Arquivo da tag: Militarismo

Damning Revelations Prompt Social Science to Rethink Its Ties to the Military (The Chronicle of Higher Education)

July 15, 2015

By Paul Voosen

Subject. Patron. Source. Siren.

For social scientists, the state can play many roles. As long as researchers have studied humanity and the systems we create, they have struggled to define their relationship with power. And in the United States, since World War II, that tension has centered especially on the military and its spy agencies.

The dangers of that relationship came into high relief late last week, with the release of a report detailing how the American Psychological Association, a century-old scholarly group, had colluded with the U.S. military to shield practitioners of torture a decade ago. The report painted a small group of leaders as beholden to its military patrons, eager to “curry favor,” whatever the long-term cost.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Joy Rohde, a historian at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor who studies government and its relations with social science. Yes, personal coordination happens. Yes, orchestrated decisions happen. “What is so shocking in this case,” she said, “is that you’ve got all of these things combined, and they’re so systemic.”

This should put researchers on notice, added David N. Gibbs, a history professor at the University of Arizona who studies the CIA’s influence on academe. The surge of financing that attended, especially, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan might be alluring, but it can come with a cost.

“I’d like to hope that this would be a wake-up call about the dangers of collaboration with intelligence services,” he said.

The APA’s misdeeds join a list of controversial interactions between social scientists and the military since the attacks of September 11, 2001, and the wars that followed. Most notably, they include: the Pentagon’s Human Terrain System, recently ended, which saw anthropologists deployed in war zones to study the local population; the Minerva Research Initiative, a grant program for university social scientists to study regions of strategic importance to the United States; and the Pat Roberts Intelligence Scholars Program, which finances the education of future spies.

But while those programs have provided rallying points for protest, they are only the most visible manifestations of the deep ties between social scientists and the government. It’s a relationship that has been collaborative, confrontational, or often both at the same time. But at its base, it balances on a simple tension: Modern democracy believes that good policy should rest on expert knowledge. But how can that knowledge be conveyed, and employed, without biasing researchers or undermining democracy?

It’s not an easy question, though researchers sometimes attempt easy answers. University professors are a cosmopolitan, polyglot group, often suspicious of the exercise of U.S. military might. Debates turn political and ideological, resorting to metaphors of cancer, rather than remaining on ethics, said Ron Robin, a historian and senior vice provost for global faculty development at New York University.

“I don’t think that ties with government necessarily corrupt,” Mr. Robin said. “They can corrupt.”

Risks attend the fallout from the APA report, added Joseph S. Nye, a former dean of Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

“If you have academics saying, ‘Don’t do anything with the government, keep it at arm’s length,’ you won’t have that kind of scandal,” he said. “You will have something else instead.”

Psychology’s Allure

The Cold War ushered the social sciences into the national-security world. Bolstered by the Popperian view that neither democracy nor science was possible without the other, academics shuttled down from Cambridge or Princeton for two decades, advising the Defense Department or CIA on their operations. In 1956 the U.S. Army opened its Special Operations Research Office on the campus of American University. The patronage helped legitimate social science within the academy, making it less a junior partner to the “hard” sciences: By 1961 a physicist told Robert McNamara, the defense secretary, that World War III, if it came, “might well have to be considered the social scientists’ war.”

Psychology presented a particular allure to the military. Most prominently, given the nature of war, the military has a vast need for the services of the discipline’s practitioners in caring for its troops, a truism that has grown only stronger over time. But beyond that, nearly every aspect of psychologists’ remit could be seen through the lens of war: Motivation. Communication. Belief. By 1964 the Defense Department was investing $31 million in psychological research.

“It’s stunning, the array of research and advice sought from psychologists by the military and intelligence agencies,” said Mark Solovey, an assistant professor of history at the University of Toronto who studies Cold War social science.

This best-and-brightest consensus wouldn’t last. Auguring the conflict was Project Camelot, a military-financed study of why revolutions occur that would have been the most expensive social-science project of its day, including fieldwork from Bolivia to Nigeria. It included more than 30 academic consultants, and its work would not be classified. But in 1965, after American involvement in Vietnam increased, countries began to protest Camelot researchers’ appearing on their shores. The project became a controversial flash point and was ultimately canceled.

“We got a black eye out of that,” said Neil J. Smelser, an emeritus professor of sociology at the University of California at Berkeley who was one of Camelot’s consultants.

It was the start of academic social scientists’ turn away from the military. In 1969, American University kicked the Army off its campus. By the mid-1970s the Church Committee’s investigation of the intelligence agencies seemed to seal off the idea of collaboration for good.

But as Ms. Rohde’s research has shown, the government was already sold on social science. It hired researchers in droves, and began to rely on a network of independent research centers dependent on their federal patrons. The backlash, in effect, helped push research underground. And those same centers remain primary feeders of social science to this day.

“They’re still there,” Ms. Rohde said. “And with the war on terror, we’ve seen those same group of people orient their research in that direction.”

Hidden Relationships

In many ways the relationship between social scientists and the military and intelligence world remains a hidden affair. An unknown number of academics consult with federal security agencies on the side. Universities and disciplines differ on their policies allowing such classified contract work. Anthropology tends to look askance at such work, while political scientists are more sanguine about it, Ms. Rohde said.

“As far as I can tell, it’s very broad spread,” said Mr. Gibbs, who opposes such work. He knows people on his campus who have done it. “It’s not something that seems to cause significant damage to your career,” he said.

Working with the intelligence services demands that academics hold themselves to strict ethical codes, added Mr. Nye. Under his watch, the Kennedy School saw educating CIA officials as part of its work, but they were treated like any other student, he said. Most important, that meant no classified material could be discussed.

“To keep the ability to speak openly and freely about research or ideas, we can’t deal with classified information,” he said.

There’s no telling if the more visible engagement with the social sciences that the military and intelligence world have pursued will remain. Such efforts tend to wax and wane against the backdrop of the agencies’ own internal needs for expertise. The federal-budget sequester hit defense financing for social science hard, and several champions, including Robert Gates and David Petraeus, are now long out of government.

“More than anything, the Defense Department has moved on,” Ms. Rohde said. “The kind of intellectual systems they were trying to build — let’s say the rhetoric far outstripped the capacity.”

As for the APA? If it continues to exist, it will have a tough road to climb to prove its continued independence from the military, Ms. Rohde added. “This report should lead any expert community with close ties to national-security agencies or powerful state actors to question the extent they can rely on their expert community to make independent decisions.”

Psychology, added Mr. Solovey, has to ask hard questions about its principles, foremost among them: “Have psychologists become hired guns to do whatever agencies want to do for some price?”

There was another way the APA could have gone, perhaps best seen in the American Anthropological Association, whose members, beginning in 2006, spent several years debating military collaboration, with advocates for and against such work included in a commission. It was a grass-roots effort, and while far from perfect, anthropologists found ways to talk, said David H. Price, a professor of anthropology and sociology at Saint Martin’s University who participated in the effort.

The result was guidelines that weren’t about “good agency, bad agency,” Mr. Price said. They were about good practice, bad practice — opposing secrecy, doing no harm. It was that later point that led the association to condemn the Army’s Human Terrain System.

Of course, such a stand carries costs. As last week’s report makes clear, in 2006, the APA was following the anthropology debates while mulling a proposal that it should base its guidelines on international human-rights standards. The head of psychological operations for the U.S. Army Special Operations Command warned against such a move. If they did so, he warned, “we run the risk of becoming as impotent as anthropology.”

Paul Voosen is a senior reporter covering the sciences. Write him at paul.voosen@chronicle.com; follow him on Twitter @voooos; or see past work at voosen.me.

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The Seven Deadly Sins of the Human Terrain System: An Insider’s Perspective (Geopoliticus: The FPRI Blog)

JFQ 78 | Turnaround: The Untold Story of the Human Terrain System (National Defense University Press)

By Clifton Green | July 01, 2015

The U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS), a program that embedded social scientists with deployed units, endured a rough start as it began deploying teams to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2007.1 These early experiences had a lasting impact on the program. Although critics have written extensively about HTS struggles with internal mismanagement, most accounts simply cataloged problems, yielded little insight into the organization’s progress over time, and ultimately gave the impression that HTS was never able to make needed corrections. Far from being a failure, though, HTS is a remarkable turnaround story and should serve as a case study for how organizations can implement fundamental organizational changes. Even more importantly, the reformed version of HTS provides a template that could significantly improve existing Department of Defense (DOD) support to deployed civilians, thousands of whom have provided critical services to war-fighters around the globe.

Civilian Expeditionary Workforce member engages local business owner in discussion regarding poultry feed production, Kandahar Province (Kentucky National Guard/Dallas Kratzer)

Civilian Expeditionary Workforce member engages local business owner in discussion regarding poultry feed production, Kandahar Province (Kentucky National Guard/Dallas Kratzer)

History

Inception to Government Transition. HTS was developed as a response to concerns about mismanagement of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, in particular the lack of cultural understanding of these countries demonstrated by the U.S. military. Soldiers, commanded by leaders with limited cross-cultural experience, were being asked to navigate a complex foreign environment with little or no training, and they were failing.

Prior to U.S. involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, cultural research and analysis had only a small place in the Army thought process. HTS changed that. Designed to provide a better understanding of indigenous populations in these countries, it was hoped that HTS would help U.S. and allied forces reduce violent misunderstandings and dampen the insurgencies. In 2006, the Army, facing progressively worsening situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, needed new ideas and thus backed a $20 million, five-team HTS proof of concept. Even before all five teams had been deployed, early reactions from theater commanders were favorable. Within a year, the requirement for Human Terrain Teams mushroomed to 26 teams as the price tag surpassed $100 million annually.

In the mad dash to fill positions, HTS hiring standards ranged from minimal to nonexistent. In many cases, new employees were not even interviewed. When combined with high starting salaries, this lack of selectivity caused HTS to attract a peculiar mix of highly qualified personnel, absolutely unqualified personnel, and everyone in between.

As the number of workers swelled at the HTS base of operations in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, two distinct camps emerged. Army Reservists, with varying levels of military experience, formed one group, while contractors formed another. Although it is contractors who typically play a supporting role to government and military personnel, in the early days of HTS it was the military members who lacked a clearly defined role. The vast majority of deployed team members and support staff were contractors, while HTS acquired Reservists with no plan to integrate them. In some cases, military personnel battled the contractors for control, but the HTS support contract required that contractors administer most daily operations. This difficult situation was exacerbated by the fact that HTS’s program manager and its contract oversight were both based a thousand miles away in Virginia.

To deal with these problems and provide better government oversight, a deputy program manager was appointed at Fort Leavenworth in late 2008. His role was to oversee the work of both contractors and military personnel. It was a difficult task. HTS’s highly matrixed organization, internal rivalries, and lack of controls had created a dysfunctional work environment, which operated in an ad hoc manner in almost every way. Policies and procedures were virtually nonexistent, and most work was done by key employees with narrow areas of expertise. Mid- to senior-level managers were, in too many cases, absent or ineffective.

Some HTS managers who did work hard to address the program’s problems were overwhelmed. When decisions were made, they were often inadequate to resolve the problem or simply too late to matter, and the staff required to implement the decisions was insufficient. Such problems were largely due to management officials who had difficulty navigating the unstructured work environment. Instead of establishing systems and frameworks to deal with problems, managers generally approached each problem as a unique circumstance. At the same time, the lack of structure enabled many employees to perform poorly and face few consequences. Without structure to regulate behavior, HTS employees often succumbed to a kind of organizational attention deficit disorder. This combination of factors created serious deficiencies for HTS quality of support.2

In late 2008, these problems were compounded by a new looming crisis. The United States and Iraq had signed a Status of Forces Agreement that put U.S. contractors working in Iraq within the jurisdiction of the Iraqi legal system. Panicked that Iraqi police (or insurgents masquerading as Iraqi police) might arrest employees, HTS initiated a plan to convert all 150 Human Terrain Team (HTT) members from contractors to government employees. To facilitate the process, a government transition assistant was assigned to manage the conversion from Fort Monroe, Virginia, with HTS designating several personnel to assist. All HTS team members had to become government employees by May 31, 2009, or return to the United States.

The conversion, which seemed simple in the abstract, quickly became a nightmare. HTS employees, a notoriously vocal workforce, were bewildered by the turn of events. They deluged the transition assistant with thousands of questions, complaints, and pages of paperwork, and productivity in theater declined while employees wondered about their futures and haggled for better terms. At the same time, numerous other issues, from travel orders to timesheets, required HTS to establish a large number of new internal processes. Like HTS managers, the transition assistant had no system to handle the volume and was quickly overwhelmed. As the situation deteriorated, it was unclear whether the deadline could be met, or if HTS would be forced to embarrassingly remove all personnel from theater.

Fortunately, through furious last-minute efforts by HTS and U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) staff members, the conversion process was completed on time. However, tremendous damage had already been done to HTS credibility, and dozens of employees (over one-third of the HTS deployed workforce) had quit. Bureaucratic infighting caused several staff principles, including the deputy program manager, to depart in mid-2009, and a large portion of the organization was suddenly moved from Fort Leavenworth to Virginia. Although HTS had survived the crisis, many inside and outside of the program began to question HTS’s fundamental level of competence.

Wandering in the Wilderness. After the conversion debacle, HTS drifted. The decision to relocate several sections of the organization caused further division. At the same time, the lack of strong management limited the organization’s ability to make necessary changes. Competing HTS staff elements struggled to fill the vacuum, resulting in a critical lost year.

In the middle of the conversion process, the HTS program manager created a Program Management Office–Forward (PMO-Forward) in both Iraq and Afghanistan in response to real problems, including the lost accountability of employees in a war zone. The role of the PMO-Forwards, however, was never clearly established, and HTS staff members generally viewed the PMO-Forwards as deployed staff elements. The PMO-Forwards, by contrast, considered themselves deputy program managers. Mutual mistrust inhibited collaboration, and a months-long standoff ensued. In spite of the need for internal cooperation, HTS program management never publicized or enforced clear guidelines for how the PMO-Forwards should interact with the staff. Staff meetings between PMO-Forwards and U.S.-based support staff devolved into uncomfortable stalemates. The ensuing discord severely restricted HTS capacity to improve support processes and fed into the HTS culture of dysfunction.

Human Terrain System member speaks with Afghan during Key Leader Engagement in Kandahar Province to discourage locals from hiding contraband for Taliban (DOD/Crystal Davis)

Human Terrain System member speaks with Afghan during Key Leader Engagement in Kandahar Province to discourage locals from hiding contraband for Taliban (DOD/Crystal Davis)

Once teams were staffed with government employees, HTS found itself poorly equipped to meet the needs of its workforce. Contractor-to-government transition planning had been exclusively focused on the conversion process; little preparation had been made for actually supporting government civilians. As contractors, HTS personnel had been supported by corporate human resource (HR) and finance sections, but now those organizations were out of the picture. While regulations and support agencies already existed for government civilian HR and finance issues, those agencies were unequipped to deal with the range and complexity of issues presented by HTS employees.

HTS needed experts to create processes and integrate systems. Lacking both, the newly formed HTS HR Directorate was drowning in problems. For instance, the HTS finance section was staffed by one timekeeper, a Soldier with no background in civilian finance. The lack of support caused the number of pay problems to snowball over time, damaging morale and productivity. Meanwhile, employees in theater had received virtually no training on proper pay practices and would regularly claim to be working in excess of 12 hours per day, 7 days a week. This led to real integrity problems for the organization. While the tempo of operations in theater was certainly high, reports suggested that not everyone was being truthful on their timecards. One team leader did implement significant restrictions on the number of hours employees could claim and was immediately hounded from theater—“fired” by a PMO-Forward who had no legal authority to fire anyone. With no one controlling payroll and a generally lawless atmosphere, team productivity was highly variable. Unfortunately, there is little doubt that some HTS employees took advantage of the situation to pad their timecards while doing little work (a practice that was regrettably common among deployed Federal workers in Iraq and Afghanistan, not just at HTS).3

HTS was simply not operating in accordance with established rules. However, with the government transition complete, it had inherited a rather large rulebook. At the same time, HTS often lacked clear lines of authority within its mix of military, civilian, and contract workers, all of whom were led by a program manager who served on an Intergovernmental Personnel Act agreement, an unusual employment arrangement that further confused matters. The lack of administrative clarity created an overall impression that HTS had no rules, and large numbers of disgruntled HTS employees soon found their way to the inspector general, various elected representatives, and Equal Employment Opportunity offices. Between late 2009 and early 2010, Congress had withheld tens of millions of dollars from the HTS budget and had directed the Center for Naval Analyses to perform an assessment of the program. Other investigations, including an Army Regulation 15-6 inquiry and an internal audit by the TRADOC Internal Review and Audit Compliance office, were bubbling up as well. HTS’s flaws had become impossible to ignore.

Reform. Virtually every HTS employee acknowledged the need for change. The real question was what shape reform would take. Many wanted the program to simply break away from the intrusive rules and regulations, and believed that most problems could be solved if HTS left TRADOC, which they viewed as both unhelpful and adversarial, and moved to U.S. Army Forces Command or U.S. Special Operations Command. Others thought this analysis missed the point. In their view, HTS would have to adapt to the Army and to civilian employment law regardless of which command it fell under. Resistance was not only futile but also destructive and would only cripple the program. HTS would have to learn how to follow the rules.

This conflict had remained unresolved for most of the program’s history. The HTS program manager had often made a point of emphasizing the program’s uniqueness and claimed that this made HTS incompatible with the Army’s existing bureaucracy. TRADOC, which provided oversight of HTS activities, represented that bureaucracy, and as a result was often perceived as an existential threat and met with hostility within HTS. This animosity was at times mutual. Many viewed HTS fiscal wastefulness and poor internal regulation as something of a threat as well, since it would be TRADOC—not the HTS itinerant workforce—that would be left to clean up after HTS failures. TRADOC managers also found HTS’s grandiose plans, such as a training directorate with more staff than students, to be exasperating. These conflicting perspectives caused the relationship between the two organizations to sour over time, and TRADOC found itself confronted daily with the question of how much leeway to give HTS. With the United States engaged in two concurrent wars, there was no easy answer.

