war/military

NPR recently featured a story on Kevin Michael Connolly. Connolly is an athlete, adventurer, author, and photographer who was born without legs.

In his memoir, Double Take, he talks about travel. People around the world, he explains, tend to stare.  And, with his camera, he stared back.

Curiosity, it appears, is very human. But people in different places tend to speculate differently as to the source of his lost legs and that, he discovered, is quite culturally specific.

In Sarajevo, people tended to think that he’d lost his legs in mines during the Balkan conflicts.  In New Zealand he overheard a child asking his mother if he’d been attacked by a shark.  In Montana, he was asked if he still wore his dog tags from Iraq.

I broke my leg five weeks ago and, for what it’s worth (not much really), my experience, also, is that people speculate based on their own experiences and their relationship to you.  An avid lindy hopper (12 years now… well, not now exactly, but again real soon), many of my dance friends immediately inquire as to whether I broke my leg dancing.  My raunchy friend, Fancy, asked if I broke it “doin’ it.”  The second most common guess is that I broke it stepping off a curb.  It turns out lots of people do that.  Who knew!

For more, see Connolly’s website or listen to the NPR Radio Story.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

I’ve written previously about the portrayal of women in the military — in particular, the U.S. Navy’s attempts to redefine femininity to make the Navy more appealing to women by assuring them they can be strong, smart, and still go shopping and stuff. In another example, a number of former female Israeli Defense Force soldiers posed for Maxim magazine back in 2007. The first line of the article:

They’re drop-dead gorgeous and can take apart an Uzi in seconds. Are the women of the Israeli Defense Forces the world’s sexiest soldiers?

I’m putting the images after the jump because they’re potentially not safe for some workplaces — the women aren’t nude, but they are quite scantily clad.

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Henry H. sent in a link to an interactive map at the Guardian based on the recently leaked collection of over 92,000 records about the war in Afghanistan. The map shows the location of incidents in the reports broken down by category: accident, Afghan friendly fire, Coalition friendly fire, civilian casualties, demonstration/unrest, and other:

You can hide any of the categories you want to get a better picture of only some of them, and if you roll over a dot it will give you a brief summary with a link to the full report about it. Here’s the map with everything hidden except civilian casualties and the summary of one incident:

You can also see the locations of all IED attacks that occurred on any day between January 1st, 2004 and January 1st, 2010. The size indicates the number of people killed and the color tells you the category of most of the casualties (civilians, Afghan forces, etc.). Here’s the map from January 6th, 2004 (the light green indicates that an IED was planted but that it was found and defused without any casualties):

Compare to the map for August 24, 2009, which shows that the incidence of attempted IED attacks has gone up significantly, though most of them that day were discovered before they harmed anyone:

I can think of a possible explanation for the increase in the use of IEDs over time. One could be that their use diffused from other war zones, particularly Iraq, and were increasingly adopted as a technique in Afghanistan; perhaps Afghans opposed to the Coalition weren’t familiar with IEDs in the early years of the invasion and they were therefore relatively infrequent. The other, which doesn’t exclude the first, is that it indicates an increase in resistance to the Coalition forces and their Afghan allies over time.

The increase in the number of IEDs that are discovered and defused before they go off would seem to show how groups adapt to forms of warfare; presumably the Coalition forces have become more aware of the danger of IEDs and thus look out for them more and are more skilled at clearing them.

I might be totally wrong on both counts, so if you have other thoughts, please share them.

More data on IED attacks over time, including civilians wounded:

It’s a fascinating resource for information on the war. I think it’s really interesting as an illustration of the rationalization and bureaucratization of warfare by the U.S. military: that is, events are carefully categorized and described, and military leaders have an enormous amount of data them. While individual soldiers may very well experience war as chaotic or disorganized, those overseeing it have a wealth of information that methodically distills that chaos and disorganization into statistics associated with particular events whose location is clearly identified.

