Back in February of 2007 Sokari Ekine wrote about being contacted by a contractor working with the US Marines. They wrote:
Delex Systems Inc is writing a cultural study of behalf of the US Marine Corp on ethnic groups in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. … and we were interested in soliciting a bid from you for an academic review. The cultural study is on the Ijo [Ijaw]
In researching further, Sokari Ekine concluded this was an early effort related to AFRICOM. From the Center for International Policy:
[The] U.S. Department of Defense just announced the establishment of an African military command—AFRICOM—to spearhead an “oil and terrorism” policy, which will oversee the deployment of U.S. forces in the area and supervise distribution of money, materiel and military training to regional militaries and proxies. Pentagon analysts and generals claim that vast “uncontrolled spaces” in Saharan and Sahelian Africa, which are said to include large portions of northern Nigeria, are rife with terrorists seeking to damage the United States, even though the evidence for such claims is woefully thin.
… the United States is relying on increased oil production from the African Oil Triangle [Gulf of Guinea] to reduce its dependence on Middle East petroleum, but could replace one set of insecurities with another.
In fact, militarization by the United States will exacerbate an already tense situation in Nigeria and other parts of the Oil Triangle without having any effect on terrorists. Only a concerted effort to support Nigeria’s democratic forces and legislative oversight of the country’s presidency can ensure American and the region’s security, and quell wholesale theft of oil revenues as well as the insurgencies, criminality and social banditry now rampant in oil-producing areas.
In the Niger Delta the US is trying to label as terrorists the indigenous people who are battling for some control over their land and their own resources. HTS, Human Terrain System personnel have already been deployed in Iraq. And the HTS project is very much on the agenda of the DoD, and the contractors that are targeting AFRICOM for their next paychecks and opportunities.
As described by the American Anthropological Association:
The U.S. military’s HTS project places anthropologists, as contractors with the U.S. military, in settings of war, for the purpose of collecting cultural and social data for use by the U.S. military.
The AAA has described participation in HTS as a violation of the AAA code of ethics, a danger to the anthropologists, and to the people they study.
Now there are serious problems with the HTS program:
According to sources, United States Army brigade commanders privately believe that the US Army Training and Doctrine Command’s (TRADOC) Human Terrain System (HTS) program is a joke and completely unnecessary. The HTS program is publicly supported by brigade military commanders, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, only because it is a pet project of the currently politically popular US Army General David Petraeus.
BAE Systems, the prime contractor on the project, has repeatedly been pressured by the HTS program manager and his staff to hire individuals who are not field-experienced ethnographers/anthropologists, but rather Google-fed political and social scientists.
These HTS people are not qualified, not properly trained and prepared, and can therefore pose a danger to the soldiers they are assigned to work with.
Key questions remain open. What’s the role of a civilian ethnographer/anthropologist working with the military in a combat zone? Is a civilian trained to respond to a threat without threatening the life of the team? Should they carry weapons and wear military gear? Are they there to enhance the kill chain, organize and facilitate sporting events, or examine trash dumps for behavioral patterns? What kind of data do war-fighters and negotiators really want?
… War-fighters in the battlespace should not have to spend their time babysitting those who have an itch to play Army or engage in a proof-of-concept program that has, in one form or another, been behind every US attempt to colonize and/or subdue an intransigent population since the nation’s founding.
The lead social scientist on the project went on a 7 month sabatical just as the project initiated.
… multiple sources say that the HTS program is in the crash and burn phase.
… Exceptionally qualified individuals were forced out of the HTS program for questioning management’s approach, ethics and decision making.
… Another source, commenting on the HTS leadership said, “As usual, the FOBBITs [Forward Operating Base personnel who never leave the base] and REMFs [rear echelon mother f*%#@$’*] are in charge and the guys on the line are ignored. Who needs a combat veteran when you’ve got Google.
… Program oversight, discipline and accountability have been virtually non-existent from the beginning, according to multiple sources. … Other sources said some HTS program personnel describe management as “war profiteers” who simply want to see the program continue no matter what the cost in lives or money.
As of this writing, sources indicate that HTS program management has lobbied hard to gain a foothold in AFRICOM where poorly trained HTT’s would be deployed …
HTS looks like more “work” for Bush’s war profiteers, with the Bush trademark disregard for competence and results. But if the program were supported by the anthropological community, and if it was executed competently and efficiently, it still intends to “colonize and/or subdue an intransigent population”. And it involves invading and occupying sovereign countries. This is not a moral approach, and even if the morality does not bother the planners, the results should. For the US it will replace one set of insecurities with another, deplete and erase good will around the world, and damage the chances to acquire desired resources.