Opposition to US anthropologists in Iraq and Afghanistan wars

This 2013 video from the USA is called The Costs of War: 10 Years After Iraq Invasion, New Study Tallies the Massive Human, Financial Toll.

Another video from the USA which used to be on the Internet used to say about itself:

Torture and the American Psyche. Concerned citizens and members of the mental health profession discuss the role of psychologists in interrogations, May 3rd, 2008 at the First Parish in Brookline, Massachusetts.

The problem of science being prostituted for torture, or war, is not limited to, eg, nuclear physics; or to psychology.

From the Boston Globe in the USA:

Efforts to aid US roil anthropology

Some object to project on Iraq, Afghanistan

By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff

October 8, 2007

WASHINGTON – A new project in which university anthropologists study tribal customs in Iraq and Afghanistan for the US military has prompted a fierce backlash among academics, some of whom accuse their colleagues of engaging in a wartime effort that violates their professional ethics.

The handful of anthropologists working with so-called human terrain teams designed to help commanders navigate the cultural thickets of both countries are being accused of “prostituting science” and presiding over the “militarization of anthropology,” the study of the social practices and cultural origins of humans.

Internet blogs oppose the project, urging “anthropologists of the world, unite!” Academic journal articles with titles such as “Anthropologists as Spies” criticize the efforts. And some of the scientists under attack fear they could be blackballed by their profession.

Felix Moos, who has been an anthropology professor at the University of Kansas for 47 years, is helping train the human terrain teams at nearby [military] Fort Leavenworth. Colleagues who oppose his actions have called him a “killer for hire.”

“Academia looks at me as being too close to the military,” he said in recent interview in his crowded campus office, copies of the Nepali Manual of Insurgency and Counterinsurgency strewn about.

In Nepal, the “Counterinsurgency” was at the service of a universally hated dictatorial monarchy, propped up by the US Bush administration. After its downfall, the ex-insurgents are now in parliament.

At issue is a longstanding code of ethics for the discipline, one which decrees that anthropological research should never be used to inflict harm, must always have the consent of the population being studied, and must not be conducted in secret.

The debate over the role of anthropology in national security is expected to come to a head next month in an American Anthropological Association report examining the ethical questions of cooperating with the military.

Last week, a group calling itself the Network of Concerned Anthropologists urged colleagues to sign a “pledge of nonparticipation in counterinsurgency.”

While anthropology conducted on behalf of the military is “often presented by its proponents as work that builds a more secure world, protects US soldiers on the battlefield or promotes cross-cultural understanding,” the pledge states, “at base it contributes instead to a brutal war of occupation which has entailed massive casualties.”

Such work “breaches relations of openness and trust with the people anthropologists work with around the world,” it added.

One of its authors is David Price, a professor at Saint Martin’s University in Lacy, Wash., who is also a member of the ethics commission set to report in November.

“I am not sure that adequate consent [from the research subjects] is going on,” said Price. He said he believes it will be difficult to know how the military and intelligence agencies will use the population studies. …

The military’s own descriptions of the new teams give pause to Price and others – such as one Pentagon official who likened them to the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support project during the Vietnam War. That effort helped identify Vietnamese suspected as communists and Viet Cong collaborators; some were later assassinated by the United States.

Liberal hawks‘ in the USA: here.

Dozens of inmates at Afghanistan’s main prison in Kabul have been on a hunger strike for three days to protest the executions at the weekend of 15 convicts, the head of prisons said on Wednesday: here.

Claude Levi-Strauss’s Centennial : A Hundred Years of Humanity: here.

3 thoughts on “Opposition to US anthropologists in Iraq and Afghanistan wars

  1. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/obituaries/jack-sargent-harris-anthropologist-and-un-official-who-fell-foul-of-the-mccarthy-hearings-994819.html

    Jack Sargent Harris: Anthropologist and UN official who fell foul of the McCarthy hearings

    Thursday, 6 November 2008

    In 1946, Jack Sargent Harris, the American anthropologist and former secret agent, had settled into a quiet life as Assistant Professor at the University of Chicago when he received a telephone call from his friend, the future Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Dr Ralph Bunche, offering him a job in New York with the newly created United Nations Division of Trusteeship, established under the UN Charter to transform and eliminate colonialism.

