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posting will be light — or maybe nonexistent — for the next couple of weeks, btw. easter break! (^_^)

i’m around. just relaxing poolside with some easter eggnog. (<< you didn't know that was a real thing, did you? (~_^) )

Stormtrooper-painted-hanging-eggs

preview screen

this is just a preview of a post that i’m working on — one on which i unfortunately have not made much headway, mostly because there’s an awful lot out there available to read on the topic (which is a good thing!). i promise, though, that — whenever it does materialize — that post will be a rip-roaring tale of medieval action and adventure! a thrilling and suspense-filled bodice ripper dealing with the themes of passion and madness! good versus evil! violence and punishment! swashbuckling pirates and….

no, wait. hang on a second. that’s not right.

no. as i mentioned in the last post, i’ve been reading up on violence (homicide) and the death penalty in medieval england to see if there exists any evidence to support the perfectly sensible theory that the removal of violent individuals — and, most importantly, their “genes for violence” — from the population in medieval europe (in this case england) resulted in the permanent decline in violence in europe as noted by historians of crime, like manuel eisner, and described by pinker in Better Angels.

the decline in homicides across europe that began in the middle ages is summarized in this chart from Better Angels (note the logarithmic scale):

pinker - fig. 3.3

the reader’s digest version of what i’ve found out about the death penalty in medieval england so far is:

- over the course anglo-saxon period (which isn’t actually covered by the above chart), the death penalty did come to be more widely applied to cases of homicide, but for most of the period there weren’t really very many executions of killers. in fact, the nascent state (such as it was during this early period) was more concerned about applying the death penalty in cases of theft rather than murder or manslaughter. for most of this period, murder was still avenged by the deceased person’s kindred, either in the collection of wergild or via the good old blood feud. this did begin to change by the tenth and eleventh centuries as more laws that included the death penalty for killings were issued, but even in these later centuries the archaeological evidence suggests that few executions actually happened.

- more laws demanding the death penalty (or castration) for killings were issued and enforced during the anglo-norman and angevin periods, especially as the centralized state became stronger and began to exercise greater control throughout england. one funny thing, though — jury trials were more or less invented during this period (the jury was more of an investigative body, though, like a grand jury rather than twelve angry men passing judgement), and it turns out that the juries tended to be a bit reticent about applying the laws too harshly, so executions actually remained comparatively low during large parts of the norman period. i think you can see this in the trend line on pinker’s graph — homicides do decrease from about 1300 to 1500, but the decline is not super steep.

- the tudor period. as far as i can tell, criminals were executed right and left during the tudor period. the use of capital punishment really ramped up during the 1500s. regional (county-wide) figures from the period show that, depending on time and place, anywhere from 27-50% of felons were executed. and, as you can see on pinker’s chart, the decline in homicides begins to decline sharply after around 1600.

that’s all i’ve got so far, but i’m pretty convinced that the idea that violence declined so much and with such rapidity in the medieval period in england (and the rest of europe?) is at least partly related to the fact that violent individuals were simply removed from the population — and it must’ve been done generally early enough in their careers to stop them reproducing — or slow down their reproductive rates enough that the population was pacified.

don’t think this is the whole story, though. the argument of the population being pacified thanks to the application of the death penalty by the state — by “leviathan” — doesn’t really seem to work fully or for all parts of europe. here is eisner on the differences between what happened in northern medieval europe versus medieval italy [pgs. 127-129 - pdf]:

“Strangely one-sided in respect to the role of the state as an internally pacifying institution, Elias almost exclusively emphasizes the state’s coercive potential exercised through the subordination of other power holders and bureaucratic control. Echoing the old Hobbesian theme, the decline in interpersonal violence should thus develop out of increased state control. Although the long-term expansion of the state and the decline of lethal violence appear to correlate nicely on the surface, a closer look reveals several inconsistencies. Muchembled (1996), for example, points out that the decline of homicide rates in early modern Europe does not appear to correspond with the rise of the absolutist state. Rather, he argues, the example of the Low Countries shows that homicide rates declined in polities where centralized power structures never emerged and the political system much more resembled a loose association of largely independent units. Neither does intensified policing nor the harsh regime of public corporal punishment, both probably the most immediate manifestations of state power in any premodern society, seem to aid understanding of the trajectories into lower levels of homicide rates. Police forces in medieval and early modern Italian cities were surprisingly large — Schwerhoff (1991, p. 61) cites per capita figures of between 1:145 and 1:800 — but they did not effectively suppress everyday violence. Furthermore, no historian seems to believe that the popularity of the scaffold and the garrote among sixteenth- and seventeenth-century European rulers decisively reduced crime.

