[Max Forte: The following article by John Allison, an anthropologist and former employee of the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System, offers us an inside look at the workings of HTS and its training program, adding to a growing body of insider accounts published as leaks to John Stanton’s many articles, as comments on this blog (often anonymous), and previous posts on this site (i.e., “Another Insider’s View of the U.S. Army’s Human Terrain System“). In this case, please see the article published earlier this year, produced by David Price: “Human Terrain Systems Dissenter Resigns, Tells Inside Story of Training’s Heart of Darkness,” and more recent posts such as “The Human Terrain System: Global Counterinsurgency, Global Espionage, Global Occupation.” Also see John Allison’s training seminar notes at Forum Archaeologiae, “WHOSE SIDE ARE YOU ON BOYS? The problem for embedded anthropologists in the US Human Terrain System teams.” These are very useful correctives to the official, promoted propaganda, with a list of numerous recent examples from videos to published articles being made available here. We thank John Allison for his courage and honesty. All of the photos in this report are from John Allison, and they too offer us a very unique inside look at HTS.]
The Leavenworth Diary:
Double Agent Anthropologist Inside the Human Terrain System
by John Allison
Don’t be afraid. I’m from the government, I’m here to help.
I am Juliet Alpha, Cultural Anthropologist, GG-15 Social Scientist for US Army HTT-AF-X, reporting for duty, Sir!
[“David! It’s me, Juliet Alpha. Hombre, I’m on the Inside!”]
View across the Parking Lot at “The Landing” Human Terrain System training facility, looking at the back of the commercial buildings in downtown Leavenworth. The entrance to the training facility is at the door below the small “Mall Entrance” sign, above the white car – one of the rental cars provided, with gasoline paid, to each HTS candidate.
The only entrance into The Landing. These two outer doors open into an entry foyer and, straight ahead, are the two inner doors shown in the following photo. Inside the foyer, stairs lead up left to the first floor including Tampico Mexican Restaurant and a hall lined with small businesses, such as an European pottery shop, the quilt shop, and other quaint places that you’d expect in an upscale tourist town that receives international guests. Fort Leavenworth brings international visitors to Leavenworth, Kansas, for the many cutting-edge military programs that are developed and incubated here in the intellectual center of the US military. When these guests go shopping at the little businesses upstairs, little do they know that the really big business is in the basement, underground, out of sight.
In the foyer, we are confronted by these dark-tinted glass doors into one of the most controversial cutting edge programs coming out of the Department of the Army. All ye who enter here: be ye civilian or soldier, You’re in the Army now! Forget your Job Description! Stay with the herd! Follow the Chain of Command! One then has the option of continuing forward through these intimidating, tinted glass inner doors with warning signs such as, “No Personal Computers Allowed in this Facility!!!!!!!”, or, wisely, turning left and going up the stairs to the charming first floor shops, or to the Tampico Mexican Restaurant and Bar, to contemplate what you just saw.
“I first came into contact with cultural anthropologist Juliet Alpha a couple of years ago when she invited me to join a session of a global organization of archaeologists presenting innovative papers at the World Archaeology Congress in Dublin, including themes related to military uses of anthropology and archaeology. I couldn’t make the conference, but we corresponded occasionally after that. I hadn’t heard from Juliet in a while, and then last November I suddenly got an email from her telling me that she was writing me from inside the Human Terrain System’s training program in Leavenworth, Kansas. My initial inclination was to wonder if this was a gag, or … whether someone was setting me up.” (David Price, http://www.counterpunch.org/price02152010.html)
Sent: Thursday, November 19, 2009 5:51 PM
To: Price, David
Subject: Fort Leavenworth and the insurgency
Talk to me!
I am inside HTS. Have ordered a copy of the counter counter
[footnote Network of Concerned Anthropologists, 2009, The Counter-Counterinsurgency Manual, or, Notes on Demilitarizing American Society. Prickly Paradigm Press, Chicago.]
Seeking ideas to organize my focus.
From: David Price
Subject: RE: Fort Leavenworth and the insurgency
To: “‘j. a'”
Date: Thursday, November 19, 2009, 6:23 PM
What do you mean you’re inside HTS?
How is the view from the inside?
Here is an idea to organize your focus: domestic counterinsurgency is theoretically possible (e.g. the FBI’s COINTELPRO) because one doesn’t have to struggle for legitimacy among the local population; successful counterinsurgency in foreign settings is so historically rare (and where arguably present, it takes over 20 years ) that we can assume it will all but always fail.
Now, I sit here with all that I have learned in my Year of the Military. I am trying to reduce it to the essence of these experiences and the resulting understandings and provide you with the detailed quotes and descriptions that I harvested from this fieldwork:
And, at this time, late in 2010, trying to get this manuscript ready for the meetings in New Orleans, it looks like HTS might soon be defunct, the charade being no longer necessary with the resurgence of the right wing in US politics. Still, the insights gained by this experience stand me in a higher perspective on all this.
But, first: My name isn’t really “Juliet Alpha”. My name is John Allison. I chose that code name because it gives a military flair to things. That was the military alphabet name I used out on the battle ranges at Fort Irwin National Training Center; the military way of saying “J.A.” if one is, for example, a Special Forces undercover operative and one doesn’t want anyone to know one’s true identity. A leavening of humor in this serious cake.
Now for a few paragraphs in the way of conclusions drawn. Admittedly, these are sweeping assertions; but also they are my personal opinions and epiphanies that came from the experiences themselves or from the research they stimulated.
Most General Insight: US Military culture is in an international cultural stream that goes back at least to the days of the Roman Army’s occupation of Europe; probably much earlier. The rules inside the US military are different than the rules for the civil society of the USA; above and beyond. There are fire-walls, just as there were between the Vatican in Rome and the Roman Army occupying England two thousand years ago.
Indigenous peoples don’t establish themselves as “nations”. Empires create new nations. Their armies conquer peoples, draw national boundaries around that group and divide indigenous peoples to the colonial ruler’s advantage. The colonizing powers define and implement a “democratic government” and a capitalist economy and establish a National Army, funded, trained and overseen by the invaders.
Military culture is like a computer virus that is introduced into the basic program of the “nation”.
The armies don’t really belong to the people of the nations, they belong to the Empire. Nations are created and “recognized” by and for the convenience of the Empire. The military and “the church” are the stick and the carrot of the Empire. As in Stendhal’s Le Rouge et Le Noir, both offer opportunity to the ambitious and compliant.
The entire issue of governing armies, even in today’s global organizations, remains a discourse among modern heirs of Roman Imperial Law and the caste of hereditary military officers. And here, I intentionally use “governing armies” in the syntactically ambiguous sense.
In the end, I felt that the military mind – and its product, the Counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy and the Human Terrain System – has not a clue about the nature of cultural differences; their professional staff and contracted anthropologists notwithstanding.
There is neither grasp of nor interest in sustaining cultural integrity in societies outside the Euro-American zone of direct governance – or even within, for that matter. In private conversations, the great majority of them would solve the problems with forcing Afghans to be like USans by “carpet-bombing them back into the Stone Age”.
“The greatest pleasure is to vanquish your enemies, to chase them before you, to rob them of their wealth, to see their near and dear bathed in tears, to ride their horses and sleep on the white bellies of their wives and daughters.” – The Mongol Warlord Genghis Khan, Conqueror of Afghanistan. From T. Royle (1989). A Dictionary of Military Quotations, New York: Simon and Schuster.
“War is a Blast!” – Another Old Warlord, a retired US Armored Officer, is returning for his one last tour in battle, this time reincarnated as a Human Terrain Team Leader for Afghanistan.
This document is from something that is still growing in me. This article arises from field notes that I call my Leavenworth Diary, a few words jotted to remind me of a complex thought, quotes from classroom presentations or comments in the classroom written on scratch paper or in the notebook that I carried while training.
I was training to be deployed to Afghanistan as a Human Terrain Team (HTT) Social Scientist. I participated in the “November Cycle” training class from October 18, 2009 through February 10, 2010. As a cultural anthropologist, ethnographer, I always keep a journal, recording my day’s observations, thoughts and reflections, transcribing notes from scratch paper or the notebook, that I carry with me, into the larger notebook in my study or into the computer transcription that I regularly update. I do this no matter where I am, at home or “abroad”, talking to my family or talking to a family of Inupiaq people in whose village I am a guest. That’s what cultural anthropologists and poets do; fieldwork.
That is what I was doing in Kansas, accidental, incidental fieldwork.
Old Adage: “All’s fair in love and war.”
This all began when I had responded to an internet advertisement on Yahoo! Jobs, asking for anthropologists to work in Afghanistan, where I had done my doctoral research forty years earlier.
I posted my curriculum vitae, and sat back thinking I should hear from them in a few weeks.
Interlude in the Mojave Desert
I was sitting in an apartment in Barstow, California, in the Mojave Desert. Like many of the non-military HTS trainees, whom I was to meet in Leavenworth, I was out of work. I had been terminated from my position with the U.S. Army as Cultural Resource Manager and Post Archaeologist at Fort Irwin, the premiere training facility for final force-on-force exercises before going to war in Afghanistan or Iraq.
I had been terminated for consulting with the State Office of Historic Preservation (described as “going outside the chain of command” even though it was a major duty in my position description) and for proposing that the Post Command obey US law – that Fort Irwin brings its training programs into compliance with the National Historic Preservation Act, Section 106, a stated responsibility in my position description.
I brought a Whistle Blower Protection case against them, and they settled with me out of court; giving to me substantially what I had listed as acceptable ‘relief’ in my lawsuit, a tacit confession that my claim was just.
I came away from the Fort Irwin with the impression that the US Army does not really intend to obey the law, but only continuously delay compliance until the values of the archaeological sites have been entirely destroyed and compliance is no longer required. The Indian tribes gave up on the Army and US law some years ago; just receiving pro forma NEPA letters, sending no replies.
I should have seen in my experience at Fort Irwin as a dark omen for what was coming.
There I sat in my Barstow apartment, “I wonder what anthropologists are doing in Afghanistan with a war going on all around?”
Less than 10 minutes after posting my curriculum vitae, my phone rang. It was the sub-contractor, Command Languages Inc. (CLI Solutions, in Tampa Florida, which has nothing to do with languages. And, likewise, BAE (British Aeronautics Engineering), their prime contractor, from which CLI was artificially and opportunistically spun off, has little to do with that aeronautical engineering in relation to HTS. Both are seeking qualified social scientists and doing personnel management for trainees in HTS.)
CLI was calling me to say they were excited with my application; that I was their “dream candidate”. They requested that I report to Kansas City to begin my training October 18; two weeks!
