San Martin and Maoland – US Training of Police in the Art of Crushing Protests

Watching the events as they unfold in Egypt and earlier in Tunisia, I have been fascinated by the evolving role of the police. Though also true in the Tunisian case, the Egyptian police has long been particularly infamous for its rampant use of torture, a fact sometimes taken advantage of by the US. These police forces recently revealed their complete incompetence and senseless cruelty to the world as plentiful footage showed its beatings, lethal use of vehicle charges, and its ultimate dissolution in the face of massive protests in major cities across the country. Since then, at least some of its officers appear to have shed their uniforms and re-engaged with hired or sympathetic government supporters.

While we are constantly reminded of US connections to the Egyptian military, these events remind me of the history of US ties to repressive police institutions around the world that would clearly recognize their own behavior on Al Jazeera footage and in countless Youtube clips uploaded in the past week or two. Throughout the Cold War, but especially from 1962 to the mid-1970s, the United States engaged in an intensive effort to train police from allied states on a scale not seen again until the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. Run primarily through the Office of Public Safety (OPS) and funded by USAID, this campaign was never primarily a matter of generally developing police efficacy and professionalism, though many OPS police advisors and USAID officials were personally committed to these causes commitments to these causes. From the beginning, this effort was defined as the core of a counter-insurgency strategy designed to thwart “interests inimical to the United States” threatening friendly regimes before they become powerful enough to require full military intervention. The organization was heavily infiltrated by CIA officers who were placed there under the guidance of Byron Engle, the OPS director and a former CIA operative himself.1

One important center of the police training provided by the US during the 1960s and 1970s was the International Police Academy (IPA) which was housed in the “Car Barn,” a building complex which now houses offices for Georgetown University in Washington D.C. Though accusations abound, I have not found any persuasive evidence that torture techniques were taught or tolerated at the academy, and it seems clear that, on the contrary, many US instructors went out of their way to deplore the use of torture and argue that it is inefficient, ineffective, and highly damaging to civil-police relations. It is also clear, as several accounts I have read claim, that many of the students disagreed with their instructors, and openly debated the virtues of torture with each other even while in attendance. There is much more to be said on this, but here I wish to introduce one anecdote I came across about the IPA in A. J. Langguth‘s 1978 book Hidden Terrors which reveals the degree to which US training was explicitly designed to help its allies maintain a lock on power in the face of a protesting opposition.

San Martin and Maoland

The IPA designed a number of exercises to test the ability of police officers to respond to a political threat in the imaginary country of San Martin. Neighboring this state was the diabolical Maoland, which was always trying to spread revolution. In the exercises IPA faculty would play the role of Maoland infiltrators while students were split into those who assisted in plotting revolution, those crushing the uprising, and those who judged between the two.

In one exercise Langguth recounts, an aerial photograph of Baltimore served as a map of San Martin, and demonstrations organized by the Maoland revolutionaries were plotted out on it. One part of the exercise came to mind as journalists and human rights activists were rounded up in Cairo yesterday. As the student police proceeded to execute their plans, if things were too easy, IPA instructors would call in and declare, posing as Prime Minister, “My problem is the reporters on the scene. They’re getting in the way and interfering with our police work.” (p129) If the police stalled, they would call in with this same complaint several times, and a student police chief would finally respond, “All right…arrest them! Bring them in!” This would give the students ten minutes of relief before more demands for specific actions would come over the phone.

Apparently, the students really enjoyed the San Martin and Maoland role-playing opportunities though they complained that the communications and anti-riot equipment deployed in the exercise was rarely available to them at home (130). Senior officers found the exercises nerve wrecking since their actions could be immediately judged by their peers, potentially including younger or less experienced policemen.

Films apparently were often used in training, including one filmed in Panama but claiming to again be in the midst of a politically unstable San Martin. Other movies like The Use of Tear Gas to Preserve Order served as marketing material for the Lake Erie Chemical Company (one wonders if the Combined Systems International of Jamestown Pennsylvania, which supplied tear gas to the Egyptians has similar marketing films provided to its Egyptian customers?). Another movie mentioned both in Langguth’s Hidden Terrors and in a Congressional Report dated February, 1976 is the “Battle of Algiers.” This is a fantastic movie but also a highly complex one from which a whole range of lessons can be drawn. I came away from it horrified by the images of torture used and defended by the French as well the terrorism of the FLN and other non-state actors.

