essentials were denied an innocent population? Surely it didn’t hurt Saddam and his cronies who found ways to get around it? Without these sanctions, where the world decides to deny life-sustaining goods to a population and thereby prevents the building of capital, a middle-class would have emerged that would have been capable of challenging and toppled Saddam! Sanctions kill innocent men, women and children and and just as importantly, prevent the emergency of a middle-class that can challenge oppressive power! ! Do we ever learn? Will we ever learn? Let us beware of the insidious challenge to our sense of duty and honor now by an administration that, on so many counts, is so reminiscent of Nazi tactics in Germany in the 1930’s! Let’s wake up, step forward and do what must be done before it’s too late.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Trenches, Walls and the Paraphrenalia of a Failed Policy

I don't think I have to 'link' or refer to the news of the new plan in Iraq to build trenches around Baghdad!! Are they kidding, or what? Who's dumb idea is this? Is this how low we've sunk in the 'change of strategy' game? Does anyone really think trenches will stop the massive civilian killing in Iraq!? Does anyone really know what this is all about anyway? Why don't we just pack up and go home!? We shouldn't have been there in the first place! You know, it's like finding yourself on foot in the middle of a congested highway; you shouldn't have been there in the first place so what do you do? Construct a wall around yourself to alert cars that you are there? Light flares, throw out orange cones, scream your lungs out that you are there and that everyone should avoid hitting you!? No, you get the hell out as fast as you can and return the highway to the highway and if that means some cars will crash as you run off, that's the price everyone pays for your stupid and reckless behavior!!!! What Bush did in invading Iraq is to place us all on foot in the middle of a speeding highway and now we are told to dig in, protect ourselves, and hope and pray for the best!! (As we say in, Yiddish, "I'm plotsing!!) Guess we'll do just about anything to remain in Iraq 'cause our administration still thinks there's something in it for us if we stay long enough! Iraq will fall into full-scale CIVIL WAR whether we stay or not! That is the legacy we will leave them. It is now unavoidable so we'd better find a 'face saving' out (if there is one) as soon as possible before our casualties pass the 3,000 mark and the thousands who are maimed and who lives and whose family's lives have been destroyed triple in numberd! We haven't even mentioned the Iraqi losses. And in the name of what? This invasion will prove to be the most tragic event of this century and the worst is yet to come. So don't be fooled any longer by the trumped up rationals our administration hands us for the invasion, for the occupation, for the fear they instill in us, for our ignorance that got us into this mess in the first place! "Cut and run?" You betcha if you want to phrase it that way. Let's do the sane and humane thing right now and with big apologies and retribution to everyone at that! Now let's get on with the business of WAR CRIMES! !

Monday, September 04, 2006

"Boo!!"

BOO!!!, ooh, that used to scare 'em good! What do we have goi'n here?: Let's try "Forty-5 Minutes before nuclear attack!!! Evidence incontrovertible--even Tony Blair concurs! How about "aluminum tubes in Niger" -- sure, they're gettin' ready. Ready or not we'd better be ready! Screw Osama, let him hide in the caves and tunnels his construction company built long ago: It's time for a "Regime change in Iraq!" After all, dubbya once babbled, "He tried to kill my daddy!!" Regime change indeed and to be welcomed by women in abaya (body-coverings) with flowers?? Give me a break! Where were the people who knew the slightest bit about Iraq, Persians, Arabs, the ME? Purdah, in its most limited sense, female seclusion, is about as secluded and punitive as a "time-out cushion for 3-years olds!! Veiling is a system of maintaing social closeness and social distance to avoid conflict and dishonor in a system where no police force exists, or the police is a distant arm of nation/state courts of law. Honor (haq) sanctions are as old as Islam and are governed by customary law, embeded in eras of tribal organization which are more alive and well today than imagined. How about "terrorists?" "insurgents", "guerrillas, " and any other terms that is ill-defined, scary, a linguistic threat to our security no matter how ambiguous, contextless, obfuscating they can be. How about 'suicide-bombers', road-side bombs, IED'S. . .These are real scary ones 'cause they are unstoppable. Does anyone really think that there is any end of the line for "suicide-bombers?" How come many there call them "martyr bombers?" How many times in a speech does dubyaa mention "9/11." Boy, that's a real scary one and powerful enough to obliterate any truth about the incident, who was responsible, and who was punished. Okay, so WMD's didn't do it; there were none. So what do we do now? We come up with the magic of all magic words, "democracry." But here's the rub: by invading Iraq, we dumbly created the most insecure and unstable situation imaginable ((ignoring looting, disband tens of thousands of soldiers, an entire army, turn our backs on people trying to get to the market for food, to work for food and shelter, misunderand completely the motives and structure of tribal groups, religious groups, make no distinction between fundamentist jihadis and the rank-and-file Muslim living his life on the ground, etc., etc.)) And with the insecurity and instability comes the vacuum for the fundamentalists, the jihadis' training. So with the creation of "terrorism" stationed in Iraq, the Bushies now have another scare: "Go the course, finish the job, and little tuned-down from, "Bring 'em on," eh what? Now we are into slogans that fit nicely with American character: don't "cut and run," oooh, does that sound bad! I heard one talking head on TV say, "you don't win a war by withdrawing." Guess he never read Clauswits. But don't you see, if the "war" on terror has become 'metaphorisized' from the 'war' on poverty, or drugs, or whatever we Americans come up with in our quest for power, then a 'withdrawal' as seen in a "real war" becomes significant. In metahore land, it is part of the metaphore scene. And anyway, hasn't anyone heard about the reality of losing a battle while winning the war!? But they won't let us drop the metaphoric "war" since they believe that what they are saying and the strategy they have adopted is consistent with the status of 'war.' Scared enough? Not yet you aint! Now we move the dying metaphore of war, to past war, to our response to Nazism, Communism (get ready for this one) and to comparisons with Neville Chamberlin before WWII when "appeasment of Nazism" was charged. So now our 'war' critics are 'appeasing' the terrorists, this world-wide threat that happens only to being played out mainly in Iraq. Will we soon get a "McCarthy-like" character in the Senate jumping up and down and demanding a 'black list' of those of us who so desperately want us out of there? So now, the metaphore context has been shifted from terrorism to Neofascism, "Islamic neofacism" to be exact. Is this scary enough!? 'Cause you know what that means, don't you, a WAR of CIVILIZATIONS, the product of the interplay of misperceptions that the US has always had about the Middle East. Havent' you heard commentators say, "You never know exactly what they are saying in the Middle East!" Well, isn't it about time someone found out!!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

"Tribe"

How best to define a 'tribe' in the Middle East? It is not a group as we know groups. Rather, it is a genealogical charter upon which everyone has a position vis-a-vis everyone else in the tribe. What does that mean? When 2 tribals meet who are not personally known to each other, let's say they are in 2 separate migration groups passing each other in the desert. They greet as Muslims, "Assalaam alaikum" ("peace be upon you" says one. The other responds, "Wa alaikum salaam. If they stop to talk, the ritual of greetings is always the same and always in a specific order. "Ant kaum ase us? (What is your kaum?" (variations: oulad). "What is your 'section' or 'lineage group'?" "I am a [the name of the most inclusive, the largest genealogical section]" . If it is determined that they both belong to the larger group, they then will ask each other, "What section of that group, and of that, and of that--until they determine just how they are related to each other; usually they determine they are distantly related cousins. Children learn their section and the stack of sections to which their section belongs in games and recitations. For example, to entertain me and to demonstrate the importance of kinship, a six year old will be grilled by an elder in front of me. "What is your father's name: his father's name; his father's name, often back 10 generations until the kid falters and can't recall the more distant links up to the progenitor. At which point, when asked the name of the ancestor ancestor 11 generations back or more, the kid will say, "Kuno kharchok!" "Eats and sleeps!! Everyone laughs and the kid is congratulated on his performance! In this little ritual, I have learned that Aslam, 11 generations back, had 4 brothers. Their father was the progenitor, the originator of the 'group' and each of the brothers gave rise to a genealogical line, each named for them. So the kaum search, if you will, between two talking men scans the genealogical chart which is well known to both of them, until they identify the 'section' or 'lineage' that they are both most closely related to. They determine that they are perhaps, 4th cousins twice removed and in identified this kin relationship, all of the appropriate behavior between them is determined. Behavior, etiqette, expectations, values and norms among tribals, especially in the Arab model, is determined by how closely or how distantly they are related to each other.
The Arab model of "kin" relations however, is a bit more complicated than that. Biological kinship and political allegiances especially in the distant past, are both expressed in the kinship idiom! As 'church and state' in the Muslim ME are melded into parts of one structure, so is kinship and politics! In Brahui, elum, brother can refer both to genetic brother as well as 'political supporter' (elumi). So it turns out that the 4 'brothers' the progenitors of the 4 lineages 11 generations back were not brothers at all but were political allies again other such lines. Or 2 or 3 were brothers, the 4th may have belonged to another 'tribe' but threw his lot in with the group of 3, giving rise to 4 separate lines, with one originating 'ancestor'. As the 2 men scan the charter of the named lineage or clan, they zero in on their 'clans' connection and thus determine how they are to behavior towards each other. So the "tribe" is not a corporate group as we know groups: rather it is a "charter" within which men identify each other groups and how these groups are nested within larger and more inclusive groups. The kaum can be a unit at any level of inclusiveness; the term doesn't change depending on the level. "kaum" is the group-designating term at all levels of inclusiveness. The most inclusive is what we call "tribe," signified by the suffix zai, as in "Yusufzai," or "Kardirzai". My tribe is the Shadinzai of the Brahui tribe. /To be continued/