“Rather, the Italian case exemplifies a more general problem. For whatever the deficiencies of early modern Italian states may have been, they were certainly not characterized by a lesser overall level of state bureaucracy and judicial control than, for example, states in England or Sweden during the same period (see, e.g., Brackett 1992). England was not centralized in bureaucratic terms, and the physical means of coercion, in terms of armed forces, were slight (Sharpe 1996, p. 67). The mere rise of more bureaucratic and centralized state structures thus hardly seems to account for the increasingly divergent development of homicide rates in northern and southern Europe. Examining Rome, Blastenbrei (1995, p. 284) argues that the divergence may, rather, be related to the evolution of different models of the relationship between the state and civil society. While northern European societies were increasingly characterized by a gradually increasing legitimacy for the state as an overarching institution, the South was marked by a deep rupture between the population and the state authorities. In respect to state control, Roth emphasizes a similar point when examining the massive drop in homicide rates in New England from 1630 to 1800: ‘The sudden decline in homicide did not correlate with improved economic circumstances, stronger courts, or better policing. It did, however, correlate with the rise of intense feelings of Protestant and racial solidarity among the colonists, as two wars and a revolution united the formerly divided colonists against New England’s native in habitants, against the French, and against their own Catholic Monarch, James II’ (2001, p. 55).

Both Roth and Blastenbrei emphasize, from different angles, a sociological dimension whose importance for understanding the longterm decline in serious violence has not yet been systematically explored, namely, mutual trust and the legitimacy of the state as foundations for the rise of civil society. Both are, of course, clearly to be distinguished from the coercive potential of the state — strong states in terms of coercion can be illegitimate, while seemingly weak states may enjoy high legitimacy. And on the level of macro-transhistorical comparison, the decline of homicide rates appears to correspond more with integration based on trust than with control based on coercion.

yeah. and y’all know what i have to say about all that. (^_^) but i won’t bore you with repeating myself just now — i’ll let you go enjoy the easter holidays. stay tuned for more on this in the near future!

previously: outbreeding, self-control and lethal violence and kinship, the state, and violence and more on genetics and the historical decline of violence and

(note: comments do not require an email. sorry, not really any pirates. (~_^) )

busy reading all about crime and punishment (i.e. the death penalty) in medieval england, so you don’t have to! (^_^) in the meantime, until i post about that, here are some random notes:

the law codes of ine king of wessex (688-726) are some of the earliest anglo-saxon law codes still surviving. they were issued ca. 694. ine took his christianity seriously and demanded that [pg. 27]:

“[A]ll children were to be baptised within 30 days of their birth, failing which their guardians had to pay a fine of 30 shillings. If a child died before baptism its guardian lost all he possessed….”

so there are some strong incentives for the populace to convert to christianity or remain christian once they’d done so.
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æthelstan, king of the anglo-saxons and then the first king of the north english (924-939), also passed a bunch of laws including [pg. 32]:

“[T]he first social legislation in England, providing for the relief of the poor. If a king’s reeve failed to provide, from the rents of the royal demesne, for the poor in the manner prescribed he had to find 30 shillings to be distributed among the poor under the bishop’s supervision.”

nice of him! (^_^)
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some examples of concerns about consanguinity issues in the late anglo-saxon period [pg. 226]:

“General concern about marriage and sexual relations within the kin is expressed throughout our period, for example, in the late ninth century in letters from Pope John VIII to Burgred, king of the Mercians, and to Æthelred, archbishop of Canterbury, and another from Fulk, archbishop of Reims, to King Alfred. In the 950s, according to the ‘Anglo-Saxon Chronicle’, ‘Archbishop Oda separated King Eadwig and Ælfgifu because they were too closely related’. They may have shared a great-great-grandfather, King Æthelwulf of Wessex….”

so there you go.
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and in anglo-norman england [pgs. 435-437]:

“As in the Anglo-Saxon period, a central issue was consanguinity. In the second half of the eleventh century and particularly under the influence of the reformer Peter Damian, the method of counting the prohibited degrees was established in its most extensive form. Instead of counting to see if there was a common ancestor within four generations, the counting was taken a further three generations back, to the seventh. This had the effect of extending the range of prohibited marriage partners to sixth cousins.[12] In England, the prohibition ‘to the seventh degree’ was decreed at ecclesiastical councils at London in 1074 x 1075, and at Westminster in 1102 and 1125: ‘between those related by blood or relatives by affinity [i.e. by marriage], up to the seventh generation, we prohibit marriages to be contracted. If indeed anyone shall have been thus joined together, let them be separated’. Reformers also emphasised other non-blood relationships, especially spiritual kinship. The potential for conflict with lay practice must have increased significantly, as it has been suggested that whilst the layity did not commonly contract marriages within four degrees, they did within five or six.[15]

“[12] It has been suggested that blood relationships alone might mean that the bride or groom had over 2,500 cousins of their own generation whom they were prohibited to marry; J.-L. Flandrin, Families in Former Times, trans. R. Southern (Cambridge, 1979), 24.

“[15] E.g. Green, Aristocracy, 348-9.”

2,500 cousins that you couldn’t marry. awkward that.
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interestingly (at least to me!), from late anglo-saxon england [pg. 242 - link added by me]:

“A further important tie was that of spiritual kinship, created particularly at baptism, but also at the catechumenate and confirmation. It seems that in England, unlike the Continent, there was only one sponsor, of the same sex as the person undergoing the ceremony. This is one reason for the relatively limited emphasis in England on the need for the group of godparents and their godchild to avoid sexual relations or marriage within the group.[114]

“[114] J.H. Lynch, Christianizing Kinship: Ritual Sponsorship in Anglo-Saxon England. 1998.”

huh! who knew?
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and, finally, just to remind everyone how barbaric the barbarians were [pg. 186]:

“The laws of Æthelstan mention drowning or throwing from a cliff for free women, stoning for male slaves, burning for female slaves:

“‘In the case of a male slave, sixty and twenty slaves shall go and stone him. And if any of them fails three times to hit him, he shall himself be scourged three times. When a slave guilty of theft has been put to death, each of those slaves shall give three pennies to his lord. In the case of a female slave who commits an act of theft anywhere except against her master or mistress, sixty and twenty female slaves shall go and bring three logs each and burn that one slave; and they shall pay as many pennies as males slaves would have to pay, or suffer scourging as has been stated above with references to male slaves.’

“However, the literary and archaeology evidence just cited suggests that hanging and beheading were the most common methods.”

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(note: comments do not require an email. æthelstan – earliest surviving portrait of an english king.)

Svante Paabo talk at NIH“According to Dr. Paabo, Ust-Ishim has longer Neandertal chunks than modern humans and this can be used to estimate that the admixture with Neandertals happened 331+/-99 generations before its time of 45,000y BP, or around 50-60,000y BP…. This pretty much proves that there were modern humans in Eurasia before the Upper Paleolithic revolution and disproves Richard Klein’s theory that modern humans together with UP technologies spread Out-of-Africa only after 50,000 years ago.” – from dienekes.

Europeans have three times more Neanderthal genes for lipid catabolism than Asians or Africans“Contemporary Europeans have as many as three times more Neanderthal variants in genes involved in lipid catabolism than Asians and Africans. Although Neanderthals are extinct, fragments of their genomes persist in modern humans. These shared regions are unevenly distributed across the genome and some regions are particularly enriched with Neanderthal variants.”

The really old Europe is mostly in Eastern Europe“‘These results confirm Sardinia as a refuge area where ancestry related to Early European Farmers has been best preserved, and also the greater persistence of WHG-related ancestry in present-day Eastern European populations. The latter finding suggests that West European Hunter-Gatherers (so-named because of the prevalence of Loschbour and La Braña) or populations related to them have contributed to the ancestry of present-day Eastern European groups.’” – @eurogenes blog.