Swept off my feet with flattery and the promise of extremely high pay (above $100K/year plus a paid residence, a paid rental car and gasoline, and per diem payments that would allow one either to live high off the hog or save even more money; I licked my finger, stuck it into the air to tell which way the winds blew, and I said. “I will be there.”
On September 30, 2009, I began loading my 1989 Dodge Dakota pickup with the furnishings I had acquired living in my apartment in Barstow, in the Mojave Desert.
I then drove to New Mexico and dropped off my load at my family’s home and then drove two days to Kansas City to report for the Human Terrain System training program. I arrived to a fully furnished bachelor apartment and a 2010 Chevy Cobalt with gasoline paid by the contractor as well; meaning by you, USA citizens.
Getting Up-Close with the Military: Becoming One with All That You Can Be
November 5, 2009, Thursday. I am now finishing my third week in the program. As I write, I sit in a classroom in the basement of those old brick buildings, downtown Leavenworth, code name “The Landing”. Today, the US newspaper headlines state that “Pakistan Has No More Control of Its Rogue Army”, and an American Muslim US Army Major has shot 11 people dead and wounded 31 others at Fort Hood, Texas, the largest military base in the world.
We sit in a long, white walled, windowless room at folding banquet tables, a Dell laptop chained to the table in front of each of 36 trainees – who are not chained to the tables; a tangle of cables snake across the floor.
“Islam is a cult!” exclaims the Colonel sitting next to me, loud enough for the entire class to hear. He, like about half the 36 people in the November Cycle, is in his fatigue uniform, a “green-suiter”. [Note: Later information leads me to think that this person was not really one of the trainees, but rather a TRADOC observer and, perhaps, an agent to sound-out any “Section 8” cases and dissidents.]
Getting only silence from me, sitting at his left at the far end of the room from its only door, he casts the bait again, “I am only here to save lives of US troops in Afghanistan.” He makes his contempt very clear for the “foreigners” that he will be serving among – in the land of those foreigners.
The colonel is very sensitive to signals of ideological differences, and he already has me pegged.
If he and I were to go to Afghanistan on the same Human Terrain Team, this Colonel would be my Team Leader, my supervisor, my “superior officer” in the Chain of Command. After hearing me say such things as, “I would like to see the US military performing a role more like the Peace Corps in Afghanistan”, three weeks into the program we already know where we stand in relation to each other.
Strangely enough, from these different starting points – his being that ‘the war is unwinnable and not worth winning’, and mine that ‘it is immoral and un-American’ – Col X and I come to the same conclusion: the US should get out of Afghanistan.
Over the next few months Col X and I had some good exchanges, sometimes calm and reasonable; other times not; being rather characterized by masculine posturing and loud-shouting angry outbursts during class discussion. We also had off-duty time together, including a ride at night on solid ice Omaha streets and boulevards returning to the hotel after dinner as guests of an Afghan family. The colonel had to show me his Jaguar’s road-handling as well as his own skillful daring.
A man among men is always challenged to meet the manliness of the other – mad or not, the pseudo-macho No Fear! I sit silently aware of my seatbelt, projecting unflustered calm as the Jag slides at a canter across two lanes of the ice-coated, busy boulevard that we have turned onto.
Indeed, both in Omaha and in Kansas City, HTS was a wild ride. I was among old professional soldiers, commanding officers, girding up for one last war,
“C’mon, Juliet, hang in there!” says the former armoured battalion commander. “Stick with us Juliet, you will love it! I guarantee it; you’ll have a blast! I was in Kosovo, living in a tent, out in the battlefield; it was a BLAST! War is a Blast!”
“Yes,” I replied “It is that blast, that one you never hear. That is the one that I worry about.”
Candidly, I’ve never been a zealous seeker of blasts, except for like jumping into a cold lake from a rock, because it will soon feel warm and you can enjoy swimming; but a blast that leaves my leg hanging in shreds of bone and white ligaments with clinging meat, I’ll pass on that blast.
These sharings of our feelings and of our convictions – polarized as we were – stand among the more important rewards of participating in the HTS training program. Being inside HTS as a member, a legitimate participant-observer gave me a relatively unguarded view into the inner world of the career military society. I had to question my assumptions and examine the value of the military to civilian life, to “national security”; and I had to question their assumptions, and to question the source of their authority.
I had served an enlisted man in Korea. The officers lived in a different world from me, only coming to the enlisted men’s formations to make formal presentations or comments. They lived, ate, drank and played in different places than did we enlisted men – the working class of the army. Fraternization was sanctioned; don’t get too familiar!
In Leavenworth, I shared my entire weeks with the officers, 8am to 5pm. After the class-days, we each drove – each in his or her separate rental car furnished by tax dollars – thirty minutes to our hotel apartments, where we formed something like a Glass Bead Game or a Magic Mountain community – I also flashed on Aztec sacrifice victims. Each HTS trainee lived anonymously and separately among the other guests at the apartment hotels. But we HTS cadets shared the knowledge of who we were; we recognized each other by something in our stage presence.
Chase Suite Hotel, in the woods along the periferico at the growing fringe of Kansas City, Missouri, where I lived in the lower apartment, on the left, behind the stairs, in building 12. About 50 other HTS candidates also lived there, scattered through the complex. There was another such residence hotel for HTT candidates on the Kansas side of the Missouri River, where half my classmates lived also alongside candidates in other current cycles and an occasional HTT returnee who was transitioning to either another tour of duty or to a role in the HTS training faculty. The management sponsored nightly community dinners and occasional holiday celebrations in the community hall, where they kept a small bar and also a community television and dining room.
I found myself a participant in the inner world of the military officers’ society – with its own protocols and etiquette, its formal and informal social structure, the caste division of officers and enlisted men, the chain of command, the subtle verbal and non-verbal cues and the language of acronyms.
Equally as important were the daily explorations into the inner world – individual minds – of the career military people with whom I spent my days, and sometimes my evenings. At break times or during change of instructors, we conversed about the universe from the perspective of our different realities.
This crossing of wires also allowed my career military classmates a privileged view of my world, my mind. It gave them privileged audience at my performances in those classrooms or in the hallways between classes where I freely gave them my own alternative analyses of the contractors’ presentations and their prevailing view of world history and current events and I even attempted to introduce Edward Sapir’s notion of “culture”, differentiating for them the genuine from the spurious.
In the beginning, I had hopes that I could reframe the HTS program.
However, the military had a conscious agenda for reframing the civilians’ consciousness and perception. Part of the cognitive restructuring was overt, as in the classes that made it clear that the HTT member will be ‘embedded’ in the military structure, just as are news reporters; “harnessed” would be an apter description. Repeatedly, the Stockholm Syndrome was brought up to make clear the “shaping” function of the classes; shaping the consciousness and opinions of those who could be so influenced; building a consensus among the class against those who could not be so influenced, to (r)eject them from the group in the secret, written peer evaluation process that recurred monthly.
I began to see that I was enclosed by those I opposed; and my options were limited. This is addressed in Dell Hymes’ anthology, Reinventing Anthropology (1972, Random House, New York, Vantage Books edition, 1974).
In this view…, one should accept present American life as the best of possible worlds, and there could be no responsible disagreement over ends. Today many view alternative conceptions of what society can be as essential. The threat of totalitarian control in the name of a conception of the future is to be answered by open participation in formulation and criticism of what goals constitute genuine progress, what conditions for the realization of goals are acceptable costs. … Every government, every political force, has some avowed philosophy of the history it seeks to realize. Are those intelligent enough to analyze philosophically to withdraw from civic life or become mindless or cynical servants of powers that be? (p. 16)
If I accepted their assumptions about “reality”, I would have had to agree with their conclusions about patriotic responsibilities; the call to action, The Mission, The Chain of Command, the value of lives of Afghan people compared to USan people, et cetera.
I do not accept the military’s internally shared assumptions about the nature of reality and history, and I do not agree with their conclusions about patriotic responsibilities over-riding human responsibilities – as was the case in Nazi Germany, nor do I agree with their definition of “patriotic”. I am patriotic. They were betraying “American Values”.
I suppose it could be said that I have encountered a limit to my cultural relativism. The military culture was being judged by a civilian anthropologist – a foreigner – as analogous to a cancer, an aggressive computer virus or a saprophytic parasite.
In the end, I think that we – they and I – clearly saw a great gap, a great divide in our distinct and conflicting constructions of fundamentally different realities. Looking at the same scene, they saw one thing and I another. I increasingly realized that I was looking at a truly distinct, ancient cultural system that is separate, independent, but inserted deep into the US society and participating aggressively in promoting values, defining national identity, and interpreting history and current events, with deep allies in government and industry.
In the end, I felt that the military mind – and its product, the COIN strategy and the Human Terrain System – has not a clue about the nature of cultural differences; their professional staff and contracted anthropologists notwithstanding. There is neither grasp of nor interest in sustaining cultural integrity in societies outside the Euro-American societies proper – or even within, for that matter.
In private conversations, the great majority of them see the goal – forcing Afghanistan into the pattern that the US has been forced into – “democratic” government and free-enterprise capitalism, open to do business with the world’s corporations – as a hopeless case. “Carpet-bomb them back into the Stone Age” was their candid solution.
Col X, like someone with Tourette syndrome, said aloud the things that they were all thinking. But, as I said, he might have been simply acting a role as a TRADOC provocateur.
We are worlds apart, the humanist anthropologist and the career soldier.
Each of us in his own way, Col X and I and a few of the other officers communicated – from one world to the culturally Other world – her or his acknowledgment of the worldview differences, recognition of the separate realities from which each viewed the Other, while each was feeling and showing respect for, acknowledging the validity of that difference, live and let live … for now; but watchful, andexpecting that anything could happen.
Be prepared! That’s the Boy Scout © Marching Song.
And, that watchfulness sharpened, remained in my own heart and mind and remained reflected in their eyes, in their words, and in non-verbal signs and vibes, that underlying tension, that distrust, was there even in the more relaxed moments that this anthropologist shared with these Old Warlords as we camped together on the banks of the Missouri River.
Our relationship was written.
Entering the Modern Global Enterprise of Warfare through Human Terrain
The Human Terrain System (HTS) in 2009 was central to the US Army’s publicly-fostered image of today’s US WarFighters in action. HTS, including all its Human Terrain Teams (HTT) and the many contracted private corporations that provide materials, training and other services to HTS are part of the new way that warfare is packaged for sale to the tax-payers and investors world-wide. It is a trillion-dollar business.
The new package is sold as Counterinsurgency Strategy (COIN) at media outlets near you, disguised as “news”.
