on Digital Collections and Archives
If you read Jill Lepore’s recent article on Wonder Woman in The New Yorker, "The Last Amazon," it is very possible that a passage about Tufts caught your eye. On page 67 of the article, Lepore, a Tufts alum and <a href="http://now.tufts.edu/jill-lepore" […]
on Reinventing Peace
For more detailed explanation of this data and graphic see Iraq Body Count.
If it weren’t for the cruel stakes of the violence, U.S. policy in Iraq would form the perfect parody of the idea that militarized response to threats against civilians is a viable policy, let alone that this tactic could be mistaken for a strategy. After all, given the patterns of assaults against civilians in Iraq, the intervention should have come in 2006 – 2007, or even earlier, in March – April 2003, because these are the periods during which the spikes of violence against civilians reached their peak. Of course, the great irony is that no one, least of all anti-atrocity advocates, could have called for U.S. military intervention then. If anyone had wanted to suggest this policy – and no one did -- there was one fatal logical flaw: the intervention had already occurred. The only time you can call for intervention is after the U.S. had left; but it would be folly to pretend that just because this little catch in the intervention logic had been resolved that the policy itself would have improved.
Yet U.S. policy has demonstrated remarkable commitment to re-playing this course of action as if somehow, next time, everything would turn out better. Its worth reviewing how bad things have been. And so we turn to record of brutality as provided by Iraq Body Count. Let’s review the most lethal months in Iraq’s recent history.
One brief detour: It is well understood that no one has perfect war fatality figures; this insight holds for all conflict data including that which I will cite. However, Iraq Body Count has done an admirable job verifying their data, but even still their numbers should not be treated as absolute. More crucial to my argument than the precise number are the trends in spikes and declines, which can be treated as accurate.
If we limit our view to months when the spikes of killing surpassed 2500, we find three periods, only one of which is sustained. They are:
March – April 2003. At 3977 deaths, March is by far the most lethal month of Iraq’s recent history. It was followed by a brutal April, when 3435 people were killed. But by the next month there was a significantly sharp falloff in numbers. These two months witnessed the launch of the U.S. war on Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The spike in violent deaths is the inevitable effect of a large-scale military incursion by a major power. This is how large armies conduct war to defeat enemies. While it has probably gotten less indiscriminate over time, major power warfare is invariably accompanied by very high levels of killing.
June 2006 – July 2007. During this period the numbers of dead vary from a high point of 3297 (July 2006), with the toll dropping to 2198 (below our threshold) in June 2007, rising again in July, dipping slightly in August (2481), with significantly and sustained declines beginning only in September 2007. This period is commonly called the Iraqi civil war. Violence, perpetrated by a range of Iraqi armed actors and coalition forces, increased as resistance against the Coalition and a sectarian-political groups gained momentum. In 2006, U.S. forces largely retreated to their bases and the civil war amongst Iraqi factions intensified. While many in the U.S. understand the ending of this period as solely or largely related to the “surge,” more detailed analysis suggests a range of other factors, including foremost the Iraqi leaders’ political calculations, were crucial.
June 2014. This spike, which reached 2534 deaths, can largely be attributed to violence associated with the ISIS/ISIL/IS offensive and their treatment of populations that came under their control. But the litany of locations where violence occurred does not stop at the borders of their territory. Increases have occurred in Baghdad, for instance, as well. Subsequent months have been marked by a significant decline in violence, hovering around 1500 deaths per month, which is nonetheless high by any standard and in Iraq, it is high for the post-2007 period. It is also worth noting that the spike dropped two months before U.S. policy of bombing Iraq began in early August 2014 (which also preceded the arrival of a strategy).
If we were to chart how these spikes in violence reflect on the atrocities prevention and response agenda, a very different story appears and its one that is instructive for how “solutions” are imagined. Up to and until U.S. forces left Iraq, the country and its populations were notably absent from the agenda of the anti-atrocities groups in Washington DC. The periods noted above surpass the cases that occupied place of utmost concern on the anti-atrocities agenda. Compare with Darfur, Sudan, for instance, where about 40,000 people were killed in violence between June 2003 and January 2005. An estimated five times that number died from hunger and disease, destruction captured in terms of excess mortality.
Overall, Iraq Body Count estimated the number of Iraqi civilian killed from 2003 - 2007 at well over 80,000, and to date this number ranges between 129,794 – 145,546. Estimates of excess mortality in Iraq remain highly debated, but several surveys have indicated it is likely in the range of 500,000 between March 2003 and July 2011, the overwhelming number of which occur between 2003 – 2007 (more about the various numbers put forward and the controversies they have caused).
Yet Iraq has always been treated as a case apart from the morality-laden narrative of ending atrocities. The advocates avoided Iraq as if its thousands upon thousands of dying civilians were irrelevant to paradigm of atrocities prevention and response. I recall a colleague in anti-atrocities advocacy movement, not from my own organization, who once stated that we cannot address Iraq because it will mean losing access to the Bush administration on Darfur. Iraq, after all, was political.
