Arquivo da tag: Terrorismo

Pentagon preparing for mass civil breakdown (The Guardian)

Social science is being militarised to develop ‘operational tools’ to target peaceful activists and protest movements

Thursday 12 June 2014 02.00 EDT

Pentagon Building in Washington

The Pentagon is funding social science research to model risks of “social contagions” that could damage US strategic interests. Photograph: Jason Reed/REUTERS

A US Department of Defense (DoD) research programme is funding universities to model the dynamics, risks and tipping points for large-scale civil unrest across the world, under the supervision of various US military agencies. The multi-million dollar programme is designed to develop immediate and long-term “warfighter-relevant insights” for senior officials and decision makers in “the defense policy community,” and to inform policy implemented by “combatant commands.”

Launched in 2008 – the year of the global banking crisis – the DoD ‘Minerva Research Initiative’ partners with universities “to improve DoD’s basic understanding of the social, cultural, behavioral, and political forces that shape regions of the world of strategic importance to the US.”

Among the projects awarded for the period 2014-2017 is a Cornell University-led study managed by the US Air Force Office of Scientific Research which aims to develop an empirical model “of the dynamics of social movement mobilisation and contagions.” The project will determine “the critical mass (tipping point)” of social contagians by studying their “digital traces” in the cases of “the 2011 Egyptian revolution, the 2011 Russian Duma elections, the 2012 Nigerian fuel subsidy crisis and the 2013 Gazi park protests in Turkey.”

Twitter posts and conversations will be examined “to identify individuals mobilised in a social contagion and when they become mobilised.”

Another project awarded this year to the University of Washington “seeks to uncover the conditions under which political movements aimed at large-scale political and economic change originate,” along with their “characteristics and consequences.” The project, managed by the US Army Research Office, focuses on “large-scale movements involving more than 1,000 participants in enduring activity,” and will cover 58 countries in total.

Last year, the DoD’s Minerva Initiative funded a project to determine ‘Who Does Not Become a Terrorist, and Why?’ which, however, conflates peaceful activists with “supporters of political violence” who are different from terrorists only in that they do not embark on “armed militancy” themselves. The project explicitly sets out to study non-violent activists:

“In every context we find many individuals who share the demographic, family, cultural, and/or socioeconomic background of those who decided to engage in terrorism, and yet refrained themselves from taking up armed militancy, even though they were sympathetic to the end goals of armed groups. The field of terrorism studies has not, until recently, attempted to look at this control group. This project is not about terrorists, but about supporters of political violence.”

The project’s 14 case studies each “involve extensive interviews with ten or more activists and militants in parties and NGOs who, though sympathetic to radical causes, have chosen a path of non-violence.”

I contacted the project’s principal investigator, Prof Maria Rasmussen of the US Naval Postgraduate School, asking why non-violent activists working for NGOs should be equated to supporters of political violence – and which “parties and NGOs” were being investigated – but received no response.

Similarly, Minerva programme staff refused to answer a series of similar questions I put to them, including asking how “radical causes” promoted by peaceful NGOs constituted a potential national security threat of interest to the DoD.

Among my questions, I asked:

“Does the US Department of Defense see protest movements and social activism in different parts of the world as a threat to US national security? If so, why? Does the US Department of Defense consider political movements aiming for large scale political and economic change as a national security matter? If so, why? Activism, protest, ‘political movements’ and of course NGOs are a vital element of a healthy civil society and democracy – why is it that the DoD is funding research to investigate such issues?”

Minerva’s programme director Dr Erin Fitzgerald said “I appreciate your concerns and am glad that you reached out to give us the opportunity to clarify” before promising a more detailed response. Instead, I received the following bland statement from the DoD’s press office:

“The Department of Defense takes seriously its role in the security of the United States, its citizens, and US allies and partners. While every security challenge does not cause conflict, and every conflict does not involve the US military, Minerva helps fund basic social science research that helps increase the Department of Defense’s understanding of what causes instability and insecurity around the world. By better understanding these conflicts and their causes beforehand, the Department of Defense can better prepare for the dynamic future security environment.”

In 2013, Minerva funded a University of Maryland project in collaboration with the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to gauge the risk of civil unrest due to climate change. The three-year $1.9 million project is developing models to anticipate what could happen to societies under a range of potential climate change scenarios.

From the outset, the Minerva programme was slated to provide over $75 million over five years for social and behavioural science research. This year alone it has been allocated a total budget of $17.8 million by US Congress.

An internal Minerva staff email communication referenced in a 2012 Masters dissertation reveals that the programme is geared toward producing quick results that are directly applicable to field operations. The dissertation was part of a Minerva-funded project on “counter-radical Muslim discourse” at Arizona State University.

The internal email from Prof Steve Corman, a principal investigator for the project, describes a meeting hosted by the DoD’s Human Social Cultural and Behavioural Modeling (HSCB) programme in which senior Pentagon officials said their priority was “to develop capabilities that are deliverable quickly” in the form of “models and tools that can be integrated with operations.”

Although Office of Naval Research supervisor Dr Harold Hawkins had assured the university researchers at the outset that the project was merely “a basic research effort, so we shouldn’t be concerned about doing applied stuff”, the meeting in fact showed that DoD is looking to “feed results” into “applications,” Corman said in the email. He advised his researchers to “think about shaping results, reports, etc., so they [DoD] can clearly see their application for tools that can be taken to the field.”

Many independent scholars are critical of what they see as the US government’s efforts to militarise social science in the service of war. In May 2008, the American Anthropological Association (AAA) wrote to the US government noting that the Pentagon lacks “the kind of infrastructure for evaluating anthropological [and other social science] research” in a way that involves “rigorous, balanced and objective peer review”, calling for such research to be managed instead by civilian agencies like the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The following month, the DoD signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the NSF to cooperate on the management of Minerva. In response, the AAA cautioned that although research proposals would now be evaluated by NSF’s merit-review panels. “Pentagon officials will have decision-making power in deciding who sits on the panels”:

“… there remain concerns within the discipline that research will only be funded when it supports the Pentagon’s agenda. Other critics of the programme, including the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, have raised concerns that the programme would discourage research in other important areas and undermine the role of the university as a place for independent discussion and critique of the military.”

According to Prof David Price, a cultural anthropologist at St Martin’s University in Washington DC and author of Weaponizing Anthropology: Social Science in Service of the Militarized State, “when you looked at the individual bits of many of these projects they sort of looked like normal social science, textual analysis, historical research, and so on, but when you added these bits up they all shared themes of legibility with all the distortions of over-simplification. Minerva is farming out the piece-work of empire in ways that can allow individuals to disassociate their individual contributions from the larger project.”

Prof Price has previously exposed how the Pentagon’s Human Terrain Systems (HTS) programme – designed to embed social scientists in military field operations – routinely conducted training scenarios set in regions “within the United States.”

