14 February 2012

Defend Free Speech in Canada: The Government Campaign against Palestinian Solidarity

New Page 1Please forward widely.

Defend Palestine House. Defend free speech. Stop Jason Kenney's attacks on Palestine solidarity.

Palestine House has become the latest target of Jason Kenney's ongoing attacks on free speech rights and Palestine solidarity in Canada. Last week, Palestine House was informed by the Department of Citizenship and Immigration, including its minister, Jason Kenney, that all funding for Palestine House's immigration settlement program had been cut. Before Kenney's announcement, department officials had praised Palestine House, a Palestinian cultural and educational organization based in Mississauga, for its highly successful settlement program. 

Kenney's decision to cut funding is entirely political, and part of a broader pattern of government-led censorship and intimidation of anyone who is critical of Canada's foreign policy, especially in relation to Israel and Palestine. This is not the first time Kenney has targeted civil society groups in response to their political views. Other targets include:
  1. The Canadian Arab Federation, whose funding was cut by Kenney in February 2009, in response to its criticism of Harper's support for Israel's war on Gaza Former
  2. British MP George Galloway, who was banned from entering Canada by Kenney in March 2009, in response to his humanitarian aid convoy to Gaza
  3. Pathways to Peace, an academic conference at York University in June 2009, which had its funding threatened by an unprecedented intervention by a Conservative cabinet minister
  4. KAIROS, whose funding was cut by Bev Oda in November 2009 (Kenney later boasted to an audience in Jerusalem that the cut represented his government's "zero tolerance" policy on anti-Semitism)
  5. Rights & Democracy, whose Conservative-appointed board members cut funding in January 2010 to Israeli and Palestinian NGOs that were critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians
  6. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), whose funding was cut by the Conservatives in January 2010 (UNRWA administers health and education programs to 59 Palestinian refugee camps)
  7. Dr. Mustafa Barghouti, a Palestinian democracy activist and former presidential candidate, who was denied entry to Canada for a speaking tour in March 2010
  8. Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual campus-based educational conference, which was attacked by Conservative MPs, who attempted to condemn it in Parliament in March 2011
  9. Palestine solidarity in general, which the so-called Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) attempted to equate with anti-Semitism, in its report issued in July 2011
These attacks represent a serious threat to free speech in Canada. Kenney's attack on Palestine House also represents the loss of 22 jobs in the community, and all the services they provide. Kenney -- and the rest of the Conservative caucus -- must be held to account. Please take a moment to send an email message to Jason Kenney and to Bob Dechert, the Conservative Member of Parliament who represents Mississauga-Erindale, where Palestine House is located, to let them know you oppose this attack on free speech:

Step 1: 
In your email message, cut-and-paste the following email addresses into the "To:" line: jason.kenney@parl.gc.ca, Minister@cic.gc.ca, bob.dechert@parl.gc.ca, bob.dechert.c1@parl.gc.ca

Step 2:
Cut-and-paste info@PalestineHouse.com into the "Cc:" or "Bcc:" line. Let Palestine House know you support their demand to restore funding now.

Step 3:
Cut-and-paste "We support Palestine House. Restore funding now." into the Subject line.

Step 4:
Cut-and-paste the message below. Write your own personal statement at the beginning of the message (optional). Be sure to include your name and address at the end of the message.
I oppose your decision to cut federal funding for the successful immigration settlement program administered by Palestine House. This decision is not based on the success of the program (which your department has recognized), but on politics. I oppose any move by the Canadian government to penalize civil society and cultural organizations in Canada based on their legitimate political views. This represents an attack on free speech and free expression in Canada, and is contributing to the steady criminalization of Palestine solidarity initiatives in Canada. I call on you to reverse your decision and to restore immediately the federal funding for Palestine House's immigration settlement program. Thank you for your consideration.
Step 5:
Send. Please stay tuned for further actions. For more information, email info@PalestineHouse.com.You can also contact defendfreespeech.ca@gmail.com & see http://www.defendfreespeech.ca

06 February 2012

Concordia University: Up for Sale? Academic Autonomy and the Azrieli Institute

Up for Sale? Academic Autonomy and the Azrieli Institute
Originally published by The Link

Concordia University’s recent announcement that it will be forming the Azrieli Institute of Israel Studies—courtesy of a $5 million donation from the Azrieli Foundation—raises some interesting questions.

