Saturday, December 09, 2006

A Tiny Revolution:
On plantations, slaves knew an enormous amount about their owners and overseers. They had to, because their lives depended on it. Meanwhile, their owners knew close to nothing about them, because, who cares what slaves think?

CIA intelligence analyst Kenneth Pollack:
For the last sixteen years, Iran has always been one of the countries I have worked on... I have never been to Iran... I also do not speak any Farsi (Persian).

A year after his “Axis of Evil” speech before the U.S. Congress, President Bush met with three Iraqi Americans, one of whom became postwar Iraq’s first representative to the United States. The three described what they thought would be the political situation after the fall of Saddam Hussein. During their conversation with the President, Galbraith claims, it became apparent to them that Bush was unfamiliar with the distinction between Sunnis and Shiites. Galbraith reports that the three of them spent some time explaining to Bush that there are two different sects in Islam--to which the President allegedly responded, “I thought the Iraqis were Muslims!”

Democrats’ new intelligence chairman Silvestre Reyes:
Al Qaeda is what, I asked, Sunni or Shia?
"Al Qaeda, they have both," Reyes said. "You’re talking about predominately?"
"Sure," I said, not knowing what else to say.
"Predominantly — probably Shiite," he ventured.

The Iraq Study Group Report:
Our embassy of 1,000 (in Baghdad) has 33 Arabic speakers, just six of whom are at the level of fluency.

1 comment:

  1. "There are two critical elements here that, while linked, should probably be formally distinguished. The first is the process of imaginative identification as a form of knowledge, the fact that within relations of domination, it is generally the subordinates who are effectively relegated the work of understanding how the social relations in question really work... ...The second element is that of sympathetic identification. Interestingly, it was Adam Smith, in his Theory of Moral Sentiments (XXX), who first observed the phenomenon we now refer to as “compassion fatigue”. Human beings, he proposed, are normally inclined not only to imaginatively identify with their fellows, but as a result, to spontaneously feel one another’s joys and sorrows. The poor, however, are so consistently miserable that otherwise sympathetic observers face a tacit choice between being entirely overwhelmed, or simply blotting out their existence. The result is that while those on the bottom of a social ladder spend a great deal of time imagining the perspectives of, and actually caring about, those on the top, it almost never happens the other way around.

    Whether one is dealing with masters and servants, men and women, employers and employees, rich and poor, structural inequality—what I’ve been calling structural violence—invariably creates highly lopsided structures of the imagination. Since I think Smith was right to observe that imagination tends to bring with it sympathy: the result is that victims of structural violence tend to care about its beneficiaries far more than those beneficiaries care about them. This might well be, after the violence itself, the single most powerful force preserving such relations."