COIN is a marketing strategy for products of the warfare industry – including trained personnel, known as “human capital” or “human resources” – and for war in general as a solution to international cultural diversity; a stumbling block for capitalist “democracy”.
You will know this mating of government, military and the warfare industries as the Military Industrial Complex. It ripples its effects across the entire USA and the entire global economy. You probably recognize some of its brand names, like Halliburton, Blackwater, McDonald-Douglas, etc. Others of equal or greater connections with the Department of Defense (DoD) – like BAE – I had never heard of before HTS training, when I still thought I was pretty hip and that I knew a lot about the nature of government and military and had participated in protests, sit-ins and marches and even rowed a boat out in front of a nuclear submarine to protest its entry into Northwest waterways. Now I was realizing how naive I had been, and still am.
[Footnote: There is a deep dependence and interconnectedness of much of the civilian economy on Defense Department funds, and on funds that pass through other departments when performing functions related to Defense, such as intelligence-gathering. Barber shops, electricians, computer analysts, restaurants, supermarkets and many other businesses and workers in military-based industrial zones would lose their main sources of income; as would those in little towns that have grown dependent upon the hundreds of inter-continental ballistic missile sites and the myriad of other types of special military installations, in North America, Europe, and far beyond. One cannot simply cut the budget for these facilities. It is not only numbers of dollars; it is lives of people who have been made dependent upon it in lieu of an alternative livelihood; just like unemployed Social Scientists finding jobs in HTS. There has to be a new economic path for those in each DoD-dependent community to develop a new livelihood infrastructure.]
The Warfighter strategy remains the same as always, to defeat The Enemy. However, in the new human terrain framework of COIN, the military machine has new fighting technology. I am not talking about weapons such as drone killer planes and all the long-range detection and execution abilities. No, this new fighting technology is coming out of Psychological Operations (“psy-ops) and TRADOC’s Intelligence Support Operations (which comes out in mil-talk as TRISA).
Those new hi-tech weapons complicate the dangers of “collateral damage”, including killing civilians, due to “technical errors”, bad information, malicious misinformation or miscalculations. As a result, old farmers, young mothers, wedding celebrants, children at school and many other civilians are among the innocent dead. Major infrastructure, such as residences, water supplies, electrical supplies, roads, bridges and so on are destroyed.
If the war were accurately portrayed in “the media” then this violence against Afghan people would be the biggest part of what is portrayed.
If the US and the rest of the Free World see only the violence that is warfare, then people will form negative feelings toward the USA and toward funding the US military.
If the US DoD budget suffers, so does RAND Corporation, McDonald-Douglas, Halliburton and many other contractors and their employees and their profit margins and the values of their stocks, making investors uncomfortable and threatening “national security”..
So, the military wants to divert attention from the violent (“kinetic”) warfare that is most of what military units are trained for and equipped for. They want to put the spotlight on the not-violent (COIN) warfare that is the picture of the young USan woman dressed in full battle gear, sitting on the ground inside a mud courtyard wall with a group of turbaned Pashto elders, sipping tea, smiling, writing their concerns in a notebook.
Helping the Media to Tell the (Military’s version of) Truth
The Army has recognized that the image of the war as violence must get a face lift. So, the military now “embeds” media professionals; and more recently, social science professionals, all to provide a different perception of the war to those who pay the bills. Instructor said, “If you control the media, and you say it is true, then it is true.”
The mere presence of the HTT in the Area of Operations; the image of the woman in battle gear sitting with the Elders, sipping tea, that is what we want to show as the face of the USA at war.
This is all the news that’s fit to print (New York Times’ motto) or to broadcast by the embedded reporters. HTT is the new image of warfare. Whatever else the US military might be doing in the Area of Operations, this is what the US and global media will report in their daily news because this is where the brigade command will send its embedded reporters.
This will provide rebuttal to the thousands of photos of edgy US “Warfighters” in advanced battle gear kicking down doors in homes and businesses.
Obeying General McChrystal, kinetic warfare, violent warfare, will be pushed to backstage; “winning the hearts and the minds” of the people will be front stage.
In the media “news” USans and their allies will be shown the HTT having tea with the Elders and will be told, “This is what is really going on in Afghanistan.” Then, it is true.
We’re from the Government, We’re here to Help.
Here, in the projected media image, the young professional woman and the native translator are meeting with the village leaders. She is the team’s social scientist, and – like the Afghan translator – is in full battle fatigues, helmet, body armor, boots and her rifle at her side, accompanied by the rest of the military platoon. The Yanks hold their rifles at the ready, edgily jerking to face one direction, then another, darting glances this way and that, checking rooftops, guarding the perimeter and the nearby armored Humvees where the 50mm gunner sits sweating in the turret. None of this will be part of the press report.
The press report will show the tribal elders are sitting down with the soldiers in the shade of an old tree, inside a mud-walled courtyard. And the narrative for the photos tells that they are planning a joint project, drinking three cups of tea, finding common ground, moving the People out of the control of The Bad Guys, educating the women and both girl and boy children, helping the farmer get water to his fields; thinking up some infrastructure improvement project that would include temporary jobs for the men..
That is the way Human Terrain Teams are portrayed by the US Military to the US public and to the Federal Government. P.R.
What Human Terrain Teams actually do contrasts sharply with the Public Affairs image of HTS. This contradiction is the underlying reason for the constant cultivating of the Stockholm Syndrome pressure, both among the class members and by the contracted instructors. They kept massaging our viewpoints, shaping of our reality, making it clear what our actual roles would be once embedded.
Here are two groups of excerpts from my class journal to illustrate this mind-shaping. The persons quoted are subcontractors working for Develop MentalLabs, Inc. (Yes, that is really their corporate name.) who are all retired officers of the rank of Colonel or above, and all are now making more money by far that their military pay. The military takes care of its own brothers in arms.
Monday, 10/26 (beginning second week of training)
Afternoon – Team Composition
Team leaders tend to be or to have been of the rank of Colonel, Lt. Colonel or Major. Some are retired Generals. Their job is to mould the team into the fit the military unit needs. Human Terrain Analyst, Research Manager, Social Scientist.
HTT Purpose – “to leverage non-lethal effects.”
Col X stated, in one of his anti–cult outbursts, loudly asserts that “All great historic changes have been brought about by the military through warfare.” I decided not to ask him about the changes brought by Jesus Christ or by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.
11/20/2009 Dr. Tom Marks – Global COIN and Analytical Methods for COIN Analysts.
Marks has been working in Colombia as advisor/contractor. There, he finds, Lack of Strategic Clarity, but also “mission creep”. He defines a civil war within Islam, between “extremists” and the accepted “good” part of Islam. (Implying that ‘we’ might exploit it.)
Also he defines “extremists” within our own USA society’s discussion – exemplified by Noam Chomsky, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda … (Zionists are, by definition, excluded), comparing them to non-Islamic terrorists in such places as Colombia, Nepal, Phillippines, Somalia …
This he calls “Mission Creep” in the War on Terror; and he sees it as opportunity to remake the world in the way “we” (the USans) want it. You just keep following and killing the Bad Guys until you’ve got them all, everywhere. Then the world will be safe for business enterprise, survival of the fittest, and we will all have jobs and security.
Simple. Not easy, Lots of tax dollars needed. Don’t expect results for a long time. It’s gonna be a long war.
In other words, the War on Terror has become the umbrella for getting the Bad Guys anywhere on the earth; guys that They – the NATO global military society, heirs of the Roman Empire and its child, the Crusades – all agree on, like Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales, Fidel Castro, Mahmud Ahmadinajad, Daniel Ortega, Kim Jong Il, …. Muslims, socialists, communists, … they are all The Enemy; the Bad Guys.
The Bad Guys disagree with the assumptions of global capitalism and advocate a different kind of social order. Both socialism and Islam have the interest of the people and the social order as a main purpose; greedy profiteering is frowned upon; and this doesn’t set well with the Tea Party and those who are the real decision-makers in the USA.
So, it seems that COIN is really about the obliteration of all alternatives to global capitalism.
The War on Terror morphed from “terrorism” (people using violent means to achieve a political goal) to “Global Insurgency” (a global uprising of peoples). So, Global COIN arose to respond to Global Insurgency.
“Violent Extremism” then extends to Mission Colombia where “we have been doing this – intimately involved in the war against FARC for at least 40 years.” (Marks)
The US Ambassador to Colombia was recently moved to Afghanistan to apply the methods he had developed in Colombia. There, he:
- Called town hall meetings open to all in small regional areas.
- Developed “Councils of Popular Governance”, which then connects to
- “Councils of Security.”
Fundamentals of State Legitimacy
Those who attended the Councils of Governance and of Security gave legitimacy to the Regime in Control, even if only a minority of the People participated.
“Insurgency is armed politics.”
“Terrorism is armed politics that uses violence against innocent populace to shock and awe.” [Hmmm, wasn’t that what US bragged about doing in Iraq? Aren’t they also doing that in Pakistan and Afghanistan?.]
Note: Marks is on the faculty at one of a network of military universities that also merge into programs at public and private universities such as University. of Michigan, Harvard, the Naval Academy, Georgetown, University of Nebraska… etc
He takes time to redefine terms for the COIN rhetoric:
“In the ‘60s, “revolution” was used as a synonym of “insurgency”.
“Insurgents are always trying to challenge what is.” (i.e., what has been established and sanctioned by NATO and the USA, such as the current governments of Iraq or Afghanistan. Those who rise up against what the USA recognizes as the valid government are “insurgents”. They are insurgents even if the government that the people are rising up against was established by occupiers, or as with the Israelis in Palestinian Territory, where the Israeli armed forces are the effective controlling government within a state – Palestine – even though Palestine has its own elected government. For the purpose of COIN strategy, if the Palestinian people rise up against occupying Israeli troops in Palestinian Territory, the Palestinians will be defined as the “insurgents.”)
Using the “System Restore” Command in Counterinsurgency Strategy
COIN strategy is committed to maintaining the status quo when we like it. But if, as in Bolivia and Venezuela, we don’t like the status quo, we might define it by what the state was like before the socialist revolution.
The current state government becomes, or becomes defined as a (hopefully temporary) successful insurgency. Evo Morales’ government and Hugo Chavez’s government. as well as Nicauragua, Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, Argentina, and many others in Latin America and many others globally fit into this as portrayed in the US media and government statements, especially as revealed in WikiLeaks.