Specifically, it raises questions pertaining to the idea of the university being bought by those with personal wealth and an interest in backing their favourite cause.

Supporters of this Institute argue that it will be politically neutral and judge projects, speakers and visiting professorships exclusively on academic merit.

In an article published on June 30 in the Canadian Jewish News, Norma Joseph, co-director of the Institute, critically addresses academic boycotts of Israel: “Academics are scholars, people who search for knowledge untainted by political or religious (or any sort of) preference,” she wrote. “Their tasks are to seek information removed from common prejudice and slanted stereotypes.”

But politics—whether on the left or the right—are always present, and always seep into academia, wherever high-minded ideals are being professed. Denying this is either naïveté, or deliberate manipulation in order to allow a political position on Israel to be introduced into the university under the guise of free inquiry.

Institutes for the study of Israel and related Israel studies are not unique to Concordia, and they have historically been established through the support of private foundations having a strong identification with the Jewish community and Israel.

The university accepts the outside money and, in presenting its programs, attempts to normalize and legitimize the Israeli state—describing it as culturally and socially diverse, modern, progressive and facing various challenges.

The proposal for Concordia’s program is couched in academic language that avoids any discussion of Israel’s very contested role in the region and its relation to the displacement and colonization of the Palestinian people.

Would it be fair to teach a course or program on Canada that avoids a discussion of white settler colonization and its consequences for First Nations peoples? Of course not—so why are we letting a similar situation happen here?

Israel Studies programs have been developed in the context of mounting criticism of Israel internationally. Many forms of mobilization against it are on the rise—such as the presence of Israel Apartheid Week on campuses and the growth of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in Europe and North America.

Clearly, for the organized Jewish community that supports Israel, there is a battle to be waged for the hearts and minds on university campuses at home and abroad, and it is in this context that programs and Institutes for Israel Studies have been put in place.

But the process of developing the Institute reflects a wider problem about the emerging culture of the university, which couples the liberal ethos of academic freedom of free inquiry with the neoliberal ideology of entrepreneurialism.

It suggests that academics are free to do their own thing and pursue their academic questions—especially if they can raise their own funds.

The alleged autonomy of the Institute from its funder is also a huge concern, especially since academic freedom is at the core of this debate. The Azrieli Foundation and David Azrieli himself are known to be strongly pro-Israel.

But when the Institute was presented, the Faculty Council was assured that it would be academically independent from its funders. This is a superficial understanding of autonomy and ill befits a university.

For Concordia to be awarded a grant of this magnitude, it is more than likely that implicit guarantees upfront about the direction and pro-Israel positions of the Institute’s founders and leaders exist. In this case, academic “autonomy” is a kind of “non-issue,” since, if the leadership of the Institute shares an ideology with the Foundation to begin with, then the matter of autonomy becomes a moot point.

An underlying goal of the Institute, similar to the US programs described above, is to “de-politicize Israel,” erasing the role it plays in its region and the occupation of Palestinian territory with all of the consequences.

A telling example of this is the following extract from an article published on June 21 in The Gazette: “One of the institute’s founders says that the institute ‘is not about the politics. […] It’s about the study of a geographic area—its culture, its history, its economics, its diversity, even its food.’”

“[Norma Joseph] added that she believes the institute will bring together Jewish and Muslim students, possibly preventing conflicts like the 2002 riots that caused the cancellation of a speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Understanding eliminates conflict,” she said.

Dialogue and understanding are fine when there is equal power and justice. But unless there is an end to the occupation and a just solution for the Palestinian people, “understanding” is not possible. Until that happens, conflict will not go away.

