Despite my repeated criticisms of the Human Terrain Systems work that involves social scientists, anthropologists included, in counterinsurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, I am linking to this news merely for the record. Some of my criticisms were also posted in the AAA news blog. I neither wish to cheer this death, nor to indulge in the kind of pious sanctimony I have encountered in readers’ comments on some of the sites below, with their unscrupulous and quick little promotional plugs for the “good” of HTS. As far as I am aware, this is the first HTS researcher to have been killed as a result of combat, and for as long as the program continues one can expect that there will be additional fatalities, both for HTS members and even more so for the subject populations they are monitoring.
HUMAN TERRAIN SYSTEM
It is with deep sorrow that we must inform you of the tragic death of Michael Bhatia, our social scientist team member assigned to the Afghanistan Human Terrain Team #1, in support of Task Force Currahee based at FOB SALERNO, Khowst Province.
Michael was killed on May 7 when the Humvee he was riding in was struck by an IED. Michael was traveling in a convoy of four vehicles, which were en route to a remote sector of Khowst province. For many years, this part of Khowst had been plagued by a violent inter-tribal conflict concerning land rights. Michael had identified this tribal dispute as a research priority, and was excited to finally be able to visit this area. This trip was the brigade’s initial mission into the area, and it was their intention to initiate a negotiation process between the tribes.
Michael was in the lead vehicle with four other soldiers. Initial forensics indicate that the IED was triggered by a command detonated wire. Michael died immediately in the explosion. Two Army soldiers from Task Force Currahee were also killed in the attack, and two were critically injured. …
ROCKVILLE, Maryland – BAE Systems has announced the identity of an employee who died Wednesday in Afghanistan. Michael V. Bhatia, 31, a social scientist working for the company in Afghanistan, died in an IED attack in Khowst on May 7.
Doug Belair, president of the company’s Technology Solutions & Services line of business said: “We are deeply saddened by the loss of Michael Bhatia. He was a well-respected and important member of our team who served his nation in the face of great danger. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, friends and colleagues.”
Mr. Bhatia had been working in Afghanistan as part of the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain Systems program team since November after joining the company in September. He was from Medway, Massachusetts.
About BAE Systems
BAE Systems is the premier global defence and aerospace company delivering a full range of products and services for air, land and naval forces, as well as advanced electronics, information technology solutions and customer support services. With 97,500 employees worldwide, BAE Systems’ sales exceeded £15.7 billion (US $31.4 billion) in 2007.
THE WATSON INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL STUDIES
May 08, 2008
Michael Vinay Bhatia ’99 died yesterday in Afghanistan, where he was working as a social scientist in consultation with the US Defense Department.
In addition to graduating magna cum laude in international relations from Brown University, Michael was a visiting fellow at the Watson Institute from July 2006 to June 2007. At the Institute, he was involved in a research project on Cultural Awareness in the Military, writing his PhD dissertation, and teaching a senior seminar on “The US Military: Global Supremacy, Democracy and Citizenship.”
‘Human Terrain’ Social Scientist Killed in Afghanistan
WIRED Blog Network, May 9, 2008
Human Terrain Team Member Killed in Afghanistan
Small Wars Journal, May 9, 2008
Social Scientist in Army’s ‘Human Terrain’ Program Dies in Afghanistan
Chronicle of Higher Education, May 9, 2008