A core tenet of the Obama administration’s plans for “victory” in Iraq and Afghanistan is an increased reliance on counterinsurgency.
As previously reported on this web site, the US military has sent shock troops – anthropologists, sociologists and social psychologists – with their own troops in both Iraq and Afghanistan, who also donned helmets and flak jackets. By the end of 2007, American scholars in these fields were embedding with the military in Afghanistan and Iraq as part of a Pentagon program called Human Terrain System (HTS), which evolved shortly thereafter into a $40 million program that embedded four or five person groups of scholars in the aforementioned fields in all 26 US combat brigades that were busily occupying Iraq and Afghanistan. The program is currently comprised of approximately 400 employees, and is actively seeking new recruits.
Anthropology, in particular, has been referred to throughout history as the “handmaiden of colonialism,” thus putting anthropologists, at least those with a moral conscience, on guard against anything that smells like exploitation or oppression of their subjects. Roberto Gonzalez, an associate professor of anthropology at San Jose State University and a leading member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists, told Time magazine that the militarization of anthropology will cause the field to become “just another weapon … not a tool for building bridges between peoples.” Anthropology has core professional ethics standards that require voluntary, informed consent from subjects, and that anthropologists do no harm. How likely do you think these will be adhered to by the flack-jacket-wearing, gun-toting, embedded anthropologists working directly with regimental combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan?”
The two highest ethical principles of anthropology are protection of the interests of studied populations and their safety. All anthropological studies consequently are premised on the consent of the subject society. Clearly, the HTS anthropologists have thrown these ethical guidelines out the window. They are to anthropology what state stenographers like Judith Miller and John Burns are to journalism. Continue Reading →