Archive for the ‘Marines’ Category

Anthropologists in Afghanistan

April 11, 2010

Anthropologists in Afghanistan

The U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS) program surfaced on Bob Edwards’ radio program this weekend. The HTS sends anthropologists to Afghanistan in order to minimize cultural misunderstandings between the U.S. military and Afghanis. Three social scientists have died in the effort.

While it sounds noble and straightforward, the program is controversial within academia for ethical reasons, and questions have been raised concerning the capabilities of the HTS leadership. 

The Marines also utilize HTS scientists, and there is a film about the program.  Vanessa M. Gezari  reported on the Human Terrain System last summer (more here).


Image by Mike Licht.

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not boring or obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

Veteran’s Day 2009

November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day 2009

This is Veterans Day in the United States. It was once called Armistice Day, marking the time the guns stopped in The Great War, at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. When that failed to be The War to End All Wars, the observance was renamed Veterans Day in 1954.

This year the holiday is marked by the launch of a new web site for vets, Today’s G.I. Bill, a guide to education benefits for post-9/11 veterans that is more user-friendly than the Department of Veterans Affairs or active-duty military sites. The project is supported by the Lumina Foundation and the American Council on Education.

While implementation of the education benefit is not without problems, it has been more successful than other vet programs. 131,000 U.S. veterans will be homeless tonight. 5.5 million vets are living with a disability. Up to 35% of Iraq veterans experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). You can help. Look here to find out how.


Hat tip: Inside Higher Ed

Hear and read the stories of veterans in their own words at the website of Veterans History Project of the American Folklife Center.

Image: Lumina Foundation.

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

Memorial Day 2009

May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

Today is Memorial Day in the United States, a holiday once known as Decoration Day, the time to remember those who fell in defense of their country.  Memorial Day is now officially observed on a Monday to form a three-day holiday weekend, with the original significance distilled down into a 60-second Moment of Remembrance.

But there are 259,199 more minutes to a three-day weekend, and human nature abhors a semantic vacuum, so the holiday has acquired meanings in other realms:

Ceremony: Solemn ritual processions.

Ritual garb: White footwear.

Nutrition: Ceremonial meals.

Transportation: The Brickyard.

Economics:  Door-Busters.

Calendar: Memorial Day is the official Unofficial Start of Summer


The National Moment of Remembrance is at 3:00 PM to 3:01 PM (local time in each time zone) on Monday, May 25, 2009. U.S. Code, Title 36,114, Stat. 3078, Sec.(2)(7): “… reclaim Memorial Day as the sacred and noble event that that day is intended to be.”

For more about the origins of Memorial Day, see Burying the Dead but Not the Past by Dr. Caroline Janney.

Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

Rolling Thunder 2009

May 23, 2009

Rolling Thunder 2009

Rolling Thunder is back. The annual motorcycle event, originally conceived to draw attention to the plight of Vietnam-era POWs and MIAs (“Operation Rolling Thunder” was the U.S. bombing of North Vietnam) but it has grown into a roaring tribute to all of America’s military veterans.

Contingents of cyclists come from across the country, and salutes roar past armed service monuments. The largest tribute starts at Noon Sunday at Arlington Cemetery, crosses the Potomac over the beautiful Memorial Bridge, circles the National Mall, and stops near the Vietnam Memorial, where many riders will dismount, then quietly look for the names of fallen comrades and loved ones on The Wall. Music and oratory will complete the afternoon.

Many Washingtonians bring cameras to the DC end of Memorial Bridge to shoot “The Ride for Freedom,” but many hesitate to photograph dismounted riders at the Vietnam Memorial — it feels emotionally wrong, an invasion of privacy. But do go to The Wall. Unlike the triumphal military monuments spread across the Capital City, it does not glorify war, but memorializes sacrifice in a profoundly human way.


For more on the meaning of the National Vietnam Memorial, read The Last Firebase, by Lydia Fish.

Image by Mike Licht.

Comments are welcome if they are on-topic, substantive, concise, and not obscene. Comments may be edited for clarity and length.

Media Alert — Caution, Real News in DC This Weekend

January 16, 2009

Media Alert -- Caution, Real News in DC This Weekend

We hate to disturb working reporters covering the vital Celebrity Inaugural Ball lobster-booze-caviar beat, but real news may break in Washington this weekend. Okay, real political news, but that’s as close to “reality” as most remaining Washington scribes get these days.

Sleep-deprived, hung-over DC reporters should report to Howard University at 11AM Sunday for Chapel Call.  Stop groaning — it’s a story. The speaker will be Rev. Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., Pastor Emeritus of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ. 

The nondenominational Chapel Call will be held at Howard’s huge Cramton Auditorium to accommodate the expected crush of Fox News, National Review, and Washington Times reporters. Just joshing — the popular weekly event outgrew Rankin Chapel and moved to Cramton long ago.


G.W. Bush — A Veteran’s Next Job?

November 11, 2008

G.W. Bush -- A Veteran's Next Job

In just a few weeks, George W. Bush will declare “Mission Accomplished” and leave Washington for Texas. What will he do after January 20th?

Daughter Jenna told Larry King her father wants to be Baseball Commissioner, but the President’s controversial  investment history with the Texas Rangers franchise makes that unlikely. And our best MLB players tend to be Latino immigrants, who might worry that a Commissioner Bush would surround team dugouts with a 20-foot-tall steel fence.

Mr. Bush loves to clear brush, so we have another job suggestion: caretaker of the Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery, 11463 State Highway 195 at Chaparral Road, about six miles south of U.S. 190, in Killeen, TX. Mr. Bush has introduced thousands of young Americans to such facilities; this job would give him daily opportunities to admire his handiwork.


November 11th in Washington, DC

November 10, 2008

November 11th in Washington DC

The U.S. Congress taxed them. Congress declared war and sent them to serve. Some were wounded and some died defending our country, all without representation in that same U.S. Congress. Who are they? The citizens of the District of Columbia who have served in our armed forces.

Meet DC’s veterans today, Veteran’s Day, Noon to 1:30 PM, at Upper Senate Park, Delaware and Constitution Avenues, NE, near the Russell Senate Office Building, between the Capitol and Union Station. Join themas they rally for the DC Vote.


The Seamy Side of the “Surge”

September 19, 2008

The Seamy Side of the Surge

There is talk of the “success” of the “Surge” in Iraq, as if keeping more tired American boots on that dusty ground has magically reduced violence. The reality appears to be somewhat different.

Repeating a horrendous error made by the first U.S. occupation authority, gangs of local thugs have been assembled, armed, and paid to terrorize their Iraqi neighbors into tranquility. This has merely atomized the violence, breaking it up into smaller bits out of the sight of most Americans.

 ” . . . the strategy of the surge seems simple: to buy off every Iraqi in sight.”
Nir Rosen, Rolling Stone, March 6, 2008


Military Musings on “Minerva”

May 30, 2008

Military Musings on

The Military decided use of “embedded anthropologists” in combat zones was effective, but the discipline ruled it unethical. Now the Department of Defense is preparing to launch Minerva, a project based on the concept that knowledge of culture is essential to defense. This sounds like a logical proposition, but no mix of academe and arms is without controversy


The Human Voice of War

May 26, 2008

The Human Experience od War

Over the past three days, Americans have commemorated and reflected on the human cost of war, remembering those lost in combat on behalf of our country. The Veterans History Project of the Library of Congress allows you to hear the words of those who served, their lives changed forever by the experience of war. Collected and archived under the auspices of the American Folklife Center, you can listen to these voices right now, right here.

 The Human Voice of War

Graphics: Veterans History Project, Library of Congress.