The obvious job of the US military is to remove that established government of the successful insurgents and restore the rule of the US’s preferred, prior government – as it facilitated in Honduras; though the “insurgents” were elected there – through some sort of counterinsurgency movement paid for and trained by the Good Guys. In other words, we would train an insurgent movement, but call them “counter-insurgents” because they are trying to restore the system to some past condition that the US approved of.
[Breaktime, as I logged into my computer, “an invalid argument was encountered”. Hmm, how serendipitous!]
GWOT = Global War on Terror in COIN-Talk’s acronyms.
“Insurgency is a social movement that uses violence as a tactic within a method and logic of action.”
“Terrorism is armed political communication.” (Shock and Awe.)
“A pure terrorist group attacks The People.”
Successful mobilization of a popular uprising stems from economic, social and political deficiencies in the current government/economy. Those who seek change approach the population as both the Means and the Battlefield.
Here’s a cute vignette recorded in class: In order to “debunk” any ideas that revolutionaries are heroes, Dr. Marks uses Tarzan mobilizing the animals of the jungle as equivalent to Che Guevara’s mobilization of the Cuban people, which Marks portrays as organization from the “Top down”.
Marks pounds his chest and yodels to represent the Cuban uprising as crude. He claims, “It didn’t even work in Cuba. Che cooked the records” (Marks never documents his assertion that “it didn’t work”, and that Che “cooked the books”. I see this type of Psy-Ops as HTS giving the HTS trainees the sheep-dip treatment to disabuse us of any romantic ideas about revolutionary heroes.
He classifies Mao’s strategy as “bottom up”.
Marks: “If I say it, and I control media communications, then it is true.”
[Now, I ask you, is that “bottom up”?]
Like the Canadian and other main presenters (soldier or civilian, all have had a military career previously), Dr. Marks displays erudition – including personal knowledge and experience, in a rhetoric that creates a comparison in which “our way” is inherently the end goal of proposed transformation of these “Third World” nations ranging from Nepal and Afghanistan to Latin America, the Caribbean and equatorial Africa and the entire area of Philippines, Indonesia. SE Asoa, etc.
This shows the advertised purpose of HTS as facilitating an understanding of the world of the Afghans is absurd; something doesn’t match up.
He eagerly “debunks” any positive self-image of those places, all which have insurgent potential from the US military ideological perspective.
He portrays only all the other First World nations – England, France, Spain, Germany … – as having had colonial ambition in these places, while the US was only there to provide aid/USAID. He ignores the facts that anthropologist Gerald Berreman made public in the 1960’s regarding anthropologists working for the CIA along the Tibetan border, and what Louis Dupree was doing at the time I was in Afghanistan; and what is, no doubt, going on there and everywhere today.
That is to say, counter-intelligence spying by social scientists and other professionals runs through most government and private funding agencies.
CIA personnel or operatives can be found working in most of the other non-military programs in Afghanistan, or in any nation. They hold staff positions in the USAID, or in US funded programs at Kabul University, at the US embassy, in the US Geological Survey which has an outpost in Kabul (Kabul, USA?), the US Department of Agriculture and many other places, including in-country academic research programs/grants.
Get this! Dr. Marks asserts that all idealistic goals, such as ethnic/linguistic self-determination, universal education, … etc, these are all simply to rouse and recruit the poor exploited masses to get them involved in a violent insurgency; and once the insurgent cadre has gained power, those goals will become only idle words.
That is what Dr. Marks asserts. Then, of course, there is reality! The record of social change in places like Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia stand in contradiction to this assertion. The ideals in these socialist societies serve as guidelines for the revolution that was born out of the uprising; the “war of liberation”.
The “revolution” is the actual day-to-day work of raising the standards of education and assuring it to all people; providing housing and sanitation facilities for all people; providing food to all, medical care for all; … these take over the driving force of the government from the grass root people up to the leaders, replacing the profit motive. In several of those nations who not only hold but practice their idealistic goals, the work of carrying them out is its own advertisement that rouses and recruits the masses, the people, now better educated, with more industrial skills; rouses them to respond with energy for carrying out the changes that their parents’ uprising made possible.
Are the US and NATO getting such a result with the peoples of Afghanistan?
[Note: As I read back on my thoughts then, I see it this way: This is as though I am writing out my inner dialog arising from each day’s events. The environment in the classroom allows very little opportunity to take detailed notes or to use a camera, of course. So, writing out my thoughts served as a way to contextualize the very controlled social and cultural environment that I observed as I was participating in and being indoctrinated into it.]
Marks: Metrics have been developed to measure advancement of Tangible (landscape) and Intangible (minds) campaigns. [That way, we put the metrics into our PowerPoint and use it in our pitch for increased program budget.]
[Note: This is what you will see, later, is Marilyn Mitchell’s rationale for her entire “ethnographic methods” approach – “Metrics”.]
Physiognomy reveals something about mind; especially asymmetries of the face and the eyes. This sketch of the instructor in “ethnographic methods”, which was taught by a Hollywood marketing research contractor, was done during class. I was bored and disgusted. The several weeks of class lectures were totally unrelated to ethnographic method.
Classes of Warfare:
1. Terror; 2. Guerrilla; 3. Main Force; 4. War of Position.
Assess “the glue” that holds the movement together or holds the state together.
The Peace Movement designates the government as the Bad Guys.
Insurgents/Terrorists play by “Big Boy Rules”. [And, we know who the Big Boy is.]
Dr. Marks takes the same position as Greenberg on the West Bank – Israel is the legitimate government, Palestinians are insurgents; in Palestinian Territory!
He points out that the Maoists in Nepal controlled the narrative. Marks controls the narrative. He leaves out the factor of the Military-Industrial Complex: the US government, the warfare industries, and the US military..
After having said that other nations, but not the USA, had colonial interest in the outcome in Nepal, Marks then tells us that the US had 500 troops involved – but Lost! Marks was one of the US officers on that mission.
In the end, as Dwight Eisenhower warned us, the one who wins from war is …the Military-Industrial Complex that is the warfare industries linking together both private and government sectors.
2 February 2010
Gordon Obermiller, Marine Colonel, Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) Commander returned from his second AF tour, emphasizes differences from State Department personnel and USAID personnel. He portrays both USAID and State Department as irresponsible and not up to military standards. Clearly, Obermiller believes that the elected US government should obey the US military command, not the inverse. The Commander in Chief should implement the military’s desires.
This is actually because both of these compete with the Army for DoD funds for similar functions.
Obermiller, responding to an Afghan official’s comment that the US does not seem to have the Afghan people’s best interest in mind:
“It’s true that we don’t have their (the Afghan people’s) best interests in mind. What we want is a compromise between what they need and what we want.”
[Note he does not say, “… between what they want and what we want”, which would require good faith consultation to learn what they want. Rather, the US military will decide what they need and then seek a compromise on that to accommodate what the US Army wants.]
Lee Hockman, retired Colonel, Public Affairs.
“Don’t defend the HTS program; explain your motivation for being voluntarily in it.”
They want to help us to express ourselves as HTS members. They will teach us how to do that, the Army Way!.
Great Quotes by Hockman:
“In an interview, always work your response to all questions back to one key message; e.g., “We save lives.””
“Don’t memorize what you are supposed to say. Focus on your personal experience … what you know … with the left and right boundaries [within the approved script]. You will sound more authentic.
You don’t want to sound scripted.’
“The enemy doesn’t obsess over whether what they say is true or correct. We shouldn’t either.”
“The slogan, “winning the hearts and minds of the people” is just a slogan. That objective is not realistic.”
Hockman differentiates Public Affairs (PA) from Psy Ops (Psychological Operations). PA “informs” while Psy Ops “tries to influence.” But “PA helps to establish conditions [in the mind of the US public] that will lead to confidence in the Army.”
[So, Public Affairs is Psy-Ops carried out against the US population – domestic counterinsurgency. This was mentioned in David Price’s initial response (above) and comes up later in the Weston Resolve counterinsurgency war-game in Missouri and Kansas.]
“We like the embedding of (news) reporters because it forms their (the news reporters’) perspective.”
[Note: This is also why they like the embedding of the “social scientists”?]
“Truth is relative. The job is to sell your credibility.”
“Plausible deniability” is the first escape from blame for collateral damage.
[Go back and dig your bullets out of the corpses, then tell them you didn’t do it, it was Taliban.]
“Public Affairs consists of offensive or defensive Information Ops”.
Summing Up the Intent of the HTS Training
These excerpts transmit the intent of the HTS training: to download to the military worldview, values and perception into the cadet social scientist’s CPU.
With such a restructuring of the military’s image at stage front, the theme of war seems to be different. Post-Modern war stories are not stories about brutal force used to overpower or to kill resisters among the peoples whom we want to dominate.
COIN says, “No, war today is about using highly educated social scientists to help people to free themselves from tyranny, to learn how to function as a democracy, to establish a government that will interface with the US and the rest of the “civilized”, “democratic” or “free” (read “free-enterprise capitalist”) world in an acceptable manner both politically and economically, installing flush toilets and satellite TV, inviting MacDonald’s and Starbucks to open there and having tea together.”
That is the way the new COIN warfare is portrayed, and HTS is at the heart of the fostered illusion. And the fostered illusion is at the heart of HTS’s raison d’être.
Within the Counterinsurgency (COIN) framework of how to present a war to the USA and to the global public, the HTS is the face of a kinder and gentler war, a culturally sensitive war. This New Warfare is presented through the media, whether from “embedded” reporters, from TRADOC’s Public Information Officers’ official news releases; or by any of the other sophisticated methods and effective channels of lobbying and pressuring and “educating” that the US Department of Defense and its Coterie of Contractors (DODCOC) (I’m joking!) can do.
An impressive array of techniques have developed over the past century to influence the US congress, the public and the world media.
COIN is TRADOC’s masterpiece.
COIN Strategy: Dissimulating Rhetoric and Ancillary Side-Shows
To be explicit: the raison d’être of HTS is to draw media focus away from the brutal truth that the nature of the battlefield has only changed technologically, not experientially, since the time of Genghis Khan, the Roman conquest of Europe, or of Europe’s invasion of the American indigenous societies. The larger and truer story of a battle or a war is still a story of one people’s army invading another people’s homes and using lethal force in trying to dominate the peoples and to control their interrelationships, and their access to their land and their resources. “To the victor goes the spoils.”
And here’s where the “non-lethal leverage” comes in. It is trying to convince the people that what they are seeing is not what is happening.
They call this “moving the Center of Gravity” of the people who aren’t committed to the Bad Guys toward the USan side. That is what HTS is sold to the USA people as its intent and capability. But, as one of our former Colonels pointed out, “That is not realistic”.