Nevertheless, several abortive efforts to clean up aspects of the program from within had taken place. Unfortunately, each had been hindered by a lack of expertise or a failure to follow through. While HTS had a large staff, most staff members were unaware of the mechanics of how the program functioned. The few “old hands” who understood the nuts and bolts of HTS typically tried to fly under the radar amid staff infighting. When ideas did coalesce into concrete proposals, HTS staff principals were generally unable to implement changes due to being overwhelmed by problems and uncertain of the second- and third-order effects of any proposed solution. HTS program management had done little to encourage organizational discipline of any kind. This created an environment largely free of formal consequences, such as reprimands or terminations, even in the face of egregious behavior. To become more legally compliant and effective, HTS would need to irritate many of its longtime employees, who had become accustomed to the consequence-free environment. Taking them on, however, risked pushback from both employees and other managers, so most managers found it safer to do nothing.

Because HTS was overseen by TRADOC G2 and had, over the course of several years, proved unable to effectively self-manage, TRADOC gradually took on a more active role. Unfortunately, the logistics of this relationship were problematic. Most of HTS was physically remote from the TRADOC G2 offices. TRADOC G2 lacked experience overseeing a program such as HTS, and it had both limited access to what was going on within the program and limited manpower. Additionally, HTS sometimes attempted to replicate TRADOC management functions within itself, creating confusion and making cooperation difficult. These factors prevented TRADOC G2 from being able to implement reforms unless HTS was an active and engaged participant. Unfortunately, because HTS leadership generally viewed TRADOC with suspicion, there was little in the way of productive dialogue.

In early 2010, a small group of HTS personnel and TRADOC G2 management officials operating out of Fort Monroe, Virginia, began intensive work on overhauling the program’s administration. The group had detailed insight into the workings of HTS and significant expertise in civilian HR and finance. Over the next few months, a number of policies covering a range of issues were drafted and sent to HTS program management for review. At the same time, the group received additional manpower and was able to improve payroll processing, eliminating a backlog of over 80 pay-related complaints that affected most deployed employees. Unfortunately, implementation of other policy changes was limited. Although the proposals provided a clear and legally compliant model for managing the program, they remained in limbo, neither approved nor rejected. The HTS program manager was simply not enthusiastic about institutionalizing the program.4

By mid-June 2010, the pressure of the investigations and HTS management’s continuing resistance to reform brought the situation to a breaking point. Two key changes, however, appeared to signal a fresh start for the program. First, the position of program manager was eliminated. Second, an Active-duty Army colonel, who had previously served as the TRADOC Deputy G2 and was thus familiar with the HTS program and its difficulties, was named director. The new director had longstanding and positive relationships with TRADOC G2 staff members and thus understood how to balance the considerations of TRADOC with the goals of HTS. Most importantly, she was more pragmatic than her predecessor, who had generally declined to focus on day-to-day management issues.

Anxious to implement change, the HTS director gave the green light to a number of the policies drafted by the Fort Monroe group. The group also gained authority and leadership support in a number of significant areas, including program administration, program development, payroll, travel, hiring, and separations. These changes significantly improved efficiency, transparency, regulatory compliance, and internal controls. New guidance documents eventually covered dozens of topics, and improved internal processes gave managers better insight into how well HTS was running. In addition, new HTS policies established a change management structure that allowed the program to continue to improve. Finally, more discipline was imposed on the hiring process, resulting in more accurate recruitment targets and 61 percent lower attrition in training.5 As positive change continued, many employees expressed relief that HTS was finally turning a corner.

Not everyone agreed, however. For example, although travel privileges had been significantly misused, some supervisors were annoyed about having to ask for permission under the new, more accountable procedures. Timesheet reviews turned up cases of excess that, when addressed, created some hostility. The PMO-Forward positions, which lacked accountability to other staff elements, were abolished and replaced with the position of Theater Support Officer, which reported to the HTS director of operations.

Afghan girl peeks around door as U.S. Special Forces and Cultural Support Team speak with her father, Uruzgan Province (DOD/Kaily Brown)

Afghan girl peeks around door as U.S. Special Forces and Cultural Support Team speak with her father, Uruzgan Province (DOD/Kaily Brown)

While process improvements occurred rapidly, improving the HTS workforce took longer. Because HTS had been willing to hire almost anyone in the early days, it had a large number of unproductive employees. Other employees were competent professionals but had a contentious relationship with the program as a result of the years of mismanagement. By 2012, however, a combination of changes had significantly improved workforce quality. These included better management, the termination of more than a dozen employees, more stringent hiring criteria, and a requirement that most employees separate from HTS at the end of their deployment. Employees wishing to deploy again could reapply just like anyone else. This not only improved workforce quality, but it also enhanced the program’s ability to fine-tune recruiting requirements. By 2013, terminations for cause had declined greatly, reflecting an increasingly stable and professional workforce.

Although HTS had made remarkable internal transformations, media coverage of the program was stuck in 2009.6 HTS’s most frequent critic, a blogger named John Stanton, had written numerous articles that reflected extensive employee disgruntlement and captured some of HTS’s chronic mismanagement.7 As things improved, however, critics either minimized or failed to notice the changes made in the program. While this may have been intentional, it seems more likely that they simply were not aware of what was happening. The HTS of 2009 was wide open to the media, a decision that did not serve the program well. To combat this, HTS post-2010 was more closed. Public relations and other outreach efforts continued, but other forms of openness diminished. At the same time, investigations into HTS’s 2009-era failures were being broadly disseminated on the Internet. Even though the program had significantly improved, HTS critics had few ways of discovering this, as they received most of their information from public sources and disgruntled employees. Given the lack of information, they assumed that little had changed.

They were wrong. HTS had, in many ways, become an example of how to do things correctly. A 2013 external review pointed out progress toward institutionalizing the program.8Subsequent internal reviews, audits, and investigations conducted during 2013 and 2014 found an effectively managed organization that complied with regulations. This was verified by a comprehensive audit conducted by the Army Audit Agency in 2014. The HTS experience offers important lessons that can shape the way DOD deploys civilians during the next conflict. It also offers broader lessons about how to improve the government’s employment practices.

Implications

Centralizing Support for Deployed Civilians. While poor management limited HTS during its early years, the program was also hindered by DOD’s ineffective civilian deployment system. The U.S. military is capable when deploying uniformed Servicemembers, but its civilian deployment process is minimal and poorly integrated. For small organizations, or units with only a few civilians, this is a nuisance to be endured. For HTS, which deployed civilians at a larger scale, the system’s weaknesses created massive challenges to mission accomplishment.

The effects were significant. The U.S. Government spent almost $800 million on HTS from its inception through the 2014 Afghanistan drawdown, a period of over 7 years. During much of that time, mismanagement, excess attrition, inflated salaries, and poor support practices wasted hundreds of millions of dollars. Furthermore, assuming HTS provided value to battlefield commanders, the years it took to fix these issues and field more effective teams may well have cost lives and worsened the outcomes in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some might argue that waste was an inevitable byproduct of the program’s rapid creation in the middle of two conflicts. There is truth to that. However, if a civilian deployment infrastructure had existed prior to the creation of HTS, the program could have used it directly. Instead, HTS, like other programs that deploy civilians, had to figure everything out, build its own infrastructure, and endure numerous failures on the road to getting things right. That was a phenomenally inefficient way of doing business. It was also completely unnecessary.

DOD should establish a program to manage the recruitment, training, deployment, and sustainment of government civilian personnel in overseas environments. This centralized program would enable deployed forces to quickly obtain needed civilian skills to augment their capabilities. At the same time, it would allow programs and supported units to focus on core competencies rather than administrative distractions. Finally, such a program, by eliminating inefficiencies, could save the government hundreds of millions of dollars during future conflicts. While that may sound like an overstatement, the HTS experience demonstrates that cost savings of this magnitude are not theoretical.

Soldiers from Charlie Troop, 2-38 Cavalry, and DA civilians, Human Terrain System, with local Afghan villagers during Key Leader Engagement in Kandahar Province (DOD/Crystal Davis)

Soldiers from Charlie Troop, 2-38 Cavalry, and DA civilians, Human Terrain System, with local Afghan villagers during Key Leader Engagement in Kandahar Province (DOD/Crystal Davis)

While HTS provided civilian cultural expertise in Iraq and Afghanistan, future wars may require wholly different and unexpected types of knowledge. In the past, such needs were often filled through the contracting process. However, government civilians may be preferable to contractors for several reasons: they are more cost effective; they fall under the direct control of government authorities; and they can perform inherently governmental functions. In other cases, the use of contractors is unnecessary because the desired expertise already exists within DOD’s permanent civilian workforce. This capability was previously leveraged through the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce (CEW) program, which provided opportunities for existing government civilians to deploy. Regardless of the source, though, experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan prove that such skills will be required.

Unfortunately, civilian personnel are often inadequately prepared to deal with the military deployment bureaucracy, which is focused primarily on military personnel and contractors. As an example, HTS employees who received care at military treatment facilities in theater would often be categorized as “contractors” simply because there was no option for “government civilian,” creating unnecessary challenges to medical support. Civilians drawn from the private sector had even greater difficulty adapting to the military’s way of doing business. These distractions made them and their organizations less productive and increased the amount of turnover. The HTS experience demonstrates that an entire program’s operations can be hobbled by the investigations, negative publicity, and employee issues that accompany deficiencies in administrative support.

A centralized DOD civilian deployment program would provide support throughout the entire tour, from the receipt of notice to deploy through to the end of the deployment. Programs and units sending civilians downrange would use this program’s centralized support capabilities and expertise. It would prepare civilians for deployment, ensure coordination with deployment centers and receiving units, account for them in theater, ensure a smooth redeployment home, and provide accurate administrative, finance, and logistical support throughout the entire process. It would also ensure that deployed civilians received proper assistance and care, while making certain they performed the work they were hired to do.

Such a program would need to accommodate itself to the reality of defense budget cycles, expanding and contracting as required. During peacetime, it could be sustained by a minimal number of employees; during wartime, it would expand by using limited-term government employees and contractor support. The program would serve individual deployers as well as large organizations and would centralize functions currently duplicated across DOD, paying for itself by eliminating waste. As a “one-stop shop,” the program would encourage consistent support of deployed civilians while maintaining administrative best practices, reducing the amount of waste and fraud committed during deployments.

Naturally, there are always concerns about the use of government employees rather than contractors. First, government hiring is an extremely slow process. To circumvent this issue, HTS developed a hybrid contractor/government hiring process that utilized the strengths of the private sector to augment government hiring methods. Contract recruiters were able to find large numbers of potential candidates with needed expertise. The candidates were screened and their names were then submitted for government qualification. If qualified, the candidates attended a training class prior to being sworn in as government civilians. This approach allowed HTS to provide a volume of personnel that would never have been possible using normal government recruiting methods.

The second main issue with government workers is the concern that they become permanent employees who are difficult to remove from service. This is not the case. Term-limited appointments allow management to decline employment extensions as needed. Term employment thus makes adjustments to the size of the workforce relatively easy, avoiding the need for a reduction in force, and provides a mechanism to release underperforming employees while avoiding the difficult and emotionally draining termination process. Employment can end with the expiration of an employee’s term rather than through termination, allowing the employee to save face and ensuring that he or she is able to file for unemployment. Unfortunately, however, termination can be necessary in some cases. At HTS, 18 employees were terminated over a 5-year period, a rate considerably higher than normal for the Federal Government. This was possible because of effective coordination between HR, supervisors, and program leadership. An effective civilian deployment program could provide supervisors with the necessary expertise to separate employees with performance or behavioral issues.

Clearly there is an unmet need to improve support for deployed civilians. While the CEW program performed some of the functions mentioned above, it was limited in scope and served mainly as a matchmaker, posting deployed positions that individuals could apply for. Although it filled a useful role, CEW did not provide the kind of “cradle to grave” support that is necessary for maximum workforce effectiveness.

DOD must act quickly to improve support before more institutional knowledge is lost. A 2012 Government Accountability Office report outlined how DOD neglected to learn from civilian deployment experiences in Bosnia, which led to costly and preventable failures in Iraq and Afghanistan just a few years later.9

Sadly, history seems to be repeating itself. In March 2014, the CEW Web site announced that the program would no longer provide a “sourcing solution for joint civilian requirements,” and that this function would instead be performed by the Army G1.10 (The remnants of the CEW program have since migrated to U.S. Army Central Command.) With drawdowns continuing, cuts to CEW were inevitable. Unfortunately, it appears that this migrated function, now renamed the International/Expeditionary Policy Office, will provide fewer capabilities than CEW did. A less effective organization is not the answer. Senior leaders must understand this challenge and recognize that supporting civilians properly is not just the right thing to do; it also improves effectiveness and makes sound financial sense.

Pay and Performance. Prior to the 2009 HTS conversion from contractor to government workforce, deployed team members typically made between $250,000 and $400,000 per year. While this rate of pay was not unusual for deployed contractors at the time, large salaries alone were not sufficient to recruit top-quality personnel for Human Terrain Teams. In some cases, team members lacked even basic social science and research skills. Despite these shortcomings, individuals were uniformly paid large salaries, with highly inconsistent results.

Over time, the salaries paid to HTS employees gradually diminished. After the government conversion, the salary range for HTS employees dropped to roughly $180,000–$300,000 per year. Not only was this less than they had made as contractors, but as government civilians every dollar of salary was taxable as well. (Contractor salaries enjoy significant tax benefits.) In addition, the team leader and social scientist positions that had been graded as GG-15 were reclassified as GG-14, cutting the top end of the salary range by another 15 percent.

In 2013, sequester restrictions forced Army commands to implement restrictions on overtime work for all employees, including deployed civilians. While these restrictions were not well enforced by many units in theater, TRADOC G2 implemented meaningful restrictions on overtime use. As a result, the average annual salary of a deployed HTS team leader, which had hovered around $400,000 in 2008, dropped to around $200,000 in 2014. Although HTS employees were generally displeased with these changes, support to deployed units remained consistent, and internal assessments showed that commander satisfaction remained high.

Despite this dramatic cost savings, there is no evidence that HTS employees in 2014 were any less capable than employees in 2008. While comparing the two periods is difficult due to the lack of verifiable metrics from 2008, deployed commanders and staff who responded to internal surveys in 2014 almost uniformly agreed that HTS products were relevant, aided decisionmaking, and added to the unit’s sociocultural understanding of the environment. More importantly, HTS, which in the early years suffered a significant number of team implosions, mutinies, and cases of job abandonment, saw a substantial decrease in these types of incidents. Furthermore, while HTT members in 2008 often lacked basic competencies (human terrain analysts were sometimes considered suitable only for vehicle washing duties), by 2014 the average HTT member was significantly more capable.

How was HTS able to cut salaries in half and yet still achieve superior results? First, the exorbitant salaries of 2008 were simply part and parcel of the military’s institutional culture at the time. With Congress appropriating hundreds of billions of dollars as part of the late war surges, budget discipline was significantly relaxed. Unfortunately, while those excessive salaries lured few serious academics, they did attract a wide variety of individuals who were more interested in cashing in than achieving the Army’s goals. At the same time, HTS’s no-rules internal culture imposed significant costs on supervisors who tried to conscientiously enforce restrictions. When HTS team members were contractors, the company lost money if personnel were not deployed and claiming long hours. At the same time, the HTS leadership team believed that it needed to fill teams at all costs. The incentives within HTS were strongly arrayed against any kind of internal restrictions, with all of the attendant disciplinary problems. As a result, HTS quickly earned a reputation as a haven for problematic personalities, which harmed future recruiting efforts and created a negative feedback loop.

Over time, as salaries shrank and regulations governing conduct increased, the greedy gradually departed. While this was a positive step, the large salaries set at the beginning severely limited the ability to hire employees at the proper wage. It also ensured higher program costs throughout the program’s lifespan. While the excessive salaries of 2008 may have enabled HTS to build its workforce more quickly than it could have otherwise, it is unclear that employees obtained this way were worth having at all. The HTS experience demonstrates that high salaries are not necessarily beneficial for hiring and that they can be more destructive than helpful, both financially and operationally.

Process Defeats Politics. During its early years, HTS was an organization driven by personalities, not procedures. When difficult or unusual situations involving HTS employees arose (an almost everyday occurrence), staff members would many times quickly defer the question to the program manager, who was not physically present and likely would not make a decision. This was a symptom of HTS’s broader challenge wherein the organization’s decisionmaking process had failed to evolve in the face of rapid growth. Because the program had few policies or guidelines, even a minor variation to a routine procedure created decisional gridlock. As a result, every decision point became an opportunity for organizational politics or simple inertia to run the program aground.

To meet this challenge, HTS generated internal policies, an employee handbook, a pay and allowances guide, and more than a dozen internal “bulletins” that explained the nuances of complex issues such as workers’ compensation and emergency leave. Because of the continuously changing nature of the HTS program, a fixed catalogue of policies would have been inadequate. Documents were thus revised as necessary to ensure that they remained relevant, sensible, and responsive. In addition, HTS policies were designed in such a way that they were not only enforceable, but would also actually be enforced. This proved crucial to making the changes work. Where possible, consequences were applied automatically rather than at the discretion of a manager. This limited accusations of favoritism and ensured fair treatment across the workforce.

As these reforms were implemented, some within the program argued that a policy-centric and enforcement-based approach was too heavy handed. Unfortunately, HTS’s toxic environment required far greater articulation of the rules and far more comprehensive enforcement strategies than would ordinarily have been required in a program of its size. Employees, supervisors, leadership, and support sections all possessed limited faith in one another’s abilities and motives. Additionally, the “short timer” mentality of many employees, a high turnover rate, and a lack of coordination all enhanced this lack of confidence. When employees asked a question and received an answer they did not like, they had learned to simply ask another decisionmaker until someone provided the desired answer. Leaders often had trouble saying no to reasonable-sounding requests that were, in fact, not reasonable. By establishing clear and enforceable written policies, HTS significantly reduced this deeply ingrained and disruptive pattern of behavior. Given the complexity of government personnel rules and the volume of turnover, merely establishing informal guidelines would not have been effective.

This approach benefited HTS in numerous ways. The amount of attention from management that was required to administer the program declined significantly because routine matters could be handled at a lower level. In addition, rather than having to bargain for everything, employees could review HTS policies and understand what they were and were not entitled to. As a result, when disgruntled employees disagreed with established policies and filed complaints, it was relatively straightforward to have the complaints dismissed. Finally, once the values animating those policies became entrenched, a cultural change took hold and HTS became a radically different place at which to work.