Sunday, August 20, 2006

OK, let's get real

Ok, are you beginning to understand the legitimacy and appeal that groups like Hezbollah, Hamas, have? Even the Taliban of Afghanistan who by the way, are well on their way back! And why? Not because the ideologies and dogmas are appealing. No, it's because they respond directly and immediately to NEED. In the wake of all the destruction that Israel laid on Lebanon, Hezbollah are now putting their guns and rocket-launchers away and taking out shovels, trowels, earthpackers and wheat chaff, going around from bombed out street to street and REPAIRING, RESTORING, dwellings of the victims; handing out money (also in dollars I hear!) to those who are simply there! No lines, no applications to some gov't beaurocracy, no FEMA, no contractors who will rip them off. The job GETS DONE when the need is there; no hiatus, no waiting period while people are "checked out". Who wouldn't like an organization that PRODUCES! These groups that we call, what, insurgents, terrorists, "state-within-a-state" have been and remain the tribal working arm for providing what it takes in real time. They are not states-within-states because they are not STATES. They are the indigenous structures of tribal groups. The so-called media 'experts' on the ME were so surprised when Hamas won the election in Palestine! Anyone who really knows what these organizations are all about weren't the least bit surprised! Hey, it's time to replace our "experts!" All along, Hezbollah has been providing security, work, health care, education, housing and everything else people NEED, because the national government of Lebanon is too young and unable to provide what people need. Maybe they will in future, but I doubt it because the 'tribally' conscripted groups are the police force, the courts and the adjudicators for local people! They don't need to be ELECTED: They are recognized as the legitimate force for lineages and clans (have no doubt, these "kin"- based forms of organization ((where political allegience is also expressed in the kin idiom)) are indigenous and underlay all the glitz and glamour of towns, markets, cities). WE DON'T SEE OR UNDERSTAND THIS BECAUSE WE ARE MEMBERS OF NATION/STATE SOCIETIES that work thru principles of a different ORDER. Who wants 'democracy' when everyone in the world now sees how democracy works: in stolen elections, in the power of lobbies, in disasters like Katrina, in invasions of other nation/states. The whole idea of a 'war on terror' is nothing more than the lie for invasion and empire-building; the proof is here! Let's win the hearts and minds of ME peoples by invasions, bombings, neglect of disasters, the creation of governments that bring nothing to anyone except those in power. Don't we know that TV is EVERYWHERE?
Yes, the whole world IS watching! And with all the fraud and neglect in Afghanistan, with the failure of USAID (link to truthout's story today) to build the schools and housing they contracted to do and listen to the village women who travel long distances to clinics for their dying children, only to sit on the road and look at a clinic structure that never was completed. Is it any wonder the TALIBAN is coming back? They too deliver, whether we or the people like the fundamentalism or not! So let's understand that in the ABSENCE of nation/states that can protect the people, provide security (look at Iraq!), create an economy, ANY group that demonstrates success in these areas will be supported. The Bush administration's colossal ignorance, greed disguised as 'creators of democracy', power-mad crew, all of them, has created for us the most unstable and dangerous climate in recent history. How was it that in a few short years, since '93 and the invasion of Iraq, we have become the most hated and least respected nation on earth. Forget the 'war on terror'metaphor. We are losing everything in the world arena. I hate to say this but now that our true colors have been seen, we will fall to the status of "3rd world nation" by 2020! What is to be done?
1. Get those buggers out of the white house!
2. Meet and start negotiation talks with Iran, Hezbollah (along with Lebanon), Hamas (along with Palestine) , the Mahdi's in Iraq (alone with the Iraqi gov't), the Taliban in Afghanistan (alone with Karzi's government) and any other groups and players that holds enough power to saboutage diplomacy. And while we're at it, sit down with North Korea, Sudan, and any other group that holds a vested interest in the solution of a large problem. Condolezza Rice had the nerve to ask Iran to come to the table ONLY AFTER they had abandoned their nuclear programs ! Is that imperialism, or what!? Is that insulting to the Iranians, or what!? Where did we, our administration, learn to negotiate by deciding which groups were LEGITIMATE and which not?
3. Bring everyone to the table who has a vested interest in these world problems. To make invitations on the basis of 'legitimacy of groups' is colonial mentality that got us into this world situation as it is.
4. Let the deals be made by those involved. Everyone wants something; terror often is the price of being ignored.
5. And who in their right mind would want to use nuclear weapons!!? Neutralize the stock-piles by convincing everyone of planetary disaster.
6. And for G-d's sake, make sure we know if anyone is going to nuke us in 45 minutes before we head off to invade a sovereign nation!!
7. Fear disappears when everyone knows the agenda. It is no longer possible to use 0-sum games in this world. There is too much weaponry around. Win/win is the model and is achievable.
8. And finally recognize that all humans are human; every culture deserves respect, and when treated like humans, people behave like them. This administration has insulted most of the groups involved by deciding which is legitimate and which not, who they will sit down and talk with and who they will not. How dumb can they be? It's not intelligence: it's the mindset of bigots, chauvanists, colonials all all those who think they know what's best for other people. (Hugo Chavez was right on the mark when he (allegedly) said to Condalezza Rice, "Don't mess with me, girl!")
Next blog? What is it like to be a tribesman?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Tribes in the Middle East

Links to an article on first line
Then presents quotation

What we are seeing in the Muslim Middle East today is the re-surfacing of a form of social and political organization that we call "tribe."
Is anyone aware of the amount and degree of rage felt by many Arabs because of the British and French colonial past, the arbitrary national boundaries drawn by these empires in 1927, the total disregard of tribal affiliation, indigenous boundaries, the destruction of concensus models by foreign powers, the need to impose "kingdoms" when none were there before as facades of automonous entities. Generational shame passed down from grandparents to grandchildren morphs into rage; rage with sophisticated weaponry, rage with battle strategies, rage with homicide-bombers. Nation/states all over the world want to obliterate tribal structure and organization in favor nationhood (when did this first happen in the ME!?)where familial/political ties extend to the boundaries of the tribe. Not land, no concept of corporateness in perpetuity. "Democracy" is a far cry from indigenous ME social organization, based [would you believe itd] on concensus models sitting on concensus values and protecting the national character of Arabs as fiercely independent, respectful of all negotiators without concerns of legitimacy (always Western prismed) Autonomy, complex communication, deliberation among equals, binding decisions only thru concensus. [Forget the King of Saudi Arabia. He's essentially powerless, a figure-head for western minds get around. This is not feudal Europe, although the world's nations treat Arabia as if it is.
All thru tribal ME, 'tribes' formed fighting groups, lashgars, to defend, protect and aggress against invaders. And in the case of modern day social structure in the Muslim ME, the lashgars are Hezbollah, Hamas, the Madis of Iraq, although we can only see structure in terms of Shia and Sunni. Lashgars are not insurgents or terrorists: they are the fighting force to settle lineage problems for lineages, clan conflict , goups of clans called 'tribes, the conscriptive mechanism for jihad; and all the forms of political and social organization that we don't understand. And why don't we understand it? Because it is a sub-structure of Muslim nations in the ME a difference in order, not degree. When things are organized in a certain way and change is part of the latent structure, we can see the degree of change 'cause it's a part of the same 'whole'. But when things are so radically different as to be or become another system, order by different principles than the system before, then we talk about change of 'order.' In the next blog, we'll discover the trib al social and political system and match it against nation/state organization. You need to be or have been a tribal living in a state system to unravel this or hear someone like me who was made a tribal in order to do my work. It took more than 3 years in Baluchistan to learn one of the 9 languages and to fit the newly formed puzzle pieces together into the whole cloth called, culture. But the unraveling is worth it 'cause you see things in a totally different light: One which redefines terrorism, jihad, social structure and values, politics, social services, identity, affiliation, decision-making, warfare. Let's see if we can make some sense out of some of this!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Shame, Shame, Shame

