Friday, October 12, 2007

Marshall Sahlins and more on Anthropologists go to war

Marshall Sahlins addresses the call for a more updated discussion on anthropologists and Iraq/Afghanistan in his letter to NYT. See the link below, which was forwarded to the e-anth listserve.

The incident he was talking about can be found here: U.S. Guards Kill 2 Iraqi Women in New Shooting - New York Times

(an open letter to the New York Times)

To the Editor:

The report (Oct.11) of the killing of two Iraqi women by hired guns of the State Department whose mission was “to improve local government and democratic institutions” bears an interesting relation to the story of a few days earlier about the collaboration of anthropologists in just such imperious interventions in other peoples’ existence in the interest of extending American power around the world. It seems only pathetic that some anthropologists would criticize their colleagues’ participation in such adventures on grounds of their own disciplinary self-interest, complaining that now they will not be able to do fieldwork because the local people will suspect them of being spies. What about the victims of these militarily-backed intrusions, designed to prescribe how others should organize their lives at the constant risk of losing them? What is as incredible as it is reprehensible is that anthropologists should be engaged in such projects of cultural domination, that is, as willing collaborators in the forceful imposition of American values and governmental forms on people who have long known how to maintain and cherish their own ways of life.

Of course, these collaborating anthropologists have the sense that they are doing good and being good. I am reminded of a cartoon I saw years ago, I think it was in the Saturday Review of Literature, which shows two hooded executioners leaning on their long-handled axes, and one says to the other: “The way I see it, if I didn’t do this, some sonovabitch would get the job.”

Marshall Sahlins


My last comment is this:

Let us again remind ourselves of the consequences of the Iraq war. Per Deborah White, as of September 23, 2007:

US SPENDING IN IRAQ- About $600 billion of US taxpayers' funds

  • Cost of deploying one U.S. soldier for one year in Iraq - $390,000 (Congressional Research Service)
  • Lost & Unaccounted for in Iraq - $9 billion of US taxpayers' money
  • per ABC News, 190,000 guns, including 110,000 AK-47 rifles.
  • Mismanaged & Wasted in Iraq - $10 billion, per Feb 2007 Congressional hearings
  • Number of major U.S. bases in Iraq - 75 (The Nation/New York Times)


  • Iraqi Troops Trained and Able to Function Independent of U.S. Forces - 6,000 as of May 2007 (per NBC's "Meet the Press" on May 20, 2007)
  • Troops in Iraq - Total 179,779, including 168,000 from the US, 5,00 from the UK, 1,200 from South Korea and 5,579 from all other nations
  • US Troop Casualities - 3,800 US troops; 98% male. 90% non-officers; 80% active duty, 12% National Guard; 74% Caucasian, 10% African-American, 11% Latino. 18% killed by non-hostile causes. 51% of US casualties were under 25 years old. 70% were from the US Army
  • Non-US Troop Casualties - Total 300, with 169 from the UK
  • US Troops Wounded - 27,936, 20% of which are serious brain or spinal injuries (total excludes psychological injuries)
  • US Troops with Serious Mental Health Problems 30% of US troops develop serious mental health problems within 3 to 4 months of returning home


  • Private Contractors in Iraq, Working in Support of US Army Troops - More than 180,000 in August 2007, per The Nation/LA Times.
  • Journalists killed - 112, 74 by murder and 38 by acts of war
  • Journalists killed by US Forces - 14
  • Iraqi Police and Soldiers Killed - 7,460
  • Iraqi Civilians Killed, Estimated - A UN issued report dated Sept 20, 2006 stating that Iraqi civilian casualties have been significantly under-reported. Casualties are reported at 50,000 to over 100,000, but may be much higher. Some informed estimates place Iraqi civilian casualties at over 600,000.
  • Iraqi Insurgents Killed, Roughly Estimated - 55,000
  • Non-Iraqi Contractors and Civilian Workers Killed - 539
  • Non-Iraqi Kidnapped - 305, including 54 killed, 147 released, 4 escaped, 6 rescued and 94 status unknown.
  • Daily Insurgent Attacks, Feb 2004 - 14
  • Daily Insurgent Attacks, July 2005 - 70
  • Daily Insurgent Attacks, May 2007 - 163
  • Estimated Insurgency Strength, Nov 2003 - 15,000
  • Estimated Insurgency Strength, Oct 2006 - 20,000 - 30,000
  • Estimated Insurgency Strength, June 2007 - 70,000