More on Deafness“Seems to me that limited verbal stimulation is not a very plausible primary cause of low test scores and low academic achievement in blacks, because the degree of deprivation needed to cause a 1-standard deviation decline is extreme (deafness), and because there is an even greater depression of nonverbal scores, which, judging from the results in deaf children, should not be affected at all by limited verbal stimulation.” – from greg cochran.

Language structure: You’re born with it“Humans are unique in their ability to acquire language. But how? A new study shows that we are in fact born with the basic fundamental knowledge of language, thus shedding light on the age-old linguistic ‘nature vs. nurture’ debate.”

Selection for complex traits leaves little or no classic signatures of selection“We present empirical evidence to suggests little discernible ‘selection signature’ for complex traits in the genome of dairy cattle despite very strong and recent artificial selection.” – h/t razib!

Whole genome sequencing of six dog breeds from continuous altitudes reveals adaption to high-altitude hypoxia“To understand the genetic bases of adaption to high altitude in dogs, we performed whole-genome sequencing of 60 dogs including five breeds living at continuous altitudes along the Tibetan plateau from 800 to 5,100 m as well as one European breed…. Comparison of the breeds from different altitudes reveals strong signals of population differentiation at the locus of hypoxia-related genes including endothelial Per-Arnt-Sim (PAS) domain protein 1 (EPAS1) and beta hemoglobin cluster. Especially, four novel non-synonymous mutations specific to high-altitude dogs are identified at EPAS1, one of which occurred at a quite conserved site in the PAS domain. The association testing between EPAS1 genotypes and blood-related phenotypes on additional high-altitude dogs reveals that the homozygous mutation is associated with the decreased blood flow resistance, which may help to improve hemorheologic fitness. Interestingly, EPAS1 was also identified as a selective target in Tibetan highlanders, though no amino acid changes were found. Thus, our results not only indicate parallel evolution of humans and dogs in adaption to high-altitude hypoxia, but also provide a new opportunity to study the role of EPAS1 in the adaptive processes.” – h/t joe pickerell!

Facial Width-To-Height Ratio Relates to Alpha Status and Assertive Personality in Capuchin Monkeys“fWHR was positively associated with alpha status and with a dimensional rating of assertive personality in both males and females. Moreover, fWHR showed significant sexual dimorphism in adults but not juveniles, suggesting a developmental change may occur during puberty. In a sub-sample, sex differences were mediated by weight, suggesting fWHR dimorphism does not exceed what would be expected by differences in body weight. This is the first report of an association between face shape and behaviour in a non-human species.” – h/t stuart ritchie!

The relationship between Microcephalin, ASPM and intelligence: A reconsideration“Microcephalin is strongly associated with DNA repair, which indicates a special role for this allele in the intrinsic anti-viral immune response. Enhanced immune functioning may have advantaged both hunter–gatherer and agrarian societies coping with the heightened disease burden that resulted from population growth and exposure to zoonotic diseases, making it more likely that such growth and concomitant increases in intelligence could occur.” – from michael woodley et al. – see also The riddle of Microcephalin – from peter frost.

Caucasian Boys Show Highest Prevalence of Color Blindness Among Preschoolers“The first major study of color blindness in a multi-ethnic group of preschoolers has uncovered that Caucasian male children have the highest prevalence among four major ethnicities, with 1 in 20 testing color blind. Researchers also found that color blindness, or color vision deficiency, in boys is lowest in African-Americans, and confirmed that girls have a much lower prevalence of color blindness than boys.”

Humans and saber-toothed tiger met in Germany 300,000 years ago

One of the Key Characteristics of Ancient DNA, Low Copy Number, May be a Product of its Extraction – h/t hbd bibliography!

Give it up, Psmithe – steve sailer on greg clark’s The Son Also Rises.

Why I am now skeptical of the hypothesis that dysgenics has had substantial real-world effects – elijah (doin’ his superman thing (~_^) ).

El capital humano de las naciones: ¿Más allá de PISA? – h/t billare! who tweeted: “Take Lynn & Vanhanen’s 2012 estimates, correlate them to PISA math & science results, find an r of 0.98.”

The grasping reflex of babies: a vestigial trait? – from jerry coyne.

Social influence constrained by the heritability of attitudes – h/t andrew sabisky! who tweeted: “more heritable attitudes are more resistant to social pressure.”