While HTS may be remembered for its chaotic early blunders, the program’s later, quieter years demonstrate the effectiveness of its turnaround. Although the program may not survive in today’s difficult fiscal environment, future sociocultural research efforts will likely be institutionalized in new and different ways. However, there does not appear to be any equivalent effort to improve DOD’s poorly functioning civilian deployment system. It would be a shame to throw away $800 million worth of hard-won experience. After more than a decade of counterinsurgency and unconventional warfare, leaders must recognize the important role civilians will play in winning future conflicts. JFQ

Notes

  1. For a detailed account of Human Terrain System (HTS) history, see Christopher J. Lamb et al., Human Terrain Teams: An Organizational Innovation for Sociocultural Knowledge in Irregular Warfare (Washington, DC: Institute of World Politics Press, 2013), which is detailed, even-handed, and accurate. Unfortunately, it does have some blind spots, but this article fills in some of those.
  2. Ibid., 147. Lamb et al. reference three types of Human Terrain Team (HTT) members: “ne’er-do-wells,” “fantasists,” and “workers.” While these categories are crude, they are also quite accurate. Within the HTS staff, the vast majority of personnel could be categorized as ne’er-do-wells or fantasists. Even if new arrivals did not begin their tenure with HTS in one of those two frames of mind, the environment tended to have a negative effect on those exposed to it. Workers were rare.
  3. It is important to note that timecard exploitation was routine for civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. To HTS’s credit, team members never approached the excesses of deployed Department of Justice employees, who often claimed to continuously work 16 hours per day, 7 days a week. See Department of Justice, Office of the Inspector General, An Investigation of Overtime Payments to FBI and Other Department of Justice Employees Deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan (Washington, DC: Department of Justice, 2008), available at <www.justice.gov/oig/special/s0812/final.pdf>.
  4. Lamb et al., 73–74.
  5. Based on decline in attrition from HTS training, from 2009 to 2013.
  6. Tom Vanden Brook, “Army Plows Ahead with Troubled War-Zone program,” USA Today, February 28, 2013, available at <www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2013/02/17/human-terrain-system-iraq-afghanistan/1923789>.
  7. John Stanton’s articles were the product of numerous sources within the program, but were also largely based on second-or third-hand rumors. In many if not most cases, his specific allegations were inaccurate. However, his articles often did accurately reflect the tone of internal dissent within HTS.
  8. Lamb et al., 78–79.
  9. Government Accountability Office (GAO), Afghanistan: Improvements Needed to Strengthen Management of U.S. Civilian Presence, GAO-12-285 (Washington, DC: GAO, 2012), available at <www.gao.gov/products/GAO-12-285>.
  10. Department of Defense, “The Civilian Deployment Experience,” available at <cpms.osd.mil/expeditionary/home.html>.

Good bye (and good riddance) to Human Terrain System (Savage Minds)

July 8, 2015 by Rex

Both Counterpunch and Inside Higher Ed ran stories recently on the end of Human Terrain System or HTS. What was HTS? A program run by the army and employing social scientists, including some anthropologists, to help them learn more about the people (i.e. ‘human terrain’) in Afghanistan and Iraq. Booted up in 2005, the controversial program attracted massive criticism from anthropologists, including a report from the AAA and a formal statement arguing that it was fundamentally unethical. Now, a decade after the idea for embedded social scientists in American’s invasions was first floated, the program has officially folded.

There were many problems with HTS. Not only was it unethical, the quality of work it produced was, iirc, pretty lousy. Moreover, it actively supported American military action which was not only morally wrong, but a tremendous strategic error with an enormous price tag in dollars and lives. According to Counterpunch, HTS’s slice of the pie was US$725 million dollars. It’s hard to see HTS as anything except an object lesson in ethical and scientific failure. It didn’t even engage interesting ethical questions about collaboration with the military, applied anthropology, and ethics. It was just fail. Anthropologists everywhere can be glad it has now been relegated to ethics section of anthropology syllabi.

Perhaps one good thing that has come out of HTS is that the AAA managed to show strong ethical leadership throughout this period. This is in stark contrast to the American Psychological Association, which colluded with the CIA to produce ethical standards that made facilitating torture acceptable to its members. To be honest, I’m not really sure this indicates the strong moral fiber of the AAA so much as its lack of relevance to American actions abroad, at least until a network of concerned anthropologists pushed it to act (or, perhaps, to act in and through it).

At the end of the day, anthropology took a stance against HTS, and history has born this stance out. Goodbye and good riddance to HTS.

Possibilidade de caos social por falta de água em SP mobiliza comando do Exército (Opera Mundi)

Lúcia Rodrigues | São Paulo – 30/04/2015 – 12h43

‘Painel sobre defesa’ organizado pelo Comando Militar do Sudeste tratou possibilidade de capital paulista ficar sem água a partir de julho deste ano como assunto de segurança nacional

Volume morto na represa Jaguari-Jacareí, no Sistema Cantareira, em janeiro desse ano (Mídia Ninja)

Por que o Comando Militar do Sudeste (CMSE) está interessado na crise da falta de água em São Paulo?

A resposta veio na tarde da última terça-feira, 28 de abril, durante o painel organizado pelo Exército, que ocorreu dentro de seu quartel-general no Ibirapuera, zona sul da capital paulista.

Durante mais de três horas de debate, destinado a oficiais, soldados e alguns professores universitários e simpatizantes dos militares que lotaram o auditório da sede do comando em São Paulo, foi se delineando o real motivo do alto generalato brasileiro estar preocupado com um assunto que aparentemente está fora dos padrões de atuação militar.

A senha foi dada pelo diretor da Sabesp, Paulo Massato, que ao lado de Anicia Pio, da Fiesp (Federação das Indústrias do Estado de São Paulo), e do professor de engenharia da Unicamp, Antonio Carlos Zuffo, traçaram um panorama sobre como a crise hídrica está impactando o Estado paulista.

Massato foi claro. Se as obras emergenciais que estão sendo feitas pela companhia não derem resultado e se chover pouco, São Paulo ficará sem água a partir de julho deste ano. O cenário descrito pelo dirigente da Sabesp é catastrófico e digno de roteiro de filme de terror.

“Vai ser o terror. Não vai ter alimentação, não vai ter energia elétrica… Será um cenário de fim de mundo. São milhares de pessoas e o caos social pode se deflagrar. Não será só um problema de desabastecimento de água. Vai ser bem mais sério do que isso…”, enfatiza durante sua intervenção, para na sequência lançar uma súplica de esperança: “Mas espero que isso não aconteça”.

Ele destaca que na região metropolitana de São Paulo vivem 20 milhões de pessoas, quando o ideal seriam quatro milhões. Destas, segundo Massato, três milhões seriam faveladas que furtariam água. “Furtam água ou pegam sem pagar”, conta, arrancando risos da platéia.

Blindagem

Nenhuma crítica, no entanto, foi dirigida ao governador Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB) pelos presentes durante todo o evento. Apenas uma pessoa se manifestou durante a fala de Massato, afirmando que faltou planejamento estatal. Mas foi interrompido por uma espécie de mestre de cerimônias do comando militar  que ciceroneava o evento,  pedindo que ele deixasse a questão para as perguntas a serem dirigidas aos debatedores. A pergunta não voltou a ser apresentada.

Mas o resultado pela falta de investimento e planejamento do governo paulista já provoca calafrios na cervical do establishment do Estado. As cenas de Itu podem se reproduzir em escala exponencial na região metropolitana de São Paulo. E é contra isso que o Exército quer se precaver.

O dirigente da Sabesp citou um caso que ocorreu na região do Butantã, zona oeste da capital. De acordo com ele, houve uma reação violenta porque a água não chegou em pontos mais altos do bairro. “Não chegou na casa do ‘chefe’, e aí ele mandou incendiar três ônibus. Aqui o pessoal é mais organizado…”

Em sua intervenção, a dirigente da Fiesp, Anícia Pio, frisa que muito se tem falado sobre a crise de abastecimento da população, mas que não se pode desconsiderar o impacto sobre a indústria paulista. “A crise só não foi maior, porque a crise econômica chegou (para desacelerar a produção).”

De acordo com ela, o emprego de milhares de pessoas que trabalham no setor está em risco se houver o agravamento da crise hídrica.

Se depender das projeções apresentadas pelo professor Zuffo, da Unicamp, a situação vai se complicar.  Segundo ele, o ciclo de escassez de água pode durar 20, 30 anos.

Moradores do Jardim Umuarama, em rodízio não oficializado pelo governo de SP (Sarah Pabst)

A empresária destaca ainda que não se produz água em fábricas e que, por isso, é preciso investir no reuso e em novas tecnologias de sustentabilidade. E critica o excesso de leis para o setor, que de acordo com ela é superior a mil.

O comandante militar do Sudeste, general João Camilo Pires de Campos, anfitrião do evento, se sensibilizou com as criticas da representante da Fiesp e prometeu conversar pessoalmente com o presidente da Assembléia Legislativa de São Paulo, deputado Fernando Capez (PSDB),  sobre o excesso de legislação que atrapalha o empresariado.

Ele também enfatiza que é preciso conscientizar a população sobre a falta de água e lamenta a grande concentração populacional na região. “Era preciso quatro milhões e temos 20 milhões…”, afirma se referindo aos números apresentados por Massato.

O general Campos destaca a importância da realização de obras, mas adverte que “não se faz engenharia para amanhã”. E cita para a plateia uma expressão do ex-presidente, e também general do Exército, Ernesto Geisel, para definir o que precisa ser feito. “O presidente Geisel dizia que na época de vacas magras é preciso amarrar o bezerro.”

“Não há solução fácil, o problema é sério”, conclui o comandante.

Sério e, por isso, tratado como assunto de segurança nacional pelo Exército. O crachá distribuído aos presentes pelo Comando Militar do Sudeste trazia a inscrição: Painel sobre defesa.

Pentagon: global warming will change how US military trains and goes to war (The Guardian)

Climate change to become immediate factor for all strategic, operational and planning decisions

theguardian.com, Monday 13 October 2014 18.37 BST

Global warming and climate change will change how US military trains and goes to war An Air Force reserve pararescueman from the 920th Rescue Wing scans the ravaged Texas landscape in the aftermath of hurricane Ike. Photograph: Tech. Sgt. Paul Flipse/U.S. Air Force photo

Global warming is changing the way the US trains for and goes to war – affecting war games, weapons systems, training exercises, and military installations – according to the Pentagon.

The defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, will tell a high-level meeting of military leaders on Monday that the Pentagon is undertaking sweeping changes to operation systems and installations to keep up with a growing threat of rising seas, droughts, and natural disasters caused by climate change.

“A changing climate will have real impacts on our military and the way it executes its missions,” Hagel wrote in his introduction to a Pentagon report out today. “We are considering the impacts of climate change in our war games and defence planning scenarios.”

The Pentagon’s strategic planners have for years viewed climate change as a “threat multiplier”– worsening old conflicts and potentially provoking new clashes over migration and shortages of food and water in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, and opening up new military challenges in a melting Arctic.

But with Monday’s report, climate change moved from potential threat to an immediate factor in a wide range of operational and budgeting decisions.

“It makes it a reality that climate change indeed is a risk today, and we need to plan, programme and budget for it now and into the future,” said Sherri Goodman, chief executive of the military advisory board, a group of former generals and other high-ranking officers that studies US national security.

The report – unveiled at a meeting of more than 30 defence ministers from the Americas and Europe – also signalled US intention to take a lead role at international climate negotiations in Lima in December.

From now on, the military will factor climate change into a host of day-to-day decisions, a senior defence official told a conference call with reporters.

“It’s about being baked into things we are already doing, and incorporated into all the other things we are doing,” he said.

Those decisions could include war games, training exercises, and purchasing decisions – which could all be affected by conditions such as sea-level rise, heat waves, and drought.

War games scenarios would now factor in floods or storms instead of assuming optimal conditions, said Goodman. “You could make the game more complex with sea-level rise, and extreme weather events.”

She said the navy would have to test sonar and other systems under the changing ocean chemistry. The military will have to adapt to hotter temperatures.

One of the biggest and most costly decisions ahead is the location of some 7,000 US military sites.

As the report acknowledged, US military installations and personnel are already exposed to climate change. The Hampton Roads area in Virginia – which houses the biggest concentration of US forces – already floods during high tides and severe storms, and could see an additional 1.5 feet of sea level rise in the next 20 years.

Meanwhile, military bases in the south-west are coping with water and electricity shortages, under recurring droughts. Arctic land-based installations are shifting because of melting permafrost, while retreating sea ice is changing naval requirements.

The Pentagon is not planning a wholesale relocation of bases, the officials told the call. But they said the military was already bringing in sandbags and moving generators out of basements in low-lying areas. It was also shelving ideas for new construction on flood plains.

Other potential changes include cuts to outdoor training exercises – because of heat waves, or increased weapons maintenance costs and repairs because of heat and dust.

“As we think about changing weather patterns we have to think hard about where operations might be conducted and whether we need to change the assumptions about what kind of air breathing conditions … what kind of sea state we might expect in an operating environment, and what impact they might have.”

The report said troops could also be at greater risk of infectious diseases, which spread more rapidly in hotter temperatures.

Hagel in comments to reporters at the weekend said the Pentagon anticipated an increase in humanitarian missions, because of natural disasters and recurring famines.

He also said the Arctic presented a growing military challenge.

“We see an Arctic that is melting, meaning that most likely a new sea lane will emerge,” he said. “We know that there are significant minerals and natural deposits of oil and natural gas there. That means that nations will compete for those natural resources. That’s never been an issue before. You couldn’t get up there and get anything out of there. We have to manage through what those conditions and new realities are going to bring in the way of potential threats.”

The Pentagon was first instructed by Congress in 2007 to incorporate climate change into its long-term security planning.

But Republicans in Congress have gone on to block the military from preparing for a warmer future, cutting funds for intelligence gathering or testing low-carbon jet fuels.

Officials told the call that planning for the future would help bring down climate-related costs.

“There is a lot you can do to mitigate risk and lower the cost of risks if you acknowledge the risk exists,” the officials said.

Visual Breakdown: Military Spending in Latin America (Americas Society/Council of the Americas)

Elizabeth Gonzalez

July 24, 2014

Latin American governments are investing in military infrastructure in a bid to modernize defense systems and combat a range of security challenges, from drug trafficking to natural disasters. This month, for example, Honduras asked the United States for security assistance to address violence and organized crime driving emigration, in a scheme that would mirror Plan Colombia. Also, in mid-July, the Chinese and Russian presidents toured Latin America, fortifying regional economic and security ties. Russian President Vladimir Putin and Argentine President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner agreed to a mutual effort developing military technology; Brazil’s Dilma Rousseff agreed to continue negotiations to acquire Russian anti-aircraft systems.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), global military spending climbed steadily over the last decade, but 2013 data reveals a 1.9 percent drop from the previous year. However, Latin America actually saw an increase in military spending over this period, rising 2.2 percent. SIPRI found that some of the smallest military budgets rose by the highest percentages in the region, including that of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Paraguay.

Increased spending in Paraguay allowed the country to acquire equipment for the army and to open its first Emergency Operations Center, a military base to respond to natural disasters. Nicaragua created new security forces, established new bases to fight transnational crime, and beefed up coastal surveillance, and in Honduras, a portion of the expenses went toward drug trafficking interception, including radar technology. Meanwhile, Brazil—the region’s lead spender—reduced military expenses by approximately $1.5 billion, a 3.9 percent decline from 2012. The cut was part of the government’s initiative to cut costs to try to reach its surplus target for the fiscal year.

AS/COA Online breaks down the numbers for a closer look at regional trends.

Image

Brazil builds nuclear submarine to patrol offshore oil (Channel News Asia)

POSTED: 04 Jun 2014 07:15

Brazil is building five submarines to patrol its massive coast, including one powered by an atomic reactor that would put it in the small club of countries with a nuclear sub.

The BNS S34 Tikuna Brazilian diesel-electric powered submarine moored at the navy base in Niteroi, Brazil. (AFP/Yasuyoshi Chiba)

RIO DE JANEIRO: Brazil is building five submarines to patrol its massive coast, including one powered by an atomic reactor that would put it in the small club of countries with a nuclear sub.

The South American giant is in the process of exploring major oil fields off its shores that could make it one of the world’s top petroleum exporters.

The new submarines aim to protect that resource, said the navy official coordinating the US$10-billion project, Gilberto Max Roffe Hirshfeld.

“The nuclear-propelled submarine is one of the weapons with the greatest power of dissuasion,” he told AFP.

“Brazil has riches in its waters. It’s our responsibility to have strong armed forces. Not to make war, but to avoid war. So that no one tries to take away our riches.”

The new submarines, which will replace Brazil’s aging fleet of five conventional subs, are being built at a sprawling 540,000-square-metre complex in Itaguai, just south of Rio de Janeiro.

The project is a joint venture between the navy, Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht and French state defense firm DCNS.

Brazil and France signed a deal for the project in 2008 under which DCNS is providing building materials and training while Brazil builds up its own submarine industry.

Brazil is developing the nuclear reactor and enriched uranium itself.

The first submarine, a conventional sub called SBR1, is 45-percent complete and scheduled to launch in 2017. The second is in the early stages of construction and is due to launch in 2019.

Work on the nuclear sub, SNBR, is supposed to start in 2017, with a launch target of 2025, the year the project wraps up.

Workers are assembling the submarines in a massive 38-metre-tall hangar, putting together the giant sheets of steel that will form the hulls.

When complete, the nuclear submarine will measure 100 metres long and weigh 6,000 tonnes. Its conventional cousins will be slightly smaller, at 75 metres and 2,000 tonnes.

Currently the only countries to design and build their own nuclear submarines are the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — plus India, which has completed one and is in the process of building more.

Unlike conventional submarines, which run on electric or diesel engines and have to resurface every 12 to 24 hours to refuel, nuclear submarines run on atomic power and can stay immersed indefinitely.

They can also be outfitted to launch nuclear warheads — though under Brazil’s constitution and the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the country is barred from developing atomic weapons.

Its five new submarines will be equipped with conventional torpedos.

Brazil’s navy says the conventional submarines will patrol ports and other strategic points along the country’s 8,500-kilometre coast.

