Wednesday, November 07, 2007

AAA Board Statement on HTS

On October 31, 2007, the American Anthropological Association’s Executive Board passed a statement concerning ethical aspects of the U.S. military’s Human Terrain System (HTS) project. The project, which has received widespread national and international media coverage, embeds anthropologists and other social scientists in military teams in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Ethical and procedural concerns regarding anthropologists working with U.S. military and intelligence agencies have been under investigation by an ad hoc commission of the AAA. The Ad Hoc Commission on the Engagement of Anthropology with US Security and Intelligence Communities will submit their final report on this subject—which extends beyond the particulars of the HTS project—during the AAA’s Annual Meeting in Washington DC.

To facilitate discussion on this subject, the AAA has created this blog as a forum for members to post comments regarding the Executive Board statement and related issues.

Read the Executive Board Statement on HTS

Read the Code of Ethics

252 comments:

1 – 200 of 252   Newer›   Newest»
Alan Klima said...

This is a very well reasoned statement that will be much appreciated. I would encourage any further statements or formulations, or any revision of the present formulation, to take into consideration whether the very incisively stated reasonings are not watered down somewhat by a judgement of the present war. Aren't the stated reasonings true whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, etc?

Perhaps an expression of a position on the war could be made in a separate statement, thus rendering this statement a comment that gets to the very core of what it means to be an anthropologist, anytime, anywhere.

The sentence I am referencing is as follows:

"In the context of a war that is widely recognized as a denial of human rights and based on faulty intelligence and undemocratic principles, the Executive Board sees the HTS project as a problematic application of anthropological expertise, most specifically on ethical grounds."

Secondly, I would encourage adding a statement that specifically condemns any anthropologists who participate in the HTS or similar actions.

Thank you,

Alan Klima
Dept of Anthropology
University of California, Davis

Brian D-L said...

This statement is most encouraging, given the related discussions that have been generated elsewhere in sub-sections of the AAA. The rationalization of applying anthropological study through something such as the Counter Insurgency Manual and the so-called Human Terrain Project, seems nothing less than 21st century obfuscation of the gross misuse of our profession. However they are presented, these projects are the professional engagment of our discipline in the making of war. Even if it is the use of anthropology to make warfare somehow more culturally sensitive (!!!) it is nonetheless a use of the tools of our discipline as tools of war, whether or not participating anthropologists themselves carry actual guns.

Dr. Brian Donohue-Lynch
Anthropology/Sociology
Quinebaug Valley Community College
Danielson, CT

Landon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Landon said...

I'm a graduate student at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. We've recently had a few intense brown-bag sessions on this topic, and I couldn't agree more with this official position the AAA has took. I've been trying to gather enough interest among the graduates in our department to make a paper session out of this for the 2008 AAA conference. This is an excerpt from one of the emails I've been circulating:

"I've been particularly moved by our recent brown-bag sessions on ethics, and I thought it would be highly productive and extremely topical to make a paper session out of it. That is, I think it would be great to have a bunch of graduate students present papers at the AAA conference taking stands on these ethical issues, whatever your personal disposition may be. It would not only be emotionally charged, but intellectually stimulating. I myself feel very strongly on some of these issues and am deeply committed to those ends. Considering the AAA's recent undertaking on these matters, it might be one last chance to get your personal voice in, make a change, or challenge other positions. This is our future, and I hope that my preachy attitude about it doesn't alienate anyone, but shows my true convictions."

I thought this would be an appropriate post to open this idea up to anyone, not just graduate students or our department at W&M! Please feel free to contact me at lcyarrington@wm.edu if you'd be interested in working towards this or if you have any feedback!

The AAA's decision promises to be influential in reshaping the discipline for our generation, and I look forward to watching this unfold.

Landon Yarrington
---
Department of Anthropology
The College of William and Mary
Williamsburg, VA 23187

Gerald said...

After a reasonable statement, for the conclusion to be that the AAA expresses its "disapproval" comes as a shock and a profound disappointment. The appropriate word should be condemnation. The army is debasing our profession and our professional ethics in the most fundamental way possible.
Gerald Sider
Professor Emeritus, Anthropology, City University of New York

Ryan Hurd said...

I'm happy to see this level of community action at the AAA. blogging is an excellent medium for taking the temperature of members and I hope you continue the project beyond the scope of the HTS investigation.

Ryan Hurd
Graduate student in Consciousness Studies
John K. Kennedy Univerity

Jamie Cleland said...

I am a consulting anthropologist (archaeology focus) and an AAA fellow. Although I am an opponent of both the Iraq and the Afghan war as well as war in general as a tool of state, I find the Executive Board’s statement to fall far short of a considered examination of significant issues raised for our profession by the HTS program. The Board wants to affirm in its final paragraph that anthropology is obliged to attempt to improve US government policies, yet through its narrow conceptualization of anthropology as a profession that primarily “studies others,” it totally misses its chance to affect US policies in any meaningful way. It ducks the question, “Under what circumstances can anthropologists work to improve our policies and actions in war zones?” The Executive Board evokes the ethical standard of “doing no harm,” but given a situation where harm is occurring, anthropologists at the front may be in a position to reduce that harm. If we oppose HTS and similar types of programs unconditionally, we will not be doing our best at using the knowledge we have gained through our “studies of others” to improve US policies. In archaeology, we recognize that many of our investigations do harm to the resource and we have developed ethical standards to address this problem. Cultural anthropological fieldwork unarguably has in the past damaged the people studied. If through well intentioned application of ethics, we prevent the use of knowledge so gained from practical application in the most horrific of circumstances, we are not living up to the higher ethical standards that should be at the core of our profession. I would like to see the Executive Board take up the issue of how anthropology might actually be useful and ethical in war zones.
Jamie Cleland
Consulting Arhcaeologist

Hugh said...

I second Ryan Hurd's comment -- kudos to the AAA Exec in providing a Web2.0 forum for member discussion on this controversial topic, and more praise for continuing to increase transparency on their actions.

IMHO, this phrase in the statement says it all: "as contractors with the U.S. military...". Surely to achieve any credibility or scientific objectivity, anthropologists need to be independent observers.

I agree with Prof. Sider that the behavior of the US Military continues to be deplorable, and condemnation might well be the better word, but I encourage the committee to offer to help formulate a structure in which this work could at least theoretically be carried out with full neutrality. Perhaps Jimmy Carter's Freedom Center might be of help for this task.

Hugh Jarvis
University at Buffalo

Dan Segal said...

Alan Kilma's comment is quite incisive. It foregrounds an issue that the EB mulled and debated a great deal. AK's comment argues that locating the objections to HTS in the context of current historical circumstances (the Bush administration's lies and violations of democracy and human rights) "waters down" the statement--in the sense that it qualifies the scope of the statement (it makes it something short of a categorical imperative). But the alternative view is that while qualifying the scope somewhat, such contextualizing (or historicizing) strengthens the argument that HTS is wrong in the actually existing historical circumstances that HTS exists. The choice between these two approaches is difficult and subtle and the EB spent a great deal of time considering both approaches. AK's view though different than the EB's is an important one.

Elizabeth Dunn said...

I am in complete agreement about the Board's statement upholding the principles of informed consent and doing no harm to the people we study. This discussion of the relation between techniques and ethics in the practice of anthropology is completely within the purview of AAA.

Like Alan Klima, though, I'm concerned about the Board's statements of disapproval about the war. While I, too, disapprove of the war, I'm very concerned about the precedent being set by having AAA dictate political views to its members. As a scholarly association, we have to preserve our members' rights to a diverse range of opinion, and we have an obligation to foster discussion rather than stifling it. Even if the majority of us hate these viewpoints (and I do), there still needs to be room for anthropologists who are politically conservative, who approve of Bush, and who believe that the war is being conducted for the right reasons. We need to do so even if we disdain these views, because the very existence of dissent and minority views is the lifeblood of any scholarly organization.

Elizabeth Dunn
University of Colorado, Boulder

David Kennedy said...

I found this part of the statement puzzling:

"The Commission’s work did not include systematic study of the HTS project."

Why not? I read the sentences that followed but still don't understand why this step was not taken before issuing a statement about the HTS project. What if the information in the public record was not accurate or complete?

Is the final report going to be based on a systematic review of the HTS?

David Kennedy
RAND/UCLA

John P. Hawkins, Brigham Young University said...

First, the Executive Board begins with an internal contradiction, to wit: "the Executive Board affirms that it is important that judgments about relationships between anthropology, on the one hand, and military and state intelligence operations, on the other, be grounded in a careful and thorough investigation of their particulars." However, "The Commission’s work did not include systematic study of the HTS project." Instead, it finds discomfort with the "information in the public record, as well as on information and comments provided to the Executive Board by the Ad Hoc Commission and its members." In short, it is highly likely that it is reacting politically rather than analytically.

The board raises the following concerns: "1.As military contractors working in settings of war, HTS anthropologists work in situations where it will not always be possible for them to distinguish themselves from military personnel and identify themselves as anthropologists. This places a significant constraint on their ability to fulfill their ethical responsibility as anthropologists to disclose who they are and what they are doing." Quite the contrary, given the dangers of working in Iraq, HTS analysts, some of them, voluntarily, anthropologists, will be working with military units in such close conjunction that no Iraqi would mistake them for an unattached civilian. Who they are and what they are will be fully understood by Iraqis: they are extensions of military personnel using anthropological backgrounds to understand what is going on and to translate information being passed in both directions so that the other party to the inter-cultural exchange can understand and make better decisions based on culturally more accurate rather than on prejudiced or fear-filled understandings. Both sides by now understand that the information will be used in the conduct of war, and unless subjected to coercion, will be rendering the information as they see fit. I have multiple instances in interviews of Iraqis saying that they can not say more, or be seen amongst American military, because of fear of retribution by non-coalition personnel in the Iraqi environment. They are, at this point, fully informed regarding whatever information or interaction they allow or resist.



2.

HTS anthropologists are charged with responsibility for negotiating relations among a number of groups, including both local populations and the U.S. military units that employ them and in which they are embedded. Consequently, HTS anthropologists may have responsibilities to their U.S. military units in war zones that conflict with their obligations to the persons they study or consult, specifically the obligation, stipulated in the AAA Code of Ethics, to do no harm to those they study (section III, A, 1).

American culture imposes on the military the obligation to be competent in the conduct of war. Culturally, in fact, we conduct war as large military operations using, preferentially, massive firepower technology. Without accurate cultural knowledge and general cultural interpretation, commanders or soldiers steeped in the notion of overwhelming response will apply more firepower: however much they think will overcome the uncertainty and the danger of the situation. The only way to reduce that cultural response is for anthropologists to make the military aware of its own American cultural roots, and to make them less uncertain and less fearful regarding the particular cross-cultural situations that they were put in by their civil government leaders and its electing citizens. To do otherwise constitutes an abrogation of the constitution which places our military subordinate to civil authority. I would point out that the civil authorities sacked the generals that advised against the incursion or correctly informed them that "several hundred thousand" troops would be needed to stabilize a divided society.

To not render the best possible cultural advice is to be complicit in supporting a Civilian-started war that will be culturally waged in an uncertain, unknown cultural setting; that will invite massive military response as a measure of culture and personal safety as understood within that context. To not participate is to consent to the deaths of more Iraqis than need be the case.

3.

HTS anthropologists work in a war zone under conditions that make it difficult for those they communicate with to give “informed consent” without coercion, or for this consent to be taken at face value or freely refused. As a result, “voluntary informed consent” (as stipulated by the AAA Code of Ethics, section III, A, 4) is compromised.

Don't kid yourself. If the anthropological participants are wearing military protective gear, surrounded by military units and accompanying military commanders in negotiations, everybody is informed. Wars tend to be coercive, but people can still ignore us if they so volunteer, or feed us information if they volunteer, no doubt at great risk to themselves. But they are surely informed by the context.

4.

As members of HTS teams, anthropologists provide information and counsel to U.S. military field commanders. This poses a risk that information provided by HTS anthropologists could be used to make decisions about identifying and selecting specific populations as targets of U.S. military operations either in the short or long term. Any such use of fieldwork-derived information would violate the stipulations in the AAA Code of Ethics that those studied not be harmed (section III A, 1).

This provision would, of course, preclude any study of any people, because anybody that reads an anthropologist's work might initiate an applied help project that would change something and be a detriment to someone.

More specifically, I agree that the war was started under false pretenses, was stupidly conceived at its political root and had no plan for securing the nation following the goal of toppling the head of state. But suppose that a fully authorized UN mission to stop the genocide in Rwanda had asked for an anthropologist to advise its commanders on the nature of the ethnic revenge system in existence? Would you preclude giving advice to stop genocide simply because someone on one of the two sides would probably get shot in order to compel the violence to stop?

The executive board "has this additional concern: 5. Because HTS identifies anthropology and anthropologists with U.S. military operations, this identification—given the existing range of globally dispersed understandings of U.S. militarism—may create serious difficulties for, including grave risks to the personal safety of, many non-HTS anthropologists and the people they study."

Welcome to a world of instability created by our civil government who 1) had no cultural information about the fragile, fractal, nature of instability in a tribal culture protected only by the threat of retribution, and 2) that had no sense of or ability to use other instruments of US influence other than its military. At this point all Americans are put at risk by our irrational (but fully cultural) foreign policy.



The board concludes:
"In the context of a war that is widely recognized as a denial of human rights and based on faulty intelligence and undemocratic principles..." The solution here is to work toward the impeachment of civil authorities that perpetrated the war order, that obscured the information, that suborned the CIA and other intelligence mechanisms, and that perverted the military advisement system. To be sure, some (more) in the military should have insisted so strenuously in their advice that they got themselves fired.

"We have grave concerns about the involvement of anthropological knowledge and skill in the HTS project. The Executive Board views the HTS project as an unacceptable application of anthropological expertise." This makes sense: let's have the civil leaders of our country and military -- possessors of destructive forces beyond our imagination-- operate with less than the best cultural information, knowing that cross-cultural misunderstanding will precipitate mistakes in policy in spite of the best intents of any concerned.

here is a sentence that I am sure we all can agree with; I do at least: "The Executive Board affirms that anthropology can and in fact is obliged to help improve U.S. government policies through the widest possible circulation of anthropological understanding in the public sphere, so as to contribute to a transparent and informed development and implementation of U.S. policy by robustly democratic processes of fact-finding, debate, dialogue, and deliberation. It is in this way, the Executive Board affirms, that anthropology can legitimately and effectively help guide U.S. policy to serve the humane causes of global peace and social justice." How could we possibly endorse the "widest possible circulation of anthropological knowledge" if we deny it to a military that was sent to a war not of its own choosing and for which it was woefully unprepared culturally? And if we can not help the military out of that policy/knowledge mess, how can we ethically help the civilian government that sent them there? And if we obstinately refuse to help a culturally naive civil government and our military to deal with cultural issues, because mistakes might get people killed, are we then complicitous in the deaths of the many that will surely be killed in the absence of cultural knowledge? I have never yet met the military person who wanted to pull the trigger. We elected a civilian government that sent culturally untrained military personnel into a situation where, absent cultural information, they have no choice but to pull the trigger. Then we say, "anthropologists shouldn't help; it is unethical!" (my fictive quote, not the Board's). That is a great way to make the discipline both irrelevant and immoral, which is to say, unethical.

John P. Hawkins
Department of Anthropology
Brigham Young University
and recent visiting faculty, U. S. Army War College.
However, these opinions are entirely my own.

W Penn Handwerker said...

I find the AAA Executive Board's 'assessment' of the HTS project embarrassingly uncritical and naive and exceedingly simple minded.

#1: it is clear to everyone, except possibly to AAA executive board members, that anthropologists who work as part of the HTS project collect information pertinent to US military operations. Anthropologists who undertake HTS project work cannot hide what they do and who they work for.

#2: The obligation 'to do no harm,' like all obligations, rests on a series of assumptions -- like, perhaps most fundamentally, that the people one wishes to understand (NOT, hopefully, 'study' as a sociologist/psychologist/political scientist might do...) do not aim to harm the anthropologist or those the anthropologist holds dear.

#3: Data elicited from research participants should NEVER be assumed to be provided without, in one sense or another, 'coercion.' You delude yourself to think otherwise. On the other hand, reliable, accurate data of the kind anthropologists working for HTS projects aim to collect cannot be collected by 'coercion' of the sort I suspect that the AAA Executive Board supposes.

#4: See #2.

FURTHER: Much of my research for the last two decades focuses on violence. One lesson I've learned is that people subject to violence have little tolerance for the prattle of the kind coming from AAA Executive Board. A preliminary 5 country (Denmark, South Africa, Colombia, USA, Israel) study shows that, irrespective of country, people who have little or no experience with violence tend to opt to a morally relative perspective like that of the AAA Executive Board. People who have much experience with violence, by contrast, ascribe importance to identifying and maintaining behavioral boundaries that do not tolerate the acceptance of exploitative behavior (of the kind the AAA Executive Board espouses).


The AAA Executive Board shows gross arrogance and violates elemental methods procedures to claim that

(a) 'In the context of a war that is widely recognized as a denial of human rights'

without documenting who, precisely, claims that the war fighting ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan denies human rights and without recognition that the pre-existing regimes in both countries systematically violated/denied ALL commonly recognized human rights.



(b) '...and based on faulty intelligence'
without documenting the 'faulty' nature of specific forms of intelligence, and without recognition that the heart of the matter was (see [a]) to stop the violations of human rights in both Iraq and Afghanistan.


(c) 'and undemocratic principles'

without either specifying these hypothetical 'undemocratic principles' or documenting their 'undemocratic' features.'

Stupidity like this makes me furious.

Anonymous said...

I believe Mr. Hawkins couldn't have said it better. American Anthropologists have seemed to become permanent hypocrites. They believe the United States is an imperialistic country, yet their views on human rights and other issues is in itself imperialistic. The United States has made a huge mistake with the their efforts in the Middle East and bringing in anthropologists could be a huge benefit in actually solving some of the problems there. As an anthropologist, I don't believe you can pick and choose when it is right or wrong to study and interact with people throughout the world. These interactions via the United States military could be a brand new study in itself, which could open new doors and new ideas in anthropology. Don't allow politics to get in the way of anthropology. Anthropology is bigger than politics and war. I will be graduating this semester with a BA in Anthropology and have found that the majority of my peers and professors have their own agendas, much like the United States military. I think you should re-read Mr. Hawkins blog entry above and maybe rethink what and who anthropologists are.

Jim Dow said...

The official statement by the AAA is judicious and more than I would have expected. The reasons for condemning a collaboration between anthropologists and the US military are well stated. Other comments have pointed out the ugliness of the current conflict and the behavior of the American military. Although there are great differences in US military sub-cultures, anthropologists should not be mixed up with any of them, because the most abusive ones, such as the Navy Seals, have tainted the whole group.

However, there are some good things that have come out of the HTS project in Afghanistan. How can some of these positive outcomes be maintained without jeopardizing informants and compromising anthropological ethics? In the first place, anthropologists should not have contracts with the US military or be under their control. Once they are under their control, they can be manipulated so as to harm their informants.

Yet, the knowledge that Americans and their soldiers have of Pathan culture is so abysmal that positive things can come from their learning more about it. They can learn to deal with tribal politics enough to be able to settle conflicts without killing people, especially non-involved civilians.

I suggest that anthropologists in combat zones might work for an independent agency, such as the UN or some independent NGO. If the US or the Pathans want anthropological help they can request it from the NGO and pay for it with guarantees of safety for the anthropologists and their informants. Any violation of these guarantees would be paid to the NGO group and the people who suffer.

This might seem naive to people who think only in political terms; but, if there is a need for anthropological help, either of the two sides of the conflict would have a strong motivation to make it work.

Practically all legal systems have evolved from violent struggles. Here we have a conflict for which a system of peaceful resolution has not yet evolved. The "success" of the HTS project shows that cultural anthropology might play a role in setting up such a system.

Anonymous said...

Another way of putting the question as to whether to include a statement of judgement on the current war is one of a question of reception and perception.

Does the EB want to look like it is making its statement because the individuals on the board happen to not support the war, or because of deeper principles.

Whether a statement sounds "universalistic" or "historical" is not the main point, in my opinion. But I would also ask, are the other ethical principles of the AAA, concerning informants, subjects, etc. phrased in historical context. Do we say that under the present historical circumstances, the AAA does not support tricking subjects or not gaining informed consent (but under other circumstances, it might support it)? It is natural and normal for professional organizations to issue statements that are in a "timeless" language, and that is what makes them seem deep and meaningful (eventhough we know that they are historical constructions and can be, and will be, changed sometime in the future).

thanks,

Alan Klima
UC Davis

Elizabeth Marks said...

Perhaps it's because I'm new to the field (having begun the transition from graphic design), but I found it unusual for a large academic organization to take a political position, to make such a definitive, if not strangely vague, statement. I understand the ethical concerns that prompted the statement, but if the AAA is to represent such a large, diverse profession, are moves like this wise? I'm not sure yet.

Elizabeth Marks
University of Chicago graduate student
(emarksatuchicagodotedu)

Catherine said...

While the Executive Board's statement on the HTS shows an admirable interest in and desire to enagage with current issues that involve the anthropology community, the statement itself strikes me a knee-jerk reaction to what is admittedly a complex issue and one that deserves to be grounded in a careful and thorough investigation of particulars. Looking forward, perhaps a more balanced approach might be to include systematic study of the HTS project in the Commission’s work?

Ron said...

I strongly support the AAA executive board's opposition to the Human Terrain Project. For several years now we have seen the
distortion of news coverage about Iraq and Afghanistan which is in large part a result of embedding journalists within army battalions.
There is no need and no benefit to
distorting anthropological work in the name of a war which should be terminated as soon as possible.

Anonymous said...

While agreeing with the board's conclusion that anthropologists should not work for the HTS project, it bothers me that our association makes a very political statement: "In the context of a war that is widely recognized as a denial of human rights and based on faulty intelligence and undemocratic principles ..."

Anthropologists should not work for military organizations. If a government was able to separately fund and manage our work, anthropologists and archaeologists could make very good contributions to areas of the world in conflict.

Please remove the first part of the third paragraph in the: American Anthropological Association Executive Board Statement on the Human Terrain System Project dated October 31, 2007.

Mike Wilson
Wilmington, Delaware

Anonymous said...

As Ron said, "There is no need and no benefit to distorting anthropological work in the name of a war which should be terminated as soon as possible." Yet, anthropologists are reluctant to offer their services in helping end this war, which makes them (us) hypocrites. Einstein said, "Our problems will not be solved by the minds who created them." Let's presume that the politicians and corporations who initiated this war will continue with it (1) because they cannot feasibly end it with any semblance of "victory," and (2) because they continue to profit from it economically. Anthropologists, recognize that you are part of the system. Instead of standing by and watching, participate--and create change.

-Washington, D.C.

Anonymous said...

Clearly, if the U.S. administration and the military had had an understanding of the Western Asia region based on anthropological research before invading Iraq, and before our involvement in Afghanistan contributed to the rise of the Taliban, then the wars in both places would not have happened, or at the least might have been handled very differently.

While I agree that embedding anthropologists with miliary units during a war is unethical, I think we as anthropologists need to turn our ethnographic skills to understanding the U.S. military as an institution, and to understanding the foreign policy community within the federal government.

We need to understand these social groups in enough depth that we can learn how to make anthropological contributions to U.S. defense, international security, and foreign policy decision-making long before we are faced with a current or potential war.

It is important for the AAA to take a stand against the use of anthropologists during war.

However, I think we need to take advantage of this new awareness, among some in the U.S. armed forces, of the usefulness of ethnographic knowledge, to begin to form relationships inside military institutions through which we can better understand how to use our expertise to avert war and to protect the peoples we work with from damaging foreign policies.

Federal government institutions and the broader government-focused metro-Washington, D.C. area, are important sites for such ethnographic fieldwork. If we don't engage in this research, then we are not doing all we can to build and share our knowledge in the broadest public arenas.

--Northern California

James Ferguson said...

I think the Executive Board's statement is excellent, and something we will be proud of when we look back at this sorry period many years from now. I understand the wish to separate the concerns about anthropologists in the military from views on this particular war. But I think there's no escaping the fact that anthropological complicity with a military operation (no doubt problematic in the best of cases) is much more troubling when that operation is an imperial war of occupation, initiated through an unprovoked invasion and carried out using methods that include the systematic use of illegal detention and torture.

James Ferguson
Dept. of Anthropology
Stanford University

Jean Jackson said...

I have read the criticisms thus far posted regarding the EB's statement regarding anthropologists participating in the HTS program. No petition or statement will ever address most of the issues in a situation as complex as the one we're dealing with. You cannot have a "one size fits all" statement. There should be fifty more statements addressing the issues raised above, and others not yet mentioned. However, having spent time participating in various petition-writing efforts, I know that it takes a huge amount of work for even a small number of people to agree to the wording. Yes I would like a stronger statement, but I salute the EB for coming out with a fairly clearly worded statement that, whatever its faults, states that anthropologists cannot serve in HTS programs and comply with the Association's code of ethics.

Jean Jackson
Professor of Anthropology
MIT

Greg Feldman said...

I applaud the AAA Executive Board for taking its position on the Human Terrain System (HTS). While we can debate whether their wording was or was not too political, their core point is that anthropologists should not conduct research that puts the people whom they study in harm’s way. This is hardly controversial.

Ever since this debate picked up full steam in early October, many people have noted that HTS could provide valuable services to local peoples living in areas overrun by the US ‘War on Terror’ (e.g. health supplies, reconstruction assistance, agricultural tools, etc). This point might be true from a narrow perspective, but quite false from a broader one. Narrowly, few would disagree that providing immediate material support to people in war-ravaged places is a good thing. However, a doctorate in anthropology is not what it takes to do this kind of work.

More broadly, providing such assistance is hardly the HTS-end game for anthropological knowledge. As explained in the periodical Military Review (September-October 2006), Human Terrain Teams are to input data about local populations into what is called Mapping Human Terrain software. That “data will cover such subjects as key regional personalities, social structures, links between family and clans, economic issues, agricultural production, and the like” (p. 13). That information is to be sent back to the HTS Reachback Research Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. There, cultural and ethnographic experts further analyze, collate, and process that data. They then return it to the local Human Terrain Team and share it with other US military and intelligence organizations (p. 14). In the end, as John Wilcox – Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense – explained, mapping the human terrain, “Enables the entire kill chain for the GWOT” (i.e. Global War on Terror). (To see the PDF version of Wilcox’s presentation go to http://concerned.anthropologists.googlepages.com/WilcoxKillChain.pdf.)

I see no reason to think that the military or political establishment will judiciously use the data when activating that ‘kill chain’. It seems very difficult to argue that cooperation with HTS anthropologists does not put people in harm’s way, regardless of those anthropologists good intents.

Greg Feldman
Assistant Professor of International Migration
Dept. of Geography
University of British Columbia

Jill said...

I fully support the executive board's action in this matter. Their response is directly tied to the AAA's ethics code and identifies exactly the types of limits to acceptable uses of anthropology that need to be clarified for the military and for the general republic.

The statement's specific language refering to our political time and place is important, as is the specific language clarifying that the AAA does not oppose all anthropological interactions with the military.

This is a very measured and well informed response.

Jane Adams said...

The question of our ethical boundaries is not adequately addressed in this statement by the EB. It assumed as a given that anthropologist do not and should not support any projection of U.S. force overseas. If that assumption is removed, the statement will be seen to be, at best, muddled and obtuse. Others posting before me have been less generous.

As increasing numbers of anthropologists work outside the academy, a good number work with NGOs and international agencies that have missions in conflict-ridden areas. Their aim, in most cases, is to reduce inter-group violence and help establish institutions that will sustain more peaceful forms of governance. In such cases, anthropologists can perceive themselves as non-partisan. However, any action in a war zone inevitably places oneself and others at risk, as combatants rarely honor claims of neutrality.

As previous posters have argued, civilians talking with HTS embedded anthropologists can have no illusions about who they are dealing with – something that is ambiguous with putatively non-partisan humanitarian workers.

Anthropologists have also been partisan in some conflicts, for example, working with the quasi-guerrilla Zapatistas in Mexico, in a situation where civilians were put at risk. Such actions have never been criticized within the discipline.

The implication of the EB statement is that anthropologists should not work in war zones, or other areas where armed conflict between groups occurs.

I personally have qualms about anthropologists (or journalists) working inside of any military organization in a war zone -- although I note that this was not considered problematic in WWII, when anthropologists worked closely with the war effort. But from the limited knowledge I have of the HTS program, it is producing many beneficial results, creating zones of peaceful inter-group relations that supplants prior violence and bloodshed. In a context (Afghanistan and Iraq) in which some combatant groups have an explicit strategy of attaining political power by spreading mistrust and conflict among the civilian populace through intensifying ethnic, sectarian, or other divisions, this seems to me to be a positive use of our ethnographic skills.

Anthropologists do need ethical guidelines for work in areas that are riven with conflicts. However, unless the AAA goes on record in opposition to the use of U.S. military force anywhere in the world, the EB statement is misplaced and unhelpful.


Jane Adams
Southern Illinois University Carbondale

a professor said...

I think it important to treat this issue anthropologically, that is to try to understand in as complete a way as possible what the embedded anthropologists are doing and to ask about who they are and how they found themselves to be in this particular situation. I look forward to hearing from one on this forum. I don't think the EB statement on HTS does this (a point observed by a number of others above). Also, ethical issues, especially as related to U.S. imperialism, need to be situated in a much broader way. While the Iraq war is wrong and unjust for many reasons, so is the historical and ongoing complicity American anthropologists (as Americans and as anthropologists)share in in regards to a range of human rights issues around the world. What does the disapproval of the EB do other than work to improve our public image?

Shaka McGlotten
Purchase College

Anonymous said...

I whole heartedly agree with the AAA position that the HTS is an unacceptable use of anthropological expertise. As anthropologists, we should NEVER lend our expertise to estrategic military or intelligence/counterintelligence initiatives. Specially not in the case of abusive, undemocratic, arbitrary wars such as the campaigns currently being fought by US forces.

Carlos Garcia-Quijano, Ph.D.
University of Puerto Rico

Darci said...

Upon reading "The Human Terrain System: A CORDS for the 21st Century" by Kipp et al. (http://leav-www.army.mil/fmso/documents/human-terrain-system.pdf), I realize that it seems the knowledge that the military can gain from social science support may not be used in a manner deemed ethical by most anthropologists. Although the essay mentions that operations in Iraq have been more successful with attempts at "understanding" and "respecting" the local people (pg 11), the italicized quote on pg 9 leaves me to believe that the information is intended to be used in a controlling and manipulating fashion because of its concern with predicting the actions of the populace and garnering its support for the actions of the U.S. military, whatever they may be.

On pg 13, the author states that the data collected by the HTT will be archived for use by the military and other government agencies. The data will also be made available to the "new" governments in Irag and Afghanistan. This means that the knowledge produced can be used in ways completely out of control of the social scientists creating it.

Darci Pauser
University of California, Berkeley, BA 2006

Angel said...

I very much support the EB's statement on HTS. As other posters have noted, it cannot possibly address all the complex dimensions of the current debate over the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq-- however it does get at the heart of the ethical contradictions involved in being an anthropologist aiding military operations.

Angel Roque
Ph.D. Candidate
Stanford University

Anonymous said...

So I guess those of you who concur with the AAA statement believe that you can pick and choose which war you should be able to help? So, because the United States made a HUGE blunder, we should penalize them and the people they are hurting by not offering our expertise? The fact that the military even considered getting anthropologists was a big step to show they are truly trying to get issues resolved. It's a shame how so many people say they are anthropologists but are hypocrytical in the same context. You do realize that there are many cultures around the world that believe that anthropologists are imperialists themselves. They go to a foreign land, take artifacts, dig up remains of people they have nothing to do with. But when there is a present need for us, your hatred for your own country and political agenda gets in the way. Maybe you should take a long look in the mirror and decide whether you are an anthropologist or a social worker. There is a difference. I was always against this 'war', but that should not interfere with the science of anthropology. Your imperialistic ideas of when and when not to use your expertise is a slap in the face of the field of anthropology. It's almost like a doctor won't see a patient because they eat the wrong food. "Oh, you eat McDonalds every day and I tell you not to. For that reason, I will not help you how to get better." I will never donate or register with AAA again.

Brian D-L said...

Anthropologists who are participating in the so-called "Human Terrain Project" are not international peace-keepers or peacemakers, they are contributing to a side in a war. Whether we agree with that side or not, they are using the tools of anthropology as tools of war. This very point undermines the credibility of our discipline, and makes every anthropologist suspect in her/his respective fieldwork.

These are "anthropologists of fortune." It is such a twisted distortion of reality to suggest that they are somehow "doing good" by helping to make war more culturally sensitive! "Warfare Lite. Brought to you through the wonders of anthropology." Let's not hide these fact behind learned rationalizations and obfuscations. It is amazing that the discipline could be so caught up in its own discourse that we can't see the situation or speak about it clearly: this is a war; anthropologists are working for a side in the war, to help that side "win"; the principles and practices of the discipline are being used to "psyche out" (or anthro- out) people in their own cultural terms to help the US military win its battles. What isn't clear is how any responsible person in anthropology could find this acceptable to our discipline.

Anonymous said...

It's hard to think clearly about this issue because the critiques of anthropological involvement in Human Terrain Teams are both ethical and political. Many of the comments posted here both critique and contribute to the confusion between the two.

Anthropologists have diverse political views. Some will feel comfortable working with the military and some will not. We should engage one another in political debate about the consequences and implications of such work, but the Association should not seek to dictate what is essentially a political position to its members.

On the other hand, there are certain kinds of practice that are clearly a violation of our professional ethics code, and it is clearly the responsibility of the EB to offer guidance (and censure) in regard to those. It seems clear to me that work for Human Terrain Teams falls into this category (for all the reaons the EB gives) and, while many of us may oppose the Human Terrain teams partly on political grounds, it is appropriate for the EB to urge anthropologists not to work for them because, "objectively," such work is incompatible with our collective ethics code. Whether we are for or against the war, we should be able to agree that certain kinds of war work by anthropologists are incompatible with our professional role.


I applaud the EB for its exercise of clear thinking and principled leadership.

Hugh Gusterson
George Mason University

Anonymous said...

Maybe once a Democrat becomes president you guys will decide that maybe it's a good idea to help out?

Zinjabeelah said...

The war in Iraq was launched in violation of UN Charter Chapter 7. The conduct of the war violates the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on the Prevention of Torture. The US is a signatory to both of these international conventions. The conduct of the war and the overall GWOT (Global War on Terror) has also involved violations of the US constitution. It is a very good development to see that the AAA has not, unlike the US Government, violated its code of ethics.

I hope that this whole discussion leads more anthropologists to be more politically engaged in public discussion and debates and the exercise of citizenship. To say that "politics" has no place in the study of human beings, who are always and everywhere engaged in formal and informal politics, is disturbing.

That being said, I think this statement is, or should be, only a beginning. Anthropologists should be more, not less, engaged in interpreting, debating, and commenting on public policy, particularly, given the disaster of Iraq, foreign policy in the Middle East.

L. King-Irani, PhD
Georgetown University
Washington, DC

Woyzeck said...

I agree with the AAA decision. In responding to the other posts, I don't think it is a political statement to condemn a "war" that has been proved to be based on false information, a "war" that we have lost, and a "war" that has cost and is costing an egregious amount of lives. Intimidating and pressuring government officials by the Cheney Administration to manipulate and alter information for a case for war is political. The rest of the blame (and the greater part of it) goes to our coitus interruptus Congress and their non-binding, thirty percent work ethic.

The fact that we are at "war" in the first place I think shows that the Cheney Administration, US policy makers, and the US Military have no great interest in non-American cultures. And the fact that we have no respect for indigenous rights and knowledge here in our own country makes us less fit to go marauding in other countries. Until the US begins to acknowledge and respect the autonomy of other countries and at least give US Servicemen and women the dignity of not being exploited, I fear that anthropologists will only become another pawn. If the US military wants intelligence they should consult the "Independent Counsel."

I don't think Anthropology will become irrelevant because of its refusal to participate in skirmishes and invasions abroad. I think our relevancy is affected more by the same problem between the Intelligence Community: the unwillingness to collaborate across disciplines. The Homeland Defense Department after all was an attempt to bring together the CIA and FBI. And, for two organizations that have been spying and invading privacy way before the Cheney Administration's wire-tapping fiasco, I find it awfully strange that they still got caught with their pants down on 9/11. Parsimony of the human condition is what causes one to become irrelevant.

Cade Cannon
Graduate Student
Department of Anthropology
University of Washington

Maximilian C. Forte said...

I do not want to see a discussion that is fundamentally about politics being displaced into the muddier field of ethics. This is not to dismiss ethics, but rather to make certain that we are focused on the politics behind the ethics, and stand up for those politics. The contention at the centre of our attention goes well beyond professionalism.

By issuing this statement, the AAA Executive Board has already done a lot to positively enhance anthropology's political profile in a world where the politics of anthropology are precisely what have been under dispute.

Had the AAA not taken such a measure, then rest assured that I for one would have been very keen to start an international movement to boycott American anthropology, and specifically the AAA.

Maximilian C. Forte
Concordia University, Montreal

John Borneman said...

The AAA Executive Board statement raises many issues, perhaps too many for use as a petition to solicit widespread agreement among us. Our opposition to this new wave of American-led "wars on terror" (although not all of us are pacifists), and especially to the Iraqi war, may unite most of us. We should above all condemn the failure of American civil institutions, including the academy and our discipline--notwithstanding good sentiments--to engage with these ongoing wars in any efficacious way. This means, also, that we might condemn non-participation, the refusal to engage for fear of doing wrong, or any representation of American citizens as “non-complicit.” Moreover, once a wrong is perpetrated, rectification requires engagement with the crime. The AAA, then, should a express the view of what I assume would be the majority of its members that we acknowledge the political impasse into which we have collectively brought ourselves.
But, in the middle of such illegitimate wars, there is no easy or succinct answer to the question of whether and how to participate (assist, oppose, mediate, resist, sabotage). Our past inaction and the marginality of our knowledge is no guide. We might all agree that ethnographic fieldwork is and must be an ethical engagement, above all because we are always guests, usually uninvited by the people in the places where we study. At this level, our embeddedness with our subjects quite accurately and disturbingly reminds us of a parallel to the anthropologists working with HTS teams. But, in my opinion, it is not wise to make anthropology into the site of a prescribed ethics of engagement. General admonitions such as not to “harm” or “coerce” or to “respect the values of others” orient us as to what to avoid, but do not indicate what to do. Past research might suggest certain broad parameters for action, and lead us to disapprove of some forms of engagement as non-ethical. But we know too little about the actual terms of engagement of anthropologists who work with the HTS teams to condemn them. Such condemnation will not contribute to clarifying modes of ethical engagement, but only make us feel good. Anthropology is an experimental science, and thus in most cases cannot dictate ahead of actual encounters what sort of individual participation is least or most desirable.
John Borneman
Professor of Anthropology
Princeton University

Marshall Sahlins said...

I believe that the participation of anthropologists in Human Terrain Systems Teams (HTST) in Iraq and Afghanistan is in violation of the AAA ethics code. Their cooperation in US military projects of political and cultural hegemony implicate them in attacks on the autonomy, traditions and persons of populations targeted for pacification and counterinsurgency. It is clear both from practice and from mission statements of the anthropological and military parties concerned that the military view the anthropologists instrumentally, as a weapon of pacification.

In this relation the anthropologist functions as a tactical means, subject to control and manipulation by the military officers in charge of the HTS teams and the commanders of brigade and regimental combat units. So while the anthropologists justify their role by saying it reduces the lethality of the American presence, their instrumental function is more comprehensively described as making lethal force more effective. The anthropologists help counterinsurgency units avoid inflicting casualties that will turn the local population against them. But it is clear that "mapping human resources across the kill chain"--as it was put by one military
officer-- helps determine targets for the combat teams in which the HTST are embedded. The structure of these Human Terrain Systems teams, the functions of the various members, their cooperation with other intelligence sources, debriefing of patrols, etc., all testify to their participation in identifying segments or persons in the local population in terms of their relevance to military operations.

I refer to the job specifications of HTST members as posted on a career fair site (techexpousa.com) on October 24, 2007 by the private firm to which their recruitment was outsourced, as well as published descriptions by the US military (see especially www.
army.mil/professionalwriting/volumes/volume4/december_2006/12_06_2.html).

"The HTS project is designed to improve the gathering, interpretation, understanding, operational application and sharing of local population knowledge at the Brigade Combat Team (BCT)/Regimental Combat Team(RCT) and Division levels." The HTS teams are made up of five specialized members: 1)the leader of the team, a high-ranking military officer; 2) a cultural analyst, which would be the anthropological position; 3) a regional studies analyst; 4) a human terrain research manager or collection manager; and 5) a human terrain analyst. All require security clearance at the level of "secret."

1) The HTST leader is the principal human terrain advisor to the Brigade Combat unit commander. He is responsible for"supervising the team's effort and helping integrate data into the staff decision process." Selected for his or her military experience, the team leader is a Major or Lieutenant-Colonel and a staff college graduate."The key attribute of the HTT Team leader is the ability to successfully integrate the HTT into the processes of the Brigade Combat Team...and become a trusted advisor to the BCT commander."

2) The cultural analyst (the anthropologist) is thus embedded in a team supervised by a high-ranking military officer--and designed as we will see to liaison with other intelligence operations--which is in turn embedded in a combat unit. Among the duties of the cultural analyst is "developing processes to integrate cultural information into the Brigade Combat Team's decision-making process."
Such analysts "apply a thorough understanding of the ops/intelligence fusion process to compile, collate, analyze and evaluate data sources and unevaluated intelligence to develop a coherent picture of the human terrain in which the BCT/RCTs operate."

3) The regional studies analyst has functions much like the cultural analyst "but with a focus on a larger target geographic region."

4) The human terrain research manager or collection manager is the principal link between the HTT and other intelligence operations. He or she must have "a military background in tactical intelligence and extensive experience working with, or in, military intelligence or Special Operations Forces." The collection manager "will work with the Human Terrain Team Leader to prioritize and manage efforts to map the human terrain and integrate products developed by other intelligence disciplines." Among other functions and qualifications, he debriefs patrols and evaluates "all sources of intelligence to develop a coherent picture of the human terrain in which the BCT/RCTs operate." In sum, the collection manager "will integrate the human terrain research plan with the unit intelligence collection effort."

5) The human terrain analyst must also have a military intelligence background and be a trained debriefer. Apparently this analyst has the function of compiling all the research data.

It is clear that the anthropologist is a subaltern functionary in a larger system for developing operational intelligence for combat units. Among the "deliverables" to the Brigade commander for which the Human Terrain Team is responsible are data on"key regional personalities" as well as on "social structures, links between clans and families, economic issues" and the like."The United States desperately needs a counter-network to fight the dark networks now surfacing across the globe," reads an article by a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Sept-Oct 2006 *Military
Review.* "Ethnographic intelligence can empower the daily fight against dark networks, and it can help formulate contingency plans that are based on a truly accurate portrayal of the most essential terrain--the human mind."

Aside from identifying key personalities, tribal relations,etc., for the "ops/intelligence fusion process," the aspect of anthropological contribution to the HTS teams that receives the most publicity, often the only publicity, is collecting cultural data for winning local "hearts and minds"--which is again to say for improving American counterinsurgency and pacification efforts. This is also described as inculcating respect for the local culture among US military personnel or even as providing a sense of cultural relativism. Of course it is the opposite of cultural relativism-- cultural cynicism one might call it--since the object is to appropriate the cultural practices of others to one's own purposes, notably the purpose of dominating them. A statement by the principal anthropological advocate and spokesperson of Human Terrain Systems operations, Montgomery McFate, reported in *The San Francisco
Chronicle,* confirms the priority of the military mission over the welfare of the local people. McFate is prepared to make the choice of exposing and hurting the anthropologists' informants in order to further American national security interests and save American lives:

"Anthropologists, she said, need to balance 'the anthropological interest in protecting informants and the national security interests of acquiring valuable information and knowledge that might potentially hurt an informant but might protect the lives of American and foreign civilians and members of the armed services....But most anthropologists...live in a pretty simple moral world. Their only interest is the interests of their informants. That is the sine qua non of anthropology. That is the prime directive. And I live in a more complicated world where that is a directive, but it is not the prime directive. Perhaps that is what they find so objectionable.'"

This kind of relation to the local people would hardly get through an IRB review on human subjects--to which reviews the HTS anthropologists claim immunity on grounds they are not subsidized by federal grants to universities. The more reason, then, for the AAA to censure the anthropologists involved for violations of professional and humanitarian ethics.

Marshall Sahlins
Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology Emeritus Department of Anthropology University of Chicago

Jon Burack said...

I thought people here might be interested in what I posted on the AP world history discussion list, where a link to the AAA statement recently appeared. I am not an anthropologist. I produce history materials for the schools. However, the AAA statement is of concern to more than just anthropologists, so as an outsider I offer this for your consideration:

Jonathan Burack
Highsmith Inc.
jburack@highsmith.com

I’d like to call attention to and follow up on the AAA statement John linked to

http://www.aaanet.org/blog/resolution.htm

This is a dramatic example of the politicization of an academic profession, the sort of thing that makes people like me wonder why we didn’t simply become plumbers or accountants. The statement in fact ought to alarm history teachers whether they support US efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan or not.

The AAA statement does not warn anthropologists to desist from aiding any and every military around the world, or any and every armed conflict. It only warns them not to assist the HTS program. Does the AAA believe no other authoritarian government or political-military institution anywhere on earth is employing American anthropologists? Instead, the AAA singles out the use of anthropologists by the US military in Afghanistan. It justifies this focus as near as I can tell, 1) because it knows about the HTS program (since we live in a free society where it is not hard to find out about such things), and 2) because it insists HTS must be seen in “the context of a war that is widely recognized as a denial of human rights and based on faulty intelligence and undemocratic principles...”

“Widely recognized”? Interesting, that passive construction. No need to identify the subjects apparently. Yet I have to ask, who are these “recognizers”? How does AAA know who they are and how many? More importantly, why would the AAA base an ethical principle and professional mandate on some perceived popular vote?

Critics routinely deride the US for its failure to understand the cultural context into which they have intervened militarily in Iraq and Afghanistan. You would think anthropologists would welcome a more anthropologically informed military. Especially in Afghanistan, where not only the US but NATO and others are engaged in a fight against a benighted totalitarian foe that has shown not a shred of regard for the indigenous customs of the peoples of that nation, let alone any respect at all for basic human rights and dignity. You would think it was the US, not the Taliban, who had shot the faces off centuries-old Buddhist statues, or the US not the Taliban that has executed women for daring to go to school or thrown homosexuals off of roof tops. Why shouldn’t anthropologists help to defeat such a foe and serve proudly along side soldiers, engineers, doctors, nurses, environmental resource managers, lawyers, and other equally ethically bound professionals?

In this context, the AAA’s posturing about the obligations of anthropologists to “do no harm” are especially revealing. They reveal above all the self-contradiction of the AAA’s moral relativism by raising the question of what harm the AAA will do to the Afghans if its bullying undermines the effort to eliminate the Taliban from Afghan society. Should the Taliban return, I suppose we can expect the AAA to issue no more warnings to protect the Afghan people from badly motivated anthropologists. That would be the one single blessing of such a catastrophe.

Finally, when I say “bullying,” this is what makes all this relevant to this list (since I know some will insist it is not relevant). This AAA statement cannot possibly be seen by anthropologists taking part in HTS as anything but a threat to their careers and future employment prospects. No formal proceedings of the AAA will be needed. HTS graduates will be forewarned that they need not apply. I find this simply appalling.

Mark Dawson said...

he second paragraph starts with these disturbing sentences.

“The Commission’s work did not include systematic study of the HTS project. The Executive Board of the Association has, however, concluded that the HTS project raises sufficiently troubling and urgent ethical issues to warrant a statement from the Executive Board at this time.”

On a larger frame, it shows how the governing body of the AAA is moving the discipline farther away from anything resembling a science and to more of an ideology. How can any organization that purports to represent a scientific discipline dare to issue such a statement that says they have not taken a moment to actually study the group that is the topic of the controversy to start with? I know all the people on the board are anthropologists of some stripe. How serious can someone take such a statement when they have not even done the work required to get a passing grade in an undergraduate field course? Did they even talk to anyone connected to the HTS?

Do you know how easy it is to start understanding the HTS? Its called Google. Type “Human Terrain System” into Google and first 5 hits include the writings by the people that created the HTS concept and a link to a blog by Marcus Griffin who is an anthropologist currently in Iraq with the HTS.

The more I think about it, the more appalling it is. This is not a covert activity, its widely written about, there are at least two anthropologists in Iraq that blog about their work, contacting them and or the creators is pretty easy.

Are their problems with the program? No kidding. But to issue a statement without actually going to the source material or speaking with those actually involved is inexcusable.

Anonymous said...

abcdefg

rex said...

This statement says:

1. The research performed by HTS is unethical by agreed-upon standards for dealing with research subjects.

2. There may be some cases in which the ends justify the means when it comes to anthropology, but this engagement probably is not one of them.

3. No specialized research was done on the HTS program itself.

The statement does not say:

1. ALL forms of aid to the military are wrong.

2. There are never circumstances when ends justify means in aiding and abetting the military.

The take-away from the statement is not that the AAA hates George Bush or thinks all collaboration with the military is wrong -- the focus should be on the empirical claim that HTS research requires unethical human subjects practices. Investigating HTS closely -- very closely indeed -- would be the next logical step to get the data we need to decide this issue one way or the other.

Anonymous said...

Mark Dawson hit it right on the head in a message or two above:

"it shows how the governing body of the AAA is moving the discipline farther away from anything resembling a science and to more of an ideology."

"How can any organization that purports to represent a scientific discipline dare to issue such a statement that says they have not taken a moment to actually study the group that is the topic of the controversy to start with? I know all the people on the board are anthropologists of some stripe. How serious can someone take such a statement when they have not even done the work required to get a passing grade in an undergraduate field course? Did they even talk to anyone connected to the HTS?"

I agree 100% with these statements. I'm glad though that I'm graduating this semester because admitting that I do indeed agree would probably get me blacklisted by my fellow anthro's here at USF.

This would have been a great topic for my Rethinking Anthropology course that I took last semester!

Dan Wiberg
Senior, Anthropology Major
University of South Florida
Tampa, FL

Daniel Segal said...

Mark Dawson's criticism of the Statement is predicated on reading the EB Statement as saying that the EB passed its Statement without having "taken a moment to actually study the group that is the topic of the controversy." But this is NOT what the EB Statement claims at all. The actual text reads: "The Commission’s work did not include systematic study of the HTS project. The Executive Board of the Association has, however, concluded that the HTS project raises sufficiently troubling and urgent ethical issues to warrant a statement from the Executive Board at this time. Our statement is based on information in the public record, as well as on information and comments provided to the Executive Board by the Ad Hoc Commission and its members."

What is reported is first that the Ad Hoc Commisson did not systematically study the HTS program (the Ad Hoc Commission can speak for itself, but I understand that the reason it did not have this focus was because the HTS program only came to light toward the end of its term of existence). Following this report about what the Ad Hoc Commission did not do, that same paragraph ends by indicated what the EB (its members to be precise) did do to inform itself about the HTS program.

My own view, as a member of the EB, is that the EB exercised due diligence in informing itself about HTS. In fact, I think for most of us on the EB, many, many hours were spent reading everything we could and asking questions, particularly of members of the Commission (and we also heard from AAA members and other colleagues not on the Commission).

In sum: to claim that the EB acted without even taking "a moment" to learn about HTS does two things: (i) it mis-reads the text of the Statement and (ii) it misrepresents what the EB actually did.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Segal,

What are your thoughts on Mr. Dawson's statement that "it shows how the governing body of the AAA is moving the discipline farther away from anything resembling a science and to more of an ideology."

Dan Wiberg
Senior, Anthropology Major
University of South Florida
Tampa, FL

Anonymous said...

I’d like us to think about how we can refuse the provincializing of anthropology in the debates about the HTS. I am opposed to the HTS, but I’d like to have a wider set of debates about it.

Recently, I listened to McFate, the HTS designer, present the basic structure of the HTS as well as her justification for it to an audience of anthropologists. In the cracks of her official presentation, we found out that, of the 12 people who are currently part of the HTS, only a few are anthropologists. Others hold degrees in international relations, history, sociology, economy, and psychology. Why, then, is there a link between the HTS and anthropology and what’s the problem with it?

The link has been instigated by the fact that its designer is an anthropologist and the talk of ethnography, participant-observation, and culture in the HTS documents. The media has helped establish the notion that HTS pertains particularly to anthropology. But given who the members of the HTS are and the kind of work they apparently do, the notion that the HTS is tightly linked to anthropology is as warranted as the association of HTS with say, history.

While some salute this association of HTS and anthropology, the particularizing of anthropology is ultimately damaging. It draws anthropology into a predetermined binary framework that McFate herself propagates. One part of her framework is the portrayal of the military as an innocent but helpless bunch who are merely executing their duty even though many are opposed to the war (which she euphemistically refers to the “Iraq policy”). According to her, anthropologists either help the military or choose to stay “pure,” self-absorbed in the Ivory Tower, and irrelevant. Thus, the only way to be relevant is to support the state. Her view is supported by many who stereotype anthropologists as stubborn peaceniks out of touch with reality.

This framework provincializes anthropology by narrowing the terms of the debate and the measure of anthropological relevance. And we accept it when we discuss the HTS as a challenge to anthropology in particular, and moreover, narrow that down to a challenge to anthropological ethics. By centering the debate on how the HTS violates anthropological ethics, we look inward and draw the lines around the place into which the HTS supporters happily place us. If the code of ethics sets boundaries on what anthropological conduct should not look like, it is also a minimal common denominator. We all agree on the code of ethics, if not its interpretations. But there is so much more to be said about the HTS, the anthropological involvement with the military, and the relevance of anthropology beyond its impact on US policies.

I’d like to expand the existing debate on ethics and move beyond it. The question, for me, is not whether HTS violates the anthropological code of ethics. I believe that it does. But so do many other anthropological engagements the AAA does not oppose. And this where politics enters the game. Is the HTS involvement an absolute violation of AAA code of ethics or is it somewhere on the continuum of violations? What is the difference between an HTS ethnographer and say, an ethnographer analyzing health-seeking behavior in service an insurance company that’s trying to cut its cost at the expense of quality of care? Or a consultant to the World Bank hired to facilitate a resistance-free displacement of peoples for the sake of building a dam? Or, on the other end of the political spectrum, an anthropologist who studies up, but due to his/her allegiance to the “people” writes against the interests of the main informants? To me, the difference seems that the question of survival is more immediate in war, but the code of ethics is compromised in all these cases. Hence, the decision to condemn this, but not other violations, is a political decision.

Anthropologists usually do a great job of analyzing the shades of difference and gray zones. Where does the HTS fit on the scale of anthropological involvement with the US military? According to McFate, the military hires senior scholars as consultants on Iraq and Afghanistan. Do the actions of these people do harm to those who once trusted them? We might never know – the consultants wish to remain anonymous.

One way to refuse the narrow framework is to invite others to the table. So, sociologists, historians, and others: What do you say about the HTS and other efforts of the military to draw on your knowledge? What differences do you see between your students and colleagues being recruited as specialists and say, students on DOD fellowships who are getting trained in area studies with the idea that they would serve the military better? How do we negotiate knowledge, ethics and politics at the time when we’re facing a perpetual war on terror?

I believe that we should talk about the larger role anthropology should play in influencing politics. I’d love to able to do that. But I would want to expand the notion of relevance beyond the terms currently on the table, neither retreating to the comfortable notion that all knowledge is somehow relevant, nor accepting the idea that only those anthropologists engaging with the state or serving it are doing relevant work.

Saida Hodzic
Assist. Prof of Women's Studies
George Mason University

Brian D-L said...

I would suggest that, rather than it being hard to think clearly about this issue because of some kind of confusion in our discussion between politics and ethics, it seems quite the opposite: It is clear that there is a serious contradiction and conflict between the fundamental principles of anthropological study (whether taken from a scientific or humanisitic perspective, or both) and the turning of such study into weapons of war. What is then seen as confusion and difficulty in coming to terms with this is in fact the result of how easy it is apparenlty to cloud the situation with subsequent discourse.

We are not, after all, talking about whether one war or another is good or bad, whether all war is good or bad, whether it is right for an anthropologist to get involved in this or that war etc.; we are talking about whether it is professionally responsible for anthropologists to use their professional skills and abilities to assist in warmaking.

This reported difficulty in achieving clarity reminds me of the fabled debates among theologians who argued endlessly about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin, while Hitler gassed millions of people in concentration camps. It is something of a comfortable inability to achieve clarity, oddly enough. I can't help but imagine an episode of the Daly show here, with an interview of flak-jacketed, gun-carrying, clip-board writing anthropologists, to draw out the absurity of the situation.

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Anthropology/Sociology
Quinebaug Valley Community College
Danielson, CT 06239

Anonymous said...

Sounds like more ideology rather than actual science.

John Norvell said...

I applaud the Board’s Statement. Gusterson’s distinction, above, between political and ethical concerns is an important one. I think the emphasis in the Statement on the various forms of illegality this war represents is important for the latter and does not merely position the AAA ideologically. In a truly defensive war, declared Constitutionally and prosecuted within the bounds of international and national law, many anthropologists would participate in something like the HTS without qualms. I agree with Borneman that the options for action in the face of an illegal and immoral war are not clear cut, and one can envision several forms of ethical anthropological engagement in the public sphere at this point in this one.

Although I concur in general with Borneman’s statement that specifying a priori specific ethical and unethical actions is inappropriate and unwise, it seems as if he is quoting himself from some other debate. The assault on even the broadest “human subjects research” principles of beneficence, autonomy, and justice represented by participation in the HTS in this war is unambiguous, and I am comfortable with the shadow the AAA action casts on those who pursue careers in this arena.

John Norvell
Scripps College

Anonymous said...

I fully support the AAA statement. GWOT as pursued by the US military clearly uses methods that are broadly unethical and specifically in violation of international norms of justice and human rights. Pre-emptive attack in only an obvious example of many such violations.

To participate in such egregious endeavors is to aid and be complicit with them. Period.

Mana Kia
Doctoral Candidate
Harvard University

Jon Burack said...

John Norvell says,

"In a truly defensive war, declared Constitutionally and prosecuted within the bounds of international and national law, many anthropologists would participate in something like the HTS without qualms."

So now, instead of "widely recognized" opinions about the war, we get "the war is against the law" as the reason for the AAA statement. I suppose any rationale will do given the AAA's relentless drive to depict its own country as the source of all evil.

What both of these rationales have in common is that they rely on sheer assertion backed up by absolutely nothing at all. What authorized agency responsible to any democratic polity anywhere has found the US war in Afghanistan to be against international or Constitutional law? None. Just as no one in the AAA has any basis at all for saying the war's unjustness is "widely recognized" -- let alone explaining why this should determine what the HTS anthropologists do with their talents.

The only other basis claimed so far for the AAA's judgment against these anthropologists is "the do no harm" rule. Nice to convince yourselves you actually ever can be so pure. In reality, it is a principle resting on sand, since it still leaves in the hands of the anthropologists the definition of "harm." My point above about the rule therefore still stands. Outside the comfortable walls of academe, binary choices confront people in the real world, both of which may entail harm. What then? In this case, the choice is pretty clear. Harm some to stop the Taliban. Or do not stop the Taliban and harm far more. So I say wash off the blood already on your hands in any case and pitch in.

Brian D-L said...

Two fundamental principles at the heart of our discipline are trust and respect in relation to the people and the cultures we study so imtimately. We build our rapport with people (and their cultures, by extension) in order to get as open and unguarded view as possible.

Anthropologists who do this in order to gain "intelligence," to write military manuals and assist troops in the fighting of war, turn the tools (and more importantly the principles) of our profession into spying. It undermines as a result, the integrity and trustworthiness of our whole discipline and its practitioners.

One doesn't have to be against this or any particular war to be disturbed by this prospect and what it means for our profession, nor to raise this fundamental concern.

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Anthropology/Sociology
Quinebaug Valley Community College
Danielson, CT 06239

Anonymous said...

As a retired intelligence officer, I found the debate on the AAA EB Statement to be both sad and amusing. And valuable. Those who wash their hands and stand away feel better, but the war continues. Those who call for engagement, and for a detailed study of the situation, give me hope that contributions will follow, to inform the Iraqis and Afghanis, the military, and American society and the world. The debate that guided the "War o Terror" was replete with policitcs, if not of ethics, and not well handled by conventional leadership, but to ask for greater understanding is not entirely conventional, and dissent from voices in intelligence and policy were marginalized, rather than heard, when their points were inconvenient. So my experience says.

Some comments seemed very naive. Jane Adams and others seemingly mistrust all military action, and I saw no sign that the profession of arms holds any honor for these bloggers, nor any close observation of war. For Jane, I must disagree; true soldiers do regard neutrals during a conflict; thugs and xenopobes may not. The concept of such a soldier is charming, and they do exist. There are good soliders, but there are many who would benefit in overcoming sociocultural pathologies.

Soldiers have rules of engagement (sounds like what the AAA EB needs), and rules for the use of force. There are principles behind these, such as the inherent right and obligation to exercise self-defense and defense of innocent others, and the right of a unit commander to defend his/her unit. Defense is neither exclusively aggressive (there may be leeway for preemption of a clear and present danger) nor reactive, but involves deterrence, detection or recognition of a threat, selection of appropriate (necessary and proportionate) measures to stop the threat/hostile action, and then the implementation of those measures. Incidents of violence will also require responses to mitigate harm, as well as restore peace and capabilities to preserve the culture. The military can only optimize these skills and actions by being well informed and guided.

The "kill chain" is not necessarily predisposed to kill, though its name is shocking. Killing is not the first alternative, nor the only military response. Deadly force is only authorized, under the Standing Rules of Engagment/Force for the U.S., when facing a threat (comprising intention, capability, and opportunity) of death or serious bodily harm, and only in seven circumstances, such as in defense of a critical national asset (ask if you wish more). It is a bit of a stretch to call HTS teams "weapons" as they do not directly inflict harm, but indirectly they may support violence and targeting. Will that action always taint the understanding offered by anthropology? It may support peacemaking and security too. One hopes the action will be ethical, and that we only shoot those who desperately need to be shot.