    Bunche had been responsible for Harris’s earlier career as secret agent with the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) which at the outbreak of the Second World War had recruited from the US academic élite for unconventional intelligence gathering and covert operations. Harris, who had conducted fieldwork among the Ibo in Nigeria, took up the offer and served the OSS in Africa, initially under cover of anthropological research.

    At first conducting spying missions in the Gold Coast, he later went to South Africa, where there were strong pro-German sympathies. He became the head of a US intelligence network in South Africa that was monitoring Nazi diamond smuggling and his achievements led to changes in South Africa’s wartime policies. At the end of the war, Harris became seriously ill with liver fluke and after treatment in the United States he was offered a job with the successor to the OSS, the Central Intelligence Agency. He turned down the CIA, saying that the agency had broken a promise to one of his wartime contacts.

    Harris accepted Bunche’s offer to work for the UN and moved from Chicago to settle outside New York with his Australian wife, Shirley. With outspoken anti-colonialist views he cut a distinctive figure in the Secretariat. He was handsome, fiercely intelligent and self-assured. In 1948 he was a member of the first trusteeship mission to Ruanda-Urundi (Rwanda and Burundi), under Belgian control, and Tanganyika, under British. The eventual report caused uproar. It condemned the British for African poverty and recommended that to pay for health and education, a tax should be levied on the export of diamonds.

    The Belgian government was castigated for the practice of whipping in its territories, especially during forced labour. Bot h European governments dismissed the report as mischievous political propaganda. And although Washington disagreed with its European allies over colonisation, it was increasingly worried about the radical nature of the trusteeship department.

    Harris’s associations with Bunche may have brought him to the attention of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, for it transpired that Bunche had been monitored by the Bureau, which had started to investigate UN personnel in 1949. A civil rights supporter, Bunche had been involved in drafting the sections of the UN Charter dealing with the post-colonial world and was the first head of the UN’s Trusteeship Division. Bunche, a prominent African-American, achieved worldwide acclaim for concluding the 1949 Armistice Agreements between Palestine and Israel. His high profile may have saved him further FBI scrutiny, but Harris was not so fortunate.

    In autumn 1952 he received a subpoena to appear before the US Senate Internal Security Sub-committee investigating espionage, sabotage and the “unmasking of UN reds”. Harris, the all-American hero who had risked his life for his country, was denounced as part of a Communist conspiracy to “enslave the US”. When asked at the Senate hearing about Communist affiliations, Harris invoked his constitutional right to silence. At this, Senator James O. Eastland, a plantation owner from Mississippi, accused Harris of having betrayed his country.

    One of 30 UN employees of US nationality called to the committee, Harris was one of 18 who invoked the Fifth Amendment. Eastland said they were not people of high calibre and they should be removed from the UN – which is what happened. Staff members with permanent contracts who had pleaded the Fifth Amendment were suspended and eventually fired.

    Harris was among a group who appealed through the UN’s Administrative Tribunal, where lawyers argued that the UN had breached the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, denying standards of freedom it sought to promote elsewhere. The group won damages, but only after the International Court of Justice advised the UN that it had to pay compensation for wrongful dismissal. The largest award was to Harris, for “out-standing professional competence”.

    Harris was blacklisted. He never opened a book on anthropology again. He moved to Costa Rica, tempted by the country’s UN delegate, Edmond Woodbridge, a member of the first trusteeship mission to Africa. Harris made Costa Rica his home and he would become a major contributor to its development. He had never before read a balance sheet but after creating a taxi company he built a cement factory and then established a development bank. A naturalised Costa Rican, he was known as “lucky Jack”, for he said it was to luck he owed his fortune.

    The son of Jewish immigrants from Romania, Harris was one of six children who grew up in two rooms behind a small grocery store in Chicago run by his parents. For three years he was a merchant seaman, but a former classmate persuaded him to apply to Northwestern University in Illinois. It was there he discovered anthropology and wrote his thesis on the White Knife Shoshoni of Nevada.

    Harris is credited as one of the first anthropologists to focus on agriculture and the role of women. He was one of the first US anthropologists to do fieldwork in Africa. He earned his PhD in 1940 at Columbia at a time when radical anthropologists were working for social justice and arguing the inherent equality of all people. Harris was a life-long progressive, keenly aware how academic freedoms were as much at risk today as during the blighted McCarthy years.

    Linda Melvern

    Jack Sargent Harris, anthropologist and industrialist: born Chicago, Illinois 13 July 1912; married 1946 Shirley Oates (two sons); died Escazu, Costa Rica 2 August 2008.


