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Thread: Magical Realism and Information Operations

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    Small Wars Journal SWJED's Avatar
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    Default Magical Realism and Information Operations

    3 January post at Kent's Imperative - Magical Realism and Information Operations.

    The beliefs, and processes of belief formation, of target audiences in information operations has always been underappreciated by operations planners and intelligence officers alike.

    The Economist has an excellent piece examining one of the more pervasive beliefs in the Islamic world, and the impact of that belief on the narratives surrounding the Long War.

    This is not the first time that elements of the fantastic have been noted in the propaganda of the jihad. In fact, many of the near legendary aspects of the Afghan conflict against the Soviets drew heavily upon this tradition, and was built upon by militant Islamists in other theatres...

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Wolves can see them" he said. Nothing like having supper with your IA peers and being interrupted by the cell phone that rang every time the car carrying a possessed female relative of a close friend went North and hit another Pesh Check Point (The BN CDR being a Kurd would smooth it out - after all nobody should hold up a car with a driver a passenger and Jinn). It was a very matter of fact conversation. I've seen some strange stuff, so I figured who am I to scoff. Since I didn't, and seemed interested in how it progressed, the BN CDR told me the tale of how the woman became possessed and how she was being driven North to have an exorcism.

    We also talked about properties animals represent. I'd describe MAJ Khaled one day as a "bear" of a man. In our culture and many others, the bear image is one of strength, ferocity and other worthy characteristics. In Iraq, the bear is seen as ponderous and clumsy. My mistake was forgiven for what it was, an intended compliment and cultural party foul. The wolf however, is a very respected image here - while we are all well aware of the European interpretations-My what big eyes you have!"

    I think this is one of the reasons why anthropology could be so valuable a field here and in other places. Culturally we have a hard time admitting to magical realism - to do so seems to make us less in our own eyes. Maybe that has to do with our Neo-Classical / Empirical roots. A capstone class I took was in the field of the history of ideas. One of the things the professor pointed out was how there was a conversation to be listened to in D.C. by looking at the statues - they convey more then just memoriam. He also discussed architecture - Doric Pillars under Greek porticos representing Federalism. To get to the world of Magical Realism, you have to go South aways (well not really, you could go to the Appalachians, Blue Ridge or Catskills; or the Sea faring folks of New England - not the political types and holidayers - but the ones who work). In our US literature you have folks like Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner - they certainly incorporated it - but that seems to close to really step outside and see it. I met a guy in Ethiopia (anthropologist type) back in 1987 who said he knew the guy who'd done the whole Serpent and the Rainbow bit - and was unable to come to a good empirical conclusion.

    My first real experience with it was reading Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorge Luis Borges.

    As for how it relates to IO - it worked well for Cortez, but not so good for Montezuma - but he got his revenge.

    Marc - you've already thought on this allot - hypothetically, how would one proceed from anthropological line of operation?? I think there is allot to be gained here, not just from a straight IO, but being able to climb inside your enemy's (and your ally's) head and see it from their point of view is incredibly useful.
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 01-14-2007 at 02:54 PM.

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    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default Marked For Death

    Rob, if you get a chance watch the Steven Segal movie "Marked For Death".
    He has to face a Jamaican gang that is powered by Voodoo! He finds an Anthropologist to learn how to take his power away(mostly symbolic). The movie is the usual cop sakie and kung fuey stuff but it makes some good points. The main bad guy has a twin brother and they often exploit this by appearing to be two places at once. That is why I wanted marct to expand on the concept of the power of symbols and the symbols of power. We need marct to talk more about this.
    Rob, your dead own about learning symbols from the enemies point of view if we are ever going to exploit it properly.

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Magical Realism and Information Operations

    Rob, Dead on the money. Why we constantly bear the ugly American tag. Few of us could care less about what makes the other angry or happy and why we do this and not that. Simple customs and culture. We don't need an anthropologist, but we do need to study a tad more.

    In Central Africa, bald-headed people were considered all knowledgeable and known seniors (high ranking) were expected to hold the subordinate's hand while walking. You can imagine what you would look like in front of your peers as you walked up with a Zširian General on you right side holding your hand (and a tight grip at that). Releasing before the senior permited would be taken as an outright insult. The good part is he would never hold your hand again, but the down side would be a total lack of communication and he would remember that even to his grave.