The SNBR will patrol farther away, around the country’s “pre-salt” deepwater oil reserves — estimated at up to 35 billion barrels — and the so-called Blue Amazon, a biodiverse area off the coast with minerals including gold, manganese and limestone.

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, Brazil had one of the world’s 15 largest defense budgets in 2013, at US$31.5 billion.

Boom Town: atomic tourism blooms in a Western desert (Al Jazeera America)

As nuclear age approaches eighth decade, visitors flock to historic bomb craters at New Mexico test sites

TRINITY SITE, New Mexico — Standing a few yards from the spot where the world’s first atomic bomb detonated with a blast so powerful that it turned the desert sand to glass and shattered windows more than 100 miles away, tourist Chris Cashel explained what drew him here.

“You don’t get to go to very many places that changed the entire world in a single moment,” said Cashel as he glanced around the windswept, desolate Trinity Site in the New Mexico desert packed with tourists. “The world was never going to be the same after that.”

The military veteran was among thousands of visitors who piled into cars and buses to drive out to the secluded site about 35 miles southeast of Socorro, where Manhattan Project scientists split the atom shortly before dawn on July 16, 1945, ushering in the atomic age. The successful test of the nuclear “gadget” unleashed a blast equivalent to 19 kilotons of high explosive, and led to the devastation of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki weeks later.

The sagebrush-ringed spot lies on the White Sands Missile Range and is the most famous of a number of U.S. atomic weapon-related tourist attractions, as the nuclear age approaches its 70th anniversary next year. The popular, informal trail includes tours to the former Cold War bomb proving grounds in Nevada that are routinely booked up months ahead, as well as popular tours of an inter-continental ballistic missile silo hidden deep beneath the Arizona desert.

Legislation, meanwhile, to create a Manhattan Project National Historical Park to preserve sites in New Mexico, Tennessee and Washington state related to the project led by physicist Robert Oppenheimer is currently beingconsidered by Congress.

The Trinity Site “open house” earlier this month drew about 4,000 visitors from as far afield as Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom, who beat a trail out to the spot where the explosion created heat so intense it felt “like opening an oven door, even at ten miles,” according to one eyewitness account.

Visitors milled around ground zero and scoured the ground for fragments of green “Trinitite” — a glass-like substance forged from superheated sand sucked up into the world’s first nuclear fireball — and posed for photographs by a stone obelisk marking the blast’s hypocenter. “There are all kinds of reasons for coming,” said Jim Eckles, a docent at the site explaining its powerful allure. “There are kids here for their science class. There are World War Two vets here because they’ll tell you it saved their life. They didn’t have to go to the Pacific to fight the Japanese, island to island to island.”

Visitors milled around ground zero and scoured the ground for fragments of green “Trinitite” — a glass-like substance forged from superheated sand sucked up into the world’s first nuclear fireball.

Crater

Massive Sedan Crater, 320ft deep in desert. National Nuclear Security Administration

As World War Two segued into the Cold War, the sparsely populated U.S. West became key in the scramble to develop, test and deploy ever more powerful nuclear weapons. The region was a vital part of America’s rivalry with the Soviet Union. But there was an unexpected side effect — a tourism industry was also born.

During the heyday of above-ground testing at the former Nevada Test Site in the 1950s and early 1960s, hoteliers in Las Vegas 65 miles away cashed in by offering “Atomic Cocktails” and a “Miss Atomic Blast” beauty pageant. Parties to view the curling mushroom clouds were also a popular draw.

That fascination is still there. Tours to the site where 1,021 nuclear detonations were carried out between 1951 and 1992 are currently booked up through December. No cameras, binoculars or tape recorders are allowed, and background checks are required for all visitors to the area, since renamed the Nevada National Security Site.

The highlight is “doom town” — houses, bomb shelters and even a steel and concrete bank vault — built to see how they stood up to a nuclear onslaught. The homes were painted, furnished and populated with eerily lifelike mannequins dressed in the latest fashions donated by a Las Vegas department store.

Visitors also get to see the Sedan Crater, a 1,280-foot wide and 320-foot deep depression formed by a 104-kiloton blast to test the feasibility of using nuclear bombs for peaceful activities such as mining and construction – an idea almost unthinkable now.

The Southwest atomic trail also includes the Titan Missile Museum, a silo hidden deep beneath the desert south of Tucson, Arizona, which houses a decommissioned inter-continental ballistic missile (ICBM) that was on the front line of the Cold War from 1963 to 1987. The ten-story tall Titan II was topped with a nine-megaton thermonuclear warhead – hundreds of times more powerful than the Trinity device. Capable of launching in 58 seconds, it could reach its target more than 6,300 miles away in about 30 minutes.

That level of destruction disturbs some who visit. “It’s kind of humbling,” said John, an 18-year-old student from Minnesota, who sat in a chair at the command center and initiated a simulated launch sequence. “Someone can turn a key and in a split second destroy an entire city, miles and miles away.”

Atomic tour

Decommissioned ICBM. Titan Missile Museum

Arms-reduction agreements cut strategic nuclear weapon stockpiles by about 80 percent after the Cold War ended. The diminishing fear of a nuclear doomsday, together with increased access to some of the previously classified weapon-related sites, is spurring interest in the sites today, experts said.

“You have basically an entire generation that has grown up with the thought of nuclear annihilation as something that is historical,” said Sharon Weinberger, co-author with Nathan Hodge of “A Nuclear Family Vacation: Travels in the World of Atomic Weaponry.”

“There’s also more and more of these sites that are now accessible and being decommissioned,” she added.

For those drawn to the attractions scattered across the rugged West, the experience is invariably thought-provoking. The visit left Socorro resident Mary Bjorklund pondering whether the bomb’s terrible destructive power had brought any net benefit. “I will think about all the people that lost their lives in Japan. Then I will think about all the people that it was supposed to save by ending World War Two. It makes you thoughtful,” she said.

Among visitors on a fully-booked tour of the Titan Missile Museum was a retired U.S. Air Force officer, Randy Hartley, who served on the crew at the site from 1978 to 1982. Living for years with the ever-present possibility of having to launch a retaliatory nuclear strike made him particularly philosophical about the atomic age.

“I think that anyone who has been associated with these weapons would wish they had never been around, would wish that we had never done the Trinity bomb or the Manhattan Project … But you can’t put the genie back in the bottle,” he said. “I want people to understand the fear and the horror of these weapons, to propel us to do what we can do to break down barriers between our fellow inhabitants of this earth.”

Rio police demonstrate (Rio Real)

Posted on February 26, 2014by 

On both sides of the field: preparedness is tantamount

Police in protesters' shoes

Police in protesters’ shoes

Commander Vidal Araújo

Commander Vidal Araújo, in fatigues

Rio’s Batalhão de Choque, the crowd control division of the state military police, today showed members of the foreign press an example of their daily training exercises, as Rio approaches the June-July World Cup.

Tool box

Tool box

Working in conjunction with police motorcyclists and helicopter imaging personnel, the “Shock Battalion” went through a hierarchy of responses, from negotiation via megaphone with leaders (which solves 90% of all such situations, according to commander André Luiz Araújo Vidal), to arrests (until recently, carried out by another division), to tear gas (colored smoke, not the real stuff). Rubber bullets weren’t used, though they have been in real street violence; after causing serious injuries, the bullets were shelved  last October. A water cannon is expected to be available by the time the ball starts getting kicked around.

Police on high

Police on high

In the act

In the act

Click here to watch a video of the helicopter imaging work, plus the “demonstration” at ground level.

Araújo Vidal said the Rio police have been adapting techniques and strategies shared by French and Spanish police.

Police coming off duty hammed up the part of demonstrators, even to the point of chanting the traditional Acordou, o gigante acordou, “The giant has awakened”. They threw empty water bottles at Battalion comrades in formation, then lit a tire and some trash in flames. The challenge of the uniformed police was to arrest those committing crimes, such as acts of vandalism, and disperse the protesters. Araújo Vidal emphasized that demonstrating is a right that Brazilians hold under the democratic regime.

Yellow for tear gas

Yellow for tear gas

More tools

Scary

Brazil’s Congress is currently working on a legislative response to the street violence of recent days, particularly the death of a Brazilian cameraman, hit by a firecracker that protesters allegedly threw.

Two hundred Shock Battalion troops will initially be at the ready during each upcoming demonstration, Araújo Vidal said, out of a total corps of 1,000. Martial arts techniques are used in making arrests, although the Rio police don’t call themselves ninjas, as do the São Paulo cops. During a Não vai ter Copa (There’ll be no World Cup) protest last weekend there, police arrested more than 200 people, including several journalists.

SONY DSC

At the ready

Neat formation

Kingpins

“We are concerned with journalists, we want them to use protective gear, and we ask them to stay behind our formation, both so they can see what’s being thrown at us and also for their own protection,” said Araújo Vidal.

Asked what impact last year’s Confederation Cup had on the Battalion’s plans, the commander said it was a laboratory for the World Cup and the 2016 Olympic Games. “We are learning every day,” he added.

SONY DSC

An update might be in order

SONY DSC

While the Rio police have upgraded their training and equipment, the Battalion headquarters, a century-old building, suffers from neglect. Plants grow out of cracks and the antique décor still glorifies militarism, something State Public Safety Secretary José Mariano Beltrame has been trying to downplay among military police since the 2008 rollout of Rio’s program to pacify at least 40 favelas before the Cup starts.

But then, this is the Batalhão de Choque.

SONY DSC

Meanwhile, the mood in Rio is unusually sour, with heat, prices and transportation knots top-of-mind for many cariocas. Those who are able to will leave the city over Carnival, which begins this Friday. Those who stay will seek the pleasures of the Momo King — or air conditioning.

Brazil will use robots to police the 2014 World Cup (Daily Caller)

Tech

Thomas Ryder, iRobot

12:16 PM 02/21/2014

Giuseppe Macri

Brazil is adopting the security of the future after securing a deal with a robot manufacturer to deploy robots programmed to police the 2014 FIFA World Cup games.

The Brazilian government has agreed to pay $7.2 million to Massachusetts-based iRobot for 30 of its PackBot robots, according to a Robohub report. The robots will be programmed to analyze suspicious-looking objects in 12 cities hosting World Cup match-ups across Brazil beginning in June.

PackBots can travel at speeds up to 9 mph and have an extremely versatile mobility system, able to traverse rough terrain and even stairs. iRobot’s models include a host of sensors including GPS, video, thermal detection, electronic compass and system diagnostics. The robots weigh about 40 pounds and can be folded to fit into a backpack, making them ideal for quick deployment.

The model is exceptionally durable, able to survive a hard fall onto concrete from two meters, and has a full 360-degree range of rotation.

The same robots were recently used to assess the Japanese Fukushima Nuclear power plant meltdown resulting from the 2011 Japanese earthquake and tsunami. More than 800 have been used in Iraq and Afghanistan war zones, among other countries, since 2007.

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2014/02/21/brazil-will-use-robots-to-police-the-2014-world-cup/#ixzz2uB5QbjbD

A árvore boa (Estadão)

19 de fevereiro de 2014 | 7h 04

Rômulo Bini Pereira* – O Estado de S. Paulo

“Quando cortam uma árvore boa e não arrancam suas raízes, brotos teimosos vão nascer sempre no que sobrou do tronco a dizerem que ela pode ressurgir e ficar mais alta, porque a sua seiva não se extinguiu e nem se extinguirá!” – Carmelo Regis

A Revolução Democrática de 31 de Março completa 50 anos este ano e já se observa elevado número de reportagens e artigos sobre esse fato histórico. Nesse diapasão, nas esferas federal, estaduais e até municipais avultam as diversas Comissões da Verdade criadas no País, a levantarem fatos que vão repercutir na opinião pública com uma visão num só sentido. Seu escopo maior é denegrir o fato histórico, cujo combustível veio do coração nacionalista do povo brasileiro no limiar do outono de 1964. Ao passo que os crimes cometidos pelas esquerdas radicais são nefanda e irresponsavelmente acobertados por essas comissões.

A atual “presidenta” da República, que participou ativamente da luta armada, em recente visita à paradisíaca Ilha de Cuba demonstrou ao mundo sua prestimosa submissão ao líder comunista Fidel Castro. Esse seu ato mostra que, se a revolução não fosse vitoriosa, estaríamos sob a vigência de uma “democracia sanguinária”, semelhante à que ainda escraviza e aterroriza o povo cubano.

Após 30 anos da Nova República e de cinco governos civis, notam-se análises negativas quanto ao presente e ao futuro do Brasil. Os três Poderes da República, base de todo regime democrático, vivem hoje momentos sensíveis e preocupantes – corrupção e mordomias em todos os seus níveis.

O Legislativo é a instituição mais desacreditada, segundo pesquisas confiáveis. Legisla quase sempre em favor dos direitos, mas nem sempre se lembra dos deveres. O interesse nacional é secundário e, em consequência, temas de capital importância para o Brasil são postergados, só pelo simples fato de que podem trazer reflexos indesejados nas urnas.

O Judiciário passou a ser a esperança dos brasileiros por ter-se sobressaído sobremaneira no processo conhecido como mensalão, conduzido pela Suprema Corte. Esta, em seus debates, demonstrou, entretanto, que há áreas de atritos de cunho ideológico e partidário entre seus membros. Não fossem a morosidade no julgar e os longos trâmites nos processos jurídicos, seu conceito seria mais positivo.

O Executivo passa por sérias dificuldades, pois a “presidenta” demonstra ser incapaz de governar com seriedade, equilíbrio e competência. Diante de qualquer obstáculo, convoca especialistas em propaganda e marqueteiros para que façam diminuir ou mascarar os pontos negativos que poderão surgir, pois só o que ela e seu partido querem é conseguir a reeleição. Em relação à política externa, o anseio do governo é fazer o Brasil ter uma cadeira permanente no Conselho de Segurança da ONU. e isso está afastado. Nosso país está sendo ridicularizado em todo o mundo por tantos escândalos. País assim não pode postular distinção de tamanha expressão mundial.

Nos dias atuais o País vive momentos conturbados, que se vêm agravando desde os surpreendentes movimentos populares de junho de 2013. A Copa do Mundo traz efetivas preocupações ao povo brasileiro.

Manifestações ininterruptas conduzidas por vândalos transformaram algumas cidades, principalmente as capitais, em verdadeiras praças de guerra. Os “rolezinhos”, já bastante disseminados, trazem em seu bojo indícios de luta de classes. A criminalidade já é endêmica entre nós e isso faz com que não mais sejamos vistos como um povo pacífico e cordato. Nossos índices de crimes anuais já atingem a cifra de 50 mil mortos/ano, próximos aos de países onde há guerra civil.

As autoridades constituídas pouco fazem para reverter essa situação. Propalam promessas vãs, são incompetentes, demonstram desinteresse e má-fé. Seu aparato policial está sempre pressionado, pois suas ações são consideradas agressivas. As soluções não surgem e o País vive uma situação de descalabro político e moral, com manifestos sinais de incipiente desobediência civil. É essa a democracia que desejamos?

Finalmente, um enorme paradoxo. As Forças Armadas continuam sendo a instituição de maior credibilidade no País, e isso é se deve não apenas à eficiência, à noção de responsabilidade, ao trato da coisa pública, mas, sobretudo, aos valores morais que são cultivados em todos os seus escalões. A honestidade, a probidade, a disciplina e o empenho no cumprimento da missão são algumas virtudes que norteiam as Forças Armadas e que deveriam também ser exercidas pelos diversos mandatários dos governos de nosso país. O que, infelizmente, não ocorre.

Na área militar nota-se ainda repulsa aos atos das citadas comissões. Ela é flagrante, crescente e de silenciosa revolta. Pensam que os integrantes das Forças Armadas – quietos, calados e parecendo subservientes – assistem passivamente aos acontecimentos atuais com sua consciência adormecida. Não é bem isso que está acontecendo!

As esquerdas sempre alardeiam que os “militares de hoje” não são como “os de 1964”. Sem dúvida! Aqueles, mais preparados cultural e profissionalmente e mais informados que estes, mantêm, contudo, bem viva a mesma chama que seus predecessores possuíam e lhes legaram: o amor à liberdade, aos princípios democráticos, à instituição e ao Brasil. Também não aceitarão e, se necessário, confrontarão regimes que ideólogos gramscistas queiram impor à sociedade brasileira, preconizados pelo Foro de São Paulo, órgão orientador do partido que nos governa e de alguns países da América do Sul que se dizem democratas.

Mesmo sendo vilipendiada, devemos saudar a Revolução Democrática. É voz geral entre os esquerdistas que 64 jamais será esquecido. Ótimo, nós, civis e militares que a apoiamos, também não a esqueceremos. A Revolução de 1964 será sempre uma “árvore boa”!

*Rômulo Bini Pereira é general de Exército e foi chefe do Estado Maior de Defesa. 

Governo regulamenta uso das Forças Armadas contra manifestações sociais (Vox Política)

Portaria está em vigor desde 20 de dezembro de 2013. Celso Amorim, ministro da Defesa, aprovou o documento.

 | quinta-feira, 23 janeiro 2014 – 2:30

anexo

O ministro da Defesa, Celso Amorim, aprovou no fim do ano passado uma Portaria que regulamenta o uso das Forças Armadas (Exército, Marinha e Aeronáutica) em manifestações sociais, protestos e outras ocasiões que possam comprometer “a ordem pública”.

A regra, presente no Manual “Garantia da Lei e da Ordem”, validado junto com a Portaria, está em vigor desde 20 de dezembro, data de sua publicação no Diário Oficial da União. Logo no segundo capítulo, o documento ressalta que, apesar do apreço ao conceito de não-guerra, as operações poderão ter “o uso de força de forma limitada”.

Esse emprego das Forças Armadas nessas operações seria autorizado “em situações de esgotamento dos instrumentos a isso previstos”, ou seja, “quando, em determinado momento, forem eles formalmente reconhecidos pelo respectivo Chefe do Poder Executivo Federal ou Estadual como indisponíveis, inexistentes ou insuficientes ao desempenho regular da missão constitucional”.

Entre as principais ameaças elencadas pelo Ministério da Defesa, duas se destacam por fazer referência à Copa do Mundo e às manifestações de 2013: o combate ao bloqueio de vias públicas de circulação e a ofensiva contra a sabotagem nos locais de grandes eventos. Para tanto, os soldados têm autorização de controlar até o fluxo dos cidadãos.

