Human Terrain System on War News Radio

The latest media coverage of the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System (HTS) comes from Kyle Crawford at War News Radio: The Human Terrain. Those interviewed on the program include recently deposed HTS program manager, Steve Fondacaro; Catherine Lutz, Brown University anthropology professor and member of the Network of Concerned Anthropologists; Keith Brown, a colleague of Lutz’s who is affiliated with anthropology, and in the Watson Institute for International Studies; and, myself. As I expected, very little of Crawford’s interview with me was included, but so that listeners have an idea of what I communicated, it was essentially covered by everything Lutz said in the parts we hear from her.

Interesting to note in this program is that Steve Fondacaro confirmed that HTS was exempted from the Army’s guidelines for ethical research for human subjects, 32CFR219. He also repeated earlier claims that HTS was devising its own ethical code. That was what HTS told the American Anthropological Association a year ago, promising guidelines within a few months, and here we are in mid-2010.

In addition, Fondacaro used the metaphor of a “hammer” for explaining the purpose of HTS and “do no harm,” saying that when hammers are made, no one really knows for what dangerous purpose they may be used. Not very reassuring, and much more in line with what many of the disparate critics of the program have said all along. Indeed, not even among the sharpest critics has anyone chosen to describe HTS employees as hammers. If Fondacaro meant his words to be interpreted more innocently, then it’s an innocence that can no longer be forgiven or accepted, at the very least since the AfPax Insider scandal (see also “Information, Communications, and Targeted Killing,” by guest blogger Ishtar Enana).

When War News Radio contacted HTS, for clarification as to why Fondacaro was unseated, they were given no further details.

Also in the program, Keith Brown decides to resuscitate that tired old charge that anthropological critics of HTS “rushed to judgment” — which one would have thought had been abundantly debunked here, based on the historical record, and based on a logical understanding of the premises for the criticisms. One would hope that, in the future, the critics of the critics do their homework, ascertain the facts, and not rush to such facile judgments.

You can download the MP3 and listen to it at War News Radio, or you can hear the same file here:

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3 thoughts on “Human Terrain System on War News Radio

  1. Glad they interviewed you Max. They had asked me but never followed up. I think a lot of these media outlets hear “Human Terrain System” and it sounds really novel to them.

    Here is the last paragraph of the Fondacaro release memo to HTS staff. I recently received the entire note. It’s PAO’s line.

    “Also, our PAO staff has responded to media inquires with the following statement: “Mr. Steve Fondacaro is no longer program manager of the Human Terrain System. Mr. Fondacaro, brought HTS from concept to reality, providing our forces with this valuable capability. In an irregular warfare operation, commanders and planners require insight into cultures, perceptions, values, beliefs, interests and decision-making processes of indigenous individuals and groups. HTS and the Human Terrain Teams, assist commanders and staffs to understand the people within their area of operation. This holistic picture creates a clearer picture for the commander, which enhances his decision-making process. Colonel Sharon Hamilton, the Deputy G-2 (Intelligence) for U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command, will serve as the director of HTS. She will
    sustain and build on the important capabilities of HTS. Actions are underway way to hire a civilian director.”

    Also, I traveled to Turkey recently and met with a number of journalists, academics and think tank people. Illuminating to say the least. Article is here and elsewhere:

    http://www.srilankaguardian.org/2010/06/usa-undermines-democracy-in-turkey.html

  2. Thanks very much John. The radio program was a bit too short in my view, good mostly as a basic introduction for those who are new to the whole debate.

    Thanks also for that addendum to the Fondacaro memo from HTS.

    As for the article on Turkey, based on your work there, I think we should have this up on the front page of this site, unless you think the Sri Lanka Guardian would object.

  3. Yes on the Turkey piece up front. Your call.

    It is also at Counter Punch and Pravda….

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