    Estonia is a little less extreme, but have a very unique culture. You never shake hands more than once in a single day with the same person, and if he tries, you simply say we have already seen each other today. One never shake hands over a threshold and males rarely shake a female's hand (could piss off her boyfriend or husband). Instead of knocking on wood (which could be considered impolite and even disruptive) you (fake) spit over your left shoulder three times (similar to throwing salt over your left shoulder to warn away your enemy or preclude bad luck).

    Ok, forgive the rambling, but you get the general idea. It doesn't take too long to get tuned-in and figure out what folks do and don't. This will pay itself back ten-fold and open doors.

    Hell, you can even teach NCOs to do it
    Regards, Stan

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Folks,

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    I think this is one of the reasons why anthropology could be so valuable a field here and in other places. Culturally we have a hard time admitting to magical realism - to do so seems to make us less in our own eyes. Maybe that has to do with our Neo-Classical / Empirical roots.

    Marc - you've already thought on this allot - hypothetically, how would one proceed from anthropological line of operation?? I think there is allot to be gained here, not just from a straight IO, but being able to climb inside your enemy's (and your ally's) head and see it from their point of view is incredibly useful.
    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Reber View Post
    Rob, Dead on the money. Why we constantly bear the ugly American tag. Few of us could care less about what makes the other angry or happy and why we do this and not that. Simple customs and culture. We don't need an anthropologist, but we do need to study a tad more.
    You know, Rob, in some ways I definately agree with Stan here - you don't necessarily need an Anthropologist here, but you do need to study a bit more .

    Okay, translation of that cryptic comment.....

    The best way for 99.9% of people is to do exactly what you did, Rob: listen respectfully and ask questions (hey, that's what we do <wry grin>). As long as wyou don't pooh-pooh the custom or idea, no matter how silly it sounds to you, most people will think "hey, he's a good guiy, even if he can't tell a djinn from a shaitan".

    As far as "using it", a la Cortez and his crowd, honestly, I wouldn't even try; you're too likely to screw it up and make bad mistakes that will come back to haunt you. Think of it this way; why fight someone on their own ground? If you want to involve magic (or magick) in this war, there are certainly precedents (take a look at Katherine Kurtz's Lammas Night for one of the best known precedents).

    The way to "use" these beliefs is in two ways:
    1. Find the people who already believe and operate within religious systems that use this type of belief. As far as the US forces are concerned, contact the Chaplaincy Office for the names of recognized Wiccan Priests and Priestesses, as well as the contacts for any Asatruar (I think there is an Asatruar crowd on one the the Navy aircraft carriers). For the Wiccans, see if you can find anyone who knows combat magic (it's a limited specialty) - maybe someone affiliated with the Fourth Face of the Goddess (if they are still around), or a solid Alexandro-Gardnerian coven. For the Asatruar folk, see if they will recommend someone who works on the Seitha path.
    2. Use Anthropologists and Western Magicians, preferably the WMT crowd (there's some good ones in Toledo of all places) to work with local practitioners.


    Sound nuts <wry grin>? I did tell you guys I did my MA on the institutionalization of modern witchcraft, didn't I?. Honestly, Rob, this is an area where you must have someone who believes in some type of the supernatural (according to Western rationalism), or who has a lot of experience in dealing with it.

    You are right that this isn't about I/O operations - this is about "reality" as it is perceived. That economist article on Magical Realism was really interesting, and makes a good case in point. The djinn supporting the Northern Commander are still there. More importantly, the memebrs of the Northern Alliance still believe that their allies are Muslim Djinn, and that the Taliban are allied with their opponents (talk about a radically dualist view! Reminds me of the Zurvanite Heresy. Hmmmm, that gives me the germ of an idea...).