If there is to be academic openness, the politics cannot be pushed to the side, rather, it is the core question and seems to be precluded from being addressed at the Institute, given the clear academic restriction on inquiry from the beginning.

A particular challenge for critics is that, so long as the liberal entrepreneurial system is in play, academics can claim “academic freedom” to justify whatever they want to do as long as it uses the rhetoric of objective inquiry and openness to diverse opinion.

There are very few restrictions on university research besides the standard ethical reviews for animal or human subjects. In the context of struggles against cuts to public education, this is a key example of the way in which the future direction of education is being sold off to the highest bidder.

This practice should be resisted, along with broader movements against the privatization and corporatization of the public sector. The university is clearly for sale and its academics are bought in service of causes that are part of the dominant political ideology. Dissent, unfortunately, is not usually financed.

Eric Shragge is an Associate Professor and Principal of the School of Community and Public Affairs at Concordia.

Obama Terror Drones: CIA Tactics in Pakistan Include Targeting Rescuers and Funerals

Missiles being loaded onto a military Reaper drone in Afghanistan.
February 4th, 2012 | by Chris Woods and Christina Lamb
(This report originally appeared on the site of The Bureau of Investigative Journalism)

For more, please see TBIJ's special section "Covert Drone War" and in particular these articles:

The CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan has killed dozens of  civilians who had gone to help rescue victims or were attending funerals, an investigation by the Bureau for the Sunday Times has revealed.

The findings are published just days after President Obama claimed that the drone campaign in Pakistan was a ‘targeted, focused effort’ that ‘has not caused a huge number of civilian casualties.’

Speaking publicly for the first time on the controversial CIA drone strikes, Obama claimed last week they are used strictly to target terrorists, rejecting what he called ‘this perception we’re just sending in a whole bunch of strikes willy-nilly’.

‘Drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties’, he told a questioner at an on-line forum. ‘This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists trying to go in and harm Americans’.

But research by the Bureau has found that since Obama took office three years ago, between 282 and 535 civilians have been credibly reported as killed including more than 60 children.  A three month investigation including eye witness reports has found evidence that at least 50 civilians were killed in follow-up strikes when they had gone to help victims. More than 20 civilians have also been attacked in deliberate strikes on funerals and mourners. The tactics have been condemned by leading legal experts.

Although the drone attacks were started under the Bush administration in 2004, they have been stepped up enormously under Obama.

There have been 260 attacks by unmanned Predators or Reapers in Pakistan by Obama’s administration – averaging one every four days. Because the attacks are carried out by the CIA, no information is given on the numbers killed.

Administration officials insist that these covert attacks are legal. John Brennan, the president’s top counterterrorism adviser, argues that the US has the right to unilaterally strike terrorists anywhere in the world, not just what he called ‘hot battlefields’.

‘Because we are engaged in an armed conflict with al- Qaeda, the United States takes the legal position that, in accordance with international law, we have the authority to take action against al-Qaeda and its associated forces,’ he told a conference at Harvard Law School last year. ‘The United States does not view our authority to use military force against al-Qaeda as being restricted solely to”hot” battlefields like Afghanistan.’

State-sanctioned extra-judicial executions
But some international law specialists fiercely disagree, arguing that the strikes amount to little more than state-sanctioned extra-judicial executions and questioning how the US government would react if another state such as China or Russia started taking such action against those they declare as enemies.

The first confirmed attack on rescuers took place in North Waziristan on May 16 2009. According to Mushtaq Yusufzai, a local journalist, Taliban militants had gathered in the village of Khaisor. After praying at the local mosque, they were preparing to cross the nearby border into Afghanistan to launch an attack on US forces. But the US struck first.

A CIA drone fired its missiles into the Taliban group, killing at least a dozen people. Villagers joined surviving Taliban as they tried to retrieve the dead and injured.

But as rescuers clambered through the demolished house the drones struck again. Two missiles slammed into the rubble, killing many more. At least 29 people died in total.