  • Iraqis Displaced Inside Iraq, by Iraq War, as of May 2007 - 2,135,000
  • Iraqi Refugees in Syria & Jordan - 1.3 million to 1.75 million
  • Iraqi Unemployment Rate - 27 to 60%, where curfew not in effect
  • Consumer Price Inflation in 2006 - 50%
  • Iraqi Children Suffering from Chronic Malnutrition - 28% in June 2007 (Per, July 30, 2007)
  • Percent of professionals who have left Iraq since 2003 - 40%
  • Iraqi Physicians Before 2003 Invasion - 34,000
  • Iraqi Physicians Who Have Left Iraq Since 2005 Invasion - 12,000
  • Iraqi Physicians Murdered Since 2003 Invasion - 2,000
  • Average Daily Hours Iraqi Homes Have Electricity - 1 to 2 hours, per Ryan Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq (Per Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2007)
  • Average Daily Hours Iraqi Homes Have Electricity - 10.9 in May 2007
  • Average Daily Hours Baghdad Homes Have Electricity - 5.6 in May 2007
  • Pre-War Daily Hours Baghdad Homes Have Electricity - 16 to 24
  • Number of Iraqi Homes Connected to Sewer Systems - 37%
  • Iraqis without access to adequate water supplies - 70% (Per, July 30, 2007)
  • Water Treatment Plants Rehabilitated - 22%

RESULTS OF POLL Taken in Iraq in August 2005 by the British Ministry of Defense (Source: Brookings Institute)

  • Iraqis "strongly opposed to presence of coalition troops - 82%
  • Iraqis who believe Coalition forces are responsible for any improvement in security - less than 1%
  • Iraqis who feel less secure because of the occupation - 67%
  • Iraqis who do not have confidence in multi-national forces - 72%

Other sources:

Iraq War Results & Statistics as of Sept 23, 2007,

Casualties in Iraq - 2007,

War with Iraq Sources

Iraq War Casualties - FCNL Issues

Brookings Institute’s Most Recent Iraq Index PDF

Anthropologists working for the military imply engagement with the military as an institution. The operative word is engagement. In this context, one end goal of the anthropologist should be to influence policy, vision, goals, and objectives of the institution. Are anthropologists really in a position to do so?

What aspect of the statistics shown above are they working on and hoping to achieve? What part of it includes studying culture, society, and humanity without compromising the interests of your subjects?

Are they really doing applied anthropology? Or are they using applied anthropology methods and perspectives in counter-insurgency operations? Someone noted to me that in a free country, anyone including anthropologists, can express their opinion and choose their employer. That is correct, but semantically, are they applied anthropologists or just counter-insurgency specialists or even- soldiers? Let us get our semantics right.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Another black mark on mining in the Philippines

Read When governance fails: Murder in the island - 10/05/07

This is about the October 3, 2007 murder of World Wildlife Fund community organizer and farm supervisor as well as Sibuyan, Romblon Municipal Councilor, Armin Marin during a confrontation between staff and security personnel of a mining consortium and environmentalists/mining oppositionists. Check out the YouTube tribute to him and sign on the online petition to ban mining in Sibuyan Island at:

Councilor Marin is the 23rd environmental activist to be killed in the Philippines since 2001 according to Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE).

There are some revealing information on the web. Among the interesting ones are the following:

1. The mining rights have been sold to one corporation after another, mostly foreign. Nothing irregular here, except that the current mining rights or lease holder has already paid a premium and will definitely want a good ROI. Note also that some of these mining companies are publicly listed so they have to produce a profit for their shareholders, no matter what. See the following blogs written by Romblon locals:

Sibuyan Aton Manggad

2. The ECC was for small scale mining. The permit to cut trees indicate massive tree cutting and site development. See

The ECC should have been for large scale mining not small scale mining. They used the loopholes in the Small Scale Mining Act to apply for several but contiguous small scale mining projects. In reality this makes it large scale mining.

3. This mess wouldn't have happened if Filipinos themselves were more ethical. Money has tainted the mining technical staff, environmental consultants, mining corporations, LGU officials, etc. Some web links indicate that an ex-Mines Bureau top official was an officer of one of the mining firms. Some of the most prominent geologists and businessmen in the country were mining leaseholders. Provincial and LGU officials welcomed and endorsed the mining companies. Poverty is also forcing residents into illegal logging.

See this blog for the interview of the Romblon Congressman and the comments thereafter:


Here's a partial list of proposed mining projects in the country:


Here are some of the websites of the mining companies:

Altai Resources Inc.- Relationship of Altai & APMC, Philippines

Pelican Resources Limited

Theoretically, there is good mining and bad mining. Good mining operations develop the local economy, assist social development, contribute to national industrialization, develop infrastructure, promote technology and skills transfer, etc. UP's Dr. Teddy Santos suggested that the Philippines, in opening up the country to mining, should ensure that mining leads to national development and not to further environmental destruction and impoverishment.