The Washington Post recently posted a report called Top Secret America that looks at the proliferation of government organizations (many related to intelligence gathering) that require top-secret clearance and are largely unknown by the public and even many officials. Not surprisingly, the largest concentration is outside Washington, D.C.:

All of these places exist just outside Washington in what amounts to the capital of an alternative geography of the United States, one defined by the concentration of top-secret government organizations and the companies that do work for them. This Fort Meade cluster is the largest of a dozen such clusters across the United States that are the nerve centers of Top Secret America and its 854,000 workers.

Debate about the role of intelligence in protecting the country occurs only when something goes wrong and the government investigates, or when an unauthorized disclosure of classified information turns into news.

The existence of these clusters is so little known that most people don’t realize when they’re nearing the epicenter of Fort Meade’s, even when the GPS on their car dashboard suddenly begins giving incorrect directions, trapping the driver in a series of U-turns, because the government is jamming all nearby signals.

The site has an interactive map where you can see the locations of government (red) and associated private company (blue) locations:

You can also look at networks between agencies and companies working on different programs. Here’s some info on top-secret weapons development:

Types of work the CIA does:

There’s a database where you can look up contracted companies for each program or type of work, including location, who they work with, annual revenues, and more.

According to the editor, they spent two years on the investigation and each location is corroborated by at least two public records. They also talked to government officials about security concerns:

Because of the nature of this project, we allowed government officials to see the Web site several months ago and asked them to tell us of any specific concerns. They offered none at that time. As the project evolved, we shared the Web site’s revised capabilities. Again, we asked for specific concerns. One government body objected to certain data points on the site and explained why; we removed those items. Another agency objected that the entire Web site could pose a national security risk but declined to offer specific comments.

We made other public safety judgments about how much information to show on the Web site. For instance, we used the addresses of company headquarters buildings, information which, in most cases, is available on companies’ own Web sites, but we limited the degree to which readers can use the zoom function on maps to pinpoint those or other locations.

I would think there would be ultra-super-mega top-secret locations that their investigation couldn’t uncover because there wouldn’t be public records about them.

Crossposted at Jezebel.

Courtesy of Talking Points Memo (via Comics with Problems), I have for you a link to the entire graphic novel (comic book? I’m not sure what to call this thing) Dignity & Respect: A Training Guide on Homosexual Conduct Policy. Here’s the cover:

If the cover hasn’t clued you in yet, this is a book meant to educate soldiers about the U.S. Army’s 1993 Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy (which applies to other branches of the military as well). It covers what the policy means, what to do if you have “credible evidence” that someone is engaging in homosexual activities (being gay is ok, you just can’t do anything), the Army’s anti-harassment policy (you know, you can turn someone in for being gay and ruin their military career, but you can’t be rude), and provides scenarios of situations that might occur and how a soldier should react.

Among other things you can learn that it’s not ok to imply a male soldier would go on a date with another man, but apparently it’s ok to say that no man on earth would ever go out with a female soldier in your unit:

I’m not going to put up every page here, since you can easily get them all at the links above, but it’s worth at least skimming. It’s…something. I cannot imagine that any soldier, even ones who cared about the issue a lot one way or the other, took this book seriously.

I will give them credit, though: the characters are extremely diverse in terms of race/ethnicity and gender.

Dimitriy T.M. and Keith Marszalek sent in a video by Isao Hashimoto, posted at Wired. The video, titled 1945-1998, shows the location of all known nuclear tests during that period, as well as the nation conducting the tests. It starts off slowly (with the U.S. test during World War II and the two bombs dropped on Japan), and the U.S. has a monopoly on nuclear weapons for several years. By the early 1950s the number of tests starts to increase and the U.K. and Soviet Union start testing. By the late 1’50s and through the ’80s, the flashes indicating tests (with different sound effects to indicate different nation) are pretty much constant, and then drop off quite a lot by the ’90s.

The Wired article points out that there have been two more nuclear tests since 1998 (when the video ends), both by North Korea.