Citing a summary critique of the programme sent to HTS directors by a former employee, Price reported that the HTS training scenarios “adapted COIN [counterinsurgency] for Afghanistan/Iraq” to domestic situations “in the USA where the local population was seen from the military perspective as threatening the established balance of power and influence, and challenging law and order.”

One war-game, said Price, involved environmental activists protesting pollution from a coal-fired plant near Missouri, some of whom were members of the well-known environmental NGO Sierra Club. Participants were tasked to “identify those who were ‘problem-solvers’ and those who were ‘problem-causers,’ and the rest of the population whom would be the target of the information operations to move their Center of Gravity toward that set of viewpoints and values which was the ‘desired end-state’ of the military’s strategy.”

Such war-games are consistent with a raft of Pentagon planning documents which suggest that National Security Agency (NSA) masssurveillance is partially motivated to prepare for the destabilising impact of coming environmental, energy and economic shocks.

James Petras, Bartle Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University in New York, concurs with Price’s concerns. Minerva-funded social scientists tied to Pentagon counterinsurgency operations are involved in the “study of emotions in stoking or quelling ideologically driven movements,” he said, including how “to counteract grassroots movements.”

Minerva is a prime example of the deeply narrow-minded and self-defeating nature of military ideology. Worse still, the unwillingness of DoD officials to answer the most basic questions is symptomatic of a simple fact – in their unswerving mission to defend an increasingly unpopular global system serving the interests of a tiny minority, security agencies have no qualms about painting the rest of us as potential terrorists.

Dr. Nafeez Ahmed is an international security journalist and academic. He is the author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It, and the forthcoming science fiction thriller, ZERO POINT. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter @nafeezahmed.

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PL quer punir “terroristas” e grevistas na Copa (Agência Pública)

27.02.12 Por Andrea Dip, 

Foto: Daniel Kfouri. Arte urbana de Esqueleto Coletivo

“É a ditadura transitória da FIFA” diz presidente da Comissão de Direitos Humanos da OAB-SP, sobre PL que corre no Senado em paralelo à Lei Geral da Copa

Enquanto as atenções estão voltadas para o projeto de Lei Geral da Copa (2.330/11) que está sendo votado na Câmara nesta terça-feira (28), os senadores Marcelo Crivella (PRB-RJ), Ana Amélia (PP-RS) e Walter Pinheiro (PT-BA) correm com outro Projeto de Lei no Senado, conhecido pelos movimentos sociais como “AI-5 da Copa” por, dentre outras coisas, proibir greves durante o período dos jogos e incluir o “terrorismo” no rol de crimes com punições duras e penas altas para quem “provocar terror ou pânico generalizado”.

O PL 728/2011, apresentado no Senado em dezembro de 2011, ainda aguarda voto do relator Álvaro Dias (PSDB-PR) na Comissão de Educação, Cultura e Esporte do Senado. Se for aprovado, vai criar oito novos tipos penais que não constam do nosso Código Penal como “terrorismo”, “violação de sistema de informática” e “revenda ilegal de ingressos”, determinando penas específicas para eles. Essa lei – transitória – valeria apenas durante os jogos da FIFA.

Na justificativa da proposta, os senadores alegam que a Lei Geral da Copa deixa de fora a tipificação de uma série de delitos, necessária para “garantir a segurança durante os jogos”.

O projeto prevê ainda que quem “cometer crimes contra a integridade da delegação, árbitros, voluntários ou autoridades públicas esportivas com o fim de intimidar ou influenciar o resultado da partida de futebol poderá pegar entre dois e cinco anos de prisão”.

Para quem “violar, bloquear ou dificultar o acesso a páginas da internet, sistema de informática ou banco de dados utilizado pela organização dos eventos” a pena seria de um a quatro anos de prisão, além de multa. E para deixar a aplicação das penas ainda mais eficaz, o projeto prevê a instauração de um “incidente de celeridade processual” (art. 15), um regime de urgência em que a comunicação do delito poderia se dar por mensagem eletrônica ou ligação telefônica e funcionaria também nos finais de semana e feriados.

O presidente da Comissão de Direitos Humanos da OAB de São Paulo Martim Sampaio considera o projeto um “atentado contra o Estado Democrático de Direito”. “É um projeto de lei absurdo que quer sobrepor os interesses de mercado à soberania popular. Uma lei para proteger a FIFA e não os cidadãos e que, além de tudo, abre precedentes para injustiças por suas definições vagas”, diz o advogado.

Para Thiago Hoshino, assessor jurídico da organização de direitos humanos Terra de Direitos e integrante do Comitê Popular da Copa de Curitiba, a questão é ainda mais complicada. Ele acredita que a junção de tantos assuntos em um mesmo projeto é uma tentativa de aprovar leis antigas que endurecem principalmente a legislação penal: “É um bloco perigoso que viola garantias básicas da Constituição. E há sempre o risco de estas leis transitórias se tornarem permanentes. A legislação da Copa é, na verdade, um grande laboratório de inovações jurídicas. Depois o que for proveitoso pode permanecer. É mais fácil tornar uma lei transitória permanente do que criar e aprovar uma nova” explica.

Terrorismo

O que chama a atenção logo de cara no projeto de lei é a tipificação de “terrorismo”, que até hoje não existe no nosso código penal. No PL, ele é definido como “o ato de provocar terror ou pânico generalizado mediante ofensa à integridade física ou privação da liberdade de pessoa, por motivo ideológico, religioso, político ou de preconceito racial, étnico ou xenófobo” com pena de no mínimo 15 e no máximo 30 anos de reclusão. Martim Sampaio diz que este é o artigo mais perigoso por não dar definições exatas sobre o termo: “Da maneira como está na lei, qualquer manifestação, passeata, protesto, ato individual ou coletivo pode ser entendido como terrorismo. Isso é um cheque em branco na mão da FIFA e do Estado”.

Documentos revelados pelo WikiLeaks revelaram a pressão americana para que o Brasil criasse uma lei para o “terrorismo”, principalmente para assegurar os megaeventos. No relatório de Lisa Kubiske, conselheira da Embaixada americana em Brasília, enviado para os EUA em 24 de dezembro de 2010, a diplomata mostra-se preocupada com as declarações de Vera Alvarez, chefe da Coordenação-Geral de Intercâmbio e Cooperação Esportiva do Itamaraty porque a brasileira “admite que terroristas podem atacar o Brasil por conta das Olimpíadas, uma declaração pouco comum de um governo que acredita que não haja terrorismo no País”.