‘We lost very trained and sincere friends‘, a local Taliban commander told The News, a Pakistani newspaper. ‘Some of them were very senior Taliban commanders and had taken part in successful actions in Afghanistan. Bodies of most of them were beyond recognition.’

For the Americans the attack was a success. A surprise tactic had resulted in the deaths of many Taliban. But locals say that six ordinary villagers also died that day, identified by Bureau field researchers as Sabir, Ikram, Mohib, Zahid, Mashal and Syed Noor (most people in the area use only one name).

Yusufzai, who reported on the attack, says those killed in the follow-up strike ‘were trying to pull out the bodies, to help clear the rubble, and take people to hospital.’  The impact of drone attacks on rescuers has been to scare people off, he says: ‘They’ve learnt that something will happen. No one wants to go close to these damaged building anymore.’

The legal view
Naz Modirzadeh, Associate Director of the Program on Humanitarian Policy and Conflict Research (HPCR) at Harvard University, said killing people at a rescue site may have no legal justification.

‘Not to mince words here, if it is not in a situation of armed conflict, unless it falls into the very narrow area of imminent threat then it is an extra-judicial execution’, she said. ‘We don’t even need to get to the nuance of who’s who, and are people there for rescue or not. Because each death is illegal. Each death is a murder in that case.’

The Khaisoor incident was not a one-off. Between May 2009 and June 2011, at least fifteen attacks on rescuers were reported by credible news media, including the New York Times, CNN, Associated Press, ABC News and Al Jazeera.

It is notoriously difficult for the media to operate safely in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Both militants and the military routinely threaten journalists. Yet for three months a team of local researchers has been seeking independent confirmation of these strikes.

Eyewitness accounts
The researchers have found credible, independently sourced evidence of civilians killed in ten of the reported attacks on rescuers. In five other reported attacks, the researchers found no evidence of any rescuers – civilians or otherwise – killed.

The researchers were told by villagers that strikes on rescuers began as early as March 2008, although no media carried reports at the time. The Bureau is seeking testimony relating to nine additional incidents.

Often when the US attacks militants in Pakistan, the Taliban seals off the site and retrieves the dead. But an examination of thousands of credible reports relating to CIA drone strikes also shows frequent references to civilian rescuers. Mosques often exhort villagers to come forward and help, for example – particularly following attacks that mistakenly kill civilians.

Other tactics are also raising concerns.  On June 23 2009 the CIA killed Khwaz Wali Mehsud, a mid-ranking Pakistan Taliban commander. They planned to use his body as bait to hook a larger fish – Baitullah Mehsud, then the notorious leader of the Pakistan Taliban.

‘A plan was quickly hatched to strike Baitullah Mehsud when he attended the man’s funeral,’ according to Washington Post national security correspondent Joby Warrick, in his recent book The Triple Agent. ‘True, the commander… happened to be very much alive as the plan took shape. But he would not be for long.’

The CIA duly killed Khwaz Wali Mehsud in a drone strike that killed at least five others. Speaking with the Bureau, Pulitzer Prize-winner Warrick confirmed what his US intelligence sources had told him: ‘The initial target was no doubt a target anyway, as it was described to me, as someone that they were interested in. And as they were planning this attack, a possible windfall from that is that it would shake Mehsud himself out of his hiding place.’

Up to 5,000 people attended Khwaz Wali Mehsud’s funeral that afternoon, including not only Taliban fighters but many civilians.  US drones struck again, killing up to 83 people. As many as 45 were civilians, among them reportedly ten children and four tribal leaders. Taliban leader Baitullah Mehsud escaped unharmed, dying six weeks later along with his wife in a fresh CIA attack.

Clive Stafford-Smith, the lawyer who heads the Anglo-US legal charity Reprieve, believes that such strikes ‘are like attacking the Red Cross on the battlefield. It’s not legitimate to attack anyone who is not a combatant.’

Christof Heyns, a South African law professor who is United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extra- judicial Executions, agrees. ‘Allegations of repeat strikes coming back after half an hour when medical personnel are on the ground are very worrying’, he said. ‘To target civilians would be crimes of war.’ Heyns is calling for an investigation into the Bureau’s findings.