Does good mining exist in the country? Rio Tuba comes to mind. I wouldn't call them saints, but maybe the presence of 3,000 Muslim rebel returnees in one of the barangays of Bataraza, the suspicion that Bataraza is an R n R area of Muslim revolutionaries and possibly Abu Sayyaf, the presence of vulnerable foreign technical staff there, the fact that the mining law requires them to spend over P100 million on social development projects (1% of direct mining and milling costs), the strict provisions of the Palawan Strategic Environmental Plan, the presence of active environmental NGOs, and a more assertive LGU leaves them no choice but to implement environmental and social development programs.

Only time will tell if good mining is possible in the Philippines. It seems to be off to a bad start though.

ABC/ Desperate Housewives' slur on Filipino medical education

(See for a backgrounder on this.)

I agree with Tony Abaya's post below, but the cultural wars here in the U.S. have made each ethnic group more politically sensitive and ready to defend their rights. I posit that the neoconservatives attacks on "illegals" and "illegal immigration" to detract from the Iraq debacle and economic impacts of NAFTA have triggered defensive stances from ethnic groups. Am-Fils and other other Asian Americans will not, in this day and age, accept or tolerate widespread and institutionalized discrimination again (such as the attacks on Filipino labor in the U.S., the Japanese-American WWII internment camps, the Chinese exclusion act, the almost 300 racial attacks after Sept. 11, etc.). Asian Americans and Hispanics are organizing themselves. There have been many protests and campaigns launched against racist media personalities. The Asian Media Watch and the Asian American Journalists Association are organizations that monitor ethnic slurs in media. They have good track records. Let us also not forget the ongoing suffering of Dr. Chua. See:

Good Men Deserve To Have Their Day In Court: Dr. Noel Chua's Case

The other point is that Am-Fils and Filipinos are increasingly spending a lot of time online. Their presence and membership in online communities can only but increase over time. This is a phenomenon that should be noted and studied. With their talent and available online time and their how they are connecting with one another, their online presence will be something to contend with in the future. The Malu Fernandez saga, the online petition and the e-bombardment of are clear examples.

Third, we need to encourage more Filipinos and Am-Fils to be more aggressive in defending their rights as an ETHNIC COMMUNITY. Meekness in this day and age, especially when other groups, are pushing their agendas to our detriment, can be disastrous. This is a good exercise in demanding governance, which can and should be replicated in the Philippines.

Lastly, if we consider Filipino doctors/ medicine as a brand, the DH slur has economic and professional implications. As Rodel Rodis noted, the Philippines is promoting itself as a medical tourism destination. The slur undermines this global effort. ABC and its Marc Cherry should not get off lightly with an apology and an offer to "explore" ways in which Filipinos can enter show business. Let some economists and lawyers calculate the damage in dollar and lost opportunities terms. That should be the starting point of negotiations. Let us be prepared when we meet with ABC.

Yes, we have the Recto diploma mills, the nursing scandal, and the occasional grumpy/lazy medical person, but that is nothing compared to the tens of thousands of competent, dedicated, and nurturing Filipino doctors, nurses, and medical technical staff all over the world.


Antonio Abaya wrote:

Our Image

By Antonio C. Abaya

Written on Oct. 15, 2007

For the Standard Today,

October 16 issue

A country’s image abroad is created by a combination of fortuitous events and how its people react to those events, and deliberate efforts to enhance or destroy an image that has been created.

In the past 20 years or so, the most positive image that the Philippines and the Filipinos have projected of themselves abroad was the People Power of February 1986, in which hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians stared down the tanks and machineguns of a two-bit dictator for four magnificent days AND WON.

It was a watershed event in modern world history and contributed immensely to the triumphs of other unarmed peoples around the world in their confrontations with their tormentors, principally the largely peaceful collapse of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989, the dismantling of apartheid in South Africa in 1991, and the implosion later that year of the ‘evil empire’ that was the Soviet Union.

In 1986, Filipinos basked in the adulation of the rest of the world. We were proud to be Filipinos and we held our heads up high as we have never done before, or since. Those of us who were privy to the information were confident that our beloved Cory Aquino was on her way to being formally recognized by the world community with the most sought-after honor on the planet, for which she had been nominated..

But a funny thing happened on the way to the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988. Mrs. Aquino freed from detention the communist leader Jose Ma. Sison in 1987, over the objections of the military who had spent countless lives and treasure in hunting him down.

Mrs. Aquino no doubt followed her Pollyanna-ish gut instinct that if she were nice to Joma and his communists, they would in turn be nice to her and wind down their Maoist revolution.

