Thursday, December 03, 2009

Human Terrain System

The HTS patch is a shield that prominently shows a determined Pegasus, wings elevated and displayed, soaring sinister over the globe on which he casts his shadow.

Pegasus was a son of Medusa and Poseidon. He was born, full grown, from the dead body of his mother with his brother Chrysaor (which roughly means 'the one of the golden sword') after the hero Perseus had decapitated her under Athene's guidance and assistance. Shining-eyed Athene had held a grudge against Medusa for her beauty. Discovering the long-tressed woman entwined in the act of love with Uncle Poseidon (who may not have been in his accustomed form and may have been committing rape) in a Temple dedicated to the warrior goddess' worship proved to be more than Athene could bear. Immediately, Athene turned the lovely Gorgon girl into a snakey-haired monster whose gaze petrified anyone mortal who dared look upon her face. We must assume only mortals were affected else Poseidon himself would have been transformed into a priapic statue! There would be no more lovers for that hussy Medusa!

"Her [Medousa's] beauty was far-famed, the jealous hope of many a suitor, and of all her charms her hair was loveliest; so I was told by one who claimed to have seen her. She, it's said, was violated in Minerva's [Athena’s] shrine by the Rector Pelagi (Lord of the Sea) [Poseidon]. Jove’s daughter [Athena] turned away and covered with her shield her virgin's eyes. And then for fitting punishment transformed the Gorgo's lovely hair to loathsome snakes. Minerva [Athena] still, to strike her foes with dread, upon her breastplate wears the snakes she made." - Ovid, Metamorphoses 4.790

Pallas Athene, by Tavik Frantisek Šimon [1877-1942] depicted in an unusually contemplative mood. Note her breastplate adorned with snakes.

But obviously, that hideous transformation wasn't enough punishment to satisfy the vengeance of the rambunctious Pallas Athene. She would soon contract the intrepid Perseus, who had his own congruent agenda, to assassinate this Gorgon who had desecrated the virgin goddess' holy place.

Perseus, Athena and the Head of Medusa, Krater, 400-385 BCE, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

“Perseus took flight and made his way to the ocean, where he found the Gorgones sleeping … All who looked at them were turned to stone. Perseus, therefore, with Athena guiding his hand, kept his eyes on the reflection in a bronze shield as he stood over the sleeping Gorgones, and when he saw the image of Medousa, he beheaded her.” - Apollodorus, The Library 2.37-41

We also see on the HTS shield a two-handed sword (perhaps the golden sword of Pegasus' non-identical twin brother Chrysaor?) hovering sinister above the Earth with the thunderbolts of Zeus superimposed ready to strike.

The motherless Athene was said by Hesiod to have sprung fully grown from the brow of Zeus. After an illustrious term of service with the ill-fated Bellerophon, Pegasus flew on to Olympus where he became the lightning-bolt carrier to Uncle Zeus. Neither Pegasus nor Athene, cousins, ever passed through a childhood.

Medusa by Caravaggio (1571-1610)

Just a thought: As I consider the compromised mind-numbing, bureaucratic maze that will be the politically crippled government option in the planned-to-be-bad health care "reform" proposal, I realize there can only be one name for the program: MEDUSA. You tell me what words underscore the acronym. [Later note: No government option after all. This health care reform is little more than socialism for the vampiristic medical insurance corporations, AKA corporatism, AKA fascism. Our taxes and fees will ensure their profits.]

Medusa's son Chrysaor He of the golden sword. From the Temple Of Artemis, Corfu

Help Wanted

Our Military in Afghanistan and elsewhere is using anthropologists in a controversial program to win the hearts and wait a minute, that was Vietnam, to snitch on the populace.... no, not exactly, to use their special... uh, let's go to the horse's mouth.
From the Human Terrain System LINK website:

"HTS is a new proof-of-concept program, run by the U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), and serving the joint community. The near-term focus of the HTS program is to improve the military’s ability to understand the highly complex local socio-cultural environment in the areas where they are deployed; however, in the long-term, HTS hopes to assist the US government in understanding foreign countries and regions prior to an engagement within that region."

Here's one of their job descriptions:

Employment Opportunities
Field Social Scientist

Field Social Scientists, as members of an HTT, represent the voice of the local community on the brigade staff. The expectation is that the Field Social Scientist’s knowledge, combined with that of the other team members, will allow the commander to make decisions that will increase the security of the area, allow other organizations (local and international) to more effectively provide aid and restore the infrastructure, ensure that US efforts are culturally sensitive, promote economic development, and help the local population more effectively communicate their needs to US and Coalition forces.