Counterinsurgency is about how to present the war to the US taxpayer and to the world community. COIN is the US military’s explanation and sales pitch trying to put the best possible face on what they are doing in and doing to Afghanistan and doing to Iraq, with other theaters-in-preparation in Africa, Latin America, Indonesia, Malaysia and maybe even inside the USA – “mission creep”.
The final practical exercise was known as Weston Resolve. The assignment was to gather strategic intelligence on people and groups north of Kansas City – US citizens, including American Indians who had been resettled there along the Missouri River, when they were the defeated “insurgents”. Now, I finally, clearly saw COIN’s potential.
Human Terrain Teams are the poster-children of this global military campaign, the Flower Child for Global Warfare, the portavoz for the Warfare Industry Sector, both public and private.
The Human Terrain System is the Lipstick on the Hippopotamus
This HTS program and the COIN strategy of which it is but one key part, is an advertisement program for itself, to the world, by the world’s richest nation with the most powerful military in history, at a time when history is at a tipping point.
At a time when more people in the USA are following the war as they do any other TV drama or special series, tuned in to the media internationally, HTS is the Super Bowl or World Cup advertisement for this new attempt by the US and Europe to gain control of the field, or to maintain control of its “vital interests” or its “national security interests” globally, and to establish themselves as The Good Guys.
How the Toe Bone is COINnected to the Head Bone
That COIN management framework articulates the HTS within a larger military structure and chain of command. It originates within the Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC).
TRADOC puts the spin on the Army’s projected media reality, both for the purpose of training/indoctrinating soldiers and for “educating” or “informing” the US public and the world through the civilian news media. Within TRADOC, HTS is located under the Intelligence Support Activity division (TRISA). The Public Relations function is planned and executed by Director, formerly retired Colonel Fondacaro, Lead Social Scientist, formerly anthropologist McFate, and their staff and extensive contracted assistance.
The mix of executive civilian and military lead staff of the HTS Directorate is embedded as one Directorate among many Directorates within the Training and Doctrine Command; that is, deep within the doctrine and intelligence segment of the US Army bureaucracy.
The civilian component of the HTS Directorate, includes the Lead Social Scientist and her small staff, under the supervision of Retired Colonel Steve Fondacaro, Director, who also supervises all the other retired officers who serve as Seminar Leaders [combining mentor, counselor and host functions] for each training cycle.
The HTS Directorate is a severely subordinated auxiliary of TRADOC. They sit within the deep structure of the military’s chain of command; with little possibility of fresh air seeping down into those deep catacomb haunts housing the hidden experimental projects that the fat military budget has hatched and is incubating in eastern Kansas, at taxpayer’s expense, out of the taxpayer’s view. These are truths that most USans don’t really want to know.
The HTS Staff produces and manages Human Terrain Teams, developing contracts with private defense contractors for the training of its cadets. The prime contractor for the recruitment and training of HTT candidates is BAE Systems. The HTS executive staff also conceives and develops news releases, participates in public events and professional meetings and develops advertising and promotional materials, with approval of those above them in the Chain of Command.
Training staffs are contracted from semi-retired military officers who have formed private corporations, such as Develop Mental Labs, and Red Team. Because the people in these corporations are all Brothers in Arms, there is a lot of interchange and cooperation between them, and also including coaching from HTS both in developing proposals and in designing classes. The training is mostly aimed at the civilians in the training classes; especially the social scientists, to integrate them into the military culture, using the Stockholm Syndrome process to shape our values and perceptions.
Each Human Terrain Team is nominally a civilian unit, employed as Federal civilian employees attached as a battlefield instrument of the US military. It consists of these positions:
- a Social Scientist (preferably an anthropologist with prior field experience in the country, qualities rarely achieved),
- a Human Terrain Analyst (can be anything from a geographer to political scientist, etc., with skills to integrate information from all sources and make analyses related to the Commander’s needs);
- a Research Manager (which function was never explained, but computer spread-sheets, data bases and such are a fundamental skill); and
- the Team Leader (a military officer of rank of Colonel or above).
All these functions have the same occupational status, “Intelligence Specialist”. The Team Leader and the Social Scientist will have a civilian grade of GG-15, while the other two will have the grade of GG-13. These are at the pay levels of regional or national program officers in most Federal Civil Service positions.
HTT is usually embedded within the advisory staff of a Brigade Commander, where the Human Terrain Team Leader – always a former military officer – is subordinated to another officer who is a member of the Brigade Commander’s Staff with a specific function. For example, the Human Terrain Team Leader might be attached as an auxiliary function to the “Intelligence”, or the “Civil Affairs” officers of the Brigade Commander’s Staff (both having intelligence-gathering functions).
If I am a Social Scientist on the HTT of a Brigade of about 4,000 men, and I want to communicate with the Brigade Commander, I must first discuss this with my Team Leader. Perhaps he will then talk to the member of the Brigade Commander’s Staff who is his superior officer and liaison to the Command Staff. If the staff officer decides that the Commander needs to hear this and if the Commander has an interest, he will schedule it during the Daily Briefing for a 5-minute PowerPoint presentation by the particular Staff Member who supervises the HTT. Then, the Team Leader will decide whether to include the Social Scientist in the meeting with the Brigade Commander and his Staff, or to do it himself, and what role the Social Scientist will play in the PowerPoint presentation, if any..
The new COIN focus of the military image is the context within which HTS was developed as the public face of the US Army “winning the hearts and minds” of the local civilian population; winning the innocent majority away from supporting the “insurgents’ – the Bad Guys in the Area of Operations (AO). “A Battle of the Minds” as Fidel would say.
Highly educated “social scientists” are presented as selflessly putting their lives on the line to help the US military win the hearts and minds of those Afghan peoples, turning them away from the evil force of the Taleban or other “extremists”, expediting schools for their children, providing water for household use, new crops to replace “drug crops”, opium poppies and marijuana/hashish plants.
This projected image is aimed more at the US media and NATO allies than at the Afghans.
The Afghans know the truth. They are the Human Terrain.
If viewed from the raw perspective of war, the outlook for Afghans is bleak indeed. Consequently, the outlook for a smiling outcome for the US war there looks bleak.
The tragic truth of thousands of civilian deaths has turned the hearts and minds of the people of Afghanistan toward a unified resistance; to consensually turn the invaders away, or simply wait them out.
But, in reality, HTS has little concern with that. As one of our instructors said, “Winning the hearts and the minds of the Afghan people is not a realistic goal.”
The Pressure is Turned Up in the Last Two Months of Training
By the beginning of the third month of training, I note a change of tone and mood to a more high-stress military culture. We are told, “You are knee-deep in what was considered the Intel Process.” (But, Sir, no intelligence gathering; you promised! … Shut up soldier!)
Listen up! This is a major point: In the new COIN-Speak, “Intelligence Preparation of the Battlefield” (IPB of course) has become “Cultural Preparation of the Environment” (CPE). As far as I can tell, the function is identical: gathering intelligence that has tactical value for the Brigade Commander’s “kinetic” (violent) operations against Afghan villages who resist US occupation.
HTS is an Innovative Intrapreneurial Venture.
As an entrepreneurial enterprise within the United States Government’s Department of Defense, HTS is competing for funding, and competing for Program status in the Federal Defense Budget with other such innovative intelligence-gathering ventures. All these various Proof-of-Concept “projects”, such as the Human Terrain System Project, are lined up in competition for a place in the budget and for recognition as a “program” to serve an intelligence-gathering function for the Department of Defense.
A free enterprise business atmosphere has been growing around warfare and defense during the past 50 years; and maybe since Roman days. There is an appearance of competition within directorates of the military itself and among the private contractors (exclusively made of retired military officers). Among the Department of Defense competitors and the top civilian defense contractors – offering material products, all kinds and levels of support services and staffs of retired military officers from all specialties – HTS is only one Proof of Concept project, among many Intelligence-hawking corporations, public and private.
That large pot of Defense funding is needed to do the re-fitting of the US Army to function according to the new Counterinsurgency Handbook for establishing, or preventing a New World Order. Each of these private contractors and public agencies and directorates are presenting their case for getting a cut of the intelligence budget’s pie. The intelligence budget is widely distributed and includes partial intelligence funding to such as CIA, USAID, USDA, US Geological Survey, various university programs, and even such dignified scholarship programs as Fulbright.
Of course, the HTS administration – from the Directorate down to the newest seminar leader and returned HTT member – understand this corporate business-like aspect of competing for funding. There is a large advertising effort directed at the decision-makers – the contractor who teaches ethnographic methods, is, in fact a marketing research specialist, and serves on the HTS Social Science Advisory Committee.
And this is where HTS really serves to sell the entire new COIN image of the US Army; making it more marketable to the tax payers and the politicians who must pay the bill for the related war industries and maintaining their infrastructures.
These war-dependent industries see the COIN conceptual framework and the related HTS image of “preparing the cultural environment”, as part of the military’s public relations. This military confederacy, both government and private, all cooperate in advertising the COIN image of the New Warfighter, to win the hearts and minds, and votes and tax dollars of the US Government and the US citizens.
If HTS wins Program status within the Department of Defense’s budget, its future budget will be assured as a recurring line item in the budget of one or several agencies.
HTT Cadets’ Motive?
I would venture that all HTS social scientist trainees/cadets have applied for this program because they were unemployed. They were anthropologists, historians, and other “social scientists”; in fact they were part of the population of humanities professionals who had found highly paid work in an economy that was getting worse, even though the demand for professionals in the social sciences and the humanities has been declining steeply since before 1980.
This is the same motive that leads members of US racial and ethnic minority groups, often of higher unemployment than US Anglos, join the military. They need money.
Perhaps ethically ambivalent, those who enrolled – including me – were, nonetheless, swayed by the outrageous pay they would receive. Above $100,000 per year and all living and transportation expenses paid; total value near $250,000 per year.
A fraction of the HTT candidates on some teams, including me, came to Kansas City intending to somehow influence the strategy of the command and change the role that an anthropologist would play in relation to the Command’s perceptions of the Afghan people and of the military’s role among them.
As a new cadet, I needed training in kinetic-military (killitary, not culinary) culture and in-doctrine-nation in Counterinsurgency Theory; and I got it. And I got it again, and again.
We cadets of the HTS are instructed to speak about the occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and we are subject to conditioning exercises to think about this as a war of liberation, bringing “Freedom, Democracy and (especially) Education!” to the Afghan people. We – The Good Guys – are freeing them from ignorance, oppression, and violence – caused by The Bad Guys, who were originally described in US “news” media and policy statements as being outsiders – Arabs, Al Qaeda and such. They were outsiders who had surged into Afghanistan to cause problems.