Os banqueiros também pressionam o Estado a criar uma lei antiterrorismo há algum tempo. Também em 2010, a falta de uma legislação específica sobre terrorismo foi o principal foco em um congresso sobre lavagem de dinheiro e financiamento de grupos extremistas organizado pela Federação Brasileira de Bancos (Febraban), em São Paulo. A questão poderia custar ao Brasil a exclusão do Grupo de Ação Financeira Internacional (Gafi), órgão multinacional que atua na prevenção desses crimes.

Greves

O projeto de lei também mira reduzir o direito à greve, prevendo a ampliação dos serviços essenciais à população durante a Copa – como a manutenção de portos e aeroportos, serviços de hotelaria e vigilância – e restringe a legalidade da greve de trabalhadores destes setores, incluindo os que trabalham nas obras da Copa, de três meses antes dos eventos até o fim dos jogos. Se aprovado, os sindicatos que decidirem fazer uma paralisação terão de avisar com 15 dias de antecedência e manter ao menos 70% dos trabalhadores em atividade. O governo ainda estará autorizado a contratar trabalhadores substitutos para manter o atendimento, o que é proibido pela lei 7.283/1989 em vigor no país, que estabelece 72 horas de antecedência para o aviso de greve e não determina um percentual mínimo de empregados em atividade durante as paralisações.

Eli Alves, presidente da Comissão de Direito Trabalhista da OAB-SP, lembra que o direito à greve também é garantido na Constituição Federal e diz que a sensação que fica é a de que “o Brasil está sendo alugado para a FIFA, flexibilizando suas próprias regras para fazer a Copa no país”. Martim Sampaio lembra que as greves foram proibidas durante a ditadura militar: “A gente conquistou este direito com o fim da ditadura, muitas vidas foram perdidas neste processo. Não é possível que agora criemos uma ditadura transitória da FIFA”. E convoca: “O único jeito de não deixar esta lei ser aprovada é por pressão popular. A gente tem bons exemplos de que isso funciona como a da lei da ficha limpa. É preciso conquistar a democracia todos os dias”.

Foto de abertura gentilmente cedida por Daniel Kfouri

Protestos apressam votação da lei de crimes de terrorismo no Brasil (Sul 21)

26/jun/2013, 9h44min

Foto: Bernardo Jardim Ribeiro/Sul21

Foto: Bernardo Jardim Ribeiro/Sul21

Rachel Duarte

Incendiar, depredar, saquear, destruir ou explodir meios de transporte ou qualquer bem público ou privado poderá ser enquadrado como terrorismo no Brasil. Está prevista para esta quinta-feira (27) a votação do projeto de lei 728/2011 que tipifica o crime de terrorismo, ainda não regulamentado no país. O texto será colocado em pauta em pleno contexto de sucessivos protestos nos estados brasileiro que estão sendo respondidos de forma repressiva pelo braço armado do estado. O motivo da urgência na aprovação, segundo a Comissão Mista que discute o tema no Congresso Nacional é a proximidade da Copa do Mundo de 2014. Especialistas avaliam como temerária a proposta, uma vez que aponta para os problemas da segurança urbana soluções com base na Lei de Segurança Nacional. “Isto é retroceder ao estado de exceção”, critica o professor da Faculdade de Direito de Santa Maria (FADISMA), Eduardo Pazinato.

A Constituição Federal prevê o crime de terrorismo, mas não estabelece pena nem tipifica as ações. Apenas a Lei de Segurança Nacional, editada na década de 1980, menciona o terrorismo, mas ainda com redação feita durante o regime militar. Porém, a minuta do texto em iminente aprovação no Congresso tem referência no texto da reforma do Código Penal e outros 43 projetos de lei, além de nove tratados, protocolos e convenções internacionais. Os crimes de terrorismo serão imprescritíveis, com pena cumprida em regime fechado, sem benefício de progressão e devem variar de 24 a 30 anos de cadeia.

Será considerado terrorismo ainda as ações que provoquem pânico generalizado praticadas por motivos ideológicos, políticos, religiosos e de preconceito racial, o que abre brecha para classificar como terroristas integrantes de movimentos sociais que cometerem crimes durante protestos públicos, acredita o coordenador do Núcleo de Segurança Cidadã da FADISMA, Eduardo Pazinato. “Este texto acompanha a tendência internacional de lei e ordem que propõem mais leis penais para resolver problemas contemporâneos. Por meio do discurso da pacificação, se aumenta a criminalização das pessoas e os encarceramentos. Utilizar o paradigma da segurança nacional para regular a segurança urbana proporcionará a criminalização dos movimentos sociais, uma vez que parte de um movimento de massa poderá ser entendida como terrorismo”, explica.

Ou seja, se a nova lei já estivesse em vigor, os manifestantes que invadiram as ruas do país nos últimos dias contra o aumento da passagem e a postura repressiva da polícia militar poderiam ser enquadrados como terroristas em razão de algumas práticas excessivas. “Isto é temerário nesta conjuntura de grandes eventos no país, em que inúmeras reivindicações populares surgem nas ruas. Está se preconizando mais uma vez um novo tipo penal para aumentar penas e reduzir direitos de minorias que serão enquadradas como praticantes de delitos, ao invés de buscar resposta para as cobranças da sociedade que não sejam por meio da criminalização”, avalia Pazinato.

“Repressão é resposta política dos governos contra a mobilização social”, critica ativista gaúcho

Foto: Ramiro Furquim/Sul21

Foto: Ramiro Furquim/Sul21

Para o ativista em Software Livre, Marcelo Branco, que esteve nos diversos manifestos realizados em Porto Alegre no último período, “o 1% que faz quebra-quebra nos protestos são pessoas marginalizadas pelo próprio estado e que cansaram de cobrar nas manifestações’. De toda forma, ele reconhece que tais práticas não podem ser toleradas pelas autoridades, porém ressalta que responder com mais autoritarismo é a pior escolha do estado. “A violência policial em relação aos protestos que estão acontecendo em Porto Alegre e em todo o país não se justifica. Mesmo se concordamos ou não com a razão dos protestos, reivindicar pacificamente nas ruas é algo legítimo. A luta popular já deixou de ser em relação ao preço das passagens, é para cobrar a resposta dos governos a esta brutal repressão que se ergueu no país”, fala.

Segundo o ex-coordenador da campanha da presidenta Dilma Rousseff na internet, as redes sociais possibilitaram uma nova organização social das lutas no mundo, que não pode ser controlada pelo estado. E esta, seria a principal razão de uma reação tão extrema por parte das autoridades. “Eles não tem líderes definidos, porque a organização é horizontal na rede, então, agem de forma generalizada com bombas, gás e balas de borracha contra civis desarmados”, qualifica Branco.