This ethical question is very similar to my concerns about providing intelligence, which focuses on adversaries' intention and capabilities to cause harm. Threat recogntion is the job here, leading to warning. Warning is the process of communicating threat information to decision-makers in order that they will limit damage, and that is, in my view, a good thing. I do not assume evil intent from the evidence of a uniform, nor is it certain from a President. There may be exculpatory or mitigating evidence regarding ignorance, insanity, folly, or mere failure in judgment, but the harm still occurs. There may also be evidence to convict; analysis is needed. Optimal decisions are not ideal, often.
Thanks for inspirin me to grapple with these issues; together perhaps we will tame them.

Laurie King-Irani said...

RE: the illegality or legality of the war in Iraq, check out the Crimes of War Project's website:

http://www.crimesofwar.org/special/Iraq/overview.html

For an incisive article written five months before the launch of the Iraq war, and a critique of the Bush policy of Pre-emption, check out:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v24/n19/liev01_.html

Last but not least, the war in Iraq is framed as part of the GWOT (global war on terror), one of the underpinnings of which is the black hole of Guantanomo. For legal views on this, check out:

http://www.crimesofwar.org/onnews/news-guantanamo2.html

Why did the government and the military not listen to anthropologists with speciality in the Middle East before launching this war? Many of us were writing, in the popular press, the alternative media, and in articles like Mahmoud Mamdani's AA piece, "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim (2002 or 03) about the dangers of this war.

The situation in Iraq is now so dire and deleterious that anthropologists cannot be of any help. In addition to the solid ethical and logistical arguments that support the AAA statement, there is also the pragmatic dimension to be considered. The war there has now passed the tipping point and there are no easy answers. Anyone who thinks there is, is dreaming. Anthropologists can and should be involved in the debate about what is the best course for Iraqis, Americans, and people in the region who will, for decades to come, be affected by the bad decisions made four years ago.

I don't see anything in the AAA statement that could back up the statement that the AAA is eager to depict the US as the "root or source of all evil," as one person has posted above.

Were I an anthropologist in WWII, I probably would gladly have done whatever I could to halt the spread of fascism and Nazism. Now, I fear there is too much evidence of fascism in my own country's policies and actions: pre-emptive war, the dereliction of duty on behalf of Congress and the media, the squashing of public debate, and of academic freedom where Middle East issues are concerned. The proper thing to do now, in my estimation as an American citizen and as an anthropologist, is to investigate, discuss, and debate the problems, structural flaws, and misinterpretations of reality that brought us to this point so that the US can be the best possible version of itself.

There is a lot of objection to this war within the ranks of the military itself, as evidenced by the number of retired generals who have made very strong statements against the war on both logistical and legal grounds. A war carried out without regard for the Geneva Conventions, and as part of a general attempt to scare the public, lie to Congress, cook up intelligence, and strong-arm allies is not an ethical, wise, or practical endeavor. Anthropology as a discipline should not be involved in this as part of the system, or chain of command (elsewhere discussed under the gruesome term, "kill chain"). We can only do more harm to ourselves than we can do any good for Iraqis or American troops by being involved in the manner laid out by the HTS. That is not to say that anthropologists do indeed have things to say, ideas to share, that could prevent the US government and military from similar debacles in the future. I think we should take care not to demonize the military or the troops, and I read the AAA statement as avoiding that sort of statement.

That said, the war has wrought unbelievable infrastructural, social, physical and psychological damage on the Iraqi people, devastated the US's reputation throughout the world, and set the stage for worse wars in the region. This should be of concern to us not simply narrowly, in terms of what it means for Anthropology, but for what it means for human beings regardless of their nationality, religion, or political views as well. The use of depleted uranium weaponry is going to damage the regional environment and Americans' and Iraqis' health for generations to come. How did a mess on this scale ever take place to begin with? Here is where anthropological theories and methods can be of use in understanding the symbol systems, rhetoric, and narratives that shut down debate, narrowed visions and perceived options, and empowered people who have destroyed the ideal of the US as a “nation of laws, not men.”

There are very compelling arguments for the illegality of this war, grounded not in alleged anti-US sentiments, but rather, established legal theories and precedents, and I think the unethical nature of the war is beyond dispute. Anthropologists serving as "embeds" with troops may even be risking war crimes prosecution as part of a chain of command in situations that lead to extrajudicial killings, torture, and wilfull killings of civilians. What is the trade off in terms of how our skills, perspectives, and methods can remedy this mess as members of HTS teams? None that I can see. The time and place for anthropology to avert this disaster was before the war was launched, and that horse long ago left the barn. In 2003 a motion was brought at the Chicago AAA meeting to express disapproval of the war and its many troubling ramifications for Iraqis and Americans. That fell flat on its face, unfortunately. Why did we not have the courage to stand up and present the views so many of us had then, and now, in public in an official forum. We did not go on record as being against the war. We cannot now go against our code of ethics in being complicit in this war.

Dwight Read said...

Two articles in Military Review (McFate, M. & A. Jackson. An Organizational Solution for DOD’s Cultural Knowledge Needs July-August 2005 and Kipp, J. Grau, L., Prinslow, K. & D. Smith September-October 2006) provide the rational for the Human Terrain System that is currently being implemented by our military. It is instructive to see how these authors present HTS.

By “human terrain” is meant “human population and society in the operational environment (area of operations) as defined and characterized by sociocultural, anthropologic, and ethnographic data and other non-geophysical information about that human population and society. … It includes the situational roles, goals, relationships, and rules of behavior of an operationally relevant group or individual” (Kipp, et al., p. 15, n. 2) and “Data will cover such subjects as key regional personalities, social structures, links between clans and families, economic issues, public communications, agricultural production, and the like” (Kipp, et al., p. 13).

How will this detailed information be obtained? A key player in the HTS group assigned to a brigade is the cultural analyst: “The cultural analyst will advise the HTT and brigade staff and conduct or manage ethnographic and social-science research and analysis in the brigade’s area of operations. The analyst will be a qualified cultural anthropologist or sociologist competent with Geographical Imaging Software and fluent enough in the local language to perform field research. Priority selection will go to those who have published, studied, lived, and taught in the region” (Kipp, et al, p. 13). This person will “Provide on-the-ground ethnographic research (interviews and participant observation) …” (Kipp, et al., p. 13). In short, the goal is to get detailed ethnographic information of the kind that can only be obtained when there is trust between the ethnographer and the people among whom the ethnographer is working.

Yet the goal for compiling such a database is “to support development of training, education, wargames, Red Teams, planning, and concepts. (McFate & Jackson, p. 20). Data will be made part of “A constantly updated, user-friendly ethnographic and sociocultural database of the area of operations that can provide the commander data maps showing specific ethnographic or cultural features…” (Kipp, et al., p. 13). The database will also “facilitate economic development and security, the compiled databases will eventually be turned over to the new governments of Iraq and Afghanistan to enable them to more fully exercise sovereignty over their territory and to assist with economic development" (Kipp, et al., p. 14).

The value of the data provided by the cultural analyst lies in “demands from within DOD for sociocultural studies on areas of interest (such as North Korean culture and society, Iranian military culture, and so on), and conduct case studies of coalition partners’ lessons learned on cultural training, such as the British experience in Iraq where cultural knowledge was applied to good effect, particularly in the organization of local councils to co-opt the tribal sheiks in Basra” (McFate & Jackson, p. 21). Further, military commanders will thereby “be culturally empowered, able to key on the people and so prosecute counter¬insurgency as Lawrence, Galula, and other practi¬tioners have prescribed—not by fire and maneuver, but by winning hearts and minds. In turn, the Army, our Nation, and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan will benefit from the fielding of this powerful new instrument for conducting stability operations and reconstruction” (Kipp, et al., p. 15).

The last comment highlights the schizophrenic nature of the enterprise. Somehow, warfare that our country entered into under the banner of “war on terrorism” is supposed to be winning the hearts and minds of precisely those civilians whose lives and country have been ransacked by our war on terrorism. In my opinion, there is no way that the goals of HTS can be achieved without compromising the ethics to which we, as anthropologists subscribe.

One of the anthropologists (Marcus Griffin) currently in Iraq working with the military is maintaining a Blog on his experiences (http://marcusgriffin.com/blog/ ) and it is worth reading his comments. His view on informed consent: “Finally, if anthropology is an academic discipline that promotes liberal learning at universities and other social institutions by promoting the use of knowledge in the service of human freedom, then anthropologists not obtaining informed consent denies our very reason for existing in its most basic form.” (http://marcusgriffin.com/blog/2007/07/ 7/19/2007). More generally, with regard to HTS, he comments: “In HTS we are working on a model that involves: research designs rooted in social theories, an Institutional Review Board in order to comply with the protection of human research subjects via 45 Code of Federal Regulation 46, using the Human Relations Area Files’ Organization of Cultural Material in order to contribute to the Academy’s production of knowledge, publishing ethnographic reports, and ultimately using knowledge in the service of human freedom. There is nothing crass or naive about this model and we are keenly aware of professional ethics. The two anthropologists that I have daily interaction with have both done significant research among marginalized peoples, just as I have, and all of us are committed to the protection of human dignity and those who are most vulnerable.” (http://marcusgriffin.com/blog/2007/07/ 7/4/07). Yet a military person (Lieutenant Colonel Gian P Gentile) comments: “Dear Dr. Griffin: Don’t fool yourself. These Human Terrain Teams whether they want to acknowledge it or not, in a generalized and subtle way, do at some point contribute to the collective knowledge of a commander which allows him to target and kill the enemy in the Civil War in Iraq” (http://marcusgriffin.com/blog/2007/10/why_is_the_use_of_anthropology.html#comments 10/17/07).

Dr. Dwight Read
Department of Anthropology
UCLA

oona paredes, arizona state university said...

The AAA can make all the loud declarations it wants on this issue, but you all look like complete hypocrites because you have not removed the advert for BAE systems -recruiting explicitly for the HTS- from the AAA jobs/careers listing page. Is the AAA executive board even aware that it is there?

Unless and until you remove that advert, and make a habit of refusing any and all comparable recruiting, then all of your ethical condemnations are meaningless. Not to mention embarrassing.

Alan Goodman said...

Dear Oona Paredes and others,

For your information, the BAE Systems position advertisement for social scientists-cultural anthropologists to work with the HTS program was self-posted a couple of days ago on the AAA website. Yesterday, EB officers were notified by staff about the self-posted ad and I have now informed the rest of the EB.

We will consider options for this specific ad over the next few days. More broadly, the ad hoc Commission will soon be making recommendations on how to handle best military and intelligence community ads.

Warm regards,
Alan Goodman (AAA President)

Maximilian C. Forte said...

Has the discussion been closed? I previously tried to post a comment here and it was not accepted. Not to waste more time, in case this particular message suddenly appears, I have posted a reply to Dr. Goodman at the site my name links to here.

Matt Schehl said...

Salaam Uleykum

I have followed this debate for some time, as it is one which personally and professionally hits home. I would like to offer my opinion as one somewhat 'between both worlds' ...

Currently, I am a graduate student of social anthropology; prior to this, however, I was a US Army military intelligence non-commissioned officer. I was trained in Arabic at the Defense Language Institute, and in OIF2 (2003-2005) I ran a Tactical Human Intelligence Team (THT) in Central Iraq. My work in this capacity involved daily interaction in situ with many Iraqis, as well as liaison between a host of Iraqi and Coalition institutions and agencies. Through this, I became frustrated with what I saw as a critical 'culture' gap between what was happening 'on the ground', 'away from the flagpole', versus in the PowerPoint presentations 'inside the wire' in Baghdad. There is no small irony, then, for me to encounter both the push for "cultural awareness" in the US military under the HTS banner, as well as the intense reverberations within my chosen discipline.

Intuition tells me that that which furthers the welfare of those individuals/groups under the aegis of the US military is good, and my pragmatic nature is inclined to bracket political and ethical concerns to this end (for which, I should note, I have strong objections). Experience, however, informs me that the HTS program would decidedly not work towards this end.

As I understand it, the issue centers around the legitimate concern for lack of 'cultural' awareness/understanding on the part of individuals in the US military/government, at ALL echelons of command and agencies, as this informs tactical and operational decision-making. The HTS program is intended to sub-contract this knowledge to those who are 'experts' at culture. Now were this 'expert opinion' be intended to either contribute to the (sustainable) welfare of target populations, or provide for (vastly) improved understanding of US personnel towards this, I would be moved to endorse this program. Its intention, however, is not: guidance and information provided by anthropologists is suborned to achieving operational ('mission') success. In my experience, this translates into at least three severe problems:
01. 'Success' is defined in the short term (specifically revolving around troop rotations), meaning specific objectives are pursued without necessary regard for long-term implications (e.g., what happens if/when US troops are withdrawn?);
02. Information produced will tend toward a narrow conception of culture and social systems, i.e. that information which is only as relevant as its immediate utility to the field commander, fostering a simplified ideation of 'good guy, bad guy', without regard to social or historic contexts and processes (e.g., much literature exists documenting US-supported state authorities as culpable for structural violence, as opposed to 'anti-democratic' revolutionary movements);
03. The utilization of such information is subject to the whims and spot decisions of the field commander, with or without the development of an IRB equivalent, and whether or not "in the service of human freedom".

My most immediate objection, though, is that which hits hardest home to me. A primary motivation for me to leave the US government was its systemmatic inability and unwillingness to enact meaningful change in Iraq, despite possessing the power, mandate and responsibility to do so, and despite the efforts of many men and women who (out of personal integrity and at great risk) sought to do so: it hurt me to watch good people unnecessarily suffer and die, Americans and Iraqis. I shudder at the thought of anthropologists contributing to this.

Matthew L. Schehl
ms176073@grizmail.umt.edu
Graduate Student
University of Montana
Missoula, MT

JJ said...

I just wanted to commend the AAA executive board on its statement concerning the HTS project. These are difficult times and it is important to confirm anthropologists' commitment to at least attempting to improve the quality of human life, instead of aiding those who are furthering wanton destruction. It is important to engage the war in Iraq, but openly and critically, but not as someone on the payroll of those who are profiting from the devastating loss of life. So thank you AAA for speaking for the majority of your constituents, and not giving in to vested interests who are attempting to quash free speech!

JAH said...

It is very easy to reject the lucrative job offers that the HTS provides considering (assuming) all of you are full-time professors with job security, benefits, savings, no debt from school loans and a nice office. In reality, those of us, like myself, who are considered the next generation of anthropological academia don't have people/universities knocking down our doors with offers of a career or even job security.
It appears that most of you forget about academics/researchers of the past who faced little or no opportunities for funding and practical applications of their education until the CIA/US Gov't decided to employ them in Vietnam, Thailand and Laos during the Vietnam War. After the war ended a couple researchers were employed by the Gov't, etc., but most were left empty-handed which resulted in several scholars, specifically those in SE Asian Studies, forced to seek employment overseas since the focus shifted away from the region.
In addition, what options are being offered for those that do not pursue a PhD or who desire to work outside academia? Yes, there are a few companies that specialize in the application of ethnographic fieldwork for the business world, but the fact remains that as newcomers to the world of anthropology, there are few career or job prospects out there unless you are some amazing linguist or prodigy who gets a tenured position at Harvard right after defending their dissertation.
The world has changed a great deal and people need to work and support themselves apart from being an adjunct or lecturer with no benefits just because they are a new graduate with a couple publications, etc.
It is not practical nor helpful to condone a job that many of you would have taken yourself several years ago had you known the grim future of supporting yourself in academia today.
All I hear are objections and complaining, which is why most people shy away from discourse with academics due to their reluctance to change or adapt.
What is wrong with working? Who cares if it is with the military or helping the Gov't. Why not offer alternatives or suggestions for employment instead of rejections and ignorrance for those just entering the real world which, in case you haven't noticed, has little need or to offer those in such a niche market as anthropology and cultural studies.

Ralph Bishop said...

Anybody remember the Chrysanthemum and the Sword? A long way from embedded anthropologists, but the profession has been involved in warfare for generations.

To that point, when a situation presents itself where it is impossible to "do no harm" what is the ethical course of action? If you believe, after thorough investigation of the information that is available to you, that your intervention might possibly alleviate the harm done, do you not have an obligation to intervene?

But that investigation has to be clear-headed and cold-blooded. We like to call ourselves social scientists after all.

If after such an investigation, you are convinced that you can do something to alleviate the harm, go do it. If you are convinced that whatever you do will only make things worse, keep out of it. If you're already there, you have no choice but to do the best you can under the circumstances.

I commend the Executive Board for coming up with a statement that so clearly displeases so many people for so many different reasons. The suggestion that I would make for improving it would be to concentrate on the ethical issues, focusing on the harm that is being done now, the potential harm that could come from the cooptation of anthropologists, and the potential reduction of harm that could come from the additional cultural understanding that anthropologists could contribute.

And get rid of "widely recognized" and the rest of the political crap that weakens the ethical argument.

The ethical terrain in Iraq and Afghanistan is certainly as uncertain as the human terrain, and the blanket disapproval of the executive board, informed as it is by a well-articulated political position, is a bit of a disappointment from a group of scholars with such deep knowledge of cultural differences.

Anonymous said...

Regarding: "Anonymous said...

Sounds like more ideology rather than actual science."

To this I say: Do you believe that science itself is without ideology? A small point to make, but nonetheless important for a student of anthropology to understand.

And to Matthew L. Schehl: Many, many thanks for sharing your incredibly insightful thoughts with us. It is good to have an informed opinion, instead of relying on theoretical viewpoints.

Anonymous said...

The AAA statement on this topic is weak at best and seems to reflect underlying opinions on the war, rather than the action of the HTS project itself. This weakness is particularly glaring in the need to repeat, basically, the same information in statements two and four. This feels like the ad hoc committee is fishing. It is further troubling that the AAA would state that they do not believe in issuing statements without informed background research, yet issue a condemnation of HTS with such poor background information.

Bill Davis said...

Announcement:

In light of the statement adopted on October 31, 2007 by the AAA Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association disapproving the Human Terrain System (HTS) program, (www.aaanet.org/blog/resolution.htm) we are suspending any postings of job ads for the HTS program on the AAA website pending future discussion by the Executive Board.

Bill Davis
AAA Executive Director

Joseph Shead said...

I don't see how there can be any reasonable doubt as to how the HTS information will be used.

The anonymous 'intelligence officer' above said it well: "It is a bit of a stretch to call HTS teams 'weapons' as they do not directly inflict harm, but indirectly they may support violence and targeting."

Targeting? Anthropologists don't have any business in targeting. I've been reading some on the history of the Vietnam War, and also two articles[1,2] and a slide show[3] referenced partly by the Concerned Anthropologists site (concerned.anthropologists.googlepages.com). For me, the Andrade-Willbanks article is the bottom line. The Executive Board is doing the right thing.

1. I had difficulty finding something in the Kipp et al article[1] that clearly stated that the information collected by HTT's would be used to target individuals for 'neutralization.' The article presents HTS as inspired by the CORDS program of the Vietnam War. I re-read the article to try to find a clear statement that the HTS is intended, at least partially, to support tactical operations, that is, for targeting, or other ways to increase the advantage in fighting. It was frustrating, because the language seemed to be talking in two ways at once, in one way to make clear to military personnel that the program was going to provide tactical advantage, and in another way to tell the public that its purpose is to 'win hearts and minds.' The sentence below that starts "Implemented under..." illustrates this confusing duality.

"Subsequently, among the many weapons brought to bear
against the insurgency in South Vietnam during the course
of the war, perhaps the most effective was one that
involved South Vietnamese forces backed by advisors from
the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support
(CORDS) program, a project administered jointly by the
South Vietnamese Government and the Military Assistance
Command, Vietnam (MACV). Implemented under the Johnson
administration, the CORDS program specifically matched
focused intelligence collection with direct action and
integrated synchronized activities aimed at winning the
'hearts and minds' of the South Vietnamese. CORDS was
premised on a belief that the war would be ultimately won
or lost not on the battlefield, but in the struggle for the
loyalty of the people." (Kipp et al 2006:10)

'Action'? 'Activities'? Can mean different things to different people.

2. I found the Andrade-Willbanks article[2] more enlightening. The dual-speech, saying one thing to one group and simultaneously saying another to another group, is found here, too. I focus on two aspects, its existence and the packed notion of 'pacification.'

"Such an infrastructure is the real basis of guerrilla
control during any insurgency; it is the thread that ties
the entire insurgency together. Without a widespread
political presence, guerrillas cannot make many gains, and
those they do make cannot be reinforced. Any
COIN [counter-insurgency] effort must specifically target the
insurgent infrastructure if it is to win the war."
(Andrade, Willbanks 2006:11)

This is being said in the context of fighting the Iraqi insurgency. Now, relate that to the HTS aims. Language use point: the military here uses the term 'infrastructure' to refer, not to material infrastructure, but to the human-constituted political structure of Viet Cong cadres in each village.

2.1. To make clear the aspects of CORDS and Phoenix that (most) anthropologists would object to, I offer the following quotes:

"Establishment of files and dossiers on suspects, and placing
of emphasis on 'neutralizing' (capturing, converting, or killing)
members of the VCI [Viet Cong Infrastructure]."
(Andrade, Willbanks 2006:19)

"DIOCC personnel compiled intelligence on VCI in their district
and made blacklists with data on VCI members. If possible, the
DIOCC sought out a suspect’s location and planned an operation
to capture him (or her)." (p. 19)

"In many cases the Phung Hoang [culturally translated to 'Phoenix']
chief was an incompetent bureaucrat who used his position to
enrich himself. Phoenix tried to address this problem by
establishing monthly neutralization quotas..."
(p. 19 and more on quotas on p. 20)

2.2. The conclusions on the last page should dispel any lingering doubts as to whether this analysis of CORDS in Vietnam has anything to do with HTS in Iraq and Afghanistan:

"An insurgency thrives only as long as it can sustain a
presence among the population. Make anti-infrastructure
operations a first step in any COIN plan. Immediately
establish an intelligence capability to identify targets,
and use local forces to go after them."
(Andrade, Willbanks 2006:22)

"This should not, however, stop us from trying to apply the
lessons learned in Southeast Asia to Iraq and Afghanistan." (p. 22)

2.3. Here's what I think's going on here with respect to dual-speech:

"Do not keep the anti-infrastructure program a secret or
it will develop a sinister reputation. Tell the people that
the government intends to target the infrastructure as part
of the security program. Locals must do most of the
anti-infrastructure work, with the Americans staying in the
background." (Andrade, Willbanks 2006:22)

"Legality was a problem in Vietnam, and it is clearly a
problem today." (p. 22)

It isn't just the locals that they are trying to be semi-open with. It's us too. I would certainly hate to think that these same methods had been applied internally over the past four decades.

3. Pacification of Hearts of Minds

"These objectives—providing security for the people and
targeting the insurgent infrastructure—form the basis of
a credible government campaign to win hearts and minds."
(Andrade, Willbanks 2006:11)

"The fight is for the loyalty of the people, so establish
a government-wide program to better the lives of people in
the countryside. Improvement must go hand in hand with
anti-infrastructure operations, or the population will
likely regard government efforts as repressive." (p. 22)

These statements, I think, really capture the absurdity of the connection between suppression and 'winning hearts and minds.' I read this between the lines all the way through the Kipp article, but never could quite pin them down to exactly what they were going to do with this Human Terrain Map. So, what are we doing with 'hearts and minds'? Winning hearts and minds seems to simultaneously mean to repress them, to buy them, to control them, bring them into submission, compliance, giving up.

-------
1. Kipp, Jacob, Lester Grau, Karl Prinslow and Captain Don Smith
2006 The Human Terrain System: A CORDS for the 21st Century. Military Review Sept-Oct 2006.
concerned.anthropologists.googlepages.com/humanterrainmapping%22enablestheentirekill

2. Andrade, Dale and James H. Willbanks
2006 CORDS/Phoenix: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Vietnam for the Future. Military Review Mar-Apr 2006.
usacac.army.mil/CAC/milreview/English/MarApr06/Andrade-Willbanks.pdf

3. Wilcox, John (Asst. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense)
2007 Precision Strike Winter Roundtable. If you have trouble downloading this from the concerned.anthropologists site, then try the military directly: www.dtic.mil/ndia/2007psa_winter/wilcox.pdf

Thanks,

Joseph Shead

Alvin said...

Why the silence from Montgomery McFate now? She has been bragging about Human Terrain for months and now she does not even step forward to defend her program from this criticism. Has the

Is the army just going to keep doing the human terrain program as it was originally designed, but now it will just do so with a greater level of secrecy?

Afghan Book 1 said...

While I certainly understand the AAA Communities disdain for the war and I share those sentiments myself, I hardly see such disdain and ethical problems with the previous conduct of the war and the original decision to go to war as a reason for the anthropological field to completely boycot any participation with the military. In fact, I tend to think it would be a serious mistake for the AAA to render such a commendation; particularly since anthropologists would be leaving themselves out of the opportunity to change and mold how the military acts in the future, both for this war and for future conflicts.

Given the new found respect for culture and tradition within the military, there is still much resistance among the senior level analysts and leaders who tend to fall back on the "old way" of doing things, out of their fear of the "new way." In my opinion it would be ethically irresponsible of AAA and the anthropology community to simply bar participation due to 'political' opposition to the war when there is the opportunity to force real change upon the mentality of the armed forces and how they conduct operations.

It would be more ethical to take advantage of the opportunity to influence our military leaders and members way of thinking by infusing greater cultural awareness and compasion, something that is severally lacking in the military culture. Don't simply write off the military's attempt to change because you ethically disagree with the war, that will only get us more of the same, a self-fullfilling prophecy of sorts. Exploit the window of opportunity available to exact real anthropological change. Having served in the Marine Corps I can say that such windows rarely open, we may not have another chance for many wars to come.

Brian D-L said...

The comments by "Afghan Book 1" repeat an at least partially flawed premise in trying to rationalize why or how it might actually be "ethical" for anthropologists to serve as 'intelligence gatherers' (however culturally sensitive) for a side in war. 'Afghan Book's' opening lines suggest that it is because members of the AAA are opposed to THIS war, and are concerned about the war's ethical conduct, that there are voices in the AAA calling for anthropologists to boycott participation with the military. This may in fact be the way some are arguing about the situation, but there is a more profound flaw and contradiction in anthropologists' participating in ANY war as "intelligence gatherers," which then calls into question the very integrity of the discipline and its practitioners.

In fact it seems that it is based on this same faulty premise that some are rationalizing the very engagement of anthropologists to begin with; the argument goes something like, “it isn’t clear, after all, whether this is in fact a good or bad war (for or against human rights, for or against international law), and so as long as that is unclear, those who in good conscience think it is a good war are doing the right thing to apply their anthropological
expertise in helping to win the war while attenuating the negative impact of warmaking.”

“Good” or “bad” war, these anthropologists, however, are undermining the fundamental principles of trust and respect that are the foundation of our approach to understanding people and their cultures. We should be operating more on the principles and philosophy of, say, the Red Cross in its clear neutrality, or of journalists who like us depend on a reputation of trust and confidentiality; imagine what it would do to “journalistic integrity” if there were a program in the military that recruited journalists to gather ‘intelligence’ to help a side win its battles! You don’t have to be a journalist who is opposed to war, or to a particular war, in order to advocate and defend journalistic integrity. Any journalist should recognize the severe implications for such integrity should she/he apply her/his professional skills to spying for a side in a war. It baffles me that anthropologists can’t see this in relation to our own profession and its principles as well.

Afghan Book 1 said...

I don't recall stating that war is good or bad, such a statement would show a lack of understanding about the realities of war and the causes of it. War is inherently negative, nonetheless it is a reality of life that is not ever going to go away regardless of our desire to see it vanish. That being said, anthropologists have an opportunity to influence military and intelligence thinking in a manner that can positively influence traditional conduct in war. The goal of course is not to provide "spies" from the anthropologist world as brian d-l states, but to influence decision-makers mentality when taking the target population's culture and point-of-view into mind. Currently our military and intelligence officials approach war and conflict from their traditionallyy ethnocentric states of mind. Wouldn't it be a positive step if they were to begin approaching conflict from the mindset of the population in which the conflict will most directly affect?

In my own opinion, having an anthropologist on an intelligence staff who is assertive with anthropological theory and practice would be of great benefit to ensuring that our military and intelligence officials approach conflict with the victim in mind. Let's face it, war is not going away and to think that it is possible to simply protest it rather than take measures to influence our leaders conduct in it in order to end it quicker is simply naive. War is as old as man's congregation in like-groups.

The current role of anthropologists in intelligence is in fact to gather cultural intelligence in order to give our leaders a better understanding of the people we are dealing with. It's not spying, it is intelligent learning in an effort to ensure those in the position of command are taking the victims into consideration, to me that is rather ethical in a rather unethical situation. It is not a flawed premise to dupe anthropologists into aiding and abetting in an immoral war.

Like it or not, there is a role for anthropology in intelligence and the military. That role may be to influence our leaders decisions by forcing them to consider the culture and people in whose homeland they are operating. Think about it this way, wouldn't have been nice if the U.S. military knew that an Arab's primary source of pride and power was the home and family, and that "kicking in doors" was an afront to their honor? One might think this is common sense, but then they would be over estimating the traditional thinking of the military in war. You can be an anthropologist and opposed to the war, while at the same time participating in the process with the hope of influencing our operators midset to the benefit of the culture being attacked. There is certainly little that is unethical about looking out for the protection of the victim population. It is certainly more ethical than leaving the military and intelligence world to simply violate the populations honor and trounce on their rights without even making an attempt to stop it.

Anonymous said...

I am a latecomer to this blog and have yet to go through all the comments. But in response to some, like Hawkins, I would point us to anthropology during the colonial period when our discipline followed the logic of Hawkins' argument and worked with colonial governments. We saw what good that did!

The argument that working with the US military will make the suffering of the Iraqis that much more bearable, or help Iraqi communities, disregards history and anthropology's experience with colonial regimes back in the day.

It is one thing for anthropological knowledge to be used by the military after we have produced it and in ways we did not expect (this is the fate of all knowledge). It is another thing for us to willingly and knowingly aid the military in an imperial project (whether promoted by a civilian government or not is irrelevant. The civilian government is part and parcel of the military.)

If we wish anthropological knowledge to be practically useful and ethical (as many were calling for) then we must first recognize our direct role in war zones, and we must recognize that our strength as anthropologists is not in working with or for power but against the tide. For our knowledge to be useful it should be used to empower local communities in war zones and be a tool for activists around the world in their struggle against this hegemonic notion that war can bring about peace. It should not be embedded within a military structure but continue to work independently within communities, even if this may put the anthropologist in some danger, as might be the case in Iraq.

The easiest way out for us is to conform to the structures of power like the military and work with it. The money pushed at us, the structure and organization to make our voice heard, and the force of the state behind us make it so easy to argue that our knowledge will be put to practical use and move beyond the realm of theory. But it is sad if we submit to this rather than challenge it. And it is unfortunate if we don't learn from those historical instances when we did collaborate with power.

If this is the type of practical use I wanted to put my knowledge towards then I would have gone into political science and did a bit of ethnography. That discipline does a better job and has an advantage over us. Let us carve our own path.

Condemn the HTS. The current statement is watered down diplomacy!

Sami Hermez
Doctoral Candidate
Princeton University

Anonymous said...

Afghan book 1 said: "Think about it this way, wouldn't have been nice if the U.S. military knew that an Arab's primary source of pride and power was the home and family, and that "kicking in doors" was an afront to their honor?"

What does kicking in doors have to do with home and family being a source of pride and honor? Who would accept their door be "kicked in" whether your pride came from home and family or coffee and cream?

And this is the point, your work in a war zone embedded with the military will help to further other the enemy and trivialize the army's violence. It will make the army look like it is more ethical while it continues to operate as an army.

Occupation is unethical and wrong. We should condemn any effort to turn our role into one of making the occupation more bearable.

Anonymous said...

The statement of the executive board appears to conclude, despite the information vaccuum in which the board lingers, that the potential for the creation of ethically tough situations warrants condemnation of the HST program. In that conclusion, the Executive Board demonstrates extreme hypocrasy. All anthropological research places anthropologists in positions where choices may result in harm to some groups or informants that anthropologists study. The Executive Board then may as well condemn all informant based anthropological research.

Beyond that, there is a clear need for anthropology as a profession to rethink its ethical positions in a world in which clear black and white ethical choices rarely exist. In my opinion, the potential impact of HST anthropologists is to reduce the US military's potential for perceiving (and reacting to) threats where these do not exist. In an environment where killing does happen, whether or not you approve of that, reducing the miltary's potential for killing the wrong people is an objective good.

To the degree that irregular combatants and terrorists continue to hide in civilian populaces and use civil populations as a combination of a shield and (in effect) concealment terrain, we can expect militaries world wide to develop means for distinguishing between combatants and noncombatants in irregular warfare. Anthropology is at a crossroads where by one path it can contribute positively to that effort, or by the other path become that much less relevant for any concern of merit concerning human existence and interaction.

Anthropological service in the identification of genuine combatants is not only ethical, in my view, but fair, appropriate, just, and worthy of commendation rather than condemnation. The Executive Board, and the blog participants here who have been quick to condemn the program, the anthropologists participating in the program, and the US military, should be embarressed and ashamed.

gsider2@gm,ail.com said...

I am a bit dismayed by one well-intentioned comment that called it "sad" that anthropologists would work for the war machine. Would that it were only. If anthropologists who worked for the US MIlitary in Afghanastan or Iraq or Guantanamo etc were tried for war crimes what would their defense be? - The army continually violates the Geneva Convention and a variety of other international agreements, eg about torture, about willfully harming non-combattants, etc. For the sake of the remnants of our profession, and for the sake of justice, I truly hope that at some future date at least one anthropologist in collusion with the US army is tried for war crimes. I think it would clarify a lot of issues.
Gerald Sider
Professor Emeritus,CUNY

Maximilian C. Forte said...

The comment before the one above, by an anonymous poster, speaks of hypocrisy. I would ask that poster to pause for a moment and reflect on his/her own words, which contain a very important admission.

The notion that has been spread, not just in that post but across a variety of communications on this topic, is that by participating in Human Terrain Teams anthropologists can help to "alleviate harm." More than once the poster above speaks of reducing the miltary's potential for killing the wrong people. The clear admission here is that the source of "harm" is the US military occupying force itself.

And I agree.

I would say that the proponents of HTS have not only failed to advance a single argument based on sound ethical conduct in research, they have also reinforced views that the US military occupation is itself at the center of the problem of human rights abuse. Such proponents in fact seem to be suggesting that, without good anthropological guidance, the US military consists of a mass of trigger-happy, quasi-genocidal rogue killers. It is an interesting idea, especially since it seems to validate exactly what insurgents and many other Iraqis have been saying all along.

If these proponents truly and honestly--although truth and honesty appear to be beyond them--wished to alleviate harm, then given the terms of their own description of the situation they would be embedding themselves with the insurgents. After all, the insurgents would agree that they too are trying to "alleviate harm".

If you can stand back from this and still say that arguments in favor of embedding are not dishonest, immoral, unethical, and ethnocentric, then you truly are a "special person".

I will support the idea that the AAA Executive Board's statement is, at the very least, right on target, and perhaps a little too diplomatic. Those of us outside of the United States are looking at you to see how you will judge and question yourselves and where you will stand as an anthropological association at the center of this lurid controversy.

Anonymous said...

The position that the AAA has taken with respect to "ethical anthropology," especially as relates to war and terrorism is shameful, self-serving and naive. I am a second-generation anthropologist, and both my father and I regret what has become of the discipline. There was a time when anthropologists understood the concept of situational ethics and that during times of war, things are different.

I find it interesting that virtually none of the "concerned anthropologists" has served in the military, let alone served as a sworn police officer (badge, gun, powers of arrest, uniform, nervous spouse at home, nightmares regarding witnessing the aftermath of violent crime, etc.). Not all of human behavior is nice...and it's a shame that those who have taken such a strident view have virtually no experience confronting the evils that people can and often do to one-another. It's also a shame that the AAA and those on the concerned anthropologist list seem to have forgotten things like WWII and the vital roles that were played by Anthropologists.

Landon said...

In fact, at least one of the original 11 founding members of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists has served in the military.

Landon Yarrington
---
Department of Anthropology
The College of William and Mary
Williamsburg, VA 2318

Anonymous said...

The comment that charges that people against anthro0pologists colluding with the military have never served in either the military or a police force [or, I would add, the World Bank] implies that only people who have captured or owned slaves have a right to comment on the morality of enslavement.
It is noteworthy that the comment is anonymous. The administrations' warrentless wiretapping lets them know who wrote it. What else is there to hide from?
Gerald Sider
Professor Emeritus, CUNY

Anonymous said...

"The clear admission here is that the source of "harm" is the US military occupying force itself. And I agree."

And..

"I would say that the proponents of HTS have not only failed to advance a single argument based on sound ethical conduct in research, they have also reinforced views that the US military occupation is itself at the center of the problem of human rights abuse."

Actually, the proponents of HTS have not conceded the claims that you seem to think that they have conceded. You seem either profoundly confused or biased.

Occupation per se does not make the US Armed forces "bad guys" in the most general sense, nor does accidental deaths of noncombatants. Otherwise, one would have to argue that many productive occupations (such as those of the Axis states by the western Allies post WW2) were, of themselves, "bad" when in fact these occupations were part and parcel of a general plan that seems to most historians to be objectively "good."

Moreover, as I am the same anonymous poster who made the previous post (vis, reduction of US Armed forces error in causing casualties) I can state that I simply disagree that the United States Armed Forces have in Iraq engaged in widespread human rights abuses. So far, I have seen no evidence apart from the Abu Ghraib prison events that are so notorious (and, I would point out, in which no Anthropologists or HTS personnel seem to have been involved), there is really no compelling evidence of any US Armed forces human rights abuses.

Of course, one might argue that war in and of itself is a form of abuse, and I would agree, but equating the US "being there" with "crimes" (which seems to be a common theme among anti-HTS reactionries) is, at best, nothing but hyperbole.

I've never served in the US Armed forces, but as a migratory assistant professor (for a while, years ago), I instructed plenty of people who now serve in the US military. Having come to know them and corresponded with them over the years, in my opinion, the vast majority of them spend far more time safeguarding ethics than most faculty in anthropology departmens. And well they should. When anthropology faculty screw students (literally), junior faculty, or each other, no one actually dies. When soldiers make the decision to shoot or launch a weapon, they are on the whole acutely more aware of the consequences of their behavior -- more so, in my opinion, than many anthropology faculty I have known over the years.

And of course, the argument that HTS anthropologists may be allowing the US Armed forces to reduce noncombatant deaths seems to me to not only be a good argument *in favor of* HTS, but also an argument that HTS opponents have simply "rejected" by refusing to address the point.

Anonymous said...

*What else is there to hide from?*

People like you, who would by your own admission "truly hope that at some future date at least one anthropologist in collusion with the US army is tried for war crimes" despite the fact that as of this writing there is no evidence of any particular anthropologist having committed any "war crimes."

I find it ironic that you would complain about suspension of habeas corpus (I agree with your complaint) and yet you would state that for the mere sake of crucifying *someone* you'd like to see an anthropologist tried for "war crimes."

Andy Bickford said...

I am one of the founding members of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, and served five years on active duty in the Army, from 1984-1989. It’s because I served in the military – and learned first hand that a soldier’s primary jobs are to control and kill, regardless of their specialty in the military - that I’m deeply suspicious and troubled by the military’s attempts to use anthropology in counterinsurgency operations in general, and by the actions of the Human Terrain Teams in particular. And I fully agree with Prof. Sider's comments above - you don't have to have served in the military to have a say in the debate or express concern about the military's use of anthropology and the violation of AAA ethics. That should be pretty obvious.

To respond to Anonymous' claim about situational ethics: it's precisely in times of war that we need to pay very close attention to ethics, not loosen them or fall back on the old cliché that anything goes when it comes to “supporting the troops.” You might find that the “troops” don’t want that.

Andy Bickford
Assistant Professor
George Mason University

Anonymous said...

"Such proponents in fact seem to be suggesting that.. the US military consists of a mass of .. rogue killers."

In a pig's eye. No one has made that suggestion, and no honest person could derive that conclusion from any statement made here.

Any person who has any knowledge of the history of armed conflict must enter this discussion aware of several facts.

1. Non combatant casualties happen. It has been a characteristic of every war ever waged. Most agree that one should endeavor to minimize noncombatant casualties. (You, however, seem to disagree with that goal.)

2. By the standards of 20th Century warfare, the US Armed Forces operations in Iraq have among the lowest non-combatant casualty rates ever documented. This is a pretty remarkable observation, given insurgents' efforts to shield themselves against retaliation by hiding among larger communities of noncombatants. Clearly, the implication is that the US works rather more diligently at avoiding noncombatant casualties than most nations, despite the unsupported aspersions you offer here.

3. By contrast with the US Armed Forces, these "insurgents" deliberately target civilians, saw the heads off of captives, hide weapons stores in or close to schools, medical clinics, and the like, all of which are egregious violations of the Geneva Convention, to say nothing of basic human morality.

4. Given that wars against irregular forces of the kind with the propensity for behaviors of the sort heretofore mentioned (3, above), armed forces will need ways to discriminate between noncombatants and people who use noncombatants as shields.

And that latter point is at the core of this argument. If you simply condemn anthropologists for assisting the US in refining target selection to minimize noncombatant deaths, you may as well tear up the Geneva Convention because you will have in effect conceded that there are no legitimate means for combating terrorists, murderers, and other people for whom civilian populations are nothing more than a politically convenient shield against retaliation.

Maximilian C. Forte said...

It really is odd that someone ("anonymous") would post such long replies to some very straightforward contentions. Is it the hope that you can overwhelm contrary arguments just through the number of words used?

Look, the problem is pretty simple. When you make the argument that HTS anthropologists are helping to "alleviate harm" you are inevitably conceding what the source of harm is: the US military occupation. That is a problem generated by your argument, and you have not fixed it.

"Most agree that one should endeavor to minimize noncombatant casualties. (You, however, seem to disagree with that goal.)"

No, wrong. I agree with that goal, by opposing continued US military occupation and the prolongation of a war against a country that never attacked the US. You seem to disagree with the goal of not slaughtering civilians ("shock and awe"...remember?) on the most ridiculous of pretexts.

The rest of your predictable argument is simply not interesting enough to warrant a response.

Joseph Shead said...

There may well be no legitimate means for combating terrorists. That's what an anthropologist will tell you. About five years ago, it is probably true that almost all anthropologists would have told you that entering a war against Iraq would be not such a good idea. I suspect that even the one's now involved in HTS would have steered you in another direction. No one was listening to us then. You blew it. You have a lot nerve coming to us now and asking us to get you out of your mess.

"Refining target selection" is not our business. You imply that HTT's are, in effect, going to go from door to door, painting red across the lintel. The problem is that that process of protecting non-combatants from our military implicitly marks the doors of others. That's not our game.

Our business is to find out why those others are so mad. The problem is, you've got anthropologists in on the wrong end. You're asking us to give you low-level information about specific individuals, families, neigborhoods, social groups, etc. That's not where anthropologists should be located in the structure. You need our help at the highest levels, and early in the process.

After 911, and having observed for three decades the monotonous impasse in Palestine-Israel, this student of anthropology could see the futility in fighting terrorists. Early on, I was asking why? And, I thought, we need a dialogue. You see, when you define your enemy as criminal, which you do, you deny them a voice. Until we find out what they want, why they're so angry, and show them that we are willing to let them back into our community, that we have real concern for their wants and needs, and take significant action on it, then your war isn't going to go away. We need a public forum, a symposium with, not just the heads of these terrorist organizations, but with a lot of peoples and facets represented. Can you imagine how different things would be right now, if we had done and continued doing that? What, is it unthinkable?

Joseph Shead

Anonymous said...

Following up on Sider's and others' comments: we are, last time I looked, a democracy, and as citizens have a right and the obligation to participate in civil society, which includes dissent. As anthropologists we have the right to comment on government programs and policies that affect us. The notion that you have to be one (or have been one) to have the right to comment on an issue is silly for a number of reasons, the first one being that, were this the case, we all would be out of jobs. Insiders understand things outsiders cannot, but the reverse is true as well. You know, "make the strange familiar and the familiar strange." But this refers to research, which is really not the issue here, although becoming as informed as possible about HTS is. The issue is whether we can comment on--or pledge not to participate in--a program that involves us. Of course we can.

Jean Jackson, MIT

Colln Agee said...

Members of the American Anthropological Association should remain mindful that the first A stands for American, and that it is not the United States Army that is at war, but the United States of America.

The Commission objects to the participation of anthropologists in the HTS project on ethical grounds. From my perspective, all Americans have an ethical obligation to provide the soldiers that we send in harm's way the best tools our nation can provide to succeed in their missions and return home safely.

If the current conflict were about destroying things and killing people, we wouldn't need the assistance of anthropologists. As Phase I of this war amply demonstrated, we do that quite well, as we accomplished regime change with historically unprecedented efficiency.

In Phase IV, the mission is to create a stable Iraq and Afghanistan and to leave. The more difficulty we experience in accomplishing that and the longer it takes, the more casualties will be suffered--Americans, our allies and the indigenous population.

The HTS program is an admission by the United States Army that it lacks the cultural understanding that is needed to accomplish this mission. Thus, they are reaching out to those with skills that are lacking within DOD--including anthropologists and social scientists.

The individuals who are volunteering for this program are equally idealistic and cognizant of professional ethics as those who would oppose HTS. They are willing to risk their lives because they believe they have potential to do immense good, for the benefit of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. This is evidence of altruism and selfless service. Yet the Commission is recommending that the AAA brand these patriots and heroes as unethical. Mind boggling.

This war is being prosecuted by our volunteer military, on the orders of the civilians we elected to make decisions on our national security. How ethical is it to criticize and condemn from afar, safe behind the gated communities of academia, while those who stand to benefit from your skills are suffering and dying?

The soldiers we send abroad to mind our nation's business are not amoral mercenaries. They are volunteers who trust the decisions we make to commit them, who place their fate in the hands of the leaders, civilian and military, who ask them to undertake missions from which they may not return. How can the AAA stand in judgment of them and refuse to help when their professional talents are vital to the mission?

How can you place a scarlet AAA upon the chest of those anthropologists willing to risk their lives in an endeavor that they believe to be the most meaningful they can ever undertake; an opportunity to apply their chosen profession for the good of humanity, not to wage a war but hopefully to end one?

Finally, as someone who is familiar with the program, I do not believe that HTS is at odds with your professional precepts. Those anthropologists who participate in HTS do not check their consciences and their ethics at the door when they sign a contract with the US Army. Quite the contrary, if they believe that they cannot execute their mission consistent with your principles, they will quit. And I would fully expect that, upon doing so, their objections would be widely published and effectively kill the program.

It is very unfortunate that, in the Commission's own words, "The Commission’s work did not include systematic study of the HTS project." If it had done so, it would have discovered that the first team's advice to its commander resulted in far more efficient application of Civil Affairs resources, and a precipitous decline in "kinetic operations," which translated into plain English, means less violence and fewer casualties--on both sides. The supported commander estimated this reduction as 60-70% in a matter of four months. They are progressing toward their goal of security and stability.

I encourage the members of the the AAA to carefully consider the recommendations of the Commission before adopting an approved position on the HTS program. Your decision should absolutely be founded in your ethical guidelines, but I suggest that you can accomplish these goals better via a strategy of engagement rather than one of boycott and condemnation. I encourage you to trust your members to behave ethically in a combat zone and applaud their dedication and selflessness to taking on a dangerous mission, rather than forcing them to jeopardize their careers to do what they believe is moral and right. And finally, I suggest that you take a sober assessment of the obligation of all Americans to the service members who we send in harm's way.

Collin Agee
United States Army

Landon said...

I've understood the "American" in the AAA to be something more like an orginizational convention rather than an elitist chest-beating, and I find inscribing it with nationalist rhetoric rather chilling.

I feel that this debate has been ignoring a fairly blatant point: the US Army is a political outlet catering to “American interests”; anthropology is a political outlet catering to the people with whom we work (or should be working with). It seems that rarely, if ever, will “American interests” intersect with the interests of our fellow human “subjects”. Once the US military shook hands with anthropology, they put us in a sack with the rest of the tools that serve the US military’s desire to fight a more efficient fight and enforce freedom.

Saying that embedded anthropologists are some sort of damage control dealing with the reality of war in Iraq is at very best an ad hoc statement—replace “control” with “cessation” and work toward stopping the war as quickly as possible, not facilitating it.

Landon Yarrington
The College of William and Mary

Anonymous said...

Collin Agee forgot to mention one important point:

your patriotic altruism, and work for the good of all humanity, pays up to $300,000 with hazard pay included.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps there is a legal scholar in the audience who could shed light on the following questions.

Given that discrimination based on military employment is currently held to be a violation of civil rights (www.nvcc.com/law/mla.html), what sorts of precedent exists for an ostensibly "professional" scholarly association such as the AAA to establish or redefine the criteria by which discrimination is legally acceptable? In other words, what would be involved in re-inventing anthropology as a true profession with meaningful standards of malpractice? And in the mean time prior to this re-invention, while the AAA remains merely a scholarly association and not an actual professional organization per se, exactly how much opprobrium can it heap on anthropologists who perform military service before it crosses a legally actionable line?

Brian D-L said...

'Opprobrium' pretty much heaps itself, if in the course of professional academic deliberation members of a 'merely scholarly...professional association' raise serious questions about the fundamental contradictions between the behavior of some of its freely-associating members and the basic principles of the discipline around which we associate.

I have been a poster here in this discussion--always with a name--who has not argued for or against this US war in Iraq, but who has instead continued to raise the question about the fundamental contradiction (which is both a methodological and professional/ethical contradiction) posed by anthropologists serving in these military capacities. Such service calls into question the fundamental integrity of our very discipline--much the way that would be done to journalism should journalists professionally approve of applying journalism in the name of "military intelligence."

Around me, instead of hearing serious responses to such fundamental questions that sit at the heart of our discipline's integrity (in very practical terms), I hear from those who seek to justify this anthro-military practice everything from "you are jeopardizing my employability," to "I know some very ethical anthropologists in the military," to "we're helping our troops be more successful with less killing," to "you haven't been there so how can you ask such a question," to "you must be a wild-eyed, anti-American pacifist to ask such questions," now to "call in the lawyers."

Call me naive, but I suppose I would have expected a more intellectually, scholarly, academically, professionally sound response from those who are seeking to draw the discipline (publicly, I would add, with McFate and others being a public face of the discipline) into such discipline-compromising positions.

It also makes me wonder, if this is the state of academic discussion among anthro-professionals, around such a crucial question, what kinds of intellectual and academic skills (of critical thinking or otherwise) are we nuturing among our students in the name of anthropology?

Collin Agee said...

brian d-l, you wrote about the "fundamental contradiction . . . posed by anthropologists serving in these military capacities."

Ironically, you are facing the same challenge that we are in the military: a redefinition of the missions for the military, which I believe renders what you consider an inherent contradiction be be no longer valid.

The current mission in both Iraq and Afghanistan is to establish security and stability so that we can leave.

I won't pretend that the insights generated by the HTT's won't be used by military intelligence. But what is relevant here is that military intelligence is pursuing that same security and stability mission.

It is naive to think that a firewall can be erected between anthropology and intelligence anyway. Anything that is published, particularly that available in the Internet, can be used by whomever accesses it, for good or evil.

So anthropologists can engage the military and help us to get it right, or we'll do it ourselves without your expertise, and surely do it with less efficiency. If this is really about ethics, and not about politics, it cannot be ignored that the effect of getting it right is many lives saved, more efficient applications of our resources for civil affairs and reconstruction (things like schools, hospitals and utilities) and a quicker resolution of the war.

I am not a member of your association nor an anthropologist, but I think this audience is well familiar with the contributions of Cora DuBois and Margaret Mead in World War II. I think we can learn from history that there anthropologists can have a positive impact on our national security strategy and the military.

At the risk of restating my earlier note, I would suggest that a member of the AAA who is genuinely concerned about professional ethics will have a greater impact on protecting those standards by a policy of engagement rather than one of boycott or condemnation. Is the Commission (which admittedly has not done a detailed study of HTS) and the association really convinced that there is absolutely no role that can be played with the military that does not violate your standards?

Collin Agee
US Army

Brian D-L said...

For anthropologists to "engage the military and help [them] to get it right" as Collin Agee has put it, asks anthropologists to assume that the US military should be doing what it is doing in the first place, and that with a little cross-cultural assistance they can do it the "right way." As I have suggested however, this in itself puts anthropologists in a role that contradicts at the core what we do and what we are about.

Our "stock in trade" if you will, includes our ability to develop trust and rapport with people to learn about the intimate workings of their lives. Too many times in the name of some supposedly civilized "higher good" this has been abused, whether in the exposure of peoples' religious traditions, the appropriation of their sacred artifacts and representations, the confiscation of their lands, or even their very "pacification" in the name of so-called civilization. Lining up with a side in a military conflict and deliberately providing that side with "understanding" in order to help that side "get it right" borders on (if not fully embraces) a very cynical understanding of that fundamental trust-worthiness of our discipline; instead of integrity of the discipline, it opts to line us up with the worst legacies of our past.

And please note, I am not here in fact making judgments about things like US imperialism/ militarism, the legitimacy or illegitimacy of this war, the ethical goodness of people in the military, and the like; I am instead suggesting that as soon as an anthropologist is "engaging" as an assistant to the military, she/he is taking a side and is fundamentally undermining the trust-worthiness of the profession.

Franz Boas long ago was censured by this profession for the very act of speaking out against such "anthropologists as spies," in the name of the integrity of the discipline. Part of the rationale of his censure apparently was that in so publicly expressing his concern he supposedly put anthropologists in general at risk as potential, un-trustworthy spies. And now instead, what a strange if not cynical turn of events not long after that censure was rescinded; we have colleagues themselves openly advocating the role of anthropologists as military intelligence gatherers.

Further, this is not even to suggest a "firewall" between anthropology and military intelligence. To paraphrase Milton from The Areopagitica, "a fool will find folly in the best of texts; the wise person will find gold in even the worst of texts." Anthropologists (nor anyone else who studies and writes publicly) can pretend to have control over what others do with their work. But it is one thing to acknowledge this, and yet another to abandon responsibility for whom we deliberately do our work. A scientist whose work is used by others to build biological weapons for use in war is in a clearly different role than one who deliberately works for the war-makers. There is no blurry line in the fundamental choice here.

Anthropologists who work for military intelligence gathering are making the very same kind of fundamental choice that undermines the trust-worthiness and integrity of our discipline and its practitioners.

Collin Agee said...

brian d-l,

If doctors were to apply their oath to "do no harm" the same way that you do, they would never treat a patient, invoking the risk that harm may occur.

They would condemn their peers who chose to be surgeons, admonishing them that the science of medicine should be one of study, not of practice.

The HTS program has immense opportunity for positive impact on the target populations, and this can be objectively validated by examining both the actions and the effects of the Human Terrain Teams to date.

Those who would undertake such an endeavor at personal peril deserve something other than condemnation.

They should indeed be held to the ethical standards of your profession. In all the postings of your Commission and the blogging above, I have yet to see one shred of evidence that these standards have been compromised. This despite the embedding of reporters and the participation of several anthropologists. So while this risk of ethical violation is hypothetical, the good that they are doing, in the reduction of violence and the efficacy of civil works projects and investment in infrastructure, is proven and demonstrable. Perhaps you need to consider the ethics of being obstructionist toward the HTS program.

The fact that American soldiers' lives have been saved as well is immeasurably important to me. Disturbingly, it seems not to even be a factor for consideration in the dialogue above.

Collin Agee
US Army

Anonymous said...

In reply to M. Fortes:

"When you make the argument that HTS anthropologists are helping to "alleviate harm" you are inevitably conceding what the source of harm is: the US military occupation."

That is a non-sequitur. Your assertion does not follow from that which I have said nor do I think it follows from the facts "on the ground" (to the extent we know them).

The situation there seems more complex than you seem to be aware. According to some readings of UN resolutions, as the occupying power, the United States (and its allies -- Spain and Italy would now seem to be in violation of UN resolutions) has an obligation to stabilize Iraq. The vast majority (90% or thereabouts) of the casualties that have occurred in Iraq are caused by sectarian violence rather than the US armed forces. When the US attacks terrorists it runs the risk of harming noncombatants, because the terrorists (who are in violation of the Geneva Convention) use civilian populations as shields. Whether or not you "approve of" this war (was I the president of the US, I would not have initiated the invasion of Iraq), the US has to reduce the terrorist threat to the level that a relatively stable Iraqi government can manage the situation. When you are dealing with the kinds of people who hide munitions in hospitals, saw the heads off of prisoners, and *deliberately* target children, public markets, &c, the general rebuttal is to eliminate the terrorists. But it has to be done in a way that minimizes harm to noncombatants. If American anthropologists can contribute to the refinement of target selection, that is a contribution that reduces harm.

And yes, the US does risk harming noncombatans. There is no geneva convention requiring the US to wholly avoid harming civilians. Only one that requires an effort to avoid such harm. That seems at the root of it to be the motive for HTS.

Recognizing that the US *is* there and likely will *stay there* whether or not you approve, if anthropologists can help the US armed forces avoid killing noncombatants and, yes, kill terrorists, then those anthropologists are reducing harm and doing good (IMO) respectively.

"No, wrong. I agree with that goal, by opposing continued US military occupation and the prolongation of a war against a country that never attacked the US."

Look, we agree that Iraq never attacked the US. The problem is that the US is now THERE and international law by some readings requires that the US STAY THERE. From my point of view, allowing sectarian strife in Iraq to escalate seems like a bad idea, but if international law were clear about the virtues of abandoning Iraq to its fate, then *complete withdrawal* would be a great idea, IMO, because I think it is a waste of US blood, treasure, and political capital.

"You seem to disagree with the goal of not slaughtering civilians ("shock and awe"...remember?) on the most ridiculous of pretexts."

That is an illogical reading of my argument, given that (1) the HTS program has a goal of reducing deaths to civilians, and (2) your alternative plan would seem to radically increase the homicide rate in Iraq.

So what do you want here? Fewer deaths or "the US out of Iraq?" Those two options may not be mutually achievable in the short term.

"The rest of your predictable argument is simply not interesting enough to warrant a response."

I'll take that as an admission that you are incapable of fielding a cogent rebuttal to the rest of the predictable argument.

Brian D-L said...

The military agenda in war is to fight and win the war. The language and worldview of this establishes a logic that then absorbs and subsumes the world in this agenda. People become enemies (terrorists,insurgents, guerrillas), for us or against us. Those advocating the rightness of anthropologists participating in the gathering of military intelligence, are in fact claiming that this subsuming language and logic are THE definition of reality, with our side being the right side, and all other roles, functions or professions being subsidiary to the primary agenda of our troops and our military.

Anthropologists should know better than to allow our profession to be drawn into this subsuming cultural logic. Remember, it is in this world of definition that weapons used to kill people are considered “peacekeepers”; where unarmed children, men and women who die from embargo-imposed starvation, or “shock and awe bombing” are routinely defined as acceptable levels of “collateral damage”; where the very same weapons we possess in the name of security we see as the pretext for military invasion when they are owned by others; where the dead and wounded of war are kept invisible to the very same people who are extolled to “support our troops,” in order to maintain among them/us at least a basic level of complacency if not actual support.

I recall that as a child we were told in school many stories about saints and martyrs who were so influential in their witness that they somehow ‘Christianized’ Constantine and his military empire. The stories conveyed such a sense of pride in this accomplishment, until the actual history eventually became clear to us, that in fact Constantine militarized Christianity rather than the other way around. The subsequent history is replete with countless examples of an organization (the Church) in an ‘unholy alliance’ that permitted its leadership to rationalize all types of atrocities and injustices in the name of some higher good.

I am reminded of this when I hear suggested that somehow anthropology is now going to serve in a secular form, to turn the logic and agenda of the U.S. military into a more culturally-aware undertaking. Anthropologists shouldn’t fool themselves—this is in fact the militarization of anthropology rather than the humanizing of warfare.

Maximilian C. Forte said...

"That is a non-sequitur. Your assertion does not follow from that which I have said nor do I think it follows from the facts "on the ground" (to the extent we know them)."

You seem to be incapable of dealing with the contradictions of your own argument, or even recognizing them, as you continue to repeat the contradiction over and over again, and then blame me for your argument. Alleviating harm--harm done by whom? Answer that without even an implicit indictment of US occupation forces, and you will be freed from the weakness of your own argument. Currently, you are unable to do so. Indeed, the US army should be asking for a refund, especially if you are one of these HTS "anthropologists", because you are not doing a very good at representing your client in a way that does not reinforce the strong criticisms of the nature and purpose of US occupation.

"When you are dealing with the kinds of people who hide munitions in hospitals, saw the heads off of prisoners, and *deliberately* target children, public markets, &c, the general rebuttal is to eliminate the terrorists"

You have offered this kind of caricature more than once in your posts. The simple use of the term "terrorist," the familiar mass mediated pattern of demonizing the enemy and effectively describing the enemy as a bloody thirsty savage, aside form being worthless propaganda is actually serious ethnocentric.

Is this the kind of "knowledge" that you are recycling and selling to the military? Do they need you to rehash their own doctrines for them? Is this kind of gross ethnocentrism acceptable in anthropology? Indeed, are you even an anthropologist?

Aside from being unethical work--and any work that enables the military to map "the kill chain" is indisputably about *causing* more than just "harm"--it does not resemble anything more than very obsolete, very colonial, 19th century anthropology at best.

Your main concern, unstated though it may be, is to be allowed access to a lucrative job while the US remains in Iraq, and not have to suffer any kind of criticism either during or after it is over (hence your "anonymous" identity). This is nothing more than crass opportunism that comes at the expense of multiple others and that reinforces the kinds of thinking, rationales, actions, and engagements that one would think the majority of the American public wants to see coming to an end quickly.

"I'll take that as an admission that you are incapable of fielding a cogent rebuttal to the rest of the predictable argument."

I was absolutely certain that you would take it the way that suited you best. Continue believing in your invincibility, "anonymous," as I have no intention of continuing a dialogue with someone whose main preoccupation seems to be with him/herself.