[Footnote: I thought that was why the military and politicians called them “in-surgents”. That was how ignorant I was of this other ideological world inside the US, the world within the US military.]
Essentially, I wanted to change the manner and the state of mind in which international affairs are conducted. I advocated abandoning the occupying nation approach and adopting instead an inter-cultural approach and the adjustment of the military to fit this new Mission; more like a Peace Corps Exchange Mission.
I look back now, smiling at my delusion.
At this early point, [Footnote: this note was around November 5th] I could say that it has already been made very clear through a pervasive message in our training that we will be operating as instruments of the Chain of Command in a violent war of occupation.
Dark Places in Our Minds: the Underworld, The Underground, and the Insurgents
The US Government/Military coalition advertises the surface motive of bringing freedom and democracy and removing Bad Guy Outsiders by which the US justifies its military actions in Afghanistan. Under this is the motive arising from great anger against The Enemy who conducted the September 11, 2001 attacks on USA soil; and the notion that the nerve center, the brain of The Enemy, was and is based in the mountains and deserts of Afghanistan.
There – in the most hidden caves under ancient mud and stone farm houses set at the base of massive granite mountain ridges and glaciated peaks above the remote valley – it is believed by the media informed by the military – are two or three of the most important Bad Guys, and the worst of them all, Usama Bin Laden. They are, in bush terms, “holed up” in a cave with all the most advanced current technology, and accompanied by the indigenous Afghan Resistance leaders, all off the radar, unfindable with the most current intelligence technology and sought by highly trained mercenary spies and guerilla fighters.
These are the leaders of the insurgents; or so the story is being constructed as the background context of news bites, artificially flavored to be consumed by the US public and provided to the international media with the US’s own translations.
The reason the occupying forces have not been able to defeat the “insurgents” is that the insurgents are not foreigners, not from the outside. It is The Peoples of Afghanistan who are the insurgents.
They are part of a historic tribal network that has arisen and then dissipated many times over millennia of history. Somehow, and often funded directly or indirectly by the US and its current allies, these few key leaders have managed to muster an army at every point where the US and NATO forces try to gain and claim control.
For the most part, there are no “outsiders”; there are only spokesmen who arise, coordinate, and speak for the real leaders who are mostly local tribal-community leaders. These leaders simply give voice and organization to the people’s desire to remove the invaders. It is these ones who rise up, leading their people to force the invading NATO forces to depart, to go home; to leave Afghanistan – again and finally – to Afghans.
Counterinsurgency Theory in a Nutshell
These indigenous Afghan resistance leaders include the leaders arising from the core of the US-overthrown “Taleban” government –accused of hosting international terrorists. These included leaders who also were part of the US-supplied Mujahideen that led the overthrow of the Soviets, or both these and something else.
By the USans, they are now also called “insurgents”. In COIN-speak this is a non-governmental organization trying to take control of Afghanistan’s now “legitimately elected, democratic government”, headed by Hamid Karzai (formerly an insurgent leader), who was installed by the US after the overthrow of the established Taleban government, which had also come to power with US assistance.
So, you see, the fortunes of leaders change from Good Guys to Bad Guys and back to Good Guys.
That is how it works: The US decides that, in their judgment, another government’s “lack of competence” and lack of public support (taxes to pay for infrastructure fitting the requirements of the US) justifies the State being called a “Failed State”. This can be brought about by other covert or overt actions to undermine that government; as is the case with the economic blockade of Cuba. In the Cuba case it has failed for 50 years.
The US State Department defines the nation as “a failed state”, then
- identifies a power faction that it can support/subvert,
- gives that faction tacit recognition and financial/military assistance as the “legitimate and democratic” government,
- labels the ruling faction the “insurgents” and then
- declares a war on the insurgents to save, or to install, an approved, “legitimate” government.
Then the US will bring “free” gifts of economic development and education, once the government is installed and secured from the forces of the insurgents – the “extremists”, by US military forces.
So, once the identities of the Good Guys and the Bad Guys are established, we go about our usual business of killing the Bad Guys. However, in order to provide the embedded media something other than the truth of the war that is where most of the action is, we make a big show of doing “research” to understand the hearts and minds – “the culture” – of the people we have occupied and dominated and are destroying.
It is this image of our bright, sensitive young social scientists out among the “tribal” foreigners, helping the military to avoid violent actions by simply winning over the hearts and minds of the “undecided”. This image of winning over what we might want to think of as “the middle class”; this is the real purpose of HTS. But, the Army does not really expect to win their hearts and minds. This image is for the US and European public.
Of course, all this is normal, main-stream USan imagery; not what’s inside the mind of the average Afghan. But, let’s not think about that.
It is the image that we are promoting. Our Public Information Officer will tell the masses of US voters what the images mean; what the reality is of this situation of the US Army in Afghanistan. “If you say it, and you control the mainstream media, it is true.”
Gazing into my crystal ball: My impression from all these classes is that there are big plans globally for the US Counterinsurgency strategy; not only in Muslim nations, but in all of Latin America, Africa and in the Malay Archipelago and Indonesia.
This is the Son of the War on Communism – the so-called Cold War; and in some places is a continuation of that war also, as in relations with Russia, North Korea, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina … and Cuba. And HTS staff are trying to elbow their way right into the middle of it.
That’s global capitalism at its best! Enterprising, cunning, aggressive, blind ambition.
Selling the New Army: a Palatable War; a Prime Time War
The military is being retrofitted, both in function and in the image of itself that it projects to the public. This retrofit is necessary in order to fill the public image needs of the Counterinsurgency (COIN) approach to the warfare of the 21st Century; specifically, one aspect of COIN, the Human Terrain System.
The HTS projects the image of a kinder and gentler war; a humane war; sensitive to cultural differences. That is a war image that the USan People can buy.
This image-remodel is presented as The New Army, the Global Army that is engaged in the Counterinsurgency War to Win Hearts and Minds, globally. But the Army is not primarily directing this advertisement at winning the hearts and minds of the population of the occupied lands.
Rather, HTS is part of the psy-ops (Psychological Operations) and Intelligence inside the USA as well as overseas. HTS is a star of the Army public affairs press releases for The Mission of winning the hearts and minds (and votes, and tax dollars) of the US public and especially their governmental funding body, the US Congress.
It is a business tactic. And, selling this New Image of The US Army is the promise of the Human Terrain System.
Yes, that is why I, Juliet Alpha, Anthropologist, am here in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Going to Kansas City: The HTS and Going Underground at the Landing
The classroom where the Colonel X and I and 34 other trainees were sitting is a windowless room in a complex of windowless rooms. The US Army has taken over the basement area of the buildings in this block of three- and four-story brick buildings facing Virginia Street, in downtown Leavenworth Kansas, located outside the gates of Fort Leavenworth and of Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary – just a stone’s throw from the Fort – which has its own prison, the Disciplinary Barracks; for serious violators of military law.
The Army has apparently bought out most of this downtown block; or developed a lease allowing all the required adaptations for its purposes. Then the Army did the necessary “remodeling” to connect the formerly separate basements into one long hallway that connects numerous classrooms and offices.
A view inside the HTS training facility, looking down the last half of the hallway through the classroom area, continuing through the next two doors to the walls at the end of the block. There are seven large classrooms and two office areas in this direction, and four more large classrooms and some office areas behind me.
This major re-model project, using Federal funds, entailed the destruction of historic walls that separated the several buildings’ basements, then rebuilding and retrofitting this entire area to accommodate this underground military intelligence university project. This military has hollowed out its place in the darkness of caves and basements, here at the outer edge of Kansas City urban area, underneath little mom and pop businesses.
Here we find a metaphor for the relationship of the New Army to the US Society. Very few US citizens realize that such an extensive and sophisticated intelligence program has been constructed just downstairs from the European Pottery Shop. Out of reach of their awareness; hidden from view, this program is in operation right downstairs in those quaint old basements. Some how it recalls Dwight D. Eisenhower’s cautionary parting statement to the US public, “Beware the Military-Industrial Complex, my son.” … well, that was about the Jabberwocky, but still ….
The entire basement area, that runs under these National Register of Historic Places-eligible buildings, has been remodeled and retro-fitted with all the modern technology needed to become the premier, joint civilian-military training center for one aspect of the military’s own retrofit. Sort of like Osama hiding in his cave; keeping a low profile but fully high-tech. [Someone should check whether an EIS was done for effects on the historic architectural qualities of these building.]
The HTS entry doors are under the cute sign “Quilter’s Quarter” atop the old, ordinary-looking “Mall Entrance” sign. From the outside, one sees only an innocent-looking set of modern, metal-framed glass double doors; hardly noticeable in the connected series of old, red brick buildings, varying from two to four stories in height, as viewed from the large parking lot that occupies most of the remainder of the block behind the old brick buildings. This parking area is surrounded by large, but not old, Sycamore trees, Hawthorne trees and flower beds.
Out here in the parking lot, in my new car provided by Avis at the expense of the tax-payer, I would often sit eating the salad I had driven to buy at Price Chopper’s salad bar.
This gave me some time to myself, to listen to some chamber music on the radio, be away from the Greensuiters and out of the generally stressful air there in the basement, an air of heady expectations and anxious uncertainty, fed by a steady flow of caffeine that animated conversations inside The Landing.
I sat in my car, chewed my salad and ruminated about a lot of things during those lunches in my car. One of these was,
The Previous Counterinsurgencies in Kansas Territory
Fort Leavenworth, a “fort”, or, on the “frontier”, a Forward Operating Base (FOB) was first known as Cantonment Leavenworth (like a COP, or “Command Out-Post”). It was located at the point where the major migration trails of European-American “settlers” entered into the lands that were reserved as Indian Territory.
This military outpost was established by a General Henry Leavenworth – descended from a military family – on the Missouri River on May 8, 1827.
Fort Leavenworth was the first settlement in Kansas territory and is the oldest active Army post west of the Mississippi River. Sitting on the bluffs overlooking the western bank of the Missouri River, the Fort initially served as a quartermaster depot, arsenal, and troop post, and was dedicated to protecting the fur trade and safeguarding commerce on the Santa Fe Trail and the Oregon Trail; colonial expansion. The commerce included necessary provisions for the settlers moving to “settle” within Indian Territory.
This place is on a millennia-old major Indian trail. It also is a place that Lewis and Clark passed through on their way along major Indian trunk trails up the Missouri River to Missoula, Montana, across to the Snake River and down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean.
Fort Leavenworth provided protection over the wagon trains of “settlers” as they were encouraged to violate the US government’s agreements with the indigenous peoples and transgressed further and further into the lands of the tribes to the west, leading to battles with Apaches, Modocs, Umatillas and several other western tribes. They also provided protection for the businesses that set up shops to sell to the settlers.
