Dangerous Partnership: The Academy, Anthropology, and U.S. Military Occupation and Invasion

Dear Colleague,

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:

Argentina; Bolivia; Brazil; Chile; Colombia; Cuba; Ecuador; El Salvador; Guatemala; Haiti; Nicaragua; Peru; and Venezuela

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. Jose Rene Argueta, whose affiliation is listed as University of Pittsburgh. This is false. Argueta holds a PhD from Pittsburgh (’07) in Political Science, but according to spokespeople at the University of Pittsburgh has no current affiliation with the institution. Nonetheless, he has been using the fraudulent affiliation to legitimize his representing Honduras all over the anti-democratic non-profit-military-industrial-complex, from the FIU conference two weeks ago, to the USAID-sponsored Americas Barometer conference this November, to the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems program.
  • Dr. Norman A. Bailey, President, Institute for Global Economic Growth, and “Adjunct Professor of Economic Statecraft” at the Institute for World Politics, “a Graduate School of National Security and International Affairs.” Bailey, the ideologue author of gems like Iranian Penetration into the Western Hemisphere Through Venezuela, lists “Economic Warfare” as his primary area of expertise at the IWP. Bailey has a long career attacking Latin American right to self-determination, starting with his army stint in strategic intelligence and joint operational planning; followed by his time as Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and Senior Director of International Economic Affairs on the staff of the National Security Council in the Reagan White House; many years in the shadier corners of the oil and investment banking industries; and later as Mission Manager for Cuba and Venezuela, directly under Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte. See here and here. At the conference, Bailey was promoting Marco Cáceres’s book The Good Coup.
  • Coronel Jose Amilcar Hernandez Flores, Honduran Armed Forces (the same military that carried out last year’s coup). Hernández Flores has graduated from School of the Americas (SOA) three times, the first at the height of 1980s death squad activity when SOA was training Battalion 3-16 in the torture techniques still in use today, the second for a course titled “Course in the Maintenance of Democracy” (Source: SOA Watch). In order of Name, Rank, Course, Date, Country:
    1. Hernandez Flores Jose A. Tte. Curso de Administración de la Instrucción de Unidades Pequeñas 0-2A 21 July- 2 September 1982 Honduras
    2. Hernandez Flores Jose Amilcar Tte. Cnel. Curso De Sostenimiento Democratico 6 April- 15 May 1998 Honduras
    3. Hernandez Flores Jose Amilcar Tte. Cnel. Curso Basico De Computadoras 18 May- 2 June 1998 Honduras
  • Dr. Ernesto Galvez Mejia, “Independent Scholar.” Gálvez was an aide in Maduro’s government, and is an assistant to the current ambassador in Washington representing the de facto administration of Pepe Lobo. He stated in his workshop presentation that the armed forces of Honduras have the right to attack and repress the resistance movement, because its members (he alleged) are violent and provoke disorder, and that furthermore, the state must hold a monopoly over force, to protect citizens against “extremists” (in this case people who actively oppose the military coup) whom he defined as criminals.
  • Guillermo Pena Panting, Consejo Hondurefio de la Empresa Privada (COHEP). COHEP was one the the primary financiers of the coup, and one of its biggest proponents.
  • Marifeli Pérez-Stable, until recently vice president for democratic governance and currently a non-resident senior fellow at the Inter-American Dialogue (a Washington “liberal” think tank that played a key role in legitimizing the coup here) and sociology professor at FIU.
  • Brian Fonseca, Florida International University, former U.S. Marine and a graduate of National Defense University’s Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies’ Advanced Transnational Security, Stability, and Democracy Program. As the ARC’s About Us page notes, Fonseca oversees the FIU-SOUTHCOM Academic Partnership and Strategic Culture Studies Program at FIU’s Applied Research Center.
  • Moisés Caballero, co-facilitator with Fonseca, is also former Marine Corps, and has taught “Principles of Banking” at Volunteer State Community College as adjunct faculty. He is listed as “Research Analyst” for his About Us page at the FIU Strategic Culture site, which also notes he is currently working on his MA in Latin American and Caribbean Studies (MALACS) at FIU with a focus in Cuban and Cuban American Studies.
  • Dr. Rodolfo Pastor Fasquelle. The only actual recognized intellectual in the bunch, Pastor Fasquelle is a well-respected historian who has held appointments at Harvard and El Colegio de México and who served twice as Minister of Arts and Culture, most recently for President Zelaya.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.

In solidarity,
Adrienne Pine
Assistant Professor of Anthropology
American University
Washington, DC

*Originally posted 11/04/10 at http://quotha.net/node/1302*

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