In recent decades scholarly access to military operations has been limited to those in uniform and a select handful of insiders. Working on an HTT offers a rare and unique opportunity to help reshape the military's execution of their mission by offering them a much greater appreciation of existing socio-cultural realities and sensitivities in the countries where they are operating. This position also offers an opportunity to develop new methods for field research and data analysis. Field Social Scientists will be able to write about their experiences and otherwise contribute to the academic literature in their field after participation, subject to standard security review.
  • Designs research and analysis protocols
  • Oversees and tasks the entire research and analysis process in coordination with the Team Leader and Research Managers.
  • Analyzes the available body of relevant scholarly literature and gather additional data from a variety of sources operating in theatre (conventional military patrols, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, Civil Affairs units, Special Forces, local communities, etc.)
  • Assists commanders in understanding the operational relevance of socio-cultural information as it applies to the military decision-making process
  • US citizen
  • PhD in anthropology or related field such as international relations, sociology, political science, history, economics, public policy, social psychology, or area studies. An MA with extensive applied experience is also acceptable.
  • Experience living or working overseas for extended periods
  • Experience conducting field research
  • Ability to travel to Afghanistan and/or Iraq
  • Posses a DoD secret security clearance or be eligible to acquire a secret security clearance
  • Ability to work in a team environment
  • Ability to work with people trained in other disciplines
  • An open-minded attitude towards a variety of concepts and methods
  • Willingness to work with the military
  • Ability to tolerate adverse weather conditions
  • Ability to work with little sleep or rest for extended periods of time while producing both physically and mentally challenging projects
  • Physically capable of carrying up to 50 lbs of equipment for long periods of time while deployed
  • Under 40% body fat
  • Possess computer literacy for on-line research and desktop office applications
  • Medically qualified for deployments to Iraq for 6-9 months

Desired skills:
  • Experience living, working or conducting research in the Middle East and/or Central Asia
  • Regional language capability
  • Geospatial Information Systems (GIS)-competent or conversant
Start date:
  • Open, but dependent on training cycle start dates
  • Equivalent to GS14 or GS15 salary, depending on experience and qualifications, with
    multipliers for hazard pay, hardship pay and overtime.
CLI Solutions, is a private contractor associated with HTS. This illustration "Navigating The Human Terrain" is from their website.

The American Anthropological Association has not looked on this program with approval. They point out in their official statement LINK on HTS that anthropologists deployed with military forces are indistinguishable from them, that their obligations to the military and the populations they study may conflict under the AAA code of ethics, that “voluntary informed consent” under that same code is impossible when the interviewed person is confronted with armed soldiers, the AAA code stipulates that no harm may come to populations studied as a result of information obtained via fieldwork, and that activities of HTS anthropologists may endanger the lives of non-HTS anthropologists. Therefore the AAA disapproves of the HTS program.

When I contemplate the work of Anthropologists it is difficult to conceive of any value it may possess to the Military or to the Corporations that does not compromise the Anthropologist and harm the populations of indigenous peoples who are the object of study and manipulation. It is useful to remember that the requirement for a top secret clearance allows the military to classify all the work of these "anthropologists" which makes scholarly transparency and peer review impossible. The HTS project in part, attempts to transform anthropologists into a more sophisticated kind of missionary. And missionary work in Afghanistan has been a profound failure since the days when Koran bearing Arabs entered the country.
It is reassuring to know that so-called primitive peoples around the world have been bullshitting anthropologists from the beginning. I always imagined guys sitting around a hut laughing their asses off after Professor Kopfinhinterbacken finished his interviews and left.
And... isn't referring to humans as "terrain" a bit of a malapropism? Humans are not terrain. Humans are not mere geography. That is a dehumanizing way to look at culture and those who live it. But I think that dehumanizing the locals is exactly what HTS wants to do.

"It’s not that anthropology and warfare haven’t merged before; they have fatefully merged in all sorts of ways that have been historically documented. One stark difference is that today’s counterinsurgent abuses of anthropological knowledge occur after the discipline of anthropology has clearly identified such activities as betraying basic ethical standards for protecting the interests and well-being of studied populations. Anthropologists’ professional activites in the Second World War occurred without the existence of professional ethical codes of conduct, and it was a direct result of anthropological misconduct during the Vietnam War that the American Anthropological Association developed its first formalized Code of Ethics in 1971. It insisted that anthropologists’ primary loyalties be to those studied, that research not lead to events harming research participants. There was to be no secret research. There were mandates for voluntary informed consent. That HTS throws up weak sophistic arguments claiming that their involvement in warfare reduces harm changes nothing."
-David Price, see link below for full story

HTS Story Links:
Female HTS personnel threatened and put at risk by male Human Terrain Team (HTT) officers.
Jeff Stein at Huffington Post on AAA disapproval of HTS.
David Price, Counterpunch December 1, 2009 article on anthropologists in Afghanistan
You Tube Video on HTS Anthropologists (from two years ago)
Wikileaks on Human Terrain System Handbook
When Scholars Join The Slaughter In Iraq and Afghanistan

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