Calculation by triage meant that advocates would prioritize places where they could stick to a savior narrative. And, after all, what could they advocate for in Iraq? The U.S. was already occupying the country; one could not call for intervention. And so the “tool” for engaging atrocities prevention and response effectively carved Iraq out of the picture. It only found a place on the atrocities prevention agenda when the majority of U.S. forces left and ISIS/ISIL/IS made its appearance.
It is no wonder that there is a crisis of confidence today with the dominant atrocity prevention and response paradigm. It is, of yet, a sense amongst advocates who work in this area that events are outpacing or complicating an essentially sound framework. Their story is… just let us get it right this time (as we did in Libya?).
But what if the crisis is inherent in the belief structure that underpins the entire framework? Overly reliant on coercive military response, such action is the organizing principle for its policies even when it is not considered a realistic policy option. We have militarized the imagination of atrocities prevention--tied it to a particular tactic. This is an approach that has stunted our ability to conceptualize a strategy of preventing atrocities. In its place, we are instead left with parody.
Surely, the history of Iraq’s recent past might challenge the centrality of military adventures as the ultimate tool for civilian protection? Allow a little doubt to whittle away the presumptions that coercive power is necessary, overthrowing governments is a beneficent action, and coherent political strategies should be considered only after the bombs have fallen.
on Tufts Public Health
Facebook timelines were drenched in ice bucket videos this summer, as millions of people around the globe doused themselves in ice water. As the amount of videos increased, ALS became synonymous with the Ice Bucket Challenge.
Also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, ALS (Amyotrphic lateral sclerosis) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The disease causes motor neurons to die, eventually making it impossible for the brain to initiate and control muscle movement. At the beginning, patients may experience muscle weakness and difficulties with speech, swallowing, or breathing. In the later stages of the disease, patients may become completely paralyzed.
The idea of challenging people to either douse themselves in cold water or donate to a charity has been popular in the sports arena for a while, but it evolved into the Ice Bucket Challenge for ALS during the summer of 2014. Pete Frates, a 29 year old Boston College baseball star with ALS, is often credited with bringing the challenge to its viral status. He had a large network of friends and family who took to Facebook with their challenge, starting the craze of Ice Bucket Challenge videos.
The Ice Bucket Challenge may be one of the most powerful examples of the influence of social media over our behavior. As the number of participants soared, donations to the ALS Association skyrocketed. From July 25th, 2014 to September 15th, 2014, the ALSA received over $114 million in donations, compared with approximately $5 million from the same time period in 2013. They also saw an incredible boost in their social media following and website visitations. In late July, when the challenge first started becoming a household name, the ALSA had about 9,000 Twitter followers and 35,000 Facebook likes. Today, they have seen a 146% increase on Twitter and an 849% increase on Facebook, putting them at over 22,200 Twitter followers and 337,000 Facebook likes. On their website, they have had more than 43 million visitors since early August, with 80% of those made up of new visitors. With this drastic increase in followers and visitors, the ALSA has been able to significantly increase the amount of people they can educate about this terrible disease.
Although the Ice Bucket Challenge has generally been met with enthusiasm and positive reactions, particularly from those affected by ALS, there have been some very vocal critics. These critics believe that the challenge is just a stunt to make people feel better about themselves, and that people should not be called philanthropists unless they donate. However, supporters of the Ice Bucket Challenge disagree. Meghan Tallakson, Director of National Corporate Partnerships at the ALSA, has witnessed the Challenge’s incredible impact:
“ I think that people taking the challenge and mentioning the word “ALS” that millions have become aware of this disease, which has resulted in increased awareness as well as donations to ALS organizations.”
The Ice Bucket Challenge has greatly altered the landscape of fundraising and awareness. It has shown that with social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, it is possible to reach millions of people and teach them about health-related matters that were once obscure. It has also put a new element of fun and excitement into donating and learning.
As the hype starts to subside, other organizations are taking to social media with their own versions of the Ice Bucket Challenge. In West Africa, people are starting to participate in the Lather Against Ebola Campaign. The Felines & Canines animal shelter created the Mice Bucket Challenge, encouraging people to dump buckets of mouse-shaped toys (soft and harmless) onto their cats or donate to their shelter. However, none of these spin-offs have seen the same success of the Ice Bucket Challenge. Perhaps it is too soon and these challenges seem like “copycat” campaigns, or perhaps people do not have money to donate to another charity. It is possible that putting mice toys on a cat’s head isn’t quite as exciting as showering oneself in ice water on a hot summer day. Regardless of the reasoning, the Ice Bucket Challenge has shown that just like advertising on web and in print, social media should now be an integral part of the mix when putting together campaigns.
To learn more about ALS and the mission of the ALSA, visit http://www.alsa.org. To learn more about the Ice Bucket Challenge, visit http://www.alsa.org/fight-als/ice-bucket-challenge.html
on The Fletcher School - Admissions News and Updates
I didn't intend for this to be such a slow blog week, but that's how it has turned out. Between setting up the interview schedule, attending a few meetings, and I'm not even sure what else, the first half of the […]