    Look, one of the reasons why so many people in the Muslim world think that the US and the West are such hopeless naifs is the lack of belief in the spiritual world. "Crusader" is a spiritual, as well as historical, term. There is, however, a precedent inside Islam for non-Muslims to be allied spiritually with Muslims (ask your BTN CDR if he knows any of the tales of Moses and the Green Man [not sure about his Islamic name]). If we can mobilize some of this, it might be useful, although I do have fears about what the Immoral Minority..., sorry, Moral Majority, crowd would think about it.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default We do need to study a tad more

    Marc,
    I would have to agree with you . I did my studies on the ground front and center, during social and political upheaval and 3 civil wars (10 years total)

    How did I make it out ? Good question and I have an equally good answer: Knowledge of customs and culture, not reading some bible study class Bravo Sierra on pathetic symbols (Africans care about well-being and money, there are no jungle rules).

    My neighbors homes flanked my house during the 2nd uprising and when I awoke, only my house was left untouched. Belgian females raped and males shot in the head. Both houses were totaled and the frames destroyed allowing the roof to come down (very typical African).

    Only later would I learn that I was an acceptable white man amongst them who learned not only Lingala but culture and custom.

    I'll wouldn't trade that day for any anthropology lesson on earth, as I still have the skin on my Alpha !

    An education is great, so long as you know how to use it together with your common sense.

    Regards, Stan

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Okay, translation of that cryptic comment.....

    Marc, I hope you got something from that translation

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Marc,
    Wow. Honestly I'd never thought about it from the perspective of using other theologies or mystical spiritualism - that seems wrong to my western sense of things (I'll have to consider why I feel that way ). Honestly before last night, I did not know that a djinn was different from a demon or a ghost - one of our Shiite interpreters explained it to me and promised to explain more. I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable trying to use it as an active sort of thing personally (although I'm not above advocating its exploration for possible uses) - for me its more of a passive sort of incorporation into understanding the environment which brings forth both the people I work with and those we work against.
    I have not given this enough credit. I need to ask around some. The story of Moses and the Green man may be a good start. Is there any relation to Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight?

    regards, Rob
    Last edited by Rob Thornton; 01-15-2007 at 05:22 PM.

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    Marc,
    Wow. Honestly I'd never thought about it from the perspective of using other theologies or mystical spiritualism - that seems wrong to my western sense of things (I'll have to consider why I feel that way ). Honestly before last night, I did not know that a djinn was different from a demon or a ghost - one of our Shiite interpreters explained it to me and promised to explain more. I'm not sure I'd feel comfortable trying to use it as an active sort of thing personally (although I'm not above advocating its exploration for possible uses) - for me its more of a passive sort of incorporation into understanding the environment which brings forth both the people I work with and those we work against.
    Honestly? Rob, that's the best reaction you could have. As my Craft informants would say, you are "grounded in reality" .

    BTW, Djinn are very different from demons and ghosts. The Western equivalent of the Djin is the Nephilim or, hmmm, the "blood right" sort of captures it (the children / lineage of Nephilim and Humans). In Celtic terms, the Tuatha de Danaan or half breeds between the children of the stars and humans.

    If you aren't into this type of stuff, stay away from it <wry grin>. The absolutely best thing you can do is to learn what other "mortals" learn, i.e. the general Muslim view of it, and not play around with it. There are groups and families in the West who know about this stuff (I've mentioned some earlier), but this isn't something for the psyops or I/O crowd to use - they would totally mess it up.

    The real trick in all of this is that mystics of all traditions are actually closer to each other than they are to their co-religionists, as are the magicians in each tradition. A Wiccan combat magic specialist can probably understand AQ's people better than a theologian, and a practitioner of Seitha is more likely to understand your BTN CDR on exorcisms than most priests, or battalion Commanders, would <wry grin>.

    Please take my advice on this, and don't try to do it yourself! Ask questions, learn about it, but don't try and use it in any active, I/O way.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    I have not given this enough credit. I need to ask around some. The story of Moses and the Green man may be a good start. Is there any relation to Sir Gawayne and the Green Knight?
    <wry grin>Hmmm, not really, although there are corrolaries. Most of the versions I have read are sitautions where the Green Man lnows more than Moses and Moses ends up going through all sorts of situations / trials until he finally realizes that the Green Man knows more.

    In many Islamic tradiitons, Moses is the archetype for magical knowledge while the Green Man is the archetype for intuitive knowledge (at least that's my understanding of it which could well be wrong). The "formalism" of magic is inherent in Moses and the Jews, cf. comments in the Economist article on the power of Jewish magic (actually, they are the Seals of Soloman). This is contrasted with the "intuitive knowledge" of the Green Man who "knows" (in greek, it's "gnosis") the will of God.