Zinjabeelah said...

I don't believe anyone has yet mentioned that there were many US Army generals alarmed by and opposed to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. About a year ago, there seemed to be a new (recently retired) general speaking out against the war in Iraq every week.

Why should anthropologists be expected to "show their patriotism" and be "real Americans" by going to Iraq to try to clean up the mess that people in the military themselves saw coming, but did nothing to prevent. The problem, apparently, is that if one is in the Army, at any level in the hierarchy, one is not allowed to speak one's own mind and diverge from the Command structure. Ultimately, the commander in chief is not in the Military, but the White House. His grasp of foreign policy is nil. His respect for the rule of law is in question. This administration is the worst the US has ever seen. There are ample grounds for impeachment and legal prosecution. Instead of badgering anthropologists, it would be better for military people to show some spine, diverge from the command structure and admit that they were used and abused in this illegal war. Speaking out and questioning authority is a really old American tradition. Older than imperial adventurism. That's the "A" in my AAA.

Anonymous said...

"Alleviating harm--harm done by whom? Answer that without even an implicit indictment of US occupation forces, and you will be freed from the weakness of your own argument."

Harm done both by the US armed forces as a consequence of inadvertant civilian deaths (which are allowable under the Geneva Convention) *and also harm done by the insurgents who deliberately target civilians.*

The ONLY harm that the US does is when it (regrettably) kills civilians mistaking them for terrorists. When the US kills real terrorists, that is not a harm by any standard. That is an objective, universal good, and seems to be actually required by various articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention as part of a broader requirement to secure the peace in an occupied region prior to removing occupation forces.

Of course, you are ignoring that obligation, and instead construing, or more accurately, misconstruing, or perhaps even mendaciously miscasting US armed forces as wanton and indiscriminate. Frankly, in that regard, you do not have the slightest clue whereof you speak. Your thesis here is plain baloney, as evidence by, among any things, your wholesale embrace of the logial "fallacy of the excluded middle."

Meanwhile, you continue to refuse to address the core of the problem. This problem is the reason for the existence of the HTS program, and allegedly the reason why the US still occupies Iraq (rather than having withdrawn).

If the US withdraws immediately, as you suggest, the death rate will escalate. The US armed forces are keeping a lid on with arguable success sectarian violence that, prior to their occupation of Iraq, was more pervasive but rather unidirectional (largely affecting the Shi'ia under Hussein's rule). If the US just "up and leaves" it will, by many estimates, simply blow the lid off opening up Iraq and possibly even neighboring states to a full-blown civil war.

Now, as a US citizen who voted against Bush twice (and who was disappointed when the Democratic Party wrote the man a blank check to invade Iraq) and who has to pay the taxes for the operations, and see the lamentable state of injured US soldiers or their families, I would find it very, very, very convenient if the US could simply "pick up its marbles and declare itself not to be part of the game."

By many arguments, the Fourth geneva Convention, Article 2, Article 6 paragraph 2, Article 17, Article 18, Article 23, Article 47, Article 50, Article 56, Article 59, and Article 60.

The articles mentioned above seem to *require* that the United States remain in occupation of Iraq long enough to accomplish or allow the creation of a stable government capable of securing the Iraqi populace from harm, including sectarian violence.

"The simple use of the term "terrorist," the familiar mass mediated pattern of demonizing the enemy...."

I've been an anthropologist, professionally speaking, for 20 years. Your gobbledygook, reduced to its only logical statements, amounts only to the assertion that you object to having the US Armed forces in Iraq. Of course you are entitled to your opinion, despite the fact that you seem unable to resolve the basic problem that immediate withdrawal of US Armed forces from Iraq will almost certainly allow much greater harm to occur there than is now occurring.

So I will repeat the question. Which do you prefer. That the US "leave Iraq now" or that "fewer deaths occur in Iraq." At this time, it does not look like you can choose "both."

Anonymous said...

"Why should anthropologists be expected to "show their patriotism" and be "real Americans" by going to Iraq to try to clean up the mess that people in the military themselves saw coming, but did nothing to prevent?"

I don't see it as a matter of patriotism. I see it as a matter of limited options in a difficult world. American (US Citizen) Anthropologists in particular do not have the luxury of just pretending that they have no obligation, since, whether they like it or not, the US Civilian government adminstered by President George Bush and with the willful cooperation of the US House of Reps and US Senate, including most of the (then minority party) Democrats, approved of this plan. As a US Citizen, I can no more absolve myself of concern in this matter merely because "I objected from the get go" than I can hold my breath until the next election.

Similarly, as a PhD anthropologist, I can't absolve myself of concern over stupid AAA Executive Board resolutions when I understand that these resolutions if acted on will ONLY potentially cause harm .. to Iraqis, to anthropologists in the HTS program, and to the profession of which I am a part.

Arcane said...

I'm sorry, but while I see most of you on this forum citing the need to be neutral and whatnot with regards to the war, the vast majority of you are not neutral and should quit pretending that you are. It's one thing to say that you oppose taking sides in the war, but many of you talk out of both sides of your mouth, saying on one hand that members of the AAA should remain neutral at all times while simultaneously launching tirades against the supposed crimes of the US military and stating your opposition to policies of the US government. If you were neutral, you would not mention any of this, which leads me to believe that this debate is being led largely by ideologically motivated, if not downright anti-American, demogogues.

Anybody who is supporting this resolution due to their opposition to the war or to specific policies should be left out of the debate, as they are not neutral observers.

Justin Taylor
Graduate Student
Troy University

Laurie King-Irani said...

Anonymous wrote:

"American (US Citizen) Anthropologists in particular do not have the luxury of just pretending that they have no obligation, since, whether they like it or not, the US Civilian government adminstered by President George Bush and with the willful cooperation of the US House of Reps and US Senate, including most of the (then minority party) Democrats, approved of this plan. As a US Citizen, I can no more absolve myself of concern in this matter merely because "I objected from the get go" than I can hold my breath until the next election."

The willful cooperation of the Legislative branch, not to mention the media and the military, was obtained by means of falsehoods and sexed up intelligence and even the outing of a CIA officer whose husband blew the whistle on the Creative Writing being done by VP Cheney's "Off the shelf" intelligence unit at the Pentagon.

The real answer to all of this mess is to impeach those who got us to this point and do a full scale ethnography of the workings (or lack thereof) in our own governance system that led to this debacle in Iraq. As for Iraq, we should leave now. US forces being there just exacerbates the situation and worsens tensions for all concerned. No anthropological interventions can help there, on the ground, now in Iraq. It's going to be a mess for a long time to come, and the main reason this will upset most in the US is that they'll have to pay a lot for gasoline. That's the whole point of this war. oil.
We have not even broached the whole issue of the Corporate Warrior syndrome, e.g., Blackwater and Dynacorps, whose members are accountable to no one and present not only real problems for the rights of Iraqi civilians but also create tensions among the military, as these guys have no rules of engagement, are not part of an official military command structure, give even less of a hoot about international humanitarian law than does the Bush administration, and who earn tens the amount of salary of enlisted men and women. What can ethnographers possibly do in such a corrupt and compromised situation (and we are just talking about the US/Coalition dimensions now, not the Iraqi hornets' nest). Most of the people writing up stuff for the HTS know less than zero about the middle east. It's all "tribalism" to them. It's not like they could not have read up or interviewed people who have a different view, regardless of whether those scholars are ready to sign up for the $300K salaries to be embedded ethnographers. The whole thing is "gamed" from the get go, and it's not the sort of anthropology we learned to do in grad school, which is no holds barred analysis and interpretation of all dimensions and contexts of a situation. When it comes to studying "up" and asking questions about the mission and the ideologies and aims behind it, I don't think an HTS ethnographer will get a hearing.

As for not being allowed to weigh in because one is not 'neutral,' if you see a crime being committed, in your name, with your tax dollars, the proper professional and personal response is not to participate.

Brian D-L said...

Justin,

First I want to thank you for the point you are making here as, more than anything, it points to one of the significant difficulties in carrying on constructive and accurate dialogue on something like this blog. Certainly there are many different perspectives represented in our discussions here, from many different angles. This makes it an important challenge to be sure that when we are making our own arguments we are clear to sort out whose points we are actually addressing.

As one of the participants here, for example, who has been trying to make a consistent point about the integrity of anthropological research and trust-worthiness through maintaining a professional ethic of 'neutrality,' I have also been careful to point out that I am not in fact arguing for or against this war, nor arguing about some real or imagined ethical flaws of people in the military. My line of discussion has not necessarily been for or against the arguments that others have been making about the potential illegality of the US war in Iraq, about the incompetence or questionable motives of this (or any other) US administration etc.

This blog discussion can turn into a real hodge podge of chattering voices if we are not clear about who we are addressing or what points we are agreeing or disagreeing with. To dismiss some arguments (for example, about professional standards of trust and neutrality) on the basis of other arguments (not made by the same persons) relating to judgements about international law, state oppression of indigenous peoples, US imperialism etc., is to misdirect what might otherwise be productive and intellectually apt exchange.

If the arguments about US imperialism, colonialism, violation of international law etc. are not accurate, these should be addressed on their merits. If there is value (or no value) in understanding the need for a fundamental integrity of the discipline through professional expectation of neutrality, lets talk about it. If some are inconsistent in which arguments they are making this doesn't necessarily negate the arguments, but challenges us to face the inconsistencies while trying to understand the principles at stake in the situation that has generated this discussion in the first place. Otherwise, it seems that, to paraphrase Wm. James, we are simply rearranging our prejudices.

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Quinebaug Valley Community College

Anonymous said...

"The willful cooperation of the Legislative branch, not to mention the media and the military, was obtained by means of falsehoods. &c"

This seems largely to be true. Nevertheless, as an American, I feel like I "own" part of that decision, even though I didn't vote for President Bush, wrote to my senators and congressional rep in opposition to invading Iraq, and in general think the *executive* management has been quite poor.

That said, we all were aware of this what... three years ago? Has the Democratic party majority actually demonstrated disaffection enough to stop funding the war despite having been "fooled?" Apparently not.

Moreover, alot of guys in the US military probably did not vote for this policy either. But while they too can dissent, they don't have the luxury of burying their heads in the sand, and they DO have to carry out legal orders. These legal orders include dropping explosive devises or bullets on people whom intel advises are the sorts of people who, for example, look for crowds of civilians standing in employment lines so they can blow up a bunch of people for the sake of grabbing headlines for their (twisted) cause. Helping the US military kill the people who do that sort of thing, and avoid killing noncombatants, is a job that any person (anthropologist or otherwise) ought to be proud to do.

That is why I dissent from the AAA executive board's decision, and why I dissent with much of the reactionary, politically motivated, anti-US-armed forces cant that I hear in this blog.

"The real answer to all of this mess is to impeach those who got us to this point and do a full scale ethnography of the workings (or lack thereof) in our own governance system that led to this debacle in Iraq."

Impeachment is something I could get behind. Meantime, Iraq needs enough stability to get up a working government, needs to be rid of people like "Al Qaida in Iraq" by any means required, and the US Armed forces are the bulk of the people tasked to achieve these goals. That is why the HTS program exists. I don't need to say again that I think it is a worthy program since I've made that clear, so it is the last time I'll say it.

"As for Iraq, we should leave now."

I wish it were that simple. I dislike the harm to US service personnel, and dislike the absurd spending levels. But if we leave now, we probably open up Iraq to a much higher level of violence than now occurs. To be sure, it might be in some wierd way regarded as a "better situation" than when Hussein was in charge, because his (IIRC) 100K deaths per annum were more or less one-way sectarian violence.

"US forces being there just exacerbates the situation and worsens tensions for all concerned."

I just don't agree that anyone has presented any evidence that your claim is substantially correct. By most accounts, the US being there is keeping the lid on the pot.

"No anthropological interventions can help there, on the ground, now in Iraq."

Apparently HTS anthropologists seem to disagree. Since they're the ones over there on the ground, they'd be the ones to know whether or not they're making a useful difference.

"It's going to be a mess for a long time to come, and the main reason this will upset most in the US is that they'll have to pay a lot for gasoline."

That claim is not substantiated by the general economics of world oil. Iraq supplies little of the world's oil. US consumers depend rather more heavily on Pemex, Venezuelan fields, to some extent on UAE and Saudi fields, and domestic reserves. Leaving Iraq now probably will have no effect on world crude oil prices. If, however, a huge civil war develops in Iraq and spreads to the UAE, Saud, or Iran, then it's all "katie bar the door" and fuel prices will skyrocket.

"That's the whole point of this war. oil."

I disagree. It's hard to fathom the "oil" motive. I'm more convinced that it's about Neocon Adventurist Ideology, or, possibly, for the President, simple revenge. Whatever drove the decision, the President's predisposition towards invading Iraq seems irrational, and the "war for oil" explanation seems to me to credit the admin with more rationality than they really possess.

"What can ethnographers possibly do in such a corrupt and compromised situation...."

HTS are working for the US Army. Whatever you may think about the smarts or motives of the Bush Admin, IMO the basic Army Office Corps and most of the enlisted and NCOs are ordinary human beings who (in the vast majority) are both careful, rational, and thoughtful in what they do. They are, however, stuck with a job that our gov't continues to impose upon them. As long as they are stuck with that job, if HTS anthropolgists can help, I'm "for" the HTS program.

"Most of the people writing up stuff for the HTS know less than zero about the middle east."

I'd like to see that claim substantiated by some facts. It's not as though HTS has hired a bunch of Australian-trained Canadian resident circum-Caribbean anthropologists who have suddenly declared themselves to be experts on the US Armed forces and Middle East sectarian feuds.

"The whole thing is "gamed" from the get go, and it's not the sort of anthropology we learned to do in grad school,"

I'm just not sure your characterization is accurate. The HTS program by what little independent looking info comes out seems to be pleasing both to Iraqi civilians and the US Armed forces. One might be suspicious of the claims, but the alternative conclusion has even less evidence in support.

IMO we're all going to be in a better position to pass judgement on HTS in a few years.

"When it comes to studying "up" and asking questions about the mission and the ideologies and aims behind it, I don't think an HTS ethnographer will get a hearing."

It's not obvious that it is the US Armed forces that needs observation.

"As for not being allowed to weigh in because one is not 'neutral,' if you see a crime being committed, in your name, with your tax dollars, the proper professional and personal response is not to participate."

I agree that other fellow shouldn't tell you not to chime in. On the other hand, I do not agree that any crimes are being committed in Iraq as a matter of systematic intent or deficiencies in the US Armed forces. I'm not even sure that US invasion of Iraq was a violation of international law. Stupid maybe, but arguably legal under UNSec resolutions dating back to 1991, and arguably justifiable given Hussein's rather Stalinist penchant for murdering certain elements of the Iraqi population.

Meantime, there is still this problem. If the US leaves right now, it is quite possible that many more people will die as a consequence than would otherwise.

Maximilian C. Forte said...

"It's not as though HTS has hired a bunch of Australian-trained Canadian resident circum-Caribbean anthropologists who have suddenly declared themselves to be experts on the US Armed forces and Middle East sectarian feuds"

What foolish commentary. I have proclaimed no such expertise, but I will not ignore what has been widely and repeatedly reported either.

And the reason you can even find out those details about where I was trained is due to the fact that, unlike yourself, I am not ashamed of my identity and do not hide behind anonymity.

Your decision to hide like a coward behind anonymity is well advised, as your latest spam betrays woeful ignorance on too many fronts. It is almost certain you are not an anthropologist, and I look forward to seeing no more of your embarrassing nonsense.

Anonymous said...

"I will not ignore what has been widely and repeatedly reported either."

Indeed? Then what facts, exactly, have been widely reported, and by whom, that (1) support your contention that the US Armed forces in Iraq are systematically indiscriminate, (2) that support your contention that the bulk or even a significant proportion of noncombatant casualties in Iraq are a consequence of US Armed Forces actions rather than "insurgent" (since you dislike the word "terrorist") violence?

"I am not ashamed of my identity and do not hide behind anonymity."

No one should be. In this instance I think "hiding behind anonymity" is useful, because some here (not you) have made it clear that they'd essentially indict anyone who disagrees with their opinion.

"Your decision to hide like a coward behind anonymity is well advised, as your latest spam betrays woeful ignorance on too many fronts."

Yes yes whatever. Ad hominem seems to be the only argument you are capable of making. You can assert my ignorance, but you seem incapable of demonstrating any command of the facts and the issues.

Yes I understand that you believe that all violence in Iraq is a consequence of US Armed Forces actions. Yes I understand that you would characterize the US armed forces as wanton. Actual evidence to indicate that your position has any merit is, despite your pronouncements, lacking.

"It is almost certain you are not an anthropologist,"

As with so many of your assertions and efforts at induction, your claim is incorrect.

Marcus B. Griffin, Ph.D. said...

One of the soldiers I work with here in Iraq asked me to post this for him given that posting on blogger is restricted where he works. I've already made my views on the EB statement clear on the blog I keep for my students. The following is what LT Gato has to say:

It was with extreme regret and sadness that I read about AAA's decision
to write off this project without even trying to understand it. I
doubt if anyone who made that decision or who called for its eradication
ever talked to anyone on the teams or who deals with the teams. No, they
simply stood back and cast stones at what they didn't even try to
understand. I am utterly confused as to why they would let this happen.
For years all I have heard while a grad student at UNM were things like,
"They military should do this or that" or "didn't they know this or
that". Well now was your chance to fill that gap, to make a difference, TO
SAVE LIVES....Americans and Iraqis! Lives that will be continue to be
lost because of misunderstandings between our cultures.
I wonder if that will cross their minds when they drink their
trendy wines and congratulate themselves on taking such a "strong ethical
stand", that people are going to die so that they can feel good about
themselves when they meet in their conventions in some Howard Johnson's
drinking Cocktails or work in safety as they search for bigfoot in
Northern California. Well done, AAA, Well done! But let me ask you, if you
really did want to end the war, why didn't you add something to it,
contribute information that could have helped? Instead you shut the door on
me, my fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and Iraqis we work
side by side with, lets just hope you never need a soldier's help, we
might be in a convention or dead. Think I am over reacting, or dramatizing,
take a ride with me, I'll be here, Dr Griffin has, what about you?
American soldiers don't dictate policy, the government and its
citizens do, so because the academic community can't punish the
government they punish the soldiers who represent both. Do you honestly think
the military is full of mindless thugs? I am a life-long liberal, the
army has its share of concervatives, liberals, right-wingers, lefties, all
here, all serving for YOU! For your right to bash my honor and
integrity by stating that I will somehow share the secrets of Anthropology to
conquer the world, I talk to people about water, about health care, I
explain cultural differences like, celebratory fire, so that soldiers
won't think they are being shot at and understand what and why something
is going on. Dr Griffin, helps me do that better, if I hit a mental
road block he is there to help. Sure he wears a uniform, why, because
snipers shoot people who stand out, they shoot them in the face, is that
too blunt? Hey thats the way it is, hope I am not upsetting anyone's
brown bag luncheon. But, he is here with me, taking the same risks, eating
the same food for a year. Helping to save lives, But thats over with
right, no more social scientists because to do labels them, fine if you
don't want him, I know 4,000 soldiers who do.


-Member HTS

CL Harrison said...

C.L. Harrison

I am a senior Anthropology at ISU and former US Army soldier. While I agree that the use of Anthropologists in a war is consistent with mistakes made during the World Wars, and makes it difficult to maintain confidence to other cultures because of their suspicion, I would like to jump ahead to the future and propose that it could be a step in the right direction. How many of us thing that if our government actively employed Anthropologists at every level of organization that relations world wide would be better? If this begins the process to have higher levels of government apply our skills later to diplomacy then I believe that it was an experiement worth the risks.

The US military has employed Anthropologists in times of war for many decades, this time they are more on the ground than in an office where they do not interact with the culture.

I can see the downside and while I believe that our personal opinions on the validity of the war are irrelevant in this circumstance; I do believe that historically it is our responsibility to evaluate long term benefits in our culture which along with many other cultures engage in war and conflict as a natural evolutionary process in civilizational building.

Landon said...

I'm sorry, but I still feel that people are side-stepping the issue that the US military and US government, as political bodies, are not genuinely concerned with things not-American and not in America's best interests. Still, rarely will the primary concerns of anthropology mesh with the primary concerns of the US systems.

I'm surprised no one has really addressed this issue--quid pro quo--so I will be brutally honest: anthropologists in the military are tools. We may argue till we're all blue in the face that anthropologists holding hands with military personnel are saving lives, but the fact remains that the US military is using anthropologists to fight a better fight--a fight nonetheless. We are the means to achieve a very American-imperialist end. The current politics wrapped up in this situation are crucial to this discussion and can NOT be removed.

I can't understand how we've all been talking past this pivotal point, and I forgive my ignorance if this type of talk has been circulating in smaller circles.


Landon Yarrington
Department of Anthropology
The College of William and Mary

Brian D-L said...

Landon,

One of the problems in this line of argument is that it implies a further message: if you feel the US isjustified in doing what it is doing in Iraq, (Iran, Colombia etc.) then it is OK as an anthropologist to serve in direct support of such war-efforts. If instead, it were self-evident to everyone that US actions in Iraq are in violation of international law, part of a history of US Imperialism etc. then it wouldn't be right for anyone to be involved.

In fact, the point has been made here (by myself and a few others) that even without making a judgement about whether this is US imperialism or the US making the world safe for democracy, it is about whether anthropologists are being used as tools in war to begin with, and whether this in itself is not a perversion of the discipline.

Tanner said...

Anthropologists aided (aid?) the project of colonialism. Anthropologists helped (help?) to perpetuate ideas/projects like Orientalism, Africa as the ‘savage continent’ and the idea that ‘culture’ is ‘real’. Anthropologists have done a lot of very bad things. However, it is also possible that by doing those things anthropologists have also made things ‘better’ in the process…

With that in mind, what would the world look like without anthropology?

More importantly for this debate…

What will Iraq and Afghanistan look like without anthropologists?

-------
Tanner Phillips
Alice Salomon University of Applied Science
Berlin, Germany

Arcane said...

The current politics wrapped up in this situation are crucial to this discussion and can NOT be removed.

No, if you're going to make this a political debate, then you're willing to tarnish the careers of dozens of anthropologists who volunteered for this kind of work simply because they disagree with YOUR political opinion. Lots of things have been said on this forum, mostly by people who are more interested with political ideology than with anthropology, but the idea of tarnishing these people simply because they disagree with you is sickening. It isn't just sickening, it's downright authoritarian.

You're not an anthropologist, Landon. You're a politically motivated authoritarian thug.

Justin Taylor
Graduate Student
Troy University

Anonymous said...

Whether a conflict is imperial or not (good or bad war), or what ones politics are regarding a conflict is not the point. HTS directly and indirectly helps the military distinguish combatants and information from anthropologists can be or is used to help the military "target" belligerents, presumably to be killed. The military has repeatedly acknowledged this, while avoiding the obvious aspect (killing).

It does not matter if the individuals think they are doing good or preventing innocents from being targeted or helping the military develop sensitivity to cultural difference. If anything an anthropologist does is done knowing is might help in "targeting" there is a fundamental ethical conflict.

HST proponents and members repeatedly avoid talking about this point. But, if there is any known risk that a person could be harmed (killed) as a direct result of anthropological research or applied activities, and the anthropologist proceeds, then that is an ethical violation.

This alone is enough to preclude any condoning of the program by AAA, and HST is a program that any involvement with clearly violates the ethical guidelines for anthropologists generally and AAA specifically. Any anthropologists working with HST should be professionally sanctioned and temporarily or permanently barred from using the title "anthropologist" and from contributing to the professional, scholarly, or applied community or literature.

gsiderf2@gmail.com said...

Dear Colleagues,
Much as I like seeing the comments critical of anthropologists working for what is deceptively called "Human Terrain Systems" I am dismayed by their caution. There is central point at issue: to work for the military is specifically to take orders from the very highest level of command on down. It is unmistakable that Bush and Cheney are war criminals, whether or not they are ever tried, and by the standards of the Nuremburg trials, to follow the orders of war criminals makes you a war criminal also. So-called anthropologists who work for the military are, whatever their private fantasies may be, war criminals.
I do not want these war criminals to sully the discipline I have given my adult professional life to. At the next AAA meeting I will introduce a resolution asking that people who work for the US Military be excluded from our professional association, so that it is clear that we do not recognize their claim to be anthropologists.
Gerald Sider
AAA member since 1961

Brian D-L said...

Gerald, I have been one who has been trying to engage the question here without addressing whether this is an imperialist war in Iraq, whether Bush/Cheney are war criminals, or what the personal responsibility is for each of us (anthropologist or just plain citizen) in relation to basic human rights. One of the problems I see in the discussions that bring these things in is that they throw us into the whole battle of whose side God (god, good) is on, and those who are trying to support participation in such military programs are in effect saying that 'we' are on the right side and therefore anthropologists should be applying our skills to support the good.

My judgement is not about the criminality and inhumanity of (this) war--no one has directly asked me about my personal take on this, nor have I volunteered it as I think it gives people another red herring to throw the dogs off the track of a core issue as noted by the contributer just above your message in this discussion thread; there is a fundamental contradiction in turning the discipline that promotes itself as built on human understanding, skills of in-depth investigation of all peoples of the world, and the fundamental trust of peoples studied in order to carry this out, into a weapon used by one people against another.

If there wasn't a writers' strike going on, by now the absurdity of this situation would almost certainly have been reflected in at least one Daly Show or Colbert Show segment. I only wonder how this could not be more obvious to some in our discipline.

Brian Donohue-Lynch

tanner said...

If you continue to take a side you continue to remove the need for anthropology at all...Stop trying to justify your actions with normative lunacy...applied anthroplogy has always had an ideological slant...just because these particular anthropologists are slanted in a direction you see as 'wrong' does not mean you have any right to say they are not doing the work of applied anthropology.

I repeat...what will become of Iraq and Afghanistan without anthropogists?

Brian D-L said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brian D-L said...

Brian D-L said...
...do you mean "what will become of Iraq and Afghanistan without anthropologists serving as agents of the US military"? Or maybe "what will become of Iraq and Afghaistan if the US military continues its war without them." I am sure, after all, that there are many anthropologists who would want to continue to do the work of anthropology among the people of Iraq and Afghanistan without applying it to winning a war against (some of) them.

Brian

Zinjabeelah said...

What will happen to Afghanistan and Iraq without anthropologists is not the question, but rather, what will happen to the U.S. without the rule of law and the implementation of the Constitution? What will happen to the world without respect for international law and human rights standards? Addressing these questions is primary, and once we do, the rest will begin to fall into place.

Iraqis and Afghans are not children or functional idiots in need of Western guidance. We've pretty well messed up Iraq for generations to come, and the solutions to that tragedy are not military.

tanner said...

The question 'what will Iraq and Afghanistan look like without anthropologists' is directed towards the reality we find ourselves in...not some utopic vision of universal human rights, an ethnocentric belief that Iraqis and Afghans need Western guidance, or some normative rant on what 'real anthropology' looks like...I ask the question because this is a debate over rather or not anthropologists should be working with the military in these zones...

So, I will repeat it one more time in the hopes that someone will actually address it...'What will Iraq and Afghanistan look like without anthropologists?'

The military is already in these countries...US hegemony is already quite established there and in plenty of other areas around the globe...the negative effects of that are pretty much basic food for thought for any undergraduate...However, apart from saying that we should not support (and even fight against) all that hegemony, we are still left with the over-arching fact that it is there and people are suffering from it. If we do not have people inside the 'systems' that perpetuate that hegemony (like the army) working to make it less pervasive and harmful then things will certainly become far worse then they are now...However, with people 'aiding' colonialism we are also intentionally 'changing' colonialism...it is a long term process but with a little perspective it becomes clear that the world will look different in 50 years...how it looks depends upon what we do now...people that oppose oppressive regimes will play a role in that. However, so will people that work from the inside to weaken their oppression.

In other words, despite all the arguments against such work, it seems like having anthropologists informing military leadership is better then simply having them whining/debating/thinking(?) in their 'armchairs' (or at their computers) 3000 miles away. At the very least they are making things at least a little better for the people they work directly with. At the most, they are preparing the way for reformations (read revolutions) that could have a positive effect in the long run.

Maximilian C. Forte said...

"What will Iraq and Afghanistan look like without anthropologists?"

If you find that people resist answering this question, it is probably because few people like to try to prove a negative case, make predictions, and so forth.

The question for me should read: what do Iraq and Afghanistan look like *with* anthropology?

I think that both countries can do very well without it--it's not as if anthropology is some sort of pillar of society or saving angel that being without it is tantamount to being without schools, hospitals, jobs, etc. Your question seems to seriously over inflate the importance of anthropology.

To the extent that Iraq and Afghanistan may not teach, train, and otherwise produce their own anthropologists, then you could say they are without anthropology already, in which case you have your answer.

To the extent that anthropology is, in neither case, there to serve anyone other than the anthropologists themselves, and their home institutions, then you have another answer.

To the extent that, as some would argue, HTS anthropologists are not acting as anthropologists but as those seeking to exploit and manipulate a disciplinary heritage for their own personal gains, or for aims external to the discipline, then once again you have another answer to your question.

However, as I reckon from the last post, you had a point to make that was hidden behind a rhetorical question. It was probably best just to go ahead and make your point than to repeat a question that most would recognize as having been a rhetorical one.

As for the notion that those calling themselves anthropologists at work in Iraq and Afghanistan are making a positive difference, sorry, you have to offer proof, substantiate your argument, demonstrate it, and not just assert it as self-evident. And after that you have to weigh it against any harm that their presence has caused to both locals and to the discipline. Finally, you have to weigh the other options available to anthropologists who want to do good, and these are very many, and probably cast anthropology in much less of a sinister light than HTS work does. After you have done all of these things, you can make your case. In the meantime, assertions of belief do not count for much.

madalina said...

I am a PHD student at a London University, and the "war on terror" and US military imperialism have placed me both personally and professionally under a moral strain. I wholeheartedly support the statement and the condemenation of anthropologists who offer their expertise to an army (be it of occupation or of liberation, those anthropolosists or any social scientists or medical professionals who participate to the perpetration of a genocide.
I would also like that in the official statement there be a clarification of the terminology used by the AAA in relation to the ASA: the AAA condemns any "anti-terror anthropology" whereas the ASA condemns any "war on terror" research. And I would like to hear comments by anthropologists of Iraqui and/or Afghan origins on this position that the AAA has taken. I would liek to add that it is naive to believe that to promote "peace making" and "peace keeping" as something that per se is "neutral". Here, I would like tot remind that in the 1990`s, Belgrade was bombarded in the name of "peacemaking", and many civilians were victims.

Anonymous said...

Hi,

I think it is great to discuss issues of controversy such as this.

I think that intelligence agents, whether they have a social science background or not, is not so much a new thing. Margaret Mead even worked for the US during WWII, as well as others. As for Social Scientists working for the CIA, National Security, Police Forces or otherwise once again this is not a new phenomenon.

I think that the AAA should perhaps divulge itself into a CivilAAA, and/or a MilitantAAA.

I think the concern is valid, but how can you tell the difference between an Intelligence Agent and an Anthropologist?

What it reduces to is that it is not the Anthropologist at risk, but individuals of Foreign Nationality without domestic ties seen as invasive in a protectionistic society, or one with elements that frown on intellegence from being dispatched. Anyone can read field data or otherwise, so even a "civilian" anthropologist working on "neutral and civilian aims" is compiliing information once published that could be used for less than civil purposes.

While to take a political stance against the war, or aiding the war is one the AAA is more than entitled to do, I think that if suddently cooks and mechanics boycotted their members from assisting the war effect because cooks and mechanics are at increased risk in a hostile environment, is much the same circumstance.

Is anyone with a clipboard and glasses an anthropologists. I think the merit is there but the basing is not.

I'm not a member of the AAA but am studying Anthropology in University and it is my intended major. While I do not dream of working in the Intelligence Field, I think that directly or indirectly all aspects of a nation aid and abet any war ongoing if they pay taxes or provide a service of any sort to the government or citizens of that state.. but of course it amounts to a lite stance. Of course if you exclude yourself, then you loose eyes on cultures such as the military or intelligence communities, but isn't that national security and dangerous to other anthropologists none the less.

It very much does paint the AAA, as a peace loving organization. Of course expelling membership of anyone that works in the intelligence agency, might pave way for something like the MAAA (or intelligence community)

Best Wishes,
William Ashley

tanner said...

If anthropologists have no influence, if they hold no power, then why don’t we just leave them alone and let them do whatever the heck they want? Why try to draw a line around what anthropologists should or should not do, if in fact you (Max and others) believe that anthropologists do not sway events in any particular direction?

However, if anthropologists do somehow affect the world around them. Why should they not affect the way the military operates? Which brings us back to the question…What are these two countries, (which are highly influenced by the actions of the US military) going to look like if anthropologists are not involved?

It is not a rhetorical question. It is a very simple and straight forward factor that must be considered in this debate. It follows the principle of exclusion. It is what those who vilify this program have the burden of confronting/proving/explaining…

If you say anthropologists should not help the military you need to offer a valid prediction/explanation of what will happen if they do not...and why that is preferable.

tanner said...

Sorry about hogging this blog and thank you very much for reading my posts. More importantly, Thank you for all your posts so for, no matter what has been said they have been very helpful… The reason my previous questions do at time seem vague or rhetorical is because I have not made up my mind on this issue and I am trying to solicit the sort of dialogue that can help convince me of the ‘right’ direction I/we as a discipline should go in the future…

I do have one additional question for everyone here:

Apparently the leadership of the AAA is elected by the membership and generally serves for three year terms. I have been a member of AAA for over three years and never once received information about elections. Is anyone else in the same boat? I ask because it certainly matters in cases like this, where it seems a small percentage of the population is making drastic decisions which represent the whole. I appreciate the chance to blog about this issue, but I think democracy should look a little different then an elite faction making statements in their ivory tower that affect the careers of its members world-wide. (ESPECIALLY SINCE THEY PERFORMED NO ETHNOGRAPHICAL WORK TO COME TO THESE CONCLUSIONS…;-(…) To me that is too similar to the current ‘democratic’ process in my country these days…I paid money to join this organization and I would like to know if others have faced similar problems with being notified about elections…along with that, was the possibility/process of forming this statement open to us before it was completed?

Tanner Phillips
MA-ICM
Berlin, Germany

Anonymous said...

"If anything an anthropologist does is done knowing is might help in "targeting" there is a fundamental ethical conflict."

I disagree that any ethical conflict exists. If anthropologists aid in achieving in essence "better targeting," and better targeting means real murderers get killed but real innocents are less likely to be killed, then any anthropologist providing such a service is doing good anthropology and also making a positive and beneficial contribution.

"Suspending disbelief" does not require that we pretend that terrorists aren't terrorists.

Anonymous said...

That's great! The post above this one just made a great argument for anthropologists to join the Iraqi resistance.

That way the real terrorists who invaded Iraq in 2003 can be defeated, innocents saved, and anthropology can make a positive and beneficial contribution.

Suspending disbelief certainly does not mean that we pretend that terrorists aren't terrorists. Too bad that those supporting HTS also support the real terrorists.

Undecided said...

To the above comment:

Yes, it sounds crazy and you meant it sarcastically. However, it stands to reason that any side in a conflict should have anthropologists as advisors…anything that lessons harm to civilian populations is admirable in my book…even if it means supporting military operations…(or freedom fighter/terrorists for that matter).

Now your quip about the US military being a terrorist organization is highly political…as are most the posts here…but I would like for people to please take up the suggestion to consider what is going to happen sans anthro in these HTS positions…

I ask this because I am considering becoming a civil affairs officer in the Army and it seems to have similar implications…My decision to do so will rest on the pragmatic ‘harm to good’ ratio that any decision made by an anthropologist should consider…Is this helping or hurting the people there? With the unavoidable fact that the damage is already done and something has to be done to fix the mess created by unjust wars…I think now it is a necessary evil…

Everyone, please step away from the polarized tit for tat logic and obvious political ideologies for a moment and help me wrap my head around the long-term and complicated realities in this debate.

liquid-thalweg said...

Greetings everyone!!!

A blog is not the best format for such an intense and complicate issue. Therefore, I have created a forum for this issue here:

http://militaryanthro.forumotion.com/index.htm

I ask you all to please visit and continue this discussion there.

All the best!!!

Brian D-L said...

U.S. daily spending on its war in Iraq is estimated at $270 million; according to statistics compiled by the U.N., as well as other numbers by the journal The Lancet, Iraqi deaths as a consequence of U.S. military action since the 2003 invasion now total anywhere between 600,000 and 1 million; this does not include the numbers of deaths as a result of the prior 10 year daily air strikes carried out over Iraq by the U.S. military and the UK's air power; this does not include casualties caused by a US led embargo against trade with Iraq during that same period.

In addition, the control of information about the war, reinforced legislatively and by policies and practices of the White House, State Department, CIA, Congress et al. mean that the current understanding of the war among ordinary citizens (of the US at least) is orchestrated in detail, down to the very detail of how many pictures of returning maimed veterans, and flag-draped coffins any one of us will see. For as many of these as we have seen in our US press (...almost none?) there are even fewer human images of Iraqi casulties; Iraqi images we are allowed to see (that are promoted and provided) are on the order of the 'celebrity mugshots' (dead or alive, counter to international laws and conventions of war) of those our military/executive leaders have officially named as 'terrorists.'

And mind you, in my saying all this, I am not trying to make a case for or against this war; I am trying to make the point that there is a war going on the already-existing consequences of which we are not easily or regularly exposed to, by careful and deliberate design of those who are planning and driving this war. In effect, the average citizen is being trained to not be concerned about what is already happening right now in Iraq (and Afghanistan) except as it might cement our assent to the ongoing planning and execution of the war and its implications.

There should be no illusion that any of us is being asked to take seriously any human questions about the killings of innocents, the use of indiscriminate military tactics and strategies, the fate of the surviving casulties, the motivations of 'insurgents' who apparenlty with extreme peristence have found the reasons and the ability to stand up to the single remaining world superpower in its longest lasting war of its history. To ask about such questions is to incur a kind of Jack Nicholsonesque "you want the truth?! You can't handle the truth" from those in charge who will readily remind us all that we are 'ivroy tower idealists' (at best, if not Al Qaeda sympathisers if not worse) for being concerned about such facts and questions.

One perspective on all this might give us an interesting historical comparison, just in terms of the very cost of this war in human numbers. Before the current post-invasion Iraq war (during the 10 year daily bombing campaign war) the population of Iraq was just a bit more than the total population of the US (north and south) during the Civil War. The U.N. estimate of at least 600,000 deaths of Iraqi citizens as a result of our military invasion is roughly the total casualty count for our own civil war. This then doesn't include the count or comparison of surviving casualties, or those in Afghanistan.

Given the magnitude, scope, and determined intensity of this war as executed by the US, it is an illusion for an anthropologist or anyone else to think that they are going to go into this warmaking and bring some humanity to it (or to think that those who oppose this use of anthropology as a credible profession are somehow diminishing the human good that can be done 'if only we'd let anthropologists be there.')

The military agenda in Iraq and Afghanistan is, to use a tired term, a juggernaut. To expect that anything a profession like anthropology might do 'from inside' (serving especially as intelligence-support for the dominant side in this war) will attenuate the damage being done or contribute to cross-cultural understanding is naive at best. If anthropology is being used it is being used as one more utilitarian tool to accomplish the ultimate agenda of this juggernaut, the agenda that is reflected in its consequences, the facts about which we as ordinary people are not meant to see.

If anything, anthropologists should be helping people see these facts and consequences, not contributing to their continued tally.


Brian Donohue-Lynch
Quinebaug Valley Community College

tanner said...

Brian,

I will be responding to your comments on the forum that 'undecided' set up...

http://militaryanthro.forumotion.com/index.htm

Please go there to continue this discussion.

Tanner

tanner said...

sorry....liquid-thalweg (interesting name!) set up the forum and I responded to your post here Brian:

http://militaryanthro.forumotion.com/yesbut-why-f1/brian-donohue-lynch-s-comments-and-some-of-my-thoughts-t9.htm

Everyone else please go to that forum. It is a good place to talk about this.

Maximilian C. Forte said...

I have no idea who "liquid-thalweg" is and this order to go another anonymous person's forum is very poor etiquette to say the least. This is a AAA blog, for the discussion of a AAA statement, and I question the motives of someone trying to hijack and relocate the discussion. There is nothing wrong with having the dicussion right here, where it belongs.

Brian D-L said...

I would agree with Maximilian. I am not sure why it should be suddenly determined that this professional space set up by and for AAA members to discuss these concerns isn't the place to do so.

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Quinebaug Valley Community College

liquid-thalweg said...

You both have the wrong idea...it is not an order and if you looked at the forum you would understand why it is a better place to have such a discussion...a string of over 130 posts is not easy to follow and I set up the forum to help organize this debate...

The only motive I have is to try to understand this question better. Take a look at the forum before you throw it out as an option.

As far as tanner moving his discussion with Brian there...I think that is between them and not really any of our business.

For me the organizzation of a forum, where people can open different posts on different subjects, just helps keep the discussion flowing. This string discourages most people from participating in what should be a lively debate.

The forum is meant to compliment this blog, not replace it.

http://militaryanthro.forumotion.com/index.htm

Maximilian C. Forte said...

I was not commenting on this discussion between Tanner and Brian, and the reason I made this "my business" comes from the statements by Tanner and yourself:

"Everyone else please go to that forum." &

"I ask you all to please visit and continue this discussion there."

I don't know that this "string" discourages anybody from participating, nor do you. Nor do I think that the debate has been moribund.

I have also looked at your forum, which is part of the reason I reject it, nor am I willing to see this discussion being split into two. Others are obviously free to do whatever they want, that goes without saying.

Best of luck.

tanner said...

Frankly, I do not care where we discuss this issue. Although I will say that I do appreciate the effort ‘liquid-thalweg’ put in to create a forum (thanks!). And I agree with him/her that it is a better way to manage discussions like this. Furthermore, (Maximilian) I don’t think questioning his/her motives or calling him/her a hijacker is very good etiquette either—to say the least. The more discussion on topics like this the better.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Brian, If you do not want to join ‘liquid-thalweg’s’ forum then here is the post I put there responding to your remarks...(Sorry if it was rude of me to assume you might like to discuss this issue in that setting….)

Yes Brian, if you are going to reduce everything to good and evil, white and black, self and other…then the military is a monolith juggernaut and supporting it can do no good. You are either for or against it…

However, just like reading Said’s Orientalism and Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival has caused me (more then once) to burst into Occidentalist-tilted tantrums—only to find days later that I was becoming ‘grotesque’ and missing the complicated nature of these arguments—and life in general; so too does your argument (and the AAA’s in general) seem to ignore the practical side of this issue. This is not just theory we are talking about here, but also practice. The two must be mutually intelligible ‘projects’. In order to say anthropologists should not be helping the military you have to demonstrate why the alternative is preferable. The burden of proof is on the AAA, and anyone that opposes the HTS, to form this argument.

From what I gather here, the crux of your argument against is that the war is unjust and so the soldiers are unjust…if you work for the beast you are the beast…This of course makes sense because your actions (might) help to make the beast stronger. However, they also (might) help to make the beast tamer. So, this line of reasoning is only valid if the military could and would pull out of Iraq tomorrow. Unfortunately, this is not going to happen. The military will b there for a long time to come. Therefore, I would certainly say at this point that anthropology seems to have a place in and among the many humans (soldiers and civilians alike…they are all humans…all people…all important) who are experiencing this war…

If American anthropologists decide to position themselves only as activists on one side of an issue then they are really only helping support one ideology…not humanity…war is a part of our history and it will be part of our future…I think anthropologists should play a role in how it is waged.

That is enough for now...please respond.

Tanner Phillips

tanner said...

I just communicated with liquid-thalweg and offered to take over the forum he set up. He agreed, so this means the forum will soon be in my name and not his. Liquid-thalweg wants to remain anonymous but he and I both think that discourages people from participating in the forum. I hope that by taking over the reigns you will all feel more comfortable visiting and sharing your thoughts…

Email me if you want to know who I am tananaphillips@googlemail.com

Here is the forum again:

I would like to remind everyone that this discussion is

http://militaryanthro.forumotion.com/index.htm

Brian D-L said...

Tanner, and anyone else interested in dialogue on these important issues concerning our professional association, it is worthwhile to discuss one another's arguments as they are made, but it is fruitless to discuss them as they are imagined to be made.

So, for example, if you look at my most recent posting above, I have to say that it is totally incorrect to represent what I have said in terms of reducing things to categories of good and evil, or as a result of this to identify any "crux" of my argument in terms of a judgement that the war is unjust (and that soldiers in the process are unjust). These are not the issues I have been highlighting in any of my posts, and to continue to represent these as "my arguments" to which counter-arguments are then presented is to misdirect the discussion, deliberately or otherwise.

To say in particular that this war in Iraq and Afghanistan is a juggenaut is in my argument nowhere connected to a judgement about whether the military is "good or evil," as you suggest. It is to say instead, along with all the other facts I highlighted about the magnitude of this war, the extent of its devastation, the duration of often-forgotten US phases of the war that even preceded by at least ten years the 2003 invasion, the intensive and deliberate control of our perceptions of the way through our government's policies and practices (down to the legislative prohibition of publishing photos of returning coffins!)... all of this is to suggest that this, in the definition of a juggernaut, is a "massive inexorable force" and that it is at best naive to think that an anthropologist will do anything but help promote the ultimate goals of this force in its partisan, military agenda.
In this context, anthropology is being used in a utilitarian way, only subsidiary to the aims of military victory.
This is not the place of a discipline that is telling people "we're here to learn about you so that we can understand your humanity." Fundamental trust-worthiness is part of our stock in trade; otherwise we are just serving as spies.

One of the especially deadly facts of this war is that there has been a concerted, intensive, carefully orchestrated strategy on the part of those executing the war to shape and control our perceptions of what it is all about. The facts of the war, the deadly consequences, the original motivations for its igniting, the control of information coming from warzones and detention centers, the domestication of news organizations, and so much more, reflect a driving force and driving agenda in which "truth" and "human understanding" are immaterial except as they might be subsumed under the agenda of "getting it done."
Certainly, anthropologists should be helping to understand this, but it is so contradictory for anthropologists to act as servant toward helping to make it happen.


Brian Donohue-Lynch
Quinebaug Valley Community College

tanner said...

Brian, (and everybody else)

No discussion is fruitless if it is between people trying to find real answers. Also, no one is going to take my summary of what I think you are saying to be your actual words. If I get you wrong in what I say then please refute. That is the point…

To that end, it seems like what you are saying above is that ‘at best’ anthropologist are wasting their time trying to make a difference by serving in the military in Iraq. At worst they are unethical and spies. You argument seems to apply only to Iraq…right? So, in your opinion is HTS sort of work ‘acceptable’ in Afghanistan?

If yes, then how are we as a professional body of anthropologists supposed to effectively gauge the ethical line which separates the two conflicts? Does the UN have to be involved? NATO? Does the over-all body count have to be under or a over certain amount? How and why are we taking such a stand now? How can we say that in this particular situation anthropology can do no good and therefore has no place?

All your facts about the brutality of the war and the pervasiveness of the war machine are well received and I agree that they should be considered (and remembered) long and hard not just by anthropologists, but by every world citizen,. However, there is no way to measure your claims that HTS anthropologists are “naïve” and that their work only helps to “promote the ultimate goals of this force in its partisan, military agenda.” The exact opposite might be true. Having anthropologists in country and advising military leadership could literally help to change the agenda itself…thus accomplishing the same goal as anthropologists who lecture in classrooms…conflict transformation…a long process but one which works better with people on the ‘inside’.

This position by the AAA basically handicaps any far-sighted professionals who see Iraq as more then just a discourse and the conflict there as more then just Bush’s war. The war machine has rolled out and we have let it. It needs to roll back, but it also needs to be somehow changed in the process…we miss an opportunity when we let the military make decisions in Iraq without the anthropological perspective.

I will add that since no ethnographical research was done by the AAA before forming this declaration, it is not even certain that there are any violations of ethics at stake here…just a lot of assumptions and possibilities that may or may not be true, but are not enough to formally vilify this particular endeavour…

Furthermore, all the facts seem to be directed toward the war itself, and not toward the people and places it affects. Which brings me around to the very same question I have been asking all along and no one will take up. Some of you are in such a hurry to take anthropology out of the military, but I am concerned about what will happen if we do. Do you think the military’s departure from Iraq will be somehow sped up? I doubt it? Do you think our profession will be somehow tarnished? I doubt that too. Doctors are not vilified for fixing soldiers so they can go fight again. Most rational people understand that all professions have a place in a war zone. Some professions directly aid the killing. Some help the wounded and survivors. Others make the boots and in the end most of us buy the gas to fill up our cars to go to work……Or, did you ride the train today?..... If so….you can cast the first stone. :-)

Tanner Phillips
MA-ICM
Berlin, Germany

GSider said...

The recent comments saying that no ethnographic analysis was done on the destruction (=war?) of Iraq before the ethical questions emerged, or that this devastation is better with anthro than without, are literally nauseating to anyone with a sense of history. Do you know that Nazi doctors performed very useful, but unfortunately fatal, experiments on Jewish, Rom, Communist, and Homosexual concentration camp inmates? A lot was learned from these experiments; unfortunately the subjects suffered intensely, but "medical science" was put to good and very productive use is helping good Germans achieve better health. Think of that when you fill my email box with your nauseating and self-serving fantasies, and when the anthros in bed with the US army (embedded? In my youth we use to call them whores) draw pay that with tax breaks are worth $300,00 anually.
Please go away quietly, so our constitution continues to mean something.
And please, to the AAA, stop publishing anonymous replies. If people are not willing or able to identify themselves with email names and addresses, they have lost the right to participate in what little remains of a democratic forum
Gerald Sider
Professor Emeritus, CUNY

Gerald said...

The recent comments saying that no ethnographic analysis was done on the destruction (=war?) of Iraq before the ethical questions emerged, or that this devastation is better with anthro than without, are literally nauseating to anyone with a sense of history. Do you know that Nazi doctors performed very useful, but unfortunately fatal, experiments on Jewish, Rom, Communist, and Homosexual concentration camp inmates? A lot was learned from these experiments; unfortunately the subjects suffered intensely, but "medical science" was put to good and very productive use is helping good Germans achieve better health. Think of that when you fill my email box with your nauseating and self-serving fantasies, and when the anthros in bed with the US army (embedded? In my youth we use to call them whores) draw pay that with tax breaks are worth $300,00 anually.
Please go away quietly, so our constitution continues to mean something.
And please, to the AAA, stop publishing anonymous replies. If people are not willing or able to identify themselves with email names and addresses, they have lost the right to participate in what little remains of a democratic forum
Gerald Sider.
Professor Emeritus, CUNY

tanner said...

Greetings to Gerald and everyone else,

Please actually read the posts if you are going to react so emotionally. I am not anonymous. My name and school affiliation are at the bottom of the post. If you had actually read it rather then reacting (wrongly) to a few things I said maybe you would not feel so nauseated…

Maybe you could also raise your argument above the “you are a Nazi” strategy which places our thoughts on the extreme edges of what should actually be a continuum. I am not your enemy. I am trying to figure this all out. So, with that said I will not ‘go away quietly’, but I will ask you to stop over-simplifying this situation...and have a little respect for someone who believes discussion can do more then just escalate conflicts…If we are deliberate it can fix problems. (And on a personal level, it might help me make up my mind….and career path…accordingly.)

Now, if I take your comments seriously…rather then the attacks on my character that they seem to be…I have to say that you have a point with the Nazi doctor example. However, it only applies if HTS anthropologists really are guilty of actions that go against AAA ethics. Since no ethnographic work, interviews or any “systematic study” of any kind has actually been performed to find this out, we basically are working with assumptions gained from past wars. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good starting point to raise concerns about HTS actions, but I don’t think it is enough to take the extreme stance our organization has taken. Yes, monsters existed in WWII that did evil things in the name of their profession. In fact, many of them were German anthropologists. However, do we really think that all anthropologists working with the Germans were evil at that time? Were all the doctors evil? I am sure they were not. I just don’t see how we can isolate ourselves so much in this case. There is too much diversity in thinking and research agendas within the AAA. There is also a plenty of substance and passion on both sides of this debate (as the 140+ posts before this show). For a professionals organization like ours to draw some imaginary line in the sand and say all anthropologists must not cross it makes us look like the fanatic far-left liberals many people see us as. Do we really have to be this political to do good? Whose definition of ‘good’ are we going by anyway? Maybe if the statement were more of a general caution/warning to practicioners of this sort of research. Or if it was postponed until actual research could be done into what the HTS teams are doing on the ground. As it is, this statement does what you have done Gerald, turn all those who think they can make a difference in the war zone into spies (and even Nazis!).

Related to this, I did not say that ethnographic research has not been done in Iraq in general. In fact, my comments come from the fact that anyone 'with a sense of history' is pretty clear on what has happened and is happening there. You don't need the news to tell you it is a horrible situation. I just believe the momentum of both this war machine (and US hegemony in general) is so great that professionals in all disciplines should not be shunned for taking part. Yes, their work can be used for harm. But, so can all of ours. If you can not prove that matters are made worse with their help…then this statement has no place. That is why I continue to press the one question that I need an answer to. What will Iraq look like without HTS teams? If someone can try to answer this question I would appreciate it. This is the deciding point for me. If anthropologists really do only contribute to (and not influence) the military mission then maybe I could support a statement like this. However, if their participation protects and contributes to the Iraqi culture and people in any way, then we have no business telling them not to do it. For me it boils down to the people. Can military anthropologists help them or not? Take the politics out of it (as much as possible) and let us answer that.

Can military anthropologists help the people of Iraq? Will not having anthropologists working with the military in Iraq harm the people and cultures there? Am I the only one that thinks these question need to be answered before we can collective shun military anthropology in Iraq?

If your answer is that I am simply naïve to think anthropologists can do good in these positions then I already have heard that plenty…answer the questions above and maybe you can show me why.

Tanner Phillips
MA-ICM
Berlin, Germany
tananaphillips@googlemail.com
http://militaryanthro.forumotion.com/index.htm

Anonymous said...

There comes a point in every heated political debate where, one supposes and regrettably, a losing argument is "bolstered" by the rhetorical Invidious Straw Man Comparison With The Third Reich. It is a childish tactic, and so counterproductive towards reasoned discourse that a person ought to be embarressed to make the claim.

Anonymous said...

"other numbers by the journal The Lancet, Iraqi deaths as a consequence of U.S. military action since the 2003 invasion now total anywhere between 600,000 and 1 million"

Actually, The Lancet makes no such claim. The Lancet made a statistical estimate based on a survey of 1849 households and found that (inclusive of 2003 invasion), there have been some 600,000 "excess" deaths. Of these, roughly 186,000 are attributed to Coalition forces. This number includes IAF combatants, "insurgents," and non-combatants.

At the same time, some 157,000 are attributed to "other" (which for the most part includes people killed in car bomb attacks on markets, employment lines, etc). The remainder are "unattributed" - which could be anyone -- AQiI, ethnic violence, and so forth. The Lancet's figures are as of June 2006.

See, for example:

http://www.thelancet.com/webfiles/images/journals/lancet/s0140673606694919.pdf

"this does not include the numbers of deaths as a result of the prior 10 year daily air strikes carried out over Iraq by the U.S. military and the UK's air power; this does not include casualties caused by a US led embargo against trade with Iraq during that same period."

All pre-war casualties incurred because of economic shortages incurred as a result of trade embargo are solely the responsibility of the Hussein regime. By all estimates more than sufficient food, medicine and funds were available to Iraqis -- provided that the Hussein regime would have distributed the material as needed. The logic of blaming the United States for losses incurred during Hussein's rule escapes me. The sanctions were a consequence of UN general resolutions.

"In addition, the control of information about the war, reinforced legislatively and by policies and practices of the White House, State Department, CIA, Congress et al."

In other words, the only credible source of information is WHOM exactly?

"....military/executive leaders have officially named as 'terrorists.'"

Excuse me. Was "Chemical Ali" a terrorist or not?

"In effect, the average citizen is being trained to not be concerned about what is already happening right now in Iraq (and Afghanistan) except as it might cement our assent to the ongoing planning and execution of the war and its implications."

Why would you make that claim and on what evidence would you base it? The "average" American citizen seems to be highly "engaged" on the subject of the Iraq occupation, if we are to trust national polls. CNN, for example, finds that some 68% of Americans oppose the Iraq war in general. 30% favor withdrawing some US forces. 39% favor withdrawing all US forces.

See: http://www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm

"the ability to stand up to the single remaining world superpower in its longest lasting war of its history."

It is a minor point, but the longest US war would probably be the Viet Nam war, given that we were militarily involved from 1959-1974. This of course excludes the Korean War which, technically speaking anyhow, is still on-going.

"The U.N. estimate of at least 600,000 deaths of Iraqi citizens as a result of our military invasion is roughly the total casualty count for our own civil war."

It's a reasonable comparison, although in fact military deaths during the War of the Rebellion approach 1.3 million, primarily owing to disease rather than battlefield casualties. Still, that there was a "civil war" in the US makes the comparison with the "civil war" in Iraq apt.

These casualty figures are, by the way, about three times as great (by rate) as the number of Iraqi civilians killed by the Hussein regime during the preceding 10 years, according to Human Rights Watch.

"The military agenda in Iraq and Afghanistan is, to use a tired term, a juggernaut."

It is not only "tired," it's inaccurate. In many ways, US target selection has been more precise and less prone to "collateral damage" than any war in history. If you want to see real carnage in occupied territories, you might consider Alice Chang's history on the Japanese occupation of Nanking, or consider German occupation policies almost anywhere in Europe and Russia from 1940-1945.

If the US Armed Forces were truly the out-of-control blunt object that you seem to think it is, rather than following our present course, the United States would not even bother with asking anthropologists to provide service in HTS. We'd go back to area bombing or whatever.

"If anything, anthropologists should be helping people see these facts and consequences, not contributing to their continued tally."

I suppose that depends on your point of view.

Anonymous said...

Is there no way to use anthropology to lessen suffering in armed conflict? I don't mean as a matter of strategy, such as identifying what the enemy values most and translating that into a target list. I mean as a matter of respecting the dignity of members of a civilian population, not attacking sacred places, avoiding insults and humiliation of individuals, and what not.

Ewen Allison
Attorney
243 34th Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20019
(202) 744-1786

Maximilian C. Forte said...

US military force in Iraq is much more comparable to a blunt object than to any of the PR nonsense about precision, the repetition of which proves Brian's point about mass mediated control. Any Iraqi doctor will tell you a very different story than the "surgical bombing" one, and most have been telling of what they witness, filmed and photographed by Western camera crews. You can of course choose to ignore this and return to your stars and stripes.

Here is one of the few exceptions to the normal media, and from someone who witnessed events on the ground, not a propagandist who uses "anonymous":
---
Even in the best of circumstances, Wright notes, artillery fire is imprecise, which leads him to wonder why reporters and antiwar groups concerned about collateral damage in war pay so little attention to it:

The beauty of aircraft, coupled with their high-tech destructive power, captures the imagination. From a news standpoint, jets flying through the sky make for much more dramatic footage than images of cannons parked in the mud, intermittently belching puffs of smoke.

But the fact is, the Marines rely much more on artillery bombardment than on aircraft dropping precision-guided munitions. During our thirty-six hours outside Nasiriyah they have already lobbed an estimated 2,000 rounds into the city. The impact of this shelling on its 400,000 residents must be devastating.

Wright also notes the use of shells that distribute cluster bomblets throughout civilian neighbourhoods. US force is not a blunt object, because blunt objects are more merciful than this.
---

Anthropologists whose claim it is to want to help people in Iraq or Aghanistan (the most dubious of all their claims) must answer at least five questions:

(1) As an anthropologist, how did you gain entry? By negotiating access and establishing rapport with locals, or by simply presuming that you have a right to be there because your military is there and whatever locals want is irrelevant? "Doing no harm" is just one of the ethical issues, the other has to do with consent--so explain how consent is obtained in a war zone, as a member of an occupying force, from those whose lives are being run by the occupier. By the way, for those who have not noticed it yet, there has been no answer to this by the HTS supporters and propagandists.

(2) If it is all about helping the locals, then why do you choose to "embed" yourself with combatants? How is this the most logical, reasonable, self-evident option? Has this suddenly become a world without NGOs? Have you consulted local communities in advance to determine which organization would be best for you to join in supporting those communities? And why is that whenever--and this is without exception now--anyone raises the issue of HTS salaries which, depending on what is included, can range from a low of $100,000 to $400,000, you choose to go silent and not address this? Might this salary be the greater of the attractions in making your choice?

(3) When you decide to embed yourself with the US military, you are taking a side in the war. Why do you find this so difficult to accept? Indeed, there has been quite a mass of fake dilemmas on this blog, by individuals who claim to want to get their heads around the issue, who pretend to be confused and wanting to learn more, only to suddenly turn around and make some astoundingly "certain" assertions.

(4) If HTS is not a propaganda stunt, then why has the military been so keen to hire just about anyone who brushed against an anthropology course, no PhDs as is advertised as a requirement, and no knowledge of Arabic?

(5) So you're an anthropologist going to Iraq. Then, as an anthropologist, you should have no problem in addressing the following: (a) what anthropological theories are you using in your research in Iraq? (b) for whom are you writing reports? (c) what research methods will be using? (d) which community will you be living with? (e) what are your preliminary analytical orientations? (f) what is your prior knowledge of Iraq from an anthropological standpoint? Have you been there before? Do you have any anthropological knowledge of the region to start with?

I accused one "anonymous" of not being an anthropologist. What was evident from the posts, like the preceding one, was the complete absence of any reference to anything from an anthropological background. That person is a political hack intruding in disciplinary discussions that he/she little understands. All other HTS supporters from McFate and Griffin, down to those who have posted here have done so largely without the need for any anonymity.

However, all of the media reports on anthropology and counterinsurgency have done their damage already. Someone spoke of taking legal action against the AAA. The AAA should instead consider legal action against those who have done such great new damage that affects all of us. In my 20 years of knowing Trinidad, *not once* has there been a newspaper article about anthropology...until recently, with a long piece on HTS, counterinsurgency, spying, and so forth. Never before has an anonymous caller from Trinidad called to ask me, a Canadian, what branch of US intelligence I work for in Trinidad.