What Are Relatives Good For?“The battle over every aunt and uncle’s favorite evolutionary theory.”

Genetic Influences Are Virtually Absent for Trust“Here we examine a population-based sample of 1,012 twins and relatives. We show that the genetic influence on generalized trust in other people (trust-in-others: h2 = 5%, ns), and beliefs regarding other people’s trust in the self (trust-in-self: h2 = 13%, ns), is virtually absent…. We show that, relative to cognitive abilities, psychiatric disorders, and classic personality variables, genetic influences are smaller for trust, and propose that experiences with or observations of the behavior of other people shape trust more strongly than other traits.” – h/t rene bekkers!

Psychopaths: how can you spot one?“But is psychopathy a disorder – or a different way of being…? If someone’s brain lacks the moral niceties the rest of us take for granted, they obviously can’t do anything about that, any more than a colour-blind person can start seeing colour. So where does this leave the concept of moral responsibility? ‘The legal system traditionally asserts that all people standing in front of the judge’s bench are equal. That’s demonstrably false,’ says the neuroscientist David Eagleman, author of Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain. He suggests that instead of thinking in terms of blameworthiness, the law should deal with the likelihood that someone will reoffend, and issue sentences accordingly, with rehabilitation for those likely to benefit and long sentences for those likely to be long-term dangers.” – h/t (heh! (~_^) ) heartiste!

IQ, Neuroticism, booze, and those damn vegetables again – from dr. james thompson.

Tweet of the Week“‘[H]umans are very good at attributing causality when it does not exist. That has led to confusion between correlation and cause on an industrial scale, not least in attempts to work out the effects of diet on health.’” – @jayman’s.

Is there a gene for procrastination? – there’d better be or else i’m all outta excuses! (*^_^*) see also: Genetic Relations Among Procrastination, Impulsivity, and Goal-Management Ability – Implications for the Evolutionary Origin of Procrastination.

Biological evidence of positive and negative people in the world“The ability to stay positive when times get tough — and, conversely, of being negative — may be hardwired in the brain, finds new research.”

“Grounds of War” – A New Paper on Territoriality with Remarkable “Similarities” to the Work of Robert Ardrey – from helian.

Equal ≠ The Same: Sex Differences in the Human Brain“At the root of the resistance to sex-influences research, especially regarding the human brain, is a deeply ingrained, implicit, false assumption that if men and women are equal, then men and women must be the same. This is false. The truth is that of course men and women are equal (all human beings are equal), but this does not mean that they are, on average, the same. 2 + 3 = 10 – 5, but these expressions are not the same. And, in fact, if two groups really are different on average in some respect, but they are being treated the same, then they are not being treated equally on average.”

Inbreeding is associated with lower 2D: 4D digit ratio. – in turkey. meanwhile, classic post from heartiste: Is Finger Length Ratio Evidence Of A Woman’s Fidelity?

diana fleischman speculates on that “perceived intelligence of faces” research that came out recently.

Thinking about a majority-minority shift leads to more conservative views“Facing the prospect of racial minority groups becoming the overall majority in the United States leads White Americans to lean more toward the conservative end of the political spectrum, according to research. The findings suggest that increased diversity in the United States could actually lead to a wider partisan divide, with more White Americans expressing support for conservative policies.”

The ‘Love Hormone’ Can Make You Hate: Study“A study from the Netherlands suggests that oxytocin might only make you love people in your in-group, and can contribute to conflict with outsiders.”

Bacteria Turn Plants and Insects into Zombies“A parasitic phytoplasma deploys proteins to manipulate the plants it infects as well as the insects that spread the microbe.”

Zombie Snipers at the Doorstep“Colony-living insects like ants have a kind of social immune system — they behave in ways that prevent infections from spreading through their nests. They clean each other and remove the corpses of their nestmates. Sick ants, which have been infected by killer fungi, are often shunned by their fellow workers, and sometimes leave the nest to die alone.” – h/t john durant!

Germs Rule the World“The new germ theory: Infections play a role in many, many diseases—in ways we’re just beginning to understand.”

The Remarkable Self-Organization of Ants“It turns out that ants perform these complex tasks by obeying a few simple rules…. The organization of insect societies is a marquee example of a complex decentralized system that arises from the interactions of many individuals.”

