I am an anthropologist who has been working to expose the U.S. role in supporting last year's military coup and its resulting administrations and policies in Honduras. Here are several of the articles I have written over the past year:
I write to let you know about a dangerous new turn in the use of the academy, and of anthropology in particular, to legitimate U.S. military occupation and invasion of Latin American countries, and to ask for your help in challenging it. The threat in question is a partnership between the U.S. Military's Southern Command (SOUTHCOM, the Pentagon's arm in Latin America and responsible for all U.S. bases the region) and Florida International University (FIU).
As it has done with great success throughout the past century, the U.S. military continues to find ways to use the academy and anthropological concepts to whitewash its imperialist actions in the service of U.S. corporate profits. In Latin America from 1963-1965, Project Camelot set a dark precedent for the use of social science to abet and legitimate counterinsurgency operations including psychological warfare. Now, at FIU's Applied Research Center, SOUTHCOM and FIU have partnered in the creation of a so-called "Strategic Culture" Initiative, a center that hosts workshops and issues reports on the "strategic culture" of different Latin American countries. At present, reports have been issued from:
On its website, the FIU-SOUTHCOM initiative defines strategic culture as "the combination of internal and external influences and experiences - geographic, historical, cultural, economic, political and military - that shape and influence the way a country understands its relationship to the rest of the world, and how a state will behave in the international community." However, from a look at their documents it is clear that a more accurate definition would be "strategic propaganda for the creation of hegemonic political ideology favorable to U.S. economic and military interests." The use of the term "culture" here is key, as it is the central organizing concept of anthropology. By reframing corporate-military strategy as "culture", FIU-SOUTHCOM intentionally draws upon the legitimacy and integrity of anthropology and other social sciences to depoliticize and bolster its case for military occupation of the Americas.
FIU-SOUTHCOM claims the partnership provides "the highest quality research-based knowledge to further explicative understanding of the political, strategic, and socio-cultural dimensions of state behavior." However, it is clear from a quick examination of the qualifications of participants in FIU-SOUTHCOM's recent conference on Honduras that high-quality research is far less important to the alliance than creating high-quality anti-democratic propaganda to justify the support of the coup-installed government and increased U.S. military presence and aid.
On October 7th, an Honduras Strategic Culture Workshop was held. Workshop Participants included:
Dr. Pastor Fasquelle attended the event as a "member of the Resistance and as a man who was faithful to President Zelaya." He decided to attend as a way to counteract the discourse of the people who would be there "representing" Honduras, and, indeed, found himself surrounded by persons who had been indirectly and directly responsible for the assassinations of many of his friends, and for his being forced into exile following the coup.
Concerned by what he saw there, and by the fact that his presence was being used to give a veneer of academic legitimacy to the ongoing U.S. militarization of Latin America in general, and Honduras in particular, Dr. Pastor Fasquelle passed along the conference materials to me.
The concept of "culture" is being used to justify the violent actions of the U.S. military throughout the hemisphere. Culture is also used to justify U.S. training of and funding for Latin American military forces that engage in torture, targeted assassinations of dissidents, and carry out coups d'etat. When our disciplines' cultural capital is appropriated in order to legitimate military violence, we are all obligated to strongly and forcefully denounce such actions both in the academy and on the ground. Only in doing so can we reclaim the ethical core of anthropology and the social sciences.
I encourage you and your students to examine the event participants and reports from FIU-SOUTHCOM workshops, and to expose the ways in which U.S. military pseudo-social science is threatening democracy and self-determination throughout the hemisphere. I also write in the hopes that we can come together internationally as a discipline, as Anthropologists have done to oppose the army's Human Terrain System in Iraq and Afghanistan. Together, we will be much more effective in standing up to the militarization that threatens the lives of people we live with, work with, and study throughout the hemisphere.
In this link is included suggested text for a letter to send to the people and institutions responsible for the project I have described here. Please join me in voicing your condemnation of this program.