In the end, this is a matter that should be tackled worldwide, by the World Council for Anthropological Associations. I fully support ALL of Prof. Sider's recommendations so far, and would add that we need far better control and review over what is accepted by anthropological associations as anthropological work. IRBs are just one element, we need something that is more global and encompassing, and IRBs should not approve projects that have not been approved by, let's say, a WCAA commission. Anything without any IRB or association profile should be prevented from calling itself professional anthropological research.

And since others are advertising their sites, I will add some balance:

http://tinyurl.com/2fra6h

http://tinyurl.com/ypkcjw

Maximilian C. Forte said...

By the way, the source for the extract of Evan Wright's Generation Kill is in the first of the two URLs I provided above. The polls and legislative acts that have repeatedly indicated Iraqis' rejection of the presence of US forces, calling for their immediate removal, are covered in the second URL.

tanner said...

So with all the put-downs, suspicion and low-blows aside, Maximilian brings up some good points.

1. Consent…It is hard to say HTS anthropologists can separate themselves from the coercive position of being attached to the military—even if they want to. They do not carry guns, but the uniforms say it all. However, if it is the difference between having a general with a military degree from West Point deciding what happens to your family and an anthropologist with (in the worst case) even a minute understanding about cultural sensitivity, I would pick the latter. Unfortunately, consent on the battlefield is often the lesser of two evils and I think the people in the Iraq often have very few choices. One extreme group is pushing them to sacrifice their lives for their cause. Another occupying force is pushing them to support ‘puppet’ governments. And all the while they have no food, housing and their loved ones are dying from the violence perpetrated by all sides. You probably consent to a lot of things along the way just to survive. I believe the question is not if anthropologists can get proper consent…but rather or not the people that consent can get proper treatment. I would say they will definitely not be respected (fully) by the soldiers on either side of this conflict…but…an anthropologist…maybe…???

2. Salary…Yep, I agree. Some of these HTS folks are making a good pay check. That does make you wonder where their hearts are. However, this is not enough not enough to throw out their work, nor to call them unethical and ‘whores’. Only their work can speak to their ethics. Many of you make good pay checks doing and teaching what you think is right…others who disagree with you politics might call you names as well. This money thing only works if aspects of ethical misconduct or inefficacy can be shown. Lets deal with that first. On the other hand, if it is actually shown (with real research and not assumptions) that HTS actions save lives and improve the ability for Iraqis to enjoy their culture, then the money is actually something they might deserve—for risking their lives every day to try to make a horrible situation better.

As far as working for NGOs instead. I agree. That is an option for helping the people of Iraq. I would add though that the military works with many of those same NGOs and the help the Iraqi people receive is coordinated between all these parties together. Why then are HTS anthropologists vilified when the NGOs you mention are not?

3. Supporting the military is taking a side. You are right. Yet, if that support is tailored toward improving military/civilian interaction and if you are using anthropology to help protect and encourage human life and diversity—not to mention cultural heritage and property—then it becomes more complicated then simple white and black. This should not become the BUSH dilemma that you are either for us or against us. This is life in the midst of war and it is complicated. Anthropology is needed to protect people and places from the brutal (and yes I agree often very dull) actions of the war machine. If you are going to over-simplify this to taking sides, then that means you are also taking a side. You are opposing all work that is done to try to make the military object less dull. You are basically sanctioning the military to act in ways that would continue the thoughtless destruction you started your last post with. Even in the worst case, if all HTS folks are really unethical whores who are using their knowledge to help military generals target and destroy people—rather then protect and learn from them—then those anthropologists are still making the military object sharper. That may sound horrible, but at this point in my life it sounds betters then the ‘bull in the china shop’ approach that war has shown us so far…

Do anthropologists really want to form an ideological camp that tells the whole world what is right and what is wrong? This extreme stance seems to push us in that direction.

I will get to the rest of your post later Maximilian…

…by the way, the length of this blog is starting to bury many important points that people have made. I still invite us to go to the forum that was set up to organize this debate better.

http://militaryanthro.forumotion.com/index.htm

…and as far as your decision to ‘advertise’ a blog that only contains one side of this debate in hopes of ‘balancing’ my invitation to continue the forum that liquid-thalweg started…that seems to be a good example of your entire approach to this debate. I offer a forum that would allow us to more thoroughly enter into dialogue…You counter that with a one-sided perspective that ‘others’ everything around it.

Maximilian, if you are one of those people that ‘knows’ they are right then please let me know now. I don’t enjoy wasting my time with people with ideological chips on their shoulders who only want to convert people to their cause. I think this is an important issue that serious people should talk about. I don’t have my mind fully made up about it. I used to be a soldier. I have degree in anthropology. Now I am finishing a degree in conflict management. This debate is helping me determine my next step in life.

For what it is worth, I am not commenting so much here because I enjoy it. My wife and I just had a baby. I am working full-time, doing research and writing my MA thesis. Like all of you, my time is valuable. However, I think this issue is far more complicated then a simple yes or no merits and I think the AAA has rushed to decision on this statement. I am not arguing for the sake of argument nor am I playing ‘devil’s advocate’.

All the best to you Maximilian and to everyone else too.

Tanner Phillips
MA-ICM
Berlin, Germany
tananaphillips@googlemail.com

Maximilian C. Forte said...

1. Please list the NGOs that are serving the US military in Iraq.

2. Evading the question of consent, as you did, means that you agree that the work of HTS anthropologists does not follow the AAA's ethical guidelines, which confirms the validity of the statement of the Executive Board, whose statement is the focus of this blog. Again, that is a major concession, and it shows that the EB did not rush to judgment, as you wrongly and unjustifiably claim.

3. Many of us receive good pay cheques? Dream on.

4. You seem to have an issue with anyone who takes a stand that does not fall in line with your own. The dishonesty of the argument is that you claim neutrality. I pity neutrality.

5. You can go to Iraq, in fact, please do. But you do not have the right to do so in the name of all of us and to take our discipline and our reputations down with you. That is arrogant and self-serving.

Finally, yes, you are wasting your time here.

tanner said...

1. Here is an article that mentions how basically all
major American NGOs have been forced to work with the military.

http://peacecorpsonline.org/messages/messages/2629/2013477.html

Here is one that comments on the situation:

http://www.alertnet.org/thefacts/reliefresources/minearview.htm

2.Read this again...I did not avoid the question of consent. You however continuously avoid commenting on what I do say.

4. There is a big difference between neutrality and indecision. I never claimed neutrality. In fact, if you actually read what I type here I have made it pretty clear that I oppose this statement. However, I am not sure about the direct issue of HTS teams in Iraq.

5. Looks like you have not read the report issued by the AAA since making the statement….http://www.aaanet.org/PM_112807.htm

The only people being arrogant and self-serving are those that make this issue white/black, good/evil, their way/the highway…The AAA and myself included think it is far more complicated then that. Please read the following and please consider that your way may not be the RIGHT way…ethnocentric anthropology is not any better then military anthropology…probably worse in the long wrong…It is time to take all those skills you have acquired over the years and apply them to yourself…a little self-reflexivity never hurt anyone…especially when it comes to condemning others….

“We have found no single model of “engagement,” so issuing a blanket condemnation or affirmation of anthropologists working in national security makes little sense. Moreover, this very formulation – engagement vs. non-engagement – is itself problematic because it suggests that there is only one choice to be made in a monolithic military, intelligence, and security environment. With this in mind, we lay out procedural recommendations for the AAA, as well as suggest that the AAA provide ethical and pragmatic advice to individual anthropologists contemplating research or employment in an area that falls under the broad MIS banner. We recognize both the opportunities and perils that accompany engagement. On the one hand, the global situation calls for engagement. Since the Cold War, localized conflicts pitting culturally divided groups have increased the need for cultural knowledge and awareness of dynamic global forces. Anthropologists can contribute to this need and shape kinds of engagement and directions of policy; alternatively they can abstain from involvement and condemn the involvement of others. However, the discussions of the Commission suggest that a neutral position regarding engagement with public and/or private security institutions may be non-existent in many situations. Engagement brings risks of contributing to institutions with policies and practices one may oppose, but avoiding engagement in every case precludes one from taking advantage of opportunities to enhance cultural understanding and even, in some cases, uphold ethical commitments. There is nothing inherently unethical in the decision to apply one's skills in these areas. Instead, the challenge for all anthropologists is finding ways to work in or with these institutions, seeking ways to study, document, and write transparently and honestly to an anthropological audience about them, in a way that honors the discipline's ethical commitments.”

tanner said...

Maximilian, I have noticed plenty of direct and INDIRECT insults coming from everyone here—including myself. I will try very hard to avoid them in the future. I hope you will too. Tanner

Brian D-L said...

This discussion seems to continue to be dragged back to the false dilemma, that if anthroplogists don't learn to accept the roles of serving as direct contributors to military intelligence and strategy (albeit in a way that somehow also helps the military to be less indiscriminantly destructive) we are simply living in ivory towers, dreaming of utopia, and abandoning the innocent people of the countries the military has occupied.

Tanner, you are correct in that the AAA board statement presents this as a complex set of issues, and does not offer a blanket rejection of any and all anthropological work in relation to the military (of any state). But in your embracing of this nuance you seem to gloss over selectively what they do reject, and what they have tried carefully to specifiy as unacceptable. It is the same thing that you seem to gloss over in your sharing of the two references above to the 2003 websites: these articles and references refer to a more general dilemma recognized by US based NGO's in the early period of the war, as they weighed the impact of having to work under the restrictions and limits of possible US military authority, as a result of receiving U.S. support for their humanitarian work (which certainly is concern enough); they were not even contemplating whether it was their role to work in military intelligence gathering, developing of counter-insurgency manuals, helping to refine the 'killchain' etc.

And if anthropologists can not imagine how they might serve people in war ravaged places apart from serving in such warmaking capacities, it might in fact be quite helpful to go to those very NGO's to see what the are doing, and how they do it with as much transparency--and yes, even as much neutrality--as possible. For example:
http://www.oxfam.org.uk/resources/policy/conflict_disasters/downloads/bp105_iraq.pdf

There are many professionals in Iraq and Afghanistan, 'getting their hands dirty,' adhering to professional standards and principles, risking their lives, promoting cross-cultural understanding, helping the innocent victims, attempting to bring the reality of the situation to a wider public awareness, without doing so as direct servants to military intelligence and military action. And it is in fact how they maintain their ability to continue to contribute as they do.

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Quinebaug Valley Community College

tanner said...

Yes Brian, well said. Thank you for providing a counter-argument without having to insult me in the process. I have no time now to respond, but I will have access again to the internet in a week. Until then, all the best and happy holidays!

Tanner

Maximilian C. Forte said...

"The reason we all like to think so well of others is that we are all afraid for ourselves. The basis of optimism is sheer terror."--Oscar Wilde

A prelude to:
http://tinyurl.com/25k6az

Brian D-L said...

A little more context,

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4655196.stm

tanner said...

Yes Brian, you are right. I did gloss over much in dealing with the questions of NGOs in Iraq and the AAA stance on this issue of anthropologists helping the military. I did so because that is not what I have been dealing with in any of my posts. I was simply adding nuance to what seems to be becoming a good vs. evil debate. (One in which the debate itself becomes more important then the topic at hand). I was including the information in my last post as a response to those who would polarize this issue into a fictitious ‘white/black’ scenario that is then juxtaposed on any and all actions the ‘Evil American Empire’ performs world-wide.

However, as you have mentioned, NGOs and military anthropology in general are complicated debates in and of themselves. I will not challenge that. I agree that the former does provide an outlet for people who want to help in Iraq without supporting the military and that the latter does still culminate in the fact that the AAA has made this statement condemning anthropologists working with the military in Iraq….So with that said…back to the topic at hand….

My comments (which for the most part you and other’s have glossed over completely) have been intended to question the necessity of outright condemnation of anthropologists helping the military in Iraq. I have read plenty of name-calling and unrelated arguments in this blog, but no real substance that convinces me that baring anthropologists from this service will do more good then actually letting them help make the military less of a blunt instrument.

Who here can give some valid reasons why not having anthropologist in the military in Iraq is better then having them there? That is point of this statement by the AAA and the point of this debate. It seems to me that we are still prosecuting people without sufficient evidence. That is what much of the debate here has been about, the validity of the evidence for or against their ‘guilt’. However, we are not discussing what is to me more important--rather or not their work is productive. Sure it is important to find out if these anthropologists or really ‘guilty’ of any practices that would then make this statement by the AAA valid. However, until real research is done into what is actually happening there all we can do is bicker about assumptions and emotions…not the reality on the ground.

So, please someone respond to the essence of all my posts so far…Why is it better that anthropologist do not help the military in Iraq. Why is vilifying those anthropologists that choose to help the military better then allowing anthropological knowledge into military policy making?

Anonymous said...

@ Tanner -

I'm very skeptical of the claim
that most NGOs are any more of a positive influence on the world than most militaries, especially when you consider that anthros in NGOs are as agenda-oriented, likely to find themselves in challenging ethical circusmtances, as anyone involved in HTS. It's not that I particularly recommend militaries, but the underlying assumption here seems to be that anthros not affiliated with govts are more given to good conduct of any kind. I doubt it, given the obvious political agenda that has overridden any semblance of objectivity among the NGO connected anthros in the AAA and on this blog.

Regards, Anyonymous.

tanner said...

Yes, I agree. NGOs can be just as destructive as the military, and anthropologists in both can foster unethical agendas and practices.

From the nature of many arguments here, I would also add that many anthropologists themselves seem to be somewhat militant—no matter what they do. I guess that just goes with the territory though. After all, we are only human, even as we tramp about studying humanity.

Red River said...

Its refreshing to see people cling to their Ethics while others are burying their blown-up kids.

Here is a chance for trained, humane professionals to make a real difference on many levels while gathering information about the real world and the professional governing body acts like a schoolyard bully taking the ball home before any kids can play with it.

My Command Sergeant Major was nicknamed "The Humanitarian" while our Colonel was called "The Barbarian." The Humanitarian had a BA in Anthropology. Imagine that.

tanner said...

The problem here is that so many people think you have to somehow connect your own personal crusades against the war in Iraq with the people working and living there. This is not about the war. This is about the people. All the complicated theory about power and hegemony and empire-building is not supposed to over-shadow very real and immediate humanitarian emergencies. Nor is it meant to isolate one organization (the US military) and assign it all the blame of failed foreign policies. The military is a tool and if want it to be a sharp tool we had better allow those people who have the ability and courage to serve in harms way the proffesional courtesy of helping make that happen.

Anthroplogists in the military do not help the military win wars. They help the military lesson the impact of their actions on innocent people, and in this case they help the military think less like a military as it tries to help the Iraqi government clean up the mess we made.

Brian D-L said...

In a comment related to an earlier phase of US military operations in the same region of Iran and Iraq in the mid 1970's, Henry Kissinger dismissed concerns about the eventual US abandonment of the Kurds in northern Iraq with the statement: "Covert actions shouldn't be confused with missionary work." While more recently a blog posting here quotes a military commander on the ground, Lieutenant Colonel Gian P Gentile who comments: “Dear Dr. Griffin: Don’t fool yourself. These Human Terrain Teams whether they want to acknowledge it or not, in a generalized and subtle way, do at some point contribute to the collective knowledge of a commander which allows him to target and kill the enemy in the Civil War in Iraq” (http://marcusgriffin.com/blog/2007/10/why_is_the_use_of_anthropology.html#comments 10/17/07).

The reality is, however personally ethical any anthropologist might be (...whatever that might mean) she/he is being drawn into a systemic effort to win a war against another people of the world, and is doing so through a profession that says to those people at the same time: "my profession relies on the respect and understanding of all peoples and cultures, and depends on their trust wherever we go. Trust me! Trust us." Not only is there a fundamental contradiction here then between covert intelligence gathering and the fundamental trust on which anthropology relies, but there is also then either a willful or naive ignorance of the 'realpolitik' of the situation in which the utilitarian exegencies of military strategy subsume any professional anthropological practice.

The cynicism in Kissinger's observation, or at least the word of caution in the quote from the commander on the ground, should serve as reminders to the fundmental contradiction between the practice of our discipline, and its use as one of the instruments of military operations.

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Quinebaug Valley Community College

Anonymous said...

I'm troubled by a few things:

1. I've been against this war since the drums started beating.

2. Many things have happened to the people in Iraq and Afghanistan that would have never happened had there been even a baby graduate anthropology student available to consult with. For example, military men breaking into houses in the dark of night and not letting the women cover themselves before being dragged outside. A trivial example, perhaps, but the point is there.

3. Has anyone asked the peoples of the area the HTT are involved in if they think having an anthropologist around is making their lives better?

It's very easy for us to sit in our comfy offices and debate the ethics of the HTT. I wonder what the people who are living this situation think? They seem to have no voice here.

It's a daily reality for them that they are occupied by these culturally different people - people who have violated many of their cultural norms and created many many cultural problems. Are the anthropologists helping to make their daily interactions with the military better, in that the cultural interactions are more culturally appropriate?

We can talk about the "moral ethics" of this all day but I would like to hear the voice of those who are living with this. They need to be heard in this discussion because it's their lives, not ours, that are at the heart of this situation. For us, it's an academic topic to discuss; for them, it's worth their lives.

Sharon Burton

tanner said...

Sharon, thanks for your comments. Yours are questions I have put to the folks here a number of times. Good luck actually getting a response. I am still waiting myself…

Many people are mad about the war and willing to work hard to change things for the better. I am one of them. The problem is that many people on this blog don’t seem to have the for-sight to imagine that sometimes that means working on the inside—even for the military.

Until someone can actually show that life is better for everyone involved in Iraq without Anthropologists, then all this statement by the AAA does is isolate our profession and alienate many good people who choose professions that are somehow politically and professionally against the AAA board’s moral prerogatives—even if they are actually doing work that promotes tolerance and makes life better for many people.

The question is not about anthropologists supporting hegemony. We all do that in many different ways every day. So far from what I see here, it is about convicting fellow professionals of misdeeds without evidence. Worse, it is about withholding the positive effect our discipline can have on people…simply because some of our nation’s politicians are assholes.

The truth is that I came into this discussion looking for some good arguments to convince myself that the sort of work the HTS anthropologists are doing is vile and wrong. I honestly wanted to find some good reasons this statement should be made. I have heard plenty of good support against the War in Iraq, American hegemony, other jobs anthropologists could be good at and so on….but as for support this statement…

I am still looking.

If we had made a statement cautioning professionals about the risks of doing this sort of work then I would not even care. With that, people would still have the freedom to practice anthropology in a variety of settings. Plus, those who had the fortitude to do it in a military setting would have good guidelines. (Plus, we would have a concrete reason to prosecute misdeeds later). However, the sort of blanket condemnatory action we have now sets a precedence that really could have no end.

What comes next? Are we the judges of what books anthropologist should read now too? Is there going to be a special toothpaste that works best for anthropologists in the field? Do we all have to be registered democrats? (We should be but that is beside the point:-)

Tanner

Anonymous said...

My husband is a journalist, typically doing advocacy journalism. One of the conversations in his field is that the information he writes about a group or individual could be used against that group or individual. But that somewhere in there is "truth" and that it matters.

I don't have answers here, I just have thoughts. One of these thoughts is that information can be used for good things and for bad things. That does not necessarily make information good or bad, but it potentially makes the use of that information good or bad. Because information can be used for bad, do we not mention that information? Do we not participate in the collection of it? If so, then how far do we go with that? Who decides what information is bad? Or good?

The military is potentially going to use the information the anthropologists collect for bad things. But right now, they seem to be using it for good things. These good things include making these people's lives slighly easier - and thus for them, perhaps less deadly. This is not a small impact, not if it means your husband didn't get killed because the military better understood the cultural why (how?) of what he did. So do we as a profession tell this woman that it's better her husband be shot (and she left widowed in a culture that is not always helpful to widows) than our profession help collect information that may be later used in a bad way?

But then. If the military later uses this information in a bad way, how do we tell that same woman that we helped collect the information that allowed our team to destroy her village and her extended family? That when we collected it, it helped but now it didn't help. Do we tell her "Wow, we're really sorry about that. Good luck."?

I don't know the answer to that.

But I lean towards what we seem to know. Today, people's lives may be slightly better with the anthropologist on the ground than without. Or at least, we seem to know that until the people themselves can tell us what they think.

This is very messy without the voices of those impacted the most in the conversation. As is often the case in our field, we seem to want to make decisions for these people without hearing their voice. They can tell us what they need and want, if we let them.

And having told us, do we tell them that they are wrong, that something else is better for them? Because we have this "ethics" statement that guides our culture (anthropology) and we've decided that our culture matters more to us than theirs? That we've decided for them what information is good and what's bad?

I don't have answers here, as I said, I have questions. But as a product manager with a strong (ABD) cultural anthropology background, I'm not up on the lastest AAA decisions about other people. I know in my software culture, we ask the natives what they want and then listen to them when they tell us. We do the ethnography because it makes our products better by letting the natives decide what they need and then giving them that. At least, if we want to build a sucessful product.

Sharon Burton
Product Manager/Product Evangelist
(company unmentioned to allow my employer privacy)

Brian D-L said...

Are anthropologists lacking significant places where they can contribute to the betterment of the world around them? Do anthropologists among us perceive such a shortage of legitimate contexts in which to apply the ethics-informed principles and practices of our discipline that they feel compelled to turn the discipline into a tool of war-making however culturally sensitive such war-making purportedly might be? Are there anthropologists in our profession who are afraid of becoming detached, armchair ethicists rather than contributing through applied practice to fundamental humanitarian needs?

If in paying attention to basic professional principles we recognize certain applications of anthropological research are counter to fundamental values of what we do and profoundly contradictory to the basic human trust on which our professional integrity lies, we need not look far to find legitimate ways to “get our hands dirty” in legitimate, applied contexts. We need look no further than the very places where some anthropologists seem to have difficulty acknowledging fundamentals of professional integrity and ethics in relation to war and its concomitant suffering.

By UNHCR estimates, for example, there are 2.2 million citizens of Iraq who are displaced within their own country, and another 2 million who have sought refugee outside of Iraq. In addition, since the US began its war on Iraq, there have been an estimated 600,000 casualties among Iraqis, with great difficulty in estimating how many people have been maimed, widowed or orphaned; in Baghdad alone there may be over five thousand orphaned children, with thousands (if not tens of thousands) throughout the rest of the country. But who knows for sure?

As of January 2008 there have been nearly 4000 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq since the first 2003 invasion, and nearly 29,000 wounded—remember all those news report images of soldiers’ funerals, and the many parades to celebrate those returning with their permanent war-scars? (I don’t either, because there haven’t been, because of a deliberate, detailed, intensive effort to keep the truth of the war from our cultural/social consciousness.)

For at least the ten years prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. and Britain flew daily bombing raids over the central regions of Iraq—the longest air war the US has ever fought in its history-- and enforced an economic embargo against the whole country—another decade of warfare that was surgically excised from public consciousness even as it was being carried out; the results of this decade-long pre-invasion war are all but lost to us just as the current stories of returning dead and wounded are masterfully obliterated from our view by deliberate strategies of those whose war is being fought by “our” soldiers.

Rounding out the casualties are the estimated 200,000 homeless in the U.S. who are specifically “our troops” we were suppose to support when they headed over to war (wherever “we” sent them), but now are the invisible casualties living under bridges, in refrigerator boxes, in abandoned buildings back home, now that they are no longer fit for another round of voluntary or involuntary “remobilization.”

It is illegitimate, if not deliberately disingenuous, to continue to assert that the discipline’s formal opposition to participation in covert military operations as carefully stated in the AAA Board’s statement is somehow an irresponsible abandonment of ‘doing good’ with anthropology. It is further a spurious assertion to insinuate that those who seek to maintain a modicum of professional ethics for the discipline necessarily, as a result, must fall into the category of ivory-tower idealists who keep their hands clean in the name of abstract principles. There certainly are innumerable places for anthropologists to contribute to the lives of people throughout the world—if that is what the anthropologists are looking for—without contorting the principles and methods of the discipline into covert tools for culturally sensitive war-making.

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Quinebaug Valley Community College

Tanner said...

Brian, you make some good points, but along the way you miss our point.

What I and others have been saying all along is not that this statement is a generic impediment to doing good with anthropology. Rather, that it seems that anthropology can (and probably is) doing good assisting the military in Iraq. This statement serves to pull the rug out from under a program that has to the potential to change how war is waged. For extreme pacifists, that might seem counter-productive. However, to many of us it is a necessary part of life. We are not going to magically live in a world where tragedies like the War in Iraq do not happen. However, we might be able to live in a world where anthropology can lesson the effects of their reach.

I do not think you are a disillusioned ‘ivory tower’ idealist. I agree with almost everything you say actually. However, I also do not think all HTS anthropologists are military stooges doing covert ops. I think when real research is done into this matter then we will see that the military is a far gentler monster with anthropologists and other professionals helping to tame it (even just a bit).

Now, with that said. Everything you have said about Iraq and other alternatives to military service for anthropologists is spot on. However, real change can only come about if all the disparate parts are working together in their respective places—HTS, NGOs, applied anthropologists, researchers, bloggers ;-), lecturers and so on.

The question should not be where you do anthropology but how you do anthropology. If certain personalities are better placed in a military environment then they should be permitted to remain there without undue pressure from political forces within their profession. Of course, this remains true only until it can be proven that ethical misdeeds are occurring, something we can not do unless we actually talk to the people in Iraq. If you and others are so very ready to convict this practice then you need to go there and make sure it is happening as you say—especially if you wish to avoid the ‘arm-chair’, ‘ivory-tower’, ‘idealist’ labels you so often defend yourself from.

And oh yes, I live in Europe. Unlike what you say about the media hiding the war from you in the States, I see the real cost of the War in Iraq every day. Our media here actually shows the pictures. Perhaps this helps me to remember that the War is not about politics to the people on the ground—civilians and soldiers alike. It is about day to day survival and proper treatment. Tolerance and cultural sensitivity can be the difference between life and death for everybody involved there. In my opinion, there is no better place for people who think anthropologically. If all soldiers were anthropologists there would be very few wars. There would be more commanders speaking up against Iraq right now and there would be fewer deaths.

I know when I was a soldier I trained my men to honor the Genevea Convention word for word, no matter what. It was important to me, even though those we would fight probably would not do the same (statistically). I was not an anthropologist at the time, and I would never be a soldier again. However, that sort of thinking is why I became an anthropologist, because there is a better and worse way to treat other humans and anthropology is the way we find that out.

Tanner Phillips
MA-ICM
Berlin, Germany

tanner said...

Covert Ops?

For those of you who think the AAA is right to make this statement because HTS anthropologists are basically ‘spies’ providing intel to win the war. That job is already taken. The military has long had people doing this. (Do you think we are the only ones that study social science theory/research?)

There are many jobs that do this (special forces, delta, psy-ops). However, one of the jobs you are thinking of (the so-called ‘covert ops’ you all keep mentioning) is Civil Affairs Officer:

http://www.goarmy.com/RotcViewJob.do?id=302

HTS anthropologists might do work that gets used to further the military mission. (But so might you.) However, they are not ‘covert ops’. They are something different. The military already has people in place to gather info about the ‘enemy’. HTS anthropologists are there to insure innocent Iraqis do not suffer. Is this a ploy by the military to improve their image? Probably. Does that matter? No.

Anonymous said...

I re-read my comments and it could be construed as tho I was bashing "Ivory Tower" people. I'm sorry. That was not my intention and I did not mean any bashing against academics.

Again, I don't have answers, I have questions. I don't even have an agenda, except to wonder what the Iraqis themselves think of this.

Sharon Burton
Product Manager/Product Evangelist

frank said...

Sharon, I read what you posted and what Tanner posted and what Brian posted and I do not think you are bashing or anything like that. I think some of the people here do, but not you. This is a spot where we can all get together and talk about this. Your comments are welcome like anybody elses.

Frank

Anonymous said...

Why have many you try make this about Iraq war and no people in Iraq and army people? You think it makes it better to boycott this war? Maybe you dont think of the people that lving here?

tanner said...

Since Max and Brian—by avoiding the majority of my points and questions (Brian), debating the debate and not the issues (Max) and overall choosing to ignore basically everything that I have said (Brian, Max, anyone else that would/could/should engage with me)—I will take the advice so brutally dulled out earlier by Gerald and “go away quietly”.

I have to say I started this debate excited about discussing what I feel is an important issue with intelligent people—testing my own views against others to see if a clearer picture could come out of this issue for me. However, as many have told me in the past, but I stubbornly denied, it seems anthropologists are yet again the least anthropological people around—at least when it comes to this issue. My foray into the AAA online community certainly leaves a lot to be desired.

At least I have come to one conclusion, I am embarrassed and saddened by any of you who actually think our profession should be outright banned from the military in Iraq—one of the many places it could do some long-term good. Without providing at least some glimpse of a more positive alternative, all you have done is guarantee that the callous stupidity that got us into the war in the first place is continued unchecked until the last day we are in Iraq—whenever that will be (if ever). Instead of living in the world the people in Iraq have to live in today—with military people affecting their lives daily. You are shutting the door on the one thing that could help make that relationship less harsh.

There is no doubt we should be out or Iraq and that the Iraqis want us out. However, shouldn’t we work to make the time we are there less hostile?

Anyway, thank you for everyone that has posted and replied to my posts. It was not the experience I had hoped to have; one were ideas bring people together rather then force them apart. However, it seems that is the essence of our animal brains love to reduce everything to—the opposite ends of a spectrum.

Yet, tomorrow we will learn that no one was ‘right’ and we should have seen things on a continuum instead…

Tanner Phillips
Alice Salomon University of Applied Science
Berlin, Germany

Anonymous said...

@Tanner -

"However, as many have told me in the past, but I stubbornly denied, it seems anthropologists are yet again the least anthropological people"

The problem is that AAA has metamorphosed (or possibly metatstasized) from an interest group dedicated to the rational analysis of collective human behavior dedicated to the principal that real understanding demands a need for finding out about "deep structures" (of the societal and ideological values kind) to a political advocacy organization. What you have seen in this blog is a re-enactment of fundamental divergences of opinion among anthropologists as to what Anthropology (in the largest sense) "Really Ought To Do." Several Departments have simply fissioned along this (this phrase does not capture the complete sense but certainly captures part of it), "Pragmatist" vs "Idealist" fault line. And one of the symptoms is declining membership in the AAA among those of the rational-analysis/pragmatist bent (archaeologists, paleontologists, primatologists, behavioral ecologists, and certain arenas of applied, biological and medical anthropology).

So don't feel too bad. And yes, you are correct that there are some people with whom rational debate is rebuffed by overt use of straw man arguments, egregious logical fallacies, and outright character attacks (including of the rather arrogant "You must not be a professional anhtropologist because you do not agree with me" form offered by some in this blog).

It is sufficient simply to note that many professional anthropologists don't subscribe to the position taken by your, errrm, rhetorical "OpFor" in this blog, and that the AAA's political stances have, over the years, become increasingly less representative of the profession as a whole.

Brian D-L said...

To this newest ‘anonymous’ poster who is writing in defense of “Tanner,” first please note that many of us here who have been making clear arguments against the turning of “rational analysis of collective human behavior” (anthropology) into military intelligence work, have used our actual names in standing behind our contributions to the discussion. Further, a number of us have been clear about identifying the anthropological principles (especially of the fundamental integrity we rely on in studying the intimate details of other people’s cultures) on which is based our opposition to such militarization of our profession. It is an easy swipe from the shadows of anonymity to dismiss professional principles in broad-brush terms as “political advocacy,” “logical fallacy,” “character attacks,” etc. It is also not the quality of debate that should be reflective of the academic and intellectual standards we ostensibly seek to foster through our very discipline.

The facts are plain here, that some anthropologists in our discipline want to be employed by the U.S. military in the development of culturally-sensitive counter-insurgency (translated, they want to go among people of other cultures, study their cultural ways, and then assist to inform military operations so that they can be carried out in more culturally sensitive ways). This puts not only these practitioners but any of their colleagues anywhere else in the world now under deep suspicion anytime, anywhere.

Unlike, say, ‘embedded journalists,’ who aim to use the cover of military operations as the base for their attempted, objective reporting—with no intention to assist the improvement of military operations—these so-called embedded-anthropologists are not simply studying others out of a respect or concern for their culture and their society. Instead they are looking to gain useful information at the very least to help the military not do so much damage, and to a greater extent to assist the military to become victorious, very likely at times against some of the same people the anthropologists are studying (but in a ‘culturally sensitive way.’)

It is hardly political in the ideological sense (pro-US, anti-US, pro-Bush, anti-Bush, pro-Imperialism, anti-Imperialism etc.) to point out the sheer absurdity of this twisted use of a discipline founded on principles of respect for all cultures, development of cross-cultural rapport and respect, and the development of fundamental trust in the process.

As I have suggested in previous posts, we have other very principled and practical models around us, of courageous and engaged professionals who put themselves right in the midst of some of the worst situations in the world—in the case of journalists, to bring back news to the rest of the world about the conditions of people in such places, and in the case of relief workers, to give direct aid to those in the midst of danger and suffering. Both of these models alone manage to carry out their human-centered professions while maintaining the integrity of professional principles of neutrality, protection of informants/sources, and practical, risky commitment.

On the other hand, those who continue to assert that anthropologists can engage as counter-insurgency support for military operations and still live up to the principles of our profession, are either very cynical about such principles, or naïve to the realpolitik of the military project that seeks to subsume and utilize their skills and commitment. Once again I am reminded of the comment from Henry Kissinger during a much earlier phase of US operations in the same part of the world, when he noted cynically about the plight of the Kurds, that “foreign policy shouldn’t be confused with missionary work.”

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Anthropology/Sociology
Quinebaug Valley Community College
Danielson, CT

Anonymous said...

Brian, anthropology 'shouldn't be confussed with missonary work' either.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the military have journalists too Brian?

Anonymous said...

"To this newest ‘anonymous’ poster:"

Actually, one of the longstanding anonymous posters on this blog.

"first please note that many of us ... have used our actual names in standing behind our contributions to the discussion."

Non-sequitur. The use of anonymity has no bearing on the merits of the argument. It has been common in political dissent, especially when one is writing in defense of what seems at face value to be an unpopular opinion, to write under anonymity. I could at any time have adopted a "pen name" and you would have simply never raised the issue. Therefore, it would seem both appropriate and logical if you would drop the concern over anonymity. Especially as under tenure and other rules of academic freedom you enjoy a kind of protection against retaliation for dissent that others (me included) do not enjoy.

"Further, a number of us have been clear about identifying the anthropological principles (especially of the fundamental integrity we rely on in studying the intimate details of other people’s cultures) on which is based our opposition to such militarization of our profession."

I understand your point of view. I do not agree that this represents a "militarization of anthropology." I rather feel that this represents an anthropologization of the military. Lots of people with anthropological training work for the US armed forces and even security agencies. What would you do? Not train any undergraduate or graduate student who might work for an agency that "jsut feels wrong" to you? Do you imagine that anything like that would be an improvement on anything anywhere?

"It is an easy swipe from the shadows of anonymity to dismiss professional principles in broad-brush terms as “political advocacy,” “logical fallacy,” “character attacks,” etc."

There is absolutely no doubt that several of my posts on this thread were met with straight up ad hominem character attacks, including both an accusation of "cowardice" because I post anonymously, and an allegation that I must not be an anthropologist as I have adopted a minority opinion here. Frankly, the obsession with my anonymity strikes me as clear proof of the elevation of ad hominem over logic. And as anyone with much knowledge of rhetoric (or of Carl Sagan's Baloney Detector Kit) knows, ad-hominem reasoning is by definition non-sequitur and its use in an argument is a logical fallacy.

"It is also not the quality of debate that should be reflective of the academic and intellectual standards we ostensibly seek to foster through our very discipline."

To say that some of the replies here have been overtly logical fallacious does not diminish the quality of the debate. Instead it encourages those who attack bloggers (rather than attack arguments) to focus on the main points, rather than to casually dismiss dissent by dismissing the dissenter. If you don't like me calling attention to the use of illogic, then the people making ill-use of logic should stop doing it.

"The facts are plain here, that some anthropologists in our discipline want to be employed by the U.S. military in the development of culturally-sensitive counter-insurgency (translated, they want to go among people of other cultures, study their cultural ways, and then assist to inform military operations so that they can be carried out in more culturally sensitive ways). This puts not only these practitioners but any of their colleagues anywhere else in the world now under deep suspicion anytime, anywhere."

I'm going to assume for the moment, perhaps incorrectly, that any anthropologist working for the US Armed forces knows in advance that he is going to be "under suspicion" of his informants from day 1, and is willing to accept that risk. I'm also going to assume that any anthropologist anywhere also is immediately "under suspicion" of his informants, inasmuch as the "initial days of fieldwork transcending to local tolerance and finally a kind of acceptance" are DEFINING chapters in most of that which we call "classical ethnographies."

Therefore the issue of concern to you (and some) seems to be that an anthropologist working in the US armed forces might expose YOU to unusually greater suspicion (or other risk) even though YOU do not work for the US Armed Forces.

I agree that such is a concern, but I am not sure that the concern is based on anything substantial. People aren't stupid. They know that an anthropologist hired by the US Armed Forces is working for a different agency than an anthropologist hired by, for example, UNHCR, UNWHO, &c.

So the question is really one about disclosure. I don't know whether or not anthros working for HTS have a disclosure policy that substantially differs from anthros working for anyone else. Has this question been answered?

"Instead they are looking to gain useful information at the very least to help the military not do so much damage.."

Yes. And this would be a "bad thing" why exactly?

Apart from having a PhD in anthropology, I hold lesser degrees in mathematics, and have lots of general background in military history. If anthropologists could have invented, for example, an effective campaign that would have allowed Axis civilians to avoid area bombing (without adversely affecting bombing results on, for example, railyards being used to deport people slated for extermination in a German camp), would it not have been beneficial because it would have reduced unnecessary civilian deaths?

The USAAF used a leaflet campaign, for example, to warn Japanese civilians which cities were likely to ve bombed in 1945. If it turns out that some anthropologist (this is just a hypothetical) assisted in the design of this leaflet campaign, would we as a profession condemn that person for participating? I wouldn't.

"and to a greater extent to assist the military to become victorious, very likely at times against some of the same people the anthropologists are studying (but in a ‘culturally sensitive way.’)"

Again, I do not see what is wrong with that. If you are implying that anthropologists not working for HTS are working among Al Qaida, and are therefore placed at risk by the participation of US military anthropologists, perhaps you could name some specific examples?

As a citizen who generally deplores unnecessary violence, I wonder why on earth anyone would object to any methods that might improve US military targeting against people who saw-off prisoners heads and post the videotapes on the internet?

Suspension of disbelief does not require a complete abandonment of morality here, folks.

"It is hardly political in the ideological sense (pro-US, anti-US, pro-Bush, anti-Bush, pro-Imperialism, anti-Imperialism etc.) to point out the sheer absurdity of this twisted use of a discipline founded on principles of respect for all cultures, development of cross-cultural rapport and respect, and the development of fundamental trust in the process."

I think the politics in calling the objection anti-Bush, anti-imperial, &c and the presumption that the military's use of anthropologists is "twisted" is self-evident. Not just in your replies but in the replies of many. As I recall, one participant suggested that anthropologists involved in HTS should be tried for "war crimes."

Do you suppose that sort of rhetoric is apolitical? Or that it is rational? Most really commited civil libertarians in the US for example think that you don't charge someone with a crime until some sort of compelling evidence has been offered. War crimes? Does anyone have evidence that HTS anthropologists have done things that stoop to the standards of conduct of Al Qaida, Slobodon Milosovich, or an SS Erstazgruppe prison guard? Puh-lease!

"..of courageous and engaged professionals who put themselves right in the midst of some of the worst situations in the world—in the case of journalists.."

Yes. And to my knowledge Ernie Pyle and Dan Rather's colleagues did not worry much about the risks that their reporting entailed for people working in non-combat zones. So the analogy of war-correspondents with HTS anthropologists and their relation to the rest of the profession seems to me to be strained at best.

"Both of these models alone manage to carry out their human-centered professions while maintaining the integrity of professional principles of neutrality, protection of informants/sources, and practical, risky commitment."

For the most part I agree. Where I depart from the general sentiment here is in the assertion that HTS anthropologists are NOT behaving ethically according to professional standards. (And I do think that from a humane standpoint, the evidence seems to indicate that HTS anthropologists are definitely acting on sound moral principals.)

"On the other hand, those who continue to assert that anthropologists can engage as counter-insurgency support for military operations and still live up to the principles of our profession, are either very cynical about such principles, or naïve to the realpolitik of the military project that seeks to subsume and utilize their skills and commitment."

There you go. YOu can't even talk to people who dissent with you without insulting them and simply trying to privilege your argument by in effect asserting that people who disagree with you are dupes.

Again, that kind of rhetoric is non-sequitur, therefore irrational and illogical, and it definitely deteriorates the quality of this discussion, rather than elevating it.

Yeah, the "realpolitik" of the US Army is to wage effective war against people whom it wishes to kill and to try to do so in a way that produces the fewest noncombatant casualties. Since the US military WILL make war against AlQaida, I think that helping the US military not kill civilians who are used by Al Qaida as shields (and there is a vast amount of evidence reported by independent reporters from multiple public news agencies that demonstrates that AQiI and the Taliban do exactly that sort of thing) is a good thing.

Anonymous said...

"So, please someone respond to the essence of all my posts so far…Why is it better that anthropologist do not help the military in Iraq. Why is vilifying those anthropologists that choose to help the military better then allowing anthropological knowledge into military policy making?"

Anonymous said...

I have checked from time to time to see if there is any activity in this blog.

The silence tonight makes me think of the cruel reality that exists for many in Iraq.

As we go weeks and months without so much as even thinking about the issue of rather or not anthroplogists should be working with the Army to help people over there, those same people have been living lives of desperation.

It is our fault they are suffering and it will be our fault if they do not return to some form of stability.

landon said...

To the newest post:

Your point that "it is our fault they are suffering and it will be our fault if they do not return to some form of stability" is a humane one, but also a contradictory one.

Since the US began enforcing freedom on Iraq, it's dashed all hopes to "return to some form of stability." If you could return to *some form* of stability, it wouldn't really be returning to anything at all. It would rather be imposing something that may be entirely new. I hope my point makes many of us think about the issues of cultural authenticity at work in "rebuilding" Iraq...

What's more, Brian's point about the realpolitik of the military project is a more eloquent treatment of my primary concerns: any involvement with HTS and similar projects in this war is a tooling-over of anthropology. We are used as a means to achieve American ends. Facilitating "cultural understanding," or whatever you want to call it, helps American soldiers fight a better fight. The livelihood of each anthropologist in this war is used in the same way any other tool is used to oppress Iraqis and pursue American interests. That is the bottom line. End of story.

Call me out on this if you want, but I think the only way to help this is to end it. If we're truly concerned, it seems like the best investment of our time and energy is to help stop this war, plain and simple. We need to be 1000x more attentive to that cause.

Landon Yarrington

Anonymous said...

”Your point that "it is our fault they are suffering and it will be our fault if they do not return to some form of stability" is a humane one, but also a contradictory one.”

It is only contradictory from the viewpoint of a padded chair and ergonomically designed keyboard.

”Since the US began enforcing freedom on Iraq, it's dashed all hopes to "return to some form of stability." If you could return to *some form* of stability, it wouldn't really be returning to anything at all. It would rather be imposing something that may be entirely new. I hope my point makes many of us think about the issues of cultural authenticity at work in "rebuilding" Iraq...”

Your solution seems to be ‘pulling out’ of Iraq. That will never happen without HTS teams.

”We are used as a means to achieve American ends. Facilitating "cultural understanding," or whatever you want to call it, helps American soldiers fight a better fight. The livelihood of each anthropologist in this war is used in the same way any other tool is used to oppress Iraqis and pursue American interests. That is the bottom line. End of story.”

Anthropology used to make life better for people is the end of storey, in the military or in the classroom, it does not matter. Your vision of a world where anthropologists can abstain from working in the war zone is a vision of the world without war. That is not the case.

”Call me out on this if you want, but I think the only way to help this is to end it. If we're truly concerned, it seems like the best investment of our time and energy is to help stop this war, plain and simple. We need to be 1000x more attentive to that cause.”

What exactly do you mean by ‘stop the war’? Seems like a lot of ‘humane’ rhetoric that ignores the obvious contradiction…

The best way out of Iraq is by using anthropology to improve our exit. We are going to leave. The next administration will make sure of that. (If Americans don’t prove to be as lazy and apathetic as they seem to people in other lands). Shouldn’t our last 2 years there be spent doing a job that benefits the people more then it has in the past?

landon said...

1) I have no armchair, or ergonomic keyboard. I’m a 22 year-old graduate student whose stipend is $11,200, before taxes. Let me clear: it’s contradictory because it’s impossible to “return” to “some form” of anything. Motion toward “some form” of anything is never a return. And in the case of Iraq, it’s definitely not a progression.

2) Not with that attitude.

3) I still believe that the US military uses anthropologists as pawns to achieve American ends. I do not believe the people benefiting most (or at all) from anthropologists in the Iraq war-zone are the Iraqis. I am not convinced that anthropologists help make life better for Iraqis; I am, however, convinced they make the war better for Americans.

4) Prancing around with armed soldiers or conducting aerial surveys from helicopter gunships is definitely not stopping the war. To me, that says that by helping the military target people, we are actually helping the military stop targeting people. No way, that doesn’t make sense. When I say stop the war, I mean stop the war—lobby, organize, protest…the list goes on. But anthropologists in war-zones are fanning the flames, not putting them out.

5) “Using anthropology to improve our exit” shows that anthropology is being tooled-over to serve American ends, not make lives better for Iraqis. What on earth do you think anthropologists are doing that will benefit Iraqis anyway? Are they setting up a local gym? Maybe organizing a few book clubs or getting together a weekly bingo night? Anthropologists are working for the military, not the Iraqi people. Once the troops leave, anthropologists working with them will leave too. So will the benefits. Maybe the US military should just stay in Iraq indefinitely, that way Iraqis can continue to get the benefits you imagine they’re getting.


Landon Yarrington

Anonymous said...

1) Landon obviously you do not realize that life now is for less stable then it was, and the goal of HTS is to help the Army and Iraqi government to have it be stable again...Argue semantics all you want, but it still does nothing to help people who have had their lives brutally disrupted...

2)What attitude would you suggest?

3)What exactly do you think the military is doing right now in Iraq? How do you think HTS teams 'make the war better'?

4)Your form of 'anthropology' is not necessarily the only one and protest is not the only way to make things better. People on the inside can also make diliberate changes that improve the actions that are taken...This is not the Empire Strikes Back...This is real life. It is much more messy then those books spell it out to be. And you are not necessarily a hero jus because you oppose the 'evil empire'--sometimes you are just an Occidentalist...Too bad your ideology would have the military continue 'business as usual' without even an attempt to make it less damaging...thank goodness there are people who think about the people of Iraq first and the teachings of rich Westerners 2nd.

5) this makes no sense...maybe rephrase...

landon said...

I don’t agree that projects like the HTS help the Iraqi government; I believe they serve American interests, and I think the Iraqi people are at the bottom of the interest-list. Whatever attitude I do suggest, it does not include participating in HTS. And thinking that projects like HTS are essential for the US to pull out of Iraq is wrong-headed. The military has been wrapped in Iraq contingency-rhetoric for the past four years, and it’s hard for anyone to say for sure what the military is actually doing in Iraq. But I believe the military is chiefly pursuing American interests. Moreover, one thing I think the military is not doing is making the situation in Iraq better. When I say that HTS makes the war better, I mean that HTS projects allow the military, in their eyes, to fight a better fight. And as far as the military is concerned, fighting a better fight is the most efficient way to pursue American interests in Iraq. Participating in HTS does not serve Iraqi people because it is another conduit for American interests, simply couched in “humane” terms.

You’re right about my anthropology not being the only one. But we’re dealing with fundamental ethics. And here’s the rub: HTS is a war-tool the military uses to help pursue American interests. If you’re working with an HTS team in the United States military, you are loyal to the United States military first, and Iraqi people second (if not third or fourth). I don’t see how the work that HTS projects contribute to pursuing American interests benefits Iraqi people. So let me rephrase: what do you imagine anthropologists are doing that benefits Iraqis? Are they setting up resources for the Iraqi people that will exist after the US leaves Iraq? Once the US leaves, all HTS projects will too. Since HTS projects serve American (military) interests, any benefits to Iraqis you might imagine are directly tied with the US military occupation in Iraq. So if you’re talking about benefits to Iraqis from HTS teams, it seems like the US should just stay in Iraq indefinitely so Iraqis can keep getting those great benefits you’re convinced they’re getting, right? Noooo.

Landon Yarrington

Anonymous said...

I think we probably agree on many things. Except those things that have not yet been measured. Mainly the effect HTS has on Iraqis. Positive or negative, it is not known because our ‘proffesional’ organization did not do real research before condemning this act. They did what you do, lumped the illegality of going to war in Iraq with everything that happens after.

I agree we were wrong to go and we are wrong to be there. I also agree that HTS teams support the military mission. Where we defer is in the complicated realm of rather or not that is actually good or bad for Iraqis…If the part of the military mission which HTS supports means rebuilding infrastructure and protecting Iraqi culture…(so that we feel we are ‘winning’ enough to withdraw)…then by all means any and all anthropologists should support that part of the mission…If it then helping to set-up an American form of democracy and converting the masses to Christianity then of course we should not support that.

As far as your question…”Are they setting up resources for the Iraqi people that will exist after the US leaves Iraq?” That is actually the heart of the matter. It would have been nice if the AAA had seriously tried to answer this question before making this ‘them or us’ statement.

As far as the ethical side of this: Without ‘evidence’ on either side we can only go with the most basic of ethical truisms—universality. Is it fair to withhold anthropological knowledge from a realm where it can do good, just because it can also do evil? No. If the potential is there for HTS to improve how the military treats people in Iraq, then we are ethically bound to let it happen.

____________________________

“Since HTS projects serve American (military) interests, any benefits to Iraqis you might imagine are directly tied with the US military occupation in Iraq.”

Yes, that is the ‘rub’…the benefit to Iraqis is in having HTS teams tied to military occupation…you are right…that is the point…HTS anthropologists informing the military…military decisions made that are influenced by Edward Said and Franz Boas, and not just General Patton and Winston Churchhill…(or Kissinger as someone mentioned before)…I don’t think these HTS folks are angels…but I do think they are offering a twist on military policy that benefits civilians in ways which have not been previously used or even considered…

Anonymous said...

Hi again,

I have been away for awhile but I would like to refer everyone to page 3 of this months Anthropology News where J. Anthony Paredes outlines his three reasons for voting against (the only board member who did) this statement. Here is my summary:

1. We do not know enough about what these teams are actually doing.
2. This statement goes against the AAA ethics code—namely that it is not our job to adjudicate claims of ethics abuse and the individual has the right to make their own ethical choices…
3. The HTS has the potential to reduce bloodshed “among our own people, among those who do battle against us, and among innocent bystanders”. Dissaproval of this sort of action is immoral and I agree with Paredes…

“I [do] not want to have anything to do with repudiating a program that saves lives”

Thank you Paredes for clarifying this in public and shame on all of you who think the reputation of the AAA is more important then the lives of people we can serve.

Tanner Phillips
MA-ICM
Berlin, Germany

Anonymous said...

Alan Klima,

In light of what has been posted in this blog do you still stand by this statement?

"...I would encourage adding a statement that specifically condemns any anthropologists who participate in the HTS or similar actions."

Tanner

Anonymous said...

Anonymous "coward" here:

"And in the case of Iraq, it’s definitely not a progression."

Unless of course you are a Shi'ia. In that event it is a progression away from a prior state under Hussein in which the Shi'ia were selectively targeted for murder.

"3) I still believe that the US military uses anthropologists as pawns to achieve American ends."

It is often the case that American goals coincide with the best interests of locals.

"I am, however, convinced they make the war better for Americans."

How exactly would it be "better for Americans" without being better for at least some Iraqis?

"To me, that says that by helping the military target people, we are actually helping the military stop targeting people. No way, that doesn’t make sense."

It only "doesn't make sense" if you try to reduce it to a simplistic "black and white" rhetorical sauce of the kind frequently used by the Bush Admin. If avoiding noncombatant casualties is deemed objectively good (as the GenCon, the UNHCR, and pretty much *everyone* agrees it is), then improving the US mil's ability to NOT target noncombatants is also a good.

"But anthropologists in war-zones are fanning the flames, not putting them out."

I'd like to see that claim substantiated. What is your evidence for same?

"“Using anthropology to improve our exit” shows that anthropology is being tooled-over to serve American ends, not make lives better for Iraqis."

Carl Sagan would call your statement the "fallacy of the excluded middle." It does not necessarily follow that American and Iraqi interests regarding the state of security in Iraq on American exit are at odds. On paper at least Iraqis and Americans want the same goals: elimination of Al Qaida in Iraq, resturn to Iraqi sovereignty.

In practice, a sudden American exit will not bring about a sudden absence of AQII, nor will it necessarily leave Iraqis more secure. It may well leave them more vulnerable.

And that is indeed the rub. Staying there is costing the US too much. Leaving there precipitously could cost the Iraqis a whole lot more.

"Anthropologists are working for the military, not the Iraqi people."

Again, fallacy of the excluded middle.

More to the point one wonders what you imagine anthropolgy to be for. If it is always inappropriate for anthropologists to advance US interests (even when these may coincide with local interests), why should anyone in the United States support cultural anthropologists? It's not as though knee-jerk anti-Americanism leads of necessity to better policy, or improved justice systems.

Anonymous said...

On March 9, 2008, there appeared an announcement on the AAA Online Bulletin Board, with the tag "human terrain"...it is a job posting for the very same Human Terrain Systems program that the AAA Executive Board, in its statement, critiqued and expressed its disapproval of. Needless to say, it's outrageous to have the AAA publicly condemn an activity, and then turn around and a few months later, post job openings for that activity.

I urge all members to write to the Executive Bd about this matter and demand that the posting be removed.

Barbara Rylko-Bauer

Anonymous said...

Yes great idea Barbara!!!

While we are at it lets also demand they remove all the postings in this blog that support these horrendous acts perpetrated by Orientalists masquerading as humanitarians…There is no room here for such dialogue!!!

Lets also strongly urge the AMA to make a similar statement against doctors who are using their skills to help prosecute the war in Iraq. They may say they are there to “heal” people, but we know the truth (cause we read it in a newspaper). They are there to help the Army (which is actually just one huge machine made up of robots intent on raping and murdering Iraqis, not human beings who just want to do a good job so they can return to their families in one piece and with a little dignity; a part of which comes from feeling like they helped the people in Iraq acquire a little security after we bombed it all away; thus making up a little for our mistakes; which is what many soldiers feel these days. That is of course if they were people, and not a part of a soul-less collective bent on world domination and praying upon the idealistic whims of social science professionals the world over.) Win The War (oh I hear the drums, they make my blood cold, they turn me into a zombie, I have no control, I dare not help because then I will have no power to actually support the extreme Occidentalism THEY have been teaching me all these years. It is so evil! It is the ‘other’ I feared. It is bad, must resist, must not be assimilated……..)

While we are at it, we could also urge universities throughout the nation to pre-screen prospective anthropology majors to make sure they have absolutely no intention of ever serving in the military. That way we would never run into this problem again.

Frankly, how could this have happened people? How could anthropologists be trained that have minds of their owns and can blend the critical views they learn as social scientists with the ideological views they learn as citizens—seeing that there is actually a place for scepticism and patriotism within the same person, and applying that hybrid identity in a place where no one else will dare to go—the military? (the place it is needed the most)

Anonymous said...

Dear AAA bloggers:

A follow up on my comment of a day ago regarding a job posting on the AAA bulletin board that was recruiting anthropologists for the military's Human Terrain Systems...I am happy to report that the AAA administration has removed that posting ...as it happens, the bulletin board is not for job postings and so this posting was an inappropriate use of the bulletin board. In addition, the posting flew in the face of official AAA stance on a public policy issue (since the Executive Board in Oct 2007 had issued a statement disapproving involvement of anthropologists in HTS programs on ethical grounds). Leaving such an announcement up would have made the AAA look hypocritical -- something that the anonymous (why? what is he/she afraid of?) commentator on my comment clearly didn't grasp. I'm happy to report that the Executive Board stands behind it's statement regarding the HTS program.

Barbara Rylko-Bauer

Anonymous said...

Hi, "Anonymous Coward" here:

Barbara you are correct that the action is in keeping with the executive board's resolution. It seems, however, not in keeping with the subsequent AAA special commission's report. So either way, the AAA is coming off as "hypocritical" -- IMO anyhow.

As to why people use anonymity, to put it bluntly what people fear is
retaliation for voicing an unpopular minority opinion. Considering some of the ill-considered epithets that have been hurled at HTS participants and their supporters, you could hardly blame anyone for posting anonymously.

I take encouragement from (most of) the dissenters in this blog. Frankly,the demonstrated reaction to the US armed forces trying to do anything at all is basically what I'd expect from most members of the AAA.

Anonymous said...

its funny how the majority opinion here never actually talks to any of the points of the minority view

it seems those that are for HTS teams bring up good points that everyone simply ignores...

the only argument against HTS teams is that posters on this blog should really not be anonymous...

by only debating the debate and ignoring the points made you all admit you are wrong. you stand behind your position of power (this statement has already been made and the AAA seems intent on not listening to its members) and honor this discussion in the most minimal of ways...

I think until people start to respond to the many points that are being made that those in the minority will remain anonymous...

???

Anonymous said...

Barbara Rylko-Bauer,

You said, “””Leaving such an announcement up would have made the AAA look hypocritical -- something that the anonymous (why? what is he/she afraid of?) commentator on my comment clearly didn't grasp. I'm happy to report that the Executive Board stands behind it's statement regarding the HTS program.”””

I say: I am afraid of you and the AAA. I am afraid that you do not see your own hypocrisy in making this statement. You have turned anthropology from a tool that can be used to help humanity to a tool intent on defining what the right course for humanity is. Your “ethical” stance is simply an ideological stance and the only argument you and others in this blog seem to have is to debate the debate and not the issues.

I remind you that Executive Board of the AAA is made up of people that are supposed to represent the members as a whole. The Board made this decision in a democratic way, with a majority voting for the statement. Yet, every majority vote over-shadows a minority view. In this case, everyone seems happy to sheepishly follow the herd without engaging with the points made by those who descent. I would expect that out of the larger “democracy” we live in, but not from anthropologists, who should know better.

3 of the many points you ignore: (as found in the previous post by Tanner in which he sums up J. Anthony Paredes arguments in the Anthropology News)

“””1. We do not know enough about what these teams are actually doing.
2. This statement goes against the AAA ethics code—namely that it is not our job to adjudicate claims of ethics abuse and the individual has the right to make their own ethical choices…
3. The HTS has the potential to reduce bloodshed “among our own people, among those who do battle against us, and among innocent bystanders”. Dissaproval of this sort of action is immoral and I agree with Paredes…

“I [do] not want to have anything to do with repudiating a program that saves lives””””

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...
"So, please someone respond to the essence of all my posts so far…Why is it better that anthropologist do not help the military in Iraq. Why is vilifying those anthropologists that choose to help the military better then allowing anthropological knowledge into military policy making?"

6:17 AM

????

Anonymous said...

196 CommentsClose this window Jump to comment form
Alan Klima said...
This is a very well reasoned statement that will be much appreciated. I would encourage any further statements or formulations, or any revision of the present formulation, to take into consideration whether the very incisively stated reasonings are not watered down somewhat by a judgement of the present war. Aren't the stated reasonings true whether or not there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, etc?

Perhaps an expression of a position on the war could be made in a separate statement, thus rendering this statement a comment that gets to the very core of what it means to be an anthropologist, anytime, anywhere.

The sentence I am referencing is as follows:

"In the context of a war that is widely recognized as a denial of human rights and based on faulty intelligence and undemocratic principles, the Executive Board sees the HTS project as a problematic application of anthropological expertise, most specifically on ethical grounds."

Secondly, I would encourage adding a statement that specifically condemns any anthropologists who participate in the HTS or similar actions.

Thank you,

Alan Klima
Dept of Anthropology
University of California, Davis

11:30 AM


Brian D-L said...
This statement is most encouraging, given the related discussions that have been generated elsewhere in sub-sections of the AAA. The rationalization of applying anthropological study through something such as the Counter Insurgency Manual and the so-called Human Terrain Project, seems nothing less than 21st century obfuscation of the gross misuse of our profession. However they are presented, these projects are the professional engagment of our discipline in the making of war. Even if it is the use of anthropology to make warfare somehow more culturally sensitive (!!!) it is nonetheless a use of the tools of our discipline as tools of war, whether or not participating anthropologists themselves carry actual guns.

Dr. Brian Donohue-Lynch
Anthropology/Sociology
Quinebaug Valley Community College
Danielson, CT

11:51 AM


Comment deleted
This post has been removed by the author.

1:10 PM


Landon said...
I'm a graduate student at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA. We've recently had a few intense brown-bag sessions on this topic, and I couldn't agree more with this official position the AAA has took. I've been trying to gather enough interest among the graduates in our department to make a paper session out of this for the 2008 AAA conference. This is an excerpt from one of the emails I've been circulating:

"I've been particularly moved by our recent brown-bag sessions on ethics, and I thought it would be highly productive and extremely topical to make a paper session out of it. That is, I think it would be great to have a bunch of graduate students present papers at the AAA conference taking stands on these ethical issues, whatever your personal disposition may be. It would not only be emotionally charged, but intellectually stimulating. I myself feel very strongly on some of these issues and am deeply committed to those ends. Considering the AAA's recent undertaking on these matters, it might be one last chance to get your personal voice in, make a change, or challenge other positions. This is our future, and I hope that my preachy attitude about it doesn't alienate anyone, but shows my true convictions."

I thought this would be an appropriate post to open this idea up to anyone, not just graduate students or our department at W&M! Please feel free to contact me at lcyarrington@wm.edu if you'd be interested in working towards this or if you have any feedback!

The AAA's decision promises to be influential in reshaping the discipline for our generation, and I look forward to watching this unfold.