The World’s Murder Capitals“[A] group of countries — all of them in either the Americas or Africa — accounting for just 11 percent of the global population are the location of 46 percent of the world’s homicides…. Men accounted for 95 percent of the perpetrators and 79 percent of the victims of homicide in 2012….”

Fearing Punishment for Bad Genes“[M]any people are avoiding the [dna] tests because of a major omission in the 2008 federal law that bars employers and health insurers from seeking the results of genetic testing.” – h/t kevin mitchell!

‘Everything should be open to question’ – h/t claire lehmann!

*A Curmudgeon’s Guide to Getting Ahead*, by Charles Murray. see also “The Curmudgeon’s Guide”: A Q&A with Charles Murray.

bonus: The Moral: Aesop Knew Something About Crows

bonus bonus: Fruit flies maneuver like tiny fighter jets

bonus bonus bonus: This 3000 Year Old Amulet Kind of Looks Like a Gummy Bear

bonus bonus bonus bonus: Measure Yourself by the Standard of the Capybara

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: White wing supremacist: swan attacks foreign students – h/t ed west!

bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus bonus: Mike Judge Skewers Silicon Valley With the Satire of Our Dreams“The creator of Beavis and Butt-Head aims his snark cannon at the tech startup scene in his new HBO show, Silicon Valley.”

(note: comments do not require an email. capybara and friend!)

h/t jayman! (^_^)

darth vader cigarette

here’s a really interesting looking new book!:

An Intimate War: An Oral History of the Helmand Conflict

“Mike Martin’s oral history of Helmand underscores the absolute imperative of understanding the highly local, personal, and non-ideological nature of internal conflict in much of the ‘third’ world.

“‘An Intimate War’ tells the story of the last thirty-four years of conflict in Helmand Province, Afghanistan as seen through the eyes of the Helmandis. In the West, this period is often defined through different lenses — the Soviet intervention, the civil war, the Taliban, and the post-2001 nation-building era. Yet, as experienced by local inhabitants, the Helmand conflict is a perennial one, involving the same individuals, families and groups, and driven by the same arguments over land, water and power.

“This book — based on both military and research experience in Helmand and 150 interviews in Pashto — offers a very different view of Helmand from those in the media. It demonstrates how outsiders have most often misunderstood the ongoing struggle in Helmand and how, in doing so, they have exacerbated the conflict, perpetuated it and made it more violent — precisely the opposite of what was intended when their interventions were launched.”

from an article by martin in today’s telegraph:

“Britain didn’t understand the enemy in Helmand”

“I would argue that our performance – in terms of achieving our objectives – has been very poor. In the case of Afghanistan, and specifically Helmand Province, where the majority of our forces have been based, we have failed to understand the Helmandis. We have also failed to understand their culture, their history and their motivations.

“Most importantly, we have singularly failed to understand the Helmandi conflict. And to paraphrase Clausewitz, the most important thing to do in war is understand what type of war you are fighting. Many non-Helmandis view the violence through the narrative adopted by the international community. According to the ‘insurgency narrative’ widely espoused by Western governments, a legitimate Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GIRoA), which is recognised and supported by the international community, is violently opposed by a movement of insurgents, called the Taliban, who have sanctuary in Quetta, Pakistan.

“Thus, the Taliban are religiously inspired insurgents who are opposed to the democratic and women’s rights that the GIRoA embodies and promotes. But this ‘insurgency narrative’ does not fit with my experiences as an officer. I went to Helmand several times (in and out of uniform), with appropriate gaps between visits for study and reflection, and this analysis seemed further and further from the events that I was observing and participating in. In my view, the Taliban are not the main drivers of conflict; and earlier periods, including the Soviet, the civil war and the Taliban eras, have been similarly misconstrued.

“Today, much of the violence is mischaracterised as ‘Taliban’ insurgent violence, when in fact it is not linked to the Taliban or the GIRoA, but is driven by local dynamics between groups and individuals on the ground. The Helmandis describe the conflict as *pshe-pshe*. This literally translates as ‘leg-leg’, but refers to the different legs of a tribe or clan (the English term would be ‘branch’). So, metaphorically, the phrase *pshe-pshe* means group-on-group warfare. It is a (micro) civil war….

