Updated: Human Terrain Researcher Set on Fire in Afghanistan; plus new Articles on the Human Terrain System

Posted on November 10, 2008 by

Army Social Scientist Set Afire in Afghanistan
Danger Room
06 November 2008

and see

Cleaning Up US Army/TRADOC’s Human Terrain System (HTS): Terminate Current Management, Move HTS to Civil Affairs
by John Stanton
06 November 2008

UPDATE #1: Taliban offer differing account, claim children burned & killed the researcher:

Taliban insurgents said children had poured petrol on a female foreign soldier and set fire to her while she was searching homes in the town of Maiwand in the southern province of Kandahar.

“The soldier caught fire immediately after petrol was poured on her and then explosions were set off because of the ammunition on her,” the Taliban said on their Web site.

“As a result the female soldier was killed instantly and a large number of other foreign soldiers were wounded,” it said.

UPDATE #2: Either the Taliban report is incorrect, or they are referring to some other incident. Either way, Paula Lloyd was flown to Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, Texas, and contrary to the Taliban report is alive.

See also:

Social-support worker attacked in Afghanistan
By Lee Hill Kavanaugh
The Kansas City Star, Monday 10 November 2008

[“social-support worker”? The euphemism industry has yet to recognize its own bankruptcy given the continued media bailouts of military propaganda]

UPDATE #3: Unable to learn about the meaning of rage at home, Human Terrain Teams sent into war zones…

In a new article in the Military Review that is ironically titled, “Sociocultural expertise and the military: beyond the controversy,” Pauline Kusiak tries to mute criticisms of the Human Terrain System from anthropological critics. In a remark that proves instructive she writes, “the rhetoric in this debate often rapidly disintegrates into a polarized polemic that is often as unenlightening as it is nasty.” That is enlightening all by itself, especially from such a nasty program as HTS, the only “social science research program” in the world that comes with its own death toll. What it displays, while pleading for more favourable understanding of HTS, is that these researchers are unable or unwilling to even begin to comprehend rage in terms that they should understand. They dismiss the opposition as nasty, polemical, etc., but they do not seek to understand it, the way self-proclaimed researchers and ethnographers should be expected to do. From that position, they parachute into bloody war zones, having already betrayed the fact they cannot understand conflict and opposition to their goals and their technologies. On the same day that U.S. air strikes slaughtered dozens of women and children in Afghanistan, they send a woman to interview a man holding a gas can. When you cannot even learn the basics at home, what are you doing inserting yourself into people’s war torn lives abroad? Rather than convince yourself of your righteous invulnerability, try learning what rage is all about, and start at home.

NOTE: in the article by John Stanton, as in the memorial post about Michael Bhatia, this is at least the second time that we have reports of social scientists serving in Human Terrain Teams becoming actively engaged in fighting. The attacker in this latest case was tracked down and killed by another HTT member. Virtually every single assertion made by HTS spokespersons about what these social scientists do has in fact been reversed, contradicted, or simply shelved subsequently. For some it seems the new HTS rallying cry is “fuck anthropologists, fuck ethics,” exhibited in sometimes more polite terms by at least one anthropologist who blogs from Iraq where he is a HTT member, whose only reports consist entirely of his incoherent disdain for the whole American Anthropological Association even while dismissing criticisms as coming only from a “vocal minority.” Ladies and gentlemen, if we are only a minority…then why don’t you go ahead and rewrite the AAA’s Code of Ethics to better suit your self-interests? Replace the document with a series of blank pages.

Previous articles by John Stanton on the Human Terrain System can be found here, here, and here.

Feel free to leave comments here, I will try to answer them when I return (see my previous post).

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