Cutting through the bullshit.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Be it resolved

The other day, I learned that the American Historical Association had carried a ‘Resolution on United States Government Practices Inimical to the Values of the Historical Profession’, which urges its members

  1. To take a public stand as citizens on behalf of the values necessary to the practice of our profession; and
  2. To do whatever they can to bring the Iraq war to a speedy conclusion.’

It occurred to me, since ‘The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways’, to see what position the American Philosophical Association had taken on the war. I was delighted to discover that they ‘express our serious doubts about the morality, legality and prudence of a war against Iraq led by the United States.’

That was a bit of a surprise, so I thought I’d check what the handmaidens of colonialism were saying. It turned out that they carried quite a long motion last year that

  • …condemns the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq and urges the U.S. Congress and President George W. Bush to:
  • Immediately withdraw all U.S. military personnel, intelligence agents, and subcontrators from Iraq ; and
  • Cease all U.S. military operations and vacate all U.S. military bases in Iraq ; and
  • Make payments for the removal and cleanup of depleted uranium, unexploded cluster bombs, and other residual waste left from munitions; and
  • Prosecute all individuals who have committed war crimes against Iraqis; and
  • Fund the creation of a United Nations peacekeeping force to assume peacekeeping duties in Iraq.

Not only that, there was a separate resolution that ‘unequivocally condemns the use of anthropological knowledge as an element of physical and psychological torture; condemns the use of physical and psychological torture by U.S. Military and Intelligence personnel, subcontractors, and proxies’.

Furthermore, it calls on the U.S. Congress and President George W. Bush to:

  • Ban all interrogation techniques—including physical and psychological torture—that violate the broad universal humanitarian standard outlined in the U.N. Convention Against Torture; and
  • Repudiate any attempts by any U.S. Government official to substitute any definition of torture for that broad universal humanitarian standard; and
  • Repeal the 2006 U.S. Military Commissions Act; and
  • Terminate the “extraordinary rendition” program and halt the transfer of detainees to countries with a history of prisoner abuse and torture; and
  • Close all U.S. overseas prisons and release all prisoners being held without charge in U.S. prisons (including overseas prisons); and
  • Release the names of all prisoners being held in U.S. prisons (including all overseas prisons); and
  • Pay reparations to all victims who have suffered physical or psychological torture at the hands of U.S. Military and Intelligence personnel, subcontractors, and proxies; and
  • Prosecute all individuals—including current and former Bush administration officials—who have authorized or committed war crimes or who have violated laws prohibiting torture.

One of the resolutions’ movers, Roberto J. González, Associate Professor of Anthropology at San Jose State University, writes in an article in the Chronicle of higher education in January (subscription only, but available here)

Kanhong Lin, a graduate student at American University, and I crafted the resolution opposing torture and the use of anthropological knowledge as an element of torture that we brought to the anthropology association. At the group's annual business meeting, nearly 300 anthropologists - the largest number in years - packed the conference auditorium and unanimously adopted the resolution.

The resolution is being submitted to the full membership by mail ballot this spring. It is important that all our members, particularly those who were not at the business meeting, know what led up to the meeting's vote. It is important that scholars in other fields know, as well.

Furthermore, referring to the American Psychological Association’s long August 2006 resolution providing, among other things,

BE IT RESOLVED that regardless of their roles, psychologists shall not knowingly engage in, tolerate, direct, support, advise, or offer training in torture or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment

Gonzalez notes

At the anthropology conference, there was widespread discussion of whether the earlier resolution by psychologists - who condemned scholarly participation in torture, but not in all interrogations - had gone far enough. These are issues that scholars need to discuss widely.

And so they do. Somewhat alarmingly, I couldn’t find any reference to resolutions along these lines on the Australian Anthropological Society site.

While visiting the AAA site, I just happened to notice among those little items they have about what members are up to, recent accomplishments, ‘Dr Joe Bloggs was recently appointed to the Milton Friedman Chair of Voodoo Economics at the University of South Central Arkansas’ sort of thing, an intriguing piece of information that I’ll take up in another post.

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