    I think that this is an area that is definately worth looking at, but I would urge extreme caution. In many ways, I would love to come over to <Mosul and chat with your BTN CDR <grin>. I suspect that we wopuld understand each other quite well .

    Marc
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    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Stan,

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Reber View Post
    Marc,
    I would have to agree with you . I did my studies on the ground front and center, during social and political upheaval and 3 civil wars (10 years total)

    How did I make it out ? Good question and I have an equally good answer: Knowledge of customs and culture, not reading some bible study class Bravo Sierra on pathetic symbols (Africans care about well-being and money, there are no jungle rules).
    LOLOL - if you ever want some good books on symbols, let me know. I do agree with your comment about "bible study class Bravo Sierra on pathetic symbols" - most of the time, they have no freakin' idea what they are talking about.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Reber View Post
    My neighbors homes flanked my house during the 2nd uprising and when I awoke, only my house was left untouched. Belgian females raped and males shot in the head. Both houses were totaled and the frames destroyed allowing the roof to come down (very typical African).

    Only later would I learn that I was an acceptable white man amongst them who learned not only Lingala but culture and custom.

    I'll wouldn't trade that day for any anthropology lesson on earth, as I still have the skin on my Alpha !
    My "academic grandmother", Regna Darnell, once mentioned during an intense discussion of theory at 3am (just before the cheap Hunfgarian red wine ran out) that the true measure of an anthropologist was how they were accepted as a member of he community. Sounds like you got a PhD in a trial by fire <wry grin>.

    Classes, lessons, lectures are meanngless for those who won't hear or understand. I've taught Anthro classes where I have despaired of finding anyone in the class who could understand. Conversely, I've met a lot of people who are "naturals" (you and Rob come to mind). All any "class" is good for is giving people an interpretive framework for their own experiences.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Reber View Post
    An education is great, so long as you know how to use it together with your common sense.

    Marc, I hope you got something from that translation
    LOL. Yup . And I do agree with you on the value of an education.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Please take my advice on this, and don't try to do it yourself! Ask questions, learn about it, but don't try and use it in any active, I/O way.
    Marc, no worries - I'm not a "Do I cut the blue wire with the red stripe, or red wire with the blue stripe?" kinda guy. When I get done with job this I am gonna do some real reading on it though. I've gotta feeling in my next gig it might be helpful - I'm more interested in the background stuff though that could help me understand its place in the things that make peoples what/who they are. Its hard to explain; its kind of like white noise, but white noise that means something. Ex. knowing that about the BN CDR, and seeing the other IA at the table and my interpreter accept it as if it were as solid as the table we ate off of told me something, but damned if I know what it was (aside from the obvious). The other 2 Americans at the table (a Mormon and a N.Carolinian Methodist) were more or less dismissive. Maybe its because I've been some strange places as odd times, maybe its just disposition.

    What bothers me right now is that during our cultural trianing with the countless useless things that were taught, nobody thought to tell us how solid and real things like Djinn are to the people here - its like they ommited it by default (sort of a "I don't beleive in them so how could it possibly be relevant to another culture"). It doesn't matter a stitch if I believe in them or not - but it does matter that they do - and somehow it goes beyond not mocking their culture, it goes to understanding who they are - which allows me to understand why someone might do something, or would never do something. Analysis done on a false or bias set of assumptions is largely useless except perhaps in this case for the persons you are trying to understand.

    As I look out into the possible places where a person could wind up these days (not just in terms of where material interests might put a person, but identifying the conditions that might allow for an organization like AQ to exploit and set up shop)- border states along the Caspian, any of the "stans" or continental interiors where clans and tribes are the rule, and the religious practices are combination of major movements that are still grounded in local supersticion and supernatural, I'm feeling more then a little ignorant. This war (GWOT in what ever stage and name it morphs into) has so much to do with people, and people are the sum of their experiences and beliefs (however I think their actions are something to do with the context of their environment)
    Regards, Rob