Shame on the UN Security Council for not coming to a Ceasefire Resolution long ago. Is it any wonder we think of the UN as 'show and tell!?
Shame on Bush for encouraging Israel to continue its war against Lebanon. "Fight the good terrorist fight," is dangerously misperceived because most of the so-called terrorists are insurgents, militias trying to maintain order where their elected and imposed governments fail. Why were so many so-called experts on the ME 'surprised!' when Hammas won the election in Palestine!? Hammas, Hezbollah are political parties don't forget and the militias safeguard security in peacetime. They deliver the goods! They provide a measured security in their own countries; food, shelter, education, medical care. In the case of Hezbollah, they are represented in the national government of Lebanon, with ministerial seats and direct contact with the President! But our administration can't or won't see it that way. For them, the world is divided into legitimate governments and terrorists! They are apparently sorely unaware of the tribal base of ME life, now rearing it's head once again all over the world. (The tribal model of defence is conscription into a fighting force (lashkar) by the principle of political allegience, thru the idiom of kinship.) Nation/states are not taking care of people! The past social infrastructure, which for the most part worked FOR THE PEOPLE emerges when tribal nations are invaded, when "elected" but imposed governments are created (Iraq). Watch the rise of Sadr's Mahdi army as the only group with the potential for security after terrorizing the nation with 'death squads.' [Read www.baghdadburning for the latest horrors of murder, displacement and terror.]
Shame on the Israelis for the unbridled attack on Lebanon because two of their soldiers were kidnapped. Has this never happened before. Hasn't there always been a string of prisioner exchanges. What happened here? Are both Israel and America trying to use the terrorist metaphor ( see previous posting) against Hezbollah? Hammas? It's a shame Americans don't know more and have more respect for the Muslim ME! More of us would stand in the streets and challenge our government, as we did to stop the Viet Nam war. We often hear commentators say things like, "You know, things aren't often what they seem in the ME." What the hell does that mean!! If one feels that way, shouldn't we find out what things really mean before we invade countries and wonder why people around the globe hate us, condemn us, in some cases, consider us barbarians! My heart and head is heavy these days as I watch such violence, death and destruction. Our media doesn't show 1/2 of the documented bloody violence that Muslim Arabs see. ME media report all day and all night the grusome pictures of babies being blow apart, of blood spattered village huts. The more this war goes on, the more the rage spreads thru the ME and just as we created the safe haven for radical Muslim fundamentalists in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, we are creating a terrorist force out of the umma, (the world-wide Muslim community). Shortly before our invasion of Iraq, I e-mailed (ha!) the President of the consequences I saw coming. Of the 3 points, the destabilization of the entire ME is now in the process of happening.
So what do I think (as a person who has lived with tribals in the general area for some years must be done right away, expecially in the long run. Our very culture and economy is being threaten by this mess, not because of so-called 'clash of civilizations' nonsense, but because of our ignorance, shauvanism, reluctance to reason with those who have a stake in the outcome. "We are number one," should become, "We are one of many," and our status depends on how we are seen by the many. I'll try in the next posting.

Monday, June 26, 2006

When 'double-talk' Becomes 'doublespeak'

Yes, I'm back! Overcome the last few months with the futility of writing, talking, trying to find a voice in all the administration madness relating to Iraq and the failed invasion (this is not a war, anymore than the " war on drugs" or the "war on poverty" is). It's a conceptual double-speak that moved a metaphor to an illegal assault on another sovereign nation.. And now that the nation is forming a new government, after the government of Saddam fell and the country we declared war on no longer is ruled by the "offending" government, what are we at war with!? Terror?? I thought 'war' was a legal declaration of hostility towards another nation. Now where is that other nation!? Terrorism is a hostile practice, not an entity and not a sovereign nation! So are we now at "war" with an idea, a practice, a set of beliefs, Islamic radicalism, militant fundamentalism across the board. Islamists!? The whole idea of 'war on terror' is a catapulted metaphor that has grabbed the belief that Americans are at war! First, we went to 'war' to find WMDs; none there. Then it was to topple Saddam; done. Then it was to ram democracy as we know it down the throats of the Iraqis: Not done. Then it was hoped to spread "democracy" to the rest of the Middle East; result? Destabilization of the entire area with new emergences of threat and bravado from Iran, Palestine, Taliban, Pakistani tribals in Baluchistan, Waziris and finally to shore up the puppet government in Iraq until they can manage themselves, create security and stability; even come out of the Green Zone; nowhere near done and without a chance in hell of it happening. Now, the double-speak has taken over. The metaphor has transmuted to a conceptual reality. Another lie, another spin. And within that context, Bush has again switched the bait! Now he considers victory shoring up and supporting the new government; you know, the one many if not most Iraqis consider puppet, corrupt, each politician carving out pieces of the ethnic pie mostly for himself but disguised in his ethnic idioms. Paraphrase our administration: "We will leave when the Iraqi government can defend itself and bring security and stability to their people" Yeah, yeah, yeah. When will that ever happen? the is considering a withdrawal of 'some' troops because the flow of blood is telling a different story. Insurgents are being offered amnesty by their own government! Bush talks about drawing down soldiers and still uses the word 'victory.' Next you will hear that we are pulling out because we have been victorious! To what lenghts will this trickster in the White House go to lie, fabricate, spin, do anything but tell the American people and the world the truth!? We have invaded two sovereign nations (Afghanistan, Iraq), both part of the Islamic umma (the world-wide Muslim community) where jihad (protecting the umma from foreign invasion, among its many meanings) and expect to "help them create" indigenous governments!! Our very presence as invaders is an insult to Muslims, to Islam. First and foremost on Muslim minds is, "Get rid of the invaders, the infidels, the conquerers!" The story grows that it is our government that has created, simply by its occupation, the insurgencies, training camps, the terrorists havens. It was our colossally ignorant and disrespectful government that wouldn't see this! "Stay the course," victory is attainable, " we can't 'cut and run.' But when the horses are drowning in mid-stream, you must devise a new approach, even if that means gettingt out while the getting is good! And the trickery has now invaded any form of dissent. Our press might begin to be treated like Egypt's!
Consider this:
Jun 26, 11:24 AM ET
CAIRO (AFP) - Two journalists from an independent Egyptian weekly have each been given a year in jail for reporting on a complaint accusing President Hosni Mubarak of misusing government money.
By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent
WASHINGTON -
President Bush said Monday it was "disgraceful" that the news media had disclosed a secret
CIA-Treasury program to track millions of financial records in search of terrorist suspects. The White House accused The New York Times of breaking a long tradition of keeping wartime secrets.
"The fact that a newspaper disclosed it makes it harder to win this war on terror," Bush said, leaning forward and jabbing his finger during a brief question-and-answer session with reporters in the Roosevelt Room.
The Times has defended its effort, saying publication has served America's public interest.

So, are we moving in the direction of Egypt's censorship? Will it soon be a crime to criticize our President because of "secrets" during 'wartime'? Play out this 'wartime' scare long enough and they can do just about anything! What Constitution!? We are at 'war!' Hold on folks, let's see where they squiggle from here!!

Saturday, January 14, 2006

Rep. Pelosi's SF Meeting today in SF

Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader and Congresswoman for the 8th District in San Francisco conducted an open forum at the Marina Middle School today. About 1,000 people showed up on a rainly early Saturday morning. "Question Cards" were passed out and were selected (how?) for her response. But for San Franciscans, mostly democrats there, the style of presentation and the method of "hearing us" was not acceptable to many people in the audience. She said she came to speak about the "war," security for Americans, domestic spying, the Patriot Act ("90% of which was law before" it was enacted), the President's performance in and attitude toward all these matters, and the inability of the democrats in Washington to be heard by him. As she began to discuss these issues in the ritual of political presentation, the audience started to act up and begin to shout, "Stop the war." "Bring them (our armed forces) home now!" "Step up to leadership" "Committees are over, " and at the end of the meeting, when she thanked us all for attending and giving us all an opportunity to "talk to her", we and many of the demonstrators who had lined the walls with the usual protest signs. {I tape recorded what the signs said but lost the entry!} I walked past them, about 30 in all and said, "When she has finished we will all shout "Now Hear Us!" I had hoped to turn the scripted meeting with question cards (maybe 10-12 were read aloud) into an OPEN FORUM, with people coming to the stage and letting their feelings, their anger, frustratrion and fury at the inability of the Democrats to get it together, act in unison and attack the administration for the lies, deceit, secrecy and illegality of their responses to terrorism. (This, by the way, without any of the emotion, is the Arab Middle East model, where anyone, anyone is received who asks for a one-to-one communication with an authority. "Representation" as we know and understand it is NOT an integral part of the indigenous political model there. So what implications do you think this has for "democracy" there?") Those of us in the audience wanted to speak to the "top", directly and in simple and clear terms. When she said that the administration had not given the senate sufficient and accurate intelligence to vote on the war, the group shouted, "Then why did you vote for it!!?" She said, "Those are not the facts" so we shouted back, "Then tell us what the facts are." She sequeyed, mumbled, stammered and grumbled, trying hard for an escape. All she should have said is that she, along with many others in Congress had made a horrendous mistake and learned from it. That alone would have helped defuse our anger and frustration: But let's not forget, as much as Hon. Pelosi is doing for we demoncrats and for America, it is still outside the "speak to truth" model. We want politicians who will speak for the people and not for their own careers. Try it, Rep Pelosi, you'll like it! And so will we and maybe the rituals of politics in our country will change and be supported by "doing the right thing!" And you'll still keep your j0b!

