Spying and AAA and Mead and Boas and all

mike salovesh (T20MXS1@MVS.CSO.NIU.EDU)
Fri, 27 Jan 1995 03:17:00 CST

The whole question of the 1970 AAA meetings is much more complex than
represented so far in this thread. (As I suppose you might expect.)

Margaret Mead brought before that meeting (if memory serves) the
report of a special AAA committee called on to examine, and make
recommendations about, allegations of the participation of anthro-
pologists in some kind of dirty tricks IN THAILAND. Her committee
presented a report of their investigations which did NOT charge any
particular anthropologists with wrong-doing. That finding--or lack
of finding--was not popular at the business meeting. Most of us
had no first-hand information about the Thailand case, but we had
been convinced that there was some kind of hanky-panky going on by
statements made by prominent anthropologists the year before. In
the event, the voting membership not only did not adopt the
recommendations of what I think of as the "Mead committee", they
actually voted down a motion to just receive the report.

Project Camelot was another kind of animal entirely. Unfortunately,
the storm over Camelot did involve an anthropologist born in Chile
who had become a U.S. citizen: Hugo Nutini. As I understand it, the
original plans of Camelot did not envision working in Chile at all.
The overall idea of the project was to study--and enhance--the U.S.
Army's role in counterinsurgency. Chile, at that point, had no
insurgency, and had one of the longest records of peaceful succession
of governments in all Latin America. (Never mind what was to happen
a few years later: the overthrow of Allende and the imposition of
Pinochet as dictator, aided and abetted by the CIA and International
Telephone and Telegraph.) Hugo saw participation in this massive
project as a unique bridge between the country of his birth and the
country of his adoption--but he did not plan what Camelot was to do
in Chile. (That came out of the sociologists, hired by Department
of Army Intelligence, not either the Defense Department or the CIA.
They worked out of the American University, Washington D.C.)

The Chile studies tried to enlist Chilean social scientists to do
the work. Some total fool in Washington sent them the original
proposals presented to the US Army emphasizing the army's role, etc.,
preserving "security" by blacking out references to the Army with
permanent marker. They didn't even bother to retype the stuff. And,
as somebody should have expected, the widely-distributed RFP's and
requests for Chilean participation fell into the hands of Marxian
(I didn't say MarxIST) sociologists, one of whom dropped the story
to a Scandinavian newspaper. (I seem to remember Swedish, but I'll
stand correction.) THAT blew the whole thing wide open. When Hugo
Nutini alit in Chile, he faced a hurricane of opposition that the
project surely deserved but he probably did not.

But the anthropologists in Project Camelot were the small fry in that
operation. The creators of the project were VERY prominent social
scientists (mostly sociologists and political scientists) who felt
that they had a chance to run the biggest interdisciplinary social
science project in all of history. The project was supposed to get
MILLIONS of dollars. They also had the dumb hope that by such a
project they could support what they saw as "liberal" forces in the
intelligence world, particularly in the Army, against the hardline
shootemup types who ignored social scientists.

Anthropologists who were in the field when Camelot blew open (I was)
anywhere in Latin America had a helluva time. Somehow, we were all
seen as spies for the US Army. (Fat chance, in my case, anyhow. I
turned down a job offer from what grew up to be Project Camelot just
because I thought it smelled to high heaven, just a couple of years
before.) In some parts of the world, anthropologists were actually
kicked out of the countries they were working in because of the
publicity surrounding Camelot.

And that was what led to the AAA developing a "statement on ethics".
If you go back to it, you will note that one of the major obligations
that statement lays on us if we are to be ethical is that what we do
should not make it impossible for other anthropologists to do what
they do.

And now we're back to what started this thread: Franz Boas after
WW I. George Stocking gives the full details of the story in his
book on Boas--check it out. What Boas said was that some anthro-
pologists used their profession as cover for spying that I recall
he said was done in Mexico during the war. Boas accused them of
unprofessional behavior BECAUSE what they did called the good faith
of all anthropologists into question. The Board of the AAA took a
very dim view of what he said: they kicked him off the Board. (I
am convinced that his letter to THE NATION--or was it NEW REPUBLIC?
at that time depth, I get them mixed up--was only a pretext. The
driving force behind his expulsion came from Harvard anthropologists
with a record of strong anti-semitism, which they had openly directed
at Boas and his supporters before the postwar "spy letter". They
wrote congratulatory letters to others of like mind about having
finally dealt with "the Hebrews" by expelling Boas. Maybe they won
that battle, but they sure lost the war. Boasians--many, perhaps
most of them Jewish--were running the AAA in just a few years.)

As for being naive, I once asked Weston LaBarre why he had served in
the OSS as a field operative in WW II, given his strong opposition
to what we were doing in Viet Nam (and what anthropologists had been
dragged into doing in SE Asia that had been turned into the CIA
murder program, Project Phoenix). Wes answered "Because my father
and my school lied to me. They told me not only 'my country, right
or wrong'--they told me my country could do no wrong."

Of course, it was things like Viet Nam and Project Camelot that
taught a lot of people that our country could do wrong. And cured a
little of our naivete in anthropology. But only a little.

-- mike salovesh <salovesh@niu.edu>