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Hi Rob,

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    Marc, no worries - I'm not a "Do I cut the blue wire with the red stripe, or red wire with the blue stripe?" kinda guy. When I get done with job this I am gonna do some real reading on it though. I've gotta feeling in my next gig it might be helpful - I'm more interested in the background stuff though that could help me understand its place in the things that make peoples what/who they are. Its hard to explain; its kind of like white noise, but white noise that means something. Ex. knowing that about the BN CDR, and seeing the other IA at the table and my interpreter accept it as if it were as solid as the table we ate off of told me something, but damned if I know what it was (aside from the obvious). The other 2 Americans at the table (a Mormon and a N.Carolinian Methodist) were more or less dismissive. Maybe its because I've been some strange places as odd times, maybe its just disposition.
    I 'spose it could be either - "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy." (Hamlet, Act !, Scene V) Or, as one of my favorite heretoic mystics once noted "those that have eyes, let them see". To disregard the djinn in a Muslim context would be as insane as disregarding the Holy Ghost in a believeing Christian context (well, that's something Anglicans do well <wry grin>).

    Sometime, if we ever end up sitting together in a bar, we can trade stories of "strange places" . Personally, I've seen stuff that would freak most people and that is almost impossible to explain in modern English.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    What bothers me right now is that during our cultural trianing with the countless useless things that were taught, nobody thought to tell us how solid and real things like Djinn are to the people here - its like they ommited it by default (sort of a "I don't beleive in them so how could it possibly be relevant to another culture"). It doesn't matter a stitch if I believe in them or not - but it does matter that they do - and somehow it goes beyond not mocking their culture, it goes to understanding who they are - which allows me to understand why someone might do something, or would never do something. Analysis done on a false or bias set of assumptions is largely useless except perhaps in this case for the persons you are trying to understand.
    True. It's really a simple thing to do during training, but it is left out. I've seen the same show up in Anthro lectures where the lecturer dismisses things like this as superstition. What was Stans' phrase? "Bravo Sierra" (love it, Stan). If you believe that there are non-physocal actors present in the world and have a set of indicators for their actuions, then they are "real" for you.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Thornton View Post
    As I look out into the possible places where a person could wind up these days (not just in terms of where material interests might put a person, but identifying the conditions that might allow for an organization like AQ to exploit and set up shop)- border states along the Caspian, any of the "stans" or continental interiors where clans and tribes are the rule, and the religious practices are combination of major movements that are still grounded in local supersticion and supernatural, I'm feeling more then a little ignorant. This war (GWOT in what ever stage and name it morphs into) has so much to do with people, and people are the sum of their experiences and beliefs (however I think their actions are something to do with the context of their environment)
    Well, Rob, much as I would dearly love to see Magi-Colonels, we are unlikely to develope them <wry grin>. You know, this is sytarting to get into the heart of what I was meaning with the idea of symbolic warfare - symbols are "real", be they djinn, angels or demons, to the poeple who believe in them. As such, they are actors on the stage of life who we cannot afford to disregard.

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default Anthro Classes, Boy do I feel like and idiot !!!

    Hey marc,
    Forgive my NCO humor. I'm not sure where I got most of it from

    I actually appreciate the little education I do have. By no means even close to yours. Armed with a Bachelor's in Applied Science, I made my way to Africa. Logic to this day drives my entire life. Whether in the garage, kitchen or in the field and that at times permits me to be a real Delta Hotel. I even share it with others

    Unfortunately, I never took any antrho classes. Perhaps they may have assisted me during my tours. Perhaps not. I had some very good Officers and NCOs during my Army life and they taught me to keep my skinny butt down and live another day. Those fine folks are with me today - fond memories, etc.

    I tried to find Tom and ended up here, so there you go. I enjoy this forum and the posts that you folks take time to write. Really

    In closing, I agree
    Ask and pay attention, you'd be surprised what you end up with. Be it a former NCO or Officer, or an Anthro class.

    Regards, Stan

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    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Reber View Post
    Hey marc,
    Forgive my NCO humor. I'm not sure where I got most of it from
    Hey, Stan... Life? That's where my Grandad got his (highly warped!) NCO humour from.