Monday, January 09, 2006

The Game of Power

E-mail to Jim Lehrer, of the News Hour on KQED
Mr. Lehrer, in my opinion, you’re program, Jan5 with Madeline Albright (Secretary of State under Clinton) and James R. Schlesinger (Secretary of State under Nixon and Ford) was disgraceful and disheartening. Just goes to show that for politicians and diplomats, truth and “doing the right thing” caves before power, allegiance, loyalty and the “uh oh, I’d better be careful what I say!” mantra. And you let them get away with it! Albright said at least 3 or more times that she is “very concerned” about the situation in Iraq and the administration’s neglect, as she saw it, of other serious world threats (North Korea, Iran). She also repeated, again 2-4 times, how grateful she was to have been invited to the President’s meeting and that she hoped that this was not the only meeting for these discussions. Why didn’t she tell us what she said?! Is she that naïve to think there will be another like meeting in the future? (Didn’t she recognize the PR, the spin and a photo-op in Bush’s invitation? It was nothing more than a briefing where only the future for Iraq was to be ‘discussed.’ Only problem is there is no future not tied to the past. And how will they plan for a future when the present is a function of misconceived, incompetent, trickery of the past?)
Schlesinger really exposed his surprising ignorance of things “insurgent” and “terrorist.” He displayed his dangerous simple-mindedness by phrasing the whole Iraq problem in terms of “jihad,” holy war that he argues underlies all the conflict in Iraq today. (What colossal ignorance!) Then, he quoted al-Zaqawi (can you believe it?) to demonstrate the ‘us’ against ‘them’ mentality, as if he, Zaqawi, was the spokesman for Islam. He quoted one of Zaqawi’s fundamentalist statements about the command, erroneous and out of context, in Islam for Muslims to kill infidels (and I don’t know what other garbage!) It is insulting to Muslims to hear the invasion of Iraq now predicated on our response to holy war (“it’s either them or us”, the clash of civilizations nonsensical rhetoric). He sounded like the perfect fool-party-man, mouthing this administration’s need, now that every former justification of the invasion has evaporated, to now return to their early misconceived position (Bush’s use of “crusade”, remember that?) According to Schlesinger, our rational once again is to defeat the enemy (never clear about just who that is) in this so-called “clash of civilizationsk.” Every other dopey rationale for our invasion has turned into smoke and mirrors, so why not fly this one again!? To make things worse, his demeanor on the News Hour was impatient, his delivery imperious, his interruptions of Ms. Albright disrespectful (he cut her off twice or more), and was insulting to many of us who were watching. At the outset of the invasion of Iraq , the rational was WMD’s pointed at us with a 45 minute delivery time, and when that fell apart with a thud we got democracy and freedom (never defined for an Iraqi model); then it was because Iraq had become a breeding ground for terrorists (as if there is an end to the line of suicide bombers that we, because of our actions, created in Iraq!) and the lies supported by the refrain “-if-we-don’t-fight-‘em-there-we’ll-have-to-fight-‘em-here,” nonsense, And now the ground has shifted, at least in Schlesinger’s view, (no doubt doing the Presidents bidding) to jihad and war between Islam and, what, Christianity!? This is not only colossal ignorance; it is simplistic and dangerous rhetoric and, indeed, a brutal insult to mainstream Muslims everywhere. Who is going to tell him that Islam is not represented by fundamentalists anymore than Christianity is represented by the Christian right!!?
Mr. Lehrer, you tried hard to get them to talk and be clear about why they were at the President’s meeting, what was said, what “winning” meant embedded in the phrase “finishing the job.” And I commend you for that but you provided no mainstream rebuttal or pushed for them to clarify honestly and completely their positions on the meeting and the “war.“ The President’s meeting took place hours after it was reported that 130 Iraqis and 5 Americans were killed in Iraq . The photo-op picture in Friday’s NYTimes (Jan 6) tells a very sad story. I hope you have a chance to see it. Everyone, in that split second of the shot, is in character: George and Condi posing for their fraternity/sorority year-books, Powell talking to someone, trying not to be there and be seen, Schlesinger in a defensive posture, Albright, looking dour, and all the others demonstrating just by their kinesics, their position on the “war” or their support or lack thereof for our President’s position. In that same issue, on the front page is a picture of a dead Iraqi child in a sweet little sweater. Also in that edition is a picture of men hysterically grieving for their loved-ones who had just been killed. It is a very, very sad day and I wanted to let you know how sick and sad I am about it all. (Name and title withheld for this blog).

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Metathinking Politics in the Muslim Middle East

Remember the e-mail I sent to many in my network?

"April 18, 2003, 2:17PM Dear Everyone,
If you agree with the following 3 opinions, please immediately contact the White House and your Congressional representatives:
1. If we go to war against Iraq now, the entire Islamic Middle East, (and many other areas around the world) will probably erupt into chaos, resistance, and coalitions and factions that heretofore did not exist.2. During this time, al Qaida will attack the US and US interests overseas many times without any reservation.
3. For now, put all available resources into exposure and elimination of al Qaida in the US and around the world. Monitor the appropriate US agencies so that "turf" and personality battles do not subvert our mission.
I believe we need to take a stand now before we are dragged into another world conflict. If you agree, please contact your congressional representatives NOW. Thanks, Warren
The White House
(202) 456 1111
(202) 456 1414

November 5, 2005: [I might be in Afghanistan, Iraq, France, Latin America, Chechnya, the Caucasus, Palestine, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Basque and all the many separatisms that are rearing their rageful heads on the planet today: but no, I sit in San Francisco and watch and listen to the world falling apart, reviewing the warning e-mail I sent Bush in 2003, contemplating the new world political paradigm that has catapulted us into a new order without our even knowing it! And of course fearing the consequences. Of the Muslim unrest and violence all over France today, the French Minister of the Interior calls them "scum" and is at present willing to impose severe punishment on those burning cars! Workers in Latin America have finally awakened to the catastrophic (for them) effects of free trade and the shameful agenda of the greedy. And surely, let's not forget (if we ever knew) the fallout of the rage of the colonized progeny who are too young to have directly experienced but have heard the stories and inherited the shame of their elders. On the world stage, rage may be fine if we all have bows and arrows, but when a shoulder-held rocket-propelled launcher is the standard armament per dissident and will, in future, no doubt carry biological and nuclear war heads, rage is the real enemy. Maybe it is already too late but the response to new orders of systems require new orders of adaptive responses.
Let me outline them as a draft of "new-order responses to world rage."
1. Everyone, and I mean everyone with any interest in a particular conflict must be brought together to talk at the table. The definition of "legitimacy" is a hierarchical one, stacked by definition in the interests of the powerful.
2. In the case of the Muslim Middle East, decisions follow the model of "concensus" (believe it or not). Leadership is a "face out" facade, devised and projected thru history in order to negotiate with colonists. "Kings", "chiefs," "khans" are not modeled after feudal Europe: Decision-making and the flow of power derive from positions of prestige which represent concensus. Decisions made around the campfire at night among nomads deciding where to move their flocks the next day are mysterious and subtle and represent the "will of the group." Groups are temporally corporate, not to exist in perpituity; rather, they are the outcome of a network of dyadic agreements which bring people together on a temporal basis to share in the network. (In future blogs, I will give concrete examples of this and present portions of speeches made by Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden to demonstrate the consensus idiom within which decisions are taken.)
3. Thus, "representation," the bedrock of our democracy is not an integral part of the political paradigm in the Muslim Middle East. Their model derives from centuries of nomadic adaptation in highly precarious environments where group dynamics duplicate themselves at every level of tribal structure. This enables groups to expand and contract, to change allegences response to ecological conditions.
{I will continue this analysis in future blogs and hope to finish with an understanding of the feasibility of "democracy" as we know it in the west}

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

"Thomas L Friedman, Give Us a Break!"