The civilian town of Leavenworth is the oldest town established in this area of Kansas along the Lewis and Clark Trail (~1804). In 1806, Zebulon Pike passed through the region on his way to Pike’s Peak, and labeled it “The Great American Desert” on his maps.
This view of Kansas – as with the current image of Afghanistan and Afghans – would help form U.S. policy for the next 40 years, prompting the US Congress to set it aside as land for Native Americans. The former governments and citizens of the various indigenous nations of the eastern woodlands, the Ohio Valley and the south-east coast of North America, were at that time prisoners of war undergoing preparation of their cultural environment for another change of regime.
This area on the banks of the Missouri River near the confluence of the Arkansas River was chosen as the relocation point for Indian Tribes being removed from their traditional homelands in the eastern woodlands of what is now northeastern USA, from the Ohio River Basin and eastward. Chosen because Zebulon had labeled it “The Great American Desert”, it looked pretty good to the arriving refugees – the defeated Native American “insurgents” who had been removed from their ancestral homelands in the eastern woodlands. These peoples were brought to Kansas Territory (named after one such “tribe” the Kansa, on whose traditional territory these eastern tribes were being “relocated”) via the Trail of Tears. Now they were west of the Missouri; in what was reserved as Indian Country, … temporarily.
As the Euro-American populations expanded westward during the late 1700s to the mid-1800s they set up military posts to guard the “settlers” as these opportunistic European colonists took the indigenous peoples’ lands from them by force, temptation, seduction, addiction, intoxication and coercion, under the protective, watchful eye of the US Army at places like Fort Leavenworth, registering their “homesteads” with the only legitimate authority (as seen from the Euro-American perspective), the US government.
This put the indigenous people, the Indians, in the position – using today’s Counterinsurgency vocabulary – the position of becoming “Insurgents” – that is, when they “rose up” they were challenging the authority of the “recognized” government; that of the Euro-American “settlers”, who had declared this to be a United States Territory. By challenging the established order, these Indians became dissidents, “insurgents”, and, if they got violent, they would be labeled “violent extremists”, “terrorists”, as with the Palestineans and the Israeli “settlers” today..
The settlers, always in groups and always armed, had occupied the Indians lands that were the best lands for the Indians’ horticulture, taken control of the springs and creeks and begun “farming”.
This “mixed farming” adaptation was a radical re-prioritizing of the uses of the landscape and its natural resources; changing from the way Native Americans had used the harvest of that landscape for thousands of years. The landscape was rapidly converted to support the “pastoral” way the Europeans had altered the landscape of Europe for an entirely different ecological adaptation by humans in relation to the whole of Nature. The formerly public landscape became cluttered with private ownerships, fencing off land and water, and rechannelling of water from springs and creeks to gardens and animal ponds and “cities” as they grew around the industrial investors’ factories attracting a large population of wage workers; then building and speculating for profit from sale of wage labor houses.
The former “insurgents”, now totally encircled, under government control and in the way of the “settlers” and “development”, were removed from their remaining lands to lands “reserved” for them.
The Indians there had already been force-marched from their lands in the eastern woodlands of the US on what became known as the Trail of Tears in Native American oral history. Those who were marched beyond the Mississippi were first relocated around the confluence of the Arkansas River and the Missouri River, at places like the Methodists’ Shawnee Mission. These uprooted indigenous peoples of the eastern woodlands of the continent began to relocate their lives here in the Kansas Territory
It was in this juncture of spaces and times that Fort Leavenworth was established; during that expansion of European “settlers” into the westward side of the Missouri River; into Indian Territory. The fort was located among the relocated Indian “insurgents” communities, now refugees from the eastern woodlands.
Soon, the passing “settlers” saw that the area was not a desert as Zebulon Pike had described it, but fine farmland. Then the constantly arriving invaders also wanted this land.
The upshot was that those Redskins would have to be moved on; this time to the final solution, last destination of the Trail of Tears, official Indian Territory, Oklahoma.
So, those Indians who hadn’t married into or integrated into the settlers’ communities were then uprooted again and marched south more than one thousand miles into the Indian Territory of Oklahoma.
There are many communities nearby Leavenworth that bear the names of those peoples. Some descendants of these families that integrated with the White invaders still have their own “tribal” communities in the old Indian Country.
A young Shawnee woman was brought to Kansas Territory from Ohio, part of a Shawnee insurgent group. Somehow the young Shawnee woman met and married the French Wesleyan Methodist Circuit-riding Preacher and farmer, John TeVault – part of the French history of the “settlement” of the entire Mississippi Drainage Basin, France’s former “Louisiana”.
That insurgent indigenous woman and that French settler were the parents of my father.
Geologist John Shroder’s HTS class at the University of Nebraska, Omaha
10 February 2010 First Day of MARDEX, “Weston Resolve”
Today, HTS begins its weeklong practicum mission among those communities around the Missouri River, near Leavenworth, Kansas and across the Missouri River at Weston. Part of the mission is to gather intelligence on “problem causers”, Bad Guys.
Retired Colonel Larry Rutherford is “here to he’p us”. He’s the lead for the contractor, Develop Mental Labs, Incorporated – DMLI. Like many of their staff, he is from Texas. Those who aren’t are from other Deep South states.
In the MARDEX exercise, we of the November Cycle will become the HTT for the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.
Colonel Rutherford advises us that when HTT arrives “down range”, we will need to “elbow your way into the commander’s staff.”
He gives a review of the fictional province of “Lakeland”; and its socio-economic-political background.
The war game role-playing for this MARDEX is called Weston Resolve, because it has always been centered upon the village of Weston, a semi-rural area within the greater Kansas City zone of influence, just a few miles from Leavenworth, on the Missouri side of the Missouri River. The Lakeland area is represented by DMLI as merging into the real world drug and crime problems in the area north of Kansas City. The communities to be investigated are said to be a “permissive environment” – meaning no armed resistance.
Then, the whole purpose of the mission moves toward establishing a military state control of the local population. Col. X asks, “If it is a “permissive” environment, why are we taking it over to “reestablish” public security”? The answer is circuitous and evasive; but no further discussion of that.
The IATAN coal-fired power plant is one of the main military foci due to “contention within the community” over the environmental pollution.” Sierra Club and other, more radical groups have been active in protesting the pollution from the power plant. The Environmental Liberation Front (ELF) is one such radical group.
Even through there is an elected government and rule of law in Lakeland, there are some “insurgents” (seeming to include ELF) who are “opportunistic”. That is why the US Army has moved into this area that has broken away from US control.
Assignment: “Find our more details on the criminal activity.”
1. Find out the best conduits to pass (our public affairs supplied) “information” to the local population.
2. HTT is assigned to produce a “Research Plan” (5 PowerPoint slide limit, of course) to help the Command understand the situation at the IATAN power plant.
3. People’s concerns, desires, … [Of course, once WE know what THEY want, WE will tell THEM what they NEED, and what we WANT, and negotiate from there; as described above.]
NOTE: At this point there was a break and the teams were to re-convene in separate rooms.
I had seen that COIN would, perhaps, be more useful inside the US, answering the point David Price raised in the first citation.
At this point, I gathered up all my things, went to my Seminar Leader, JT, and resigned. JT sent me to BAE for debriefing and formal resignation (even though I was a CLI contractor, which hi-lights the phony division into “competing” contractors.).
[Sitting in the BAE office lobby – BAE does all the staffing functions for CLI at Leavenworth; further bringing into question the autonomy of CLI, which was a spin-off from BAE during a suspension of BAE’s Federal contracting eligibility for ethical violations. I am waiting for Mark Solomon to debrief me. While waiting, I wrote the following:]
Listened to the opening session of the Weston Resolve”/MARDEX. Then I went in to JT’s office and told him that I am resigning. I asked him about the feasibility of talking with McFate, but, he said that she is on leave. He didn’t seem to think that I would have much luck in getting time with Jennifer Clark, second in charge. I was going to explore other options.
I told JT that HTT cannot really make use of my skills; that anyone with a high school diploma could carry out the type of “research” that Marilyn Mitchell taught; that there had been simply a cursory presentation of many, many sociological statistical techniques, but not a single one taught in enough depth for anyone in the class to actually understand and be able to apply a given technique.
I also told him that I had seen very early on that my only hope of participating would be if I could change the flow of influence from one where the Human Terrain Team was a tool of the Brigade Command to where the Brigade Command learns from the cultural anthropologist how to navigate within the framework of thought that an ethnographer finds himself or herself immersed in when he or she takes up a year-long residence in the same village that the Brigade Commander wants a report on at ten hundred hours tomorrow, in PowerPoint!
Now, I am sitting in the BAE lobby, waiting for Mark Solomon to arrive so that I can “clear” with him.
During that wait, PT (my supervisor at CLI, in Tampa) calls me on the cell phone. She had already received an email (ten minutes) from JT that I had withdrawn from the HTS program. We talked and I assured her that neither she nor CLI were the cause.
In my discussion with PT, she told of a social scientist that had returned from his HTT tour in Afghanistan. He felt that he had a lot of suggestions for changing the program and looked forward to his chance to talk with the Human Terrain System staff. However, in his “exit interview” he was blown off and rushed through and out.
They weren’t interested.
This might be the reason that, when I told JT that I’d like to talk with McFatal or Jennifer about other things that I might do in the program, he said, more or less, “Don’t waste your time.”
As I spoke with Mark Solomon, BAE Supervisor in Leavenworth, he reinforced this impression. He saw both the fixed mindset of the Army and the lack of interest in critical feedback from participants by the HTS Directorate.
Summary and Conclusions
Summarizing: the US public seems not to be aware of the dominance of the Department of Defense over all other aspects of the Federal Government and even most state governments. The dictatorship of the Military Industrial Complex (MIC) has developed without public awareness due to the interweaving of the large mass media corporations and US public education with that MIC.
The cost of this public ignorance is staggering. Just the monetary cost of the HTS program, given its failure to walk its own talk, is more than you want to know. All the information you are given on mass media is to promote the HTS project to become a recurring line-item Program in the Defense budget, and the program is designed to foster an illusion about Counter-Insurgency (COIN) warfare, that it is something unlike kinetic warfare, when in fact it is a screen placed to block the view of kinetic warfare – it is the Lipstick on the Hippopotamus.
Inside the program designed for training of HTS candidates, one encounters a mind-shaping campaign not unlike that which the soldiers undergo during basic training, or captives of war in a concentration camp; but an ultra-luxurious concentration camp in the case of HTS.
