It’s no secret, to anyone reading comments on this blog, that I have been corresponding with Patrick “Paddy” Boylan, the Executive Director of the Center For Strategic Analysis (CSA). Patrick Boylan spent some time within the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System, and the views that he shares can be added to your “files” alongside recently published notes from HTS training seminars, John Allison‘s larger overview of the program from the inside, and the many comments from Marilyn Dudley-Flores and anonymous HTS insiders posted on this blog. The following extract has already been posted on the CSA website, and is reproduced here with the author’s permission. It was originally published on 28 July 2010.
I had the opportunity in the past months, to be involved in the Army’s controversial Human Terrain Teams program that was the brain child of a retired colonel and struggling anthropologist. It is all about making as much money as possible for selves and cronies, and the training in my view will get a few more starry-eyed team members killed, before congress pulls the plug.
The program is choc-full of civilian misfits and prima donnas who have never set foot outside their hometowns, oh sorry, some had had the opportunity of travelling as students or tourists to some third world countries, and so they were the experts. Others had read a book or two on terrorism (apologists’ books), whereupon these social scientists, research managers and even analysts, would argue vociferously about how America was in the wrong and Islam was really a religion of peace. When asked if they had read the Koran, or ever really lived in a Muslim country, these pathetic civilians looked sheepish and usually had this brilliant response, “What does that have to do with it!”
It gets better, one of the team leaders (they all had to be at least a Major and up in the army) had spent a short tour in Afghanistan and claimed the Pashtoons had always talked about family to him, and so my recommendation that talking about a Pashtoon’s womenfolk was a big no no, was rebutted with “that’s not true”.
Asked if he had shown pictures of his wife and daughters to the locals, the answer was “Of course.” Nice! Now asked if the locals had shown him pictures of their wives, and daughters – “Eh, what does that have to do with it!”
“Nothing, oh nothing, and I bet they (the women) had been introduced to you no? You mean you never even got to know their names, and only saw them as living shrouds, and …”
“Look, I just got back from a tour there, and those are their customs. They are illiterate, short, smelly guys, and not the brightest people in the world.” And these are the guys, team leaders, who will be leading teams of anthropologists, social scientists etc in Iraq and Afghanistan – teams which are supposed to be winning hearts and minds for us!
Most of the colonels in the program were a pleasure to be with, especially Mark, but then the retired colonel in charge of overseeing the program with the holier than thou title of “Seminar Leader” was the most officious ass you could ever come across, under whose watch those with the most to offer the program with language and cultural skills, were let go. No wonder we are in the situation we are in, in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Even after the killings of a few members of these ill-trained teams, it seems the powers that be are totally inept at understanding the need for truth in training and learning from their mistakes. This is truly a case of the blind leading the blind, the thieves laughing all the way to the bank, and Mr. and Ms. taxpayer getting screwed again.