Nothing like that, of course, happened. Joma showed his gratitude by going into exile in Europe and, from his base in Utrecht (Holland), waging a campaign among Europe’s generally leftist media to depict Cory in the most despicable terms as a human rights violator and, being the most visible part-owner of Hacienda Luisita, a holdover of feudalism.

It was a formidable demolition job and not all the novenas and supplications on bended knees of her Prayer Brigade saved the day for Cory, and she lost out to some relative unknown in Costa Rica.

The point of all this is to demonstrate that we Filipinos are our own worst enemies. We have a bad image because our political leaders, from Marcos to the present, have given us so few pluses to be proud of, and so many minuses to be ashamed of.

After the highs of People Power in 1986, it was downhill all the way. Consider the images that we have projected since then: Imelda’s 3,000 pairs of shoes; 30-push-ups punishment for coup leaders in December 1986; Gringo’s coup attempts against Cory in 1987 and 1989; Smokey Mountain as an iconic image of the country; ten-hour daily power outages in 1991-1992; massive electoral cheating in 1992, 1995, 2004 and 2007; a criminally inclined ignoramus as president; the only country with two (Marcos and Erap) “most corrupt leaders’ in the Guinness Book of World Records; cheating over age-limits in the Little League softball championship in the US; the ‘Hello Garci’ tapes in 2005; Joc Joc Bolante in 2006; cheating in the nurses’ exams in 2006; “most corrupt country in Asia” in 2007; the ZTE scandal in 2007; etc.. Is there no end to our humiliation?

It is in this context that I bring up the battering that our image has suffered in American pop culture in recent days.

While I agree with the 85,000 Fil-Ams and Filipinos who signed an internet protest demanding an apology from ABC for the slur against Philippine med schools that one of the characters in ‘Desperate Housewives’ uttered in one episode, I am surprised at the vehemence of the protest.

Only three or four years ago, two American radio jockeys - one of them Howard Stearn, I do not recall the other’s name – broadcast some really vicious and nasty remarks against Filipinos: Filipinos are good-for-nothings, unlike the Japanese, the Koreans and the Chinese, whom Filipinos try to pass themselves off as their ‘fellow Asians.’. Or many, many more words to that effect. Compared to which, a snide one-liner about our med school seems petty. Yet there was no massive internet outcry against it. Was it because it was ‘only’ on radio, not on primetime TV?

Not having watched a single episode of ‘Desperate Housewives,’ I cannot vouch for the counter-argument that the show has also made digs at Chinese, Jews, Blacks and other minorities. As if two Wongs can make a White. If this is so, then mainstream US TV may be rebelling against the prissy cult of political correctness, a trend long noticeable in the routines of stand-up American comedians outside primetime TV.

I have a sneaking suspicion that that snide remark was inserted by a Filipino or a Fil-Am writer or researcher in the producer’s staff. Implicit in that remark was some familiarity with our very own University of Recto, where one can buy a diploma for any degree. Most Americans would not know that. Most Filipinos and many Fil-Ams would.

As for scrawling the word “Slut!” on Cory Aquino’s portrait, this was unforgivable, not only because it was offensive, but also because it was not funny at all. I do watch John Stewart and ‘The Daily Show.’ And I do enjoy the clowning and ribbing against George W, Uncle Dick and the other neo-cons. But sometimes, the humor is flat, forced and not worth a fiddler’s fart. This was one such case.

In the context of the episode – Is America Ready for a Woman President? - Jon Stewart seems to be saying that it is not, and does so by mocking three women leaders: Golda Meir, Margaret Thatcher and Cory Aquino.

Scrawling ‘Slut’ on Cory’s portrait is the comedic equivalent of scrawling ‘Genius!’ on George W’s portrait, to emphasize the opposite of the word as it applies to the subject. Using the word ‘Slut’ on Cory Aquino, however, reveals a poverty of comedic imagination, and the writer should be sacked for his failure to be funny at all. *****

Reactions to or Other articles in and in

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Anthropologists go to war

Recent news reports relayed the experience and perspective of anthropologists working with U.S. forces in Afghanistan. This has sparked several debates in many anthropological online communities. The debates are interesting and lively.

A point of clarification though is the use of the term WAR. Do the terms 'war in Iraq'. 'Iraq at war', or even 'anthropologists at war' presuppose that there is war in Iraq? (I'm talking about Iraq primarily and not Afghanistan).

Isn't it more of an occupation by a few countries, primarily by one country, of Iraq? One anthropological perspective of war is that it is a "top-down" process initiated by national leaders based on ideology and/or vested interests/agendas. These leaders also continually attempt to justify or rationalize the reasons for war/invasion.