The congressional report, written as the US began to wind down its police training efforts or shift them to function under the guise of anti-narcotics efforts, investigated accusations of torture training being carried out at the IPA. The showing of “Battle of Algiers” in an interrogation class was the closest they came to finding anything controversial, due to the film’s depiction of “questionable techniques of extracting information” but noted that the academy protested that the movie was designed to “bring out how abhorrent inhumane methods of interrogation can be.”2 That could well be true, as my own reaction to the film suggests, but it may also have provided a pretext for students, many of whom had plentiful experience in carrying out the kinds of techniques shown in the movie, to weigh in on their thoughts. It all depends on how the instructors handled it.

Though not connected to the San Martin and Maoland exercises, I mention this movie because it had an ironic connection with the demise of the Office of Public Safety. The script writer for “Battle of Algiers,” Italian Communist Party member Franco Solinas, wrote the script of the 1975 movie which cast unwanted light on the OPS. The film, “State of Siege” was also set in a fictional Latin American country (though based on real events in Uruguay), but this time, instead of depicting brave police efforts to crush a rebellion, it incorporated many of the accusations and rumors of direct US police advisor involvement in torture.3 Though I am not convinced the more sensationalist accusations leveled against the OPS involvement in torture are true, its advisors came into daily contact, as US soldiers and operatives in Iraq and Afghanistan do, with allied security forces who openly discussed and engaged in intolerable acts of brutality.

Today’s San Martin is Egypt, an American ally of critical importance to protecting its interests in the Middle East. The Maoland infiltrators, as Egyptian state television would have its audience believe, are on the streets promoting the subversive interests of foreigners. I hope the United States comes to the crystal clear observation that history will, in this case too, not treat its connection to this brutal regime kindly and more importantly, neither will the Egyptian people.

  1. I am deeply interested in Byron Engle due to his leading role in Japanese police reforms and only recently came across his long career as a Cold Warrior after he left Japan. []
  2. See “Stopping US Assistance to Foreign Police and Prisons” 16. OPS head Byron Engle denied the movie was ever shown at IPA in an interview with Langguth. Hidden Terrors, p324. []
  3. This is discussed in Langguth’s Hidden Terrors, 304-308. []

Charles Tilly

I just heard from Sayaka that Charles Tilly passed away. He was an amazing scholar whose work has had a powerful impact in the fields of sociology, political science, and my own field of history. I have learnt much from reading his work and attended several of his talks. I have always been impressed by his truly wide range of knowledge and have immense respect for his careful and modest attempts at synthesis across regions and centuries of time; something he manages to do without losing sensitivity to the complexities of context.

I only met Professor Tilly once, but the experience left me even more impressed. I was working tech support for professors at Columbia University about 6 years ago and was called into his office to revive Windows on a recently upgraded machine he was working off of. He was incredibly friendly and instead of going on with some reading as he waited for me to tinker away at his computer, he pulled up a chair and asked me about my own studies, posing sharp questions about anything I said that sparked his interest, all as we waited for things to install and the computer to go through several restarts. I remember asking him about the relationship between the disciplines of sociology and history, and though the substance of his comments now escape me, I remember he went on for some time about it even when I had finished setting things up for him. I only wish all my customers while working for Faculty Desktop Support were as willing to chat with their visiting technician.

The Harry Potter Index and International News

I opened up my copy of the newspaper this morning and very quickly realized it was a slow news day. Or at least an editor at 조선일보(朝鮮日報) made that call.

Today the top right quarter of the front page of the newspaper was dedicated to introducing a series of new articles on prices in Korea, entitled “해리포터 책값, 서울>도쿄>뉴욕” (“The Price of Harry Potter Books: Seoul > Tokyo > New York”). This was accompanied by a chart comparing the price of Harry Potter books 6 and 7 in five major cities.