Na visão do especialista em segurança pública Eduardo Pazinato, os chamados ‘novíssimos movimentos sociais’, organizados pela internet, não tem a mínima semelhança com práticas terroristas para se justificar uma legislação neste sentido no país. “O terrorismo é uma ação coletiva por um propósito de conjuntura onde se aplica a violência de forma deliberada. Não é o que estes movimentos pretendem. A dinâmica deles é uma luta democrática que não pode ser encarada com endurecimento penal máximo. Isto é uma atitude populista do governo que busca atingir o senso comum demonstrando ‘eficiência do estado’ para enfrentar a questão da violência. Isto é o que está declarado nesta votação em meio aos protestos. O que é equivocado, pois não há direito à segurança sem a garantia da segurança a outros direitos fundamentais”, salienta.

“Intenção nunca foi criminalizar os movimentos sociais”, diz deputado Vaccarezza

Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr

Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr

O presidente da comissão de consolidação de leis e de dispositivos constitucionais, deputado Cândido Vaccarezza (PT-SP), disse que a intenção da proposta não é e nem nunca foi criminalizar movimentos sociais. “Nossa Constituição é genérica neste ponto e precisamos deixá-la clara justamente para evitar que juízes possam interpretar que ações de massa são terrorismo, especialmente agora que teremos grandes eventos, pessoas de vários lugares do mundo. É preciso regulamentar”, defende.

Segundo Vaccarezza, a comissão mista para regulamentação das leis nacionais ainda está debatendo a matéria e aceita sugestões pela internet. “No site do Senado está a minuta do projeto e queremos a contribuição de todos. Estamos falando com a Ordem dos Advogados do Brasil (OAB) e vamos falar com o ministro da Justiça (José Eduardo Cardozo) e com o Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF)”, fala.

No dia 18 de junho, o deputado esteve reunido com o relator do texto no Senado Federal, senador Romero Jucá (PMDB-RR). A intenção da comissão é votar o texto nesta semana. “Se não for possível, aguardaremos e reapresentamos mais tarde”, garante Vacarezza.

Sociology as something that can be “committed”

PM Stephen Harper steps up attack on Justin Trudeau over terrorism

STEVEN CHASE

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Published Thursday, Apr. 25 2013, 1:52 PM EDT; Last updated Friday, Apr. 26 2013, 9:05 AM EDT

Stephen Harper is stepping up his attack on rival Justin Trudeau’s musings about the “root causes” behind the Boston bombings, saying the only appropriate reaction to such attacks is to condemn the actions and direct government efforts to fighting them.

“This is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression,” [emphasis added] Mr. Harper told a news conference in Ottawa, a phrase he later repeated in French for the benefit of French-language media outlets.

Mr. Harper had been asked by a journalist Thursday to say at what point he considered it acceptable to start talking about the “root causes” that might lead someone to plot an attack on North American soil, such as the Canadian residents arrested this week and accused of scheming to derail a Via train.

The Prime Minister made the remark on the same day a fierce debate erupted over news that Tory MPs are being urged to blanket their ridings with flyers bashing Mr. Trudeau as an inexperienced lightweight.

“Root causes” is the phrase Mr. Trudeau used last week when he said it was essential to look at the motivating factors behind the Boston Marathon bombings. Mr. Harper wasted little time in ridiculing his Liberal opponent for what he considered a weak response to terrorism.

On Thursday, the Prime Minister elaborated on his assertion that now is no time for academic pondering, saying that those who would seek to hurt Canada are starkly opposed to Western values.

“These things are serious threats – global terrorist attacks, people who have agendas of violence that are deep and abiding threats to all the values that our society stands for,” the Prime Minister said.

“I don’t think we want to convey any view to the Canadian public other than our utter condemnation of this violence and our utter determination through our laws and through our laws and activities to do everything we can to counter it.”

To devote this much time to the leader of the third-biggest party in the Commons suggests Mr. Harper is stooping to conquer – but Conservatives say privately they believe the opportunity to brand Mr. Trudeau as inexperienced is too good to pass up.

The Tories have recently begun running attack ads that brand the Liberal Leader as inexperienced or “in over his head” and the Conservatives feel Mr. Trudeau has confirmed this criticism.

Mr. Harper defended the use of taxpayers’ dollars to finance a bulk-mail campaign – known as 10-per-centers – against Mr. Trudeau at a news conference on Thursday. He said the campaign is well within the rules of the House of Commons, and MPs from all parties send partisan missives.

“All parties work within those rules, and all parties use those activities and use those rules.”

But the newly minted Liberal Leader is hitting back, accusing the Tories of using the public purse to spread distortions and lies.

“Instead of defending an increasingly indefensible, mediocre record on the economy and on various decisions, they attack and they use whatever public resources they can to turn people away from politics and to foster cynicism,” Mr. Trudeau said in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

Separately, Thursday, the Combatting Terrorism Act, a bill that would give additional police powers at the cost of civil liberties, received Royal Assent. The Harper government, which sponsored the legislation, did not say how soon S-7 comes into force.

With a report from The Canadian Press

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Breaking: RCMP Close to Arrests of Known Sociologists (Coop Média de Montréal)

BLOG POST posted on APRIL 25, 2013 by BERNANS

Breaking: RCMP Close to Arrests of Known Sociologists

April 25, 2013

When asked about the RCMP arrests made in an alleged terrorist plot, Prime Minister Stephen Harper had a warning for Canadians who would “commit sociology.”*

The RCMP has confirmed that it is aware of several sociologist networks operating in a number of Canadian universities. Sources say arrests are imminent.

While most sociologists currently operating in Canada are thought to be of the home-grown variety, there appears to be a great deal of international coordination through various websites, social media and academic journals.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews is expected to introduce emergency minimum sentences legislation for anyone who commits sociology or provides material support to a known sociologist network. The legislation could be introduced as early as tomorrow.

Sources say the RCMP will likely make arrests of known sociologists in the coming hours. More details will be provided as the story develops.

David Bernans is a Québec-based writer and translator. He is the author of Collateral Murder. Follow him on twitter @dbernans.

* An actual quote! This is a satirical article, but, believe it or not our Prime Ministeractually said this. It has to do with the Harper government’s insistence that ignorance is the best policy when it comes to the root causes of evil.

4:30 pm UPDATE: This reporter was interviewing security expert Guy Lapoint on the extent of sociology in Canada when he was taken away for questioning by the RCMP. Just before the RCMP barged into Lapoint’s office he was saying, “If only we had some way to find out what makes people commit sociology, some sort of macro-view of the whole society that could explain this phenomenon, we could…”

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http://zeezeescorner.tumblr.com/post/48933490123/as-two-men-were-arrested-this-week-for-allegedly

As two men were arrested this week for allegedly conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack, the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was not interested in talking about the causes of terrorism. He said: “I think, though, this is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression… The root causes of terrorism is terrorists.” 
He inspired me to make this for Sociology at Work. Go forth and commit sociology, friends!High-Res
As two men were arrested this week for allegedly conspiring to carry out a terrorist attack, the Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was not interested in talking about the causes of terrorism. He said: “I think, though, this is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression… The root causes of terrorism is terrorists.”