One of the most devastating attacks took place on March 17 last year, the day after Pakistan had released American CIA contractor Raymond Davis, jailed for shooting dead two men in Lahore. Davis had been held for two months and was released after the payment of blood money said to be around $2.3m.

A case of retaliation?
The Agency was said to be furious at the affair. The following day when a massive drone strike killed up to 42 people gathered at a meeting in North Waziristan, Pakistani officials believed it to be retaliation.

The commander of Pakistan forces in the area at the time was Brigadier Abdullah Dogar. He admits that in drone attacks in general ‘people invariably get reported as innocent bystanders’. But in that case he has no doubt. ‘I was sitting there where our friends say they were targeting terrorists and I know they were innocent people’, he said.

The mountains in the area contain chromite mines and the ownership was disputed between two tribes, so a Jirga or tribal meeting had been called to resolve the issue.

‘We in the Pakistan military knew about the meeting’, he said, ‘we’d got the request ten days earlier.’

‘It was held in broad daylight, people were sitting out in Nomada bus depot when the missile strikes came. Maybe there were one or two Taliban at that Jirga – they have their people attending – but does that justify a drone strike which kills 42 mostly innocent people?’

‘Drones may make tactical gains but I don’t see how there’s any strategic advantage’, he added. ‘When innocent people die, then you’re creating a whole lot more people with an issue.’

Growing tensions
Drone attacks have long been a source of tension between the US and Pakistan despite the fact that the Pakistan government gave tacit agreement, even allowing them to fly from Shamsi airbase in the western province of Baluchistan, while publicly denouncing the attacks.

In return the US made sure that some of the terrorists killed were those targeting Pakistan.

However the relationship has been stretched to breaking point, first with the raid to kill Osama bin Laden in May and subsequent US accusations of Pakistani complicity, then the NATO bombing of a Pakistani post in November, killing 24 soldiers. In December Pakistan ordered the CIA to vacate the Shamsi base. For a while drone attacks stopped but they resumed two weeks ago.

The US claims the drones are a vital tool that have helped them almost wipe out the leadership of al Qaeda in Pakistan. But others point out they have stoked enormous anti-American sentiment in a country with an arsenal of 200 nuclear weapons.

Peter Singer, director of the 21st Century Initiative at the Brookings Institution, points out the operation has never been debated in Congress which has to approve sending US forces to war.

So dramatic is the switch to unmanned war that he says the US now has 7,000 drones operating and 12,000 more on the ground, while not a single new manned combat aircraft is under research or development at any western aerospace company.

After a remarkable lack of debate, there is starting to be unease in the US at the lack of transparency and accountability in the use of drones particularly as the campaign has expanded to hit targets in Libya, Yemen and Somalia and until recently to patrol the skies in Iraq.

Three US citizens were killed by missiles fired from drones in Yemen last September. Anwar al Awlaqi, an alleged al Qaeda operative, was deliberately targeted in what some have described as the US government’s first ever execution of one of its own citizens without trial. His colleague and fellow citizen Samir Khan also died in the attack. Two weeks later Awlaqi’s 16 year old son Abdulrahman died in a strike on alleged  al Qaeda militants.

Such unmanned war is a politician’s dream, avoiding the inconvenience of sending someone’s son or daughter, mother or father, into harm’s way.

The fact that the operations are carried out by the CIA rather than the US military enables the administration to evade questions. The Agency press office responds to media inquiries on the subject with no comment and refusal to give names of those killed or who are on the target list.

Until Obama’s comments last week, the White House would not even confirm the programme existed.

‘We don’t discuss classified programs or comment on alleged strikes’, said a senior administration official in response to the findings presented by the Sunday Times.

The ACLU filed a lawsuit last week demanding the Obama administration release legal and intelligence records on the killing of the three US citizens in in Yemen.