O anexo do “Controle de Distúrbios em Ambiente Urbano” é o que cita de maneira mais contundente a oposição a grupos populares de protesto.

Em “Cenário”, conforme imagem destacada no início da reportagem, o alerta estatal vislumbra a “atuação de elementos integrantes de movimentos sociais reivindicatórios, de oposição ou protesto, comprometendo a ordem pública”, reservando aos governos estaduais e federal o direito de traçar limites. No apêndice de operações psicológicas, os movimentos sociais recebem classificação ainda pior: forças oponentes.

The Politics of Disimagination and the Pathologies of Power (Truth Out)

Wednesday, 27 February 2013 00:00

By Henry A GirouxTruthout | News Analysis

Eye reflecitng TV(Photo: tryingmyhardest). You write in order to change the world knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t, but also knowing that [writing] is indispensable to the world. The world changes according to the way people see it, and if you alter even by a millimeter the way people look at reality, then you can change it.” – James Baldwin

The Violence of Neoliberalism

We live in a time of deep foreboding, one that haunts any discourse about justice, democracy and the future. Not only have the points of reference that provided a sense of certainty and collective hope in the past largely evaporated, but the only referents available are increasingly supplied by a hyper-market-driven society, megacorporations and a corrupt financial service industry. The commanding economic and cultural institutions of American society have taken on what David Theo Goldberg calls a “militarizing social logic.”[1] Market discipline now regulates all aspects of social life, and the regressive economic rationality that drives it sacrifices the public good, public values and social responsibility to a tawdry consumerist dream while simultaneously creating a throwaway society of goods, resources and individuals now considered disposable.[2] This militarizing logic is also creeping into public schools and colleges with the former increasingly resembling the culture of prison and the latter opening their classrooms to the national intelligence agencies.[3] In one glaring instance of universities endorsing the basic institutions of the punishing state, Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, concluded a deal to rename its football stadium after the GEO Group, a private prison corporation “whose record is marred by human rights abuses, by lawsuits, by unnecessary deaths of people in their custody and a whole series of incidents.” [3A] Armed guards are now joined by armed knowledge.  Corruption, commodification and repressive state apparatuses have become the central features of a predatory society in which it is presumed irrationally “that market should dominate and determine all choices and outcomes to the occlusion of any other considerations.”[4]

The political, economic, and social consequences have done more than destroy any viable vision of a good society. They undermine the modern public’s capacity to think critically, celebrate a narcissistic hyperindividualism that borders on the pathological, destroy social protections and promote a massive shift towards a punitive state that criminalizes the behavior of those bearing the hardships imposed by a survival-of-the-fittest society that takes delight in the suffering of others. How else to account for a criminal justice stacked overwhelmingly against poor minorities, a prison system in which “prisoners can be held in solitary confinement for years in small, windowless cells in which they are kept for twenty-three hours of every day,”[5] or a police state that puts handcuffs on a 5-year old and puts him in jail because he violated a dress code by wearing sneakers that were the wrong color.[6] Why does the American public put up with a society in which “the top 1 percent of households owned 35.6 percent of net wealth (net worth) and a whopping 42.4 percent of net financial assets” in 2009, while many young people today represent the “new face of a national homeless population?”[7] American society is awash in a culture of civic illiteracy, cruelty and corruption. For example, major banks such as Barclays and HSBC swindle billions from clients and increase their profit margins by laundering money for terrorist organizations, and no one goes to jail. At the same time, we have the return of debtor prisons for the poor who cannot pay something as trivial as a parking fine. President Obama arbitrarily decides that he can ignore due process and kill American citizens through drone strikes and the American public barely blinks. Civic life collapses into a war zone and yet the dominant media is upset only because it was not invited to witness the golf match between Obama and Tiger Woods.

The celebration of violence in both virtual culture and real life now feed each other. The spectacle of carnage celebrated in movies such as A Good Day to Die Hard is now matched by the deadly violence now playing out in cities such as Chicago and New Orleans. Young people are particularly vulnerable to such violence, with 561 children age 12 and under killed by firearms between 2006 and 2010.[8] Corporate power, along with its shameless lobbyists and intellectual pundits, unabashedly argue for more guns in order to feed the bottom line, even as the senseless carnage continues tragically in places like Newtown, Connecticut, Tustin, California, and other American cities. In the meantime, the mainstream media treats the insane rambling of National Rifle Association’s (NRA) Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre as a legitimate point of view among many voices. This is the same guy who, after the killing of 20 young children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School, claimed the only way to stop more tragedies was to flood the market with more guns and provide schools with more armed guards. The American public was largely silent on the issue in spite of the fact that an increase of police in schools does nothing to prevent such massacres but does increase the number of children, particularly poor black youth, who are pulled out of class, booked and arrested for trivial behavioral infractions.

At the same time, America’s obsession with violence is reinforced by a market society that is Darwinian in its pursuit of profit and personal gain at almost any cost. Within this scenario, a social and economic order has emerged that combines the attributes and values of films such as the classics Mad Max and American Psycho. Material deprivation, galloping inequality, the weakening of public supports, the elimination of viable jobs, the mindless embrace of rabid competition and consumption, and the willful destruction of the environment speak to a society in which militarized violence finds its counterpart, if not legitimating credo, in a set of atomizing and selfish values that disdain shared social bonds and any notion of the public good. In this case, American society now mimics a market-driven culture that celebrates a narcissistic hyperindividualism that radiates with a new sociopathic lack of interest in others and a strong tendency towards violence and criminal behavior. As John le Carré once stated, “America has entered into one of its periods of historical madness.”[9] While le Carré wrote this acerbic attack on American politics in 2003, I think it is fair to say that things have gotten worse, and that the United States is further plunging into madness because of a deadening form of historical and social amnesia that has taken over the country, further reproducing a mass flight from memory and social responsibility. The politics of disimagination includes, in this instance, what Mumia Abu-Jamal labeled “mentacide,” a form of historical amnesia “inflicted on Black youth by the system’s systematic campaign to eradicate and deny them their people’s revolutionary history.”[10]

America’s Plunge Into Militarized Madness

How does one account for the lack of public outcry over millions of Americans losing their homes because of corrupt banking practices and millions more becoming unemployed because of the lack of an adequate jobs program in the United States, while at the same time stories abound of colossal greed and corruption on Wall Street? [11] For example, in 2009 alone, hedge fund manager David Tepper made approximately 4 billion dollars.[12] As Michael Yates points out: “This income, spent at a rate of $10,000 a day and exclusive of any interest, would last him and his heirs 1,096 years! If we were to suppose that Mr. Tepper worked 2,000 hours in 2009 (fifty weeks at forty hours per week), he took in $2,000,000 per hour and $30,000 a minute.”[13] This juxtaposition of robber-baron power and greed is rarely mentioned in the mainstream media in conjunction with the deep suffering and misery now experienced by millions of families, workers, children, jobless public servants and young people. This is especially true of a generation of youth who have become the new precariat[14] – a zero generation relegated to zones of social and economic abandonment and marked by zero jobs, zero future, zero hope and what Zygmunt Bauman has defined as a societal condition which is more “liquid,”less defined, punitive, and, in the end, more death dealing.[15]

Narcissism and unchecked greed have morphed into more than a psychological category that points to a character flaw among a marginal few. Such registers are now symptomatic of a market-driven society in which extremes of violence, militarization, cruelty and inequality are hardly noticed and have become normalized. Avarice and narcissism are not new. What is new is the unprecedented social sanction of the ethos of greed that has emerged since the 1980s.[16] What is also new is that military force and values have become a source of pride rather than alarm in American society. Not only has the war on terror violated a host of civil liberties, it has further sanctioned a military that has assumed a central role in American society, influencing everything from markets and education to popular culture and fashion. President Dwight D. Eisenhower left office warning about the rise of the military-industrial complex, with its pernicious alignment of the defense industry, the military and political power.[17] What he underestimated was the transition from a militarized economy to a militarized society in which the culture itself was shaped by military power, values and interests. What has become clear in contemporary America is that the organization of civil society for the production of violence is about more than producing militarized technologies and weapons; it is also about producing militarized subjects and a permanent war economy. As Aaron B. O’Connell points outs:

Our culture has militarized considerably since Eisenhower’s era, and civilians, not the armed services, have been the principal cause. From lawmakers’ constant use of “support our troops” to justify defense spending, to TV programs and video games like “NCIS,” “Homeland”and “Call of Duty,” to NBC’s shameful and unreal reality show “Stars Earn Stripes,” Americans are subjected to a daily diet of stories that valorize the military while the storytellers pursue their own opportunistic political and commercial agendas.[18]

The imaginary of war and violence informs every aspect of American society and extends from the celebration of a warrior culture in mainstream media to the use of universities to educate students in the logic of the national security state. Military deployments now protect “free trade” arrangements, provide job programs and drain revenue from public coffers. For instance, Lockheed Martin stands to gain billions of dollars in profits as Washington prepares to buy 2,443 F-35 fighter planes at a cost of $90 million each from the company. The overall cost of the project for a plane that has been called a “one trillion dollar boondoggle” is expected to cost more “than Australia’s entire GDP ($924 billion).”[19] Yet, the American government has no qualms about cutting food programs for the poor, early childhood programs for low-income students and food stamps for those who exist below the poverty line. Such misplaced priorities represent more than a military-industrial complex that is out of control. They also suggest the plunge of American society into the dark abyss of a state that is increasingly punitive, organized around the production of violence and unethical in its policies, priorities and values.

John Hinkson argues that such institutionalized violence is far from a short-lived and aberrant historical moment. In fact, he rightfully asserts that: “we have a new world economy, one crucially that lacks all substantial points of reference and is by implication nihilistic. The point is that this is not a temporary situation because of the imperatives, say, of war: it is a structural break with the past.”[20] Evidence of such a shift is obvious in the massive transfer upward in wealth and income that have not only resulted in the concentration of power in relatively few hands, but have promoted both unprecedented degrees of human suffering and hardship along with what can be called a politics of disimagination.

The Rise of the “Disimagination Machine”

Borrowing from Georges Didi-Huberman’s use of the term, “disimagination machine,” I argue that the politics of disimagination refers to images, and I would argue institutions, discourses, and other modes of representation, that undermine the capacity of individuals to bear witness to a different and critical sense of remembering, agency, ethics and collective resistance.[21] The “disimagination machine” is both a set of cultural apparatuses extending from schools and mainstream media to the new sites of screen culture, and a public pedagogy that functions primarily to undermine the ability of individuals to think critically, imagine the unimaginable, and engage in thoughtful and critical dialogue: put simply, to become critically informed citizens of the world.

Examples of the “disimagination machine” abound. A few will suffice. For instance, the Texas State Board of Education and other conservative boards of education throughout the United States are rewriting American textbooks to promote and impose on America’s public school students what Katherine Stewart calls “a Christian nationalist version of US history” in which Jesus is implored to “invade” public schools.[22] In this version of history, the term “slavery” is removed from textbooks and replaced with “Atlantic triangular trade,” the earth is 6,000 years old, and the Enlightenment is the enemy of education. Historical figures such as Jefferson, Thomas Paine and Benjamin Franklin, considered to have suspect religious views, “are ruthlessly demoted or purged altogether from the study program.”[23] Currently, 46 percent of the American population believes in the creationist view of evolution and increasingly rejects scientific evidence, research and rationality as either ‘academic’ or irreligious.[24]

The rise of the Tea Party and the renewal of the culture wars have resulted in a Republican Party which is now considered the party of anti-science. Similarly, right-wing politicians, media, talk show hosts and other conservative pundits loudly and widely spread the message that a culture of questioning is antithetical to the American way of life. Moreover, this message is also promoted by conservative groups such as The American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC) which has “hit the ground running in 2013, pushing ‘model bills’ mandating the teaching of climate change denial in public school systems.”[25] The climate-change-denial machine is also promoted by powerful conservative groups such as the Heartland Institute. Ignorance is never too far from repression, as was recently demonstrated in Arizona, where State Rep. Bob Thorpe, a Republican freshman Tea Party member, introduced a new bill requiring students to take a loyalty oath in order to receive a graduation diploma.[26]

The “disimagination machine” is more powerful than ever as conservative think tanks provide ample funds for training and promoting anti-public pseudo-intellectuals and religious fundamentalists while simultaneously offering policy statements and talking points to conservative media such as FOX News, Christian news networks, right-wing talk radio, and partisan social media and blogs. This ever growing information/illiteracy bubble has become a powerful force of public pedagogy in the larger culture and is responsible for not only the war on science, reason and critical thought, but also the war on women’s reproductive rights, poor minority youth, immigrants, public schooling, and any other marginalized group or institution that challenges the anti-intellectual, anti-democratic worldviews of the new extremists and the narrative supporting Christian nationalism. Liberal Democrats, of course, contribute to this “disimagination machine” through educational policies that substitute critical thinking and critical pedagogy for paralyzing pedagogies of memorization and rote learning tied to high-stakes testing in the service of creating a neoliberal, dumbed-down workforce.

As John Atcheson has pointed out, we are “witnessing an epochal shift in our socio-political world. We are de-evolving, hurtling headlong into a past that was defined by serfs and lords; by necromancy and superstition; by policies based on fiat, not facts.”[27] We are also plunging into a dark world of anti-intellectualism, civic illiteracy and a formative culture supportive of an authoritarian state. The embrace of ignorance is at the center of political life today, and a reactionary form of public pedagogy has become the most powerful element of the politics of authoritarianism. Civic illiteracy is the modus operandi for creating depoliticized subjects who believe that consumerism is the only obligation of citizenship, who privilege opinions over reasoned arguments, and who are led to believe that ignorance is a virtue rather than a political and civic liability. In any educated democracy, much of the debate that occupies political life today, extending from creationism and climate change denial to “birther” arguments, would be speedily dismissed as magical thinking, superstition and an obvious form of ignorance. Mark Slouka is right in arguing that, “Ignorance gives us a sense of community; it confers citizenship; our representatives either share it or bow down to it or risk our wrath…. Communicate intelligently in America and you’re immediately suspect.”[28] The politics and machinery of disimagination and its production of ever-deepening ignorance dominates American society because it produces, to a large degree, uninformed customers, hapless clients, depoliticized subjects and illiterate citizens incapable of holding corporate and political power accountable. At stake here is more than the dangerous concentration of economic, political and cultural power in the hands of the ultrarich, megacorporations and elite financial services industries. Also at issue is the widespread perversion of the social, critical education, the public good, and democracy itself.

Toward a Radical Imagination

Against the politics of disimagination, progressives, workers, educators, young people and others need to develop a a new language of radical reform and create new public spheres that provide the pedagogical conditions for critical thought, dialogue and thoughtful deliberation. At stake here is a notion of pedagogy that both informs the mind and creates the conditions for modes of agency that are critical, informed, engaged and socially responsible. The radical imagination can be nurtured around the merging of critique and hope, the capacity to connect private troubles with broader social considerations, and the production of alternative formative cultures that provide the precondition for political engagement and for energizing democratic movements for social change – movements willing to think beyond isolated struggles and the limits of a savage global capitalism. Stanley Aronowitz and Peter Bratsis point to such a project in their manifesto on the radical imagination. They write:

This Manifesto looks forward to the creation of a new political Left formation that can overcome fragmentation, and provide a solid basis for many-side interventions in the current economic, political and social crises that afflict people in all walks of life. The Left must once again offer to young people, people of color, women, workers, activists, intellectuals and newly-arrived immigrants places to learn how the capitalist system works in all of its forms of exploitation whether personal, political, or economic. We need to reconstruct a platform to oppose Capital. It must ask in this moment of US global hegemony what are the alternatives to its cruel power over our lives, and those of large portions of the world’s peoples. And the Left formation is needed to offer proposals on how to rebuild a militant, democratic labor movement, strengthen and transform the social movements; and, more generally, provide the opportunity to obtain a broad education that is denied to them by official institutions. We need a political formation dedicated to the proposition that radical theory and practice are inextricably linked, that knowledge without action is impotent, but action without knowledge is blind.[29]

Matters of justice, equality, and political participation are foundational to any functioning democracy, but it is important to recognize that they have to be rooted in a vibrant formative culture in which democracy is understood not just as a political and economic structure but also as a civic force enabling justice, equality and freedom to flourish. While the institutions and practices of a civil society and an aspiring democracy are essential in this project, what must also be present are the principles and modes of civic education and critical engagement that support the very foundations of democratic culture. Central to such a project is the development of a new radical imagination both through the pedagogies and projects of public intellectuals in the academy and through work that can be done in other educational sites, such as the new media. Utilizing the Internet, social media, and other elements of the digital and screen culture, public intellectuals, cultural workers, young people and others can address larger audiences and present the task of challenging diverse forms of oppression, exploitation and exclusion as part of a broader effort to create a radical democracy.

There is a need to invent modes of pedagogy that release the imagination, connect learning to social change and create social relations in which people assume responsibility for each other. Such a pedagogy is not about methods or prepping students to learn how to take tests. Nor is such an education about imposing harsh disciplinary behaviors in the service of a pedagogy of oppression. On the contrary, it is about a moral and political practice capable of enabling students and others to become more knowledgeable while creating the conditions for generating a new vision of the future in which people can recognize themselves, a vision that connects with and speaks to the desires, dreams and hopes of those who are willing to fight for a radical democracy. Americans need to develop a new understanding of civic literacy, education and engagement, one capable of developing a new conversation and a new political project about democracy, inequality, and the redistribution of wealth and power, and how such a discourse can offer the conditions for democratically inspired visions, modes of governance and policymaking. Americans need to embrace and develop modes of civic literacy, critical education and democratic social movements that view the public good as a utopian imaginary, one that harbors a trace and vision of what it means to defend old and new public spheres that offer spaces where dissent can be produced, public values asserted, dialogue made meaningful and critical thought embraced as a noble ideal.