He inspired me to make this for Sociology at Work. Go forth and commit sociology, friends!

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Picard Wtf - This is not a time to commit sociology

 

 

Black and White and Red All Over (Foreign Policy)

How the hyperkinetic media is breeding a new generation of terrorists.

BY SCOTT ATRAN | APRIL 22, 2013

“Americans refuse to be terrorized,” declared President Barack Obama in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings. “Ultimately, that’s what we’ll remember from this week.” Believe that, and I’ve got a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn.

The Boston bombings have provoked the most intense display of law enforcement and media coverage since the 9/11 attacks. Greater Boston was in full lockdown: “a ghost town,” “a city in terror,” “a war zone,” screamed the headlines. Public transit was stopped, a no-fly zone proclaimed, people told to stay indoors, schools and universities closed, and hundreds of FBI agents pulled from other pressing investigations to focus exclusively on the case — along with thousands upon thousands of other federal, state, and city agents equipped with heavy weapons and armored vehicles. It all came close to martial law, with all the tools of the security state mobilized to track down a pair of young immigrants with low-tech explosives and small arms who failed to reconcile their problems of identity and became suspected amateur terrorists.

Not that the events weren’t shocking and brutal. But this law enforcement and media response, of course, is part of the overall U.S. reaction to terrorism since 9/11, when perhaps never in history have so few, armed with so few means, caused so much fear in so many. Indeed, as with the anarchists a century ago, last week’s response is precisely the outsized reaction that sponsors of terrorism have always counted on in order to terrorize.

Nothing compares to the grief of parents whose child has been murdered like 8-year-old Martin Richard, except perhaps the collective grief of many parents, as for the 20 children killed in last December’s school massacre in Newtown, Conn. Yet, despite the fact that the probability of a child, or anyone else in the United States, being killed by a terrorist bomb is vastly smaller than being killed by an unregistered handgun — or even by an unregulated fertilizer plant — U.S. politicians and the public seem likely to continue to support uncritically the extravagant measures associated with an irrational policy of “zero tolerance” for terrorism, as opposed to much-more-than-zero tolerance for nearly all other threats of violence. Given the millions of dollars already spent on the Boston bombing investigation and the trillions that the national response to terrorism has cost in little more than a decade, the public deserves a more reasoned response. We can never, ever be absolutely safe, no matter how much treasure we spend or how many civil liberties we sacrifice.

While there is always the chance that investigators will find foreign connections and broader plots beyond the doings of the two men suspected in the Boston bombing, our knowledge about terrorism suggests that what we already know about the April 15 bombing does not justify the disproportionate and overwrought response, including the “global security alert” U.S. authorities issued through Interpol for 190 countries. Even if the suspected Boston bombers prove to be part of a larger network of jihadi wannabes, as were the 2005 London subway suicide bombers, or had planned more operations before dying in a blaze of glory, as did the 2004 Madrid train bombers, these would-be knights under the prophet’s banner could never alone wreak the havoc that our reaction to them does.

The brothers Tsarnaev, the suspected Boston bombers, have been described by neighbors, friends, and relatives as fairly normal young men — regular Cambridge kinds. They left the Chechen conflict years ago and immigrated to the United States as asylum seekers under the U.S. government’s refugee resettlement program. Tamerlan, the oldest, was married with a 3-year-old daughter. A former Golden Gloves heavyweight boxer who once thought of competing for the United States, he had been increasingly drawn to radical Islam in the last few years. In a photo essay about his fondness for boxing, he worried, “I don’t have a single American friend; I don’t understand them.” He complained, “There are no values anymore,” forswearing drinking because “God said no alcohol.” Tamerlan’s YouTube page posts videos of radical Islamic clerics from Chechnya and elsewhere haranguing the West as bombs explode in the background. In 2011, the FBI interviewed Tamerlan at Russia’s request about connections to Chechen extremists, but the investigation found “no derogatory information.” Although Russian forces withdrew from Chechnya in 2009, violence has persisted in neighboring Dagestan, where Tamerlan visited his father last year and perhaps linked up with jihadi instigators who motivated him to act. Like the father of 9/11 pilot bomber Mohamed Atta, Tamerlan’s father claims his boy was framed and murdered. In his last reported phone communication, on Thursday, just hours before the police shootout began, he called his mother.

The younger brother, Dzhokhar, a sophomore at the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, played intramural soccer. On the day after the bombing he went to the dorms, worked out at the gym, and that night went to a party attended by some of his soccer buddies. Known to his friends as Jahar, he entered the university on a scholarship but lately had been failing his classes. He hung out with other students, had an easy relationship with the other young men and women, hardly ever talked politics, and was never pegged as an Islamist activist or sympathizer or even as particularly religious. Whereas relatives, friends, and teachers consistently describe Jahar as “always smiling,” “with a heart of gold,” acquaintances say Tamerlan never smiled and was aggressive. One cousin said he warned Jahar about being susceptible to the negative influence of the older brother he loved. In the last few months, Jahar’s tweets began turning darker: “i won’t run i’ll just gun you all out #thugliving,” “Do I look like that much of a softy … little do these dogs know they’re barking at a lion,” “I killed Abe Lincoln during my two hour nap #intensedream.” But declaring this wayward killer — and a naturalized citizen, at that — an “enemy combatant” borders on Orwellian.

Under sponsorship by the Defense Department, my multidisciplinary, multinational research team has been conducting field studies and analyses of the mental and social processes involved in radicalization at home and abroad. Our findings indicate that terrorist plotters against Western civilian populations tend not to be parts of sophisticated, foreign-based command-and-control organizations. Rather, they belong to loose, homegrown networks of family and friends who die not just for a cause, but for each other. Jihadists pretty much span the population’s normal distribution: There are very few psychopaths and sociopaths, few brilliant thinkers and strategists. Jihadi wannabes today are mostly emerging adults in transitional stages of their lives — students, immigrants, in search of jobs or companions — who are especially prone to movements that promise a meaningful cause, camaraderie, adventure, and glory. Most have a secular education, becoming “born again” into the jihadi cause in their late teens or 20s. The path to radicalization can take years, months, or just days, depending on personal vulnerabilities and the influence of others. Occasionally there is a hookup with a relative, or a friend of a friend, who has some overseas connection to someone who can get them a bit of training and motivation to pack a bag of explosives or pull a trigger, but the Internet and social media are usually sufficient for radicalization and even operational preparation.