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Reber View Post
    I actually appreciate the little education I do have. By no means even close to yours. Armed with a Bachelor's in Applied Science, I made my way to Africa. Logic to this day drives my entire life. Whether in the garage, kitchen or in the field and that at times permits me to be a real Delta Hotel. I even share it with others
    LOLOL Well, thank the Gods for small mercies! Witholding it would be a sin!!!!

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Reber View Post
    Unfortunately, I never took any antrho classes. Perhaps they may have assisted me during my tours. Perhaps not. I had some very good Officers and NCOs during my Army life and they taught me to keep my skinny butt down and live another day. Those fine folks are with me today - fond memories, etc.
    Don't know if Anthro would have helped or not <shrug>. I learned most of my Anth in bars and in the field, and it sounds like you've done the same. On butt positions, I was always told to keep it down, walk and talk softly, and if someone hits me to deck the SOB .

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Reber View Post
    In closing, I agree
    Ask and pay attention, you'd be surprised what you end up with. Be it a former NCO or Officer, or an Anthro class.
    Yup. It all seems to go back to Socrates and that (infuriating) "Man who knows!" (If I ever find him, I'm going to tell him to just write a blog like the rest of us!).

    Take care,

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
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    Carleton University
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    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default If you believe

    Hey again Marc and Rob,
    Perhaps that's where logic leaves the picture (at least mine). Spooks and voodu were ever present in Central Africa, but a little time with Psyops and fine folks like that only drove me away. Imagination had little room when people were shooting M-16A1s at you. Kinda changes everything - as I was one of their instructors. No more magic and definitely no more logic !

    I have to get away from the "if you believe" mentality. Way too much time watching reality slap me around.

    I would conclude that you take things in and later on the ground you employ what suits you and the current situation best. The rest is not Bravo Sierra, but may not always be significant (right away).

    Regards, Stan

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    Council Member Rob Thornton's Avatar
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    Stan,
    Don't get me wrong, there are definetly some problems where the best answer is found in a belt or a magazine. I asked the kid on the PKC why he put the whole belt of 7.62 x 59 into the Opal, "because, he needed it!" he said. After watching many of these jundi get blown up or assassinated while on leave, he's right - some people need the whole belt. However, I interact with theses guys and others in the environment on some very different levels - while I enjoy listening to an elated Jundi share a moment of triumph in a place where he rarley sees the enemy but often feels the effects of him, the next minute I might be talking to somebody else and have to switch gears entirely. Its a good job, but for me understanding them means understanding why they might do what they do. I enjoy it, it keeps my brain in gear.
    I only spent about a year in Africa, and Addis Ababa is a fairly tame place I think by many other standards, at least it was under a communist/totalitaran type - when it got out of hand, Mingistu just killed allot of people and things settled down. I was a helluva lot younger then and only had a few things on the brain. I do remember a couple of crazy things though that really had no explanation once I got out into the countryside with my Italian/Ethiopian girlfriend and her family. However, the vajority I saw the same stuff, a dictator who stole everythng he could get his hands on, and murdered any of his own folks who got in the way. He had some rough friends in the Cubans and N.Koreans who had free reign of the place. I would go to Nairobi on occassion to refamiliarize on the weapons and I remember wlking around and just looking. They had just finished putting up a statue to that country's dictator Arap Moi (sp?). The thing was huge. If I recall it was the base of a large pyramid with a huge hand or arm coming out of it. I asked a friend of mine about it when I got back to Addis, he told me there was more money and resources spent on that statue then in building any "block" in Nairobi.
    So I left Africa with two things: an incredible appreciation for the size and scale of Africa and its people; but also with an understanding that its dictators were cruel and petty, and would probably not make much out of the resources they had. That was 88, so its been a little while - and I spent allot more time trying to know the Italian/Ethiopian gal then to get to know about the country (my loss, but at age 21 - well you do what you do). If I get the chance I'll go back though, I asked Tom Odom for some good reads on the rest of it.

    Best regards, Rob

  17. #17
    Council Member Stan's Avatar
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    Default "An interpretive framework for their own experiences"

    Marc, I needed to borrow some of your text for the subject line. Thanks !