If there is any phenomenon or fact worth reporting about Korea in the media, there is a very good chance that we will also learn how a quantification of that phenomenon compares with other OECD countries somewhere early in the report or article. Price index comparisons are, of course, something more commonly presented with such comparisons, but I had to chuckle when I saw this above the fold. When I lived in Japan, headlines like these would always prompt a, “日本は平和だな〜” (“Japan is such a peaceful place…”) I realized Korea was fairly peaceful too earlier this past summer when 20 minutes of the first half of an hour’s worth of the daily news (I can’t remember which channel) was dedicated to how citizens of Seoul are mobilizing to address the dangerous irregularities found occasionally in the metal hand bars found on a path in a city park (along the Han river? Can’t remember exactly) which had given rollerbladers cuts on their hands. They have apparently been putting some tape over the offending areas. I remember this was around the same time that huge floods in China had left thousands homeless and many dead. The floods didn’t make the news at all.

During my last two trips back to Norway, I noticed that the evening news on NRK (Dagsrevyen) had relatively heavy domestic coverage in terms of a straight minute calculation, and I guess I assume that this is the case with most countries. The middle east and large humanitarian crises, however, did seem to get considerable attention. Some national TV channels such as the news on BBC in the UK, and NHK in Japan have excellent international coverage but I’m not sure if that is because they both have had sprawling empires. Of course, the more internationally active cable channels also have a far larger proportion of international news. I’m truly amazed, however, at the the small proportion given to it on the various evening news programs I have seen here on TV in Seoul. There is better coverage in the major Korean newspapers, which always have pages reserved for international news (in addition to the front page), but I wonder what readership is like compared to broadcast news. Online reading of news, which is widespread in Korea, of course complicates the issue.

This all does raise an interesting normative question, however. Does the discomfort that wandering nomads like myself feel when we travel places and think we find a relative lack of consciousness about problems elsewhere in the world translate into anything more than a reflection of our own insufficient lack of investment into the interests of a specific community?

Soccer Game

I was just about to go to bed when suddenly the entire neighborhood erupted with wild cheering. The sounds of joyous voices poured in through the window from all around. “Oh,” I thought to myself, “It must be the world cup and Korea has just scored.” But wait a second, haven’t all the newspapers been eagerly awaiting Korea’s first game to come later this week?

I turned on the television just in time to catch the replay of the goal that was scored and created such joy all around me. Australia had just scored a goal against Japan…

English Parody of Japanese National Anthem

I came across this article in the Korea Times the other day. Apparently Japanese who protest the singing of Japan’s national anthem, 君が代 (J) have created an English parody of the song. The pronunciation is said to be similar enough not to be noticed when students sing it. The Guardian also picked up the story. Both refer back to the right-wing Sankei report on this which can be read here. The lyrics of the song are also reported to make a reference to comfort women.

I read the article while in a subway station in Seoul. I asked Sayaka what the lyrics for 君が代 were again and she proceeded to sing the song. She did this three times, struggling each time to remember the words, before it suddenly occurred to me that it probably isn’t such a good idea for a Japanese person, in a Korean subway station, to be singing the Japanese national anthem out loud. I stopped her and reminded her that her father had explicitly emailed her before she left for Korea and issued her a very formal and detailed warning on how not to provoke the Koreans by, for example, bringing up sensitive historical and territorial issues. He had neglected to tell her not to sing the Japanese anthem in crowded public places.

As you might expect if you have read any of my previous postings, I’m sympathetic to those who want to resist the reintroduction of flag and anthem rituals in the Japanese schools and find it unfortunate that the government affirmed both officially in a 1999 law. On the other hand, from a tactical standpoint, I really don’t think this fight is worth the effort. I don’t think it is possible in the current global and Japanese climate, to make any progress in a movement to oppose the national anthem and flag—even when it evokes images of a troubled national past.

I understand, however, that for younger students, this is one of the only issues where they may personally get involved. They can feel the exhilaration of refusing to sing an anthem which celebrates the Japanese imperial reign and thus get their first taste of civil disobedience. Though far less controversial than their early predecessors, they can join in a long tradition dating back to that historic moment when the Christian Uchimura Kanzô refused to bow at the reading of the Imperial Rescript on Education.