Landon Yarrington
---
Department of Anthropology
The College of William and Mary
Williamsburg, VA 23187

1:16 PM


Gerald said...
After a reasonable statement, for the conclusion to be that the AAA expresses its "disapproval" comes as a shock and a profound disappointment. The appropriate word should be condemnation. The army is debasing our profession and our professional ethics in the most fundamental way possible.
Gerald Sider
Professor Emeritus, Anthropology, City University of New York

3:07 PM


Ryan Hurd said...
I'm happy to see this level of community action at the AAA. blogging is an excellent medium for taking the temperature of members and I hope you continue the project beyond the scope of the HTS investigation.

Ryan Hurd
Graduate student in Consciousness Studies
John K. Kennedy Univerity

3:07 PM


Jamie Cleland said...
I am a consulting anthropologist (archaeology focus) and an AAA fellow. Although I am an opponent of both the Iraq and the Afghan war as well as war in general as a tool of state, I find the Executive Board’s statement to fall far short of a considered examination of significant issues raised for our profession by the HTS program. The Board wants to affirm in its final paragraph that anthropology is obliged to attempt to improve US government policies, yet through its narrow conceptualization of anthropology as a profession that primarily “studies others,” it totally misses its chance to affect US policies in any meaningful way. It ducks the question, “Under what circumstances can anthropologists work to improve our policies and actions in war zones?” The Executive Board evokes the ethical standard of “doing no harm,” but given a situation where harm is occurring, anthropologists at the front may be in a position to reduce that harm. If we oppose HTS and similar types of programs unconditionally, we will not be doing our best at using the knowledge we have gained through our “studies of others” to improve US policies. In archaeology, we recognize that many of our investigations do harm to the resource and we have developed ethical standards to address this problem. Cultural anthropological fieldwork unarguably has in the past damaged the people studied. If through well intentioned application of ethics, we prevent the use of knowledge so gained from practical application in the most horrific of circumstances, we are not living up to the higher ethical standards that should be at the core of our profession. I would like to see the Executive Board take up the issue of how anthropology might actually be useful and ethical in war zones.
Jamie Cleland
Consulting Arhcaeologist

3:33 PM


Hugh said...
I second Ryan Hurd's comment -- kudos to the AAA Exec in providing a Web2.0 forum for member discussion on this controversial topic, and more praise for continuing to increase transparency on their actions.

IMHO, this phrase in the statement says it all: "as contractors with the U.S. military...". Surely to achieve any credibility or scientific objectivity, anthropologists need to be independent observers.

I agree with Prof. Sider that the behavior of the US Military continues to be deplorable, and condemnation might well be the better word, but I encourage the committee to offer to help formulate a structure in which this work could at least theoretically be carried out with full neutrality. Perhaps Jimmy Carter's Freedom Center might be of help for this task.

Hugh Jarvis
University at Buffalo

3:52 PM


Dan Segal said...
Alan Kilma's comment is quite incisive. It foregrounds an issue that the EB mulled and debated a great deal. AK's comment argues that locating the objections to HTS in the context of current historical circumstances (the Bush administration's lies and violations of democracy and human rights) "waters down" the statement--in the sense that it qualifies the scope of the statement (it makes it something short of a categorical imperative). But the alternative view is that while qualifying the scope somewhat, such contextualizing (or historicizing) strengthens the argument that HTS is wrong in the actually existing historical circumstances that HTS exists. The choice between these two approaches is difficult and subtle and the EB spent a great deal of time considering both approaches. AK's view though different than the EB's is an important one.

3:53 PM


Elizabeth Dunn said...
I am in complete agreement about the Board's statement upholding the principles of informed consent and doing no harm to the people we study. This discussion of the relation between techniques and ethics in the practice of anthropology is completely within the purview of AAA.

Like Alan Klima, though, I'm concerned about the Board's statements of disapproval about the war. While I, too, disapprove of the war, I'm very concerned about the precedent being set by having AAA dictate political views to its members. As a scholarly association, we have to preserve our members' rights to a diverse range of opinion, and we have an obligation to foster discussion rather than stifling it. Even if the majority of us hate these viewpoints (and I do), there still needs to be room for anthropologists who are politically conservative, who approve of Bush, and who believe that the war is being conducted for the right reasons. We need to do so even if we disdain these views, because the very existence of dissent and minority views is the lifeblood of any scholarly organization.

Elizabeth Dunn
University of Colorado, Boulder

4:38 PM


David Kennedy said...
I found this part of the statement puzzling:

"The Commission’s work did not include systematic study of the HTS project."

Why not? I read the sentences that followed but still don't understand why this step was not taken before issuing a statement about the HTS project. What if the information in the public record was not accurate or complete?

Is the final report going to be based on a systematic review of the HTS?

David Kennedy
RAND/UCLA

7:00 PM


John P. Hawkins, Brigham Young University said...
First, the Executive Board begins with an internal contradiction, to wit: "the Executive Board affirms that it is important that judgments about relationships between anthropology, on the one hand, and military and state intelligence operations, on the other, be grounded in a careful and thorough investigation of their particulars." However, "The Commission’s work did not include systematic study of the HTS project." Instead, it finds discomfort with the "information in the public record, as well as on information and comments provided to the Executive Board by the Ad Hoc Commission and its members." In short, it is highly likely that it is reacting politically rather than analytically.

The board raises the following concerns: "1.As military contractors working in settings of war, HTS anthropologists work in situations where it will not always be possible for them to distinguish themselves from military personnel and identify themselves as anthropologists. This places a significant constraint on their ability to fulfill their ethical responsibility as anthropologists to disclose who they are and what they are doing." Quite the contrary, given the dangers of working in Iraq, HTS analysts, some of them, voluntarily, anthropologists, will be working with military units in such close conjunction that no Iraqi would mistake them for an unattached civilian. Who they are and what they are will be fully understood by Iraqis: they are extensions of military personnel using anthropological backgrounds to understand what is going on and to translate information being passed in both directions so that the other party to the inter-cultural exchange can understand and make better decisions based on culturally more accurate rather than on prejudiced or fear-filled understandings. Both sides by now understand that the information will be used in the conduct of war, and unless subjected to coercion, will be rendering the information as they see fit. I have multiple instances in interviews of Iraqis saying that they can not say more, or be seen amongst American military, because of fear of retribution by non-coalition personnel in the Iraqi environment. They are, at this point, fully informed regarding whatever information or interaction they allow or resist.



2.

HTS anthropologists are charged with responsibility for negotiating relations among a number of groups, including both local populations and the U.S. military units that employ them and in which they are embedded. Consequently, HTS anthropologists may have responsibilities to their U.S. military units in war zones that conflict with their obligations to the persons they study or consult, specifically the obligation, stipulated in the AAA Code of Ethics, to do no harm to those they study (section III, A, 1).

American culture imposes on the military the obligation to be competent in the conduct of war. Culturally, in fact, we conduct war as large military operations using, preferentially, massive firepower technology. Without accurate cultural knowledge and general cultural interpretation, commanders or soldiers steeped in the notion of overwhelming response will apply more firepower: however much they think will overcome the uncertainty and the danger of the situation. The only way to reduce that cultural response is for anthropologists to make the military aware of its own American cultural roots, and to make them less uncertain and less fearful regarding the particular cross-cultural situations that they were put in by their civil government leaders and its electing citizens. To do otherwise constitutes an abrogation of the constitution which places our military subordinate to civil authority. I would point out that the civil authorities sacked the generals that advised against the incursion or correctly informed them that "several hundred thousand" troops would be needed to stabilize a divided society.

To not render the best possible cultural advice is to be complicit in supporting a Civilian-started war that will be culturally waged in an uncertain, unknown cultural setting; that will invite massive military response as a measure of culture and personal safety as understood within that context. To not participate is to consent to the deaths of more Iraqis than need be the case.

3.

HTS anthropologists work in a war zone under conditions that make it difficult for those they communicate with to give “informed consent” without coercion, or for this consent to be taken at face value or freely refused. As a result, “voluntary informed consent” (as stipulated by the AAA Code of Ethics, section III, A, 4) is compromised.

Don't kid yourself. If the anthropological participants are wearing military protective gear, surrounded by military units and accompanying military commanders in negotiations, everybody is informed. Wars tend to be coercive, but people can still ignore us if they so volunteer, or feed us information if they volunteer, no doubt at great risk to themselves. But they are surely informed by the context.

4.

As members of HTS teams, anthropologists provide information and counsel to U.S. military field commanders. This poses a risk that information provided by HTS anthropologists could be used to make decisions about identifying and selecting specific populations as targets of U.S. military operations either in the short or long term. Any such use of fieldwork-derived information would violate the stipulations in the AAA Code of Ethics that those studied not be harmed (section III A, 1).

This provision would, of course, preclude any study of any people, because anybody that reads an anthropologist's work might initiate an applied help project that would change something and be a detriment to someone.

More specifically, I agree that the war was started under false pretenses, was stupidly conceived at its political root and had no plan for securing the nation following the goal of toppling the head of state. But suppose that a fully authorized UN mission to stop the genocide in Rwanda had asked for an anthropologist to advise its commanders on the nature of the ethnic revenge system in existence? Would you preclude giving advice to stop genocide simply because someone on one of the two sides would probably get shot in order to compel the violence to stop?

The executive board "has this additional concern: 5. Because HTS identifies anthropology and anthropologists with U.S. military operations, this identification—given the existing range of globally dispersed understandings of U.S. militarism—may create serious difficulties for, including grave risks to the personal safety of, many non-HTS anthropologists and the people they study."

Welcome to a world of instability created by our civil government who 1) had no cultural information about the fragile, fractal, nature of instability in a tribal culture protected only by the threat of retribution, and 2) that had no sense of or ability to use other instruments of US influence other than its military. At this point all Americans are put at risk by our irrational (but fully cultural) foreign policy.



The board concludes:
"In the context of a war that is widely recognized as a denial of human rights and based on faulty intelligence and undemocratic principles..." The solution here is to work toward the impeachment of civil authorities that perpetrated the war order, that obscured the information, that suborned the CIA and other intelligence mechanisms, and that perverted the military advisement system. To be sure, some (more) in the military should have insisted so strenuously in their advice that they got themselves fired.

"We have grave concerns about the involvement of anthropological knowledge and skill in the HTS project. The Executive Board views the HTS project as an unacceptable application of anthropological expertise." This makes sense: let's have the civil leaders of our country and military -- possessors of destructive forces beyond our imagination-- operate with less than the best cultural information, knowing that cross-cultural misunderstanding will precipitate mistakes in policy in spite of the best intents of any concerned.

here is a sentence that I am sure we all can agree with; I do at least: "The Executive Board affirms that anthropology can and in fact is obliged to help improve U.S. government policies through the widest possible circulation of anthropological understanding in the public sphere, so as to contribute to a transparent and informed development and implementation of U.S. policy by robustly democratic processes of fact-finding, debate, dialogue, and deliberation. It is in this way, the Executive Board affirms, that anthropology can legitimately and effectively help guide U.S. policy to serve the humane causes of global peace and social justice." How could we possibly endorse the "widest possible circulation of anthropological knowledge" if we deny it to a military that was sent to a war not of its own choosing and for which it was woefully unprepared culturally? And if we can not help the military out of that policy/knowledge mess, how can we ethically help the civilian government that sent them there? And if we obstinately refuse to help a culturally naive civil government and our military to deal with cultural issues, because mistakes might get people killed, are we then complicitous in the deaths of the many that will surely be killed in the absence of cultural knowledge? I have never yet met the military person who wanted to pull the trigger. We elected a civilian government that sent culturally untrained military personnel into a situation where, absent cultural information, they have no choice but to pull the trigger. Then we say, "anthropologists shouldn't help; it is unethical!" (my fictive quote, not the Board's). That is a great way to make the discipline both irrelevant and immoral, which is to say, unethical.

John P. Hawkins
Department of Anthropology
Brigham Young University
and recent visiting faculty, U. S. Army War College.
However, these opinions are entirely my own.

8:21 PM


W Penn Handwerker said...
I find the AAA Executive Board's 'assessment' of the HTS project embarrassingly uncritical and naive and exceedingly simple minded.

#1: it is clear to everyone, except possibly to AAA executive board members, that anthropologists who work as part of the HTS project collect information pertinent to US military operations. Anthropologists who undertake HTS project work cannot hide what they do and who they work for.

#2: The obligation 'to do no harm,' like all obligations, rests on a series of assumptions -- like, perhaps most fundamentally, that the people one wishes to understand (NOT, hopefully, 'study' as a sociologist/psychologist/political scientist might do...) do not aim to harm the anthropologist or those the anthropologist holds dear.

#3: Data elicited from research participants should NEVER be assumed to be provided without, in one sense or another, 'coercion.' You delude yourself to think otherwise. On the other hand, reliable, accurate data of the kind anthropologists working for HTS projects aim to collect cannot be collected by 'coercion' of the sort I suspect that the AAA Executive Board supposes.

#4: See #2.

FURTHER: Much of my research for the last two decades focuses on violence. One lesson I've learned is that people subject to violence have little tolerance for the prattle of the kind coming from AAA Executive Board. A preliminary 5 country (Denmark, South Africa, Colombia, USA, Israel) study shows that, irrespective of country, people who have little or no experience with violence tend to opt to a morally relative perspective like that of the AAA Executive Board. People who have much experience with violence, by contrast, ascribe importance to identifying and maintaining behavioral boundaries that do not tolerate the acceptance of exploitative behavior (of the kind the AAA Executive Board espouses).


The AAA Executive Board shows gross arrogance and violates elemental methods procedures to claim that

(a) 'In the context of a war that is widely recognized as a denial of human rights'

without documenting who, precisely, claims that the war fighting ongoing in Iraq and Afghanistan denies human rights and without recognition that the pre-existing regimes in both countries systematically violated/denied ALL commonly recognized human rights.



(b) '...and based on faulty intelligence'
without documenting the 'faulty' nature of specific forms of intelligence, and without recognition that the heart of the matter was (see [a]) to stop the violations of human rights in both Iraq and Afghanistan.


(c) 'and undemocratic principles'

without either specifying these hypothetical 'undemocratic principles' or documenting their 'undemocratic' features.'

Stupidity like this makes me furious.

10:05 PM


Anonymous said...
I believe Mr. Hawkins couldn't have said it better. American Anthropologists have seemed to become permanent hypocrites. They believe the United States is an imperialistic country, yet their views on human rights and other issues is in itself imperialistic. The United States has made a huge mistake with the their efforts in the Middle East and bringing in anthropologists could be a huge benefit in actually solving some of the problems there. As an anthropologist, I don't believe you can pick and choose when it is right or wrong to study and interact with people throughout the world. These interactions via the United States military could be a brand new study in itself, which could open new doors and new ideas in anthropology. Don't allow politics to get in the way of anthropology. Anthropology is bigger than politics and war. I will be graduating this semester with a BA in Anthropology and have found that the majority of my peers and professors have their own agendas, much like the United States military. I think you should re-read Mr. Hawkins blog entry above and maybe rethink what and who anthropologists are.

10:11 PM


Jim Dow said...
The official statement by the AAA is judicious and more than I would have expected. The reasons for condemning a collaboration between anthropologists and the US military are well stated. Other comments have pointed out the ugliness of the current conflict and the behavior of the American military. Although there are great differences in US military sub-cultures, anthropologists should not be mixed up with any of them, because the most abusive ones, such as the Navy Seals, have tainted the whole group.

However, there are some good things that have come out of the HTS project in Afghanistan. How can some of these positive outcomes be maintained without jeopardizing informants and compromising anthropological ethics? In the first place, anthropologists should not have contracts with the US military or be under their control. Once they are under their control, they can be manipulated so as to harm their informants.

Yet, the knowledge that Americans and their soldiers have of Pathan culture is so abysmal that positive things can come from their learning more about it. They can learn to deal with tribal politics enough to be able to settle conflicts without killing people, especially non-involved civilians.

I suggest that anthropologists in combat zones might work for an independent agency, such as the UN or some independent NGO. If the US or the Pathans want anthropological help they can request it from the NGO and pay for it with guarantees of safety for the anthropologists and their informants. Any violation of these guarantees would be paid to the NGO group and the people who suffer.

This might seem naive to people who think only in political terms; but, if there is a need for anthropological help, either of the two sides of the conflict would have a strong motivation to make it work.

Practically all legal systems have evolved from violent struggles. Here we have a conflict for which a system of peaceful resolution has not yet evolved. The "success" of the HTS project shows that cultural anthropology might play a role in setting up such a system.

11:23 PM


Anonymous said...
Another way of putting the question as to whether to include a statement of judgement on the current war is one of a question of reception and perception.

Does the EB want to look like it is making its statement because the individuals on the board happen to not support the war, or because of deeper principles.

Whether a statement sounds "universalistic" or "historical" is not the main point, in my opinion. But I would also ask, are the other ethical principles of the AAA, concerning informants, subjects, etc. phrased in historical context. Do we say that under the present historical circumstances, the AAA does not support tricking subjects or not gaining informed consent (but under other circumstances, it might support it)? It is natural and normal for professional organizations to issue statements that are in a "timeless" language, and that is what makes them seem deep and meaningful (eventhough we know that they are historical constructions and can be, and will be, changed sometime in the future).

thanks,

Alan Klima
UC Davis

12:49 AM


Elizabeth Marks said...
Perhaps it's because I'm new to the field (having begun the transition from graphic design), but I found it unusual for a large academic organization to take a political position, to make such a definitive, if not strangely vague, statement. I understand the ethical concerns that prompted the statement, but if the AAA is to represent such a large, diverse profession, are moves like this wise? I'm not sure yet.

Elizabeth Marks
University of Chicago graduate student
(emarksatuchicagodotedu)

10:15 AM


Catherine said...
While the Executive Board's statement on the HTS shows an admirable interest in and desire to enagage with current issues that involve the anthropology community, the statement itself strikes me a knee-jerk reaction to what is admittedly a complex issue and one that deserves to be grounded in a careful and thorough investigation of particulars. Looking forward, perhaps a more balanced approach might be to include systematic study of the HTS project in the Commission’s work?

11:32 AM


Ron said...
I strongly support the AAA executive board's opposition to the Human Terrain Project. For several years now we have seen the
distortion of news coverage about Iraq and Afghanistan which is in large part a result of embedding journalists within army battalions.
There is no need and no benefit to
distorting anthropological work in the name of a war which should be terminated as soon as possible.

11:54 AM


Anonymous said...
While agreeing with the board's conclusion that anthropologists should not work for the HTS project, it bothers me that our association makes a very political statement: "In the context of a war that is widely recognized as a denial of human rights and based on faulty intelligence and undemocratic principles ..."

Anthropologists should not work for military organizations. If a government was able to separately fund and manage our work, anthropologists and archaeologists could make very good contributions to areas of the world in conflict.

Please remove the first part of the third paragraph in the: American Anthropological Association Executive Board Statement on the Human Terrain System Project dated October 31, 2007.

Mike Wilson
Wilmington, Delaware

12:54 PM


Anonymous said...
As Ron said, "There is no need and no benefit to distorting anthropological work in the name of a war which should be terminated as soon as possible." Yet, anthropologists are reluctant to offer their services in helping end this war, which makes them (us) hypocrites. Einstein said, "Our problems will not be solved by the minds who created them." Let's presume that the politicians and corporations who initiated this war will continue with it (1) because they cannot feasibly end it with any semblance of "victory," and (2) because they continue to profit from it economically. Anthropologists, recognize that you are part of the system. Instead of standing by and watching, participate--and create change.

-Washington, D.C.

2:17 PM


Anonymous said...
Clearly, if the U.S. administration and the military had had an understanding of the Western Asia region based on anthropological research before invading Iraq, and before our involvement in Afghanistan contributed to the rise of the Taliban, then the wars in both places would not have happened, or at the least might have been handled very differently.

While I agree that embedding anthropologists with miliary units during a war is unethical, I think we as anthropologists need to turn our ethnographic skills to understanding the U.S. military as an institution, and to understanding the foreign policy community within the federal government.

We need to understand these social groups in enough depth that we can learn how to make anthropological contributions to U.S. defense, international security, and foreign policy decision-making long before we are faced with a current or potential war.

It is important for the AAA to take a stand against the use of anthropologists during war.

However, I think we need to take advantage of this new awareness, among some in the U.S. armed forces, of the usefulness of ethnographic knowledge, to begin to form relationships inside military institutions through which we can better understand how to use our expertise to avert war and to protect the peoples we work with from damaging foreign policies.

Federal government institutions and the broader government-focused metro-Washington, D.C. area, are important sites for such ethnographic fieldwork. If we don't engage in this research, then we are not doing all we can to build and share our knowledge in the broadest public arenas.

--Northern California

3:27 PM


James Ferguson said...
I think the Executive Board's statement is excellent, and something we will be proud of when we look back at this sorry period many years from now. I understand the wish to separate the concerns about anthropologists in the military from views on this particular war. But I think there's no escaping the fact that anthropological complicity with a military operation (no doubt problematic in the best of cases) is much more troubling when that operation is an imperial war of occupation, initiated through an unprovoked invasion and carried out using methods that include the systematic use of illegal detention and torture.

James Ferguson
Dept. of Anthropology
Stanford University

3:50 PM


Jean Jackson said...
I have read the criticisms thus far posted regarding the EB's statement regarding anthropologists participating in the HTS program. No petition or statement will ever address most of the issues in a situation as complex as the one we're dealing with. You cannot have a "one size fits all" statement. There should be fifty more statements addressing the issues raised above, and others not yet mentioned. However, having spent time participating in various petition-writing efforts, I know that it takes a huge amount of work for even a small number of people to agree to the wording. Yes I would like a stronger statement, but I salute the EB for coming out with a fairly clearly worded statement that, whatever its faults, states that anthropologists cannot serve in HTS programs and comply with the Association's code of ethics.

Jean Jackson
Professor of Anthropology
MIT

3:53 PM


Greg Feldman said...
I applaud the AAA Executive Board for taking its position on the Human Terrain System (HTS). While we can debate whether their wording was or was not too political, their core point is that anthropologists should not conduct research that puts the people whom they study in harm’s way. This is hardly controversial.

Ever since this debate picked up full steam in early October, many people have noted that HTS could provide valuable services to local peoples living in areas overrun by the US ‘War on Terror’ (e.g. health supplies, reconstruction assistance, agricultural tools, etc). This point might be true from a narrow perspective, but quite false from a broader one. Narrowly, few would disagree that providing immediate material support to people in war-ravaged places is a good thing. However, a doctorate in anthropology is not what it takes to do this kind of work.

More broadly, providing such assistance is hardly the HTS-end game for anthropological knowledge. As explained in the periodical Military Review (September-October 2006), Human Terrain Teams are to input data about local populations into what is called Mapping Human Terrain software. That “data will cover such subjects as key regional personalities, social structures, links between family and clans, economic issues, agricultural production, and the like” (p. 13). That information is to be sent back to the HTS Reachback Research Center in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. There, cultural and ethnographic experts further analyze, collate, and process that data. They then return it to the local Human Terrain Team and share it with other US military and intelligence organizations (p. 14). In the end, as John Wilcox – Assistant Deputy Under Secretary of Defense – explained, mapping the human terrain, “Enables the entire kill chain for the GWOT” (i.e. Global War on Terror). (To see the PDF version of Wilcox’s presentation go to http://concerned.anthropologists.googlepages.com/WilcoxKillChain.pdf.)

I see no reason to think that the military or political establishment will judiciously use the data when activating that ‘kill chain’. It seems very difficult to argue that cooperation with HTS anthropologists does not put people in harm’s way, regardless of those anthropologists good intents.

Greg Feldman
Assistant Professor of International Migration
Dept. of Geography
University of British Columbia

4:56 PM


Jill said...
I fully support the executive board's action in this matter. Their response is directly tied to the AAA's ethics code and identifies exactly the types of limits to acceptable uses of anthropology that need to be clarified for the military and for the general republic.

The statement's specific language refering to our political time and place is important, as is the specific language clarifying that the AAA does not oppose all anthropological interactions with the military.

This is a very measured and well informed response.

4:57 PM


Jane Adams said...
The question of our ethical boundaries is not adequately addressed in this statement by the EB. It assumed as a given that anthropologist do not and should not support any projection of U.S. force overseas. If that assumption is removed, the statement will be seen to be, at best, muddled and obtuse. Others posting before me have been less generous.

As increasing numbers of anthropologists work outside the academy, a good number work with NGOs and international agencies that have missions in conflict-ridden areas. Their aim, in most cases, is to reduce inter-group violence and help establish institutions that will sustain more peaceful forms of governance. In such cases, anthropologists can perceive themselves as non-partisan. However, any action in a war zone inevitably places oneself and others at risk, as combatants rarely honor claims of neutrality.

As previous posters have argued, civilians talking with HTS embedded anthropologists can have no illusions about who they are dealing with – something that is ambiguous with putatively non-partisan humanitarian workers.

Anthropologists have also been partisan in some conflicts, for example, working with the quasi-guerrilla Zapatistas in Mexico, in a situation where civilians were put at risk. Such actions have never been criticized within the discipline.

The implication of the EB statement is that anthropologists should not work in war zones, or other areas where armed conflict between groups occurs.

I personally have qualms about anthropologists (or journalists) working inside of any military organization in a war zone -- although I note that this was not considered problematic in WWII, when anthropologists worked closely with the war effort. But from the limited knowledge I have of the HTS program, it is producing many beneficial results, creating zones of peaceful inter-group relations that supplants prior violence and bloodshed. In a context (Afghanistan and Iraq) in which some combatant groups have an explicit strategy of attaining political power by spreading mistrust and conflict among the civilian populace through intensifying ethnic, sectarian, or other divisions, this seems to me to be a positive use of our ethnographic skills.

Anthropologists do need ethical guidelines for work in areas that are riven with conflicts. However, unless the AAA goes on record in opposition to the use of U.S. military force anywhere in the world, the EB statement is misplaced and unhelpful.


Jane Adams
Southern Illinois University Carbondale

6:22 PM


a professor said...
I think it important to treat this issue anthropologically, that is to try to understand in as complete a way as possible what the embedded anthropologists are doing and to ask about who they are and how they found themselves to be in this particular situation. I look forward to hearing from one on this forum. I don't think the EB statement on HTS does this (a point observed by a number of others above). Also, ethical issues, especially as related to U.S. imperialism, need to be situated in a much broader way. While the Iraq war is wrong and unjust for many reasons, so is the historical and ongoing complicity American anthropologists (as Americans and as anthropologists)share in in regards to a range of human rights issues around the world. What does the disapproval of the EB do other than work to improve our public image?

Shaka McGlotten
Purchase College

6:52 PM


Anonymous said...
I whole heartedly agree with the AAA position that the HTS is an unacceptable use of anthropological expertise. As anthropologists, we should NEVER lend our expertise to estrategic military or intelligence/counterintelligence initiatives. Specially not in the case of abusive, undemocratic, arbitrary wars such as the campaigns currently being fought by US forces.

Carlos Garcia-Quijano, Ph.D.
University of Puerto Rico

7:28 PM


Darci said...
Upon reading "The Human Terrain System: A CORDS for the 21st Century" by Kipp et al. (http://leav-www.army.mil/fmso/documents/human-terrain-system.pdf), I realize that it seems the knowledge that the military can gain from social science support may not be used in a manner deemed ethical by most anthropologists. Although the essay mentions that operations in Iraq have been more successful with attempts at "understanding" and "respecting" the local people (pg 11), the italicized quote on pg 9 leaves me to believe that the information is intended to be used in a controlling and manipulating fashion because of its concern with predicting the actions of the populace and garnering its support for the actions of the U.S. military, whatever they may be.

On pg 13, the author states that the data collected by the HTT will be archived for use by the military and other government agencies. The data will also be made available to the "new" governments in Irag and Afghanistan. This means that the knowledge produced can be used in ways completely out of control of the social scientists creating it.

Darci Pauser
University of California, Berkeley, BA 2006

7:37 PM


Angel said...
I very much support the EB's statement on HTS. As other posters have noted, it cannot possibly address all the complex dimensions of the current debate over the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq-- however it does get at the heart of the ethical contradictions involved in being an anthropologist aiding military operations.

Angel Roque
Ph.D. Candidate
Stanford University

7:41 PM


Anonymous said...
So I guess those of you who concur with the AAA statement believe that you can pick and choose which war you should be able to help? So, because the United States made a HUGE blunder, we should penalize them and the people they are hurting by not offering our expertise? The fact that the military even considered getting anthropologists was a big step to show they are truly trying to get issues resolved. It's a shame how so many people say they are anthropologists but are hypocrytical in the same context. You do realize that there are many cultures around the world that believe that anthropologists are imperialists themselves. They go to a foreign land, take artifacts, dig up remains of people they have nothing to do with. But when there is a present need for us, your hatred for your own country and political agenda gets in the way. Maybe you should take a long look in the mirror and decide whether you are an anthropologist or a social worker. There is a difference. I was always against this 'war', but that should not interfere with the science of anthropology. Your imperialistic ideas of when and when not to use your expertise is a slap in the face of the field of anthropology. It's almost like a doctor won't see a patient because they eat the wrong food. "Oh, you eat McDonalds every day and I tell you not to. For that reason, I will not help you how to get better." I will never donate or register with AAA again.

7:44 PM


Brian D-L said...
Anthropologists who are participating in the so-called "Human Terrain Project" are not international peace-keepers or peacemakers, they are contributing to a side in a war. Whether we agree with that side or not, they are using the tools of anthropology as tools of war. This very point undermines the credibility of our discipline, and makes every anthropologist suspect in her/his respective fieldwork.

These are "anthropologists of fortune." It is such a twisted distortion of reality to suggest that they are somehow "doing good" by helping to make war more culturally sensitive! "Warfare Lite. Brought to you through the wonders of anthropology." Let's not hide these fact behind learned rationalizations and obfuscations. It is amazing that the discipline could be so caught up in its own discourse that we can't see the situation or speak about it clearly: this is a war; anthropologists are working for a side in the war, to help that side "win"; the principles and practices of the discipline are being used to "psyche out" (or anthro- out) people in their own cultural terms to help the US military win its battles. What isn't clear is how any responsible person in anthropology could find this acceptable to our discipline.

8:14 PM


Anonymous said...
It's hard to think clearly about this issue because the critiques of anthropological involvement in Human Terrain Teams are both ethical and political. Many of the comments posted here both critique and contribute to the confusion between the two.

Anthropologists have diverse political views. Some will feel comfortable working with the military and some will not. We should engage one another in political debate about the consequences and implications of such work, but the Association should not seek to dictate what is essentially a political position to its members.

On the other hand, there are certain kinds of practice that are clearly a violation of our professional ethics code, and it is clearly the responsibility of the EB to offer guidance (and censure) in regard to those. It seems clear to me that work for Human Terrain Teams falls into this category (for all the reaons the EB gives) and, while many of us may oppose the Human Terrain teams partly on political grounds, it is appropriate for the EB to urge anthropologists not to work for them because, "objectively," such work is incompatible with our collective ethics code. Whether we are for or against the war, we should be able to agree that certain kinds of war work by anthropologists are incompatible with our professional role.


I applaud the EB for its exercise of clear thinking and principled leadership.

Hugh Gusterson
George Mason University

10:12 PM


Anonymous said...
Maybe once a Democrat becomes president you guys will decide that maybe it's a good idea to help out?

11:14 PM


Zinjabeelah said...
The war in Iraq was launched in violation of UN Charter Chapter 7. The conduct of the war violates the Geneva Conventions and the Convention on the Prevention of Torture. The US is a signatory to both of these international conventions. The conduct of the war and the overall GWOT (Global War on Terror) has also involved violations of the US constitution. It is a very good development to see that the AAA has not, unlike the US Government, violated its code of ethics.

I hope that this whole discussion leads more anthropologists to be more politically engaged in public discussion and debates and the exercise of citizenship. To say that "politics" has no place in the study of human beings, who are always and everywhere engaged in formal and informal politics, is disturbing.

That being said, I think this statement is, or should be, only a beginning. Anthropologists should be more, not less, engaged in interpreting, debating, and commenting on public policy, particularly, given the disaster of Iraq, foreign policy in the Middle East.

L. King-Irani, PhD
Georgetown University
Washington, DC

12:41 AM


Woyzeck said...
I agree with the AAA decision. In responding to the other posts, I don't think it is a political statement to condemn a "war" that has been proved to be based on false information, a "war" that we have lost, and a "war" that has cost and is costing an egregious amount of lives. Intimidating and pressuring government officials by the Cheney Administration to manipulate and alter information for a case for war is political. The rest of the blame (and the greater part of it) goes to our coitus interruptus Congress and their non-binding, thirty percent work ethic.

The fact that we are at "war" in the first place I think shows that the Cheney Administration, US policy makers, and the US Military have no great interest in non-American cultures. And the fact that we have no respect for indigenous rights and knowledge here in our own country makes us less fit to go marauding in other countries. Until the US begins to acknowledge and respect the autonomy of other countries and at least give US Servicemen and women the dignity of not being exploited, I fear that anthropologists will only become another pawn. If the US military wants intelligence they should consult the "Independent Counsel."

I don't think Anthropology will become irrelevant because of its refusal to participate in skirmishes and invasions abroad. I think our relevancy is affected more by the same problem between the Intelligence Community: the unwillingness to collaborate across disciplines. The Homeland Defense Department after all was an attempt to bring together the CIA and FBI. And, for two organizations that have been spying and invading privacy way before the Cheney Administration's wire-tapping fiasco, I find it awfully strange that they still got caught with their pants down on 9/11. Parsimony of the human condition is what causes one to become irrelevant.

Cade Cannon
Graduate Student
Department of Anthropology
University of Washington

4:00 AM


Maximilian C. Forte said...
I do not want to see a discussion that is fundamentally about politics being displaced into the muddier field of ethics. This is not to dismiss ethics, but rather to make certain that we are focused on the politics behind the ethics, and stand up for those politics. The contention at the centre of our attention goes well beyond professionalism.

By issuing this statement, the AAA Executive Board has already done a lot to positively enhance anthropology's political profile in a world where the politics of anthropology are precisely what have been under dispute.

Had the AAA not taken such a measure, then rest assured that I for one would have been very keen to start an international movement to boycott American anthropology, and specifically the AAA.

Maximilian C. Forte
Concordia University, Montreal

9:45 AM


John Borneman said...
The AAA Executive Board statement raises many issues, perhaps too many for use as a petition to solicit widespread agreement among us. Our opposition to this new wave of American-led "wars on terror" (although not all of us are pacifists), and especially to the Iraqi war, may unite most of us. We should above all condemn the failure of American civil institutions, including the academy and our discipline--notwithstanding good sentiments--to engage with these ongoing wars in any efficacious way. This means, also, that we might condemn non-participation, the refusal to engage for fear of doing wrong, or any representation of American citizens as “non-complicit.” Moreover, once a wrong is perpetrated, rectification requires engagement with the crime. The AAA, then, should a express the view of what I assume would be the majority of its members that we acknowledge the political impasse into which we have collectively brought ourselves.
But, in the middle of such illegitimate wars, there is no easy or succinct answer to the question of whether and how to participate (assist, oppose, mediate, resist, sabotage). Our past inaction and the marginality of our knowledge is no guide. We might all agree that ethnographic fieldwork is and must be an ethical engagement, above all because we are always guests, usually uninvited by the people in the places where we study. At this level, our embeddedness with our subjects quite accurately and disturbingly reminds us of a parallel to the anthropologists working with HTS teams. But, in my opinion, it is not wise to make anthropology into the site of a prescribed ethics of engagement. General admonitions such as not to “harm” or “coerce” or to “respect the values of others” orient us as to what to avoid, but do not indicate what to do. Past research might suggest certain broad parameters for action, and lead us to disapprove of some forms of engagement as non-ethical. But we know too little about the actual terms of engagement of anthropologists who work with the HTS teams to condemn them. Such condemnation will not contribute to clarifying modes of ethical engagement, but only make us feel good. Anthropology is an experimental science, and thus in most cases cannot dictate ahead of actual encounters what sort of individual participation is least or most desirable.
John Borneman
Professor of Anthropology
Princeton University

10:05 AM


Marshall Sahlins said...
I believe that the participation of anthropologists in Human Terrain Systems Teams (HTST) in Iraq and Afghanistan is in violation of the AAA ethics code. Their cooperation in US military projects of political and cultural hegemony implicate them in attacks on the autonomy, traditions and persons of populations targeted for pacification and counterinsurgency. It is clear both from practice and from mission statements of the anthropological and military parties concerned that the military view the anthropologists instrumentally, as a weapon of pacification.

In this relation the anthropologist functions as a tactical means, subject to control and manipulation by the military officers in charge of the HTS teams and the commanders of brigade and regimental combat units. So while the anthropologists justify their role by saying it reduces the lethality of the American presence, their instrumental function is more comprehensively described as making lethal force more effective. The anthropologists help counterinsurgency units avoid inflicting casualties that will turn the local population against them. But it is clear that "mapping human resources across the kill chain"--as it was put by one military
officer-- helps determine targets for the combat teams in which the HTST are embedded. The structure of these Human Terrain Systems teams, the functions of the various members, their cooperation with other intelligence sources, debriefing of patrols, etc., all testify to their participation in identifying segments or persons in the local population in terms of their relevance to military operations.

I refer to the job specifications of HTST members as posted on a career fair site (techexpousa.com) on October 24, 2007 by the private firm to which their recruitment was outsourced, as well as published descriptions by the US military (see especially www.
army.mil/professionalwriting/volumes/volume4/december_2006/12_06_2.html).

"The HTS project is designed to improve the gathering, interpretation, understanding, operational application and sharing of local population knowledge at the Brigade Combat Team (BCT)/Regimental Combat Team(RCT) and Division levels." The HTS teams are made up of five specialized members: 1)the leader of the team, a high-ranking military officer; 2) a cultural analyst, which would be the anthropological position; 3) a regional studies analyst; 4) a human terrain research manager or collection manager; and 5) a human terrain analyst. All require security clearance at the level of "secret."

1) The HTST leader is the principal human terrain advisor to the Brigade Combat unit commander. He is responsible for"supervising the team's effort and helping integrate data into the staff decision process." Selected for his or her military experience, the team leader is a Major or Lieutenant-Colonel and a staff college graduate."The key attribute of the HTT Team leader is the ability to successfully integrate the HTT into the processes of the Brigade Combat Team...and become a trusted advisor to the BCT commander."

2) The cultural analyst (the anthropologist) is thus embedded in a team supervised by a high-ranking military officer--and designed as we will see to liaison with other intelligence operations--which is in turn embedded in a combat unit. Among the duties of the cultural analyst is "developing processes to integrate cultural information into the Brigade Combat Team's decision-making process."
Such analysts "apply a thorough understanding of the ops/intelligence fusion process to compile, collate, analyze and evaluate data sources and unevaluated intelligence to develop a coherent picture of the human terrain in which the BCT/RCTs operate."

3) The regional studies analyst has functions much like the cultural analyst "but with a focus on a larger target geographic region."

4) The human terrain research manager or collection manager is the principal link between the HTT and other intelligence operations. He or she must have "a military background in tactical intelligence and extensive experience working with, or in, military intelligence or Special Operations Forces." The collection manager "will work with the Human Terrain Team Leader to prioritize and manage efforts to map the human terrain and integrate products developed by other intelligence disciplines." Among other functions and qualifications, he debriefs patrols and evaluates "all sources of intelligence to develop a coherent picture of the human terrain in which the BCT/RCTs operate." In sum, the collection manager "will integrate the human terrain research plan with the unit intelligence collection effort."

5) The human terrain analyst must also have a military intelligence background and be a trained debriefer. Apparently this analyst has the function of compiling all the research data.

It is clear that the anthropologist is a subaltern functionary in a larger system for developing operational intelligence for combat units. Among the "deliverables" to the Brigade commander for which the Human Terrain Team is responsible are data on"key regional personalities" as well as on "social structures, links between clans and families, economic issues" and the like."The United States desperately needs a counter-network to fight the dark networks now surfacing across the globe," reads an article by a Lieutenant-Colonel in the Sept-Oct 2006 *Military
Review.* "Ethnographic intelligence can empower the daily fight against dark networks, and it can help formulate contingency plans that are based on a truly accurate portrayal of the most essential terrain--the human mind."

Aside from identifying key personalities, tribal relations,etc., for the "ops/intelligence fusion process," the aspect of anthropological contribution to the HTS teams that receives the most publicity, often the only publicity, is collecting cultural data for winning local "hearts and minds"--which is again to say for improving American counterinsurgency and pacification efforts. This is also described as inculcating respect for the local culture among US military personnel or even as providing a sense of cultural relativism. Of course it is the opposite of cultural relativism-- cultural cynicism one might call it--since the object is to appropriate the cultural practices of others to one's own purposes, notably the purpose of dominating them. A statement by the principal anthropological advocate and spokesperson of Human Terrain Systems operations, Montgomery McFate, reported in *The San Francisco
Chronicle,* confirms the priority of the military mission over the welfare of the local people. McFate is prepared to make the choice of exposing and hurting the anthropologists' informants in order to further American national security interests and save American lives:

"Anthropologists, she said, need to balance 'the anthropological interest in protecting informants and the national security interests of acquiring valuable information and knowledge that might potentially hurt an informant but might protect the lives of American and foreign civilians and members of the armed services....But most anthropologists...live in a pretty simple moral world. Their only interest is the interests of their informants. That is the sine qua non of anthropology. That is the prime directive. And I live in a more complicated world where that is a directive, but it is not the prime directive. Perhaps that is what they find so objectionable.'"

This kind of relation to the local people would hardly get through an IRB review on human subjects--to which reviews the HTS anthropologists claim immunity on grounds they are not subsidized by federal grants to universities. The more reason, then, for the AAA to censure the anthropologists involved for violations of professional and humanitarian ethics.

Marshall Sahlins
Charles F. Grey Distinguished Service Professor of Anthropology Emeritus Department of Anthropology University of Chicago

10:56 AM


Jon Burack said...
I thought people here might be interested in what I posted on the AP world history discussion list, where a link to the AAA statement recently appeared. I am not an anthropologist. I produce history materials for the schools. However, the AAA statement is of concern to more than just anthropologists, so as an outsider I offer this for your consideration:

Jonathan Burack
Highsmith Inc.
jburack@highsmith.com

I’d like to call attention to and follow up on the AAA statement John linked to

http://www.aaanet.org/blog/resolution.htm

This is a dramatic example of the politicization of an academic profession, the sort of thing that makes people like me wonder why we didn’t simply become plumbers or accountants. The statement in fact ought to alarm history teachers whether they support US efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan or not.

The AAA statement does not warn anthropologists to desist from aiding any and every military around the world, or any and every armed conflict. It only warns them not to assist the HTS program. Does the AAA believe no other authoritarian government or political-military institution anywhere on earth is employing American anthropologists? Instead, the AAA singles out the use of anthropologists by the US military in Afghanistan. It justifies this focus as near as I can tell, 1) because it knows about the HTS program (since we live in a free society where it is not hard to find out about such things), and 2) because it insists HTS must be seen in “the context of a war that is widely recognized as a denial of human rights and based on faulty intelligence and undemocratic principles...”

“Widely recognized”? Interesting, that passive construction. No need to identify the subjects apparently. Yet I have to ask, who are these “recognizers”? How does AAA know who they are and how many? More importantly, why would the AAA base an ethical principle and professional mandate on some perceived popular vote?

Critics routinely deride the US for its failure to understand the cultural context into which they have intervened militarily in Iraq and Afghanistan. You would think anthropologists would welcome a more anthropologically informed military. Especially in Afghanistan, where not only the US but NATO and others are engaged in a fight against a benighted totalitarian foe that has shown not a shred of regard for the indigenous customs of the peoples of that nation, let alone any respect at all for basic human rights and dignity. You would think it was the US, not the Taliban, who had shot the faces off centuries-old Buddhist statues, or the US not the Taliban that has executed women for daring to go to school or thrown homosexuals off of roof tops. Why shouldn’t anthropologists help to defeat such a foe and serve proudly along side soldiers, engineers, doctors, nurses, environmental resource managers, lawyers, and other equally ethically bound professionals?

In this context, the AAA’s posturing about the obligations of anthropologists to “do no harm” are especially revealing. They reveal above all the self-contradiction of the AAA’s moral relativism by raising the question of what harm the AAA will do to the Afghans if its bullying undermines the effort to eliminate the Taliban from Afghan society. Should the Taliban return, I suppose we can expect the AAA to issue no more warnings to protect the Afghan people from badly motivated anthropologists. That would be the one single blessing of such a catastrophe.

Finally, when I say “bullying,” this is what makes all this relevant to this list (since I know some will insist it is not relevant). This AAA statement cannot possibly be seen by anthropologists taking part in HTS as anything but a threat to their careers and future employment prospects. No formal proceedings of the AAA will be needed. HTS graduates will be forewarned that they need not apply. I find this simply appalling.

11:43 AM


Mark Dawson said...
he second paragraph starts with these disturbing sentences.

“The Commission’s work did not include systematic study of the HTS project. The Executive Board of the Association has, however, concluded that the HTS project raises sufficiently troubling and urgent ethical issues to warrant a statement from the Executive Board at this time.”

On a larger frame, it shows how the governing body of the AAA is moving the discipline farther away from anything resembling a science and to more of an ideology. How can any organization that purports to represent a scientific discipline dare to issue such a statement that says they have not taken a moment to actually study the group that is the topic of the controversy to start with? I know all the people on the board are anthropologists of some stripe. How serious can someone take such a statement when they have not even done the work required to get a passing grade in an undergraduate field course? Did they even talk to anyone connected to the HTS?

Do you know how easy it is to start understanding the HTS? Its called Google. Type “Human Terrain System” into Google and first 5 hits include the writings by the people that created the HTS concept and a link to a blog by Marcus Griffin who is an anthropologist currently in Iraq with the HTS.

The more I think about it, the more appalling it is. This is not a covert activity, its widely written about, there are at least two anthropologists in Iraq that blog about their work, contacting them and or the creators is pretty easy.

Are their problems with the program? No kidding. But to issue a statement without actually going to the source material or speaking with those actually involved is inexcusable.

12:29 PM


Anonymous said...
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2:22 PM


rex said...
This statement says:

1. The research performed by HTS is unethical by agreed-upon standards for dealing with research subjects.

2. There may be some cases in which the ends justify the means when it comes to anthropology, but this engagement probably is not one of them.

3. No specialized research was done on the HTS program itself.

The statement does not say:

1. ALL forms of aid to the military are wrong.

2. There are never circumstances when ends justify means in aiding and abetting the military.

The take-away from the statement is not that the AAA hates George Bush or thinks all collaboration with the military is wrong -- the focus should be on the empirical claim that HTS research requires unethical human subjects practices. Investigating HTS closely -- very closely indeed -- would be the next logical step to get the data we need to decide this issue one way or the other.

2:26 PM


Anonymous said...
Mark Dawson hit it right on the head in a message or two above:

"it shows how the governing body of the AAA is moving the discipline farther away from anything resembling a science and to more of an ideology."

"How can any organization that purports to represent a scientific discipline dare to issue such a statement that says they have not taken a moment to actually study the group that is the topic of the controversy to start with? I know all the people on the board are anthropologists of some stripe. How serious can someone take such a statement when they have not even done the work required to get a passing grade in an undergraduate field course? Did they even talk to anyone connected to the HTS?"

I agree 100% with these statements. I'm glad though that I'm graduating this semester because admitting that I do indeed agree would probably get me blacklisted by my fellow anthro's here at USF.

This would have been a great topic for my Rethinking Anthropology course that I took last semester!

Dan Wiberg
Senior, Anthropology Major
University of South Florida
Tampa, FL

2:59 PM


Daniel Segal said...
Mark Dawson's criticism of the Statement is predicated on reading the EB Statement as saying that the EB passed its Statement without having "taken a moment to actually study the group that is the topic of the controversy." But this is NOT what the EB Statement claims at all. The actual text reads: "The Commission’s work did not include systematic study of the HTS project. The Executive Board of the Association has, however, concluded that the HTS project raises sufficiently troubling and urgent ethical issues to warrant a statement from the Executive Board at this time. Our statement is based on information in the public record, as well as on information and comments provided to the Executive Board by the Ad Hoc Commission and its members."

What is reported is first that the Ad Hoc Commisson did not systematically study the HTS program (the Ad Hoc Commission can speak for itself, but I understand that the reason it did not have this focus was because the HTS program only came to light toward the end of its term of existence). Following this report about what the Ad Hoc Commission did not do, that same paragraph ends by indicated what the EB (its members to be precise) did do to inform itself about the HTS program.

My own view, as a member of the EB, is that the EB exercised due diligence in informing itself about HTS. In fact, I think for most of us on the EB, many, many hours were spent reading everything we could and asking questions, particularly of members of the Commission (and we also heard from AAA members and other colleagues not on the Commission).

In sum: to claim that the EB acted without even taking "a moment" to learn about HTS does two things: (i) it mis-reads the text of the Statement and (ii) it misrepresents what the EB actually did.

3:36 PM


Anonymous said...
Mr. Segal,

What are your thoughts on Mr. Dawson's statement that "it shows how the governing body of the AAA is moving the discipline farther away from anything resembling a science and to more of an ideology."

Dan Wiberg
Senior, Anthropology Major
University of South Florida
Tampa, FL

4:28 PM


Anonymous said...
I’d like us to think about how we can refuse the provincializing of anthropology in the debates about the HTS. I am opposed to the HTS, but I’d like to have a wider set of debates about it.

Recently, I listened to McFate, the HTS designer, present the basic structure of the HTS as well as her justification for it to an audience of anthropologists. In the cracks of her official presentation, we found out that, of the 12 people who are currently part of the HTS, only a few are anthropologists. Others hold degrees in international relations, history, sociology, economy, and psychology. Why, then, is there a link between the HTS and anthropology and what’s the problem with it?

The link has been instigated by the fact that its designer is an anthropologist and the talk of ethnography, participant-observation, and culture in the HTS documents. The media has helped establish the notion that HTS pertains particularly to anthropology. But given who the members of the HTS are and the kind of work they apparently do, the notion that the HTS is tightly linked to anthropology is as warranted as the association of HTS with say, history.

While some salute this association of HTS and anthropology, the particularizing of anthropology is ultimately damaging. It draws anthropology into a predetermined binary framework that McFate herself propagates. One part of her framework is the portrayal of the military as an innocent but helpless bunch who are merely executing their duty even though many are opposed to the war (which she euphemistically refers to the “Iraq policy”). According to her, anthropologists either help the military or choose to stay “pure,” self-absorbed in the Ivory Tower, and irrelevant. Thus, the only way to be relevant is to support the state. Her view is supported by many who stereotype anthropologists as stubborn peaceniks out of touch with reality.

This framework provincializes anthropology by narrowing the terms of the debate and the measure of anthropological relevance. And we accept it when we discuss the HTS as a challenge to anthropology in particular, and moreover, narrow that down to a challenge to anthropological ethics. By centering the debate on how the HTS violates anthropological ethics, we look inward and draw the lines around the place into which the HTS supporters happily place us. If the code of ethics sets boundaries on what anthropological conduct should not look like, it is also a minimal common denominator. We all agree on the code of ethics, if not its interpretations. But there is so much more to be said about the HTS, the anthropological involvement with the military, and the relevance of anthropology beyond its impact on US policies.

I’d like to expand the existing debate on ethics and move beyond it. The question, for me, is not whether HTS violates the anthropological code of ethics. I believe that it does. But so do many other anthropological engagements the AAA does not oppose. And this where politics enters the game. Is the HTS involvement an absolute violation of AAA code of ethics or is it somewhere on the continuum of violations? What is the difference between an HTS ethnographer and say, an ethnographer analyzing health-seeking behavior in service an insurance company that’s trying to cut its cost at the expense of quality of care? Or a consultant to the World Bank hired to facilitate a resistance-free displacement of peoples for the sake of building a dam? Or, on the other end of the political spectrum, an anthropologist who studies up, but due to his/her allegiance to the “people” writes against the interests of the main informants? To me, the difference seems that the question of survival is more immediate in war, but the code of ethics is compromised in all these cases. Hence, the decision to condemn this, but not other violations, is a political decision.

Anthropologists usually do a great job of analyzing the shades of difference and gray zones. Where does the HTS fit on the scale of anthropological involvement with the US military? According to McFate, the military hires senior scholars as consultants on Iraq and Afghanistan. Do the actions of these people do harm to those who once trusted them? We might never know – the consultants wish to remain anonymous.

One way to refuse the narrow framework is to invite others to the table. So, sociologists, historians, and others: What do you say about the HTS and other efforts of the military to draw on your knowledge? What differences do you see between your students and colleagues being recruited as specialists and say, students on DOD fellowships who are getting trained in area studies with the idea that they would serve the military better? How do we negotiate knowledge, ethics and politics at the time when we’re facing a perpetual war on terror?

I believe that we should talk about the larger role anthropology should play in influencing politics. I’d love to able to do that. But I would want to expand the notion of relevance beyond the terms currently on the table, neither retreating to the comfortable notion that all knowledge is somehow relevant, nor accepting the idea that only those anthropologists engaging with the state or serving it are doing relevant work.

Saida Hodzic
Assist. Prof of Women's Studies
George Mason University

6:06 PM


Brian D-L said...
I would suggest that, rather than it being hard to think clearly about this issue because of some kind of confusion in our discussion between politics and ethics, it seems quite the opposite: It is clear that there is a serious contradiction and conflict between the fundamental principles of anthropological study (whether taken from a scientific or humanisitic perspective, or both) and the turning of such study into weapons of war. What is then seen as confusion and difficulty in coming to terms with this is in fact the result of how easy it is apparenlty to cloud the situation with subsequent discourse.

We are not, after all, talking about whether one war or another is good or bad, whether all war is good or bad, whether it is right for an anthropologist to get involved in this or that war etc.; we are talking about whether it is professionally responsible for anthropologists to use their professional skills and abilities to assist in warmaking.

This reported difficulty in achieving clarity reminds me of the fabled debates among theologians who argued endlessly about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin, while Hitler gassed millions of people in concentration camps. It is something of a comfortable inability to achieve clarity, oddly enough. I can't help but imagine an episode of the Daly show here, with an interview of flak-jacketed, gun-carrying, clip-board writing anthropologists, to draw out the absurity of the situation.

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Anthropology/Sociology
Quinebaug Valley Community College
Danielson, CT 06239

6:10 PM


Anonymous said...
Sounds like more ideology rather than actual science.

1:44 AM


John Norvell said...
I applaud the Board’s Statement. Gusterson’s distinction, above, between political and ethical concerns is an important one. I think the emphasis in the Statement on the various forms of illegality this war represents is important for the latter and does not merely position the AAA ideologically. In a truly defensive war, declared Constitutionally and prosecuted within the bounds of international and national law, many anthropologists would participate in something like the HTS without qualms. I agree with Borneman that the options for action in the face of an illegal and immoral war are not clear cut, and one can envision several forms of ethical anthropological engagement in the public sphere at this point in this one.

Although I concur in general with Borneman’s statement that specifying a priori specific ethical and unethical actions is inappropriate and unwise, it seems as if he is quoting himself from some other debate. The assault on even the broadest “human subjects research” principles of beneficence, autonomy, and justice represented by participation in the HTS in this war is unambiguous, and I am comfortable with the shadow the AAA action casts on those who pursue careers in this arena.

John Norvell
Scripps College

2:41 AM


Anonymous said...
I fully support the AAA statement. GWOT as pursued by the US military clearly uses methods that are broadly unethical and specifically in violation of international norms of justice and human rights. Pre-emptive attack in only an obvious example of many such violations.

To participate in such egregious endeavors is to aid and be complicit with them. Period.

Mana Kia
Doctoral Candidate
Harvard University

4:25 AM


Jon Burack said...
John Norvell says,

"In a truly defensive war, declared Constitutionally and prosecuted within the bounds of international and national law, many anthropologists would participate in something like the HTS without qualms."

So now, instead of "widely recognized" opinions about the war, we get "the war is against the law" as the reason for the AAA statement. I suppose any rationale will do given the AAA's relentless drive to depict its own country as the source of all evil.

What both of these rationales have in common is that they rely on sheer assertion backed up by absolutely nothing at all. What authorized agency responsible to any democratic polity anywhere has found the US war in Afghanistan to be against international or Constitutional law? None. Just as no one in the AAA has any basis at all for saying the war's unjustness is "widely recognized" -- let alone explaining why this should determine what the HTS anthropologists do with their talents.

The only other basis claimed so far for the AAA's judgment against these anthropologists is "the do no harm" rule. Nice to convince yourselves you actually ever can be so pure. In reality, it is a principle resting on sand, since it still leaves in the hands of the anthropologists the definition of "harm." My point above about the rule therefore still stands. Outside the comfortable walls of academe, binary choices confront people in the real world, both of which may entail harm. What then? In this case, the choice is pretty clear. Harm some to stop the Taliban. Or do not stop the Taliban and harm far more. So I say wash off the blood already on your hands in any case and pitch in.

10:52 AM


Brian D-L said...
Two fundamental principles at the heart of our discipline are trust and respect in relation to the people and the cultures we study so imtimately. We build our rapport with people (and their cultures, by extension) in order to get as open and unguarded view as possible.

Anthropologists who do this in order to gain "intelligence," to write military manuals and assist troops in the fighting of war, turn the tools (and more importantly the principles) of our profession into spying. It undermines as a result, the integrity and trustworthiness of our whole discipline and its practitioners.

One doesn't have to be against this or any particular war to be disturbed by this prospect and what it means for our profession, nor to raise this fundamental concern.

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Anthropology/Sociology
Quinebaug Valley Community College
Danielson, CT 06239

12:18 PM


Anonymous said...
As a retired intelligence officer, I found the debate on the AAA EB Statement to be both sad and amusing. And valuable. Those who wash their hands and stand away feel better, but the war continues. Those who call for engagement, and for a detailed study of the situation, give me hope that contributions will follow, to inform the Iraqis and Afghanis, the military, and American society and the world. The debate that guided the "War o Terror" was replete with policitcs, if not of ethics, and not well handled by conventional leadership, but to ask for greater understanding is not entirely conventional, and dissent from voices in intelligence and policy were marginalized, rather than heard, when their points were inconvenient. So my experience says.

Some comments seemed very naive. Jane Adams and others seemingly mistrust all military action, and I saw no sign that the profession of arms holds any honor for these bloggers, nor any close observation of war. For Jane, I must disagree; true soldiers do regard neutrals during a conflict; thugs and xenopobes may not. The concept of such a soldier is charming, and they do exist. There are good soliders, but there are many who would benefit in overcoming sociocultural pathologies.

Soldiers have rules of engagement (sounds like what the AAA EB needs), and rules for the use of force. There are principles behind these, such as the inherent right and obligation to exercise self-defense and defense of innocent others, and the right of a unit commander to defend his/her unit. Defense is neither exclusively aggressive (there may be leeway for preemption of a clear and present danger) nor reactive, but involves deterrence, detection or recognition of a threat, selection of appropriate (necessary and proportionate) measures to stop the threat/hostile action, and then the implementation of those measures. Incidents of violence will also require responses to mitigate harm, as well as restore peace and capabilities to preserve the culture. The military can only optimize these skills and actions by being well informed and guided.

The "kill chain" is not necessarily predisposed to kill, though its name is shocking. Killing is not the first alternative, nor the only military response. Deadly force is only authorized, under the Standing Rules of Engagment/Force for the U.S., when facing a threat (comprising intention, capability, and opportunity) of death or serious bodily harm, and only in seven circumstances, such as in defense of a critical national asset (ask if you wish more). It is a bit of a stretch to call HTS teams "weapons" as they do not directly inflict harm, but indirectly they may support violence and targeting. Will that action always taint the understanding offered by anthropology? It may support peacemaking and security too. One hopes the action will be ethical, and that we only shoot those who desperately need to be shot.

This ethical question is very similar to my concerns about providing intelligence, which focuses on adversaries' intention and capabilities to cause harm. Threat recogntion is the job here, leading to warning. Warning is the process of communicating threat information to decision-makers in order that they will limit damage, and that is, in my view, a good thing. I do not assume evil intent from the evidence of a uniform, nor is it certain from a President. There may be exculpatory or mitigating evidence regarding ignorance, insanity, folly, or mere failure in judgment, but the harm still occurs. There may also be evidence to convict; analysis is needed. Optimal decisions are not ideal, often.
Thanks for inspirin me to grapple with these issues; together perhaps we will tame them.

12:37 PM


Laurie King-Irani said...
RE: the illegality or legality of the war in Iraq, check out the Crimes of War Project's website:

http://www.crimesofwar.org/special/Iraq/overview.html

For an incisive article written five months before the launch of the Iraq war, and a critique of the Bush policy of Pre-emption, check out:

http://www.lrb.co.uk/v24/n19/liev01_.html

Last but not least, the war in Iraq is framed as part of the GWOT (global war on terror), one of the underpinnings of which is the black hole of Guantanomo. For legal views on this, check out:

http://www.crimesofwar.org/onnews/news-guantanamo2.html

Why did the government and the military not listen to anthropologists with speciality in the Middle East before launching this war? Many of us were writing, in the popular press, the alternative media, and in articles like Mahmoud Mamdani's AA piece, "Good Muslim, Bad Muslim (2002 or 03) about the dangers of this war.

The situation in Iraq is now so dire and deleterious that anthropologists cannot be of any help. In addition to the solid ethical and logistical arguments that support the AAA statement, there is also the pragmatic dimension to be considered. The war there has now passed the tipping point and there are no easy answers. Anyone who thinks there is, is dreaming. Anthropologists can and should be involved in the debate about what is the best course for Iraqis, Americans, and people in the region who will, for decades to come, be affected by the bad decisions made four years ago.

I don't see anything in the AAA statement that could back up the statement that the AAA is eager to depict the US as the "root or source of all evil," as one person has posted above.

Were I an anthropologist in WWII, I probably would gladly have done whatever I could to halt the spread of fascism and Nazism. Now, I fear there is too much evidence of fascism in my own country's policies and actions: pre-emptive war, the dereliction of duty on behalf of Congress and the media, the squashing of public debate, and of academic freedom where Middle East issues are concerned. The proper thing to do now, in my estimation as an American citizen and as an anthropologist, is to investigate, discuss, and debate the problems, structural flaws, and misinterpretations of reality that brought us to this point so that the US can be the best possible version of itself.