    So I left Africa with two things: an incredible appreciation for the size and scale of Africa and its people; but also with an understanding that its dictators were cruel and petty, and would probably not make much out of the resources they had. That was 88, so its been a little while - and I spent allot more time trying to know the Italian/Ethiopian gal then to get to know about the country (my loss, but at age 21 - well you do what you do). If I get the chance I'll go back though, I asked Tom Odom for some good reads on the rest of it.
    Rob,
    Sounds like you are already fully qualified for another fun spot You probably won't find any relative "religious belief-driven folks" in Sub-Sahara, but you will definitely come out of it with even greater experiences and hopefully pass these on to our fellow NCOs and Officers who will one day really appreciate it.

    Tom is like one-stop shopping for info on Africa. I would however stay away from addressing "perceiving disaster groupies". You'll get more than you bargained for.

    Looking back, they were more like draft horses with blinders on in a constant imperceptive state, with their disorderly attention to things and people around them. Not something you should do in the middle of an African civil war and refugee crisis. I enjoyed however having these perceptive folks around in Africa. So many fell victim to African and Africans and that kept me both amused and busy

    Regards, Stan

  18. #18
    Council Member marct's Avatar
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    Talking Help youself, Stan...

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Reber View Post
    Marc, I needed to borrow some of your text for the subject line. Thanks !
    No worries, mate; all posts are under the Creative Commons Copyright .

    Quote Originally Posted by Stan Reber View Post
    Sounds like you are already fully qualified for another fun spot You probably won't find any relative "religious belief-driven folks" in Sub-Sahara, but you will definitely come out of it with even greater experiences and hopefully pass these on to our fellow NCOs and Officers who will one day really appreciate it.
    From what I have heard, there's still a lot of magic being practiced in a lot of places - often called "witchcraft" and/or sorcery, at least in English. I've also been getting some interesting reports from some of the Churches in Nigeria, and some garbled (a couple of years old now) reports coming out of the Sudan refugee camps.

    Rob, you should write a book .

    Marc
    Sic Bisquitus Disintegrat...
    Marc W.D. Tyrrell, Ph.D.
    Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies,
    Senior Research Fellow,
    The Canadian Centre for Intelligence and Security Studies, NPSIA
    Carleton University
    http://marctyrrell.com/

  19. #19
    Council Member Tom Odom's Avatar
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    Default A Voodoo Like Story

    This one involves Stan

    In the pre-Goma phase of our year together, Stan and I did our best to keep our ears to the ground on what was really happening in Kin La Belle as well as watching other issues like illegal airlift headed toward Angola. But in the broadest sense of the word, we did try to look at Zaire comprehensively and without Western blinkers, something that our State and other compatriots never seemed to understand.

    One day Stan came in and mentioned that our office local hires had mentioned that a "Mama" had had a vision in which it was revealed that all 100 dollar bills were bad. As a result, the currency exchange Mamas were either not taking $100 notes or were drastically cutting the exchange rate.

    As a result of the Mama report, we called the Econ officer in and relayed what we had heard. He was a good guy, an academic who had come into the foreign service late in life and he strugggled to understand the Zairian "economy" as he kept looking it as an actual economy based on currency and standard Western models. To his credit, he was the ONLY State officer who actually bothered to come in and visit us. We always had to go find the others and most did not bother to listen. The one who did ended up in Rwanda with me and did a great job.

    But back to the story, we explained the Mama vision tale and our Econ officer was sceptical to say the least. But he did start looking at. To make a long story shorter, ultimately State inspectors found that local employees in the Embassy financial office were washing counterfeit bills, produced locally, probably with the assistance of Lebanese connections. As I recall, State inspectors found more than $100K of the Embassy cash reserves had been switched.

    All of this was uncovered because Stan listened to our local hires and we passed on a tip about a "Mama had a vision."

    Best

    Tom

  20. #20
    Council Member slapout9's Avatar
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    Default

    Almost all types of serial criminals will believe they are directed by some type of higher power and of it can only be understood by them. The movie "Red Dragon" has a lot of fact in it. Point being if somebody believes in something and it causes them to "act" out that delusion it is very real and very dangerous. The crime of Stalking in particular is often completely based upon delusional or magic beliefs. In my own case the guy used to go to the graveyard where my wife's mother was buried and talk to her for advice, he also left small stuffed animals on the headstone, why he did this we will never know but he did it. Believe it or not this is not that unusual in stalking type cases.

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