Instead of disrupting school ceremonies, refusing to show, or remaining silent, I think a humorous parody of the anthem is a wonderful idea. If translating the US anthem into Spanish is enough to get US nationalists all wound up, then a witty parody of the Japanese anthem if students are able to get away with singing it. I can almost see their devious chuckles as they sing it. Unlike the provocative Danish cartoons, which I think were simply a bad idea on pragmatic grounds and not problematic in principle, this is highly unlikely to cause violent riots in, say, Kagoshima.

Then I read the lyrics:

Kiss me, girl, your old one.
Till you’re near, it is years till you’re near.
Sounds of the dead will she know?
She wants all told, now retained, for, cold caves know the moon’s
seeing the mad and dead.

What the…?! Oh no…is it possible that my favorite T-shirt company was commissioned to write the lyrics of the parody?

The Sankei article tries to help us understand how on earth this resembles the anthem enough to go unnoticed:


I’m sorry, this is just pathetic. The song does bear some resemblance to the sounds of the original lyrics when you pronounce the English words in their Japanese katakana equivalents, but it is neither humorous nor does it make any sense. This is nowhere near the talented work that lies behind something like Hatten är din (Flash).

I suggest we help these students by giving them something better to work with. Any volunteers to help?

Here are the original Japanese lyrics:


The pronunciation:



Kimi ga yo wa
Chiyo ni Yachiyo ni
Sazare ishi no
Iwao to narite
Koke no musu made

Remember, if we make alternate lyrics, our satirical bite will be limited somewhat since we have to make the new version sound as phonetically close as possible to the original. Also, since it will be sung by young Japanese students, we should avoid English sounds that are difficult for Japanese to create. Post your recommendations in the comments! Finally, like the original Japanese attempt we should keep in mind that the Japanese pronunciations of English words aren’t always what you might expect.

May Day and The Great American Boycott 2006

Tomorrow is May 1st, and the Great American Boycott 2006 (El Gran Paro Americano 2006). It is also being called “The day without an immigrant” (Un dia sin immigrante). I’ll being joining the citywide gathering at Boston Commons at 4pm tomorrow and I hope there will be a big showing from the immigrant community and its supporters. You can find out more about the nationwide movement and links to local events for tomorrow at I hope that recent roundups and rumors of roundups of undocumented immigrants will not dissuade anyone from joining in.

I’ll also be joining the Harvard May Day rally and walk out tomorrow which is to show solidarity with the movement. You can read more about the Harvard coalition here.

The basic positions: 1) against criminalization of undocumented immigrants 2) in demand for a real path to citizenship for the millions of undocumented individuals who reside in our country and want to become U.S. citizens 3) in support for civil rights for immigrant workers 4) in favor of equal access to education for immigrants and/or their children.

To find out more general information about these issues, and ways that you can support the movement, visit the Immigrant Solidarity Network.

Treacherous Acts of Naming By The South Korean Puppets

As often as I can, I check the DPRK’s Korean Central News Service for a bit of news from the other side. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be able to learn about things like the “disgusting farce” of the “traitorous acts” reported today:

Pyongyang, April 22 (KCNA) — A spokesman for the Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Fatherland issued a statement on Friday to denounce the pro-U.S. ultra-right organizations in south Korea for staging such a ridiculous farce as giving bosses of the U.S. ruling machines in south Korea including the U.S. ambassador Korean names. The south Korea-U.S. “Alliance Friendship Society” in March named U.S. Ambassador in Seoul Vershbow “Pak Po U” in the hope that he would be an eternal friend who regards south-Korea U.S. alliance as a jewel.

The former U.S. 8th army commander in south Korea who finished his service on April 11 was named “Kim Han Su” in the hope that he would always defend “south Korea-U.S. alliance”, the U.S. 7th air force commander “Kim Ung Bi” in the meaning that he is a hero flying in the sky, Laporte, U.S. forces commander in south Korea who went back home in February, “Ra Po Thae” in the hope that he would play a role of a jewel in the south Korea-U.S. alliance.