Those of us Americans who know something of the Muslim Middle East, Muslim South Asia (Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan) know what we know from living there 'on the ground' for years among common folk. So-called "media experts" like Thomas L. Friedman and that all-too-powerful and persuasive scholar-turned-'deep throat' Bernard Lewis, probably haven't gotten the 'on the ground' experience that makes Muslim beliefs, values and behavior culturally real. Only now are they being unmasked for their western prisms, their, "if . . .then" constructs that are modeled by colonial thinking, which, in itself, renders them ridiculous and dangerous. Wasn't Bernard Lewis wispering into George Bush's ear that now was the time to take action against the repressive regimes in the area? If "freedom" and "democracy" are swallowed by these 2 guys, what could they possibly know about the Middle East?? Do they know any thing about how decisions are made at all levels of society, rights to resourses, family law, the functions of cousin and multiple marriage, the veil as a system of social distance between the traditionally separate worlds of men and women? Do they know anything at all about how Arabs feel about 'representation' as a concept, the bedrock of democracy?. Where concensus has been at the root of Arab decision-making, where does 'representation' fit into all of this?? Both Friedman as journalist, and Lewis as scholar have been spectacularly unsuccessful at seeing the Middle East in Middle Eastern terms, of viewing it from a true culturally cognitive model. I'd like to know how many 'decision-making' arenas they been witnessed to see how this process unfolds? Without this exposure, their observations, conclusions and solutions are inappropriate to the political model among Arab Muslims, and therefore misleading and dangerous.
Criticism along these lines is now surfacing in Arab scholarly circles here in the US as well as in the Middle East. So come on, American 'experts', give us some ideas about what possible and feasible options are out there, ones that are commensurate with indigenous social structure and the political model extant.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Yes, Unbelievable. . .

I didn't even put out the flag this year. . .and the street was ominously quiet last night without the usual neighborhood fireworks. Used to be, the July 4th night was noisy and crackly 'till 3 AM or so but not last night! I think there is just too much for us as Americans to be ashamed of this year: Invading Iraq, the run on classifying documents reminiscent of a police state, the secrecy, at every level of our government, censure and removal of sites on the internet, our government's idiot response to the spectre of global warming. The loss of jobs across industries, outsourcing, lousy economy, weak stock market. I now understand, for the first time, how the German people in the 30's couldn't respond to creeping Nazism until it was too late! And the American people are still hiding; diving into sports, recreation and vacations, more SUV's and motor fun to make sure they aren't reminded of the damage to their lives thru NAFTA, CAFTA and all other trade agreements that favor only producers. What will workers have to do to jump on the world-markets table and say, "Hey, we're part of the equation too, you know." We Americans are so bad at figuring out the "whole" of something; understanding all the parts that make up systems: Until they fall apart around us and we, duh, wonder what happened! How long can we ignore vital parts while the producers scrounge the world for more goods, more market opportunities, more access to more of the world's resources. We sing to help the wretched poor in Africa and elsewhere while corrupt governments and genocidal dictators steal the money ear-marked for the starving, the sick and dying all over the planet while we make believe our rock stars are helping. Yes, lets get lost in song and dance too! Just another way to avoid the real problems and the most real of them all is our own ignorance, our unwillingness to learn about what's really happening, our inability to face our government squarely and demand honesty, responsibility and some concern for the lives of our grandchildren's children! (Bush's record on response to global warming is a planetary disgrace! You'd think that even the greed couldn't keep him from thinking about the world he is creating for his own progeny!) [Oh, Sandra Day O'Connor. . .if only you had let democracy work and not handed over the government to such ignorance and incompetence.] {When I am arrested and tortured just for these words, will any of you know where I will be? And even if you find out mighten I be denied family contact, legal consultation and representation? Many Americans and foreign nationals are in this very situation right now! Maybe, hopefully you all will have woken up!}
Of course, I'm angry. I know, probably more than most how our ignorance and unwillingness to challenge decisions made about Afghanistan and the Middle East have led to the death of thousands of our young men and women over there and to the maiming and deaths of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Arabs and others! What's going on here, fellow Americans!??: Did you fall for the outright lies about WMD's and imminent attack from Saddam? Are you still willing to believe, if ever you did, the nonsense that if we don't fight the 'terrorists' over there, they'll get us here!? Do you still think we're fighting for freedom and democracy!? I think most Americans still believe, because of the colossal deceit that it was the Iraqis who were responsible for 9/11!! I think the only hope we have for the future is to get educated! What is Islam about? What are the fundamentalists trying to pull off? (What are the Christian fundamentalists trying to pull off?) Are Iraqis and Iranians from the same ethnic group? Are Iranians Arabs? What has our diplomatic history been in that area? Who drew the national boundaries of these nations in the early 20th century? Forget religion for a moment and tell me what you know about Arabs, Persians, Mongols, Tartars, yurts, kumis, and Alexander the Great!! Tell me about Arab science in the 9th century and earlier, Moorish Spain and the Islamic armies at the gates of Paris!! Why do we need to know all this? Because they are human beings on the face of our planet right now and when they are not demonized, "evilized," and not thought of as less than human as some do believe, and recognized as great and worthy people from great and worthy civilizations, albeit very different from our own; having made and making great contributions to the world not only in science but in philosophy, architecture, art, poetry, music (listen to Iraqi music on the internet) law--and developed sensibilities that we can only glean if we try--. Let's start by learning, reading, (we can't travel safely there anymore thanks to the disastrous Bush decisions). Learn Arabic or Farsi, or Kurdish or one of the scores of languages in the area. Read Rumi, try the original, the hundreds of famous Arab poets, local poets, (poetry is an integral part of life in the ME). We say in anthropology that in order to understand one culture, you must know two!
I write today because I can't listen to any more nonsense about what's going on over there. Our government is not capable, and not reliable; our press spins everything towards government positions; the "experts" seen and heard on radio and TV are, for the most part, parrots of one form of indoctrination or another. (Listen to the NPR interview today with the spokesman (name?) for the Prime Minister of Iraq). He might as well have been Bush's Press Secretary! Even NPR can't find an "expert" who will say what's really going on over there and the complete disaster it portends. {Read blogs from Iraq. Can they all be wrong?} You think things are bad now?. . .WAIT.

Monday, June 13, 2005

"Denial, Alive and Well in America"

I walk around these days with a small skull hung from a thin chain around my neck: I guess a tangible reminder (as if I need one) of all the people getting killed this very moment in Iraq, our service men and women, Iraqi men, women, children, the old and young, innocent for the most part, infirm in body and soul from all the brutality we've inflicted upon them (Read the blog "Baghdadburning.com). My neighbor asked what the skull was all about and when I told him he said, "Do we really want to know?" And I'm flashed back to my recurrent dream about my mother'mother's sister's daughter who comes to me at night and tells me the story of the German reaction to the Nazi horrors that rolled over them slowly, then like tsunamis, in the 1930's. People were disappearing from their homes in the middle of the night not to be seen again; neighbors turned away from each other out of panic and into shock as it was now clear that no one was safe from Nazi madness. "Do we really want to know?" Is it so inconceivable that this could be happening here with many newly created American secret detention camps now all over the world!? What would you do if a loved-one disappeared? Could you ever find them? Is there any legal appeal? Where would you begin? Would your neighbors help? Or turn in to protect their own families? Turn in long enough and shocked enough until the political tsumani is upon you! Oh, you say, "It couldn't happen here!" Why not? When enough greedy, chauvanistic, bigoted, pseudo-religious, (I'd used the word evil but it but it's not part of my lexicon) ethnocentric, truly uncaring people get into power, look out! Under the wrong circumstances, and in the path of the wrong people, Americans can be brutal, ignorant, and genocidal as any other nationality! And we've got plenty to be in denial about: the economy is going down the drain: World trade is for those who own the resources; workers be damned. Outsoursing is now climbing up the professional ladders--soon, our computer programers and engineers won't be able to find work (watch out for India and China). And we sit and turn away from the carnage we are creating all over the world, from the hatred that the rest of the world feels for us, from the forces at work that will destroy, yes destroy this most wonderful and beautiful country of ours. Our stock-holders forget (deny?) the workers--what? workers aren't a key element in the production system? Take less and give the workers a living wage! Our politicians will have 'cashed out' and headed for their yachts and ranches or overseas to buy up some more indigenous land; to re-start the frontier ethos and create more competitive institutions in this world where now the only hope for the planet is cooperative strategies! What a life to look forward to for our children and grandchildren, eh? But really, do we really need to know? Wake-up Americans! Out into the streets and silently stand with signs of awareness. Then maybe they won't be able to do 'the Nazi thing' to us!

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

"Is the Truth that obvious?"