Elements of such a utopian imaginary can be found in James Baldwin’s “Open Letter to My Sister, Angela Davis,” in which he points out that “we live in an age in which silence is not only criminal but suicidal.”[30] The utopian imaginary is also on full display in Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham City Jail,” where King states under the weight and harshness of incarceration that an “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere … [and asks whether we will] be extremists for the preservation of injustice – or will we be extremists for the cause of justice?”[31] According to King, “we must use time creatively, and forever realize that the time is always ripe to do right. Now is the time to make real the promise of democracy.”[32] We hear it in the words of former Harvard University President James B. Conant, who makes an impassioned call for “the need for the American radical – the missing political link between the past and future of this great democratic land.” [33] We hear it in the voices of young people all across the United States – the new American radicals – who are fighting for a society in which justice matters, social protections are guaranteed, equality is insured, and education becomes a right and not an entitlement. The radical imagination waits to be unleashed through social movements in which injustice is put on the run and civic literacy, economic justice, and collective struggle once again become the precondition for agency, hope and the struggle over democracy.

Endnotes

1.
David Theo Goldberg, “Mission Accomplished: Militarizing Social Logic,”in Enrique Jezik: Obstruct, destroy, conceal, ed. Cuauhtémoc Medina (Mexico: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 2011), 183-198.

2.
See, for example, Colin Leys, Market Driven Politics (London: Verso, 2001); Randy Martin, Financialization of Daily Life (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2002); Pierre Bourdieu, Firing Back: Against the Tyranny of the Market 2. Trans. Loic Wacquant (New York: The New Press, 2003); Alfredo Saad-Filho and Deborah Johnston, Neoliberalism: A Critical Reader (London: Pluto Press, 2005); Henry A. Giroux, Against the Terror of Neoliberalism (Boulder: Paradigm, 2008); David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007); Manfred B. Steger and Ravi K. Roy, Neoliberalism: A Very Short Introduction (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010); Gerad Dumenil and Dominique Levy, The Crisis of Neoliberalism (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2011). Henry A. Giroux, Twilight of the Social (Boulder: Paradigm, 2013); Stuart Hall, “The March of the Neoliberals,” The Guardian, (September 12, 2011). online at:http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2011/sep/12/march-of-the-neoliberals

3.
See most recently  Kelly V. Vlahos, “Boots on Campus,” Anti War.com (February 26, 2013). On line: http://original.antiwar.com/vlahos/2013/02/25/boots-on-campus/ and David H. Price, Weaponizing Anthropology (Oakland, CA: AK Press, 2011).

3A. Greg Bishop, “A Company that Runs Prisons Will Have its Name on a Stadium,”New York Times (February 19, 2013). Online:http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/20/sports/ncaafootball/a-company-that-runs-prisons-will-have-its-name-on-a-stadium.html?_r=0

4.
Ibid. Goldberg, pp. 197-198.

5.
Jonathan Schell, “Cruel America”, The Nation, (September 28, 2011) online:http://www.thenation.com/article/163690/cruel-america

6.
Suzi Parker, “Cops Nab 5-Year-Old for Wearing Wrong Color Shoes to School,” Take Part, (January 18, 2013). Online:http://www.takepart.com/article/2013/01/18/cops-nab-five-year-old-wearing-wrong-color-shoes-school

7.
Susan Saulny, “After Recession, More Young Adults Are Living on Street,” The New York Times, (December 18, 2012). Online: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/us/since-recession-more-young-americans-are-homeless.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

8.
Suzanne Gamboa and Monika Mathur, “Guns Kill Young Children Daily In The U.S.,” Huffington Post (December 24, 2012). Online:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/12/24/guns-children_n_2359661.html

9.
John le Carre, “The United States of America Has Gone Mad,” CommonDreams (January 15, 2003). Online: http://www.commondreams.org/views03/0115-01.htm

10.
Eric Mann Interviews Mumbia Abu Jamal, “Mumia Abu Jamal: On his biggest political influences and the political ‘mentacide’ of today’s youth.” Voices from the Frontlines Radio (April 9, 2012).

11.
See, for example, Charles Ferguson, Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America (New York: Random House, 2012).

12.
Michael Yates, “The Great Inequality,” Monthly Review, (March 1, 2012).

13.
Ibid.

14.
Guy Standing, The New Precariat: The New Dangerous Class (New York: Bloomsbury, 2011).

15.
Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty, (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2007).

16.
This issue is taken up brilliantly in Irving Howe, “Reaganism: The Spirit of the Times,” Selected Writings 1950-1990 (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1990), pp. 410-423.

17.
I take up this issue in detail in Henry A. Giroux, The University in Chains: Challenging the Military-Industrial-Academic Complex (Boulder: Paradigm, 2007).

18.
Aaron B. O’Connell, “The Permanent Militarization of America,” The New York Times, (November 4, 2012). Online:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/05/opinion/the-permanent-militarization-of-america.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

19.
Dominic Tierney, “The F-35: A Weapon that Costs More Than Australia,” The Atlantic (February 13, 2013). Online:http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/03/the-f-35-a-weapon-that-costs-more-than-australia/72454/

20.
John Hinkson, “The GFC Has Just Begun,”Arena Magazine 122 (March 2013), p. 51.

21.
Georges Didi-Huberman, Images in Spite of All: Four Photographs from Auschwitz, trans. Shane B. Lillis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008), pp. 1-2.

22.
Katherine Stewart, “Is Texas Waging War on History?”AlterNet (May 21, 2012). Online: http://www.alternet.org/story/155515/is_texas_waging_war_on_history

23.
Ibid.

24.
See, for instance, Chris Mooney, The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science – and Reality (New York: Wiley, 2012).

25.
Steve Horn, “Three States Pushing ALEC Bill to Require Teachng Climate Change Denial in Schools,”Desmogblog.com (January 31, 2013). Online:www.desmogblog.com/2013/01/31/three-states-pushing-alec-bill-climate-change-denial-schools

26.
Igor Volsky, “Arizona Bill to Force Students to Take a Loyalty Oath,” AlterNet (January 26, 2013).

27.
John Atcheson, “Dark ages Redux: American Politics and the End of the Enlightenment,” CommonDreams (June 18, 2012). Online:https://www.commondreams.org/view/2012/06/18-2

28.
Mark Slouka, “A Quibble,” Harper’s Magazine (February 2009).

29.
Manifesto, Left Turn: An Open Letter to U.S. Radicals, (N.Y.: The Fifteenth Street Manifesto Group, March 2008), pp. 4-5.

30.
James Baldwin, “An Open Letter to My Sister, Miss Angela Davis,” The New York Review of Books, (January 7, 1971). Online: http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/1971/jan/07/an-open-letter-to-my-sister-miss-angela-davis/?pagination=false

31.
Martin Luther King, Jr., “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” (1963), in James M. Washington, The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. (New York: Harper Collins, 1991), pp.290, 298.

32.
Ibid, 296.

33.
James B. Conant, “Wanted: American Radicals”, The Atlantic, May 1943.

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission of the author.

A burocracia e as violências invisíveis (Canal Ibase)

Renzo Taddei – Colunista do Canal Ibase

2 de agosto de 2012

matéria de capa da revista Time da semana passada chama a atenção para dados impressionantes sobre o suicídio entre militares norte-americanos. Desde 2004, o número de militares americanos que se suicidaram é maior do que os que foram mortos em combate no Afeganistão. Em média, um soldado americano na ativa se suicida por dia. Dentre os veteranos, um suicídio ocorre a cada 80 minutos. Entre 2004 e 2008, a taxa de suicídio entre militares cresceu 80%; só em 2012, esse crescimento já é de 18%. O suicídio ultrapassou os acidentes automobilísticos como primeira causa de morte de militares fora de situação de combate.

Foto: Matthew C. Moeller (Flickr)

O exército americano naturalmente busca, preocupado, identificar as causas do problema – até o momento sem sucesso. O problema está longe de ser óbvio, no entanto. Um terço dos suicidas nunca foi ao Afeganistão ou ao Iraque. 43% só foram convocados uma vez. Apenas 8,5% dos suicidas foram convocados três vezes ou mais. E, em sua maioria, são casados. Ou seja, nem todos os suicídios estão relacionados com traumas de campos de batalha.

Como é de se esperar, a burocracia militar busca um diagnóstico burocrático, para que a solução seja burocrática – de modo que não seja necessário cavar muito fundo na questão. O exército americano não tem psiquiatras e profissionais de serviço social suficientes. Muitos soldados se suicidam na longa espera por uma consulta psiquiátrica; outros, após terem sido receitados soníferos e oficialmente diagnosticados como “não sendo um perigo para si ou para os demais”. A cultura militar estigmatiza demonstrações de fraqueza, de modo que muitos evitam procurar ajuda a tempo. Viúvas acusam o exército de negligência; oficiais militares dizem que os soldados se suicidam devido a problemas conjugais.

Enquanto eu refletia sobre o assunto, chegou até mim a indicação de um livro chamadoDays of Destruction, Days of Revolt, do jornalista americano Chris Edges. O livro descreve a situação de algumas das cidades mais pobres dos Estados Unidos e chega à conclusão de que a pobreza de tais cidades não tem ligação com a ideia de subdesenvolvimento, mas sim ao que se poderia chamar de contra-desenvolvimento: são cidades que foram destruídas pela exploração capitalista.

Uma dessas cidades, Camden, no estado de Nova Jersey, é velha conhecida: durante meu doutorado nos Estados Unidos, trabalhei como fotógrafo para complementar minha renda, e estive em Camden várias vezes. Sempre me impressionaram os sinais explícitos de decadência do lugar: gente vivendo em prédios em ruínas; equipamentos públicos em decomposição; tráfico de droga à luz do dia. Agora descubro que se trata nada menos da cidade com menor renda per capita do país.

Chris Edges chama tais cidades de zonas de sacrifício do capitalismo. Ou seja, para que a exploração capitalista possa ocorrer sem impedimentos, o capital se move de um lugar para outro assim que os recursos ou as oportunidades se esgotam, deixando para trás cidades fantasmas, desemprego e depressão. A lógica desse padrão de exploração é bem conhecida desde Marx, pelo menos. O que Chris Edges faz é, com a ajuda do artista gráfico e também jornalista Joe Sacco, dar nova visibilidade a um problema que a burocracia oficial e a mídia fazem questão de não enxergar.

Que relação há entre os suicídios militares e a pobreza urbana dos Estados Unidos? Na verdade, me dei conta que há uma analogia fundamental entre os dois casos: em ambos há a conjugação do fato de que para que o sistema funcione – e estamos falando de sistemas diferentes para cada caso – alguém tem que ser sacrificado; e esse sacrifício e suas vítimas sacrificiais devem permanecer invisíveis para a maioria da população. O esforço dos Estados Unidos para manter sua hegemonia militar produz de forma sistemática a morte de uma imensa quantidade de gente, dentre americanos e seus supostos inimigos. E, para que a lucratividade se mantenha alta, florestas, cidades e empregos são destruídos, também de forma sistemática. Uma das expressões usadas nas ciências sociais para descrever esse estado de coisas é violência estrutural.

A invisibilidade dessas coisas é imprescindível – só assim pessoas bem intencionadas e de boa fé podem participar do sistema perverso, sem enxergar sua perversidade. Por isso, por exemplo, o governo Bush (pai) articulou com a imprensa americana um pacto para que não fossem publicadas fotos de caixões de soldados mortos em combate na primeira Guerra do Golfo. O pacto esteve em vigor por quase vinte anos, até que foidesfeito por Obama em 2009.

Mas a forma mais comum, e eficaz, de produzir as formas de violência estrutural que reproduzem desigualdades de forma invisível é a burocracia. E isso se dá, como nos lembra David Graeber, em razão do fato de que é função da burocracia ignorar as minúcias da vida cotidiana e reduzir tudo a fórmulas mecânicas e estatísticas. Isso nos permite focar nossas energias em um número menor de variáveis, e assim realizar coisas grandiosas e incríveis – para o bem e para o mal. O papel que a burocracia tem na produção da invisibilidade que mantém violências estruturais em funcionamento pode ser exemplificado através do uso de estatísticas em políticas públicas, por exemplo. Um dos programas oficiais de apoio à população rural do Nordeste mais importantes da atualidade, o Garantia Safra – em que pequenos agricultores adquirem um seguro e são indenizados em caso de perda de safra -, sistematicamente exclui agricultores em função de miopia burocrática. Para que os agricultores de um município recebam a indenização, as regras do programa exigem que haja 50% de perda da safra de todo o município. No entanto, basta ver a dimensão e os contornos dos municípios brasileiros para rapidamente concluir que não há relação necessária entre os limites municipais e os fenômenos meteorológicos. Há municípios que, de tão extensos, apresentam variações climáticas dramáticas dentro de suas fronteiras. Nesses casos, é comum que muitos agricultores com grandes perdas não recebam qualquer indenização, se outras regiões do município tiverem perdas menores. Por que é que o município tem que ser tomado como unidade de referência nesse caso? Porque há um aparato burocrático municipal para gerir o programa, e não há níveis burocráticos oficiais em escala menor. Ou seja, o sistema é burro mesmo que ninguém o seja, e quem sofre as consequências são os agricultores.

De forma correlata, índices nacionais ou estaduais de desemprego, crescimento do PIB e do PIB per capita, são unidades de referência centrais das políticas públicas atuais, ainda que sejam médias que não levem em consideração as situações extremas onde efetivamente existe vulnerabilidade socioeconômica. É como se o ditado que diz que “a corda sempre se parte no lado mais fraco” fosse sistematicamente ignorado. A vulnerabilidade de qualquer sistema – uma máquina, por exemplo – é definida pelo seu componente mais frágil. Qualquer engenheiro sabe disso; na verdade, a ideia é tão óbvia que qualquer um sabe disso. É ai que entra a burocracia: . Nesse contexto, não importa muito o que as pessoas sabem ou não: elas não serão capazes de identificar como a burocracia produz inconsistências e violência estrutural, a menos que sejam diretamente afetadas. Dessa forma, cidades como Camden ficam sistematicamente fora do radar, camufladas por estatísticas de âmbito estadual ou nacional.

Isso tudo está relacionado a outra notícia veiculada nos jornais na semana passada: a posição do Brasil nos debates na ONU sobre a regulação do comércio mundial de armas. Apesar das evidências de que as armas fabricadas no Brasil foram e continuam sendo vendidas a governos com histórico de violação dos direitos humanos, o Brasil se colocou frontalmente contra a regulação e criação de mecanismos que deem transparência a esse mercado. A justificativa, como não poderia deixar de ser, é burocrática: a disseminação de informações sobre capacidade bélica “poderia expor os recursos e a capacidade dos países […] de sustentar um conflito prolongado”. Colocar isso como argumento que tem precedência sobre a necessidade de proteger os direitos humanos é um escândalo. Por trás dessa desculpa esfarrapada, está a intenção de proteger a lucrativa indústria bélica brasileira. O que faz a história toda mais indigesta é o fato da Dilma ter sido vítima de tortura, durante o período em que o Brasil era dirigido pela burocracia militar. Como pode a mesma presidente que criou aComissão da Verdade ser conivente com uma indústria e um mercado manchados de sangue?

Esse episódio mostra que, em termos éticos, há menos diferença entre Estados Unidos e Brasil do que os brasileiros gostam de acreditar. Para proteger o capitalismo – já não mais num campo de luta ideológica, como à época da guerra fria, mas na forma de interesses privados reais e específicos de empresas norte-americanas -, os Estados Unidos passam a ser um perigo não apenas para nações vulneráveis não-alinhadas, mas a si mesmo, como revela a epidemia de suicídios entre militares. Da mesma forma, e pelas mesmas razões – ou seja, na caminhada rumo à sua consolidação como poder imperialista – o Brasil se preocupa com seus mortos políticos, e estrategicamente finge não ver que, para a engorda do seu PIB e para a prosperidade de sua indústria bélica, uma imensa quantidade de vidas – na África, no Oriente Média, no sul do Pará e nos morros cariocas –  é sacrificada.

Renzo Taddei é professor da Escola de Comunicação da Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro. É doutor em antropologia pela Universidade de Columbia, em Nova York. Dedica-se aos estudos sociais da ciência e tecnologia.

The War on Suicide? (Time)

Monday, July 23, 2012

By NANCY GIBBS; MARK THOMPSON

Leslie McCaddon sensed that the enemy had returned when she overheard her husband on the phone with their 8-year-old daughter. “Do me a favor,” he told the little girl. “Give your mommy a hug and tell her that I love her.”

She knew for certain when she got his message a few minutes later. “This is the hardest e-mail I’ve ever written,” Dr. Michael McCaddon wrote. “Please always tell my children how much I love them, and most importantly, never, ever let them find out how I died … I love you. Mike”

She grabbed a phone, sounded every alarm, but by the time his co-workers found his body hanging in the hospital call room, it was too late.

Leslie knew her husband, an Army doctor, had battled depression for years. For Rebecca Morrison, the news came more suddenly. The wife of an AH-64 Apache helicopter pilot, she was just beginning to reckon with her husband Ian’s stress and strain. Rebecca urged Ian to see the flight surgeon, call the Pentagon’s crisis hotline. He did–and waited on the line for more than 45 minutes. His final text to his wife: “STILL on hold.” Rebecca found him that night in their bedroom. He had shot himself in the neck.

Grand Praire, TX. Rebecca Morrison with some of her husband Ian’s belongings in her parents homes. Ian, an AH-64 Apache Helicopter pilot in the U.S. Army committed suicide on March 21, 2012. Ian chose ‘Ike’ for Rebecca. Peter van Agtmael/Magnum for TIME.

Both Army captains died on March 21, a continent apart. The next day, and the next day, and the next, more soldiers would die by their own hand, one every day on average, about as many as are dying on the battlefield. These are active-duty personnel, still under the military’s control and protection. Among all veterans, a suicide occurs every 80 minutes, round the clock.

Have suicides spiked because of the strain of fighting two wars? Morrison flew 70 missions in Iraq over nine months but never engaged the enemy directly. McCaddon was an ob-gyn resident at an Army hospital in Hawaii who had never been to Iraq or Afghanistan. Do the pride and protocols of a warrior culture keep service members from seeking therapy? In the three days before he died, Morrison went looking for help six times, all in vain. When Leslie McCaddon alerted commanders about her husband’s anguish, it was dismissed as the result of a lovers’ quarrel; she, not the Army, was the problem.

This is the ultimate asymmetrical war, and the Pentagon is losing. “This issue–suicides–is perhaps the most frustrating challenge that I’ve come across since becoming Secretary of Defense,” Leon Panetta said June 22. The U.S. military seldom meets an enemy it cannot target, cannot crush, cannot put a fence around or drive a tank across. But it has not been able to defeat or contain the epidemic of suicides among its troops, even as the wars wind down and the evidence mounts that the problem has become dire. While veterans account for about 10% of all U.S. adults, they account for 20% of U.S. suicides. Well trained, highly disciplined, bonded to their comrades, soldiers used to be less likely than civilians to kill themselves–but not anymore.