The statement noted that this disgusting farce cannot be construed otherwise than despicable rowdyism staged by pro-U.S. flunkeyists and mentally deranged guys keen to prolong their dirty remaining days by clinging to the coattails of the aggressors, utterly indifferent to the misfortune the Koreans have undergone. Such traitorous acts to serve the U.S. will bring nothing but a catastrophic war disaster to the Korean nation, the statement notes, warning that south Korea can never be safe nor the Korean nation live in peace as long as pro-U.S. traitorous group such as the GNP and the “friendship society” are at large.

Here are two articles from South Korea on the naming. Seriously, though, I think giving Vershbow a name with “treasure friend” (寶友) isn’t all that strange, but I have to say it does near the realm of the farcical when you give someone the name close to being “protector of Korea” (“korea protect” 韓守). Also, according to the Joongang Daily, General Campbell seems to be under the impression that they named him the protector of Korean freedom: “What a tremendous honor to have the Korean name that means great defender of freedom on the Korean Peninsula.” If you wanted to squeeze the name for all its worth, the most you could get was that he was the protector of Korean gold or metal (金).

Harvard Crimson on the Clash of Civilisations

In Harvard’s “university daily since 1873,” the Harvard Crimson we find an excellent example of the general lack of geographical knowledge often attributed to the United States. Here is the opening paragraph of a provocatively entitled editorial, “The Clash of Civilizations” discussing the current cartoon crisis:

When it comes to problems with free speech about Islam, Denmark is something of a hotspot. Islamic radicals murdered Danish film director Theo Van Gogh in 2004 in response to his short film “Submission Part I,” which juxtaposed documentary footage of husbands beating their Islamic wives in the name of Allah and the same women praying, their bodies covered in verses from the Koran. In Islam, any visual portrayal of the prophet is blasphemous and last year, it seemed that the Dutch were too afraid of reprisals from Muslim fundamentalists for author Kåre Bluitgen to find an illustrator for his children’s book about Muhammad. A major Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten responded by publishing twelve “blasphemous” cartoons last September to “test whether fear of Islamic retribution has begun to limit freedom of expression in Denmark.

I think the author, an undergraduate English concentrator, would be greatly helped if someone were to tell her a few basic, but important facts:

People from Denmark are called “Danish”
Danish ≠ Dutch
Dutch people come from the Netherlands
The Netherlands is not the same country as Denmark

We can then move on to more nit-picky points like:

Theo Van Gogh is Dutch, not Danish
Kåre Bluitgen is Danish, not Dutch

This problem continues through the article, as when we are told that, “it makes no sense for Dutch Muslim protesters to burn the Danish national flag while claiming that they are not being respected by the state.” Also, we learn that, “Dutch illustrators are not the only ones who feel intimidated by Islamic fundamentalists.” Indeed, I hear that some Danish illustrators are having trouble too.


These sorts of mixups are common of course, and admittedly the Dutch and Danish have a lot in common (they both make cheap beer with green labels for example) but I’m a little dissapointed that the editorial staff at the Crimson didn’t notice this.
Picture 5

UPDATE: Since this article I realize that the Dutch-Danish mix up is even more widespread than I imagined. A friend of mine, a certain PhD student friend of mine at Columbia U also mixed the two up. Also, on the most recent Daily Show, when Jon Stewart is mocking the Danish in a skit about attacks on KFC in Pakistan, he threatens the crowd, who were laughing a little too hard, and says something like, “Hey, I’ll throw all you Belgians out!” Why would he mention Belgians when talking about Denmark, unless he though Denmark was the Netherlands?

Minor Things of Note Down

My host for my site had a crash and had no functional backups. They handled the whole thing with complete incompetence which I will be describing at major hosting forums to warn future customers. I’m going to be moving the site to another host where I am hosting Muninn and FrogInAWell along with numerous other projects. I have fairly recent backups so I think I can get everything back up.