Privately some senior US military officers say they are extremely uncomfortable at the way the administration is carrying out these operations using the CIA which is not covered by laws of war or the Geneva Convention.

The use of drones outside a declared war zone is seen by many legal experts as setting a dangerous precedent. Aside from allies such as Israel, Britain and France, other countries have drone technology including China, Russia and Pakistan. Iran recently captured a downed US drone.

Heyns, the UN rapporteur, said an international legal framework is urgently needed to govern their use.

‘Our concern is how far does it go – will the whole world be a theatre of war?’ he asked. ‘Drones in principle allow collateral damage to be minimised but because they can be used without danger to a country’s own troops they tend to be used more widely. One doesn’t want to use the term ticking bomb but it’s extremely seductive.’

05 February 2012

Iraq: An Education in Occupation

By Hugh Gusterson
First published in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, February 2, 2012.

As the last American soldiers left Iraq in December, so, too, did many of the journalists who had covered the war, leaving little in the way of media coverage of post-war Iraq. While there were some notable exceptions -- including two fine articles by MIT's John Tirman that asked how many Iraqis had been killed as a result of the US invasion -- overall the American press published few articles on the effects of the occupation, especially the consequences for Iraqis.

As a college professor, I have a special interest in what happened to Iraqi universities under US occupation. The story is not pretty.

By 1991, women had come to constitute 30 percent of all university faculty in Iraq, proportionally more women faculty than at Princeton University in 2009.

After the 2003 invasion, Iraqi universities were stripped of their cultural artifacts as well as basic equipment—such as books, lab equipment, and desks—that allowed them to function at all. 

As of 2006, an estimated 160 to 380 Iraqi professors had been killed, and over 30 percent of Iraq’s professors, doctors, pharmacists and engineers emigrated between 2003 and 2007.

Up to one million books and ten million unique documents have been destroyed, lost or stolen across Iraq since 2003.

The US Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Education received only $8 million dollars to reconstruct Iraqi universities, including the provision of basic supplies. American Universities meanwhile received exorbitant contracts: A team from the State University of New York at Stony Brook won a $4 million grant to “modernize curricula in archaeology” at four Iraqi universities--schools without desks and chairs. 

The Defense Department is now the third largest source of funding for university research and development, after NIH and NSF, distributing about $1 billion of research money every year.
Until the 1990s, Iraq had perhaps the best university system in the Middle East. Saddam Hussein's regime used oil revenues to underwrite free tuition for Iraqi university students -- churning out doctors, scientists, and engineers who joined the country's burgeoning middle class and anchored development. Although political dissent was strictly off-limits, Iraqi universities were professional, secular institutions that were open to the West, and spaces where male and female, Sunni and Shia mingled. Also the schools pushed hard to educate women, who constituted 30 percent of Iraqi university faculties by 1991. (This is, incidentally, better than Princeton was doing as late as 2009.) With a reputation for excellence, Iraqi universities attracted many students from surrounding countries -- the same countries that are now sheltering the thousands of Iraqi professors who have fled US-occupied Iraq.

Iraqi universities began their decline in the 12 years after the 1991 Gulf War. As the international sanctions regime cut off journal subscriptions and equipment purchases, academic salaries fell precipitously, and 10,000 Iraqi professors left the country. Those faculty who remained were increasingly closed off from new developments in their fields.

In 2003, after the invasion, many Iraqi professors hoped that their university system would be revitalized under US occupation. They expected funding to buy new books, to replace equipment, and to repair the damage inflicted by the sanctions. And they hoped for new tolerance for open debate and inquiry.

In fact, the opposite happened.

It started during the chaos following the invasion. While American troops guarded the Ministries of Oil and the Interior but ignored cultural heritage sites, looters ransacked the universities. For example, the entire library collections at the University of Baghdad's College of Arts and at the University of Basra were destroyed. The Washington Post's Rajiv Chandresekara described the scene at Mustansiriya University in 2003: "By April 12, the campus of yellow-brick buildings and grassy courtyards was stripped of its books, computers, lab equipment and desks. Even electrical wiring was pulled from the walls. What was not stolen was set ablaze, sending dark smoke billowing over the capital that day."