The result is not a hierarchic, centrally commanded terrorist movement but a decentralized, self-organizing, and constantly evolving complex of social networks based on contingent adaptations to changing events. These are no real “cells,” but only clusters of mostly young men who motivate one another within “brotherhoods” of real and fictive kin. Often, in fact, there is an older brother figure, a dominant personality who mobilizes others in the group. But rarely is there an overriding authority or father figure. (Notably, for these transitional youth, there’s often an absence of a real father).

Some of the most successful plots, such as the Madrid and London bombings, are so anarchic, fluid, and improbable that they succeeded in evading detection despite the fact that intelligence and law enforcement agencies had been following some of the actors for some time. Three key elements characterize the “organized anarchy” that typifies modern violent Islamic activism: Ultimate goals are vague and superficial (often no deeper than revenge against perceived injustice against Muslims around the world); modes of action are decided pragmatically on the basis of trial and error or based on the residue of learning from accidents of past experience; and those who join are not recruited but are locally linked self-seekers — often from the same family, neighborhood, or Internet chat room — whose connection to global jihad is more virtual than material. Al Qaeda and associates do not so much recruit as attract disaffected individuals who have already decided to embark on the path to violent extremism with the help of family, friends, or a few fellow travelers.

Like the young men who carried out the Madrid and London attacks, most homegrown jihadi plotters first hook up with the broad protest sentiment against “the global attack on Islam” before moving into a narrower parallel universe. They cut ties with former companions who they believe are too timid to act and cement bonds with those who are willing to strike. They emerge from their cocoon with strong commitment to strike and die if necessary, but without any clear contingency planning for what might happen after the initial attack.

For the first time in history, a massive, media-driven political awakening has been occurring — spurred by the advent of the Internet, social media, and cable television — that can, on the one hand, motivate universal respect for human rights while, on the other, enable, say, Muslims from Borneo to sacrifice themselves for Palestine, Afghanistan, or Chechnya (despite almost no contact or shared history for the last 50,000 years or so). When perceived global injustice resonates with frustrated personal aspirations, moral outrage gives universal meaning and provides the push to radicalization and violent action.

But the popular notion of a “clash of civilizations” between Islam and the West is woefully misleading. Violent extremism represents not the resurgence of traditional cultures, but their collapse, as young people unmoored from millennial traditions flail about in search of a social identity that gives personal significance. This is the dark side of globalization.

Take Faisal Shahzad, the would-be bomber of Times Square in 2010, or Maj. Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 fellow soldiers at Fort Hood in 2009. Both were apparently inspired by the online rhetoric of Anwar al-Awlaki, a former preacher at a Northern Virginia mosque who was killed by a U.S. drone in Yemen in 2011. Although many commentators leapt to the conclusion that Awlaki and his ilk deviously brainwashed and recruited Shahzad and Hassan, in fact they sought out the popular Internet preacher because they were already radicalized to the point of wanting further guidance to act. As Defense Department terrorism consultant Marc Sageman notes: “Just like you saw Major Hasan send 21 emails to al-Awlaki, who sends him two back, you have people seeking these guys and asking them for advice.” More than 80 percent of plots in both Europe and the United States were concocted from the bottom up by mostly young people just hooking up with one another.

Especially for young men, mortal combat with a “band of brothers” in the service of a great cause is both the ultimate adventure and a road to esteem in the hearts of their peers. For many disaffected souls today, jihad is a heroic cause — a promise that anyone from anywhere can make a mark against the most powerful country in the history of the world. But because would-be jihadists best thrive and act in small groups and among networks of family and friends — not in large movements or armies — their threat can only match their ambitions if fueled way beyond actual strength. And publicity is the oxygen that fires modern terrorism.

It is not by arraying “every element of our national power” against would-be jihadists and those who inspire them that violent extremism will be stopped, as Obama once declared. Although wide-ranging intelligence, good police work, and security preparedness (including by the military and law enforcement) is required to track and thwart the expansion of al Qaeda affiliates into the Arabian Peninsula, Syria (and perhaps Jordan), North Africa, and East Africa, this is insufficient. As 2012 U.S. presidential candidate Mitt Romney quipped, “We can’t kill our way out of this mess.” In the United States, there are many pockets of displaced immigrant and refugee young people with even more than the usual struggles of personal development. Young Somalis seem to be having particular difficulty, and a small few are moving to the path of violent jihad. This is a good time to think about how we relate to them, though there are probably more easy mistakes than easy solutions. But political attempts to relate these problems to the very different issue of illegal immigration only adds to the scaremongering.

We need to pay attention to what makes these young men want to die to kill, by listening to their families and friends, trying to engage them on the Internet, and seeing whom they idolize, how they organize, what bonds them, and what drives them. U.S. power won’t stop the self-seeking, and preaching “moderate” Islam (or moderate anything) is hardly likely to sway young men in search of significance and glory. And even if every airplane passenger were to be scanned naked or every American city locked down, it would not stop young men from joining the jihad or concocting new ways of killing civilians.

Terrorists are directly responsible for violent acts, but only indirectly for the reaction that follows. Objectively, terrorist acts on even a 9/11 scale could never seriously harm American society; only our reaction can. By amplifying and connecting relatively sporadic terrorist acts into a generalized “war” or “assault on freedom,” the somewhat marginal phenomenon of terrorism has become a primary preoccupation of the U.S. government and American people. In this sense, Osama bin Laden has been victorious beyond his wildest dreams — not because of anything he has done, but because of how we have reacted to the episodic successes he inspires.

There are several ways to react to the political hype and media amplification of terrorism. Doing nothing and allowing this frenzied media environment to continue will only encourage future attacks; meanwhile, reporting that rushes to judgment and complements law enforcement’s denial of Miranda rights will only erode confidence in the integrity and fairness of the American press and U.S. government institutions. Legal regulation of media, as in many other countries, may not be compatible with a free society and if tried would certainly provoke persistent opposition and deep outrage. For example, previous attempts by the British government to ban interviews with terrorists and their supporters backfired. As the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals noted in 2002, “Democracies die behind closed doors.” Even noncoercive guidelines are likely to incite widespread resistance. As former New York Times Executive Editor A.M. Rosenthal put it: “The last thing in the world I want is guidelines. I don’t want guidelines from the government … or anyone else.”

But voluntary self-restraint by the media, which is less intrusive and supported by many, is not only possible but manageable. (Venerable journalist Edward R. Murrow, informed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the specifics of the Pearl Harbor attack, declined the scoop and didn’t file his report until the administration could formulate a reasoned response.) Of course, “gentle censorship,” like the initially successful attempts by George W. Bush’s administration to prevent airing of bin Laden messages or talks with terrorists, can seriously hamper the flow of knowledge necessary for understanding what makes terrorists tick and how to thwart them.