As you all know, if you look at the rationale for invading Iraq, agreeing or disagreeing with it influences how you think the role of anthropologists should be. This is the moral perspective.

Historically, the role of anthropologists working with governments in times of conflict, particulary the U.S. government or military (Southeast Asia) or the British colonial authorities, has been critized for its moral contradictions, contributions to furthering imperialist (anthropology, the handmaiden of colonialism), geopolitical, and even now neoconservative agendas, and further oppression of indigenous populations.

Now you can criticize me for being too general and you can cite individual contributions or local instances of good works by embedded anthropologists.

Fine, but we go back to the primary question:

If there was no war, invasion, or occupation, would there be a need for anthropologists embedded in the military?

Anthropologists working for the military imply engagement with the military as an institution. The operative word is engagement. The end goal of the anthropologist should be to influence policy, vision, goals, objectives of the institution. Are anthropologist really in a position to do so?

On the other hand, if you are for the war/occupation, say so, and go help the military and accept the consequences of your actions.

If you are against the war/occupation, then your work as an anthropologist should be towards ending it, not rationalizing or making warfare "more human" or even anthropologizing the military. A more human war is an oxymoron term.

My last point is this. As some of my cohort/batchmates like to remind one another, these are historical times. Prior to the Nov. 2006 U.S. Congressional elections when Democrats regained Congress, there were several instances when anthropologists among many other disciplines should have stood up and spoken against the Iraq invasion, the attacks on scientific integrity, the cooptation of regulatory agencies, the increased social exclusion and income inequality, the distortions of the immigration issue, Katrina, even the 2004 AAA fiasco, etc. Many did speak up and acted, but many more did not. The silence was deafening.

By 2008, there will probably be a Democrat President and it will be easier to speak up against what is morally wrong. But don't you think it was better to have spoken during the 'dark' times rather than when it is safe to do so?


From the Network of Concerned Anthropologists

Roberto J. González (2007). "We Must Fight the Militarization of Anthropology." Chronicle of Higher Education, February 2. (Download at gonzalez-militarization.doc.)

Sharon Weinberger (2007). "When Anthropologists Go To War (Against the Military)." Danger Room-Wired Blog, September 19. (Access at

Scott Peterson (2007). "US Army's Strategy in Afghanistan: Better Anthropology." Christian Science Monitor, September 7. (Access at

Roberto J. González and David H. Price (2007). "When Anthropologists Become Counter-Insurgents." CounterPunch, September 28. (Access at

Hugh Gusterson and David Price (2005). "Spies in Our Midst." Anthropology News, September. (Access at

Roberto J. González (2007). "Towards Mercenary Anthropology? US Counterinsurgency Field Manual 3-24 and the Military-Anthropology Complex." (Access at

Kilcullen, David (2007). "Ethics, Politics, and Non-State Warfare: A Response to González." Anthropology Today vol. 23, no. 3. (Access at

McFate, Montgomery (2007). "Building Bridges or Burning Heretics_

David Glenn (2007). "Petitioners Urge Anthropologists to Stop Working with Pentagon in Iraq War." Chronicle of Higher Education News Blog, September 19. (Access here )

Boas, Franz (1919). "Scientists as Spies." The Nation, October 16. Reprinted in Roberto J. González, ed. (2004) Anthropologists in the Public Sphere, pp. 23-25 . Austin: University of Texas Press. (Access here)

David H. Price (2004). "'Like Slaves': Anthropological Notes on Occupation." CounterPunch, January 6. (Access at

David H. Price (2002). "Present Dangers, Past Wars, Future Anthropologies." Anthropology Today 18(1). (Access at

David H. Price (2007). "Anthropology and the Wages of Secrecy." Anthropology News, March. (Access at

David H. Price (2002). "Lessons from Second World War Anthropology: Peripheral, Persuasive, and Ignored Contributions." Anthropology Today 18(3). (Access at

David H. Price (2007). "Buying a Piece of Anthropology, Part I: Human Ecology and Unwitting Anthropological Research for the CIA." Anthropology Today, vol. 23, no. 3. Access at

David H. Price (2007). "Buying a Piece of Anthropology, Part II: The CIA and Our Tortured Past." Anthropology Today, vol. 23, no. 5. (Access at

Roberto J. González (2007). "Patai and Abu Ghraib." Anthropology Today, vol. 23, no. 5 (Access at

Scott Canon (2007). "Anthropologists Debate Ethics of Working on War Effort." Kansas City Star, September 30. (Access at

David Rohde (2007). "Army Enlists Anthropologists in War Zones." New York Times, p. A1. Access here