Archive | January, 2010

Soldiers Are Being Forced to Choose Between Their Children And the Military, And They’re Paying the Price In Jailtime

In January, U.S. Army officials announced four separate court-martial charges against Specialist Alexis Hutchinson, a single mother who missed her deployment to Afghanistan in early November 2009 when her childcare plans for her infant son, Kamani, fell through at the last minute. Hutchinson was jailed and threatened with a court-martial if she did not agree to deploy to Afghanistan. Kamani was placed into a county foster care system.

Hutchinson, in accordance with the family care plan of the U.S. Army, had been allowed to fly to Oakland, California to leave her son with her mother, Angelique Hughes. However, after a week, Hughes realized she couldn’t care for Kamani along with her other duties of caring for a daughter with special needs, her ailing mother, and an ailing sister. She told Hutchinson and her commander, Captain Gassant and the Army granted a Hutchinson an extension so that she could find someone else to care for Kamani. In the meantime, the boy came back to Georgia to be with his mother.

But only a few days before Hutchinson’s original deployment date, she was told by the Army she would not get the time extension after all, and would have to deploy despite the fact that her son had nowhere to go. Faced with this choice, Specialist Hutchinson chose not to show up for her plane to Afghanistan. The military arrested her and placed her child in the county foster care system. Continue Reading →

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When Scholars Join the Slaughter

(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: The U.S. Army, Hayley Austin)

(Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: The U.S. Army, Hayley Austin)

A core tenet of the Obama administration’s plans for “victory” in Iraq and Afghanistan is an increased reliance on counterinsurgency.

As previously reported on this web site, the US military has sent shock troops – anthropologists, sociologists and social psychologists – with their own troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, who also donned helmets and flak jackets. By the end of 2007, American scholars in these fields were embedding with the military in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of a Pentagon program called Human Terrain System (HTS), which evolved shortly thereafter into a $40 million program that embedded four or five person groups of scholars in the aforementioned fields in all 26 US combat brigades that were busily occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. The program is currently comprised of approximately 400 employees, and is actively seeking new recruits.

Anthropology, in particular, has been referred to throughout history as the “handmaiden of colonialism,” thus putting anthropologists, at least those with a moral conscience, on guard against anything that smells like exploitation or oppression of their subjects. Roberto Gonzalez, an associate professor of anthropology at San Jose State University and a leading member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, told Time magazine that the militarization of anthropology will cause the field to become “just another weapon … not a tool for building bridges between peoples.” Anthropology has core professional ethics standards that require voluntary, informed consent from subjects, and that anthropologists do no harm. How likely do you think these will be adhered to by the flack-jacket-wearing, gun-toting, embedded anthropologists working directly with regimental combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan?”

The two highest ethical principles of anthropology are protection of the interests of studied populations and their safety. All anthropological studies consequently are premised on the consent of the subject society. Clearly, the HTS anthropologists have thrown these ethical guidelines out the window. They are to anthropology what state stenographers like Judith Miller and John Burns are to journalism. Continue Reading →

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Iraq Political Fissures Widen as March Vote Nears

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. (Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Staff Sgt. Jessica J. Wilkes, lepiaf.geo)

Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. (Image: Lance Page / t r u t h o u t; Adapted: Staff Sgt. Jessica J. Wilkes, lepiaf.geo)

With all attention on Afghanistan as violence and US troop commitment there surges, the occupation in Iraq has received less attention in recent months than it has since the invasion of Iraq took place in March 2003.

However, national elections in Iraq, originally scheduled to take place this month, but postponed until March 7, rather than possibly bringing greater stability to war-torn Iraq, now threaten to reignite a powder keg of political tensions that has been simmering for years.

Last week, the Shiite-sectarian political power brokers in Baghdad, led by US-appointed Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, used the so-called Iraq Accountability and Justice Commission (AJC), (a remnant group of the former De-Baathification Commission set up by L. Paul Bremer, the US czar of Iraq during the first year of the occupation and led by Ahmed Chalabi), on January 7 to ban at least 14 largely Sunni political parties and political figures from the upcoming vote due to supposed links to the Baath Party, which has long since been banned in Iraq.

The AJC claims that its decision was based on new “evidence” showing connections between the 14 groups and the Baath Party, but has thus far failed to produce any said evidence.

On January 5, the Saudi-owned London-based daily newspaper Al-Hayat wrote of this: “The independent Iraqi Election Commission has revealed that it has received an interpretation from the Iraqi Supreme Federal Court in regard to the seventh article of the constitution, which prohibits Ba’thist participation in all elections and also the participation of any Ba’th allies or supporters in any political activity. It is important to note that this decision could lead to the exclusion of fourteen political parties and groups from the electoral process.”

The commission’s president Faraj al-Haydari was quoted in that regard by Al-Hayat as saying: “We have received the Federal Court’s interpretation regarding some political entities which were first included in the electoral process but will be excluded from the process altogether in light of this recent court decision. The Federal Court considered that any politician or party involved in terrorist activities, or enjoying Ba’thist ideas, must be excluded. This decision considers that, based on Article 7 of the constitution, these people should be excluded from any political participation and from public life.” Continue Reading →

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Army Files Charges Against Single Mother

Army Spc. Alexis Hutchinson with son Kamani Hutchinson. (Photo: Alexis Hutchinson / Oakland Tribune)

Army Spc. Alexis Hutchinson with son Kamani Hutchinson. (Photo: Alexis Hutchinson / Oakland Tribune)

The Army has filed charges for a special court-martial against Spc. Alexis Hutchinson, a single mother of a one-year-old baby. Hutchinson missed her deployment to Afghanistan late last year when her child-care plans for her son, Kamani, fell through at the last minute.

Hutchinson and her attorneys had been working with the Army in good faith to resolve her situation administratively, rather than through the criminal process, and still hoped that would have been the most fair and compassionate way for the Army to deal with the difficult situation.

Maj. Daniel Gallagher is the rear detachment commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, and is, according to Hutchinson’s civilian attorney Rai Sue Sussman, “the one who signed the charges [against Hutchinson].”

“I am disappointed in Major Daniel Gallagher’s decision to go ahead with filing charges, which shows a lack of compassion for this young mother and her infant son, and a lack of discretion in dealing with the situation fairly,” Sussman wrote in a press release issued on Thursday. “The situation tends to show that the Army is not able to effectively and humanely counsel Army families in this situation. An infant and his mother were forcibly separated, when other options were available to the commander. This was a failure of her chain of command to properly counsel her, given her situation. On top of all this, criminal charges seem unnecessary.”

Sussman explained that the Army claims to have offered to counsel Hutchinson with other options, but said she “can’t imagine that they gave an offer beyond foster care – but they were unspecific in their press release [released Thursday] about what that child care would be.”

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