More U.S. military personnel have died by suicide since the war in Afghanistan began than have died fighting there. The rate jumped 80% from 2004 to 2008, and while it leveled off in 2010 and 2011, it has soared 18% this year. Suicide has passed road accidents as the leading noncombat cause of death among U.S. troops. While it’s hard to come by historical data on military suicides–the Army has been keeping suicide statistics only since the early 1980s–there’s no denying that the current numbers constitute a crisis.

The specific triggers for suicide are unique to each service member. The stresses layered on by war–the frequent deployments, the often brutal choices, the loss of comrades, the family separation–play a role. So do battle injuries, especially traumatic brain injury and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). And the constant presence of pain and death can lessen one’s fear of them.

But combat trauma alone can’t account for the trend. Nearly a third of the suicides from 2005 to 2010 were among troops who had never deployed; 43% had deployed only once. Only 8.5% had deployed three or four times. Enlisted service members are more likely to kill themselves than officers, and 18-to-24-year-olds more likely than older troops. Two-thirds do it by gunshot; 1 in 5 hangs himself. And it’s almost always him: nearly 95% of cases are male. A majority are married.

No program, outreach or initiative has worked against the surge in Army suicides, and no one knows why nothing works. The Pentagon allocates about $2 billion–nearly 4% of its $53 billion annual medical bill–to mental health. That simply isn’t enough money, says Peter Chiarelli, who recently retired as the Army’s second in command. And those who seek help are often treated too briefly.

Army officials declined to discuss specific cases. But Kim Ruocco directs suicideprevention programs at the nonprofit Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, or TAPS. She knows what Leslie McCaddon and Rebecca Morrison have endured; her husband, Marine Major John Ruocco, an AH-1 Cobra helicopter-gunship pilot, hanged himself in 2005. These were highly valued, well-educated officers with families, with futures, with few visible wounds or scars; whatever one imagines might be driving the military suicide rate, it defies easy explanation. “I was with them within hours of the deaths,” Ruocco says of the two new Army widows. “I experienced it through their eyes.” Their stories, she says, are true. And they are telling them now, they say, because someone has to start asking the right questions.

The Bomb Grunt

Michael McCaddon was an Army brat born into a uniquely edgy corner of the service: his father served in an ordnance-disposal unit, and after his parents divorced, his mother married another bomb-squad member. McCaddon entered the family business, enlisting at 17. “When I joined the Army I was 5’10” and weighed 129 lbs,” he blogged years later. “I had a great body … for a girl.” But basic training made him stronger and tougher; he pushed to get the top scores on physical-fitness tests; he took up skydiving, snorkeling, hiking. If you plan to specialize in a field in which a single mistake can cost you and your comrades their lives, it helps to have high standards. “Ever since I was new to the Army, I made it my personal goal to do as well as I can,” he recalled. “I thought of it as kind of a representation of my being, my honor, who I was.”

The Army trained him to take apart bombs. He and his team were among the first on the scene of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, combing the ruins for any other devices, and he traveled occasionally to help the Secret Service protect then First Lady Hillary Clinton. He met Leslie in 1994 during a break in her college psychology studies. They started dating, sometimes across continents–he did two tours in Bosnia. During a Stateside break in January 2001, he married Leslie in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif. They had three children in four years, and McCaddon, by then an active-duty officer, moved with his family to Vilseck, Germany, where he helped run an Army dental office.

He was still ambitious–two of Leslie’s pregnancies had been difficult, so he decided to apply to the military’s medical school and specialize in obstetrics. But then, while he was back in Washington for his interview, came a living nightmare: his oldest son, who was 3, was diagnosed with leukemia. Just before entering med school, McCaddon prepared for his son’s chemotherapy by shaving his head in solidarity so the little boy wouldn’t feel so strange. McCaddon may not have been a warrior, but he was a fighter. “I became known as a hard-charger,” he wrote. “I was given difficult tasks, and moved through the ranks quickly.” He pushed people who didn’t give 100%; he pushed himself.

The Apache Pilot

Ian Morrison was born at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina, son of a Marine. An honor student at Thomas McKean High School in Wilmington, Del., he sang in the chorus, ran cross-country and was a co-captain of the swimming team before heading to West Point. He had a wicked sense of humor and a sweet soul; he met Rebecca on a Christian singles website in 2006 and spent three months charming her over the phone. One night he gave her his credit-card information. “Buy me a ticket, because I’m going to come see you,” he told her before flying to Houston. “The minute I picked him up,” she recalls, “we later said we both knew it was the real deal.” He proposed at West Point when she flew in for his graduation.

Morrison spent the next two years at Fort Rucker in Alabama, learning to fly the two-seat, 165-m.p.h. Apache helicopter, the Army’s most lethal aircraft. He and his roommate, fellow West Pointer Sean McBride, divided their time among training, Walmart, church, Seinfeld and video games, fueled by macaroni and cheese with chopped-up hot dogs. Morrison and Rebecca were married two days after Christmas 2008 near Dallas. The Army assigned him to an aviation unit at Fort Hood, so they bought a three-bedroom house on an acre of land just outside the town of Copperas Cove, Texas. They supported six African children through World Vision and were planning to have some kids of their own. “We had named our kids,” Rebecca says.

Morrison was surprised when the Army ordered him to Iraq on short notice late in 2010. Like all young Army officers, he saluted and began packing.

Triggers and Traps

One theory of suicide holds that people who feel useful, who feel as if they belong and serve a larger cause, are less likely to kill themselves. That would explain why active-duty troops historically had lower suicide rates than civilians. But now experts who study the patterns wonder whether prolonged service during wartime may weaken that protective function.

Service members who have bonded with their units, sharing important duties, can have trouble once they are at a post back home, away from the routines and rituals that arise in a close-knit company. The isolation often increases once troops leave active duty or National Guardsmen and reservists return to their parallel lives. The military frequently cites relationship issues as a predecessor to suicides; that irritates survivors to no end. “I’m not as quick to blame the Army as the Army is to blame me,” Leslie McCaddon says. “The message I get from the Army is that our marital problems caused Mike to kill himself. But they never ask why there were marriage problems to begin with.”

As McCaddon made his way through med school in Maryland, he encountered ghosts from his past. He was reaching the age at which his biological father had died by suicide, which statistically increased his own risk. But he wasn’t scared by it, Leslie says; he told associates about it. What did bother him was that he was gaining weight, the physical-training tests were getting harder for him, and the course work was challenging to juggle with a young family. He hid the strain, “but inside it is killing me,” he blogged. He called Leslie a hero “for not kicking me out of the house on the several times I’ve given her reason.” And he told her he sometimes thought of suicide.

“But he would tell everyone else that he was fine,” Leslie says. “He was afraid they’d kick him out of medical school if he was really honest about how depressed he was.” McCaddon sought counseling from a retired Army psychiatrist and seemed to be turning a corner in May 2010, when he graduated and got his first choice for a residency, at Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu.

“He loved being a soldier,” Leslie said, “and he was going to do everything he could to protect that relationship.”

Leslie had relationships to protect as well. He was increasingly hard on her at home; he was also hard on the kids and on himself. “He was always an amazing father–he loved his children–but he started lashing out at them,” Leslie recalls. “He wasn’t getting enough sleep, and he was under a lot of stress.” Leslie began exploring options but very, very carefully; she had a bomb-disposal problem as well. “When I was reaching out for help, people were saying, Be careful how you phrase this, because it could affect your husband’s career,” she says. “That was terrifying to me. It made me think that by advocating for him I’d be making things worse.”

The Pilot’s Pain

Captain Morrison headed to Iraq in early 2011. Once there, he and Rebecca Skyped nearly every day between his flight assignments. When he took R&R leave in early September, they visited family in Dallas, then San Antonio, and caught concerts by Def Leppard and Heart.

There were no signs of trouble. “He was so mentally stable–he worked out every day, we ate good food, and we always had good communication,” his wife says. “Most people would say he was kind of quiet, but with me he was loud and obnoxious and open.”

Morrison never engaged the enemy in direct combat; still, some 70 missions over Iraq took their toll. His base was routinely mortared. After one mission, he and several other pilots were walking back to their hangar when a rocket shot right past them and almost hit him; he and his comrades ran and dived into a bunker, he told Rebecca once he was safely home. He impressed his commander–“Excellent performance!” his superior raved in a formal review of the man his buddies called Captain Brad Pitt. “Unlimited potential … continue to place in position of greater responsibility.”

It was not the war that turned out to be hard; it was the peace. Morrison returned to Fort Hood late last year and spent his month off with Rebecca riding their horses, attending church and working out. He seemed unnerved by slack time at home. “He said it was really easy to fall into a routine in Iraq–they got up at the exact same time, they ate, they worked out, they flew forever and then they came back, and he’d talk to me, and then they did it all over again,” Rebecca says. “When he came back to Texas, it was really difficult for him to adjust.”

Morrison was due to be reassigned, so he and his wife needed to sell their house, but it just sat on the market. His anxiety grew; he was restless, unable to sleep, and they thought he might be suffering from PTSD. The couple agreed that he should see a doctor. Military wives, especially those studying mental health, have heard the stories, know the risks, learn the questions: Is their spouse drinking more, driving recklessly, withdrawing from friends, feeling trapped? Be direct, they are told. “I looked him right in the face and asked, ‘Do you feel like you want to hurt or kill yourself?'” Rebecca recalls. “He looked me right in the face and said, ‘Absolutely not–no way–I don’t feel like that at all. All I want to do is figure out how to stop this anxiety.'”

The Stigma

When troops return from deployment, they are required to do self-assessments of their experience: Did they see people killed during their tour? Did they feel they had been at risk of dying? Were they interested in getting counseling for stress or alcohol use or other issues? But a 2008 study found that when soldiers answer questions anonymously, they are two to four times as likely to report depression or suicidal thoughts. Independent investigations have turned up reports of soldiers being told by commanders to airbrush their answers or else risk their careers. A report by the Center for a New American Security cited commanders who refuse to grant a military burial after a suicide for fear that doing so would “endorse or glamorize” it.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and all the services have launched resiliency-training programs and emergency hotlines, offering slogans like “Never leave a Marine behind” and “Never let your buddy fight alone” that try to speak the language of the unit. Last year the Pentagon released a video game meant to allow soldiers to explore the causes and symptoms of PTSD from the privacy of their homes. “We want people to feel like they are encouraged to get help,” says Jackie Garrick, who runs the new Defense Suicide Prevention Office. “There are a myriad of ways you can access help and support if you need it.”

But faith in that commitment was shaken this year when Army Major General Dana Pittard, commander of the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, complained on his official blog that he was “personally fed up” with “absolutely selfish” troops who kill themselves, leaving him and others to “clean up their mess. Be an adult, act like an adult, and deal with your real-life problems like the rest of us,” he continued. He later said he wanted to “retract” what he called his “hurtful statement,” but he didn’t apologize for what he said. Many soldiers and family members believe Pittard’s attitude is salted throughout the U.S. military.

Just a Lovers’ Quarrel

In August 2010, Leslie went to McCaddon’s commanding officer at the hospital. She didn’t tell Michael. “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever done,” she says. She recalls sitting in the commander’s office, haltingly laying out her concerns–McCaddon’s history of depression, his struggle to meet his high standards while doing right by his family. She was hoping that maybe the commander would order him into counseling and defuse the stigma somehow: he’d just be following orders. She watched the officer, a female colonel, detonate before her eyes. “No one at the medical school told me he had a history of depression, of being suicidal,” Leslie recalls her shouting. “I have a right to know this. He’s one of my residents. Why didn’t anyone tell me?” The commander was furious–not at Leslie, exactly, but at finding herself not in command of the facts.

The colonel called several colleagues into the room and then summoned McCaddon as well. Leslie registered the shock and fear on his face when he saw his wife sitting with his bosses. “I was shaking,” she says. “I told him I continued to be concerned that his depression was affecting our family and that I was really concerned for his safety but also for the well-being of our children and myself.”

The commander encouraged McCaddon to get help but wouldn’t order him to do it. He left the room, livid, and Leslie burst into tears. “Honey, don’t worry,” Leslie remembers the commander saying. “My first marriage was a wreck too.”

Can’t you make him get some help? Leslie pleaded again, but the colonel pushed back. McCaddon was doing fine at work, with no signs of a problem. “‘Leslie, I know this is going to be hard to hear, but this just doesn’t sound like an Army issue to me,'” McCaddon’s wife recalls the colonel saying. “‘It sounds like a family issue to me.'” Leslie felt her blood run cold. “No one was going to believe me so long as things were going fine at work.”

McCaddon did try to see an Army psychiatrist, but a month or more could pass without his finding the time. “I’d say, ‘He’s in the Army,'” Leslie recalls telling the doctor, “‘and you make him do everything else, so you should be able to make him go to mental-health counseling.'” But McCaddon was not about to detour from rounds to lie on the couch. He barely ate while on his shift. “Everybody here is under stress,” he stormed at Leslie. “I can’t just walk out for an hour a week–I’m not going to leave them when we’re already short-staffed.”

The marriage was cracking. Back in Massachusetts, Leslie’s mother was not well. Leslie and the kids moved home so she could take care of her. She and Michael talked about divorce.

The Waiting Room

Early on Monday, March 19, Ian Morrison showed up at a Fort Hood health clinic, where he sat waiting in his uniform, with his aviation badge, for three hours. Finally someone saw him. “‘I’m sorry you had to wait all this time,'” Rebecca says he was told. “‘But we can’t see you. We can’t prescribe you anything.'” He had to see the doctor assigned to his unit. When Morrison arrived at the flight surgeon’s office, he told Rebecca, the doctor was upset that Morrison hadn’t shown up at the regular daily sick call a couple of hours earlier.

“He told me this guy was so dismissive and rude to him. ‘You need to follow procedure. You should have been here hours ago,'” Rebecca says. “Ian wanted to tell the doctor he was anxious, depressed and couldn’t sleep, but this guy shut him down.” Morrison acknowledged only his sleeplessness, leading the doctor to give him 10 sleeping pills with orders to return the next week. He’d be grounded for the time being.

But that didn’t seem to affect his mood. Morrison toasted his wife’s success on a big exam that day–she was close to earning her master’s in psychology–by cooking a steak dinner and drawing a bubble bath for her that night. “He was dancing around and playing music and celebrating for me,” she remembers. “He seemed really hopeful.” He took a pill before bed but told Rebecca in the morning that he hadn’t slept.

On Tuesday, March 20, Morrison tried to enroll in an Army sleep study but was told he couldn’t join for a month. “Well, I’ll just keep taking Ambien and then go see the flight surgeon,” he told the woman involved with the study. She asked if he felt like hurting himself. “No, ma’am, you don’t have to worry about me at all,” he said. “I would never do that.” That day, Morrison typed an entry in his journal: “These are the things I know that I can’t change: whether or not the house sells, the state of the economy, and the world … these are things that I know to be true: I’m going to be alive tomorrow, I will continue to breathe and get through this, and God is sovereign over my life.”

Rebecca awoke the next morning to find her husband doing yoga. “I’m self-medicating,” he told her. She knew what that meant. “You couldn’t sleep again, huh?” Rebecca asked.

“No,” Morrison said. “I’m going back to the doctor today.” Given the lack of success with the medication, she told him that was probably a good idea. She left the house, heading for the elementary school on post where she taught second grade.

A System Overwhelmed

The Army reported in January that there was no way to tell how well its suicide-prevention programs were working, but it estimated that without such interventions, the number of suicides could have been four times as high. Since 2009, the Pentagon’s ranks of mental-health professionals have grown by 35%, nearing 10,000. But there is a national shortage of such personnel, which means the Army is competing with the VA and other services–not to mention the civilian world–to hire the people it needs. The Army has only 80% of the psychiatrists and 88% of the social workers and behavioral-health nurses recommended by the VA. Frequent moves from post to post mean that soldiers change therapists often, if they can find one, and mental-health records are not always transferred.

Military mental-health professionals complain that the Army seemed to have put its suicide-prevention efforts on the back burner after Chiarelli, a suicide fighter, left the service in January. “My husband did not want to die,” Rebecca says. “Ian tried to get help–six times in all … Think about all the guys who don’t even try to get help because of the stigma. Ian was so past the stigma, he didn’t care. He just wanted to be healthy.”

The Breaking Point

On March 15, McCaddon gave a medical presentation that got rave reviews. Then he called Massachusetts to speak to his children and sent Leslie that last e-mail. He regretted his failures as a husband, as a father. Don’t tell the children how I died, he begged her. “Know that I love you and my biggest regret in life will always be failing to cherish that, and instead forsaking it.” Leslie read the e-mail in horror. “In the back of my mind, I’m saying to myself, He’s at work–he’s safe,” she recalls. “It never occurred to me that he would do what he did at work.” But she immediately dialed the hospital’s delivery center. She had just received a suicide note from her husband, she told the doctor who answered, and they needed to find him immediately. The hospital staff fanned out.

“They’ve sent people to the roof, the basement, to your house. We’re looking everywhere,” a midwife told Leslie in a call minutes later. As they talked, Leslie suddenly heard people screaming and crying in the background. Then she heard them call a Code Blue. They had found him hanging from a noose in a call room. It had been less than 30 minutes since McCaddon had sent his final e-mail to his wife. Among the voices Leslie thought she recognized was that of McCaddon’s commander, whose words came rushing back. “Does it seem like a family issue to her now?” Leslie remembers thinking. “Because it looks like it happened on her watch.”

It took 15 minutes for the first responders to bring back a heartbeat. By then he had been without oxygen for too long. Leslie flew to Hawaii, and Captain McCaddon was taken off life support late Tuesday, March 20. He was pronounced dead early the next day.

That same day, Wednesday, March 21, Morrison saw a different Army doctor, who in a single 20-minute session diagnosed him with clinical depression. He got prescriptions for an antidepressant and a med to treat anxiety but hadn’t taken either when he called his wife. Rebecca encouraged him to stop by the resiliency center on post to see if he might get some mental-health counseling there. Just before noon, Morrison texted Rebecca, saying he was “Hopeful :)” about it. She wanted to know what they told him. “Will have to come back,” he responded. “Wait is about 2 hrs.” He needed to get back to his office.