At the same time, the United States stripped Iraq's universities of their leadership. In his first executive order as the new head of the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq, Paul Bremer removed members of the Ba'ath Party from senior management positions at all public institutions. Since one had to join the Ba'ath Party -- whether one truly supported the party or not -- in order to get ahead in Hussein's Iraq, this order had the effect of removing most of Iraq's senior university administrators and professors overnight. In the words of journalist Christina Asquith, after this purge, "half of the intellectual leadership in academia was gone." Control over Iraq's universities now lay in the hands of Andrew Erdmann, a 36-year-old American, well-connected in Republican Party patronage networks, who was senior adviser to Iraq's Ministry of Education. Erdmann spoke no Arabic and had no experience in university administration.

In September 2003, Erdmann was succeeded by John Agresto, the former president of St. Johns College in New Mexico and a conservative opponent of multicultural education in the US culture wars of the 1980s. Agresto was picked to run the Iraqi university system because he was friends with Lynne Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. He too spoke no Arabic and, when the Post's Chandresekaran asked what he had read to prepare for his assignment, Iraq's new top educator said he decided to read no books at all about Iraq -- so he would have an "open mind."

Agresto estimated that it would cost $1.2 billion to rebuild Iraq's 22 major universities and 43 technical institutes and colleges. Given that the US Congress appropriated over $90 billion for reconstruction and counterinsurgency in Iraq for 2004, this was not a large amount, and it was significantly less than the $2 billion that the United Nations and the World Bank had estimated would be the minimum necessary. (To give some sense of scale, $1.2 billion is the same as North Carolina State University's annual budget.) But Congress only appropriated $8 million -- less than 1 percent of what Agresto requested. In other words, Congress told Iraqi universities they were on their own.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) did set aside $25 million to help revitalize Iraqi universities -- but the money went to American universities to do curriculum development. For example, USAID gave the State University of New York at Stony Brook $4 million (half the amount Congress appropriated to restore the entire Iraqi university system) to develop a new archaeology curriculum on behalf of four Iraqi universities.

By 2004, looted, impoverished, and stripped of their intellectual and administrative leadership, Iraqi universities nevertheless embodied one of the last spaces -- in a country increasingly engulfed by sectarian tensions -- where people of different creeds could gather together. However, the principled commitment of many in university communities to cosmopolitanism and interfaith tolerance made the universities themselves targets for sectarian extremists and fundamentalists. Armed militias threatened women who did not cover themselves and intimidated professors who said things they did not like. According to The Washington Times, 280 Iraqi professors were killed and another 3,250 fled the country by the end of 2006. Those assassinated included Muhammad al-Rawi, the president of Baghdad University; Isam al-Rawi, a geology professor who was compiling statistics on assassinated Iraqi academics when he himself was killed; and Amal Maamlaji, a Shia information-technology professor and women's rights advocate at a predominantly Sunni university, who was killed with 163 bullets.

Those faculty fortunate enough to move abroad became part of the great middle-class exodus from Iraq under US occupation. It is estimated that 10 percent of Iraq's population, and 30 percent of its professors, doctors, and engineers, left for neighboring countries between 2003 and 2007 -- the largest Arab refugee displacement since the Palestinian flight from the holy lands decades earlier.

In just 20 years, then, the Iraqi university system went from being among the best in the Middle East to one of the worst. This extraordinary act of institutional destruction was largely accomplished by American leaders who told us that the US invasion of Iraq would bring modernity, development, and women's rights. Instead, as political scientist Mark Duffield has observed, it has partly de-modernized that country. In the words of John Tirman, America's failure to acknowledge the suffering that occupation wreaked in Iraq "is a moral failing as well as a strategic blunder." Iraq represents a blind spot in our national conversation, one that impedes the cultural growth that stems from a painful recognition of error; and it hobbles the rational evaluation of foreign intervention. Is it too late to look in the mirror?