“Currently, our ideas are largely based upon Maoist descriptions of insurgency; they highlight the importance of ideologies and organisation to motivate insurgents. The Army definition of an insurgency is ‘an organised, violent subversion used to effect or prevent political control, as a challenge to established authority’; it was from this that the ‘insurgency narrative’ was drawn.

“But this is not what took place in Helmand. The US and Britain were imposing a view of the war that bore little resemblance to the local understanding. The clearest example was the British ignoring Helmandis’ historical hatred (and related feelings of revenge) for them because it did not fit their understanding of the official narratives of the war. At the risk of over-quoting from the great Prussian master, they were trying to turn the war into something that it was not.

“These examples underscore the importance, when intervening in an internal war, of understanding the local politics – its actors, groups, narratives, feuds and alliances….”

from another article on sky news:

He [martin] catalogues in microscopic detail how first US Special Forces and then British troops were constantly manipulated by their Afghan allies into fighting on their side as part of local feuds and criminal enterprises that were only very dimly related to the ideology of being pro-government or pro-Taliban.

“Indeed, according to Dr Martin’s research, the two were often labels adopted by factions and warlords in need of material support from either the Nato forces or the Taliban.

Early allies of Nato, ahead of the British deployment, were warlords who stole vast tracts of lands from other clans and tribes and then used their alliance with US commandos as a military lever.

“‘The foreigners must like the *topak salaran* (warlords),’ Dr Martin quotes a local as saying.

“In 2008, while researching Desperate Glory, it was abundantly clear that British intelligence officers had only the sketchiest notion of who the ‘enemy’ in Helmand was.

“They did not appreciate the difference between long bloody engagements fought in the heart of the drug processing villages with the sudden evaporation of Taliban fighters in the face of large numbers of British troops.

“Nor that there was no inconsistency between being pro-government and pro-Taliban on any given day for a militia commander.

“Trucking contractors charged extra for ‘security’ and would then arrange for their convoys to be attacked.

“Drug barons, very often Afghan police, would contract Taliban militia to deliver their goods to market in government-held areas while Afghan troops were conducting anti-narcotics operations against their rivals.

“That is the way in Helmand – a rich agricultural landscape which has been riven by decades of conflict in which survival is the only form of victory.

“The buying of intelligence on alleged members of the Taliban by US forces meant a market developed in denunciations.

“Dr Martin wrote: ‘I repeatedly explored the issue of faulty intelligence driven by feuds and vendettas in 2011 and 2012.

“‘The attitude of those involved is perhaps best summed up by one of the more prominent militia commanders, who was still working with US Special Forces in 2012, when I asked him if there were still any feuds left over by the false targeting of the early days “All those sorts of problems are solved now”, he said, laughing, “they (the people we targeted) are all dead.”‘

“‘He said he could not work out why the United States was “so stupid”.’”

military intelligence, eh? =/

perhaps not surprisingly the british military has tried to stop the publication of martin’s book. he’s had to resign his commission in order to have it published.

previously: consanguineous marriage in afghanistan and kandahar vs. levittown

(note: comments do not require an email. helmand.)

here’s a strange — and sad — set of homicide statistics from sweden (stockholm) in the early 1700s — from manuel eisner’s Long-Term Historical Trends in Violent Crime [pdf - pg. 112]:

“There is one major exception to this pattern [of male preponderance in serious violent crime-h.chick]. In early eighteenth-century Stockholm, women not only accounted for more than 60 percent of property crime offenders but also 45 percent of murder and manslaughter offenders and 41 percent of assault offenders (Andersson 1995). These are probably the highest female participation rates in serious violent crime found anywhere in the world. Scholars examining this phenomenon emphasize a combination of factors including — besides demographic imbalance — a highly specific cultural configuration, which embraced some kind of otherworldly calculus. More particularly, for fear of eternal punishment in hell, suicidal women appear often to have chosen to kill somebody else, usually their offspring, and then suffer the death penalty imposed on them by the judiciary (Jansson 1998). Homicide would bring them to purgatory for a limited period of time, after which they would enter heaven for eternity, which was definitely to be preferred to consignment to eternal hell because of suicide.”

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(note: comments do not require an email. galgberget ["gallows hill"] in stockholm.)

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