There is a lot of objection to this war within the ranks of the military itself, as evidenced by the number of retired generals who have made very strong statements against the war on both logistical and legal grounds. A war carried out without regard for the Geneva Conventions, and as part of a general attempt to scare the public, lie to Congress, cook up intelligence, and strong-arm allies is not an ethical, wise, or practical endeavor. Anthropology as a discipline should not be involved in this as part of the system, or chain of command (elsewhere discussed under the gruesome term, "kill chain"). We can only do more harm to ourselves than we can do any good for Iraqis or American troops by being involved in the manner laid out by the HTS. That is not to say that anthropologists do indeed have things to say, ideas to share, that could prevent the US government and military from similar debacles in the future. I think we should take care not to demonize the military or the troops, and I read the AAA statement as avoiding that sort of statement.

That said, the war has wrought unbelievable infrastructural, social, physical and psychological damage on the Iraqi people, devastated the US's reputation throughout the world, and set the stage for worse wars in the region. This should be of concern to us not simply narrowly, in terms of what it means for Anthropology, but for what it means for human beings regardless of their nationality, religion, or political views as well. The use of depleted uranium weaponry is going to damage the regional environment and Americans' and Iraqis' health for generations to come. How did a mess on this scale ever take place to begin with? Here is where anthropological theories and methods can be of use in understanding the symbol systems, rhetoric, and narratives that shut down debate, narrowed visions and perceived options, and empowered people who have destroyed the ideal of the US as a “nation of laws, not men.”

There are very compelling arguments for the illegality of this war, grounded not in alleged anti-US sentiments, but rather, established legal theories and precedents, and I think the unethical nature of the war is beyond dispute. Anthropologists serving as "embeds" with troops may even be risking war crimes prosecution as part of a chain of command in situations that lead to extrajudicial killings, torture, and wilfull killings of civilians. What is the trade off in terms of how our skills, perspectives, and methods can remedy this mess as members of HTS teams? None that I can see. The time and place for anthropology to avert this disaster was before the war was launched, and that horse long ago left the barn. In 2003 a motion was brought at the Chicago AAA meeting to express disapproval of the war and its many troubling ramifications for Iraqis and Americans. That fell flat on its face, unfortunately. Why did we not have the courage to stand up and present the views so many of us had then, and now, in public in an official forum. We did not go on record as being against the war. We cannot now go against our code of ethics in being complicit in this war.

1:13 PM


Dwight Read said...
Two articles in Military Review (McFate, M. & A. Jackson. An Organizational Solution for DOD’s Cultural Knowledge Needs July-August 2005 and Kipp, J. Grau, L., Prinslow, K. & D. Smith September-October 2006) provide the rational for the Human Terrain System that is currently being implemented by our military. It is instructive to see how these authors present HTS.

By “human terrain” is meant “human population and society in the operational environment (area of operations) as defined and characterized by sociocultural, anthropologic, and ethnographic data and other non-geophysical information about that human population and society. … It includes the situational roles, goals, relationships, and rules of behavior of an operationally relevant group or individual” (Kipp, et al., p. 15, n. 2) and “Data will cover such subjects as key regional personalities, social structures, links between clans and families, economic issues, public communications, agricultural production, and the like” (Kipp, et al., p. 13).

How will this detailed information be obtained? A key player in the HTS group assigned to a brigade is the cultural analyst: “The cultural analyst will advise the HTT and brigade staff and conduct or manage ethnographic and social-science research and analysis in the brigade’s area of operations. The analyst will be a qualified cultural anthropologist or sociologist competent with Geographical Imaging Software and fluent enough in the local language to perform field research. Priority selection will go to those who have published, studied, lived, and taught in the region” (Kipp, et al, p. 13). This person will “Provide on-the-ground ethnographic research (interviews and participant observation) …” (Kipp, et al., p. 13). In short, the goal is to get detailed ethnographic information of the kind that can only be obtained when there is trust between the ethnographer and the people among whom the ethnographer is working.

Yet the goal for compiling such a database is “to support development of training, education, wargames, Red Teams, planning, and concepts. (McFate & Jackson, p. 20). Data will be made part of “A constantly updated, user-friendly ethnographic and sociocultural database of the area of operations that can provide the commander data maps showing specific ethnographic or cultural features…” (Kipp, et al., p. 13). The database will also “facilitate economic development and security, the compiled databases will eventually be turned over to the new governments of Iraq and Afghanistan to enable them to more fully exercise sovereignty over their territory and to assist with economic development" (Kipp, et al., p. 14).

The value of the data provided by the cultural analyst lies in “demands from within DOD for sociocultural studies on areas of interest (such as North Korean culture and society, Iranian military culture, and so on), and conduct case studies of coalition partners’ lessons learned on cultural training, such as the British experience in Iraq where cultural knowledge was applied to good effect, particularly in the organization of local councils to co-opt the tribal sheiks in Basra” (McFate & Jackson, p. 21). Further, military commanders will thereby “be culturally empowered, able to key on the people and so prosecute counter¬insurgency as Lawrence, Galula, and other practi¬tioners have prescribed—not by fire and maneuver, but by winning hearts and minds. In turn, the Army, our Nation, and the people of Iraq and Afghanistan will benefit from the fielding of this powerful new instrument for conducting stability operations and reconstruction” (Kipp, et al., p. 15).

The last comment highlights the schizophrenic nature of the enterprise. Somehow, warfare that our country entered into under the banner of “war on terrorism” is supposed to be winning the hearts and minds of precisely those civilians whose lives and country have been ransacked by our war on terrorism. In my opinion, there is no way that the goals of HTS can be achieved without compromising the ethics to which we, as anthropologists subscribe.

One of the anthropologists (Marcus Griffin) currently in Iraq working with the military is maintaining a Blog on his experiences (http://marcusgriffin.com/blog/ ) and it is worth reading his comments. His view on informed consent: “Finally, if anthropology is an academic discipline that promotes liberal learning at universities and other social institutions by promoting the use of knowledge in the service of human freedom, then anthropologists not obtaining informed consent denies our very reason for existing in its most basic form.” (http://marcusgriffin.com/blog/2007/07/ 7/19/2007). More generally, with regard to HTS, he comments: “In HTS we are working on a model that involves: research designs rooted in social theories, an Institutional Review Board in order to comply with the protection of human research subjects via 45 Code of Federal Regulation 46, using the Human Relations Area Files’ Organization of Cultural Material in order to contribute to the Academy’s production of knowledge, publishing ethnographic reports, and ultimately using knowledge in the service of human freedom. There is nothing crass or naive about this model and we are keenly aware of professional ethics. The two anthropologists that I have daily interaction with have both done significant research among marginalized peoples, just as I have, and all of us are committed to the protection of human dignity and those who are most vulnerable.” (http://marcusgriffin.com/blog/2007/07/ 7/4/07). Yet a military person (Lieutenant Colonel Gian P Gentile) comments: “Dear Dr. Griffin: Don’t fool yourself. These Human Terrain Teams whether they want to acknowledge it or not, in a generalized and subtle way, do at some point contribute to the collective knowledge of a commander which allows him to target and kill the enemy in the Civil War in Iraq” (http://marcusgriffin.com/blog/2007/10/why_is_the_use_of_anthropology.html#comments 10/17/07).

Dr. Dwight Read
Department of Anthropology
UCLA

4:17 PM


oona paredes, arizona state university said...
The AAA can make all the loud declarations it wants on this issue, but you all look like complete hypocrites because you have not removed the advert for BAE systems -recruiting explicitly for the HTS- from the AAA jobs/careers listing page. Is the AAA executive board even aware that it is there?

Unless and until you remove that advert, and make a habit of refusing any and all comparable recruiting, then all of your ethical condemnations are meaningless. Not to mention embarrassing.

5:31 PM


Alan Goodman said...
Dear Oona Paredes and others,

For your information, the BAE Systems position advertisement for social scientists-cultural anthropologists to work with the HTS program was self-posted a couple of days ago on the AAA website. Yesterday, EB officers were notified by staff about the self-posted ad and I have now informed the rest of the EB.

We will consider options for this specific ad over the next few days. More broadly, the ad hoc Commission will soon be making recommendations on how to handle best military and intelligence community ads.

Warm regards,
Alan Goodman (AAA President)

9:34 PM


Maximilian C. Forte said...
Has the discussion been closed? I previously tried to post a comment here and it was not accepted. Not to waste more time, in case this particular message suddenly appears, I have posted a reply to Dr. Goodman at the site my name links to here.

2:56 PM


Matt Schehl said...
Salaam Uleykum

I have followed this debate for some time, as it is one which personally and professionally hits home. I would like to offer my opinion as one somewhat 'between both worlds' ...

Currently, I am a graduate student of social anthropology; prior to this, however, I was a US Army military intelligence non-commissioned officer. I was trained in Arabic at the Defense Language Institute, and in OIF2 (2003-2005) I ran a Tactical Human Intelligence Team (THT) in Central Iraq. My work in this capacity involved daily interaction in situ with many Iraqis, as well as liaison between a host of Iraqi and Coalition institutions and agencies. Through this, I became frustrated with what I saw as a critical 'culture' gap between what was happening 'on the ground', 'away from the flagpole', versus in the PowerPoint presentations 'inside the wire' in Baghdad. There is no small irony, then, for me to encounter both the push for "cultural awareness" in the US military under the HTS banner, as well as the intense reverberations within my chosen discipline.

Intuition tells me that that which furthers the welfare of those individuals/groups under the aegis of the US military is good, and my pragmatic nature is inclined to bracket political and ethical concerns to this end (for which, I should note, I have strong objections). Experience, however, informs me that the HTS program would decidedly not work towards this end.

As I understand it, the issue centers around the legitimate concern for lack of 'cultural' awareness/understanding on the part of individuals in the US military/government, at ALL echelons of command and agencies, as this informs tactical and operational decision-making. The HTS program is intended to sub-contract this knowledge to those who are 'experts' at culture. Now were this 'expert opinion' be intended to either contribute to the (sustainable) welfare of target populations, or provide for (vastly) improved understanding of US personnel towards this, I would be moved to endorse this program. Its intention, however, is not: guidance and information provided by anthropologists is suborned to achieving operational ('mission') success. In my experience, this translates into at least three severe problems:
01. 'Success' is defined in the short term (specifically revolving around troop rotations), meaning specific objectives are pursued without necessary regard for long-term implications (e.g., what happens if/when US troops are withdrawn?);
02. Information produced will tend toward a narrow conception of culture and social systems, i.e. that information which is only as relevant as its immediate utility to the field commander, fostering a simplified ideation of 'good guy, bad guy', without regard to social or historic contexts and processes (e.g., much literature exists documenting US-supported state authorities as culpable for structural violence, as opposed to 'anti-democratic' revolutionary movements);
03. The utilization of such information is subject to the whims and spot decisions of the field commander, with or without the development of an IRB equivalent, and whether or not "in the service of human freedom".

My most immediate objection, though, is that which hits hardest home to me. A primary motivation for me to leave the US government was its systemmatic inability and unwillingness to enact meaningful change in Iraq, despite possessing the power, mandate and responsibility to do so, and despite the efforts of many men and women who (out of personal integrity and at great risk) sought to do so: it hurt me to watch good people unnecessarily suffer and die, Americans and Iraqis. I shudder at the thought of anthropologists contributing to this.

Matthew L. Schehl
ms176073@grizmail.umt.edu
Graduate Student
University of Montana
Missoula, MT

4:42 PM


JJ said...
I just wanted to commend the AAA executive board on its statement concerning the HTS project. These are difficult times and it is important to confirm anthropologists' commitment to at least attempting to improve the quality of human life, instead of aiding those who are furthering wanton destruction. It is important to engage the war in Iraq, but openly and critically, but not as someone on the payroll of those who are profiting from the devastating loss of life. So thank you AAA for speaking for the majority of your constituents, and not giving in to vested interests who are attempting to quash free speech!

7:10 PM


JAH said...
It is very easy to reject the lucrative job offers that the HTS provides considering (assuming) all of you are full-time professors with job security, benefits, savings, no debt from school loans and a nice office. In reality, those of us, like myself, who are considered the next generation of anthropological academia don't have people/universities knocking down our doors with offers of a career or even job security.
It appears that most of you forget about academics/researchers of the past who faced little or no opportunities for funding and practical applications of their education until the CIA/US Gov't decided to employ them in Vietnam, Thailand and Laos during the Vietnam War. After the war ended a couple researchers were employed by the Gov't, etc., but most were left empty-handed which resulted in several scholars, specifically those in SE Asian Studies, forced to seek employment overseas since the focus shifted away from the region.
In addition, what options are being offered for those that do not pursue a PhD or who desire to work outside academia? Yes, there are a few companies that specialize in the application of ethnographic fieldwork for the business world, but the fact remains that as newcomers to the world of anthropology, there are few career or job prospects out there unless you are some amazing linguist or prodigy who gets a tenured position at Harvard right after defending their dissertation.
The world has changed a great deal and people need to work and support themselves apart from being an adjunct or lecturer with no benefits just because they are a new graduate with a couple publications, etc.
It is not practical nor helpful to condone a job that many of you would have taken yourself several years ago had you known the grim future of supporting yourself in academia today.
All I hear are objections and complaining, which is why most people shy away from discourse with academics due to their reluctance to change or adapt.
What is wrong with working? Who cares if it is with the military or helping the Gov't. Why not offer alternatives or suggestions for employment instead of rejections and ignorrance for those just entering the real world which, in case you haven't noticed, has little need or to offer those in such a niche market as anthropology and cultural studies.

9:26 PM


Ralph Bishop said...
Anybody remember the Chrysanthemum and the Sword? A long way from embedded anthropologists, but the profession has been involved in warfare for generations.

To that point, when a situation presents itself where it is impossible to "do no harm" what is the ethical course of action? If you believe, after thorough investigation of the information that is available to you, that your intervention might possibly alleviate the harm done, do you not have an obligation to intervene?

But that investigation has to be clear-headed and cold-blooded. We like to call ourselves social scientists after all.

If after such an investigation, you are convinced that you can do something to alleviate the harm, go do it. If you are convinced that whatever you do will only make things worse, keep out of it. If you're already there, you have no choice but to do the best you can under the circumstances.

I commend the Executive Board for coming up with a statement that so clearly displeases so many people for so many different reasons. The suggestion that I would make for improving it would be to concentrate on the ethical issues, focusing on the harm that is being done now, the potential harm that could come from the cooptation of anthropologists, and the potential reduction of harm that could come from the additional cultural understanding that anthropologists could contribute.

And get rid of "widely recognized" and the rest of the political crap that weakens the ethical argument.

The ethical terrain in Iraq and Afghanistan is certainly as uncertain as the human terrain, and the blanket disapproval of the executive board, informed as it is by a well-articulated political position, is a bit of a disappointment from a group of scholars with such deep knowledge of cultural differences.

9:57 PM


Anonymous said...
Regarding: "Anonymous said...

Sounds like more ideology rather than actual science."

To this I say: Do you believe that science itself is without ideology? A small point to make, but nonetheless important for a student of anthropology to understand.

And to Matthew L. Schehl: Many, many thanks for sharing your incredibly insightful thoughts with us. It is good to have an informed opinion, instead of relying on theoretical viewpoints.

5:32 PM


Anonymous said...
The AAA statement on this topic is weak at best and seems to reflect underlying opinions on the war, rather than the action of the HTS project itself. This weakness is particularly glaring in the need to repeat, basically, the same information in statements two and four. This feels like the ad hoc committee is fishing. It is further troubling that the AAA would state that they do not believe in issuing statements without informed background research, yet issue a condemnation of HTS with such poor background information.

10:36 PM


Bill Davis said...
Announcement:

In light of the statement adopted on October 31, 2007 by the AAA Executive Board of the American Anthropological Association disapproving the Human Terrain System (HTS) program, (www.aaanet.org/blog/resolution.htm) we are suspending any postings of job ads for the HTS program on the AAA website pending future discussion by the Executive Board.

Bill Davis
AAA Executive Director

3:45 PM


Joseph Shead said...
I don't see how there can be any reasonable doubt as to how the HTS information will be used.

The anonymous 'intelligence officer' above said it well: "It is a bit of a stretch to call HTS teams 'weapons' as they do not directly inflict harm, but indirectly they may support violence and targeting."

Targeting? Anthropologists don't have any business in targeting. I've been reading some on the history of the Vietnam War, and also two articles[1,2] and a slide show[3] referenced partly by the Concerned Anthropologists site (concerned.anthropologists.googlepages.com). For me, the Andrade-Willbanks article is the bottom line. The Executive Board is doing the right thing.

1. I had difficulty finding something in the Kipp et al article[1] that clearly stated that the information collected by HTT's would be used to target individuals for 'neutralization.' The article presents HTS as inspired by the CORDS program of the Vietnam War. I re-read the article to try to find a clear statement that the HTS is intended, at least partially, to support tactical operations, that is, for targeting, or other ways to increase the advantage in fighting. It was frustrating, because the language seemed to be talking in two ways at once, in one way to make clear to military personnel that the program was going to provide tactical advantage, and in another way to tell the public that its purpose is to 'win hearts and minds.' The sentence below that starts "Implemented under..." illustrates this confusing duality.

"Subsequently, among the many weapons brought to bear
against the insurgency in South Vietnam during the course
of the war, perhaps the most effective was one that
involved South Vietnamese forces backed by advisors from
the Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support
(CORDS) program, a project administered jointly by the
South Vietnamese Government and the Military Assistance
Command, Vietnam (MACV). Implemented under the Johnson
administration, the CORDS program specifically matched
focused intelligence collection with direct action and
integrated synchronized activities aimed at winning the
'hearts and minds' of the South Vietnamese. CORDS was
premised on a belief that the war would be ultimately won
or lost not on the battlefield, but in the struggle for the
loyalty of the people." (Kipp et al 2006:10)

'Action'? 'Activities'? Can mean different things to different people.

2. I found the Andrade-Willbanks article[2] more enlightening. The dual-speech, saying one thing to one group and simultaneously saying another to another group, is found here, too. I focus on two aspects, its existence and the packed notion of 'pacification.'

"Such an infrastructure is the real basis of guerrilla
control during any insurgency; it is the thread that ties
the entire insurgency together. Without a widespread
political presence, guerrillas cannot make many gains, and
those they do make cannot be reinforced. Any
COIN [counter-insurgency] effort must specifically target the
insurgent infrastructure if it is to win the war."
(Andrade, Willbanks 2006:11)

This is being said in the context of fighting the Iraqi insurgency. Now, relate that to the HTS aims. Language use point: the military here uses the term 'infrastructure' to refer, not to material infrastructure, but to the human-constituted political structure of Viet Cong cadres in each village.

2.1. To make clear the aspects of CORDS and Phoenix that (most) anthropologists would object to, I offer the following quotes:

"Establishment of files and dossiers on suspects, and placing
of emphasis on 'neutralizing' (capturing, converting, or killing)
members of the VCI [Viet Cong Infrastructure]."
(Andrade, Willbanks 2006:19)

"DIOCC personnel compiled intelligence on VCI in their district
and made blacklists with data on VCI members. If possible, the
DIOCC sought out a suspect’s location and planned an operation
to capture him (or her)." (p. 19)

"In many cases the Phung Hoang [culturally translated to 'Phoenix']
chief was an incompetent bureaucrat who used his position to
enrich himself. Phoenix tried to address this problem by
establishing monthly neutralization quotas..."
(p. 19 and more on quotas on p. 20)

2.2. The conclusions on the last page should dispel any lingering doubts as to whether this analysis of CORDS in Vietnam has anything to do with HTS in Iraq and Afghanistan:

"An insurgency thrives only as long as it can sustain a
presence among the population. Make anti-infrastructure
operations a first step in any COIN plan. Immediately
establish an intelligence capability to identify targets,
and use local forces to go after them."
(Andrade, Willbanks 2006:22)

"This should not, however, stop us from trying to apply the
lessons learned in Southeast Asia to Iraq and Afghanistan." (p. 22)

2.3. Here's what I think's going on here with respect to dual-speech:

"Do not keep the anti-infrastructure program a secret or
it will develop a sinister reputation. Tell the people that
the government intends to target the infrastructure as part
of the security program. Locals must do most of the
anti-infrastructure work, with the Americans staying in the
background." (Andrade, Willbanks 2006:22)

"Legality was a problem in Vietnam, and it is clearly a
problem today." (p. 22)

It isn't just the locals that they are trying to be semi-open with. It's us too. I would certainly hate to think that these same methods had been applied internally over the past four decades.

3. Pacification of Hearts of Minds

"These objectives—providing security for the people and
targeting the insurgent infrastructure—form the basis of
a credible government campaign to win hearts and minds."
(Andrade, Willbanks 2006:11)

"The fight is for the loyalty of the people, so establish
a government-wide program to better the lives of people in
the countryside. Improvement must go hand in hand with
anti-infrastructure operations, or the population will
likely regard government efforts as repressive." (p. 22)

These statements, I think, really capture the absurdity of the connection between suppression and 'winning hearts and minds.' I read this between the lines all the way through the Kipp article, but never could quite pin them down to exactly what they were going to do with this Human Terrain Map. So, what are we doing with 'hearts and minds'? Winning hearts and minds seems to simultaneously mean to repress them, to buy them, to control them, bring them into submission, compliance, giving up.

-------
1. Kipp, Jacob, Lester Grau, Karl Prinslow and Captain Don Smith
2006 The Human Terrain System: A CORDS for the 21st Century. Military Review Sept-Oct 2006.
concerned.anthropologists.googlepages.com/humanterrainmapping%22enablestheentirekill

2. Andrade, Dale and James H. Willbanks
2006 CORDS/Phoenix: Counterinsurgency Lessons from Vietnam for the Future. Military Review Mar-Apr 2006.
usacac.army.mil/CAC/milreview/English/MarApr06/Andrade-Willbanks.pdf

3. Wilcox, John (Asst. Deputy Under Secretary of Defense)
2007 Precision Strike Winter Roundtable. If you have trouble downloading this from the concerned.anthropologists site, then try the military directly: www.dtic.mil/ndia/2007psa_winter/wilcox.pdf

Thanks,

Joseph Shead

8:19 PM


Alvin said...
Why the silence from Montgomery McFate now? She has been bragging about Human Terrain for months and now she does not even step forward to defend her program from this criticism. Has the

Is the army just going to keep doing the human terrain program as it was originally designed, but now it will just do so with a greater level of secrecy?

5:13 PM


Afghan Book 1 said...
While I certainly understand the AAA Communities disdain for the war and I share those sentiments myself, I hardly see such disdain and ethical problems with the previous conduct of the war and the original decision to go to war as a reason for the anthropological field to completely boycot any participation with the military. In fact, I tend to think it would be a serious mistake for the AAA to render such a commendation; particularly since anthropologists would be leaving themselves out of the opportunity to change and mold how the military acts in the future, both for this war and for future conflicts.

Given the new found respect for culture and tradition within the military, there is still much resistance among the senior level analysts and leaders who tend to fall back on the "old way" of doing things, out of their fear of the "new way." In my opinion it would be ethically irresponsible of AAA and the anthropology community to simply bar participation due to 'political' opposition to the war when there is the opportunity to force real change upon the mentality of the armed forces and how they conduct operations.

It would be more ethical to take advantage of the opportunity to influence our military leaders and members way of thinking by infusing greater cultural awareness and compasion, something that is severally lacking in the military culture. Don't simply write off the military's attempt to change because you ethically disagree with the war, that will only get us more of the same, a self-fullfilling prophecy of sorts. Exploit the window of opportunity available to exact real anthropological change. Having served in the Marine Corps I can say that such windows rarely open, we may not have another chance for many wars to come.

10:08 AM


Brian D-L said...
The comments by "Afghan Book 1" repeat an at least partially flawed premise in trying to rationalize why or how it might actually be "ethical" for anthropologists to serve as 'intelligence gatherers' (however culturally sensitive) for a side in war. 'Afghan Book's' opening lines suggest that it is because members of the AAA are opposed to THIS war, and are concerned about the war's ethical conduct, that there are voices in the AAA calling for anthropologists to boycott participation with the military. This may in fact be the way some are arguing about the situation, but there is a more profound flaw and contradiction in anthropologists' participating in ANY war as "intelligence gatherers," which then calls into question the very integrity of the discipline and its practitioners.

In fact it seems that it is based on this same faulty premise that some are rationalizing the very engagement of anthropologists to begin with; the argument goes something like, “it isn’t clear, after all, whether this is in fact a good or bad war (for or against human rights, for or against international law), and so as long as that is unclear, those who in good conscience think it is a good war are doing the right thing to apply their anthropological
expertise in helping to win the war while attenuating the negative impact of warmaking.”

“Good” or “bad” war, these anthropologists, however, are undermining the fundamental principles of trust and respect that are the foundation of our approach to understanding people and their cultures. We should be operating more on the principles and philosophy of, say, the Red Cross in its clear neutrality, or of journalists who like us depend on a reputation of trust and confidentiality; imagine what it would do to “journalistic integrity” if there were a program in the military that recruited journalists to gather ‘intelligence’ to help a side win its battles! You don’t have to be a journalist who is opposed to war, or to a particular war, in order to advocate and defend journalistic integrity. Any journalist should recognize the severe implications for such integrity should she/he apply her/his professional skills to spying for a side in a war. It baffles me that anthropologists can’t see this in relation to our own profession and its principles as well.

5:11 PM


Afghan Book 1 said...
I don't recall stating that war is good or bad, such a statement would show a lack of understanding about the realities of war and the causes of it. War is inherently negative, nonetheless it is a reality of life that is not ever going to go away regardless of our desire to see it vanish. That being said, anthropologists have an opportunity to influence military and intelligence thinking in a manner that can positively influence traditional conduct in war. The goal of course is not to provide "spies" from the anthropologist world as brian d-l states, but to influence decision-makers mentality when taking the target population's culture and point-of-view into mind. Currently our military and intelligence officials approach war and conflict from their traditionallyy ethnocentric states of mind. Wouldn't it be a positive step if they were to begin approaching conflict from the mindset of the population in which the conflict will most directly affect?

In my own opinion, having an anthropologist on an intelligence staff who is assertive with anthropological theory and practice would be of great benefit to ensuring that our military and intelligence officials approach conflict with the victim in mind. Let's face it, war is not going away and to think that it is possible to simply protest it rather than take measures to influence our leaders conduct in it in order to end it quicker is simply naive. War is as old as man's congregation in like-groups.

The current role of anthropologists in intelligence is in fact to gather cultural intelligence in order to give our leaders a better understanding of the people we are dealing with. It's not spying, it is intelligent learning in an effort to ensure those in the position of command are taking the victims into consideration, to me that is rather ethical in a rather unethical situation. It is not a flawed premise to dupe anthropologists into aiding and abetting in an immoral war.

Like it or not, there is a role for anthropology in intelligence and the military. That role may be to influence our leaders decisions by forcing them to consider the culture and people in whose homeland they are operating. Think about it this way, wouldn't have been nice if the U.S. military knew that an Arab's primary source of pride and power was the home and family, and that "kicking in doors" was an afront to their honor? One might think this is common sense, but then they would be over estimating the traditional thinking of the military in war. You can be an anthropologist and opposed to the war, while at the same time participating in the process with the hope of influencing our operators midset to the benefit of the culture being attacked. There is certainly little that is unethical about looking out for the protection of the victim population. It is certainly more ethical than leaving the military and intelligence world to simply violate the populations honor and trounce on their rights without even making an attempt to stop it.

8:40 AM


Anonymous said...
I am a latecomer to this blog and have yet to go through all the comments. But in response to some, like Hawkins, I would point us to anthropology during the colonial period when our discipline followed the logic of Hawkins' argument and worked with colonial governments. We saw what good that did!

The argument that working with the US military will make the suffering of the Iraqis that much more bearable, or help Iraqi communities, disregards history and anthropology's experience with colonial regimes back in the day.

It is one thing for anthropological knowledge to be used by the military after we have produced it and in ways we did not expect (this is the fate of all knowledge). It is another thing for us to willingly and knowingly aid the military in an imperial project (whether promoted by a civilian government or not is irrelevant. The civilian government is part and parcel of the military.)

If we wish anthropological knowledge to be practically useful and ethical (as many were calling for) then we must first recognize our direct role in war zones, and we must recognize that our strength as anthropologists is not in working with or for power but against the tide. For our knowledge to be useful it should be used to empower local communities in war zones and be a tool for activists around the world in their struggle against this hegemonic notion that war can bring about peace. It should not be embedded within a military structure but continue to work independently within communities, even if this may put the anthropologist in some danger, as might be the case in Iraq.

The easiest way out for us is to conform to the structures of power like the military and work with it. The money pushed at us, the structure and organization to make our voice heard, and the force of the state behind us make it so easy to argue that our knowledge will be put to practical use and move beyond the realm of theory. But it is sad if we submit to this rather than challenge it. And it is unfortunate if we don't learn from those historical instances when we did collaborate with power.

If this is the type of practical use I wanted to put my knowledge towards then I would have gone into political science and did a bit of ethnography. That discipline does a better job and has an advantage over us. Let us carve our own path.

Condemn the HTS. The current statement is watered down diplomacy!

Sami Hermez
Doctoral Candidate
Princeton University

4:38 PM


Anonymous said...
Afghan book 1 said: "Think about it this way, wouldn't have been nice if the U.S. military knew that an Arab's primary source of pride and power was the home and family, and that "kicking in doors" was an afront to their honor?"

What does kicking in doors have to do with home and family being a source of pride and honor? Who would accept their door be "kicked in" whether your pride came from home and family or coffee and cream?

And this is the point, your work in a war zone embedded with the military will help to further other the enemy and trivialize the army's violence. It will make the army look like it is more ethical while it continues to operate as an army.

Occupation is unethical and wrong. We should condemn any effort to turn our role into one of making the occupation more bearable.

11:04 AM


Anonymous said...
The statement of the executive board appears to conclude, despite the information vaccuum in which the board lingers, that the potential for the creation of ethically tough situations warrants condemnation of the HST program. In that conclusion, the Executive Board demonstrates extreme hypocrasy. All anthropological research places anthropologists in positions where choices may result in harm to some groups or informants that anthropologists study. The Executive Board then may as well condemn all informant based anthropological research.

Beyond that, there is a clear need for anthropology as a profession to rethink its ethical positions in a world in which clear black and white ethical choices rarely exist. In my opinion, the potential impact of HST anthropologists is to reduce the US military's potential for perceiving (and reacting to) threats where these do not exist. In an environment where killing does happen, whether or not you approve of that, reducing the miltary's potential for killing the wrong people is an objective good.

To the degree that irregular combatants and terrorists continue to hide in civilian populaces and use civil populations as a combination of a shield and (in effect) concealment terrain, we can expect militaries world wide to develop means for distinguishing between combatants and noncombatants in irregular warfare. Anthropology is at a crossroads where by one path it can contribute positively to that effort, or by the other path become that much less relevant for any concern of merit concerning human existence and interaction.

Anthropological service in the identification of genuine combatants is not only ethical, in my view, but fair, appropriate, just, and worthy of commendation rather than condemnation. The Executive Board, and the blog participants here who have been quick to condemn the program, the anthropologists participating in the program, and the US military, should be embarressed and ashamed.

1:57 PM


gsider2@gm,ail.com said...
I am a bit dismayed by one well-intentioned comment that called it "sad" that anthropologists would work for the war machine. Would that it were only. If anthropologists who worked for the US MIlitary in Afghanastan or Iraq or Guantanamo etc were tried for war crimes what would their defense be? - The army continually violates the Geneva Convention and a variety of other international agreements, eg about torture, about willfully harming non-combattants, etc. For the sake of the remnants of our profession, and for the sake of justice, I truly hope that at some future date at least one anthropologist in collusion with the US army is tried for war crimes. I think it would clarify a lot of issues.
Gerald Sider
Professor Emeritus,CUNY

3:24 PM


Maximilian C. Forte said...
The comment before the one above, by an anonymous poster, speaks of hypocrisy. I would ask that poster to pause for a moment and reflect on his/her own words, which contain a very important admission.

The notion that has been spread, not just in that post but across a variety of communications on this topic, is that by participating in Human Terrain Teams anthropologists can help to "alleviate harm." More than once the poster above speaks of reducing the miltary's potential for killing the wrong people. The clear admission here is that the source of "harm" is the US military occupying force itself.

And I agree.

I would say that the proponents of HTS have not only failed to advance a single argument based on sound ethical conduct in research, they have also reinforced views that the US military occupation is itself at the center of the problem of human rights abuse. Such proponents in fact seem to be suggesting that, without good anthropological guidance, the US military consists of a mass of trigger-happy, quasi-genocidal rogue killers. It is an interesting idea, especially since it seems to validate exactly what insurgents and many other Iraqis have been saying all along.

If these proponents truly and honestly--although truth and honesty appear to be beyond them--wished to alleviate harm, then given the terms of their own description of the situation they would be embedding themselves with the insurgents. After all, the insurgents would agree that they too are trying to "alleviate harm".

If you can stand back from this and still say that arguments in favor of embedding are not dishonest, immoral, unethical, and ethnocentric, then you truly are a "special person".

I will support the idea that the AAA Executive Board's statement is, at the very least, right on target, and perhaps a little too diplomatic. Those of us outside of the United States are looking at you to see how you will judge and question yourselves and where you will stand as an anthropological association at the center of this lurid controversy.

9:51 PM


Anonymous said...
The position that the AAA has taken with respect to "ethical anthropology," especially as relates to war and terrorism is shameful, self-serving and naive. I am a second-generation anthropologist, and both my father and I regret what has become of the discipline. There was a time when anthropologists understood the concept of situational ethics and that during times of war, things are different.

I find it interesting that virtually none of the "concerned anthropologists" has served in the military, let alone served as a sworn police officer (badge, gun, powers of arrest, uniform, nervous spouse at home, nightmares regarding witnessing the aftermath of violent crime, etc.). Not all of human behavior is nice...and it's a shame that those who have taken such a strident view have virtually no experience confronting the evils that people can and often do to one-another. It's also a shame that the AAA and those on the concerned anthropologist list seem to have forgotten things like WWII and the vital roles that were played by Anthropologists.

4:23 PM


Landon said...
In fact, at least one of the original 11 founding members of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists has served in the military.

Landon Yarrington
---
Department of Anthropology
The College of William and Mary
Williamsburg, VA 2318

6:07 PM


Anonymous said...
The comment that charges that people against anthro0pologists colluding with the military have never served in either the military or a police force [or, I would add, the World Bank] implies that only people who have captured or owned slaves have a right to comment on the morality of enslavement.
It is noteworthy that the comment is anonymous. The administrations' warrentless wiretapping lets them know who wrote it. What else is there to hide from?
Gerald Sider
Professor Emeritus, CUNY

9:35 PM


Anonymous said...
"The clear admission here is that the source of "harm" is the US military occupying force itself. And I agree."

And..

"I would say that the proponents of HTS have not only failed to advance a single argument based on sound ethical conduct in research, they have also reinforced views that the US military occupation is itself at the center of the problem of human rights abuse."

Actually, the proponents of HTS have not conceded the claims that you seem to think that they have conceded. You seem either profoundly confused or biased.

Occupation per se does not make the US Armed forces "bad guys" in the most general sense, nor does accidental deaths of noncombatants. Otherwise, one would have to argue that many productive occupations (such as those of the Axis states by the western Allies post WW2) were, of themselves, "bad" when in fact these occupations were part and parcel of a general plan that seems to most historians to be objectively "good."

Moreover, as I am the same anonymous poster who made the previous post (vis, reduction of US Armed forces error in causing casualties) I can state that I simply disagree that the United States Armed Forces have in Iraq engaged in widespread human rights abuses. So far, I have seen no evidence apart from the Abu Ghraib prison events that are so notorious (and, I would point out, in which no Anthropologists or HTS personnel seem to have been involved), there is really no compelling evidence of any US Armed forces human rights abuses.

Of course, one might argue that war in and of itself is a form of abuse, and I would agree, but equating the US "being there" with "crimes" (which seems to be a common theme among anti-HTS reactionries) is, at best, nothing but hyperbole.

I've never served in the US Armed forces, but as a migratory assistant professor (for a while, years ago), I instructed plenty of people who now serve in the US military. Having come to know them and corresponded with them over the years, in my opinion, the vast majority of them spend far more time safeguarding ethics than most faculty in anthropology departmens. And well they should. When anthropology faculty screw students (literally), junior faculty, or each other, no one actually dies. When soldiers make the decision to shoot or launch a weapon, they are on the whole acutely more aware of the consequences of their behavior -- more so, in my opinion, than many anthropology faculty I have known over the years.

And of course, the argument that HTS anthropologists may be allowing the US Armed forces to reduce noncombatant deaths seems to me to not only be a good argument *in favor of* HTS, but also an argument that HTS opponents have simply "rejected" by refusing to address the point.

3:01 PM


Anonymous said...
*What else is there to hide from?*

People like you, who would by your own admission "truly hope that at some future date at least one anthropologist in collusion with the US army is tried for war crimes" despite the fact that as of this writing there is no evidence of any particular anthropologist having committed any "war crimes."

I find it ironic that you would complain about suspension of habeas corpus (I agree with your complaint) and yet you would state that for the mere sake of crucifying *someone* you'd like to see an anthropologist tried for "war crimes."

3:11 PM


Andy Bickford said...
I am one of the founding members of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, and served five years on active duty in the Army, from 1984-1989. It’s because I served in the military – and learned first hand that a soldier’s primary jobs are to control and kill, regardless of their specialty in the military - that I’m deeply suspicious and troubled by the military’s attempts to use anthropology in counterinsurgency operations in general, and by the actions of the Human Terrain Teams in particular. And I fully agree with Prof. Sider's comments above - you don't have to have served in the military to have a say in the debate or express concern about the military's use of anthropology and the violation of AAA ethics. That should be pretty obvious.

To respond to Anonymous' claim about situational ethics: it's precisely in times of war that we need to pay very close attention to ethics, not loosen them or fall back on the old cliché that anything goes when it comes to “supporting the troops.” You might find that the “troops” don’t want that.

Andy Bickford
Assistant Professor
George Mason University

5:03 PM


Anonymous said...
"Such proponents in fact seem to be suggesting that.. the US military consists of a mass of .. rogue killers."

In a pig's eye. No one has made that suggestion, and no honest person could derive that conclusion from any statement made here.

Any person who has any knowledge of the history of armed conflict must enter this discussion aware of several facts.

1. Non combatant casualties happen. It has been a characteristic of every war ever waged. Most agree that one should endeavor to minimize noncombatant casualties. (You, however, seem to disagree with that goal.)

2. By the standards of 20th Century warfare, the US Armed Forces operations in Iraq have among the lowest non-combatant casualty rates ever documented. This is a pretty remarkable observation, given insurgents' efforts to shield themselves against retaliation by hiding among larger communities of noncombatants. Clearly, the implication is that the US works rather more diligently at avoiding noncombatant casualties than most nations, despite the unsupported aspersions you offer here.

3. By contrast with the US Armed Forces, these "insurgents" deliberately target civilians, saw the heads off of captives, hide weapons stores in or close to schools, medical clinics, and the like, all of which are egregious violations of the Geneva Convention, to say nothing of basic human morality.

4. Given that wars against irregular forces of the kind with the propensity for behaviors of the sort heretofore mentioned (3, above), armed forces will need ways to discriminate between noncombatants and people who use noncombatants as shields.

And that latter point is at the core of this argument. If you simply condemn anthropologists for assisting the US in refining target selection to minimize noncombatant deaths, you may as well tear up the Geneva Convention because you will have in effect conceded that there are no legitimate means for combating terrorists, murderers, and other people for whom civilian populations are nothing more than a politically convenient shield against retaliation.

5:13 PM


Maximilian C. Forte said...
It really is odd that someone ("anonymous") would post such long replies to some very straightforward contentions. Is it the hope that you can overwhelm contrary arguments just through the number of words used?

Look, the problem is pretty simple. When you make the argument that HTS anthropologists are helping to "alleviate harm" you are inevitably conceding what the source of harm is: the US military occupation. That is a problem generated by your argument, and you have not fixed it.

"Most agree that one should endeavor to minimize noncombatant casualties. (You, however, seem to disagree with that goal.)"

No, wrong. I agree with that goal, by opposing continued US military occupation and the prolongation of a war against a country that never attacked the US. You seem to disagree with the goal of not slaughtering civilians ("shock and awe"...remember?) on the most ridiculous of pretexts.

The rest of your predictable argument is simply not interesting enough to warrant a response.

11:47 PM


Joseph Shead said...
There may well be no legitimate means for combating terrorists. That's what an anthropologist will tell you. About five years ago, it is probably true that almost all anthropologists would have told you that entering a war against Iraq would be not such a good idea. I suspect that even the one's now involved in HTS would have steered you in another direction. No one was listening to us then. You blew it. You have a lot nerve coming to us now and asking us to get you out of your mess.

"Refining target selection" is not our business. You imply that HTT's are, in effect, going to go from door to door, painting red across the lintel. The problem is that that process of protecting non-combatants from our military implicitly marks the doors of others. That's not our game.

Our business is to find out why those others are so mad. The problem is, you've got anthropologists in on the wrong end. You're asking us to give you low-level information about specific individuals, families, neigborhoods, social groups, etc. That's not where anthropologists should be located in the structure. You need our help at the highest levels, and early in the process.

After 911, and having observed for three decades the monotonous impasse in Palestine-Israel, this student of anthropology could see the futility in fighting terrorists. Early on, I was asking why? And, I thought, we need a dialogue. You see, when you define your enemy as criminal, which you do, you deny them a voice. Until we find out what they want, why they're so angry, and show them that we are willing to let them back into our community, that we have real concern for their wants and needs, and take significant action on it, then your war isn't going to go away. We need a public forum, a symposium with, not just the heads of these terrorist organizations, but with a lot of peoples and facets represented. Can you imagine how different things would be right now, if we had done and continued doing that? What, is it unthinkable?

Joseph Shead

1:32 AM


Anonymous said...
Following up on Sider's and others' comments: we are, last time I looked, a democracy, and as citizens have a right and the obligation to participate in civil society, which includes dissent. As anthropologists we have the right to comment on government programs and policies that affect us. The notion that you have to be one (or have been one) to have the right to comment on an issue is silly for a number of reasons, the first one being that, were this the case, we all would be out of jobs. Insiders understand things outsiders cannot, but the reverse is true as well. You know, "make the strange familiar and the familiar strange." But this refers to research, which is really not the issue here, although becoming as informed as possible about HTS is. The issue is whether we can comment on--or pledge not to participate in--a program that involves us. Of course we can.

Jean Jackson, MIT

7:00 PM


Colln Agee said...
Members of the American Anthropological Association should remain mindful that the first A stands for American, and that it is not the United States Army that is at war, but the United States of America.

The Commission objects to the participation of anthropologists in the HTS project on ethical grounds. From my perspective, all Americans have an ethical obligation to provide the soldiers that we send in harm's way the best tools our nation can provide to succeed in their missions and return home safely.

If the current conflict were about destroying things and killing people, we wouldn't need the assistance of anthropologists. As Phase I of this war amply demonstrated, we do that quite well, as we accomplished regime change with historically unprecedented efficiency.

In Phase IV, the mission is to create a stable Iraq and Afghanistan and to leave. The more difficulty we experience in accomplishing that and the longer it takes, the more casualties will be suffered--Americans, our allies and the indigenous population.

The HTS program is an admission by the United States Army that it lacks the cultural understanding that is needed to accomplish this mission. Thus, they are reaching out to those with skills that are lacking within DOD--including anthropologists and social scientists.

The individuals who are volunteering for this program are equally idealistic and cognizant of professional ethics as those who would oppose HTS. They are willing to risk their lives because they believe they have potential to do immense good, for the benefit of the people of Iraq and Afghanistan. This is evidence of altruism and selfless service. Yet the Commission is recommending that the AAA brand these patriots and heroes as unethical. Mind boggling.

This war is being prosecuted by our volunteer military, on the orders of the civilians we elected to make decisions on our national security. How ethical is it to criticize and condemn from afar, safe behind the gated communities of academia, while those who stand to benefit from your skills are suffering and dying?

The soldiers we send abroad to mind our nation's business are not amoral mercenaries. They are volunteers who trust the decisions we make to commit them, who place their fate in the hands of the leaders, civilian and military, who ask them to undertake missions from which they may not return. How can the AAA stand in judgment of them and refuse to help when their professional talents are vital to the mission?

How can you place a scarlet AAA upon the chest of those anthropologists willing to risk their lives in an endeavor that they believe to be the most meaningful they can ever undertake; an opportunity to apply their chosen profession for the good of humanity, not to wage a war but hopefully to end one?

Finally, as someone who is familiar with the program, I do not believe that HTS is at odds with your professional precepts. Those anthropologists who participate in HTS do not check their consciences and their ethics at the door when they sign a contract with the US Army. Quite the contrary, if they believe that they cannot execute their mission consistent with your principles, they will quit. And I would fully expect that, upon doing so, their objections would be widely published and effectively kill the program.

It is very unfortunate that, in the Commission's own words, "The Commission’s work did not include systematic study of the HTS project." If it had done so, it would have discovered that the first team's advice to its commander resulted in far more efficient application of Civil Affairs resources, and a precipitous decline in "kinetic operations," which translated into plain English, means less violence and fewer casualties--on both sides. The supported commander estimated this reduction as 60-70% in a matter of four months. They are progressing toward their goal of security and stability.

I encourage the members of the the AAA to carefully consider the recommendations of the Commission before adopting an approved position on the HTS program. Your decision should absolutely be founded in your ethical guidelines, but I suggest that you can accomplish these goals better via a strategy of engagement rather than one of boycott and condemnation. I encourage you to trust your members to behave ethically in a combat zone and applaud their dedication and selflessness to taking on a dangerous mission, rather than forcing them to jeopardize their careers to do what they believe is moral and right. And finally, I suggest that you take a sober assessment of the obligation of all Americans to the service members who we send in harm's way.

Collin Agee
United States Army

8:59 PM


Landon said...
I've understood the "American" in the AAA to be something more like an orginizational convention rather than an elitist chest-beating, and I find inscribing it with nationalist rhetoric rather chilling.

I feel that this debate has been ignoring a fairly blatant point: the US Army is a political outlet catering to “American interests”; anthropology is a political outlet catering to the people with whom we work (or should be working with). It seems that rarely, if ever, will “American interests” intersect with the interests of our fellow human “subjects”. Once the US military shook hands with anthropology, they put us in a sack with the rest of the tools that serve the US military’s desire to fight a more efficient fight and enforce freedom.

Saying that embedded anthropologists are some sort of damage control dealing with the reality of war in Iraq is at very best an ad hoc statement—replace “control” with “cessation” and work toward stopping the war as quickly as possible, not facilitating it.

Landon Yarrington
The College of William and Mary

10:03 PM


Anonymous said...
Collin Agee forgot to mention one important point:

your patriotic altruism, and work for the good of all humanity, pays up to $300,000 with hazard pay included.

11:58 PM


Anonymous said...
Perhaps there is a legal scholar in the audience who could shed light on the following questions.

Given that discrimination based on military employment is currently held to be a violation of civil rights (www.nvcc.com/law/mla.html), what sorts of precedent exists for an ostensibly "professional" scholarly association such as the AAA to establish or redefine the criteria by which discrimination is legally acceptable? In other words, what would be involved in re-inventing anthropology as a true profession with meaningful standards of malpractice? And in the mean time prior to this re-invention, while the AAA remains merely a scholarly association and not an actual professional organization per se, exactly how much opprobrium can it heap on anthropologists who perform military service before it crosses a legally actionable line?

1:27 AM


Brian D-L said...
'Opprobrium' pretty much heaps itself, if in the course of professional academic deliberation members of a 'merely scholarly...professional association' raise serious questions about the fundamental contradictions between the behavior of some of its freely-associating members and the basic principles of the discipline around which we associate.

I have been a poster here in this discussion--always with a name--who has not argued for or against this US war in Iraq, but who has instead continued to raise the question about the fundamental contradiction (which is both a methodological and professional/ethical contradiction) posed by anthropologists serving in these military capacities. Such service calls into question the fundamental integrity of our very discipline--much the way that would be done to journalism should journalists professionally approve of applying journalism in the name of "military intelligence."

Around me, instead of hearing serious responses to such fundamental questions that sit at the heart of our discipline's integrity (in very practical terms), I hear from those who seek to justify this anthro-military practice everything from "you are jeopardizing my employability," to "I know some very ethical anthropologists in the military," to "we're helping our troops be more successful with less killing," to "you haven't been there so how can you ask such a question," to "you must be a wild-eyed, anti-American pacifist to ask such questions," now to "call in the lawyers."

Call me naive, but I suppose I would have expected a more intellectually, scholarly, academically, professionally sound response from those who are seeking to draw the discipline (publicly, I would add, with McFate and others being a public face of the discipline) into such discipline-compromising positions.

It also makes me wonder, if this is the state of academic discussion among anthro-professionals, around such a crucial question, what kinds of intellectual and academic skills (of critical thinking or otherwise) are we nuturing among our students in the name of anthropology?

11:15 AM


Collin Agee said...
brian d-l, you wrote about the "fundamental contradiction . . . posed by anthropologists serving in these military capacities."

Ironically, you are facing the same challenge that we are in the military: a redefinition of the missions for the military, which I believe renders what you consider an inherent contradiction be be no longer valid.

The current mission in both Iraq and Afghanistan is to establish security and stability so that we can leave.

I won't pretend that the insights generated by the HTT's won't be used by military intelligence. But what is relevant here is that military intelligence is pursuing that same security and stability mission.

It is naive to think that a firewall can be erected between anthropology and intelligence anyway. Anything that is published, particularly that available in the Internet, can be used by whomever accesses it, for good or evil.

So anthropologists can engage the military and help us to get it right, or we'll do it ourselves without your expertise, and surely do it with less efficiency. If this is really about ethics, and not about politics, it cannot be ignored that the effect of getting it right is many lives saved, more efficient applications of our resources for civil affairs and reconstruction (things like schools, hospitals and utilities) and a quicker resolution of the war.

I am not a member of your association nor an anthropologist, but I think this audience is well familiar with the contributions of Cora DuBois and Margaret Mead in World War II. I think we can learn from history that there anthropologists can have a positive impact on our national security strategy and the military.

At the risk of restating my earlier note, I would suggest that a member of the AAA who is genuinely concerned about professional ethics will have a greater impact on protecting those standards by a policy of engagement rather than one of boycott or condemnation. Is the Commission (which admittedly has not done a detailed study of HTS) and the association really convinced that there is absolutely no role that can be played with the military that does not violate your standards?

Collin Agee
US Army

11:42 AM


Brian D-L said...
For anthropologists to "engage the military and help [them] to get it right" as Collin Agee has put it, asks anthropologists to assume that the US military should be doing what it is doing in the first place, and that with a little cross-cultural assistance they can do it the "right way." As I have suggested however, this in itself puts anthropologists in a role that contradicts at the core what we do and what we are about.

Our "stock in trade" if you will, includes our ability to develop trust and rapport with people to learn about the intimate workings of their lives. Too many times in the name of some supposedly civilized "higher good" this has been abused, whether in the exposure of peoples' religious traditions, the appropriation of their sacred artifacts and representations, the confiscation of their lands, or even their very "pacification" in the name of so-called civilization. Lining up with a side in a military conflict and deliberately providing that side with "understanding" in order to help that side "get it right" borders on (if not fully embraces) a very cynical understanding of that fundamental trust-worthiness of our discipline; instead of integrity of the discipline, it opts to line us up with the worst legacies of our past.

And please note, I am not here in fact making judgments about things like US imperialism/ militarism, the legitimacy or illegitimacy of this war, the ethical goodness of people in the military, and the like; I am instead suggesting that as soon as an anthropologist is "engaging" as an assistant to the military, she/he is taking a side and is fundamentally undermining the trust-worthiness of the profession.

Franz Boas long ago was censured by this profession for the very act of speaking out against such "anthropologists as spies," in the name of the integrity of the discipline. Part of the rationale of his censure apparently was that in so publicly expressing his concern he supposedly put anthropologists in general at risk as potential, un-trustworthy spies. And now instead, what a strange if not cynical turn of events not long after that censure was rescinded; we have colleagues themselves openly advocating the role of anthropologists as military intelligence gatherers.

Further, this is not even to suggest a "firewall" between anthropology and military intelligence. To paraphrase Milton from The Areopagitica, "a fool will find folly in the best of texts; the wise person will find gold in even the worst of texts." Anthropologists (nor anyone else who studies and writes publicly) can pretend to have control over what others do with their work. But it is one thing to acknowledge this, and yet another to abandon responsibility for whom we deliberately do our work. A scientist whose work is used by others to build biological weapons for use in war is in a clearly different role than one who deliberately works for the war-makers. There is no blurry line in the fundamental choice here.

Anthropologists who work for military intelligence gathering are making the very same kind of fundamental choice that undermines the trust-worthiness and integrity of our discipline and its practitioners.

4:39 PM


Collin Agee said...
brian d-l,

If doctors were to apply their oath to "do no harm" the same way that you do, they would never treat a patient, invoking the risk that harm may occur.

They would condemn their peers who chose to be surgeons, admonishing them that the science of medicine should be one of study, not of practice.

The HTS program has immense opportunity for positive impact on the target populations, and this can be objectively validated by examining both the actions and the effects of the Human Terrain Teams to date.

Those who would undertake such an endeavor at personal peril deserve something other than condemnation.

They should indeed be held to the ethical standards of your profession. In all the postings of your Commission and the blogging above, I have yet to see one shred of evidence that these standards have been compromised. This despite the embedding of reporters and the participation of several anthropologists. So while this risk of ethical violation is hypothetical, the good that they are doing, in the reduction of violence and the efficacy of civil works projects and investment in infrastructure, is proven and demonstrable. Perhaps you need to consider the ethics of being obstructionist toward the HTS program.

The fact that American soldiers' lives have been saved as well is immeasurably important to me. Disturbingly, it seems not to even be a factor for consideration in the dialogue above.

Collin Agee
US Army

7:39 PM


Anonymous said...
In reply to M. Fortes:

"When you make the argument that HTS anthropologists are helping to "alleviate harm" you are inevitably conceding what the source of harm is: the US military occupation."

That is a non-sequitur. Your assertion does not follow from that which I have said nor do I think it follows from the facts "on the ground" (to the extent we know them).

The situation there seems more complex than you seem to be aware. According to some readings of UN resolutions, as the occupying power, the United States (and its allies -- Spain and Italy would now seem to be in violation of UN resolutions) has an obligation to stabilize Iraq. The vast majority (90% or thereabouts) of the casualties that have occurred in Iraq are caused by sectarian violence rather than the US armed forces. When the US attacks terrorists it runs the risk of harming noncombatants, because the terrorists (who are in violation of the Geneva Convention) use civilian populations as shields. Whether or not you "approve of" this war (was I the president of the US, I would not have initiated the invasion of Iraq), the US has to reduce the terrorist threat to the level that a relatively stable Iraqi government can manage the situation. When you are dealing with the kinds of people who hide munitions in hospitals, saw the heads off of prisoners, and *deliberately* target children, public markets, &c, the general rebuttal is to eliminate the terrorists. But it has to be done in a way that minimizes harm to noncombatants. If American anthropologists can contribute to the refinement of target selection, that is a contribution that reduces harm.

And yes, the US does risk harming noncombatans. There is no geneva convention requiring the US to wholly avoid harming civilians. Only one that requires an effort to avoid such harm. That seems at the root of it to be the motive for HTS.

Recognizing that the US *is* there and likely will *stay there* whether or not you approve, if anthropologists can help the US armed forces avoid killing noncombatants and, yes, kill terrorists, then those anthropologists are reducing harm and doing good (IMO) respectively.

"No, wrong. I agree with that goal, by opposing continued US military occupation and the prolongation of a war against a country that never attacked the US."

Look, we agree that Iraq never attacked the US. The problem is that the US is now THERE and international law by some readings requires that the US STAY THERE. From my point of view, allowing sectarian strife in Iraq to escalate seems like a bad idea, but if international law were clear about the virtues of abandoning Iraq to its fate, then *complete withdrawal* would be a great idea, IMO, because I think it is a waste of US blood, treasure, and political capital.

"You seem to disagree with the goal of not slaughtering civilians ("shock and awe"...remember?) on the most ridiculous of pretexts."

That is an illogical reading of my argument, given that (1) the HTS program has a goal of reducing deaths to civilians, and (2) your alternative plan would seem to radically increase the homicide rate in Iraq.

So what do you want here? Fewer deaths or "the US out of Iraq?" Those two options may not be mutually achievable in the short term.

"The rest of your predictable argument is simply not interesting enough to warrant a response."

I'll take that as an admission that you are incapable of fielding a cogent rebuttal to the rest of the predictable argument.

11:27 AM


Brian D-L said...
The military agenda in war is to fight and win the war. The language and worldview of this establishes a logic that then absorbs and subsumes the world in this agenda. People become enemies (terrorists,insurgents, guerrillas), for us or against us. Those advocating the rightness of anthropologists participating in the gathering of military intelligence, are in fact claiming that this subsuming language and logic are THE definition of reality, with our side being the right side, and all other roles, functions or professions being subsidiary to the primary agenda of our troops and our military.

Anthropologists should know better than to allow our profession to be drawn into this subsuming cultural logic. Remember, it is in this world of definition that weapons used to kill people are considered “peacekeepers”; where unarmed children, men and women who die from embargo-imposed starvation, or “shock and awe bombing” are routinely defined as acceptable levels of “collateral damage”; where the very same weapons we possess in the name of security we see as the pretext for military invasion when they are owned by others; where the dead and wounded of war are kept invisible to the very same people who are extolled to “support our troops,” in order to maintain among them/us at least a basic level of complacency if not actual support.

I recall that as a child we were told in school many stories about saints and martyrs who were so influential in their witness that they somehow ‘Christianized’ Constantine and his military empire. The stories conveyed such a sense of pride in this accomplishment, until the actual history eventually became clear to us, that in fact Constantine militarized Christianity rather than the other way around. The subsequent history is replete with countless examples of an organization (the Church) in an ‘unholy alliance’ that permitted its leadership to rationalize all types of atrocities and injustices in the name of some higher good.

I am reminded of this when I hear suggested that somehow anthropology is now going to serve in a secular form, to turn the logic and agenda of the U.S. military into a more culturally-aware undertaking. Anthropologists shouldn’t fool themselves—this is in fact the militarization of anthropology rather than the humanizing of warfare.

1:00 AM


Maximilian C. Forte said...
"That is a non-sequitur. Your assertion does not follow from that which I have said nor do I think it follows from the facts "on the ground" (to the extent we know them)."

You seem to be incapable of dealing with the contradictions of your own argument, or even recognizing them, as you continue to repeat the contradiction over and over again, and then blame me for your argument. Alleviating harm--harm done by whom? Answer that without even an implicit indictment of US occupation forces, and you will be freed from the weakness of your own argument. Currently, you are unable to do so. Indeed, the US army should be asking for a refund, especially if you are one of these HTS "anthropologists", because you are not doing a very good at representing your client in a way that does not reinforce the strong criticisms of the nature and purpose of US occupation.

"When you are dealing with the kinds of people who hide munitions in hospitals, saw the heads off of prisoners, and *deliberately* target children, public markets, &c, the general rebuttal is to eliminate the terrorists"

You have offered this kind of caricature more than once in your posts. The simple use of the term "terrorist," the familiar mass mediated pattern of demonizing the enemy and effectively describing the enemy as a bloody thirsty savage, aside form being worthless propaganda is actually serious ethnocentric.

Is this the kind of "knowledge" that you are recycling and selling to the military? Do they need you to rehash their own doctrines for them? Is this kind of gross ethnocentrism acceptable in anthropology? Indeed, are you even an anthropologist?

Aside from being unethical work--and any work that enables the military to map "the kill chain" is indisputably about *causing* more than just "harm"--it does not resemble anything more than very obsolete, very colonial, 19th century anthropology at best.

Your main concern, unstated though it may be, is to be allowed access to a lucrative job while the US remains in Iraq, and not have to suffer any kind of criticism either during or after it is over (hence your "anonymous" identity). This is nothing more than crass opportunism that comes at the expense of multiple others and that reinforces the kinds of thinking, rationales, actions, and engagements that one would think the majority of the American public wants to see coming to an end quickly.

"I'll take that as an admission that you are incapable of fielding a cogent rebuttal to the rest of the predictable argument."

I was absolutely certain that you would take it the way that suited you best. Continue believing in your invincibility, "anonymous," as I have no intention of continuing a dialogue with someone whose main preoccupation seems to be with him/herself.

6:53 AM


Zinjabeelah said...
I don't believe anyone has yet mentioned that there were many US Army generals alarmed by and opposed to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. About a year ago, there seemed to be a new (recently retired) general speaking out against the war in Iraq every week.

Why should anthropologists be expected to "show their patriotism" and be "real Americans" by going to Iraq to try to clean up the mess that people in the military themselves saw coming, but did nothing to prevent. The problem, apparently, is that if one is in the Army, at any level in the hierarchy, one is not allowed to speak one's own mind and diverge from the Command structure. Ultimately, the commander in chief is not in the Military, but the White House. His grasp of foreign policy is nil. His respect for the rule of law is in question. This administration is the worst the US has ever seen. There are ample grounds for impeachment and legal prosecution. Instead of badgering anthropologists, it would be better for military people to show some spine, diverge from the command structure and admit that they were used and abused in this illegal war. Speaking out and questioning authority is a really old American tradition. Older than imperial adventurism. That's the "A" in my AAA.

8:51 AM


Anonymous said...
"Alleviating harm--harm done by whom? Answer that without even an implicit indictment of US occupation forces, and you will be freed from the weakness of your own argument."

Harm done both by the US armed forces as a consequence of inadvertant civilian deaths (which are allowable under the Geneva Convention) *and also harm done by the insurgents who deliberately target civilians.*

The ONLY harm that the US does is when it (regrettably) kills civilians mistaking them for terrorists. When the US kills real terrorists, that is not a harm by any standard. That is an objective, universal good, and seems to be actually required by various articles of the Fourth Geneva Convention as part of a broader requirement to secure the peace in an occupied region prior to removing occupation forces.

