I said in a recent post that we could predict responses on the AAA blog from those supporting anthropological involvement with the US military’s Human Terrain System project in its counterinsurgency wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. One cannot be at all certain that the responses have come from anthropologists: the posts in question have repeatedly appeared under the name of “anonymous”, which could be anyone from someone in the US military, to an anthropology professor, a student, or someone not even connected to any of the contending parties, an idle surfer perhaps.
What I did to provoke those responses was actually something that proved to be quite simple: given that the repeated claim has been that anthropologists are needed to “alleviate harm,” by minimizing the number of innocent civilians wrongly killed by US combat forces, I said that this obviously meant that the source of the “harm” was those same US forces–that is built in the argument itself, quite plainly. What I left unstated is my view that the best way to eliminate that harm is for those forces to go back home.
Outrage. It must be deeply embarrassing to realize that you have indicted your own client (the US military). So much for professional representation by an anthropologist. The US military will demand a refund perhaps?
And so, as one could expect, a flurry of non sequiturs ensued–that the insurgents are evil people, that civilians die in war, the Geneva Conventions, and a rambling mass of other ideas sprayed onto the AAA blog in a shotgun pattern.
One of the more interesting contradictions to have emerged is the following, copied and pasted from the responses on that blog:
(a) “I simply disagree that the United States Armed Forces have in Iraq engaged in widespread human rights abuses”
(b) “HTS anthropologists may be allowing the US Armed forces to reduce noncombatant deaths” (followed by another posting from “anonymous,” maybe the same individual: “Non combatant casualties happen”).
So there you have it, no human rights abuses on the one hand (incidentally, killing people is a violation of human rights…I know that a large segment of the American population has some trouble comprehending this), and yet noncombatant deaths on the other hand.
Of course, this only proves that, among other things, one really cannot expect any elevated or consistent arguments from those driven by crass motivations and who feel cheered on by jingoistic propaganda.