Che and Sponheim

By the time I post this to the internet, the Norwegian Storting elections will be over. However, one amusing thing about the last days of the election campaign. The Left party, or Venstre, was campaigning in downtown Stavanger on Friday, my last day at the library. The Left party is actually one of the non-socialists (Norwegian parties are traditionally but somewhat misleadingly divided into socialist and non-socialist camps) and are in the current (relatively) conservative coalition. However, they had some interesting campaign posters which were appealing to young voters. They depicted that famous image of Che Guevera (sp?), the Communist revolutionary leader on a red background. However, instead of Che’s face, they put Lars Sponheim, the leader of the Venstre party.

This was cute but somewhat surprising given the Høyre (Right party, their coalition ally) party’s recent ineffective attack on the Socialistic Left or SV party by associating them closely with Communist regimes and their atrocities. However, I suspect the irony of the poster escapes the notice of most.

And yet imagine if you will, the same campaign poster, approved by the party in the United States. While the Left party in Norway is a very moderate centrist party in comparison to the Republicans, imagine if you will some moderate republican putting their face on a Che poster in a effort to appeal to young voters. It just wouldn’t happen, right?

Norwegian Television Debate

VG, one of the major Norwegian newspapers (although it has always looked like a tabloid to me) has a strange way of measuring up the political debate between the party leaders in its Sunday, Sept. 11th issue. It first give all the participants of the debates a grade from 1 to 6 (six being best). It gave a 5 to Jens Stoltenberg (Labor party) and Dagfinn Høybråten (Christian Democrats) and 4s to everyone else except the right-wing Progress party (3 points) and the marginal Coast Party (2 points). Then it marked each one along a scale showing whether they were on the offense or defense in the debate. The highest “offense” ratings went to the hard left-wing Red Alliance, Socialist Left and Labor party, basically the left spectrum of Norwegian politics. Then, most bizarrely, it marked the mood of each participant with happy and sad faces on a scale. The most happy were apparently the Center party and Progress Party, with the most miserable being the Right party (who are set to lose big in this election) and the Coast party.

Critique of Domination

Roger Cohen had a good editorial in the Sept. 10-11 Int. Herald Tribune I got in the airport today where he discusses the political split on discussing looting during a crisis like the Katrina hurricane. He notes that conservatives are taking a hard line “zero tolerance” for looting (even those stealing food and water) but notes sardonically that Rumsfeld once said “While no one can condone looting, on the other hand, one can understand the pent-up feelings that may result from decades of oppression.” Of course, he was referring to Iraq, which led Cohen to say that Rumsfeld and conservatives think that “A little mayhem in Mesopotamia was just fine” as long as it wasn’t within the US.

However, I found most memorable a quote from a French philosopher Alain Finkielkraut in the article. He was deeply critical of any sympathy towards looters, who he described as having a “revolting reaction.” Now, I strongly disagree with his take on the looting question and find myself having no moral opposition to any looting for food and essentials in a crisis situation. However, he then added a quote which sums up one of my biggest problems with recent critical theory.

While I’m very much influenced by a lot of recent critical theory out there, especially those important in historical research, I’m worried about the kind of moral paralysis I feel can result from some approaches suggested by things like postcolonial theory and postmodern critiques of society. Finkielkraut sums this up very nicely into one line, “It’s funny, our dominant ideology is a critique of domination in all its forms.”

Dokto Saturation

Anyone who has spent any time in Korea is familiar with the irredentist issue of the Dokto/Takeshima/Lioncourt islands. This is one of the hundreds of issues around the world where two or more countries both claim the same hunk of rock as their own. Both sides bring out cute historical maps and literary accounts to suggest that “their” people or “their” nation claimed the territory first and like children on a playground try to project these historical references or claims into the modern present. That we are still engaged in this kind of idiocy in the 21st century is a tribute to humanity’s lack of intelligence.

Dokto Somehere North of Here

The two pieces of rock inconveniently dare to emerge from the water somewhere north of the red arrow (see the string of black shadow like blobs, probably one of those, but not enough land to show up in this Google satellite photo, please don’t try to explain exactly which one it is in the comments – I really couldn’t care less, another map here) To be honest, I’m so sick of the whole thing: I have reached Dokto saturation level and this posting will be my first and last on the topic…
Continue reading Dokto Saturation