Of course, you are ignoring that obligation, and instead construing, or more accurately, misconstruing, or perhaps even mendaciously miscasting US armed forces as wanton and indiscriminate. Frankly, in that regard, you do not have the slightest clue whereof you speak. Your thesis here is plain baloney, as evidence by, among any things, your wholesale embrace of the logial "fallacy of the excluded middle."

Meanwhile, you continue to refuse to address the core of the problem. This problem is the reason for the existence of the HTS program, and allegedly the reason why the US still occupies Iraq (rather than having withdrawn).

If the US withdraws immediately, as you suggest, the death rate will escalate. The US armed forces are keeping a lid on with arguable success sectarian violence that, prior to their occupation of Iraq, was more pervasive but rather unidirectional (largely affecting the Shi'ia under Hussein's rule). If the US just "up and leaves" it will, by many estimates, simply blow the lid off opening up Iraq and possibly even neighboring states to a full-blown civil war.

Now, as a US citizen who voted against Bush twice (and who was disappointed when the Democratic Party wrote the man a blank check to invade Iraq) and who has to pay the taxes for the operations, and see the lamentable state of injured US soldiers or their families, I would find it very, very, very convenient if the US could simply "pick up its marbles and declare itself not to be part of the game."

By many arguments, the Fourth geneva Convention, Article 2, Article 6 paragraph 2, Article 17, Article 18, Article 23, Article 47, Article 50, Article 56, Article 59, and Article 60.

The articles mentioned above seem to *require* that the United States remain in occupation of Iraq long enough to accomplish or allow the creation of a stable government capable of securing the Iraqi populace from harm, including sectarian violence.

"The simple use of the term "terrorist," the familiar mass mediated pattern of demonizing the enemy...."

I've been an anthropologist, professionally speaking, for 20 years. Your gobbledygook, reduced to its only logical statements, amounts only to the assertion that you object to having the US Armed forces in Iraq. Of course you are entitled to your opinion, despite the fact that you seem unable to resolve the basic problem that immediate withdrawal of US Armed forces from Iraq will almost certainly allow much greater harm to occur there than is now occurring.

So I will repeat the question. Which do you prefer. That the US "leave Iraq now" or that "fewer deaths occur in Iraq." At this time, it does not look like you can choose "both."

11:53 AM


Anonymous said...
"Why should anthropologists be expected to "show their patriotism" and be "real Americans" by going to Iraq to try to clean up the mess that people in the military themselves saw coming, but did nothing to prevent?"

I don't see it as a matter of patriotism. I see it as a matter of limited options in a difficult world. American (US Citizen) Anthropologists in particular do not have the luxury of just pretending that they have no obligation, since, whether they like it or not, the US Civilian government adminstered by President George Bush and with the willful cooperation of the US House of Reps and US Senate, including most of the (then minority party) Democrats, approved of this plan. As a US Citizen, I can no more absolve myself of concern in this matter merely because "I objected from the get go" than I can hold my breath until the next election.

Similarly, as a PhD anthropologist, I can't absolve myself of concern over stupid AAA Executive Board resolutions when I understand that these resolutions if acted on will ONLY potentially cause harm .. to Iraqis, to anthropologists in the HTS program, and to the profession of which I am a part.

12:01 PM


Arcane said...
I'm sorry, but while I see most of you on this forum citing the need to be neutral and whatnot with regards to the war, the vast majority of you are not neutral and should quit pretending that you are. It's one thing to say that you oppose taking sides in the war, but many of you talk out of both sides of your mouth, saying on one hand that members of the AAA should remain neutral at all times while simultaneously launching tirades against the supposed crimes of the US military and stating your opposition to policies of the US government. If you were neutral, you would not mention any of this, which leads me to believe that this debate is being led largely by ideologically motivated, if not downright anti-American, demogogues.

Anybody who is supporting this resolution due to their opposition to the war or to specific policies should be left out of the debate, as they are not neutral observers.

Justin Taylor
Graduate Student
Troy University

12:02 PM


Laurie King-Irani said...
Anonymous wrote:

"American (US Citizen) Anthropologists in particular do not have the luxury of just pretending that they have no obligation, since, whether they like it or not, the US Civilian government adminstered by President George Bush and with the willful cooperation of the US House of Reps and US Senate, including most of the (then minority party) Democrats, approved of this plan. As a US Citizen, I can no more absolve myself of concern in this matter merely because "I objected from the get go" than I can hold my breath until the next election."

The willful cooperation of the Legislative branch, not to mention the media and the military, was obtained by means of falsehoods and sexed up intelligence and even the outing of a CIA officer whose husband blew the whistle on the Creative Writing being done by VP Cheney's "Off the shelf" intelligence unit at the Pentagon.

The real answer to all of this mess is to impeach those who got us to this point and do a full scale ethnography of the workings (or lack thereof) in our own governance system that led to this debacle in Iraq. As for Iraq, we should leave now. US forces being there just exacerbates the situation and worsens tensions for all concerned. No anthropological interventions can help there, on the ground, now in Iraq. It's going to be a mess for a long time to come, and the main reason this will upset most in the US is that they'll have to pay a lot for gasoline. That's the whole point of this war. oil.
We have not even broached the whole issue of the Corporate Warrior syndrome, e.g., Blackwater and Dynacorps, whose members are accountable to no one and present not only real problems for the rights of Iraqi civilians but also create tensions among the military, as these guys have no rules of engagement, are not part of an official military command structure, give even less of a hoot about international humanitarian law than does the Bush administration, and who earn tens the amount of salary of enlisted men and women. What can ethnographers possibly do in such a corrupt and compromised situation (and we are just talking about the US/Coalition dimensions now, not the Iraqi hornets' nest). Most of the people writing up stuff for the HTS know less than zero about the middle east. It's all "tribalism" to them. It's not like they could not have read up or interviewed people who have a different view, regardless of whether those scholars are ready to sign up for the $300K salaries to be embedded ethnographers. The whole thing is "gamed" from the get go, and it's not the sort of anthropology we learned to do in grad school, which is no holds barred analysis and interpretation of all dimensions and contexts of a situation. When it comes to studying "up" and asking questions about the mission and the ideologies and aims behind it, I don't think an HTS ethnographer will get a hearing.

As for not being allowed to weigh in because one is not 'neutral,' if you see a crime being committed, in your name, with your tax dollars, the proper professional and personal response is not to participate.

7:06 PM


Brian D-L said...
Justin,

First I want to thank you for the point you are making here as, more than anything, it points to one of the significant difficulties in carrying on constructive and accurate dialogue on something like this blog. Certainly there are many different perspectives represented in our discussions here, from many different angles. This makes it an important challenge to be sure that when we are making our own arguments we are clear to sort out whose points we are actually addressing.

As one of the participants here, for example, who has been trying to make a consistent point about the integrity of anthropological research and trust-worthiness through maintaining a professional ethic of 'neutrality,' I have also been careful to point out that I am not in fact arguing for or against this war, nor arguing about some real or imagined ethical flaws of people in the military. My line of discussion has not necessarily been for or against the arguments that others have been making about the potential illegality of the US war in Iraq, about the incompetence or questionable motives of this (or any other) US administration etc.

This blog discussion can turn into a real hodge podge of chattering voices if we are not clear about who we are addressing or what points we are agreeing or disagreeing with. To dismiss some arguments (for example, about professional standards of trust and neutrality) on the basis of other arguments (not made by the same persons) relating to judgements about international law, state oppression of indigenous peoples, US imperialism etc., is to misdirect what might otherwise be productive and intellectually apt exchange.

If the arguments about US imperialism, colonialism, violation of international law etc. are not accurate, these should be addressed on their merits. If there is value (or no value) in understanding the need for a fundamental integrity of the discipline through professional expectation of neutrality, lets talk about it. If some are inconsistent in which arguments they are making this doesn't necessarily negate the arguments, but challenges us to face the inconsistencies while trying to understand the principles at stake in the situation that has generated this discussion in the first place. Otherwise, it seems that, to paraphrase Wm. James, we are simply rearranging our prejudices.

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Quinebaug Valley Community College

7:24 PM


Anonymous said...
"The willful cooperation of the Legislative branch, not to mention the media and the military, was obtained by means of falsehoods. &c"

This seems largely to be true. Nevertheless, as an American, I feel like I "own" part of that decision, even though I didn't vote for President Bush, wrote to my senators and congressional rep in opposition to invading Iraq, and in general think the *executive* management has been quite poor.

That said, we all were aware of this what... three years ago? Has the Democratic party majority actually demonstrated disaffection enough to stop funding the war despite having been "fooled?" Apparently not.

Moreover, alot of guys in the US military probably did not vote for this policy either. But while they too can dissent, they don't have the luxury of burying their heads in the sand, and they DO have to carry out legal orders. These legal orders include dropping explosive devises or bullets on people whom intel advises are the sorts of people who, for example, look for crowds of civilians standing in employment lines so they can blow up a bunch of people for the sake of grabbing headlines for their (twisted) cause. Helping the US military kill the people who do that sort of thing, and avoid killing noncombatants, is a job that any person (anthropologist or otherwise) ought to be proud to do.

That is why I dissent from the AAA executive board's decision, and why I dissent with much of the reactionary, politically motivated, anti-US-armed forces cant that I hear in this blog.

"The real answer to all of this mess is to impeach those who got us to this point and do a full scale ethnography of the workings (or lack thereof) in our own governance system that led to this debacle in Iraq."

Impeachment is something I could get behind. Meantime, Iraq needs enough stability to get up a working government, needs to be rid of people like "Al Qaida in Iraq" by any means required, and the US Armed forces are the bulk of the people tasked to achieve these goals. That is why the HTS program exists. I don't need to say again that I think it is a worthy program since I've made that clear, so it is the last time I'll say it.

"As for Iraq, we should leave now."

I wish it were that simple. I dislike the harm to US service personnel, and dislike the absurd spending levels. But if we leave now, we probably open up Iraq to a much higher level of violence than now occurs. To be sure, it might be in some wierd way regarded as a "better situation" than when Hussein was in charge, because his (IIRC) 100K deaths per annum were more or less one-way sectarian violence.

"US forces being there just exacerbates the situation and worsens tensions for all concerned."

I just don't agree that anyone has presented any evidence that your claim is substantially correct. By most accounts, the US being there is keeping the lid on the pot.

"No anthropological interventions can help there, on the ground, now in Iraq."

Apparently HTS anthropologists seem to disagree. Since they're the ones over there on the ground, they'd be the ones to know whether or not they're making a useful difference.

"It's going to be a mess for a long time to come, and the main reason this will upset most in the US is that they'll have to pay a lot for gasoline."

That claim is not substantiated by the general economics of world oil. Iraq supplies little of the world's oil. US consumers depend rather more heavily on Pemex, Venezuelan fields, to some extent on UAE and Saudi fields, and domestic reserves. Leaving Iraq now probably will have no effect on world crude oil prices. If, however, a huge civil war develops in Iraq and spreads to the UAE, Saud, or Iran, then it's all "katie bar the door" and fuel prices will skyrocket.

"That's the whole point of this war. oil."

I disagree. It's hard to fathom the "oil" motive. I'm more convinced that it's about Neocon Adventurist Ideology, or, possibly, for the President, simple revenge. Whatever drove the decision, the President's predisposition towards invading Iraq seems irrational, and the "war for oil" explanation seems to me to credit the admin with more rationality than they really possess.

"What can ethnographers possibly do in such a corrupt and compromised situation...."

HTS are working for the US Army. Whatever you may think about the smarts or motives of the Bush Admin, IMO the basic Army Office Corps and most of the enlisted and NCOs are ordinary human beings who (in the vast majority) are both careful, rational, and thoughtful in what they do. They are, however, stuck with a job that our gov't continues to impose upon them. As long as they are stuck with that job, if HTS anthropolgists can help, I'm "for" the HTS program.

"Most of the people writing up stuff for the HTS know less than zero about the middle east."

I'd like to see that claim substantiated by some facts. It's not as though HTS has hired a bunch of Australian-trained Canadian resident circum-Caribbean anthropologists who have suddenly declared themselves to be experts on the US Armed forces and Middle East sectarian feuds.

"The whole thing is "gamed" from the get go, and it's not the sort of anthropology we learned to do in grad school,"

I'm just not sure your characterization is accurate. The HTS program by what little independent looking info comes out seems to be pleasing both to Iraqi civilians and the US Armed forces. One might be suspicious of the claims, but the alternative conclusion has even less evidence in support.

IMO we're all going to be in a better position to pass judgement on HTS in a few years.

"When it comes to studying "up" and asking questions about the mission and the ideologies and aims behind it, I don't think an HTS ethnographer will get a hearing."

It's not obvious that it is the US Armed forces that needs observation.

"As for not being allowed to weigh in because one is not 'neutral,' if you see a crime being committed, in your name, with your tax dollars, the proper professional and personal response is not to participate."

I agree that other fellow shouldn't tell you not to chime in. On the other hand, I do not agree that any crimes are being committed in Iraq as a matter of systematic intent or deficiencies in the US Armed forces. I'm not even sure that US invasion of Iraq was a violation of international law. Stupid maybe, but arguably legal under UNSec resolutions dating back to 1991, and arguably justifiable given Hussein's rather Stalinist penchant for murdering certain elements of the Iraqi population.

Meantime, there is still this problem. If the US leaves right now, it is quite possible that many more people will die as a consequence than would otherwise.

11:35 AM


Maximilian C. Forte said...
"It's not as though HTS has hired a bunch of Australian-trained Canadian resident circum-Caribbean anthropologists who have suddenly declared themselves to be experts on the US Armed forces and Middle East sectarian feuds"

What foolish commentary. I have proclaimed no such expertise, but I will not ignore what has been widely and repeatedly reported either.

And the reason you can even find out those details about where I was trained is due to the fact that, unlike yourself, I am not ashamed of my identity and do not hide behind anonymity.

Your decision to hide like a coward behind anonymity is well advised, as your latest spam betrays woeful ignorance on too many fronts. It is almost certain you are not an anthropologist, and I look forward to seeing no more of your embarrassing nonsense.

10:16 PM


Anonymous said...
"I will not ignore what has been widely and repeatedly reported either."

Indeed? Then what facts, exactly, have been widely reported, and by whom, that (1) support your contention that the US Armed forces in Iraq are systematically indiscriminate, (2) that support your contention that the bulk or even a significant proportion of noncombatant casualties in Iraq are a consequence of US Armed Forces actions rather than "insurgent" (since you dislike the word "terrorist") violence?

"I am not ashamed of my identity and do not hide behind anonymity."

No one should be. In this instance I think "hiding behind anonymity" is useful, because some here (not you) have made it clear that they'd essentially indict anyone who disagrees with their opinion.

"Your decision to hide like a coward behind anonymity is well advised, as your latest spam betrays woeful ignorance on too many fronts."

Yes yes whatever. Ad hominem seems to be the only argument you are capable of making. You can assert my ignorance, but you seem incapable of demonstrating any command of the facts and the issues.

Yes I understand that you believe that all violence in Iraq is a consequence of US Armed Forces actions. Yes I understand that you would characterize the US armed forces as wanton. Actual evidence to indicate that your position has any merit is, despite your pronouncements, lacking.

"It is almost certain you are not an anthropologist,"

As with so many of your assertions and efforts at induction, your claim is incorrect.

11:04 AM


Marcus B. Griffin, Ph.D. said...
One of the soldiers I work with here in Iraq asked me to post this for him given that posting on blogger is restricted where he works. I've already made my views on the EB statement clear on the blog I keep for my students. The following is what LT Gato has to say:

It was with extreme regret and sadness that I read about AAA's decision
to write off this project without even trying to understand it. I
doubt if anyone who made that decision or who called for its eradication
ever talked to anyone on the teams or who deals with the teams. No, they
simply stood back and cast stones at what they didn't even try to
understand. I am utterly confused as to why they would let this happen.
For years all I have heard while a grad student at UNM were things like,
"They military should do this or that" or "didn't they know this or
that". Well now was your chance to fill that gap, to make a difference, TO
SAVE LIVES....Americans and Iraqis! Lives that will be continue to be
lost because of misunderstandings between our cultures.
I wonder if that will cross their minds when they drink their
trendy wines and congratulate themselves on taking such a "strong ethical
stand", that people are going to die so that they can feel good about
themselves when they meet in their conventions in some Howard Johnson's
drinking Cocktails or work in safety as they search for bigfoot in
Northern California. Well done, AAA, Well done! But let me ask you, if you
really did want to end the war, why didn't you add something to it,
contribute information that could have helped? Instead you shut the door on
me, my fellow soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines and Iraqis we work
side by side with, lets just hope you never need a soldier's help, we
might be in a convention or dead. Think I am over reacting, or dramatizing,
take a ride with me, I'll be here, Dr Griffin has, what about you?
American soldiers don't dictate policy, the government and its
citizens do, so because the academic community can't punish the
government they punish the soldiers who represent both. Do you honestly think
the military is full of mindless thugs? I am a life-long liberal, the
army has its share of concervatives, liberals, right-wingers, lefties, all
here, all serving for YOU! For your right to bash my honor and
integrity by stating that I will somehow share the secrets of Anthropology to
conquer the world, I talk to people about water, about health care, I
explain cultural differences like, celebratory fire, so that soldiers
won't think they are being shot at and understand what and why something
is going on. Dr Griffin, helps me do that better, if I hit a mental
road block he is there to help. Sure he wears a uniform, why, because
snipers shoot people who stand out, they shoot them in the face, is that
too blunt? Hey thats the way it is, hope I am not upsetting anyone's
brown bag luncheon. But, he is here with me, taking the same risks, eating
the same food for a year. Helping to save lives, But thats over with
right, no more social scientists because to do labels them, fine if you
don't want him, I know 4,000 soldiers who do.


-Member HTS

12:17 PM


CL Harrison said...
C.L. Harrison

I am a senior Anthropology at ISU and former US Army soldier. While I agree that the use of Anthropologists in a war is consistent with mistakes made during the World Wars, and makes it difficult to maintain confidence to other cultures because of their suspicion, I would like to jump ahead to the future and propose that it could be a step in the right direction. How many of us thing that if our government actively employed Anthropologists at every level of organization that relations world wide would be better? If this begins the process to have higher levels of government apply our skills later to diplomacy then I believe that it was an experiement worth the risks.

The US military has employed Anthropologists in times of war for many decades, this time they are more on the ground than in an office where they do not interact with the culture.

I can see the downside and while I believe that our personal opinions on the validity of the war are irrelevant in this circumstance; I do believe that historically it is our responsibility to evaluate long term benefits in our culture which along with many other cultures engage in war and conflict as a natural evolutionary process in civilizational building.

11:21 AM


Landon said...
I'm sorry, but I still feel that people are side-stepping the issue that the US military and US government, as political bodies, are not genuinely concerned with things not-American and not in America's best interests. Still, rarely will the primary concerns of anthropology mesh with the primary concerns of the US systems.

I'm surprised no one has really addressed this issue--quid pro quo--so I will be brutally honest: anthropologists in the military are tools. We may argue till we're all blue in the face that anthropologists holding hands with military personnel are saving lives, but the fact remains that the US military is using anthropologists to fight a better fight--a fight nonetheless. We are the means to achieve a very American-imperialist end. The current politics wrapped up in this situation are crucial to this discussion and can NOT be removed.

I can't understand how we've all been talking past this pivotal point, and I forgive my ignorance if this type of talk has been circulating in smaller circles.


Landon Yarrington
Department of Anthropology
The College of William and Mary

12:03 PM


Brian D-L said...
Landon,

One of the problems in this line of argument is that it implies a further message: if you feel the US isjustified in doing what it is doing in Iraq, (Iran, Colombia etc.) then it is OK as an anthropologist to serve in direct support of such war-efforts. If instead, it were self-evident to everyone that US actions in Iraq are in violation of international law, part of a history of US Imperialism etc. then it wouldn't be right for anyone to be involved.

In fact, the point has been made here (by myself and a few others) that even without making a judgement about whether this is US imperialism or the US making the world safe for democracy, it is about whether anthropologists are being used as tools in war to begin with, and whether this in itself is not a perversion of the discipline.

12:44 PM


Tanner said...
Anthropologists aided (aid?) the project of colonialism. Anthropologists helped (help?) to perpetuate ideas/projects like Orientalism, Africa as the ‘savage continent’ and the idea that ‘culture’ is ‘real’. Anthropologists have done a lot of very bad things. However, it is also possible that by doing those things anthropologists have also made things ‘better’ in the process…

With that in mind, what would the world look like without anthropology?

More importantly for this debate…

What will Iraq and Afghanistan look like without anthropologists?

-------
Tanner Phillips
Alice Salomon University of Applied Science
Berlin, Germany

5:00 PM


Arcane said...
The current politics wrapped up in this situation are crucial to this discussion and can NOT be removed.

No, if you're going to make this a political debate, then you're willing to tarnish the careers of dozens of anthropologists who volunteered for this kind of work simply because they disagree with YOUR political opinion. Lots of things have been said on this forum, mostly by people who are more interested with political ideology than with anthropology, but the idea of tarnishing these people simply because they disagree with you is sickening. It isn't just sickening, it's downright authoritarian.

You're not an anthropologist, Landon. You're a politically motivated authoritarian thug.

Justin Taylor
Graduate Student
Troy University

1:41 AM


Anonymous said...
Whether a conflict is imperial or not (good or bad war), or what ones politics are regarding a conflict is not the point. HTS directly and indirectly helps the military distinguish combatants and information from anthropologists can be or is used to help the military "target" belligerents, presumably to be killed. The military has repeatedly acknowledged this, while avoiding the obvious aspect (killing).

It does not matter if the individuals think they are doing good or preventing innocents from being targeted or helping the military develop sensitivity to cultural difference. If anything an anthropologist does is done knowing is might help in "targeting" there is a fundamental ethical conflict.

HST proponents and members repeatedly avoid talking about this point. But, if there is any known risk that a person could be harmed (killed) as a direct result of anthropological research or applied activities, and the anthropologist proceeds, then that is an ethical violation.

This alone is enough to preclude any condoning of the program by AAA, and HST is a program that any involvement with clearly violates the ethical guidelines for anthropologists generally and AAA specifically. Any anthropologists working with HST should be professionally sanctioned and temporarily or permanently barred from using the title "anthropologist" and from contributing to the professional, scholarly, or applied community or literature.

2:55 PM


gsiderf2@gmail.com said...
Dear Colleagues,
Much as I like seeing the comments critical of anthropologists working for what is deceptively called "Human Terrain Systems" I am dismayed by their caution. There is central point at issue: to work for the military is specifically to take orders from the very highest level of command on down. It is unmistakable that Bush and Cheney are war criminals, whether or not they are ever tried, and by the standards of the Nuremburg trials, to follow the orders of war criminals makes you a war criminal also. So-called anthropologists who work for the military are, whatever their private fantasies may be, war criminals.
I do not want these war criminals to sully the discipline I have given my adult professional life to. At the next AAA meeting I will introduce a resolution asking that people who work for the US Military be excluded from our professional association, so that it is clear that we do not recognize their claim to be anthropologists.
Gerald Sider
AAA member since 1961

4:46 PM


Brian D-L said...
Gerald, I have been one who has been trying to engage the question here without addressing whether this is an imperialist war in Iraq, whether Bush/Cheney are war criminals, or what the personal responsibility is for each of us (anthropologist or just plain citizen) in relation to basic human rights. One of the problems I see in the discussions that bring these things in is that they throw us into the whole battle of whose side God (god, good) is on, and those who are trying to support participation in such military programs are in effect saying that 'we' are on the right side and therefore anthropologists should be applying our skills to support the good.

My judgement is not about the criminality and inhumanity of (this) war--no one has directly asked me about my personal take on this, nor have I volunteered it as I think it gives people another red herring to throw the dogs off the track of a core issue as noted by the contributer just above your message in this discussion thread; there is a fundamental contradiction in turning the discipline that promotes itself as built on human understanding, skills of in-depth investigation of all peoples of the world, and the fundamental trust of peoples studied in order to carry this out, into a weapon used by one people against another.

If there wasn't a writers' strike going on, by now the absurdity of this situation would almost certainly have been reflected in at least one Daly Show or Colbert Show segment. I only wonder how this could not be more obvious to some in our discipline.

Brian Donohue-Lynch

2:20 PM


tanner said...
If you continue to take a side you continue to remove the need for anthropology at all...Stop trying to justify your actions with normative lunacy...applied anthroplogy has always had an ideological slant...just because these particular anthropologists are slanted in a direction you see as 'wrong' does not mean you have any right to say they are not doing the work of applied anthropology.

I repeat...what will become of Iraq and Afghanistan without anthropogists?

4:30 PM


Comment deleted
This post has been removed by the author.

5:46 PM


Brian D-L said...
Brian D-L said...
...do you mean "what will become of Iraq and Afghanistan without anthropologists serving as agents of the US military"? Or maybe "what will become of Iraq and Afghaistan if the US military continues its war without them." I am sure, after all, that there are many anthropologists who would want to continue to do the work of anthropology among the people of Iraq and Afghanistan without applying it to winning a war against (some of) them.

Brian

5:49 PM


Zinjabeelah said...
What will happen to Afghanistan and Iraq without anthropologists is not the question, but rather, what will happen to the U.S. without the rule of law and the implementation of the Constitution? What will happen to the world without respect for international law and human rights standards? Addressing these questions is primary, and once we do, the rest will begin to fall into place.

Iraqis and Afghans are not children or functional idiots in need of Western guidance. We've pretty well messed up Iraq for generations to come, and the solutions to that tragedy are not military.

1:10 AM


tanner said...
The question 'what will Iraq and Afghanistan look like without anthropologists' is directed towards the reality we find ourselves in...not some utopic vision of universal human rights, an ethnocentric belief that Iraqis and Afghans need Western guidance, or some normative rant on what 'real anthropology' looks like...I ask the question because this is a debate over rather or not anthropologists should be working with the military in these zones...

So, I will repeat it one more time in the hopes that someone will actually address it...'What will Iraq and Afghanistan look like without anthropologists?'

The military is already in these countries...US hegemony is already quite established there and in plenty of other areas around the globe...the negative effects of that are pretty much basic food for thought for any undergraduate...However, apart from saying that we should not support (and even fight against) all that hegemony, we are still left with the over-arching fact that it is there and people are suffering from it. If we do not have people inside the 'systems' that perpetuate that hegemony (like the army) working to make it less pervasive and harmful then things will certainly become far worse then they are now...However, with people 'aiding' colonialism we are also intentionally 'changing' colonialism...it is a long term process but with a little perspective it becomes clear that the world will look different in 50 years...how it looks depends upon what we do now...people that oppose oppressive regimes will play a role in that. However, so will people that work from the inside to weaken their oppression.

In other words, despite all the arguments against such work, it seems like having anthropologists informing military leadership is better then simply having them whining/debating/thinking(?) in their 'armchairs' (or at their computers) 3000 miles away. At the very least they are making things at least a little better for the people they work directly with. At the most, they are preparing the way for reformations (read revolutions) that could have a positive effect in the long run.

4:47 PM


Maximilian C. Forte said...
"What will Iraq and Afghanistan look like without anthropologists?"

If you find that people resist answering this question, it is probably because few people like to try to prove a negative case, make predictions, and so forth.

The question for me should read: what do Iraq and Afghanistan look like *with* anthropology?

I think that both countries can do very well without it--it's not as if anthropology is some sort of pillar of society or saving angel that being without it is tantamount to being without schools, hospitals, jobs, etc. Your question seems to seriously over inflate the importance of anthropology.

To the extent that Iraq and Afghanistan may not teach, train, and otherwise produce their own anthropologists, then you could say they are without anthropology already, in which case you have your answer.

To the extent that anthropology is, in neither case, there to serve anyone other than the anthropologists themselves, and their home institutions, then you have another answer.

To the extent that, as some would argue, HTS anthropologists are not acting as anthropologists but as those seeking to exploit and manipulate a disciplinary heritage for their own personal gains, or for aims external to the discipline, then once again you have another answer to your question.

However, as I reckon from the last post, you had a point to make that was hidden behind a rhetorical question. It was probably best just to go ahead and make your point than to repeat a question that most would recognize as having been a rhetorical one.

As for the notion that those calling themselves anthropologists at work in Iraq and Afghanistan are making a positive difference, sorry, you have to offer proof, substantiate your argument, demonstrate it, and not just assert it as self-evident. And after that you have to weigh it against any harm that their presence has caused to both locals and to the discipline. Finally, you have to weigh the other options available to anthropologists who want to do good, and these are very many, and probably cast anthropology in much less of a sinister light than HTS work does. After you have done all of these things, you can make your case. In the meantime, assertions of belief do not count for much.

10:16 PM


madalina said...
I am a PHD student at a London University, and the "war on terror" and US military imperialism have placed me both personally and professionally under a moral strain. I wholeheartedly support the statement and the condemenation of anthropologists who offer their expertise to an army (be it of occupation or of liberation, those anthropolosists or any social scientists or medical professionals who participate to the perpetration of a genocide.
I would also like that in the official statement there be a clarification of the terminology used by the AAA in relation to the ASA: the AAA condemns any "anti-terror anthropology" whereas the ASA condemns any "war on terror" research. And I would like to hear comments by anthropologists of Iraqui and/or Afghan origins on this position that the AAA has taken. I would liek to add that it is naive to believe that to promote "peace making" and "peace keeping" as something that per se is "neutral". Here, I would like tot remind that in the 1990`s, Belgrade was bombarded in the name of "peacemaking", and many civilians were victims.

4:00 AM


Anonymous said...
Hi,

I think it is great to discuss issues of controversy such as this.

I think that intelligence agents, whether they have a social science background or not, is not so much a new thing. Margaret Mead even worked for the US during WWII, as well as others. As for Social Scientists working for the CIA, National Security, Police Forces or otherwise once again this is not a new phenomenon.

I think that the AAA should perhaps divulge itself into a CivilAAA, and/or a MilitantAAA.

I think the concern is valid, but how can you tell the difference between an Intelligence Agent and an Anthropologist?

What it reduces to is that it is not the Anthropologist at risk, but individuals of Foreign Nationality without domestic ties seen as invasive in a protectionistic society, or one with elements that frown on intellegence from being dispatched. Anyone can read field data or otherwise, so even a "civilian" anthropologist working on "neutral and civilian aims" is compiliing information once published that could be used for less than civil purposes.

While to take a political stance against the war, or aiding the war is one the AAA is more than entitled to do, I think that if suddently cooks and mechanics boycotted their members from assisting the war effect because cooks and mechanics are at increased risk in a hostile environment, is much the same circumstance.

Is anyone with a clipboard and glasses an anthropologists. I think the merit is there but the basing is not.

I'm not a member of the AAA but am studying Anthropology in University and it is my intended major. While I do not dream of working in the Intelligence Field, I think that directly or indirectly all aspects of a nation aid and abet any war ongoing if they pay taxes or provide a service of any sort to the government or citizens of that state.. but of course it amounts to a lite stance. Of course if you exclude yourself, then you loose eyes on cultures such as the military or intelligence communities, but isn't that national security and dangerous to other anthropologists none the less.

It very much does paint the AAA, as a peace loving organization. Of course expelling membership of anyone that works in the intelligence agency, might pave way for something like the MAAA (or intelligence community)

Best Wishes,
William Ashley

2:40 PM


tanner said...
If anthropologists have no influence, if they hold no power, then why don’t we just leave them alone and let them do whatever the heck they want? Why try to draw a line around what anthropologists should or should not do, if in fact you (Max and others) believe that anthropologists do not sway events in any particular direction?

However, if anthropologists do somehow affect the world around them. Why should they not affect the way the military operates? Which brings us back to the question…What are these two countries, (which are highly influenced by the actions of the US military) going to look like if anthropologists are not involved?

It is not a rhetorical question. It is a very simple and straight forward factor that must be considered in this debate. It follows the principle of exclusion. It is what those who vilify this program have the burden of confronting/proving/explaining…

If you say anthropologists should not help the military you need to offer a valid prediction/explanation of what will happen if they do not...and why that is preferable.

5:48 PM


tanner said...
Sorry about hogging this blog and thank you very much for reading my posts. More importantly, Thank you for all your posts so for, no matter what has been said they have been very helpful… The reason my previous questions do at time seem vague or rhetorical is because I have not made up my mind on this issue and I am trying to solicit the sort of dialogue that can help convince me of the ‘right’ direction I/we as a discipline should go in the future…

I do have one additional question for everyone here:

Apparently the leadership of the AAA is elected by the membership and generally serves for three year terms. I have been a member of AAA for over three years and never once received information about elections. Is anyone else in the same boat? I ask because it certainly matters in cases like this, where it seems a small percentage of the population is making drastic decisions which represent the whole. I appreciate the chance to blog about this issue, but I think democracy should look a little different then an elite faction making statements in their ivory tower that affect the careers of its members world-wide. (ESPECIALLY SINCE THEY PERFORMED NO ETHNOGRAPHICAL WORK TO COME TO THESE CONCLUSIONS…;-(…) To me that is too similar to the current ‘democratic’ process in my country these days…I paid money to join this organization and I would like to know if others have faced similar problems with being notified about elections…along with that, was the possibility/process of forming this statement open to us before it was completed?

Tanner Phillips
MA-ICM
Berlin, Germany

4:53 AM


Anonymous said...
"If anything an anthropologist does is done knowing is might help in "targeting" there is a fundamental ethical conflict."

I disagree that any ethical conflict exists. If anthropologists aid in achieving in essence "better targeting," and better targeting means real murderers get killed but real innocents are less likely to be killed, then any anthropologist providing such a service is doing good anthropology and also making a positive and beneficial contribution.

"Suspending disbelief" does not require that we pretend that terrorists aren't terrorists.

8:35 PM


Anonymous said...
That's great! The post above this one just made a great argument for anthropologists to join the Iraqi resistance.

That way the real terrorists who invaded Iraq in 2003 can be defeated, innocents saved, and anthropology can make a positive and beneficial contribution.

Suspending disbelief certainly does not mean that we pretend that terrorists aren't terrorists. Too bad that those supporting HTS also support the real terrorists.

9:40 PM


Undecided said...
To the above comment:

Yes, it sounds crazy and you meant it sarcastically. However, it stands to reason that any side in a conflict should have anthropologists as advisors…anything that lessons harm to civilian populations is admirable in my book…even if it means supporting military operations…(or freedom fighter/terrorists for that matter).

Now your quip about the US military being a terrorist organization is highly political…as are most the posts here…but I would like for people to please take up the suggestion to consider what is going to happen sans anthro in these HTS positions…

I ask this because I am considering becoming a civil affairs officer in the Army and it seems to have similar implications…My decision to do so will rest on the pragmatic ‘harm to good’ ratio that any decision made by an anthropologist should consider…Is this helping or hurting the people there? With the unavoidable fact that the damage is already done and something has to be done to fix the mess created by unjust wars…I think now it is a necessary evil…

Everyone, please step away from the polarized tit for tat logic and obvious political ideologies for a moment and help me wrap my head around the long-term and complicated realities in this debate.

5:27 AM


liquid-thalweg said...
Greetings everyone!!!

A blog is not the best format for such an intense and complicate issue. Therefore, I have created a forum for this issue here:

http://militaryanthro.forumotion.com/index.htm

I ask you all to please visit and continue this discussion there.

All the best!!!

7:11 AM


Brian D-L said...
U.S. daily spending on its war in Iraq is estimated at $270 million; according to statistics compiled by the U.N., as well as other numbers by the journal The Lancet, Iraqi deaths as a consequence of U.S. military action since the 2003 invasion now total anywhere between 600,000 and 1 million; this does not include the numbers of deaths as a result of the prior 10 year daily air strikes carried out over Iraq by the U.S. military and the UK's air power; this does not include casualties caused by a US led embargo against trade with Iraq during that same period.

In addition, the control of information about the war, reinforced legislatively and by policies and practices of the White House, State Department, CIA, Congress et al. mean that the current understanding of the war among ordinary citizens (of the US at least) is orchestrated in detail, down to the very detail of how many pictures of returning maimed veterans, and flag-draped coffins any one of us will see. For as many of these as we have seen in our US press (...almost none?) there are even fewer human images of Iraqi casulties; Iraqi images we are allowed to see (that are promoted and provided) are on the order of the 'celebrity mugshots' (dead or alive, counter to international laws and conventions of war) of those our military/executive leaders have officially named as 'terrorists.'

And mind you, in my saying all this, I am not trying to make a case for or against this war; I am trying to make the point that there is a war going on the already-existing consequences of which we are not easily or regularly exposed to, by careful and deliberate design of those who are planning and driving this war. In effect, the average citizen is being trained to not be concerned about what is already happening right now in Iraq (and Afghanistan) except as it might cement our assent to the ongoing planning and execution of the war and its implications.

There should be no illusion that any of us is being asked to take seriously any human questions about the killings of innocents, the use of indiscriminate military tactics and strategies, the fate of the surviving casulties, the motivations of 'insurgents' who apparenlty with extreme peristence have found the reasons and the ability to stand up to the single remaining world superpower in its longest lasting war of its history. To ask about such questions is to incur a kind of Jack Nicholsonesque "you want the truth?! You can't handle the truth" from those in charge who will readily remind us all that we are 'ivroy tower idealists' (at best, if not Al Qaeda sympathisers if not worse) for being concerned about such facts and questions.

One perspective on all this might give us an interesting historical comparison, just in terms of the very cost of this war in human numbers. Before the current post-invasion Iraq war (during the 10 year daily bombing campaign war) the population of Iraq was just a bit more than the total population of the US (north and south) during the Civil War. The U.N. estimate of at least 600,000 deaths of Iraqi citizens as a result of our military invasion is roughly the total casualty count for our own civil war. This then doesn't include the count or comparison of surviving casualties, or those in Afghanistan.

Given the magnitude, scope, and determined intensity of this war as executed by the US, it is an illusion for an anthropologist or anyone else to think that they are going to go into this warmaking and bring some humanity to it (or to think that those who oppose this use of anthropology as a credible profession are somehow diminishing the human good that can be done 'if only we'd let anthropologists be there.')

The military agenda in Iraq and Afghanistan is, to use a tired term, a juggernaut. To expect that anything a profession like anthropology might do 'from inside' (serving especially as intelligence-support for the dominant side in this war) will attenuate the damage being done or contribute to cross-cultural understanding is naive at best. If anthropology is being used it is being used as one more utilitarian tool to accomplish the ultimate agenda of this juggernaut, the agenda that is reflected in its consequences, the facts about which we as ordinary people are not meant to see.

If anything, anthropologists should be helping people see these facts and consequences, not contributing to their continued tally.

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Quinebaug Valley Community College

6:59 PM


tanner said...
Brian,

I will be responding to your comments on the forum that 'undecided' set up...

http://militaryanthro.forumotion.com/index.htm

Please go there to continue this discussion.

Tanner

11:10 AM


tanner said...
sorry....liquid-thalweg (interesting name!) set up the forum and I responded to your post here Brian:

http://militaryanthro.forumotion.com/yesbut-why-f1/brian-donohue-lynch-s-comments-and-some-of-my-thoughts-t9.htm

Everyone else please go to that forum. It is a good place to talk about this.

1:47 PM


Maximilian C. Forte said...
I have no idea who "liquid-thalweg" is and this order to go another anonymous person's forum is very poor etiquette to say the least. This is a AAA blog, for the discussion of a AAA statement, and I question the motives of someone trying to hijack and relocate the discussion. There is nothing wrong with having the dicussion right here, where it belongs.

2:27 PM


Brian D-L said...
I would agree with Maximilian. I am not sure why it should be suddenly determined that this professional space set up by and for AAA members to discuss these concerns isn't the place to do so.

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Quinebaug Valley Community College

4:29 PM


liquid-thalweg said...
You both have the wrong idea...it is not an order and if you looked at the forum you would understand why it is a better place to have such a discussion...a string of over 130 posts is not easy to follow and I set up the forum to help organize this debate...

The only motive I have is to try to understand this question better. Take a look at the forum before you throw it out as an option.

As far as tanner moving his discussion with Brian there...I think that is between them and not really any of our business.

For me the organizzation of a forum, where people can open different posts on different subjects, just helps keep the discussion flowing. This string discourages most people from participating in what should be a lively debate.

The forum is meant to compliment this blog, not replace it.

http://militaryanthro.forumotion.com/index.htm

5:08 PM


Maximilian C. Forte said...
I was not commenting on this discussion between Tanner and Brian, and the reason I made this "my business" comes from the statements by Tanner and yourself:

"Everyone else please go to that forum." &

"I ask you all to please visit and continue this discussion there."

I don't know that this "string" discourages anybody from participating, nor do you. Nor do I think that the debate has been moribund.

I have also looked at your forum, which is part of the reason I reject it, nor am I willing to see this discussion being split into two. Others are obviously free to do whatever they want, that goes without saying.

Best of luck.

6:35 PM


tanner said...
Frankly, I do not care where we discuss this issue. Although I will say that I do appreciate the effort ‘liquid-thalweg’ put in to create a forum (thanks!). And I agree with him/her that it is a better way to manage discussions like this. Furthermore, (Maximilian) I don’t think questioning his/her motives or calling him/her a hijacker is very good etiquette either—to say the least. The more discussion on topics like this the better.
-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Brian, If you do not want to join ‘liquid-thalweg’s’ forum then here is the post I put there responding to your remarks...(Sorry if it was rude of me to assume you might like to discuss this issue in that setting….)

Yes Brian, if you are going to reduce everything to good and evil, white and black, self and other…then the military is a monolith juggernaut and supporting it can do no good. You are either for or against it…

However, just like reading Said’s Orientalism and Chomsky’s Hegemony or Survival has caused me (more then once) to burst into Occidentalist-tilted tantrums—only to find days later that I was becoming ‘grotesque’ and missing the complicated nature of these arguments—and life in general; so too does your argument (and the AAA’s in general) seem to ignore the practical side of this issue. This is not just theory we are talking about here, but also practice. The two must be mutually intelligible ‘projects’. In order to say anthropologists should not be helping the military you have to demonstrate why the alternative is preferable. The burden of proof is on the AAA, and anyone that opposes the HTS, to form this argument.

From what I gather here, the crux of your argument against is that the war is unjust and so the soldiers are unjust…if you work for the beast you are the beast…This of course makes sense because your actions (might) help to make the beast stronger. However, they also (might) help to make the beast tamer. So, this line of reasoning is only valid if the military could and would pull out of Iraq tomorrow. Unfortunately, this is not going to happen. The military will b there for a long time to come. Therefore, I would certainly say at this point that anthropology seems to have a place in and among the many humans (soldiers and civilians alike…they are all humans…all people…all important) who are experiencing this war…

If American anthropologists decide to position themselves only as activists on one side of an issue then they are really only helping support one ideology…not humanity…war is a part of our history and it will be part of our future…I think anthropologists should play a role in how it is waged.

That is enough for now...please respond.

Tanner Phillips

5:04 AM


tanner said...
I just communicated with liquid-thalweg and offered to take over the forum he set up. He agreed, so this means the forum will soon be in my name and not his. Liquid-thalweg wants to remain anonymous but he and I both think that discourages people from participating in the forum. I hope that by taking over the reigns you will all feel more comfortable visiting and sharing your thoughts…

Email me if you want to know who I am tananaphillips@googlemail.com

Here is the forum again:

I would like to remind everyone that this discussion is

http://militaryanthro.forumotion.com/index.htm

5:15 AM


Brian D-L said...
Tanner, and anyone else interested in dialogue on these important issues concerning our professional association, it is worthwhile to discuss one another's arguments as they are made, but it is fruitless to discuss them as they are imagined to be made.

So, for example, if you look at my most recent posting above, I have to say that it is totally incorrect to represent what I have said in terms of reducing things to categories of good and evil, or as a result of this to identify any "crux" of my argument in terms of a judgement that the war is unjust (and that soldiers in the process are unjust). These are not the issues I have been highlighting in any of my posts, and to continue to represent these as "my arguments" to which counter-arguments are then presented is to misdirect the discussion, deliberately or otherwise.

To say in particular that this war in Iraq and Afghanistan is a juggenaut is in my argument nowhere connected to a judgement about whether the military is "good or evil," as you suggest. It is to say instead, along with all the other facts I highlighted about the magnitude of this war, the extent of its devastation, the duration of often-forgotten US phases of the war that even preceded by at least ten years the 2003 invasion, the intensive and deliberate control of our perceptions of the way through our government's policies and practices (down to the legislative prohibition of publishing photos of returning coffins!)... all of this is to suggest that this, in the definition of a juggernaut, is a "massive inexorable force" and that it is at best naive to think that an anthropologist will do anything but help promote the ultimate goals of this force in its partisan, military agenda.
In this context, anthropology is being used in a utilitarian way, only subsidiary to the aims of military victory.
This is not the place of a discipline that is telling people "we're here to learn about you so that we can understand your humanity." Fundamental trust-worthiness is part of our stock in trade; otherwise we are just serving as spies.

One of the especially deadly facts of this war is that there has been a concerted, intensive, carefully orchestrated strategy on the part of those executing the war to shape and control our perceptions of what it is all about. The facts of the war, the deadly consequences, the original motivations for its igniting, the control of information coming from warzones and detention centers, the domestication of news organizations, and so much more, reflect a driving force and driving agenda in which "truth" and "human understanding" are immaterial except as they might be subsumed under the agenda of "getting it done."
Certainly, anthropologists should be helping to understand this, but it is so contradictory for anthropologists to act as servant toward helping to make it happen.

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Quinebaug Valley Community College

12:46 PM


tanner said...
Brian, (and everybody else)

No discussion is fruitless if it is between people trying to find real answers. Also, no one is going to take my summary of what I think you are saying to be your actual words. If I get you wrong in what I say then please refute. That is the point…

To that end, it seems like what you are saying above is that ‘at best’ anthropologist are wasting their time trying to make a difference by serving in the military in Iraq. At worst they are unethical and spies. You argument seems to apply only to Iraq…right? So, in your opinion is HTS sort of work ‘acceptable’ in Afghanistan?

If yes, then how are we as a professional body of anthropologists supposed to effectively gauge the ethical line which separates the two conflicts? Does the UN have to be involved? NATO? Does the over-all body count have to be under or a over certain amount? How and why are we taking such a stand now? How can we say that in this particular situation anthropology can do no good and therefore has no place?

All your facts about the brutality of the war and the pervasiveness of the war machine are well received and I agree that they should be considered (and remembered) long and hard not just by anthropologists, but by every world citizen,. However, there is no way to measure your claims that HTS anthropologists are “naïve” and that their work only helps to “promote the ultimate goals of this force in its partisan, military agenda.” The exact opposite might be true. Having anthropologists in country and advising military leadership could literally help to change the agenda itself…thus accomplishing the same goal as anthropologists who lecture in classrooms…conflict transformation…a long process but one which works better with people on the ‘inside’.

This position by the AAA basically handicaps any far-sighted professionals who see Iraq as more then just a discourse and the conflict there as more then just Bush’s war. The war machine has rolled out and we have let it. It needs to roll back, but it also needs to be somehow changed in the process…we miss an opportunity when we let the military make decisions in Iraq without the anthropological perspective.

I will add that since no ethnographical research was done by the AAA before forming this declaration, it is not even certain that there are any violations of ethics at stake here…just a lot of assumptions and possibilities that may or may not be true, but are not enough to formally vilify this particular endeavour…

Furthermore, all the facts seem to be directed toward the war itself, and not toward the people and places it affects. Which brings me around to the very same question I have been asking all along and no one will take up. Some of you are in such a hurry to take anthropology out of the military, but I am concerned about what will happen if we do. Do you think the military’s departure from Iraq will be somehow sped up? I doubt it? Do you think our profession will be somehow tarnished? I doubt that too. Doctors are not vilified for fixing soldiers so they can go fight again. Most rational people understand that all professions have a place in a war zone. Some professions directly aid the killing. Some help the wounded and survivors. Others make the boots and in the end most of us buy the gas to fill up our cars to go to work……Or, did you ride the train today?..... If so….you can cast the first stone. :-)

Tanner Phillips
MA-ICM
Berlin, Germany

2:38 PM


GSider said...
The recent comments saying that no ethnographic analysis was done on the destruction (=war?) of Iraq before the ethical questions emerged, or that this devastation is better with anthro than without, are literally nauseating to anyone with a sense of history. Do you know that Nazi doctors performed very useful, but unfortunately fatal, experiments on Jewish, Rom, Communist, and Homosexual concentration camp inmates? A lot was learned from these experiments; unfortunately the subjects suffered intensely, but "medical science" was put to good and very productive use is helping good Germans achieve better health. Think of that when you fill my email box with your nauseating and self-serving fantasies, and when the anthros in bed with the US army (embedded? In my youth we use to call them whores) draw pay that with tax breaks are worth $300,00 anually.
Please go away quietly, so our constitution continues to mean something.
And please, to the AAA, stop publishing anonymous replies. If people are not willing or able to identify themselves with email names and addresses, they have lost the right to participate in what little remains of a democratic forum
Gerald Sider
Professor Emeritus, CUNY

10:05 PM


Gerald said...
The recent comments saying that no ethnographic analysis was done on the destruction (=war?) of Iraq before the ethical questions emerged, or that this devastation is better with anthro than without, are literally nauseating to anyone with a sense of history. Do you know that Nazi doctors performed very useful, but unfortunately fatal, experiments on Jewish, Rom, Communist, and Homosexual concentration camp inmates? A lot was learned from these experiments; unfortunately the subjects suffered intensely, but "medical science" was put to good and very productive use is helping good Germans achieve better health. Think of that when you fill my email box with your nauseating and self-serving fantasies, and when the anthros in bed with the US army (embedded? In my youth we use to call them whores) draw pay that with tax breaks are worth $300,00 anually.
Please go away quietly, so our constitution continues to mean something.
And please, to the AAA, stop publishing anonymous replies. If people are not willing or able to identify themselves with email names and addresses, they have lost the right to participate in what little remains of a democratic forum
Gerald Sider.
Professor Emeritus, CUNY

10:07 PM


tanner said...
Greetings to Gerald and everyone else,

Please actually read the posts if you are going to react so emotionally. I am not anonymous. My name and school affiliation are at the bottom of the post. If you had actually read it rather then reacting (wrongly) to a few things I said maybe you would not feel so nauseated…

Maybe you could also raise your argument above the “you are a Nazi” strategy which places our thoughts on the extreme edges of what should actually be a continuum. I am not your enemy. I am trying to figure this all out. So, with that said I will not ‘go away quietly’, but I will ask you to stop over-simplifying this situation...and have a little respect for someone who believes discussion can do more then just escalate conflicts…If we are deliberate it can fix problems. (And on a personal level, it might help me make up my mind….and career path…accordingly.)

Now, if I take your comments seriously…rather then the attacks on my character that they seem to be…I have to say that you have a point with the Nazi doctor example. However, it only applies if HTS anthropologists really are guilty of actions that go against AAA ethics. Since no ethnographic work, interviews or any “systematic study” of any kind has actually been performed to find this out, we basically are working with assumptions gained from past wars. Don’t get me wrong, this is a good starting point to raise concerns about HTS actions, but I don’t think it is enough to take the extreme stance our organization has taken. Yes, monsters existed in WWII that did evil things in the name of their profession. In fact, many of them were German anthropologists. However, do we really think that all anthropologists working with the Germans were evil at that time? Were all the doctors evil? I am sure they were not. I just don’t see how we can isolate ourselves so much in this case. There is too much diversity in thinking and research agendas within the AAA. There is also a plenty of substance and passion on both sides of this debate (as the 140+ posts before this show). For a professionals organization like ours to draw some imaginary line in the sand and say all anthropologists must not cross it makes us look like the fanatic far-left liberals many people see us as. Do we really have to be this political to do good? Whose definition of ‘good’ are we going by anyway? Maybe if the statement were more of a general caution/warning to practicioners of this sort of research. Or if it was postponed until actual research could be done into what the HTS teams are doing on the ground. As it is, this statement does what you have done Gerald, turn all those who think they can make a difference in the war zone into spies (and even Nazis!).

Related to this, I did not say that ethnographic research has not been done in Iraq in general. In fact, my comments come from the fact that anyone 'with a sense of history' is pretty clear on what has happened and is happening there. You don't need the news to tell you it is a horrible situation. I just believe the momentum of both this war machine (and US hegemony in general) is so great that professionals in all disciplines should not be shunned for taking part. Yes, their work can be used for harm. But, so can all of ours. If you can not prove that matters are made worse with their help…then this statement has no place. That is why I continue to press the one question that I need an answer to. What will Iraq look like without HTS teams? If someone can try to answer this question I would appreciate it. This is the deciding point for me. If anthropologists really do only contribute to (and not influence) the military mission then maybe I could support a statement like this. However, if their participation protects and contributes to the Iraqi culture and people in any way, then we have no business telling them not to do it. For me it boils down to the people. Can military anthropologists help them or not? Take the politics out of it (as much as possible) and let us answer that.

Can military anthropologists help the people of Iraq? Will not having anthropologists working with the military in Iraq harm the people and cultures there? Am I the only one that thinks these question need to be answered before we can collective shun military anthropology in Iraq?

If your answer is that I am simply naïve to think anthropologists can do good in these positions then I already have heard that plenty…answer the questions above and maybe you can show me why.

Tanner Phillips
MA-ICM
Berlin, Germany
tananaphillips@googlemail.com
http://militaryanthro.forumotion.com/index.htm

8:08 AM


Anonymous said...
There comes a point in every heated political debate where, one supposes and regrettably, a losing argument is "bolstered" by the rhetorical Invidious Straw Man Comparison With The Third Reich. It is a childish tactic, and so counterproductive towards reasoned discourse that a person ought to be embarressed to make the claim.

2:48 PM


Anonymous said...
"other numbers by the journal The Lancet, Iraqi deaths as a consequence of U.S. military action since the 2003 invasion now total anywhere between 600,000 and 1 million"

Actually, The Lancet makes no such claim. The Lancet made a statistical estimate based on a survey of 1849 households and found that (inclusive of 2003 invasion), there have been some 600,000 "excess" deaths. Of these, roughly 186,000 are attributed to Coalition forces. This number includes IAF combatants, "insurgents," and non-combatants.

At the same time, some 157,000 are attributed to "other" (which for the most part includes people killed in car bomb attacks on markets, employment lines, etc). The remainder are "unattributed" - which could be anyone -- AQiI, ethnic violence, and so forth. The Lancet's figures are as of June 2006.

See, for example:

http://www.thelancet.com/webfiles/images/journals/lancet/s0140673606694919.pdf

"this does not include the numbers of deaths as a result of the prior 10 year daily air strikes carried out over Iraq by the U.S. military and the UK's air power; this does not include casualties caused by a US led embargo against trade with Iraq during that same period."

All pre-war casualties incurred because of economic shortages incurred as a result of trade embargo are solely the responsibility of the Hussein regime. By all estimates more than sufficient food, medicine and funds were available to Iraqis -- provided that the Hussein regime would have distributed the material as needed. The logic of blaming the United States for losses incurred during Hussein's rule escapes me. The sanctions were a consequence of UN general resolutions.

"In addition, the control of information about the war, reinforced legislatively and by policies and practices of the White House, State Department, CIA, Congress et al."

In other words, the only credible source of information is WHOM exactly?

"....military/executive leaders have officially named as 'terrorists.'"

Excuse me. Was "Chemical Ali" a terrorist or not?

"In effect, the average citizen is being trained to not be concerned about what is already happening right now in Iraq (and Afghanistan) except as it might cement our assent to the ongoing planning and execution of the war and its implications."

Why would you make that claim and on what evidence would you base it? The "average" American citizen seems to be highly "engaged" on the subject of the Iraq occupation, if we are to trust national polls. CNN, for example, finds that some 68% of Americans oppose the Iraq war in general. 30% favor withdrawing some US forces. 39% favor withdrawing all US forces.

See: http://www.pollingreport.com/iraq.htm

"the ability to stand up to the single remaining world superpower in its longest lasting war of its history."

It is a minor point, but the longest US war would probably be the Viet Nam war, given that we were militarily involved from 1959-1974. This of course excludes the Korean War which, technically speaking anyhow, is still on-going.

"The U.N. estimate of at least 600,000 deaths of Iraqi citizens as a result of our military invasion is roughly the total casualty count for our own civil war."

It's a reasonable comparison, although in fact military deaths during the War of the Rebellion approach 1.3 million, primarily owing to disease rather than battlefield casualties. Still, that there was a "civil war" in the US makes the comparison with the "civil war" in Iraq apt.

These casualty figures are, by the way, about three times as great (by rate) as the number of Iraqi civilians killed by the Hussein regime during the preceding 10 years, according to Human Rights Watch.

"The military agenda in Iraq and Afghanistan is, to use a tired term, a juggernaut."

It is not only "tired," it's inaccurate. In many ways, US target selection has been more precise and less prone to "collateral damage" than any war in history. If you want to see real carnage in occupied territories, you might consider Alice Chang's history on the Japanese occupation of Nanking, or consider German occupation policies almost anywhere in Europe and Russia from 1940-1945.

If the US Armed Forces were truly the out-of-control blunt object that you seem to think it is, rather than following our present course, the United States would not even bother with asking anthropologists to provide service in HTS. We'd go back to area bombing or whatever.

"If anything, anthropologists should be helping people see these facts and consequences, not contributing to their continued tally."

I suppose that depends on your point of view.

3:38 PM


Anonymous said...
Is there no way to use anthropology to lessen suffering in armed conflict? I don't mean as a matter of strategy, such as identifying what the enemy values most and translating that into a target list. I mean as a matter of respecting the dignity of members of a civilian population, not attacking sacred places, avoiding insults and humiliation of individuals, and what not.

Ewen Allison
Attorney
243 34th Street, N.E.
Washington, DC 20019
(202) 744-1786

6:08 PM


Maximilian C. Forte said...
US military force in Iraq is much more comparable to a blunt object than to any of the PR nonsense about precision, the repetition of which proves Brian's point about mass mediated control. Any Iraqi doctor will tell you a very different story than the "surgical bombing" one, and most have been telling of what they witness, filmed and photographed by Western camera crews. You can of course choose to ignore this and return to your stars and stripes.

Here is one of the few exceptions to the normal media, and from someone who witnessed events on the ground, not a propagandist who uses "anonymous":
---
Even in the best of circumstances, Wright notes, artillery fire is imprecise, which leads him to wonder why reporters and antiwar groups concerned about collateral damage in war pay so little attention to it:

The beauty of aircraft, coupled with their high-tech destructive power, captures the imagination. From a news standpoint, jets flying through the sky make for much more dramatic footage than images of cannons parked in the mud, intermittently belching puffs of smoke.

But the fact is, the Marines rely much more on artillery bombardment than on aircraft dropping precision-guided munitions. During our thirty-six hours outside Nasiriyah they have already lobbed an estimated 2,000 rounds into the city. The impact of this shelling on its 400,000 residents must be devastating.

Wright also notes the use of shells that distribute cluster bomblets throughout civilian neighbourhoods. US force is not a blunt object, because blunt objects are more merciful than this.
---

Anthropologists whose claim it is to want to help people in Iraq or Aghanistan (the most dubious of all their claims) must answer at least five questions:

(1) As an anthropologist, how did you gain entry? By negotiating access and establishing rapport with locals, or by simply presuming that you have a right to be there because your military is there and whatever locals want is irrelevant? "Doing no harm" is just one of the ethical issues, the other has to do with consent--so explain how consent is obtained in a war zone, as a member of an occupying force, from those whose lives are being run by the occupier. By the way, for those who have not noticed it yet, there has been no answer to this by the HTS supporters and propagandists.

(2) If it is all about helping the locals, then why do you choose to "embed" yourself with combatants? How is this the most logical, reasonable, self-evident option? Has this suddenly become a world without NGOs? Have you consulted local communities in advance to determine which organization would be best for you to join in supporting those communities? And why is that whenever--and this is without exception now--anyone raises the issue of HTS salaries which, depending on what is included, can range from a low of $100,000 to $400,000, you choose to go silent and not address this? Might this salary be the greater of the attractions in making your choice?

(3) When you decide to embed yourself with the US military, you are taking a side in the war. Why do you find this so difficult to accept? Indeed, there has been quite a mass of fake dilemmas on this blog, by individuals who claim to want to get their heads around the issue, who pretend to be confused and wanting to learn more, only to suddenly turn around and make some astoundingly "certain" assertions.

(4) If HTS is not a propaganda stunt, then why has the military been so keen to hire just about anyone who brushed against an anthropology course, no PhDs as is advertised as a requirement, and no knowledge of Arabic?

(5) So you're an anthropologist going to Iraq. Then, as an anthropologist, you should have no problem in addressing the following: (a) what anthropological theories are you using in your research in Iraq? (b) for whom are you writing reports? (c) what research methods will be using? (d) which community will you be living with? (e) what are your preliminary analytical orientations? (f) what is your prior knowledge of Iraq from an anthropological standpoint? Have you been there before? Do you have any anthropological knowledge of the region to start with?

I accused one "anonymous" of not being an anthropologist. What was evident from the posts, like the preceding one, was the complete absence of any reference to anything from an anthropological background. That person is a political hack intruding in disciplinary discussions that he/she little understands. All other HTS supporters from McFate and Griffin, down to those who have posted here have done so largely without the need for any anonymity.

However, all of the media reports on anthropology and counterinsurgency have done their damage already. Someone spoke of taking legal action against the AAA. The AAA should instead consider legal action against those who have done such great new damage that affects all of us. In my 20 years of knowing Trinidad, *not once* has there been a newspaper article about anthropology...until recently, with a long piece on HTS, counterinsurgency, spying, and so forth. Never before has an anonymous caller from Trinidad called to ask me, a Canadian, what branch of US intelligence I work for in Trinidad.

In the end, this is a matter that should be tackled worldwide, by the World Council for Anthropological Associations. I fully support ALL of Prof. Sider's recommendations so far, and would add that we need far better control and review over what is accepted by anthropological associations as anthropological work. IRBs are just one element, we need something that is more global and encompassing, and IRBs should not approve projects that have not been approved by, let's say, a WCAA commission. Anything without any IRB or association profile should be prevented from calling itself professional anthropological research.