The First Amendment enables the news media to watchdog the republic and help prevent government excesses and abuses so that a well-informed public can monitor and decide where government policy should go. Yet the media is increasingly less a public service devoted to this task than a competitive business that believes it best succeeds through sensation, which violence privileges. For example, the typical television news story has declined from an average of several minutes in the 1950s and 1960s to today’s repeated sound bites — often no more than a few seconds — that sensationalize the spectacular. And despite the fact that one of the suspected Boston bombers is now dead and the other in custody, it can be argued that their terrorism succeeded through the spectacular theater of last week’s events, capturing our attention and stoking our deepest fears.

We can break this real, if unplanned, alliance between terrorism and the media through better reporting for the social good, which may prove to be the best business strategy of all. When we practice restraint and show the resilience of people carrying on with their lives even in the face of atrocities like that in Boston, then terrorism fails.

Scott Atran, an anthropologist at John Jay College, the University of Michigan, and Oxford University, is co-founder of ARTIS Research and author of Talking to the Enemy.

Polícias estrangeiras terão infiltrados em torcidas na Copa-2014 (Folha de S.Paulo)

13/03/2013 – 03h20

FERNANDO MELLO

DE BRASÍLIA

Policiais estrangeiros irão se infiltrar nas torcidas de seus países para levantar dados e tentar evitar tumultos durante a Copa do Mundo. Eles deverão repassar informações para as autoridades brasileiras, mas não poderão fazer “intervenção direta nas eventuais ocorrências”.

Os policiais estarão autorizados a conversar com os torcedores e divulgar informações, misturar-se durante as partidas, comunicar as autoridades brasileiras casos de situações de perigo e até participar de eventos das torcidas das seleções de seus países.

A estratégia faz parte do Plano de Segurança Pública para a Copa de 2014, documento produzido pelos ministérios da Justiça, Defesa e Gabinete de Segurança Institucional.

Como a Folha revelou no domingo, o documento destaca como uma de suas prioridades o combate ao terrorismo, além de evitar a atuação do crime organizado no país.

Os estrangeiros, que não estarão armados, atuarão para que “os torcedores dos seus países de origem sejam impedidos de participar de quaisquer comportamentos que possam ameaçar a segurança, dentro ou fora do estádio”.

Também ajudarão a identificar e eliminar manifestações que possam potencialmente desencadear atos violentos ou preconceituosos.

“O papel desses policiais será o de abastecer de informações seus compatriotas sobre os riscos locais ou sobre torcedores agressivos de outras nacionalidades, bem como o de alertá-los sobre seu comportamento exacerbado”, informa o documento.

“Com essa rede de informações será possível impedir que grupos de torcedores se confrontem ou agridam outros espectadores isoladamente”, complementa.

Durante a Copa haverá um Centro de Cooperação Policial Internacional, composto por representantes de todos os países participantes da Copa e de países que fazem fronteira com o Brasil.

Segundo o documento, a Polícia Federal trocou informações com diversos países sobre suspeitos de envolvimento em terrorismo, além de informações sobre “hooliganismo” e dados sobre os causadores de problemas em estádios.

Governo paulista descarta preocupação quanto a segurança para Copa-2014

Rooting out Rumors, Epidemics, and Crime — With Math (Science Daily)

ScienceDaily (Aug. 10, 2012) — A team of EPFL scientists has developed an algorithm that can identify the source of an epidemic or information circulating within a network, a method that could also be used to help with criminal investigations.

Investigators are well aware of how difficult it is to trace an unlawful act to its source. The job was arguably easier with old, Mafia-style criminal organizations, as their hierarchical structures more or less resembled predictable family trees.

In the Internet age, however, the networks used by organized criminals have changed. Innumerable nodes and connections escalate the complexity of these networks, making it ever more difficult to root out the guilty party. EPFL researcher Pedro Pinto of the Audiovisual Communications Laboratory and his colleagues have developed an algorithm that could become a valuable ally for investigators, criminal or otherwise, as long as a network is involved. The team’s research was published August 10, 2012, in the journal Physical Review Letters.

Finding the source of a Facebook rumor

“Using our method, we can find the source of all kinds of things circulating in a network just by ‘listening’ to a limited number of members of that network,” explains Pinto. Suppose you come across a rumor about yourself that has spread on Facebook and been sent to 500 people — your friends, or even friends of your friends. How do you find the person who started the rumor? “By looking at the messages received by just 15-20 of your friends, and taking into account the time factor, our algorithm can trace the path of that information back and find the source,” Pinto adds. This method can also be used to identify the origin of a spam message or a computer virus using only a limited number of sensors within the network.

Trace the propagation of an epidemic

Out in the real world, the algorithm can be employed to find the primary source of an infectious disease, such as cholera. “We tested our method with data on an epidemic in South Africa provided by EPFL professor Andrea Rinaldo’s Ecohydrology Laboratory,” says Pinto. “By modeling water networks, river networks, and human transport networks, we were able to find the spot where the first cases of infection appeared by monitoring only a small fraction of the villages.”

The method would also be useful in responding to terrorist attacks, such as the 1995 sarin gas attack in the Tokyo subway, in which poisonous gas released in the city’s subterranean tunnels killed 13 people and injured nearly 1,000 more. “Using this algorithm, it wouldn’t be necessary to equip every station with detectors. A sample would be sufficient to rapidly identify the origin of the attack, and action could be taken before it spreads too far,” says Pinto.

Identifying the brains behind a terrorist attack

Computer simulations of the telephone conversations that could have occurred during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, were used to test Pinto’s system. “By reconstructing the message exchange inside the 9/11 terrorist network extracted from publicly released news, our system spit out the names of three potential suspects — one of whom was found to be the mastermind of the attacks, according to the official enquiry.”

The validity of this method thus has been proven a posteriori. But according to Pinto, it could also be used preventatively — for example, to understand an outbreak before it gets out of control. “By carefully selecting points in the network to test, we could more rapidly detect the spread of an epidemic,” he points out. It could also be a valuable tool for advertisers who use viral marketing strategies by leveraging the Internet and social networks to reach customers. For example, this algorithm would allow them to identify the specific Internet blogs that are the most influential for their target audience and to understand how in these articles spread throughout the online community.

SINCE SEPTEMBER 11, 2001 . . . (SSRC)

10 years after september 11 – A SOCIAL SCIENCE RESEARCH COUNCIL ESSAY FORUM

By Veena Das

A decade of intense theorizing on the forms of violence and human degradation, on global connectivity, on demands that scholarship be done in “real time” . . . a sense of urgency . . . disciplines are aggressively asked to prove their relevance . . . a deep disquiet on the part of many radical scholars and public intellectuals that the American public is increasingly becoming complicit in projects of warfare. We ask, are our senses being so retrained now that we cannot see the suffering of others or hear their cries? We declare with anguish that whole populations are defined as nothing but targets for bombing . . . as those whose deaths do not count, and hence those dead literally need not be counted. There is a desperation to hone in on what is new—perhaps, some theorize, what we now have is “horror” and not “terror” . . . perhaps, say others, what is lost is not only meaning but any trust in what might count as real.