Rebecca was still concerned. At about 4 p.m., she urged her husband to call a military hotline that boasted, “Immediate help 24/7–contact a consultant now.” He promised he would. “I said, ‘Perfect. Call them, and I’ll talk to you later,'” Rebecca says. “He was like, ‘O.K., bye.'”

That was the last time she ever talked to him. Their final communication was one more text about 45 minutes later. “STILL on hold,” he wrote to her. Rebecca responded moments later: “Can’t say you’re not trying.”

Morrison called Rebecca at 7:04 p.m., according to her cell phone, but she was leading a group-therapy session and missed it. He didn’t leave a message.

Two and a half hours later, she returned home from her grad-school counseling class. She threw her books down when she entered the living room and called his name. No answer. She saw his boots by the door; the mail was there, so she knew he had to be home. “I walked into our bedroom, and he was lying on the floor with his head on a pillow, on my side of the bed.” He was still in his uniform.

Rebecca stammers, talking softly and slowly through her sobs. “He had shot himself in the neck,” she says. “There was no note or anything. He was fully dressed, and I ran over to him and checked his pulse … and he had no pulse. I just ran out of the house screaming, ‘Call 911!’ and ran to the neighbors.”

The Next Mission

At a suicide-prevention conference in June, Panetta laid down a charge: “We’ve got to do everything we can to make sure that the system itself is working to help soldiers. Not to hide this issue, not to make the wrong judgments about this issue, but to face facts and deal with the problems up front and make sure that we provide the right diagnosis and that we follow up on that kind of diagnosis.”

But what makes preventing suicide so confounding is that even therapy often fails. “Over 50% of the soldiers who committed suicide in the four years that I was vice [chief] had seen a behavioral-health specialist,” recalls Chiarelli. “It was a common thing to hear about someone who had committed suicide who went in to see a behavioral-health specialist and was dead within 24, 48 or 72 hours–and to hear he had a diagnosis that said, ‘This individual is no danger to himself or anyone else.’ That’s when I realized that something’s the matter.”

There’s the horrific human cost, and there is a literal cost as well. The educations of McCaddon and Morrison cost taxpayers a sum approaching $2 million. “If the Army can’t be reached through the emotional side of it–that I lost my husband–well, they lost a $400,000 West Point education and God knows how much in flight school,” Rebecca says. (The Army says Morrison’s pilot training cost $700,000.) Adds Leslie: “They’d invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into this asset. At the very least, why didn’t they protect their asset?”

Captain McCaddon was buried with full military honors on April 3 in Gloucester, Mass. A pair of officers traveled from Hawaii for the service and presented his family with the Army Commendation Medal “for his selfless and excellent service.” Leslie and their three children also received the U.S. flag that had been draped over his casket and three spent shells fired by the honor guard. They visited his grave on Father’s Day to leave flowers, and each child left a card. After two years of chemotherapy, their oldest child’s leukemia remains in remission.

Captain Morrison was buried in central Texas on March 31. The Army had awarded him several decorations, including the Iraq Campaign Medal with Campaign Star. There were military honors graveside, and a bugler played taps. At his widow’s request, there was no rifle volley fired.

Chris Hedges | Totalitarian Systems Always Begin by Rewriting the Law (Truth Out)

Monday, 26 March 2012 09:06By Chris Hedges, Truthdig | Op-Ed

Chris Hedges speaks at Occupy DC, January 9, 2012.

Chris Hedges speaks at Occupy DC, January 9, 2012. (Photo: Shrieking Tree)

I spent four hours in a third-floor conference room at 86 Chambers St. in Manhattan on Friday as I underwent a government deposition. Benjamin H. Torrance, an assistant U.S. attorney, carried out the questioning as part of the government’s effort to decide whether it will challenge my standing as a plaintiff in the lawsuit I have brought with others against President Barack Obama and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta over the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), also known as the Homeland Battlefield Bill.

The NDAA implodes our most cherished constitutional protections. It permits the military to function on U.S. soil as a civilian law enforcement agency. It authorizes the executive branch to order the military to selectively suspend due process and habeas corpus for citizens. The law can be used to detain people deemed threats to national security, including dissidents whose rights were once protected under the First Amendment, and hold them until what is termed “the end of the hostilities.” Even the name itself—the Homeland Battlefield Bill—suggests the totalitarian concept that endless war has to be waged within “the homeland” against internal enemies as well as foreign enemies.

Judge Katherine B. Forrest, in a session starting at 9 a.m. Thursday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, will determine if I have standing and if the case can go forward. The attorneys handling my case, Bruce Afran and Carl Mayer, will ask, if I am granted standing, for a temporary injunction against the Homeland Battlefield Bill. An injunction would, in effect, nullify the law and set into motion a fierce duel between two very unequal adversaries—on the one hand, the U.S. government and, on the other, myself, Noam Chomsky, Daniel Ellsberg, the Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jónsdóttir and three other activists and journalists. All have joined me as plaintiffs and begun to mobilize resistance to the law through groups such as Stop NDAA.

The deposition was, as these things go, conducted civilly. Afran and Mayer, the attorneys bringing the suit on my behalf, were present. I was asked detailed questions by Torrance about my interpretation of Section 1021 and Section 1022 of the NDAA. I was asked about my relationships and contacts with groups on the U.S. State Department terrorism list. I was asked about my specific conflicts with the U.S. government when I was a foreign correspondent, a period in which I reported from El Salvador, Nicaragua, the Middle East, the Balkans and other places. And I was asked how the NDAA law had impeded my work.

It is in conference rooms like this one, where attorneys speak in the arcane and formal language of legal statutes, that we lose or save our civil liberties. The 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act, the employment of the Espionage Act by the Obama White House against six suspected whistle-blowers and leakers, and the Homeland Battlefield Bill have crippled the work of investigative reporters in every major newsroom in the country. Government sources that once provided information to counter official narratives and lies have largely severed contact with the press. They are acutely aware that there is no longer any legal protection for those who dissent or who expose the crimes of state. The NDAA threw in a new and dangerous component that permits the government not only to silence journalists but imprison them and deny them due process because they “substantially supported” terrorist groups or “associated forces.”

Those of us who reach out to groups opposed to the U.S. in order to explain them to the American public will not be differentiated from terrorists under this law. I know how vicious the government can be when it feels challenged by the press. I covered the wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua from 1983 to 1988. Press members who reported on the massacres and atrocities committed by the Salvadoran military, as well as atrocities committed by the U.S.-backed Contra forces in Nicaragua, were repeatedly denounced by senior officials in the Reagan administration as fellow travelers and supporters of El Salvador’s Farabundo Marti National Liberation (FMLN) rebels or the leftist Sandinista government in Managua, Nicaragua.

The Reagan White House, in one example, set up an internal program to distort information and intimidate and attack those of us in the region who wrote articles that countered the official narrative. The program was called “public diplomacy.”Walter Raymond Jr., a veteran CIA propagandist, ran it. The goal of the program was to manage “perceptions” about the wars in Central America among the public. That management included aggressive efforts to destroy the careers of reporters who were not compliant by branding them as communists or communist sympathizers. If the power to lock us up indefinitely without legal representation had been in the hands of Elliott Abrams or Oliver North or Raymond, he surely would have used it.

Little has changed. On returning not long after 9/11 from a speaking engagement in Italy I was refused entry into the United States by customs officials at the Newark, N.J., airport. I was escorted to a room filled with foreign nationals. I was told to wait. A supervisor came into the room an hour later. He leaned over the shoulder of the official seated at a computer in front of me. He said to this official: “He is on a watch. Tell him he can go.” When I asked for further information I was told no one was authorized to speak to me. I was handed my passport and told to leave the airport.

Glenn Greenwald, the columnist and constitutional lawyer, has done the most detailed analysis of the NDAA bill. He has pointed out that the crucial phrases are “substantially supported” and “associated forces.” These two phrases, he writes, allow the government to expand the definition of terrorism to include groups that were not involved in the 9/11 attacks and may not have existed when those attacks took place.

It is worth reading Sections 1021 and 1022 of the bill. Section 1021 of the NDAA “includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons (as defined in subsection (b)) pending disposition under the law of war.” Subsection B defines covered persons like this: “(b) Covered Persons—A covered person under this section is any person as follows: (1) A person who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored those responsible for those attacks. (2) A person who was a part of or substantially supported Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the U.S. or its coalition partners.” Section 1022, Subsection C, goes on to declare that covered persons are subject to: “(1) Detention under the law of war without trial until the end of the hostilities authorized by the Authorization for Use of Military Force.” And Section 1022, Subsection A, Item 4, allows the president to waive the requirement of legal evidence in order to condemn a person as an enemy of the state if that is believed to be in the “national security interests of the United States.”

The law can be used to detain individuals who are not members of terrorist organizations but have provided, in the words of the bill, substantial support even to “associated forces.” But what constitutes substantial? What constitutes support? What are these “associated forces”? What is defined under this law as an act of terror? What are the specific activities of those purportedly “engaged in hostilities against the United States”? None of this is answered. And this is why, especially as acts of civil disobedience proliferate, the NDAA law is so terrifying. It can be used by the military to seize and detain citizens and deny legal recourse to anyone who defies the corporate state.

Torrance’s questions to me about incidents that occurred during my reporting were typified by this back and forth, which I recorded:

Torrance: In paragraph eight of your declaration you refer to the type of journalism we have just been discussing, which conveyed opinions, programs and ideas as being brought within the scope of Section 1021’s provision defining a covered people as one who has substantially supported or directly supported the acts and activities of such individuals or organizations and allies of associated forces. Why do you believe journalistic activity could be brought within that statute?

Hedges: Because anytime a journalist writes and reports in a way that challenges the official government narrative they come under fierce attack.

Torrance: What kind of attack do they come under?

Hedges: It is a range. First of all, the propaganda attempts to discredit the reporting. It would be an attempt to discredit the individual reporter. It would be a refusal to intercede when allied governments physically detain and expel the reporter because of reporting that both that allied government and the United States did not want. And any foreign correspondent that is any good through their whole career has endured all of this.

Torrance: Remind me, the phrase you used that you believed would trigger that was “coverage disfavorable to the United States”?

Hedges: I didn’t say that.

Torrance: Remind me of the phrase.

Hedges: I said it was coverage that challenged the official narrative.

Torrance: Have you ever been detained by the United States government?

Hedges: Yes.

Torrance: When and where?

Hedges: The First Gulf War.

Torrance: What were the circumstances of that?

Hedges: I was reporting outside of the pool system.

Torrance: How did that come about that you were detained?

Hedges: I was discovered by military police without an escort.

Torrance: And they took you into custody?

Hedges: Yes.

Torrance: For how long?

Hedges: Not a long time. They seized my press credentials and they called Dhahran, which is where the sort of central operations were, and I was told that within a specified time—and I don’t remember what that time was—I had to report to the authorities in Dhahran.

Torrance: Where is Dhahran?

Hedges: Saudi Arabia.

Torrance: And that was a U.S. military headquarters of some sort?

Hedges: Well, it was the press operations run by the U.S. Army.

Torrance: And what was the asserted basis for detaining you?

Hedges: That I had been reporting without an escort.

Torrance: And was that a violation of some law or regulation that you know of?

Afran: Note, object to form. Laws and regulations are two different things.

Hedges: Not in my view. …

Torrance: Did the people who detained you specify any law or regulation that in their view you violated?

Hedges: Let me preface that by saying that as a foreign correspondent with a valid journalistic visa, which I had, in a country like Saudi Arabia, the United States does not have the authority to detain me or tell me what I can report on. They attempted to do that, but neither I [nor] The New York Times [my employer at the time] recognized their authority.

Torrance: When you obtained that journalistic visa did you agree to any conditions on what you would do or where you would be permitted to go?

Hedges: From the Saudis?

Torrance: The visa was issued by the Saudi government?

Hedges: Of course, I need a visa from the Saudi government to get into Saudi.

Torrance: Did you agree to any such conditions?

Hedges: No. Not with the Saudis.

Torrance: Were there any other journalists of which you were aware who [were] reporting outside of the pool system?

Hedges: Yes.

Torrance: Were they also detained, to your knowledge?

Hedges: Yes.

The politeness of the exchanges, the small courtesies extended when we needed a break, the idle asides that took place during the brief recesses, masked the deadly seriousness of the proceeding. If there is no rolling back of the NDAA law we cease to be a constitutional democracy.

Totalitarian systems always begin by rewriting the law. They make legal what was once illegal. Crimes become patriotic acts. The defense of freedom and truth becomes a crime. Foreign and domestic subjugation merges into the same brutal mechanism. Citizens are colonized. And it is always done in the name of national security. We obey the new laws as we obeyed the old laws, as if there was no difference. And we spend our energy and our lives appealing to a dead system.

Franz Kafka understood the totalitarian misuse of law, the ability by the state to make law serve injustice and yet be held up as the impartial arbiter of good and evil. In his stories “The Trial” and “The Castle” Kafka presents pathetic supplicants before the law who are passed from one doorkeeper, administrator or clerk to the next in an endless and futile quest for justice. In the parable “Before the Law” the supplicant dies before even being permitted to enter the halls of justice. In Kafka’s dystopian vision, the law is the mechanism by which injustice and tyranny are perpetuated. A bureaucratic legal system uses the language of justice to defend injustice. The cowed populations in tyrannies become for Kafka so broken, desperate and passive that they are finally complicit in their own enslavement. The central character in “The Trial,” known as Josef K, offers little resistance at the end of the story when two men arrive to oversee his execution. Josef K. leads them to a quarry where he is expected to kill himself. He cannot. The men do it for him. His last words are: “Like a dog!”

O mundo está levemente mais pacífico, apesar dos Estados Unidos (IPS)

Inter Press Service – Reportagens
20/6/2012 – 09h47

por Carey L. Biron, da IPS

IPS42 O mundo está levemente mais pacífico, apesar dos Estados UnidosWashington, Estados Unidos, 20/6/2012 – Revertendo uma tendência que durava dois anos, o mundo ficou levemente mais pacífico em 2011, segundo o último Índice de Paz Global. Entretanto, os Estados Unidos caíram sete posições, ficando em 88º lugar entre os 158 países estudados, “uma colocação bem baixa, que em grande parte reflete os níveis mais altos de militarização e de participação em conflitos externos”, afirma o documento, conhecido como GPI. Embora o gasto militar de Washington “tenha caído drasticamente” entre 1991 e 2000, “agora voltou aos níveis da Guerra Fria”, afirma o estudo.

Uma das conclusões mais preocupantes do estudo, elaborado pelo Instituto para a Economia e a Paz, com sede em Washington, em colaboração com a Unidade de Inteligência Econômica, é que o maior gasto militar (calculado como porcentagem do produto interno bruto) tem correlação com menores níveis de paz. O GPI, que estuda 23 indicadores em 158 países, encontrou “melhorias nas pontuações gerais em todas as regiões”, menos no Oriente Médio e no norte da África. Devido ao impacto da Primavera Árabe, pela primeira vez a África subsaariana não foi a região menos pacífica do mundo.

Na verdade, os cinco países que experimentaram as maiores reduções na lista foram afetados pela Primavera Árabe. A Síria foi o que sofreu maior deterioração de seu nível de paz, caindo 31 posições para ficar no 147º posto. A Somália foi novamente o país menos pacífico, enquanto a Islândia outra vez se destacou como o mais pacífico, em uma tendência que já dura dois anos.

O informe ajuda a definir exatamente o que é a paz, disse durante a apresentação do documento, em Washington, Anne-Marie Slaughter, ex-funcionária do Departamento de Estado norte-americano. “O índice vai além de calcular a ausência de conflito, além da ausência de instabilidade. Por outro lado, a definição usada aqui é a ausência de medo e de violência”, afirmou.

Pela primeira vez, este ano o GPI incluiu um novo ranking, o Índice de Paz Positiva. Com base nos primeiros seis anos de experiência do informe, o novo índice se concentra em fatores que contribuem para a capacidade dos países de manterem uma sociedade pacífica. “Isto inclui o trabalho positivo para melhorar a qualidade de vida, não apenas de evitar o ruim”, destacou Slaughter.

Os oito fatores que compõem o Índice de Paz Positiva – entre eles a educação, a baixa corrupção, o bom funcionamento do governo e a distribuição equitativa dos recursos – são considerados um verdadeiro mapa pelo diretor de políticas do Instituto para Economia e Paz, Michael Shank.

Segundo os pesquisadores do informe, “a necessidade de aprofundar o entendimento de como construímos a paz foi realçada pelas últimas experiências de desenvolvimento institucional no Iraque e no Afeganistão”. O principal ator nas duas experiências, os Estados Unidos, demonstraram incapacidade para se envolver adequadamente e criar sociedades pacíficas, afirmam.

Depois de quase uma década de esforços liderados por Washington, Afeganistão e Iraque “ainda estão paralisados no fundo do GPI”. Segundo a jornalista Emily Cadei, que cobre o Congresso norte-americano e falou na apresentação do documento, a participação dos Estados Unidos no exterior foi pobre nos últimos dois anos. Nos últimos seis anos, os pesquisadores do GPI registraram uma queda nos conflitos externos e entre Estados, e um aumento da violência interna. Além disso, o GPI indica uma crescente militarização correlacionada com menores níveis de paz.

“O fato de os conflitos internos crescerem é uma má notícia, porque os Estados Unidos não estão preparados para enfrentar essas formas de violência. O governo de Barack Obama ainda não tem um consenso sobre como fazer isso”, indicou Cadei. A jornalista acrescentou que, “além disso, o fato de a militarização estar negativamente correlacionada com a paz ainda não foi assumido nos Estados Unidos. A visão predominante no governo é que a paz vem por meio da força. No Congresso, a assistência internacional sempre está atada à segurança”, acrescentou.

Por sua vez, Lawrence Wilkerson, ex-coronel do exército norte-americano e professor de políticas públicas e governo, disse que essa mentalidade datava da Guerra Fria e que não havia conseguido se transformar desde o fim da União Soviética, em 1991. “O novo índice mostra que os Estados Unidos precisam ser mais cautelosos no que tenta fazer em outros países. Durante 50 anos demonstramos sermos muito maus na construção da paz”, ressaltou. Envolverde/IPS