Links to an article on first line
Then presents quotation
Here we sit, in the middle of San Francisco talking about the 'evil' look of Dr. Rice. Her hairstyle alone demonstrates a removal from time, style, communication yet she's our 'chosen communicator" on the international level!?! Do you all remember the 'slip of the tongue' when she referred to President Bush as her "husband?" I don't remember the exact words or context but, there it was, hanging out of her mouth before she could scoop it back up. How about her "metalanguage?" She answers no questions directly; she shifts into the realm of generality that is pure semiotics, using words and phrases that have punch, but no specific meaning, viz., "democracy" and "freedom", "liberty," etc. Look carefully at the structure of her 'answers' to questions. She backtracks to the point where she can squeeze in the party line, the stock, meaningless phrases. (I realize now I need to record what she says so I can give explicit examples). She doesn't engage in dialogue, rather she takes control of the topic and retreats to a safe place where she can parrot her associates. She sometimes wines, sometimes uses that semantic metastructure that says, as Bush also does, "Believe me, I'm sincere. It's simple (as he moves his palm to his heart and smiles that 'all knowing and benevelent' smile, pauses so that it has time to sink in to his audience while always sending the message, "Don't listen to complications!" "Anything complicated is wrong" "A long and detailed and qualified answer is not to be trusted. People who change their mind or take a new position (given the lies and deceit) are not to be trusted!!" Another weak smile, another palm to the heart, another affirmative little jerk of the head. Americans, he knows, want simple, straight-forward answers, strength, forthrightness, even if it's all wrong or total lies, or 'straight from the heart' deception. {Am I going to be arrested for this??} Uh, fellers, remember free speech in the United States of America. I'm protected by the wachamacallit, the Constitution!? Hell, if I ask once again what 'sanctity' has to do with the civil right to marry, I'll be accused of being an atheist, or a democrat!! So, girl in Baghdad, some of us Americans see the same thing here; even to the recognition of Chalabi as a charletan, a crook, the grotesquely mistaken image our government has of a true and believable informant on things Iraqi. Our stereotypic ignorance in this country of things Islamic, Muslim, Arab you would not believe, I mean, get this: The administration convinced the American people that Osama and Saddam were in cahoots!!! Ha! Later, from Sir Real

Administration Madness

Links to an article on first line
Then presents quotation


These so called 'connections' between Hussein, al-qa’ida, bin Ladin, Zaqawi, etc. that are made by this administration are so spurious and ridiculous if one were familiar with their disparate ideologies, missions, and political agendas. Hussein was a secular despot, denying everything but fear to his own people. Al-quid, Taliban and other like-groups are radical fundamentalists, vowing to re-establish different kinds of decreases throughout the Muslim world. Bin laden, a long time enemy of the 'royal' Saudi regime and a fundamentalist would probably consider Hussein an infidel! So given their contrasting ideologies, separate missions and their own brand of fundamentalism, why do we even posit a connection? There is no advantage to be gained by their uniting in their efforts to change the Muslim world since the direction each wants to take is diametrically opposed to all the others!
BUT, WOULD AMERICANS KNOW THIS? Of course not, and that’s what allows the administration to scare us with clearly improbable scenarios. What do most American people know about the Middle East?! Next to nothing I would suggest, and what little remains are the demonized stereotypes, the total ignorance and lack of respect for Arabs, Islam, Muslims and the entire region. And how did this happen? Probably in the same way that as a child, I thought Chinese people in the US only knew how to wash clothes and cook exotic food!! When I got to university and took courses in Chinese history and civilizations, Chinese art, technology, various Chinese philosophies, I was thoroughly delighted and impressed on the one hand, and angry at my culture for denying me this simple exposure. At least there were Chinese around when I was growing up; Arabs and Muslims were only seen on the screen in the small neighborhood theatres on Saturday mornings. For a quarter, we got to see ‘sheiks’ on the screen, keeping harems of women, with multiple wives and many kids, dressed in ‘schmatas’ (as we called them), you know, ‘rags’ in Yiddish, severely challenged morally, not to be believed, much less trusted and always with a nefarious agenda. We’d laugh at their dress (good ole’ Hollywood), their fake accents, the dancing girls, the scurrilous looks on men’s dark, fat, mustached faces. They really weren’t to be believed and in real life in the ‘hood’ (late 1930’s in the Bronx) they, like the Chinese, didn’t even wash clothes or cook food!! No heroes there for us! Only people to laugh at and make fun of. Then, we were treated to a “short,” a serial short, like “The Lone Ranger”, a man we could identify with, strong, handsome, a Robin Hood type, with a black mask (to cover his real identity) and a beautiful white horse riding around the west making things right but who also had a little Indian “side-kick” called, “Tonto.” We never knew that in Spanish, tonto means stupid, silly, foolish, a nincompoop! We all recognized him as some kind of American Indian, with a feather sticking straight up from the back of his head, saying “How” with his hand up and making other funny signs because, we thought, his language didn’t have enough words to say much of anything. And in the afternoon, we played ‘Cowboys and Indians’ and nobody wanted to be the Indian except me once in a while (always being drawn to exotic things). Arabs, Muslims, the middle east didn’t even exist for us. Even when I got to university where I could study Chinese things, I saw no courses on Islamic history, science, poetry and philosophy. Of course things have changed a bit by now.
Within this ‘context’, gestalt, against this backdrop, we can see the roots of our ignorance of the world. But given the world situation now in terms of technology, instant communication --world markets without world values, world systems without world institutions, world ideas without world culture-- we now face the terrible consequences of our ignorance; not being able to think globally, not having the knowledge, understanding and appreciation of world cultures. We are just beginning to ‘tolerate’ diversity when we should be ‘celebrating’ it: It makes good biological and adaptive sense and humans are fully capable of doing this now. But the train is picking up speed and I’m not sure we’re on the same track much less in the same car on this!

Nationalism had its adaptive day. When humans were tied to their habitats by their technologies; when things changed very slowly if at all, when information about making a living could be anded down to the next generations. Today, economies and technologies and communication change so rapidly that obsolescence and innovation run around each other like electrons in an atom! Today’s successful niches are tomorrow’s handicaps! Where ‘change’ is stasis and our cognition and values have not yet embraced this and come up with social and cultural mechanisms with which to incorporate change as natural and expected, the terrain is incognita, back to learning the natural habitat, the territory, organizing to protect our selves and ownership as in the State. {double back to all this freeing us from territorial niche, a very double-edged sword.}
Margaret Mead used to say (Culture Change?) that an old man can say to a young man, “I was once young too (so I know what you are talking about).” But the young man’s response is: “Yes, but you were never young in the world I’m young in!” So true! [Is this the context for the ‘generation gap’?
So what’s to be done? Is it too late for Americans to understand the world scene and work with the willing to at least recognize the challenges? The world is now populated by very young people, some well-educated but without opportunity, most without education and resources and no way to make a living . In the poorest parts of our globe, millions are starving, others being massacred in state-based religious battles. The grandchildren and great grandchildren of colonial and oppressed people are being captured by the rage of their elders who were conquered, colonized, kicked out of their own lands. The stones thrown by the Palestinian children have morphed into guns, grenades, land mines, Kalaskinikovs and shoulder-held rocket-launchers. With the recent demise of the superpower balances, every territory, every ethnicity wants their own. Flash-floods of ethnic power are cascading across the world driven by ideologies and practices that once had to be hidden but now become exaggerated, ‘fundamentalzed’ , characechured . When oppression is in retreat, when the fighting-technologies of the oppressed render every person his own attack and defense system (the “knight” in the western world); when rage and lack of opportunity conspire and the old are too few, too weak and tired with no economically useful information for the young; the telescope of social structure retracts and reconfigures for new patterns. Evolution, as a quantum leap resulting in differences of order, has no direction for speciation.
{Sir Real speaks in paragraphs, not in sentences. Abstractions take the discussion to a more generalized level, thus includes things that wouldn’t ordinarily be included in a linear treatus.}

Monday, May 09, 2005

We're BAA-ACK

Yes, I'm back 'cause I can't stand being quiet anymore. I'm back from the dead 'cause I died when we invaded Iraq, turned over in my grave when I read and heard the lies, deceit, nonsense that our fellow Americans fell for, hook, line and (forget) the sinker! It sank of its own fowl weight. Our media are shameless in what they will and WILL NOT say for fear of losing their jobs, reprisals (we even now have a candidate for Ambassador to the UN who is a master of reprisals) and being denied access to the white house and network media. The saddest of all, for me, is the the context within which this is all happening. The simple and basic disrespect most Americans have for Muslims, Arab culture, the middle east. Born of collosal ignorance, racism, a kaleidoscopic view of stereotypes, false images, hollywood crap still alive and well depicting "shakes" in "harems" where women are chattel, sex objects, sexual (forget sensual) bellydancers, "secluded" from the world (ha!), beaten in the streets of Afghanistan for being out in public without full abaya, chador, burka, etc. (Oh, those poor women; as if we didn't have our own rampant domestic violence. How about helping women in safe houses before running off to 'liberate' Muslim women in Afghanistan!!??) The prism of culture is indeed a prison of cognition, ideas, values; it might as well be a parallel universe, for all we really know, much less understand, about other cultures. {Am I rambling too much; hitting the tarmak on too many levels at once? But that's the beauty of abstraction: It lets you turn the kaleisascope just a bit to see the possibility of other alignments, other patterns, how pieces fit together in other contexts, whole contexts. When I read blogs like, "Baghdad Burning," or "Raed in the Middle," it really enrages me. And what do we as Americans do about it? We make coffee in the AM and go to work and watch 'reality shows' and lose ourself in SPORTS because the real-ity is too painful, too, too painful. We all know we are doing the WRONG thing in this part of the world, but we can't admit it formally because it's too awful. Do you still think the Germans during the '30 didn't know about the hundreds and hundreds (thousands?) of concentration camps all over Germany and eastern europe!?? I remember how I felt watching the Trade Towers in Manhattan burn and collapse. It was not happening as I watched it happen that 6AM on network news!! There are just some things that are beyond, not comprehension, but just seeing! And that is how I feel about what is happening in Iraq, and elsewhere, at this moment. How can we let it go on!??