I found this graph over at the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty Organization website:

Broken down by type of test; since 1963 almost all testing has been underground:

They also have an interactive map that includes information such as who has signed the test-ban treaty, where tests have occurred, and locations of facilities under the international monitoring system. Here’s a map showing the status of the test-ban treaty; green nations have ratified it, light blue ones have signed but not ratified it, and red ones haven’t signed it (sorry I couldn’t quite fit the whole map on my screen at once, so the screenshot cuts off some areas):

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

Talking Points Memo posted a campaign ad for Rick Barber, a Tea Party-aligned Republican running for Congress in Alabama. In the ad, Barber first speaks briefly to George Washington about taxes. Then he turns to Abe Lincoln and makes a comparison between funding social services and slavery. The screen then flashes photographs of slaves, prisoners in Communist work camps, and Nazi concentration camps…because paying taxes and those historical events are all basically the same, you know:

Aside from the trivialization of some of the most horrendously cruel acts against humans in modern history, it’s rather ironic that Barber says, “We shed a lot of blood in the past to stop that, didn’t we?” I understand there were many conflicting allegiances in both the North and the South during the Civil War; I have ancestors who owned slaves and sided with the Confederacy and others who fought for the Union. You certainly can’t paint all Southerners with a broad brush. However, it still seems odd to have a guy running for office in a state that seceded from the nation, whose platform emphasizes opposition to social programs that disproportionately help non-Whites (that is, Whites are the majority of recipients, but non-Whites are represented at rates higher than their proportions in the U.S. population as a whole), co-opting the anti-slavery position, which certainly wasn’t a mainstream attitude among Southern conservatives at the time. [Note: I am not implying that opposing social programs is the same as slavery, but only that because the discourse around opposition to them is so often racialized — think the “welfare queen” stereotype — that it makes a jarring companion to associations with ending slavery.]

In another re-writing of history, the ad ignores the following (from the TPM post):

…Lincoln was a lifelong champion of the traditional Whig policies of “internal improvements” — that is levying taxes, usually through tariffs, to fund infrastructure projects throughout the country, and incorporating the principle of central banking. In addition to prosecuting the Civil War, Lincoln’s administration put all of those policies into effect, as his Republican Party’s political coalition was built upon the foundation of the northern Whigs.

Also, Lincoln was president when Congress passed the first income tax, implemented to raise money for the Civil War (U.S. Treasury):

When the Civil War erupted, the Congress passed the Revenue Act of 1861, which restored earlier excises taxes and imposed a tax on personal incomes. The income tax was levied at 3 percent on all incomes higher than $800 a year.

Here’s a letter from the Treasury Secretary to President Lincoln recommending someone for the new position of Commissioner of Internal Revenue (Library of Congress):

It’s a great example of the re-writing of, or ignoring huge parts of, history (which certainly both Democrats and Republicans do) to suit current political positions. Lincoln is useful as a symbol, not as a complex figure whose policy positions (including ambivalence about ending slavery) actually matter.

Related posts: MTV PSAs reference Holocaust, PETA’s Holocaust on Your Plate ads, romanticizing picking cotton, different ways of remembering national tragedies, Mammie souvenirs, Black women tend to White women, and the corporate plantation.

Dmitriy T.M. and Andrew L. sent a link to a collection of post-World War I men’s magazine covers. They are a window into a time when being a man was clearly a very distinct achievement, but much less related to consumption than it is today.

Today’s men’s magazines emphasize control over oneself and the conquest of women, as do these vintage magazines, but instead of tests of strength, cunning, and fighting ability, they emphasize conquest through consumption. The message is to consume the right exercise, the right products (usually hygiene or tech-related), the right advice on picking up women and, well, the right women. In contrast, these old magazines pit man against nature or other men; consumption has not yet colonized the idea of masculinity.

View a selection of the covers at The Art of Manliness.

Lisa Wade, PhD is a professor at Occidental College. She is the author of American Hookup, a book about college sexual culture, and a textbook about gender. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.