Despite repeated calls for invention of new vocabularies, my own sense is that we have yet to come to terms with the violence of the past and that we have allowed our scholarly terms to be defined in a manner that we are becoming trapped in, terms that are already given in the questions that we ask. After all, do we need to be reminded that the single-most important factor in the decline of the total number of wars since 1942 was the end of colonial wars? Or that in the 1990s the region in which the highest death toll occurred was sub-Saharan Africa, and that it was the indirect death through disease and malnutrition that contributed to the enormity of the violence? I use the collective first-person pronoun to include myself within this trap of not being quite able to define what the right questions should be.

Ten years ago, when I contributed a short reflection on September 11 to the SSRC’s forum, something of this disquiet I feel about the mode of theorizing was already present. I argued that in the political rhetoric that circulated right after September 11, with its talk of attacks on the values of civilization, the American nation was seen to embody universal values—hence the talk was not of many terrorisms with which several countries had lived for more than thirty years but of one grand terrorism, Islamic terrorism. If I am allowed to loop back to my words, I asked, “What could this mean except that while terrorist forms of warfare in other spaces in Africa, Asia, or the Middle East were against forms of particularism, the attack on America is seen as an attack on humanity itself?” Perhaps we should ask of ourselves now the permission to be released from the grip of this master trope of September 11 that organizes a whole discourse, both conservative and radical, in terms of terrorism as the gripping drama of our times. We might then ask, what other questions have been under discussion among different communities of scholars and how might debate be widened to take account of these discussions?

One point I might put forward as a candidate for discussion is how affect is invested in some terms that come to be the signifiers of the pressing problems of a particular decade but then are dropped as if their force has been exhausted by new discoveries. When these terms drop out of scholarly circulation, do they still have lives that are lived in other corners of the world or in the lives of individuals who continue to give them expression? Consider the history of the term “ethnic cleansing,” which came to signify and organize much discussion in the nineties as referring to the pathology of what was termed as ethno-nationalism. As is well known, the term emerged in the summer of 1992 during the tragic events of the dissolution of Yugoslavia and the emergence of new nation-states that were making claims for international recognition. Although the composite term “ethnic cleansing” came to be used only then, the idea of “cleaning” a territory by killing the local inhabitants and making it safe for military occupation was known in colonial wars as well as expressed extensively in Latin America with reference to undesirable groups, such as prostitutes, enemy collaborators, and the vagrant poor.

Norman Naimark has made the point that ethnic cleansing happens in the shadow of war. He cites the examples of the Greek expulsion as a result of the Greco-Turkish war, the intensification of ethnic cleansing when NATO bombing started in Kosovo in March 1999, and Stalin’s brutal dealings with the Chechen-Ingush and Crimean Tartars during the Second World War.1 A chilling aspect of ethnic cleansing is its totalistic character. As Naimark puts it:

The goal is to remove every member of the targeted nation; very few exceptions to ethnic cleansing are allowed. In premodern cases of assaults of one people on another, those attacked could give up, change sides, convert, pay tribute, or join the attackers. Ethnic cleansing, driven by the ideology of integral nationalism and the military and technological power of the modern state, rarely forgives, makes exceptions, or allows people to slip through the cracks.

Yet a concept that was said to be central to explaining major mass atrocities is now rarely encountered—except perhaps in international law discussions on the distinction between genocide and ethnic cleansing. Are the kinds of mass atrocities that have occurred since September 11 not amenable to discussion under any of the earlier terms? Do subjectivities shift so quickly? Are issues of intentionality as providing the criteria for distinguishing between genocide and ethnic cleansing already resolved? What is at stake in the fact that ethnic cleansing is a perpetrator’s term while genocide is a term that privileges the experience of the victims? What kind of footing in the world do enunciations made on behalf of all sides in conflicts that draw on such concepts as human rights and human dignity have?

While one can understand why the media might have moved on to other stories, have we as scholars come to terms with why some concepts disappear from our vocabularies so quickly? I want to suggest that a long-term perspective on how we come to speak of violence—the appearance and disappearance of different terms—provides a repertoire of concepts to be mined for understanding how representation of violence in the public sphere was closely tied up with the West’s self-definition that in turn defined the twists and turns in the social sciences. Ethnic cleansing in the nineties was widely understood as the violence of the other just as terrorism now is understood as the violence that the other perpetrates. September 11 and the subsequent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan then become events that need to be placed in the long history of warfare that has generated the concepts of social science—concepts that cannot be divested of their political plenitude even as we recognize that the technologies of war have changed considerably.

Are there other discussions on war that are not quite within the discursive fields that dominate the post–September 11 scenario and the notion of Islamic terrorism? I find it salutary to think that other theoretical discussions are taking place that are outside this frame of reference. For instance, the prolonged civil war in Sri Lanka, in which both Sinhala soldiers and Tamil militants engaged in killing, has led to discussions on the relation between Buddhism and violence and whether there are strains of Buddhism, especially within the Mahayana school, that make room for the exercise of violence. Interestingly, the issues here are not those of justifying warfare but rather of dealing with the anxieties about bad karma generated by the acts of violence.

A sustained analysis of what enabled such developments as samurai Zen, or soldier Zen, to appear in Japan or how it is that Buddhism could find a home within kingdoms as diverse as the Indians, the Mongols, the Chinese, and the Thai deepens our understanding of violence and nonviolence precisely because it has the potential to change the angle of our vision.2 Similar discussions from within other traditions, both religious and secular, would help to break the monopoly of concepts (biopolitics, state of exception, homo sacer) that are now routinely used to understand the world. This hope is not an expression of sheer nostalgia for non-Western concepts but a plea to cultivate some attentiveness to those discourses that are (or could be) part of the history of our disciplines. Scholarly discourse cannot simply mirror the ephemeral character of media stories—even when a particular kind of violence disappears, the institutions that were put in place for dealing with it continue to have lives of their own. The braiding of what is new and what is enduring might then define how we come to pose questions that are not simply corollaries of the common sense of our times.


Veena Das is Krieger-Eisenhower Professor of Anthropology and professor of humanities at the Johns Hopkins University. Her most recent books are Life and Words: Violence and the Descent into the Ordinaryand Sociology and Anthropology of Economic Life: The Moral Embedding of Economic Action (ed., with R. K. Das).

  1. Norman M. Naimark, Fires of Hatred: Ethnic Cleansing in Twentieth-Century Europe (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001).
  2. See Michael K. Jerryson and Mark Juergensmeyer, eds., Buddhist Warfare (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010).