Saturday, November 27, 2004

MetaThink

MetaThink

MetaThink is on indefinite hiatus

Friday, August 27, 2004

Metathinking1. Events in Context

Links to an article on first line
Then presents quotation

The Event
"You know you're not supposed to ask (questions like that!!")
Sardar ("chief" = title of representative in name only of many lineages that make up a 'tribe') and I were sitting in a remote field in northern Baluchistan, 60 or so miles south of the Afghanistan/Pakistan border where the sorghum harvest was being divided into shares for individuals who had rights to this particular crop. I was recording the distribution of the scores of small piles of grain that were being created (down to the 323rd share!) and the kinship relationship of all those who came to collect their shares. During a lull in the distribution, Sardar turned to me and asked, "Wali Khan, where did you meet your wife?" By now, Sardar had also become a friend and after 14 months of sporadic working and playing together, [Occasionally, I would bring a bottle of his favorite Scotch to all night interviews], we were able to joke and switch back and forth between our eastern and western identities. He had had many conversations with my wife, also an anthropologist working on the project.. I told him that she and I had met at college about 6 years ago. He said nothing further and we slipped back to work. During the next period of inactivity, I asked him, "And where did you meet your wife, Sardar?" His face turned stern, pale, almost menacing, and he shot back at me, in all seriousness, "You know you're not supposed to ask me that!!"

* * *
One day, "Ma Naz" and I were teasing each other: she, trying to trick me into ungrammatical statements and I testing her desire to say 'culturally forbidden' things. I asked, "Ma Naz, what's your husband's name?" She quickly answered, with a look of defiance, "Abdul Kadir!" I was shocked to hear this and I said, "But Ma Naz, you know you're not supposed to say his name!" Her retort? "Wali Khan, I'm an old woman and I can do whatever I (damn) please!!"

* * *

Context of the Event

The "World of Men" and the "World of Women"
[I owe whatever limited understanding I have of the world of women to my observations of women who became my kin as I was 'adopted' by a host-family, and to long discussions with my then wife/colleague who had access to all women.]
Men are born into a world of values, norms and expectations for their behavior that is very different from those of women. Gender differences are strong, supported by the Koran, by law (shari'a) and by former cultural adaptations, and become ever stronger through maturity, until old age exempts people from certain sanctions. Men and women, as Muslims, strive to be 'ritually pure' (a fuller discussion will follow) by practicing what we in the west call "the five pillars of Islam:" Praying five times a day; acceptance and proclamation of the creed "There is but one god, Allah, and Mohammed is his messenger;" giving alms to the poor (zakat); fasting during the month of Ramadan; making the pilgrimage to Mecca (hajj). This is as true for women as it is for men; there is very little distinction between the sexes in the Quran regarding religions performances and obligations. It is the ways in which they are fulfill them that distinguish gender. Men are to behave bravely, truthfully, faithful to the creed. Modesty, shame and respectful behavior rule a woman's life, and historically, it was only later in the development of Muslim life that the 'separation' of men and women took shape. To show modesty and respect for men, a woman covers(hijab = veiling) her body purposefully and carefully in order to prevent men from seeing parts of the body that may provoke sexual attraction. The extent of the covering may be said to be determined by the kinship nearness or distance of men she encounters throughout her day, from close family members, to strangers in the market, for example. The hijab may be seen as a 'system' of demonstrating appropriate modesty in all social situations, from her bedroom to the marketplace. She learns as she grows what needs to be covered and when, depending on her age, her household composition, her social contacts during her day and the extensiveness of her purdah (often misleadingly translated as 'seclusion')


The events above, when seen in the context of cultural values, rituals and institutions begin to take on a different meaning. One begins to view a headscarf not just as an attempt to 'hide' a woman, or a symbol of 'seclusion' or as a religious symbol or, often now, as a political statement. The headscarf, the veil, the long sleeves down to the fingers, the baggy shirt and pants, the shawl--all, in this context, may be seen as ways to insure modesty, to demonstrate respectful behavior to both men and women, to honor the family, etc. In the early days of my own fieldwork, I was asked to roll down my sleeves as even among men, this exposure was considered a minor shameful act. {Consider how Muslims felt when female western journalists made their way to villages in Afghanistan wearing skirts, short sleeves, no head covering of any kind! I once saw Leslie Stahl on TV, ask a villager, thru an interpreter, if she could interview him and he replied, "OK, as long as I don't have to look at her!"} So the veiling, and "secluding" (it is often pejorative in English) and cultural viewing is far more pervasive than just the clothing. After all, consider the serious cultural faux pas I made with Sardar which demonstrated so clearly the depth in Muslim life of appropriate male/female interaction. (When, in many areas of Muslim life, men meet and greet, they inquire about the health and well-being of the males in both families, never the females.)

Many more events that I've experienced that taught me about these cultural ways will be recounted, with more detail, in future blogs.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

"Tribes, Schmibes"

What, you may ask, does all this 'tribal stuff' have to do with urbanites in urban areas, large cities, provincial seats, etc., etc.? Do you think that thousands of years of adaptation in these habitats, with basically subsistance animal and weak grain economies have disappeared with the coming of western clothes, TV, a promise of 'capitalism.'? If you think the tribal sub-structure has folded under the development of 'national institutions'; that a new and evolved level of organization stands on its own, having come into being thru ideology (ideas we favor and believe are true but usually have nothing to do with 'reality on the ground [read, "adaptation"] and usually result in some form of religious fundamentalism or radicalized politics because the ideology isn't really logical and rarely makes sense to people so they go bonkers; thru perception and imitation of things western like former feudal systems which have of late become 'democratized' in myth for the masses. {like, forgive me, the very sheeps' wool used to pull over peoples' eyes}

I will blog a lot about what it means to belong to a 'tribe' in this part of the world, as I know it and have lived it. I'm also trying to get rid of the ads that appear at the top of the screen as everything about them is wrong for my purposes. [I'm trying to develop a blog format that will permit two columns running down the page simultaneously, where in the first column I talk about substantive things and issues, minute details of important things that make life meaningful to our 'middle eastern' and 'southwest asian' neighbors. And in the second column I do a running commentary on the things presented in the first column. This will allow for MetaThinking, that is, relating the stuff to categories of other stuff (an abstraction) so that talking at the level of 'category' will broaden the analysis. I'm not being too clear here yet but it will come. {That permits me to say in that second column, "Did you know that in almost every country that produces world maps, their country is in the middle of the map!? I'm so sick and tired of single quotation marks and double ones just to be able to say, it's not quite like that but we're stuck with the English language here and every attempt at translation is just an approximation and usually a misleading one at that. {Column two entry here might be, "I remember well writing my dissertation about the Brahui people in Baluchistan, Pakistan, and taking up 3/4 of some pages, under the meager few lines of text, as a footnote to translate a word or define a concept: 'It's this but not quite, and that, but not quite.' And should this surprise us? I'll give some of the best examples of this and how it often gets us all, including our present administration, into deep trouble. I plan to cover, in this blog from my own experiences in the field what I understand to be Arab Muslim concepts of self in relation to family, family in relation to self, bethrothal and marriage, the worlds of men and women, the most important common values and behavior, etiquette and shame and dress and 'body language' and constructions of social closeness and distance, and believe me, when all of this is somewhat understood, each category begins to make sense of the other until a whole way of life, a culture, comes clearly into view. Sure, we have to talk about things, but we also have to talk about how things are related to each other. Comparing and contrasting, say, marriage across cultures is a meaningless and intellectually dangerous exercise. What we need to know is the ways in which marriage FUNCTIONS in the society, the things that drive and trim it, the forces at work that disfavor change as well as those that favor change. {Col 2 talk: There's a fascinating principle in theoretical ecology that talks about 'looking for the meaning of A, by discovering the nexus of meaning between L, M and N.} So give me a chance to format what I need to continue and we'll forge ahead. . .

Friday, August 06, 2004

"Fit For Democracy?"