  2. 2 other Human Terrain academics killed

    By The Associated Press

    The Associated Press

    March 08, 2009

    Michael Bhatia was the first Human Terrain academic killed in the line of duty, but not the last.

    Seven weeks later, on June 24, political scientist Nicole Suveges, 38, of Wauconda, Ill., was killed when a bomb exploded in a district council office in Baghdad where she was attending a meeting.

    On Jan. 7 of this year, Paula Loyd, an anthropologist assigned to a Human Terrain team in Afghanistan, died two months after an Afghan man she was interviewing in a village near Kandahar doused her with a pitcher of fuel and set her on fire. The attack on Loyd, a 36-year-old native of San Antonio, allegedly prompted a civilian Human Terrain colleague to shoot her assailant in the head after he was apprehended. The colleague has been charged with second-degree murder.

    Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.


  3. Battling the Insurgency with Social Science
    Stars and Stripes | May 04, 2009

    PAKTIA PROVINCE, Afghanistan — Conducting a census doesn’t sound too exciting. Perhaps the only famous census story is the one that tells how Caesar Augustus’ historic count forced Mary and Joseph to the stable where the baby Jesus would be born.

    But here in Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan — which often looks straight out of biblical times — soldiers have adopted surveys as the newest tool to try to stabilize the country.

    It’s part of the military’s trend toward counterinsurgency tactics more akin to anthropology and the social sciences than military field manuals.

    As in Caesar’s day, the questions are intended to give the government the information it needs to better control its territory. The U.S. Agency for International Development created this particular survey — which is called the “Tactical Conflict Assessment Framework,” or TCAF — to help military and civilian leaders find the “sources of discontent,” the root causes of instability that could drive Afghans into the arms of the insurgents. Units pass the information they collect up the chain of command, so commanders can turn it over to Afghan governors and subgovernors to help better connect them to their people.

    But ground-level leaders say the survey is about more than just gathering dry statistics. At its heart, it’s really a formal methodology that forces units to process and analyze the information they collect.

    “[Information] is just pieces of a puzzle,” said Capt. Gary McDonald, commander of Troop B, 1st Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment. “Until you put the pieces together, it doesn’t mean anything.

    Census-like clipboards rarely come into view when the soldiers talk with locals, said McDonald, whose unit is responsible for the area around a key Paktia pass. They impede the conversation’s natural flow and make the person being questioned nervous.

    The idea is to begin by talking about development and then smoothly segue into questions about security, said 1st Lt. Kevin Harris, a Troop B platoon leader. During a conversation Saturday, Harris began by simply asking a local man about how his area was doing and what the food situation was like.

    “Tell him that we don’t mean to intrude,” Harris told the interpreter. “If any of our vehicles are parted on your farmland, tell us and we’ll move them. … We’re kind of curious about the history of this area. Is this a migrant area? Do people come in during the summer and leave during the winter?”

    The man told soldiers that the food situation was desperate. The soldiers gave him some water and other items and, midway through their chat, he spontaneously started telling the soldiers about paths Taliban fighters used to travel through the area.

    The questioning isn’t intended to take such a direct approach to combating enemy fighters, though. Instead, leaders use it to determine what local villages need in order to better deliver service.

    The questions force a rigorous analysis of an area’s underlying problems that could sometimes be missed just by chatting with local elders, McDonald said. He gave an example of a fictional area that was short of teachers.

    In the past, units might have addressed this problem at face value by trying to hire more teachers. However, the survey may indicate teachers aren’t working in the area because there are no roads or because the economy is poor. Attacking the disease will hopefully have more widespread and lasting effects than simply fighting the symptoms, to use an analogy.

    Ensuring that all units ask the same questions also allows units to better track trends and progress across time and place. Leaders can plug in the results that ground units obtain and compare them to other areas and previous months. By contrast, information from the more-qualitative approach soldiers used before could be hard to fit into the bigger picture.

    The surveys are not scientific enough for publication in an academic journal. Sample sizes are small and the soldiers adapt the questions to keep the conversation flowing smoothly. But the results aren’t meant for a Ph.D. dissertation.

    Admittedly, the TCAF surveys don’t have quite the excitement of a virgin birth. But leaders have high expectations that they may someday help establish order that would make even Caesar proud.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.