A longer version of this article can be found here, and the research paper can be dowloaded below:

Indigenous Survival: What is "Development" Good For?

By Stephen Corry of Survival International
Reproduced with the permission of the author

Do indigenous peoples benefit from 'development'? 
We need to think about whether development brings any benefits to those who are largely self-sufficient – like many of the world's 150 million tribal people

What's "development" for? That may be straightforward to people who don't have water or food, or sewerage in urban areas (faecal contamination is the biggest, easily preventable, manmade killer). But, although millions still lack such basics, they form only a tiny part of what passes for development these days. The duplicity of politics and business ensures much else – arms, for example – is shoehorned into the same category.

What should development mean for those who are largely self-sufficient, getting their own food and building their dwellings where the water is still clean – like many of the world's 150 million tribal people? Has development got anything helpful for them, or has it simply got it in for them?

It's easy to see where it has led. Leaving aside the millions who succumbed to the colonial invasion, in some of the world's most "developed" countries (Australia, Canada and the US) development has turned most of the survivors into dispossessed paupers. Take any measure of what it ought to mean: high income, longevity, employment, health; low rates of addiction, suicide, imprisonment and domestic violence, and you find that indigenous people in the US, Canada and Australia are by far the worst off on every count – but no one seems to heed the lesson.

These are the consequences of a dispossession more total in North America and Australia than almost anywhere on Earth. The colonists were determined to steal tribal lands, and unquestioning about their own superiority. They espoused politico-economic models in which workers produced for distant markets, and had to pay for the privilege. The natives, using no money, paying no taxes, contributing little to the marketplace until forced to, were "backward". At best, they were to be integrated to serve colonist society.

Colonialism set out to take away their self-sufficiency, on their own territory, and lead them to glorious productivity, as menials, on someone else's. There's little point in calling for retroactive apologies for this because it's not confined to the past: most development schemes foisted on tribal peoples today point in exactly the same direction.

Two of its main themes are housing and education. Traditional housing has many benefits – not least the fact that it's free – but development decrees it must be replaced by modern dwellings. In West Papua, the tribespeople put their pigs in the new houses and live in the old. Rwanda recently outlawed thatch altogether; everyone must use metal sheets, by law.

So what about modern education? In Australia, mixed-race children were forced into distant boarding schools to "breed out" their "Aboriginalness" and turn them into an underclass. From frozen Siberia to sunlit Botswana, boarding schools remain a main plank in integrationist policies, which destroy more than educate. It's no hidden conspiracy: it's openly designed to be about turning people into workers, scornful of their own tribal heritage.

Many indigenous people have observed that even the modern medical attention they might receive from the wealthiest governments doesn't begin to solve the illnesses the same government's policies have inflicted on them. It isn't "backwardness" that makes many tribal peoples reject development projects, it's rational anxiety about the future.

As for largescale infrastructure development – dams and mines, even irrigation – its real effect on the ground is invariably to enrich the elites while impoverishing the locals.

So is it possible to offer tribal peoples any truly beneficial development? Yes, if we accept their right to reject what we, with our "advanced" wisdom, can give; we have to stop thinking them childish when they make decisions we wouldn't. Everyone wants control over their future, and not everyone wants the same things out of life, but such truisms are hardly ever applied.

Development, at least for most tribal peoples, isn't really about lifting people out of poverty, it's about masking the takeover of their territories. The deception works because the conviction "we know best" is more deeply ingrained even than it was a generation ago; Victorian-era levels of narrow-mindedness are returning. As a Botswana Bushman told me: "First they make us destitute by taking away our land, our hunting and our way of life. Then they say we are nothing because we are destitute."

In a 21st century of expensive water, food, housing, education, healthcare and power, self-sufficiency has its attraction. It may not boost GDP figures, but there are many tribal peoples in the world who live longer and healthier lives than millions in nearby slums. Who's to say they've made a bad choice?

• Stephen Corry is director of Survival International and author of Tribal Peoples for Tomorrow's World
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