{Please comment below. Reactions are important for future posts}

Afghans give up their weapons as a pledge to sign up and work for the emerging central government?? Ha, you've got to be kidding! Get real. No conquering group through recorded history could maintain sovereignty over them: Known for their ferocity in defending their territory, they were dubbed by the British, “The Wild Tribes.” To this very day, they maintain an unspoken autonomy in Pakistan and Afghanistan (in the Northwest Frontier Province, in Waziristan,) until they are challenged, ready to fight off anyone entering their territories. It is somewhere in this area that it is believed Osama bin Laden is living, having been invited as guest ( meman in Farsi,) whose very life, by tribal honor code, must be protected above all else, including the lives of the tribespeople. {More on the special nature of the status of ‘guest,' especially in Arab Muslim culture} which extends all the way across the Iranian Plateau, thru Pakistan and Afghanistan to the northern borders of India. Over many hundred colonial years, the Arabs, the Persian 'dynasties', the Ottoman, the British and then, before us, the Russians, could not or would not maintain suzerenty. It took the Afghans (Pukhtuns) 10 years to get the Russians out but they did it! Our greatest perceptual mistake in all of the Middle East and South West Asia is the way in which 'tribe' as a concept, not necessarily a group of people, supports all political and social life. We talk glibly about 'democracy' but do we understand the ways in which decision are made at all levels by these people? Perhaps the very political system itself is related or an outgrowth of the technology and economy. The entire ecosystem is fragile, precarious, lacking water except along rivers, very low pop densities where life and death decisions at the local level are NOT left to representatives or autocratic chiefs.
The niche-base derives from nomadism (my specialty) a complex system of raising free-ranging animals for subsistence and minor market sale. Animals which can turn desert scrub in high intermountain plateaus (and elsewhere) into milk and cheeses (20 varieties!), meat and skins for bags, and all the other necessary things that can be bought in market with the money from the sale of animals and, more ofter, animal-products. As such, nomadism has to obey principles of adaptation that are successful in these environments, creating a technology that optimizes the growth of flocks. The name of the nomad game in this part of the world is a 3-pronged system; the need for dependable pastures, the need for dependable access to water, and the proximity of enemies. These 3 basic needs must be met in order to sustain small populations living off the produce of their animals. One would expect, then, that technologies and the institutions that support them have developed over thousands of years which provide adaptive advantage: how animals are 'owned', how decisions are made regarding their deployment, the structure of the household for managing animals and creating animal products for human use. Even rituals, such as the way people greet each other in order to determine immediately how closely or distantly men are to each other thru the male line. All tribal behavior is determined by this kinship grid and it is not unusual for 2 men and their families who pass each other on migration to be prepared to count up 10 generations of male progenetors to see where their lines are related . If it is established that they are close kinsmen within a small lineage that is not a residential unit, their relations are cordial, respectful and friendly. In some 'tribes' there are very clear expectations of reciprocal economic aid, which are determined by lineage closeness or distance. Two 'cousins' may be first cousins (FBS, FBSS, etc.) or 'cousins' of great distance (FaFaFaBrSoSoSo). But the genealogical charter determins obligations and reciprocities, marriage and the formation of households, etc. In most 'tribes' each male individual knows the extent of the lineages he is related to and the outermost genealogical boundry is what defines "tribe." Each male adult knows who their relatives are, both alive and dead and the 'tribe' is more a conception of male social relatedness (expressed in kinship terms) than biological reality. To complicate things even more, tribal progenitors, the individuals understood by all to have started a particular line perhaps as long ago as ten or more generations, may not have been biological 'brothers' as they are presented, but political allies that came together in the sharing of weal and woe, 'shadi-gham' , good times and bad. These old lines that converged into 'brotherhood' ('elumi', in Brahui), are a conceptual statement or charter that will determine how they behave to each other, their roles and expectations with reference to protecting honor, property (there were no police forces) marriage arrangements, and defending access to pastures and water.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Let's start here

Looking at yesterday's "Times" editorial about 'warlords' and Afghanistan, etc., and our administration's ‘intelligence' (which they, seeing themselves in the loop) seem eager to share with us their 'knowledge' of just who are the 'most prominent ones' , etc., etc. It’s folly, because these so-called ’warlords’ are seen as a counterpart of European feudalism. Does anyone ask, "What's a 'warlord' anyway?" What power do they have? As a standing group how are decisions made, who makes them, and what is their relationship to the indigenous power structure? : It is, among Pakistan and Afghan ' tribes,' the "lashgar" or fighting force that comes together as 'kinsmen' to settle disbutes, mainly internally, fight for honor if it has been compromised (very powerful principle). Is it the gr0up 'takri,' (the lineage "representative" in name only) or 'name representative' at a higher level of lineage (often incorrectly called clan), lead by a perceived autocratic 'chief' of the 'tribe', {Again, be careful of definitions here. Translations often use English words that only come close to definition} who calls for conscription which is coordinated by the takri . But now who are the members of the 'warlord's group?' The lashgars traditionally came together and then disbanded, depending on the problem They have historically provided the fighting force for groups that emerge when defense or agression is required. Have they now become small standing armies in response to OUTSIDE threats? Traditionally, the lashgars mobilized the entire population under conscription but only to carry out specific goals. These 'groups' that take shape, merge when necessary, fracture and disband when success is achieved. This is NOT the way western corporate groups are structured or behave. [More on this later because it has important implications for the feasibility of democracy}.




Monday, May 17, 2004

Having difficulty with my network connections and will sort this out as soon as possible

Thursday, May 13, 2004

The "White House" e-site has no option for 'comments.' Only 'questions', hence the following is in the form of questions!

Don't you, Hon. President, realize that RUMSFELD MUST GO if we are to address the
prisioner abuse scandal looking forward without dragging the dead weight of incompetence, denial, defensiveness and all the others things that will work against us all around the world? Are you not aware by now that too much damage has already been done to our reputation, our credibility, our dependability and stability in not showing the world the real American values we are all so proud of? Do you believe that 'loyalty' has its limits, that blind loyalty has produced major disasters thru history. Loyalty must end where bad judgment and lawlessness rule! Please take an about-face (there's no shame in changing course, save face in this way and save the faces of all our soldiers who are dying every day. This s"war" is NOT a patriotic sacrifice as many in the country are now beginning to realize: this is folly, a disaster and a fighting arena for our enemies which they did not have before. Please listen to your constituencies; your partisan advisors with severe caution. They all have their own agendas and will use the most powerful position, the presidency, in order to force their will on others. Thank you.

Still having trouble finding my drafts to publish. I think I lost 2 or more posts and I'm still not sure how I do it. Until I find out, I will write drafts on documents, then cut and paste them on to MetaThink blog and publish.

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Sunday, May 09, 2004

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Four years of my life were spent living with a nomadic tribe in NW Pakistan, not far from the Afghanistan border. The first 2 years' data formed the body of a dissertation or the Ph.D. in anthropology at Columbia University. I lived with "family-hosts" (chosen by 'chiefs') in their tents and small mud hamlets, learned the language in one and 1/2 years and defended the dissertation in 1968. I write from the perspective of a man on the ground, trying to make a living with meager resources, in a precarious physical and social environment of the Middle East and Southwest Asia. The "tribe" remains alive and well in this entire area, (Falujah is a good example) and it is the consideration of values and social structure of "tribe" that is totally absent from the US's understanding of these areas. I will discuss the consequences of this in a future post.
This week we turn another dangerous corner in the Middle East. I bet our guys learned to torture from the former guards at the infamous jail. "Ask questions? Nah, here's how you do it!" Or was it the hidden fury behind the anger and worry our servicepeople now have because: 1. They can't go home as promised; they are exhausted, depressed, suicidal, etc. 2. There is no end in sight for their posting nor a well-defined purpose for being there. They sense that shoving "freedom" and "democracy" down peoples' throats just won't do it. Buzzwords of all kinds won't do it. 3. They are Reservists, you know, mostly adolescents who define 'self' now as a place, freely chosen, in the strict hierarchy of military service 4. They're scared, unprepared, poorly equipped. 5. They are on other peoples' turf and they sense they are at a great disadvantage: No level playing fields here. Only dust and winds, mirages and sandstorms. 6. Their superiors are into revenge (not smart tactical warfare) due to atrocities such as hanging our mutilated men from bridges, dragging dead GI's thru the streets of insurgent towns. 7. "Semper fi" doesn't even cut it now since the bonds of loyalty are now obscure, poorly focused, the mantra only of the successful warrior. 8. They were led to believe that Iraqis are "cowards" because they decamp, scramble, run and hide (is there only one way to fight?) then pop up and do their thing. 9. Are our servicepeople beginning to see what's goin' down? That not only is this land theirs, (the "Iraqis," whoever they are), they see things we don't see and use things we wouldn't conceive of using, their thinking and conceptualizatrion of everything is a product of adaptation marvelously well-suited to their place on the planet. [Refer to "Conceptualization in the Tent"] They are the ones who know how to fight in their own territory. And since when is there a 'moral' way to fight?!
From the very beginning of this invasion of Iraq, (disguised as a 'war'), I have witnessed countless events and responses of the American government that have been counter-productive, strangely untutored, demonstrating a severe lack of knowledge about Islam, the lives of people in the area, the history of one of the greatest civilization that ever was (and, by the way, that existed when Europe was still in the stone age). It is the cradle of the invention of agriculture, animal husbandry.
I want to look at present events there, our government's response to them, and the way they play given the real lives of people on the ground.