And since others are advertising their sites, I will add some balance:

http://tinyurl.com/2fra6h

http://tinyurl.com/ypkcjw

8:23 PM


Maximilian C. Forte said...
By the way, the source for the extract of Evan Wright's Generation Kill is in the first of the two URLs I provided above. The polls and legislative acts that have repeatedly indicated Iraqis' rejection of the presence of US forces, calling for their immediate removal, are covered in the second URL.

8:26 PM


tanner said...
So with all the put-downs, suspicion and low-blows aside, Maximilian brings up some good points.

1. Consent…It is hard to say HTS anthropologists can separate themselves from the coercive position of being attached to the military—even if they want to. They do not carry guns, but the uniforms say it all. However, if it is the difference between having a general with a military degree from West Point deciding what happens to your family and an anthropologist with (in the worst case) even a minute understanding about cultural sensitivity, I would pick the latter. Unfortunately, consent on the battlefield is often the lesser of two evils and I think the people in the Iraq often have very few choices. One extreme group is pushing them to sacrifice their lives for their cause. Another occupying force is pushing them to support ‘puppet’ governments. And all the while they have no food, housing and their loved ones are dying from the violence perpetrated by all sides. You probably consent to a lot of things along the way just to survive. I believe the question is not if anthropologists can get proper consent…but rather or not the people that consent can get proper treatment. I would say they will definitely not be respected (fully) by the soldiers on either side of this conflict…but…an anthropologist…maybe…???

2. Salary…Yep, I agree. Some of these HTS folks are making a good pay check. That does make you wonder where their hearts are. However, this is not enough not enough to throw out their work, nor to call them unethical and ‘whores’. Only their work can speak to their ethics. Many of you make good pay checks doing and teaching what you think is right…others who disagree with you politics might call you names as well. This money thing only works if aspects of ethical misconduct or inefficacy can be shown. Lets deal with that first. On the other hand, if it is actually shown (with real research and not assumptions) that HTS actions save lives and improve the ability for Iraqis to enjoy their culture, then the money is actually something they might deserve—for risking their lives every day to try to make a horrible situation better.

As far as working for NGOs instead. I agree. That is an option for helping the people of Iraq. I would add though that the military works with many of those same NGOs and the help the Iraqi people receive is coordinated between all these parties together. Why then are HTS anthropologists vilified when the NGOs you mention are not?

3. Supporting the military is taking a side. You are right. Yet, if that support is tailored toward improving military/civilian interaction and if you are using anthropology to help protect and encourage human life and diversity—not to mention cultural heritage and property—then it becomes more complicated then simple white and black. This should not become the BUSH dilemma that you are either for us or against us. This is life in the midst of war and it is complicated. Anthropology is needed to protect people and places from the brutal (and yes I agree often very dull) actions of the war machine. If you are going to over-simplify this to taking sides, then that means you are also taking a side. You are opposing all work that is done to try to make the military object less dull. You are basically sanctioning the military to act in ways that would continue the thoughtless destruction you started your last post with. Even in the worst case, if all HTS folks are really unethical whores who are using their knowledge to help military generals target and destroy people—rather then protect and learn from them—then those anthropologists are still making the military object sharper. That may sound horrible, but at this point in my life it sounds betters then the ‘bull in the china shop’ approach that war has shown us so far…

Do anthropologists really want to form an ideological camp that tells the whole world what is right and what is wrong? This extreme stance seems to push us in that direction.

I will get to the rest of your post later Maximilian…

…by the way, the length of this blog is starting to bury many important points that people have made. I still invite us to go to the forum that was set up to organize this debate better.

http://militaryanthro.forumotion.com/index.htm

…and as far as your decision to ‘advertise’ a blog that only contains one side of this debate in hopes of ‘balancing’ my invitation to continue the forum that liquid-thalweg started…that seems to be a good example of your entire approach to this debate. I offer a forum that would allow us to more thoroughly enter into dialogue…You counter that with a one-sided perspective that ‘others’ everything around it.

Maximilian, if you are one of those people that ‘knows’ they are right then please let me know now. I don’t enjoy wasting my time with people with ideological chips on their shoulders who only want to convert people to their cause. I think this is an important issue that serious people should talk about. I don’t have my mind fully made up about it. I used to be a soldier. I have degree in anthropology. Now I am finishing a degree in conflict management. This debate is helping me determine my next step in life.

For what it is worth, I am not commenting so much here because I enjoy it. My wife and I just had a baby. I am working full-time, doing research and writing my MA thesis. Like all of you, my time is valuable. However, I think this issue is far more complicated then a simple yes or no merits and I think the AAA has rushed to decision on this statement. I am not arguing for the sake of argument nor am I playing ‘devil’s advocate’.

All the best to you Maximilian and to everyone else too.

Tanner Phillips
MA-ICM
Berlin, Germany
tananaphillips@googlemail.com

12:52 PM


Maximilian C. Forte said...
1. Please list the NGOs that are serving the US military in Iraq.

2. Evading the question of consent, as you did, means that you agree that the work of HTS anthropologists does not follow the AAA's ethical guidelines, which confirms the validity of the statement of the Executive Board, whose statement is the focus of this blog. Again, that is a major concession, and it shows that the EB did not rush to judgment, as you wrongly and unjustifiably claim.

3. Many of us receive good pay cheques? Dream on.

4. You seem to have an issue with anyone who takes a stand that does not fall in line with your own. The dishonesty of the argument is that you claim neutrality. I pity neutrality.

5. You can go to Iraq, in fact, please do. But you do not have the right to do so in the name of all of us and to take our discipline and our reputations down with you. That is arrogant and self-serving.

Finally, yes, you are wasting your time here.

7:56 PM


tanner said...
1. Here is an article that mentions how basically all
major American NGOs have been forced to work with the military.

http://peacecorpsonline.org/messages/messages/2629/2013477.html

Here is one that comments on the situation:

http://www.alertnet.org/thefacts/reliefresources/minearview.htm

2.Read this again...I did not avoid the question of consent. You however continuously avoid commenting on what I do say.

4. There is a big difference between neutrality and indecision. I never claimed neutrality. In fact, if you actually read what I type here I have made it pretty clear that I oppose this statement. However, I am not sure about the direct issue of HTS teams in Iraq.

5. Looks like you have not read the report issued by the AAA since making the statement….http://www.aaanet.org/PM_112807.htm

The only people being arrogant and self-serving are those that make this issue white/black, good/evil, their way/the highway…The AAA and myself included think it is far more complicated then that. Please read the following and please consider that your way may not be the RIGHT way…ethnocentric anthropology is not any better then military anthropology…probably worse in the long wrong…It is time to take all those skills you have acquired over the years and apply them to yourself…a little self-reflexivity never hurt anyone…especially when it comes to condemning others….

“We have found no single model of “engagement,” so issuing a blanket condemnation or affirmation of anthropologists working in national security makes little sense. Moreover, this very formulation – engagement vs. non-engagement – is itself problematic because it suggests that there is only one choice to be made in a monolithic military, intelligence, and security environment. With this in mind, we lay out procedural recommendations for the AAA, as well as suggest that the AAA provide ethical and pragmatic advice to individual anthropologists contemplating research or employment in an area that falls under the broad MIS banner. We recognize both the opportunities and perils that accompany engagement. On the one hand, the global situation calls for engagement. Since the Cold War, localized conflicts pitting culturally divided groups have increased the need for cultural knowledge and awareness of dynamic global forces. Anthropologists can contribute to this need and shape kinds of engagement and directions of policy; alternatively they can abstain from involvement and condemn the involvement of others. However, the discussions of the Commission suggest that a neutral position regarding engagement with public and/or private security institutions may be non-existent in many situations. Engagement brings risks of contributing to institutions with policies and practices one may oppose, but avoiding engagement in every case precludes one from taking advantage of opportunities to enhance cultural understanding and even, in some cases, uphold ethical commitments. There is nothing inherently unethical in the decision to apply one's skills in these areas. Instead, the challenge for all anthropologists is finding ways to work in or with these institutions, seeking ways to study, document, and write transparently and honestly to an anthropological audience about them, in a way that honors the discipline's ethical commitments.”

2:39 AM


tanner said...
Maximilian, I have noticed plenty of direct and INDIRECT insults coming from everyone here—including myself. I will try very hard to avoid them in the future. I hope you will too. Tanner

4:20 AM


Brian D-L said...
This discussion seems to continue to be dragged back to the false dilemma, that if anthroplogists don't learn to accept the roles of serving as direct contributors to military intelligence and strategy (albeit in a way that somehow also helps the military to be less indiscriminantly destructive) we are simply living in ivory towers, dreaming of utopia, and abandoning the innocent people of the countries the military has occupied.

Tanner, you are correct in that the AAA board statement presents this as a complex set of issues, and does not offer a blanket rejection of any and all anthropological work in relation to the military (of any state). But in your embracing of this nuance you seem to gloss over selectively what they do reject, and what they have tried carefully to specifiy as unacceptable. It is the same thing that you seem to gloss over in your sharing of the two references above to the 2003 websites: these articles and references refer to a more general dilemma recognized by US based NGO's in the early period of the war, as they weighed the impact of having to work under the restrictions and limits of possible US military authority, as a result of receiving U.S. support for their humanitarian work (which certainly is concern enough); they were not even contemplating whether it was their role to work in military intelligence gathering, developing of counter-insurgency manuals, helping to refine the 'killchain' etc.

And if anthropologists can not imagine how they might serve people in war ravaged places apart from serving in such warmaking capacities, it might in fact be quite helpful to go to those very NGO's to see what the are doing, and how they do it with as much transparency--and yes, even as much neutrality--as possible. For example:
http://www.oxfam.org.uk/resources/policy/conflict_disasters/downloads/bp105_iraq.pdf

There are many professionals in Iraq and Afghanistan, 'getting their hands dirty,' adhering to professional standards and principles, risking their lives, promoting cross-cultural understanding, helping the innocent victims, attempting to bring the reality of the situation to a wider public awareness, without doing so as direct servants to military intelligence and military action. And it is in fact how they maintain their ability to continue to contribute as they do.

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Quinebaug Valley Community College

10:16 AM


tanner said...
Yes Brian, well said. Thank you for providing a counter-argument without having to insult me in the process. I have no time now to respond, but I will have access again to the internet in a week. Until then, all the best and happy holidays!

Tanner

3:20 PM


Maximilian C. Forte said...
"The reason we all like to think so well of others is that we are all afraid for ourselves. The basis of optimism is sheer terror."--Oscar Wilde

A prelude to:
http://tinyurl.com/25k6az

6:53 PM


Brian D-L said...
A little more context,

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/4655196.stm

2:16 PM


tanner said...
Yes Brian, you are right. I did gloss over much in dealing with the questions of NGOs in Iraq and the AAA stance on this issue of anthropologists helping the military. I did so because that is not what I have been dealing with in any of my posts. I was simply adding nuance to what seems to be becoming a good vs. evil debate. (One in which the debate itself becomes more important then the topic at hand). I was including the information in my last post as a response to those who would polarize this issue into a fictitious ‘white/black’ scenario that is then juxtaposed on any and all actions the ‘Evil American Empire’ performs world-wide.

However, as you have mentioned, NGOs and military anthropology in general are complicated debates in and of themselves. I will not challenge that. I agree that the former does provide an outlet for people who want to help in Iraq without supporting the military and that the latter does still culminate in the fact that the AAA has made this statement condemning anthropologists working with the military in Iraq….So with that said…back to the topic at hand….

My comments (which for the most part you and other’s have glossed over completely) have been intended to question the necessity of outright condemnation of anthropologists helping the military in Iraq. I have read plenty of name-calling and unrelated arguments in this blog, but no real substance that convinces me that baring anthropologists from this service will do more good then actually letting them help make the military less of a blunt instrument.

Who here can give some valid reasons why not having anthropologist in the military in Iraq is better then having them there? That is point of this statement by the AAA and the point of this debate. It seems to me that we are still prosecuting people without sufficient evidence. That is what much of the debate here has been about, the validity of the evidence for or against their ‘guilt’. However, we are not discussing what is to me more important--rather or not their work is productive. Sure it is important to find out if these anthropologists or really ‘guilty’ of any practices that would then make this statement by the AAA valid. However, until real research is done into what is actually happening there all we can do is bicker about assumptions and emotions…not the reality on the ground.

So, please someone respond to the essence of all my posts so far…Why is it better that anthropologist do not help the military in Iraq. Why is vilifying those anthropologists that choose to help the military better then allowing anthropological knowledge into military policy making?

3:50 AM


Anonymous said...
@ Tanner -

I'm very skeptical of the claim
that most NGOs are any more of a positive influence on the world than most militaries, especially when you consider that anthros in NGOs are as agenda-oriented, likely to find themselves in challenging ethical circusmtances, as anyone involved in HTS. It's not that I particularly recommend militaries, but the underlying assumption here seems to be that anthros not affiliated with govts are more given to good conduct of any kind. I doubt it, given the obvious political agenda that has overridden any semblance of objectivity among the NGO connected anthros in the AAA and on this blog.

Regards, Anyonymous.

3:37 PM


tanner said...
Yes, I agree. NGOs can be just as destructive as the military, and anthropologists in both can foster unethical agendas and practices.

From the nature of many arguments here, I would also add that many anthropologists themselves seem to be somewhat militant—no matter what they do. I guess that just goes with the territory though. After all, we are only human, even as we tramp about studying humanity.

6:42 PM


Red River said...
Its refreshing to see people cling to their Ethics while others are burying their blown-up kids.

Here is a chance for trained, humane professionals to make a real difference on many levels while gathering information about the real world and the professional governing body acts like a schoolyard bully taking the ball home before any kids can play with it.

My Command Sergeant Major was nicknamed "The Humanitarian" while our Colonel was called "The Barbarian." The Humanitarian had a BA in Anthropology. Imagine that.

4:52 PM


tanner said...
The problem here is that so many people think you have to somehow connect your own personal crusades against the war in Iraq with the people working and living there. This is not about the war. This is about the people. All the complicated theory about power and hegemony and empire-building is not supposed to over-shadow very real and immediate humanitarian emergencies. Nor is it meant to isolate one organization (the US military) and assign it all the blame of failed foreign policies. The military is a tool and if want it to be a sharp tool we had better allow those people who have the ability and courage to serve in harms way the proffesional courtesy of helping make that happen.

Anthroplogists in the military do not help the military win wars. They help the military lesson the impact of their actions on innocent people, and in this case they help the military think less like a military as it tries to help the Iraqi government clean up the mess we made.

2:52 AM


Brian D-L said...
In a comment related to an earlier phase of US military operations in the same region of Iran and Iraq in the mid 1970's, Henry Kissinger dismissed concerns about the eventual US abandonment of the Kurds in northern Iraq with the statement: "Covert actions shouldn't be confused with missionary work." While more recently a blog posting here quotes a military commander on the ground, Lieutenant Colonel Gian P Gentile who comments: “Dear Dr. Griffin: Don’t fool yourself. These Human Terrain Teams whether they want to acknowledge it or not, in a generalized and subtle way, do at some point contribute to the collective knowledge of a commander which allows him to target and kill the enemy in the Civil War in Iraq” (http://marcusgriffin.com/blog/2007/10/why_is_the_use_of_anthropology.html#comments 10/17/07).

The reality is, however personally ethical any anthropologist might be (...whatever that might mean) she/he is being drawn into a systemic effort to win a war against another people of the world, and is doing so through a profession that says to those people at the same time: "my profession relies on the respect and understanding of all peoples and cultures, and depends on their trust wherever we go. Trust me! Trust us." Not only is there a fundamental contradiction here then between covert intelligence gathering and the fundamental trust on which anthropology relies, but there is also then either a willful or naive ignorance of the 'realpolitik' of the situation in which the utilitarian exegencies of military strategy subsume any professional anthropological practice.

The cynicism in Kissinger's observation, or at least the word of caution in the quote from the commander on the ground, should serve as reminders to the fundmental contradiction between the practice of our discipline, and its use as one of the instruments of military operations.

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Quinebaug Valley Community College

2:31 PM


Anonymous said...
I'm troubled by a few things:

1. I've been against this war since the drums started beating.

2. Many things have happened to the people in Iraq and Afghanistan that would have never happened had there been even a baby graduate anthropology student available to consult with. For example, military men breaking into houses in the dark of night and not letting the women cover themselves before being dragged outside. A trivial example, perhaps, but the point is there.

3. Has anyone asked the peoples of the area the HTT are involved in if they think having an anthropologist around is making their lives better?

It's very easy for us to sit in our comfy offices and debate the ethics of the HTT. I wonder what the people who are living this situation think? They seem to have no voice here.

It's a daily reality for them that they are occupied by these culturally different people - people who have violated many of their cultural norms and created many many cultural problems. Are the anthropologists helping to make their daily interactions with the military better, in that the cultural interactions are more culturally appropriate?

We can talk about the "moral ethics" of this all day but I would like to hear the voice of those who are living with this. They need to be heard in this discussion because it's their lives, not ours, that are at the heart of this situation. For us, it's an academic topic to discuss; for them, it's worth their lives.

Sharon Burton

12:01 PM


tanner said...
Sharon, thanks for your comments. Yours are questions I have put to the folks here a number of times. Good luck actually getting a response. I am still waiting myself…

Many people are mad about the war and willing to work hard to change things for the better. I am one of them. The problem is that many people on this blog don’t seem to have the for-sight to imagine that sometimes that means working on the inside—even for the military.

Until someone can actually show that life is better for everyone involved in Iraq without Anthropologists, then all this statement by the AAA does is isolate our profession and alienate many good people who choose professions that are somehow politically and professionally against the AAA board’s moral prerogatives—even if they are actually doing work that promotes tolerance and makes life better for many people.

The question is not about anthropologists supporting hegemony. We all do that in many different ways every day. So far from what I see here, it is about convicting fellow professionals of misdeeds without evidence. Worse, it is about withholding the positive effect our discipline can have on people…simply because some of our nation’s politicians are assholes.

The truth is that I came into this discussion looking for some good arguments to convince myself that the sort of work the HTS anthropologists are doing is vile and wrong. I honestly wanted to find some good reasons this statement should be made. I have heard plenty of good support against the War in Iraq, American hegemony, other jobs anthropologists could be good at and so on….but as for support this statement…

I am still looking.

If we had made a statement cautioning professionals about the risks of doing this sort of work then I would not even care. With that, people would still have the freedom to practice anthropology in a variety of settings. Plus, those who had the fortitude to do it in a military setting would have good guidelines. (Plus, we would have a concrete reason to prosecute misdeeds later). However, the sort of blanket condemnatory action we have now sets a precedence that really could have no end.

What comes next? Are we the judges of what books anthropologist should read now too? Is there going to be a special toothpaste that works best for anthropologists in the field? Do we all have to be registered democrats? (We should be but that is beside the point:-)

Tanner

12:53 PM


Anonymous said...
My husband is a journalist, typically doing advocacy journalism. One of the conversations in his field is that the information he writes about a group or individual could be used against that group or individual. But that somewhere in there is "truth" and that it matters.

I don't have answers here, I just have thoughts. One of these thoughts is that information can be used for good things and for bad things. That does not necessarily make information good or bad, but it potentially makes the use of that information good or bad. Because information can be used for bad, do we not mention that information? Do we not participate in the collection of it? If so, then how far do we go with that? Who decides what information is bad? Or good?

The military is potentially going to use the information the anthropologists collect for bad things. But right now, they seem to be using it for good things. These good things include making these people's lives slighly easier - and thus for them, perhaps less deadly. This is not a small impact, not if it means your husband didn't get killed because the military better understood the cultural why (how?) of what he did. So do we as a profession tell this woman that it's better her husband be shot (and she left widowed in a culture that is not always helpful to widows) than our profession help collect information that may be later used in a bad way?

But then. If the military later uses this information in a bad way, how do we tell that same woman that we helped collect the information that allowed our team to destroy her village and her extended family? That when we collected it, it helped but now it didn't help. Do we tell her "Wow, we're really sorry about that. Good luck."?

I don't know the answer to that.

But I lean towards what we seem to know. Today, people's lives may be slightly better with the anthropologist on the ground than without. Or at least, we seem to know that until the people themselves can tell us what they think.

This is very messy without the voices of those impacted the most in the conversation. As is often the case in our field, we seem to want to make decisions for these people without hearing their voice. They can tell us what they need and want, if we let them.

And having told us, do we tell them that they are wrong, that something else is better for them? Because we have this "ethics" statement that guides our culture (anthropology) and we've decided that our culture matters more to us than theirs? That we've decided for them what information is good and what's bad?

I don't have answers here, as I said, I have questions. But as a product manager with a strong (ABD) cultural anthropology background, I'm not up on the lastest AAA decisions about other people. I know in my software culture, we ask the natives what they want and then listen to them when they tell us. We do the ethnography because it makes our products better by letting the natives decide what they need and then giving them that. At least, if we want to build a sucessful product.

Sharon Burton
Product Manager/Product Evangelist
(company unmentioned to allow my employer privacy)

1:40 PM


Brian D-L said...
Are anthropologists lacking significant places where they can contribute to the betterment of the world around them? Do anthropologists among us perceive such a shortage of legitimate contexts in which to apply the ethics-informed principles and practices of our discipline that they feel compelled to turn the discipline into a tool of war-making however culturally sensitive such war-making purportedly might be? Are there anthropologists in our profession who are afraid of becoming detached, armchair ethicists rather than contributing through applied practice to fundamental humanitarian needs?

If in paying attention to basic professional principles we recognize certain applications of anthropological research are counter to fundamental values of what we do and profoundly contradictory to the basic human trust on which our professional integrity lies, we need not look far to find legitimate ways to “get our hands dirty” in legitimate, applied contexts. We need look no further than the very places where some anthropologists seem to have difficulty acknowledging fundamentals of professional integrity and ethics in relation to war and its concomitant suffering.

By UNHCR estimates, for example, there are 2.2 million citizens of Iraq who are displaced within their own country, and another 2 million who have sought refugee outside of Iraq. In addition, since the US began its war on Iraq, there have been an estimated 600,000 casualties among Iraqis, with great difficulty in estimating how many people have been maimed, widowed or orphaned; in Baghdad alone there may be over five thousand orphaned children, with thousands (if not tens of thousands) throughout the rest of the country. But who knows for sure?

As of January 2008 there have been nearly 4000 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq since the first 2003 invasion, and nearly 29,000 wounded—remember all those news report images of soldiers’ funerals, and the many parades to celebrate those returning with their permanent war-scars? (I don’t either, because there haven’t been, because of a deliberate, detailed, intensive effort to keep the truth of the war from our cultural/social consciousness.)

For at least the ten years prior to the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the U.S. and Britain flew daily bombing raids over the central regions of Iraq—the longest air war the US has ever fought in its history-- and enforced an economic embargo against the whole country—another decade of warfare that was surgically excised from public consciousness even as it was being carried out; the results of this decade-long pre-invasion war are all but lost to us just as the current stories of returning dead and wounded are masterfully obliterated from our view by deliberate strategies of those whose war is being fought by “our” soldiers.

Rounding out the casualties are the estimated 200,000 homeless in the U.S. who are specifically “our troops” we were suppose to support when they headed over to war (wherever “we” sent them), but now are the invisible casualties living under bridges, in refrigerator boxes, in abandoned buildings back home, now that they are no longer fit for another round of voluntary or involuntary “remobilization.”

It is illegitimate, if not deliberately disingenuous, to continue to assert that the discipline’s formal opposition to participation in covert military operations as carefully stated in the AAA Board’s statement is somehow an irresponsible abandonment of ‘doing good’ with anthropology. It is further a spurious assertion to insinuate that those who seek to maintain a modicum of professional ethics for the discipline necessarily, as a result, must fall into the category of ivory-tower idealists who keep their hands clean in the name of abstract principles. There certainly are innumerable places for anthropologists to contribute to the lives of people throughout the world—if that is what the anthropologists are looking for—without contorting the principles and methods of the discipline into covert tools for culturally sensitive war-making.

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Quinebaug Valley Community College

3:23 PM


Tanner said...
Brian, you make some good points, but along the way you miss our point.

What I and others have been saying all along is not that this statement is a generic impediment to doing good with anthropology. Rather, that it seems that anthropology can (and probably is) doing good assisting the military in Iraq. This statement serves to pull the rug out from under a program that has to the potential to change how war is waged. For extreme pacifists, that might seem counter-productive. However, to many of us it is a necessary part of life. We are not going to magically live in a world where tragedies like the War in Iraq do not happen. However, we might be able to live in a world where anthropology can lesson the effects of their reach.

I do not think you are a disillusioned ‘ivory tower’ idealist. I agree with almost everything you say actually. However, I also do not think all HTS anthropologists are military stooges doing covert ops. I think when real research is done into this matter then we will see that the military is a far gentler monster with anthropologists and other professionals helping to tame it (even just a bit).

Now, with that said. Everything you have said about Iraq and other alternatives to military service for anthropologists is spot on. However, real change can only come about if all the disparate parts are working together in their respective places—HTS, NGOs, applied anthropologists, researchers, bloggers ;-), lecturers and so on.

The question should not be where you do anthropology but how you do anthropology. If certain personalities are better placed in a military environment then they should be permitted to remain there without undue pressure from political forces within their profession. Of course, this remains true only until it can be proven that ethical misdeeds are occurring, something we can not do unless we actually talk to the people in Iraq. If you and others are so very ready to convict this practice then you need to go there and make sure it is happening as you say—especially if you wish to avoid the ‘arm-chair’, ‘ivory-tower’, ‘idealist’ labels you so often defend yourself from.

And oh yes, I live in Europe. Unlike what you say about the media hiding the war from you in the States, I see the real cost of the War in Iraq every day. Our media here actually shows the pictures. Perhaps this helps me to remember that the War is not about politics to the people on the ground—civilians and soldiers alike. It is about day to day survival and proper treatment. Tolerance and cultural sensitivity can be the difference between life and death for everybody involved there. In my opinion, there is no better place for people who think anthropologically. If all soldiers were anthropologists there would be very few wars. There would be more commanders speaking up against Iraq right now and there would be fewer deaths.

I know when I was a soldier I trained my men to honor the Genevea Convention word for word, no matter what. It was important to me, even though those we would fight probably would not do the same (statistically). I was not an anthropologist at the time, and I would never be a soldier again. However, that sort of thinking is why I became an anthropologist, because there is a better and worse way to treat other humans and anthropology is the way we find that out.

Tanner Phillips
MA-ICM
Berlin, Germany

3:48 AM


tanner said...
Covert Ops?

For those of you who think the AAA is right to make this statement because HTS anthropologists are basically ‘spies’ providing intel to win the war. That job is already taken. The military has long had people doing this. (Do you think we are the only ones that study social science theory/research?)

There are many jobs that do this (special forces, delta, psy-ops). However, one of the jobs you are thinking of (the so-called ‘covert ops’ you all keep mentioning) is Civil Affairs Officer:

http://www.goarmy.com/RotcViewJob.do?id=302

HTS anthropologists might do work that gets used to further the military mission. (But so might you.) However, they are not ‘covert ops’. They are something different. The military already has people in place to gather info about the ‘enemy’. HTS anthropologists are there to insure innocent Iraqis do not suffer. Is this a ploy by the military to improve their image? Probably. Does that matter? No.

4:13 AM


Anonymous said...
I re-read my comments and it could be construed as tho I was bashing "Ivory Tower" people. I'm sorry. That was not my intention and I did not mean any bashing against academics.

Again, I don't have answers, I have questions. I don't even have an agenda, except to wonder what the Iraqis themselves think of this.

Sharon Burton
Product Manager/Product Evangelist

8:26 PM


frank said...
Sharon, I read what you posted and what Tanner posted and what Brian posted and I do not think you are bashing or anything like that. I think some of the people here do, but not you. This is a spot where we can all get together and talk about this. Your comments are welcome like anybody elses.

Frank

2:10 PM


Anonymous said...
Why have many you try make this about Iraq war and no people in Iraq and army people? You think it makes it better to boycott this war? Maybe you dont think of the people that lving here?

2:32 PM


tanner said...
Since Max and Brian—by avoiding the majority of my points and questions (Brian), debating the debate and not the issues (Max) and overall choosing to ignore basically everything that I have said (Brian, Max, anyone else that would/could/should engage with me)—I will take the advice so brutally dulled out earlier by Gerald and “go away quietly”.

I have to say I started this debate excited about discussing what I feel is an important issue with intelligent people—testing my own views against others to see if a clearer picture could come out of this issue for me. However, as many have told me in the past, but I stubbornly denied, it seems anthropologists are yet again the least anthropological people around—at least when it comes to this issue. My foray into the AAA online community certainly leaves a lot to be desired.

At least I have come to one conclusion, I am embarrassed and saddened by any of you who actually think our profession should be outright banned from the military in Iraq—one of the many places it could do some long-term good. Without providing at least some glimpse of a more positive alternative, all you have done is guarantee that the callous stupidity that got us into the war in the first place is continued unchecked until the last day we are in Iraq—whenever that will be (if ever). Instead of living in the world the people in Iraq have to live in today—with military people affecting their lives daily. You are shutting the door on the one thing that could help make that relationship less harsh.

There is no doubt we should be out or Iraq and that the Iraqis want us out. However, shouldn’t we work to make the time we are there less hostile?

Anyway, thank you for everyone that has posted and replied to my posts. It was not the experience I had hoped to have; one were ideas bring people together rather then force them apart. However, it seems that is the essence of our animal brains love to reduce everything to—the opposite ends of a spectrum.

Yet, tomorrow we will learn that no one was ‘right’ and we should have seen things on a continuum instead…

Tanner Phillips
Alice Salomon University of Applied Science
Berlin, Germany

2:46 AM


Anonymous said...
@Tanner -

"However, as many have told me in the past, but I stubbornly denied, it seems anthropologists are yet again the least anthropological people"

The problem is that AAA has metamorphosed (or possibly metatstasized) from an interest group dedicated to the rational analysis of collective human behavior dedicated to the principal that real understanding demands a need for finding out about "deep structures" (of the societal and ideological values kind) to a political advocacy organization. What you have seen in this blog is a re-enactment of fundamental divergences of opinion among anthropologists as to what Anthropology (in the largest sense) "Really Ought To Do." Several Departments have simply fissioned along this (this phrase does not capture the complete sense but certainly captures part of it), "Pragmatist" vs "Idealist" fault line. And one of the symptoms is declining membership in the AAA among those of the rational-analysis/pragmatist bent (archaeologists, paleontologists, primatologists, behavioral ecologists, and certain arenas of applied, biological and medical anthropology).

So don't feel too bad. And yes, you are correct that there are some people with whom rational debate is rebuffed by overt use of straw man arguments, egregious logical fallacies, and outright character attacks (including of the rather arrogant "You must not be a professional anhtropologist because you do not agree with me" form offered by some in this blog).

It is sufficient simply to note that many professional anthropologists don't subscribe to the position taken by your, errrm, rhetorical "OpFor" in this blog, and that the AAA's political stances have, over the years, become increasingly less representative of the profession as a whole.

11:47 AM


Brian D-L said...
To this newest ‘anonymous’ poster who is writing in defense of “Tanner,” first please note that many of us here who have been making clear arguments against the turning of “rational analysis of collective human behavior” (anthropology) into military intelligence work, have used our actual names in standing behind our contributions to the discussion. Further, a number of us have been clear about identifying the anthropological principles (especially of the fundamental integrity we rely on in studying the intimate details of other people’s cultures) on which is based our opposition to such militarization of our profession. It is an easy swipe from the shadows of anonymity to dismiss professional principles in broad-brush terms as “political advocacy,” “logical fallacy,” “character attacks,” etc. It is also not the quality of debate that should be reflective of the academic and intellectual standards we ostensibly seek to foster through our very discipline.

The facts are plain here, that some anthropologists in our discipline want to be employed by the U.S. military in the development of culturally-sensitive counter-insurgency (translated, they want to go among people of other cultures, study their cultural ways, and then assist to inform military operations so that they can be carried out in more culturally sensitive ways). This puts not only these practitioners but any of their colleagues anywhere else in the world now under deep suspicion anytime, anywhere.

Unlike, say, ‘embedded journalists,’ who aim to use the cover of military operations as the base for their attempted, objective reporting—with no intention to assist the improvement of military operations—these so-called embedded-anthropologists are not simply studying others out of a respect or concern for their culture and their society. Instead they are looking to gain useful information at the very least to help the military not do so much damage, and to a greater extent to assist the military to become victorious, very likely at times against some of the same people the anthropologists are studying (but in a ‘culturally sensitive way.’)

It is hardly political in the ideological sense (pro-US, anti-US, pro-Bush, anti-Bush, pro-Imperialism, anti-Imperialism etc.) to point out the sheer absurdity of this twisted use of a discipline founded on principles of respect for all cultures, development of cross-cultural rapport and respect, and the development of fundamental trust in the process.

As I have suggested in previous posts, we have other very principled and practical models around us, of courageous and engaged professionals who put themselves right in the midst of some of the worst situations in the world—in the case of journalists, to bring back news to the rest of the world about the conditions of people in such places, and in the case of relief workers, to give direct aid to those in the midst of danger and suffering. Both of these models alone manage to carry out their human-centered professions while maintaining the integrity of professional principles of neutrality, protection of informants/sources, and practical, risky commitment.

On the other hand, those who continue to assert that anthropologists can engage as counter-insurgency support for military operations and still live up to the principles of our profession, are either very cynical about such principles, or naïve to the realpolitik of the military project that seeks to subsume and utilize their skills and commitment. Once again I am reminded of the comment from Henry Kissinger during a much earlier phase of US operations in the same part of the world, when he noted cynically about the plight of the Kurds, that “foreign policy shouldn’t be confused with missionary work.”

Brian Donohue-Lynch
Anthropology/Sociology
Quinebaug Valley Community College
Danielson, CT

12:03 AM


Anonymous said...
Brian, anthropology 'shouldn't be confussed with missonary work' either.

10:54 AM


Anonymous said...
Doesn't the military have journalists too Brian?

10:59 AM


Anonymous said...
"To this newest ‘anonymous’ poster:"

Actually, one of the longstanding anonymous posters on this blog.

"first please note that many of us ... have used our actual names in standing behind our contributions to the discussion."

Non-sequitur. The use of anonymity has no bearing on the merits of the argument. It has been common in political dissent, especially when one is writing in defense of what seems at face value to be an unpopular opinion, to write under anonymity. I could at any time have adopted a "pen name" and you would have simply never raised the issue. Therefore, it would seem both appropriate and logical if you would drop the concern over anonymity. Especially as under tenure and other rules of academic freedom you enjoy a kind of protection against retaliation for dissent that others (me included) do not enjoy.

"Further, a number of us have been clear about identifying the anthropological principles (especially of the fundamental integrity we rely on in studying the intimate details of other people’s cultures) on which is based our opposition to such militarization of our profession."

I understand your point of view. I do not agree that this represents a "militarization of anthropology." I rather feel that this represents an anthropologization of the military. Lots of people with anthropological training work for the US armed forces and even security agencies. What would you do? Not train any undergraduate or graduate student who might work for an agency that "jsut feels wrong" to you? Do you imagine that anything like that would be an improvement on anything anywhere?

"It is an easy swipe from the shadows of anonymity to dismiss professional principles in broad-brush terms as “political advocacy,” “logical fallacy,” “character attacks,” etc."

There is absolutely no doubt that several of my posts on this thread were met with straight up ad hominem character attacks, including both an accusation of "cowardice" because I post anonymously, and an allegation that I must not be an anthropologist as I have adopted a minority opinion here. Frankly, the obsession with my anonymity strikes me as clear proof of the elevation of ad hominem over logic. And as anyone with much knowledge of rhetoric (or of Carl Sagan's Baloney Detector Kit) knows, ad-hominem reasoning is by definition non-sequitur and its use in an argument is a logical fallacy.

"It is also not the quality of debate that should be reflective of the academic and intellectual standards we ostensibly seek to foster through our very discipline."

To say that some of the replies here have been overtly logical fallacious does not diminish the quality of the debate. Instead it encourages those who attack bloggers (rather than attack arguments) to focus on the main points, rather than to casually dismiss dissent by dismissing the dissenter. If you don't like me calling attention to the use of illogic, then the people making ill-use of logic should stop doing it.

"The facts are plain here, that some anthropologists in our discipline want to be employed by the U.S. military in the development of culturally-sensitive counter-insurgency (translated, they want to go among people of other cultures, study their cultural ways, and then assist to inform military operations so that they can be carried out in more culturally sensitive ways). This puts not only these practitioners but any of their colleagues anywhere else in the world now under deep suspicion anytime, anywhere."

I'm going to assume for the moment, perhaps incorrectly, that any anthropologist working for the US Armed forces knows in advance that he is going to be "under suspicion" of his informants from day 1, and is willing to accept that risk. I'm also going to assume that any anthropologist anywhere also is immediately "under suspicion" of his informants, inasmuch as the "initial days of fieldwork transcending to local tolerance and finally a kind of acceptance" are DEFINING chapters in most of that which we call "classical ethnographies."

Therefore the issue of concern to you (and some) seems to be that an anthropologist working in the US armed forces might expose YOU to unusually greater suspicion (or other risk) even though YOU do not work for the US Armed Forces.

I agree that such is a concern, but I am not sure that the concern is based on anything substantial. People aren't stupid. They know that an anthropologist hired by the US Armed Forces is working for a different agency than an anthropologist hired by, for example, UNHCR, UNWHO, &c.

So the question is really one about disclosure. I don't know whether or not anthros working for HTS have a disclosure policy that substantially differs from anthros working for anyone else. Has this question been answered?

"Instead they are looking to gain useful information at the very least to help the military not do so much damage.."

Yes. And this would be a "bad thing" why exactly?

Apart from having a PhD in anthropology, I hold lesser degrees in mathematics, and have lots of general background in military history. If anthropologists could have invented, for example, an effective campaign that would have allowed Axis civilians to avoid area bombing (without adversely affecting bombing results on, for example, railyards being used to deport people slated for extermination in a German camp), would it not have been beneficial because it would have reduced unnecessary civilian deaths?

The USAAF used a leaflet campaign, for example, to warn Japanese civilians which cities were likely to ve bombed in 1945. If it turns out that some anthropologist (this is just a hypothetical) assisted in the design of this leaflet campaign, would we as a profession condemn that person for participating? I wouldn't.

"and to a greater extent to assist the military to become victorious, very likely at times against some of the same people the anthropologists are studying (but in a ‘culturally sensitive way.’)"

Again, I do not see what is wrong with that. If you are implying that anthropologists not working for HTS are working among Al Qaida, and are therefore placed at risk by the participation of US military anthropologists, perhaps you could name some specific examples?

As a citizen who generally deplores unnecessary violence, I wonder why on earth anyone would object to any methods that might improve US military targeting against people who saw-off prisoners heads and post the videotapes on the internet?

Suspension of disbelief does not require a complete abandonment of morality here, folks.

"It is hardly political in the ideological sense (pro-US, anti-US, pro-Bush, anti-Bush, pro-Imperialism, anti-Imperialism etc.) to point out the sheer absurdity of this twisted use of a discipline founded on principles of respect for all cultures, development of cross-cultural rapport and respect, and the development of fundamental trust in the process."

I think the politics in calling the objection anti-Bush, anti-imperial, &c and the presumption that the military's use of anthropologists is "twisted" is self-evident. Not just in your replies but in the replies of many. As I recall, one participant suggested that anthropologists involved in HTS should be tried for "war crimes."

Do you suppose that sort of rhetoric is apolitical? Or that it is rational? Most really commited civil libertarians in the US for example think that you don't charge someone with a crime until some sort of compelling evidence has been offered. War crimes? Does anyone have evidence that HTS anthropologists have done things that stoop to the standards of conduct of Al Qaida, Slobodon Milosovich, or an SS Erstazgruppe prison guard? Puh-lease!

"..of courageous and engaged professionals who put themselves right in the midst of some of the worst situations in the world—in the case of journalists.."

Yes. And to my knowledge Ernie Pyle and Dan Rather's colleagues did not worry much about the risks that their reporting entailed for people working in non-combat zones. So the analogy of war-correspondents with HTS anthropologists and their relation to the rest of the profession seems to me to be strained at best.

"Both of these models alone manage to carry out their human-centered professions while maintaining the integrity of professional principles of neutrality, protection of informants/sources, and practical, risky commitment."

For the most part I agree. Where I depart from the general sentiment here is in the assertion that HTS anthropologists are NOT behaving ethically according to professional standards. (And I do think that from a humane standpoint, the evidence seems to indicate that HTS anthropologists are definitely acting on sound moral principals.)

"On the other hand, those who continue to assert that anthropologists can engage as counter-insurgency support for military operations and still live up to the principles of our profession, are either very cynical about such principles, or naïve to the realpolitik of the military project that seeks to subsume and utilize their skills and commitment."

There you go. YOu can't even talk to people who dissent with you without insulting them and simply trying to privilege your argument by in effect asserting that people who disagree with you are dupes.

Again, that kind of rhetoric is non-sequitur, therefore irrational and illogical, and it definitely deteriorates the quality of this discussion, rather than elevating it.

Yeah, the "realpolitik" of the US Army is to wage effective war against people whom it wishes to kill and to try to do so in a way that produces the fewest noncombatant casualties. Since the US military WILL make war against AlQaida, I think that helping the US military not kill civilians who are used by Al Qaida as shields (and there is a vast amount of evidence reported by independent reporters from multiple public news agencies that demonstrates that AQiI and the Taliban do exactly that sort of thing) is a good thing.

11:41 AM


Anonymous said...
"So, please someone respond to the essence of all my posts so far…Why is it better that anthropologist do not help the military in Iraq. Why is vilifying those anthropologists that choose to help the military better then allowing anthropological knowledge into military policy making?"

6:17 AM


Anonymous said...
I have checked from time to time to see if there is any activity in this blog.

The silence tonight makes me think of the cruel reality that exists for many in Iraq.

As we go weeks and months without so much as even thinking about the issue of rather or not anthroplogists should be working with the Army to help people over there, those same people have been living lives of desperation.

It is our fault they are suffering and it will be our fault if they do not return to some form of stability.

2:49 PM


landon said...
To the newest post:

Your point that "it is our fault they are suffering and it will be our fault if they do not return to some form of stability" is a humane one, but also a contradictory one.

Since the US began enforcing freedom on Iraq, it's dashed all hopes to "return to some form of stability." If you could return to *some form* of stability, it wouldn't really be returning to anything at all. It would rather be imposing something that may be entirely new. I hope my point makes many of us think about the issues of cultural authenticity at work in "rebuilding" Iraq...

What's more, Brian's point about the realpolitik of the military project is a more eloquent treatment of my primary concerns: any involvement with HTS and similar projects in this war is a tooling-over of anthropology. We are used as a means to achieve American ends. Facilitating "cultural understanding," or whatever you want to call it, helps American soldiers fight a better fight. The livelihood of each anthropologist in this war is used in the same way any other tool is used to oppress Iraqis and pursue American interests. That is the bottom line. End of story.

Call me out on this if you want, but I think the only way to help this is to end it. If we're truly concerned, it seems like the best investment of our time and energy is to help stop this war, plain and simple. We need to be 1000x more attentive to that cause.

Landon Yarrington

3:36 PM


Anonymous said...
”Your point that "it is our fault they are suffering and it will be our fault if they do not return to some form of stability" is a humane one, but also a contradictory one.”

It is only contradictory from the viewpoint of a padded chair and ergonomically designed keyboard.

”Since the US began enforcing freedom on Iraq, it's dashed all hopes to "return to some form of stability." If you could return to *some form* of stability, it wouldn't really be returning to anything at all. It would rather be imposing something that may be entirely new. I hope my point makes many of us think about the issues of cultural authenticity at work in "rebuilding" Iraq...”

Your solution seems to be ‘pulling out’ of Iraq. That will never happen without HTS teams.

”We are used as a means to achieve American ends. Facilitating "cultural understanding," or whatever you want to call it, helps American soldiers fight a better fight. The livelihood of each anthropologist in this war is used in the same way any other tool is used to oppress Iraqis and pursue American interests. That is the bottom line. End of story.”

Anthropology used to make life better for people is the end of storey, in the military or in the classroom, it does not matter. Your vision of a world where anthropologists can abstain from working in the war zone is a vision of the world without war. That is not the case.

”Call me out on this if you want, but I think the only way to help this is to end it. If we're truly concerned, it seems like the best investment of our time and energy is to help stop this war, plain and simple. We need to be 1000x more attentive to that cause.”

What exactly do you mean by ‘stop the war’? Seems like a lot of ‘humane’ rhetoric that ignores the obvious contradiction…

The best way out of Iraq is by using anthropology to improve our exit. We are going to leave. The next administration will make sure of that. (If Americans don’t prove to be as lazy and apathetic as they seem to people in other lands). Shouldn’t our last 2 years there be spent doing a job that benefits the people more then it has in the past?

5:35 PM


landon said...
1) I have no armchair, or ergonomic keyboard. I’m a 22 year-old graduate student whose stipend is $11,200, before taxes. Let me clear: it’s contradictory because it’s impossible to “return” to “some form” of anything. Motion toward “some form” of anything is never a return. And in the case of Iraq, it’s definitely not a progression.

2) Not with that attitude.

3) I still believe that the US military uses anthropologists as pawns to achieve American ends. I do not believe the people benefiting most (or at all) from anthropologists in the Iraq war-zone are the Iraqis. I am not convinced that anthropologists help make life better for Iraqis; I am, however, convinced they make the war better for Americans.

4) Prancing around with armed soldiers or conducting aerial surveys from helicopter gunships is definitely not stopping the war. To me, that says that by helping the military target people, we are actually helping the military stop targeting people. No way, that doesn’t make sense. When I say stop the war, I mean stop the war—lobby, organize, protest…the list goes on. But anthropologists in war-zones are fanning the flames, not putting them out.

5) “Using anthropology to improve our exit” shows that anthropology is being tooled-over to serve American ends, not make lives better for Iraqis. What on earth do you think anthropologists are doing that will benefit Iraqis anyway? Are they setting up a local gym? Maybe organizing a few book clubs or getting together a weekly bingo night? Anthropologists are working for the military, not the Iraqi people. Once the troops leave, anthropologists working with them will leave too. So will the benefits. Maybe the US military should just stay in Iraq indefinitely, that way Iraqis can continue to get the benefits you imagine they’re getting.


Landon Yarrington

7:19 PM


Anonymous said...
1) Landon obviously you do not realize that life now is for less stable then it was, and the goal of HTS is to help the Army and Iraqi government to have it be stable again...Argue semantics all you want, but it still does nothing to help people who have had their lives brutally disrupted...

2)What attitude would you suggest?

3)What exactly do you think the military is doing right now in Iraq? How do you think HTS teams 'make the war better'?

4)Your form of 'anthropology' is not necessarily the only one and protest is not the only way to make things better. People on the inside can also make diliberate changes that improve the actions that are taken...This is not the Empire Strikes Back...This is real life. It is much more messy then those books spell it out to be. And you are not necessarily a hero jus because you oppose the 'evil empire'--sometimes you are just an Occidentalist...Too bad your ideology would have the military continue 'business as usual' without even an attempt to make it less damaging...thank goodness there are people who think about the people of Iraq first and the teachings of rich Westerners 2nd.

5) this makes no sense...maybe rephrase...

8:48 PM


landon said...
I don’t agree that projects like the HTS help the Iraqi government; I believe they serve American interests, and I think the Iraqi people are at the bottom of the interest-list. Whatever attitude I do suggest, it does not include participating in HTS. And thinking that projects like HTS are essential for the US to pull out of Iraq is wrong-headed. The military has been wrapped in Iraq contingency-rhetoric for the past four years, and it’s hard for anyone to say for sure what the military is actually doing in Iraq. But I believe the military is chiefly pursuing American interests. Moreover, one thing I think the military is not doing is making the situation in Iraq better. When I say that HTS makes the war better, I mean that HTS projects allow the military, in their eyes, to fight a better fight. And as far as the military is concerned, fighting a better fight is the most efficient way to pursue American interests in Iraq. Participating in HTS does not serve Iraqi people because it is another conduit for American interests, simply couched in “humane” terms.

You’re right about my anthropology not being the only one. But we’re dealing with fundamental ethics. And here’s the rub: HTS is a war-tool the military uses to help pursue American interests. If you’re working with an HTS team in the United States military, you are loyal to the United States military first, and Iraqi people second (if not third or fourth). I don’t see how the work that HTS projects contribute to pursuing American interests benefits Iraqi people. So let me rephrase: what do you imagine anthropologists are doing that benefits Iraqis? Are they setting up resources for the Iraqi people that will exist after the US leaves Iraq? Once the US leaves, all HTS projects will too. Since HTS projects serve American (military) interests, any benefits to Iraqis you might imagine are directly tied with the US military occupation in Iraq. So if you’re talking about benefits to Iraqis from HTS teams, it seems like the US should just stay in Iraq indefinitely so Iraqis can keep getting those great benefits you’re convinced they’re getting, right? Noooo.

Landon Yarrington

10:44 PM


Anonymous said...
I think we probably agree on many things. Except those things that have not yet been measured. Mainly the effect HTS has on Iraqis. Positive or negative, it is not known because our ‘proffesional’ organization did not do real research before condemning this act. They did what you do, lumped the illegality of going to war in Iraq with everything that happens after.

I agree we were wrong to go and we are wrong to be there. I also agree that HTS teams support the military mission. Where we defer is in the complicated realm of rather or not that is actually good or bad for Iraqis…If the part of the military mission which HTS supports means rebuilding infrastructure and protecting Iraqi culture…(so that we feel we are ‘winning’ enough to withdraw)…then by all means any and all anthropologists should support that part of the mission…If it then helping to set-up an American form of democracy and converting the masses to Christianity then of course we should not support that.

As far as your question…”Are they setting up resources for the Iraqi people that will exist after the US leaves Iraq?” That is actually the heart of the matter. It would have been nice if the AAA had seriously tried to answer this question before making this ‘them or us’ statement.

As far as the ethical side of this: Without ‘evidence’ on either side we can only go with the most basic of ethical truisms—universality. Is it fair to withhold anthropological knowledge from a realm where it can do good, just because it can also do evil? No. If the potential is there for HTS to improve how the military treats people in Iraq, then we are ethically bound to let it happen.

____________________________

“Since HTS projects serve American (military) interests, any benefits to Iraqis you might imagine are directly tied with the US military occupation in Iraq.”

Yes, that is the ‘rub’…the benefit to Iraqis is in having HTS teams tied to military occupation…you are right…that is the point…HTS anthropologists informing the military…military decisions made that are influenced by Edward Said and Franz Boas, and not just General Patton and Winston Churchhill…(or Kissinger as someone mentioned before)…I don’t think these HTS folks are angels…but I do think they are offering a twist on military policy that benefits civilians in ways which have not been previously used or even considered…

3:08 AM


Anonymous said...
Hi again,

I have been away for awhile but I would like to refer everyone to page 3 of this months Anthropology News where J. Anthony Paredes outlines his three reasons for voting against (the only board member who did) this statement. Here is my summary:

1. We do not know enough about what these teams are actually doing.
2. This statement goes against the AAA ethics code—namely that it is not our job to adjudicate claims of ethics abuse and the individual has the right to make their own ethical choices…
3. The HTS has the potential to reduce bloodshed “among our own people, among those who do battle against us, and among innocent bystanders”. Dissaproval of this sort of action is immoral and I agree with Paredes…

“I [do] not want to have anything to do with repudiating a program that saves lives”

Thank you Paredes for clarifying this in public and shame on all of you who think the reputation of the AAA is more important then the lives of people we can serve.

Tanner Phillips
MA-ICM
Berlin, Germany

3:37 AM


Anonymous said...
Alan Klima,

In light of what has been posted in this blog do you still stand by this statement?

"...I would encourage adding a statement that specifically condemns any anthropologists who participate in the HTS or similar actions."

Tanner

10:21 AM


Anonymous said...
Anonymous "coward" here:

"And in the case of Iraq, it’s definitely not a progression."

Unless of course you are a Shi'ia. In that event it is a progression away from a prior state under Hussein in which the Shi'ia were selectively targeted for murder.

"3) I still believe that the US military uses anthropologists as pawns to achieve American ends."

It is often the case that American goals coincide with the best interests of locals.

"I am, however, convinced they make the war better for Americans."

How exactly would it be "better for Americans" without being better for at least some Iraqis?

"To me, that says that by helping the military target people, we are actually helping the military stop targeting people. No way, that doesn’t make sense."

It only "doesn't make sense" if you try to reduce it to a simplistic "black and white" rhetorical sauce of the kind frequently used by the Bush Admin. If avoiding noncombatant casualties is deemed objectively good (as the GenCon, the UNHCR, and pretty much *everyone* agrees it is), then improving the US mil's ability to NOT target noncombatants is also a good.

"But anthropologists in war-zones are fanning the flames, not putting them out."

I'd like to see that claim substantiated. What is your evidence for same?

"“Using anthropology to improve our exit” shows that anthropology is being tooled-over to serve American ends, not make lives better for Iraqis."

Carl Sagan would call your statement the "fallacy of the excluded middle." It does not necessarily follow that American and Iraqi interests regarding the state of security in Iraq on American exit are at odds. On paper at least Iraqis and Americans want the same goals: elimination of Al Qaida in Iraq, resturn to Iraqi sovereignty.

In practice, a sudden American exit will not bring about a sudden absence of AQII, nor will it necessarily leave Iraqis more secure. It may well leave them more vulnerable.

And that is indeed the rub. Staying there is costing the US too much. Leaving there precipitously could cost the Iraqis a whole lot more.

"Anthropologists are working for the military, not the Iraqi people."

Again, fallacy of the excluded middle.

More to the point one wonders what you imagine anthropolgy to be for. If it is always inappropriate for anthropologists to advance US interests (even when these may coincide with local interests), why should anyone in the United States support cultural anthropologists? It's not as though knee-jerk anti-Americanism leads of necessity to better policy, or improved justice systems.

3:22 PM


Anonymous said...
On March 9, 2008, there appeared an announcement on the AAA Online Bulletin Board, with the tag "human terrain"...it is a job posting for the very same Human Terrain Systems program that the AAA Executive Board, in its statement, critiqued and expressed its disapproval of. Needless to say, it's outrageous to have the AAA publicly condemn an activity, and then turn around and a few months later, post job openings for that activity.

I urge all members to write to the Executive Bd about this matter and demand that the posting be removed.

Barbara Rylko-Bauer

5:20 PM


Anonymous said...
Yes great idea Barbara!!!

While we are at it lets also demand they remove all the postings in this blog that support these horrendous acts perpetrated by Orientalists masquerading as humanitarians…There is no room here for such dialogue!!!

Lets also strongly urge the AMA to make a similar statement against doctors who are using their skills to help prosecute the war in Iraq. They may say they are there to “heal” people, but we know the truth (cause we read it in a newspaper). They are there to help the Army (which is actually just one huge machine made up of robots intent on raping and murdering Iraqis, not human beings who just want to do a good job so they can return to their families in one piece and with a little dignity; a part of which comes from feeling like they helped the people in Iraq acquire a little security after we bombed it all away; thus making up a little for our mistakes; which is what many soldiers feel these days. That is of course if they were people, and not a part of a soul-less collective bent on world domination and praying upon the idealistic whims of social science professionals the world over.) Win The War (oh I hear the drums, they make my blood cold, they turn me into a zombie, I have no control, I dare not help because then I will have no power to actually support the extreme Occidentalism THEY have been teaching me all these years. It is so evil! It is the ‘other’ I feared. It is bad, must resist, must not be assimilated……..)

While we are at it, we could also urge universities throughout the nation to pre-screen prospective anthropology majors to make sure they have absolutely no intention of ever serving in the military. That way we would never run into this problem again.

Frankly, how could this have happened people? How could anthropologists be trained that have minds of their owns and can blend the critical views they learn as social scientists with the ideological views they learn as citizens—seeing that there is actually a place for scepticism and patriotism within the same person, and applying that hybrid identity in a place where no one else will dare to go—the military? (the place it is needed the most)

2:32 AM


Anonymous said...
Dear AAA bloggers:

A follow up on my comment of a day ago regarding a job posting on the AAA bulletin board that was recruiting anthropologists for the military's Human Terrain Systems...I am happy to report that the AAA administration has removed that posting ...as it happens, the bulletin board is not for job postings and so this posting was an inappropriate use of the bulletin board. In addition, the posting flew in the face of official AAA stance on a public policy issue (since the Executive Board in Oct 2007 had issued a statement disapproving involvement of anthropologists in HTS programs on ethical grounds). Leaving such an announcement up would have made the AAA look hypocritical -- something that the anonymous (why? what is he/she afraid of?) commentator on my comment clearly didn't grasp. I'm happy to report that the Executive Board stands behind it's statement regarding the HTS program.

Barbara Rylko-Bauer

6:49 PM


Anonymous said...
Hi, "Anonymous Coward" here:

Barbara you are correct that the action is in keeping with the executive board's resolution. It seems, however, not in keeping with the subsequent AAA special commission's report. So either way, the AAA is coming off as "hypocritical" -- IMO anyhow.

As to why people use anonymity, to put it bluntly what people fear is
retaliation for voicing an unpopular minority opinion. Considering some of the ill-considered epithets that have been hurled at HTS participants and their supporters, you could hardly blame anyone for posting anonymously.

I take encouragement from (most of) the dissenters in this blog. Frankly,the demonstrated reaction to the US armed forces trying to do anything at all is basically what I'd expect from most members of the AAA.

7:14 PM


Anonymous said...
its funny how the majority opinion here never actually talks to any of the points of the minority view

it seems those that are for HTS teams bring up good points that everyone simply ignores...

the only argument against HTS teams is that posters on this blog should really not be anonymous...

by only debating the debate and ignoring the points made you all admit you are wrong. you stand behind your position of power (this statement has already been made and the AAA seems intent on not listening to its members) and honor this discussion in the most minimal of ways...

I think until people start to respond to the many points that are being made that those in the minority will remain anonymous...

???

1:11 AM


Anonymous said...
Barbara Rylko-Bauer,

You said, “””Leaving such an announcement up would have made the AAA look hypocritical -- something that the anonymous (why? what is he/she afraid of?) commentator on my comment clearly didn't grasp. I'm happy to report that the Executive Board stands behind it's statement regarding the HTS program.”””

I say: I am afraid of you and the AAA. I am afraid that you do not see your own hypocrisy in making this statement. You have turned anthropology from a tool that can be used to help humanity to a tool intent on defining what the right course for humanity is. Your “ethical” stance is simply an ideological stance and the only argument you and others in this blog seem to have is to debate the debate and not the issues.

I remind you that Executive Board of the AAA is made up of people that are supposed to represent the members as a whole. The Board made this decision in a democratic way, with a majority voting for the statement. Yet, every majority vote over-shadows a minority view. In this case, everyone seems happy to sheepishly follow the herd without engaging with the points made by those who descent. I would expect that out of the larger “democracy” we live in, but not from anthropologists, who should know better.

3 of the many points you ignore: (as found in the previous post by Tanner in which he sums up J. Anthony Paredes arguments in the Anthropology News)

“””1. We do not know enough about what these teams are actually doing.
2. This statement goes against the AAA ethics code—namely that it is not our job to adjudicate claims of ethics abuse and the individual has the right to make their own ethical choices…
3. The HTS has the potential to reduce bloodshed “among our own people, among those who do battle against us, and among innocent bystanders”. Dissaproval of this sort of action is immoral and I agree with Paredes…

“I [do] not want to have anything to do with repudiating a program that saves lives””””

2:53 AM


Anonymous said...
Anonymous said...
"So, please someone respond to the essence of all my posts so far…Why is it better that anthropologist do not help the military in Iraq. Why is vilifying those anthropologists that choose to help the military better then allowing anthropological knowledge into military policy making?"

6:17 AM

????

Anonymous said...

please watch this:


http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=4611504150219340313&q=obama+speech+on+race&total=154&start=0&num=10&so=0&type=search&plindex=0

Anonymous said...

February 2008 • Anthropology News

______________

HTS Statement Vote

This is a recap for a larger audience of
comments at the 2007 AAA Annual
Business Meeting.
I’m proud to be a liberal Liberal. I
oppose the war in Iraq/Afghanistan. The
war is tragic. I believe history will prove
it maladaptive and stupid. Nonetheless,
I was the only AAA Executive Board
(EB) member who voted against the
EB statement disapproving and finding
as unacceptable the uses of anthropology
in the Human Terrain System (HTS)
deployed in the war; two members did
not vote.
The circumstances, I agreed, warranted
a strong precautionary statement
from the EB on ethical risks of HTS
for anthropologists. I even helped draft
such a statement. In the end, however, I
did not support the outright disapproval
of HTS added to the statement at the
last minute. Here’s why:
1) Empirically, I do not know enough
about HTS to disapprove of it. All I know
is from popular media or anthropologists’
private comments.
2) Ethically, the EB’s formal proclamation
disapproving of HTS on ethical
grounds (the ostensible professional/scientific
reason for EB consideration in
the first place) does not accord with the
AAA Ethics Code stipulations declaring
“The American Anthropological
Association (AAA) does not adjudicate
claims for unethical behavior” and “no
code or set of guidelines can anticipate
unique circumstances or direct
actions in specific situations. The individual
anthropologist must be willing
to make carefully considered ethical
choices…” [emphasis added], nor does
it accord with various caveats of the
Code’s “Epilogue.”
3) Morally, given the publicized rationale
of HTS as a substitute for “kinetic
response,” that is, armed force (to use
the military euphemism), to whatever
extent HTS might in fact reduce bloodshed
and terror among our own people,
among those who do battle against us,
and among innocent bystanders, disapproval
of HTS would be immoral. I did
not want to have had any part in repudiating
a program that saves lives.
To fellow EB members, I extend sincerest
gratitude for the warm graciousness
with which you received my view on
HTS. To all those at the business meeting
offering that sprinkling of applause for
me and to those who personally congratulated
me, I extend heartfelt thanks.
It troubles me, though, that some commended
me for being “so brave.” In
the forum of reasoned discussion that
AAA presumably offers, one should not
have to be “brave” to express oneself
honestly. Then again, maybe there was
a small “speaking-truth-to-power” tone
in my lone voice on the EB against the
apparent prevailing view at the 2007
AAA Annual Meeting.
J Anthony Paredes
Former AAA Executive Board Membe

Brian D-L said...
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