American Anthropological Association, Annual Meetings, Chicago, November 1999, Public Policy Forum, Violence Against the Middle East
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AAA Public Policy Forum
Violence Against the Middle East


A session of the American Anthropological Association

Thursday, November 18, 4 - 6:15 p.m.

Chicago Hilton & Towers

International Ballroom N, Second Floor

Honorable Ramsey Clark, former Attorney General of the United States

Professor Laura Nader, UC, BerkeleyProfessor McGuire Gibson, Oriental Institute, U of Chicago

    According to reports by United Nations and Human Rights agencies,

each month an estimate of about six thousand Iraqi children perish from

sanction related causes. That is, 133 children each day, nearly 50,000 a

year die from complications from malnutrition and sewage contaminated

water, from diarrhea, pneumonia and diseases like polio, cholera and

typhoid. The proportional equivalent for the United States would be 69,000

children dying a month.

    Other bombings (Serbia, Sudan, Afghanistan), and dramas (Lewinsky,

Princess Diana) diverted media and public attention although the bombing

of Iraq continued uninterrupted -- a war of attrition against Iraq, its people,

its society, its culture and its heritage became a footnote to the news. Mrs.

Albright was asked whether US policy goals were worth the genocidal

deaths of Iraqi civilian people. Without hesitation, she said "yes".

    This policy of destruction of life and civilizational legacy of Iraq presents

a challenge to anthropology. Will anthropologists, particularly those who

made careers out of studying Iraq and the rest of the Middle East, remain

silent and indifferent, or remain true to anthropological ethics and,

research responsibility? What can anthropology contribute after a century

of extensive cross-cultural ethnography on war, colonialism, power

relations, archeology, justice, and law? What is the role of the science of

humankind? Violence and the culture of dominance in local and global

context need to be examined critically not ethnocentrically. Using our most

valuable methodological tools and theoretical insights can we contribute to

alternative policy guidelines with regard to the Middle East?

    This Public Policy Forum -- Violence Against the Middle East -- began

with a keynote address by former US attorney general, Ramsey Clark.

Ramsey Clark served as US Attorney General in the Johnson

administration. He is an international lawyer, human rights campaigner

and author. Clark is the founder of the International Action Centre (IAC),

an organization that condemned the US-led war coalition against Iraq and

the continuing sanctions. "motivated by a broad vision of radical social

change as an alternative to the current society's class domination by the

military-industrial complex."  Among his publications, The Fire This Time ,

Medal of Dishonor, The Children Are Dying, War Crimes.

    Ramsey Clark addressed violations of international law and human

rights and violence against Middle East populations, with a focus on the

situation in Iraq. This keynote address was followed by a slide

presentation by Professor McGuire Gibson, of the University of Chicago, of

aspects of the archeology of Iraq and other areas of the Arab region in the

context of military and sanctional violence. He describes the destruction

of the mind and psyche of the Iraqi people and their cultural heritage,

including standing monuments and archaeological sites and the crisis caused

by the boom in the illegal antiquities market since the Gulf War, focusing

mostly on Iraq, but will also survey the situation in the rest of the Near East.

Professor Gibson is Founder and President of the American Institute for

Yemeni Studies.  Among his publications are "The Origin and Development of

Sumerian Civilization and its Relation to Environment"; "The Archeological

Uses of Cuneiform Documents"; "The Breakdown of Ancient Desert

Civilizations"; and "Patterns of Occupation at Nippur."

    Finally, Professor Laura Nader, anthropologist at the University of

California, Berkeley, discussed the issues of silence and complicity and

the silencing of those who might use anthropological insight to critique

events related to the Middle East and Iraq in particular or even to enlighten

the public as to the life and culturesof the peoples of the Middle East.

Anthropologists are not always either silent or complicitous. What makes

the difference? The title of Nader's presentation is: SILENCE AND


CAN WE STAY FREE OF HEGEMONY? Laura Nader 's current work focuses on

how central dogmas are made and how they work. Recent publications

include Harmony Ideology - Justice and Control in a Zapotec Mountain Village

(1990) and Naked Science - Anthropological Inquiry Into Boundaries, Power,

and Knowledge (1996).   Dr. Nader has carried out fieldwork in Mexico, the

Middle East, and the United States.She is a member of the American

Academy of Arts and Sciences.

    Following the formal presentations the floor opened to discussion and

debate generated by this forum to address the role of anthropology in

public (foreign) policy issues. Session organizer Professor Fadwa El Guindi,

anthropologist at the University of Southern California, will moderate the

discussion. The session has been co-chaired by Professor Jane Hill,

anthropologist at the University of Arizona and President of the American

Anthropological Association and Professor El Guindi, President of the Middle

East Section of the American Anthropological Association.

 This Public Policy Forum: Violence Against the Middle East was held

during the annual meetings of the American Anthropological Association,

in Chicago. The session took place at the Chicago Hilton & Towers in

the International Ballroom N, Second Floor, on Thursday, November 18,

1999, 4:00 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.