The HTS training program is designed to win the hearts and minds of the trainees, to harden them to the fact that warfare is primarily kinetic violence; to prepare them to subordinate their goals to the goals of the kinetic mission of the fighting force, and to see the Afghan or Iraqi people as needing US-style education including values indoctrination and moral/ethical training.
These “shaping” efforts were embedded within all the subject-matters presented in the HTS training program; and in some seminars this was the dominant topic. It was not really subtle, but most of the trainees didn’t seem to understand what they were being subject to; perhaps because the news media and general public education in the US does not provide them with the informational context or the intellectual skill to see it happening. Or, perhaps it was because the cadets, as a group-think, project the feeling that to question the officially-projected “truth” is a sign of lack of real patriotism. After all, ‘ours is not to question why, ours is but to do or die’.
As shown in (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/04/world/asia/04marja.html?emc=eta1), the “enemy”, which is becoming more and more difficult to discriminate from the general Afghan populace, is characterized as brain-washed, evil, enemies of “democracy” and as committing pederasty with young boys whom they train to entertain them. This nebulous enemy is characterized as “Terrorists” and evil with no redeeming qualities.
HTS is not something that I would recommend for my own children, or yours. In every sense, I would describe it as “un-American”.
Addendum/ Post Script:
Expansion into Africa
Subject: [Mil_Ant_Net] AFRICOM Social Science Research Center [2 Attachments]
Date: Thursday, May 13, 2010, 3:48 AM
Colleagues, In January I began work as the director of the newly formed AFRICOM Social Science Research Center. When I say newly formed, I mean that it began when I started in January. This gives a lot of latitude. One of my first goals was to craft a set of guidelines that set forth a practical and acceptable relationship between civilian scholars and the U.S. Military. Attached is an information paper on our center and a draft of our guidelines. These guidelines are currently in effect for teams that are operating throughout Africa. I would invite both criticism and constructive comments. As I have said before, the U.S. Military is going to act, with or without good information. I see this center as a mechanism through which scholars can have influence over military activities through direct access to policy makers. VR, Chris Varhola
Attachment(s) from Christopher Varhola
2 of 2 File(s)
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Sunday, April 4, 2010 9:58 PM
From: “j. a” <email@example.com>
View contact details
To: “David Price”
I just got off the phone with OM who was released a few days after I resigned. The specific incident that triggered his dismissal was that he wrote on the check-list questionnaire that he was issued as his interview guide, rather than just complying and checking the boxes provided. Any anthropologists worth his salt would have done the same.
The most relevant fact that was not already included in my notes is this: of the 5 anthropologists who were in the November Cycle, only 2 apparently made it through the training and continued on to the possible deployment phases. One of these was an unemployed woman PhD candidate who has worked in Yemen, and who speaks fair Arabic, and who is also a military veteran. The other is an unemployed anthropologist from Texas. Being a veteran and being from Texas, both seem to be the deciding factor.
The other three of the five anthropologists in the cycle – OM, a woman from southern California and John Allison – were lost souls, couldn’t be shaped..
OM thinks it is hopeless to try to cut the funding for the Lipstick on the Hippo, being that it is such a minor expenditure for something that has such a value as a smokescreen for anyone who questions the inhumanity of war.
I was very pleased to see Hamid Karzai standing up to the “Allies” today.
Appendix: My Resignation Debriefing Letter
Summary Critique of Human Terrain Systems from a Cadet’s Perspective
John Allison, Cultural Anthropologist. (Resigned from the Human Terrain System Training Program, November 2009 Cycle, effective February 10, 2010)
“I volunteered for the HTS program because I had done my doctoral research in the Hindu Kush area of Afghanistan known as Nuristan long before the train of disasters, caused by foreign forces over the past 35 years, ran through this land of diverse peoples, historic sites and monuments, and ecosystems. I had hope that I could help to save the loss of any more innocent Afghan lives. Several of my Afghan friends had died, some having been executed because of their associations with US agents there.
After beginning training in the HTS program, I was shocked when I first mentioned that this was my purpose and one of my classmates expressed contempt for that motive and said that he was only there because he didn’t want to see one more US soldier’s life lost; didn’t want to have to take the US flag to the door of an US mother and tell her that her son was killed. And, when I asked about Afghan mothers whose sons were killed by US errors of judgment causing “collateral damage” in their kinetic warfare, he responded that he didn’t ‘… give a fuck about those people. I would just drive through their village in my Humvee and throw money at those mothers.’ This was a Colonel who is a doctoral candidate in a military history program at a military-funded university; a Team Leader. Although this man was more out-spoken than most of his military colleagues, my impression now is that he expressed what almost all of them think and feel.
My experience in the program included both instruction in such things as military culture, military language, military decision-making process, Counter-Insurgency doctrine, and many other topics intended to socialize the trainees into the world as seen by the military. During this time, more than once, the majority of the class – who were either current or retired career military or those with former military service who were hoping to convert into an intelligence role such as CIA – would speak about the ‘Stockholm Syndrome’. This refers to how the majority in a group can shape the values and perception of the minority. Apparently, in most ‘cycles’ (six-month long training group schedules up to deployment), the majority of the HTT candidates are such military personnel as were in our November 2009 Cycle, which actually began mid-October. It became clear that the majority saw their job as to expedite the acculturation of the rest of us – those who had the skills and credential that were needed to support the ‘soft’ warfare image that HTS advertises – an image of winning the hearts and minds of the peoples of Afghanistan and Iraq – to win the anthropologists over to their military culture’s world view and values; or to marginalize and force the non-compliant to resign.
In addition there were a couple weeks of ‘Introduction to Anthropology’ and three weeks of ‘Ethnographic Method’. The Introduction to Anthropology was cursory and quick. Some important terms were introduced – e.g. ‘emic’ and ‘etic’ – but not taken to enough depth in examples to drive home the deeper implications. Holt, who served on an HTT in Afghanistan and wants to return, is a cultural materialist, and limited his perspective to mostly the etic. He was the dominant voice. He soon transitioned into a scenario in which he assigned the several class teams to provide a 5-slide PowerPoint presentation (with a maximum of 5 bullet ‘points’ on each slide) to the Commander to advise him on what to do when he has troops on the ground in a village area that he has heard is ‘hostile’, based on HTT research. Of the seven teams, only one dared to suggest that the commander should wait until the HTT had done further field research before launching the assault. This was clearly the Stockholm effect of the Team Leader and others forming the behavior of the Social Scientist.
There were several weeks of ‘Ethnographic Method’, in which there was no introduction to real participant-observer methods or anything really related to ethnographic method. Instead, this was a rapid fire, cursory presentation of a myriad of methods used in sociological statistics; but not in enough depth in any one of them to really become functional if the student did not already have a strong background. It was also rooted in computer software that might not be available ‘downrange’. It gave colorful, simplistic representation of complex social facts – in US society – that fit well into the PowerPoint presentations of five slides, each with a few bullets or a single, simple graphic.
On the one hand, HTS contractors make a concerted effort to recruit and hire cultural anthropologists because these are the obviously most qualified professionals to participate as social scientists on the HTTs in the theaters in Afghanistan and Iraq, and for the anticipated expansion of COIN to sub-Saharan Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia and other places in the Islamic world. In the November cycle, I was the only social scientist on 5 teams who had previous experience in Afghanistan. Among those teams scheduled for Iraq, there was also only one social scientist who had such experience.
Yet, on the other hand, the prevailing military culture, and the nature of the operations at the Brigade and lower unit levels at which HTT’s are assigned, subordinate the judgment of these anthropologists and other ‘social scientists’ (which include such as historians, psychologists, and economists who have absolutely no training in cross-cultural field research) to the dictates of the Brigade or Battalion command.
The command is dominated by the military (specifically US Army) culture and the related inclination to use the HTT to aid in gathering intelligence useful for supporting kinetic operations; which is strictly forbidden in the surface representation of the HTS. Yet, it is made clear in training that this is the fact of life on the Team. Since the Team Leaders are part of the military culture, the social scientist has no recourse. One presenter from the Reachback Research Center (RRC) estimated that 30% of the HTTs become tools for such intel needs of the Brigade rather than to provide needed information for moving the population’s Center of Gravity from favoring the resistance forces’ agenda to favoring the occupying ‘Coalition’ forces and their agenda, as represented in the public representation of HTS.
There is a great distance, an effective separation, between the HTS ‘Directorate’ and the training staff and the trainees. This was emphasized in my exit interview with my Seminar Leader, XXXXXXXX. When I told him that I had only one other possibility other than entirely resigning, he told me in so many words, ‘forget it’; explaining that there was not a lot of interest at the Directorate level in talking with trainees about such things. XXXXXXXX clearly regrets this fact.
This was reinforced in my telephone conversation with my CLI supervisor XXXXXXXX when I told her of this conversation with XXXXXXXX. She reciprocated with a story from a returning social scientist who had served a tour in Afghanistan. He told her that he had many suggestions for improving the program that he hoped to communicate to the HTS Social Science Directorate. However, when he got to his debriefing interview and attempted to relate his thoughts and suggestions to the upper echelons, the interviewer (either Montgomery McFate or Jennifer Clark) simply blew him off and cut him short, not allowing him to really express himself in less than ten minutes allotted to him after a year of service.
You, yourself, Mark, told me that this was consistent with your impressions: there is not a lot of receptiveness to feedback from the rank and file if it runs against the grain of military culture – especially US Army culture, as contrasted with US Navy, Air Force or even US Marine culture, that still is the dominant kinetic perception of the purpose of deployment. Even though Generals McCrystal and Petraeus have made the transition to the “soft” strategy of modern COIN, the predominant US Army mindset is still deeply set into the kinetic approach.
Until the Center of Gravity of the brains of the US military’s ‘boots on the ground’ is moved to understand the value of a cultural anthropologist’s in-depth research to really helping the US military and civilian assistance to enable a nation such as Afghanistan to achieve self-determined stability and sovereignty, the money spent on HTS will be greatly a waste of US taxpayer money. This includes the need for the military as well as the US Department of State to understand the reasons behind the ethical concerns of anthropologists regarding this program.
This was my first of two rental cars. One wet, cold morning, after my morning run and tea, I pulled out onto the frontage road and didn’t see the giant Peterbilt tractor-trailer. The ambulance crew said they thought the driver was dead. A new rental car was delivered in less than two hours (tax-payers and the Department of Defense have deep pockets), and I walked into the classroom at 10am to a standing ovation from those who had seen the wrecked car. I should have gone home then; my warning omen and my finest hour in Leavenworth.