Another Human Terrain Operator Killed

Nicole Suveges was killed in yesterday’s Sadr City bombing.

From Noah Shachtman at Wired’s Danger Room blog:

For the second time in seven weeks, a social scientist embedded with the U.S. military has been killed on the battlefield. Nicole Suveges, a political scientist serving with the Army’s controversial Human Terrain System, was slain Tuesday in a bombing in Sadr City, Baghdad. Early last month, social scientist Michael Batia suffered a similar fate in Afghanistan.

For nearly a year, American combat deaths have been on a slow, uneven decline in Afghanistan and Iraq. Which makes the slayings of these two social scientists stand out all the more. The Human Terrain System placed researchers into combat units, in an attempt to lower the levels of violence in their districts; instead, these two social scientists have become its victims. Critics of the project claimed that the researchers might help the U.S. military in its warzone targeting; instead, its the social scientists themselves who have been killed. Ironically, these civilian academics, in their attempts to promote cultural understanding, are spending more time outside the protective walls of the American military enclaves than many soldiers.

From BAE Systems:

BAE Systems Statement Regarding the Loss of Employee in Iraq

ROCKVILLE, Md.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Nicole Suveges, a BAE Systems political scientist, was killed Tuesday in a bombing in Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq. She was supporting the U.S. Armys 3rd Brigade Combat Team (BCT), 4th Infantry Division, as part of the Human Terrain System (HTS) program.

We are deeply saddened by the loss of Nicole Suveges, said Doug Belair, president of the companys Technology Solutions & Services (TSS) line of business. She came to us to give freely of herself in an effort to make a better world. Nicole was a leading academic who studied for years on how to improve conditions for others. She also believed in translating what she learned into action. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends and colleagues.

Suveges began her current tour in Iraq in April of this year. Before joining BAE Systems, she had worked in Iraq for one year as a civilian contractor. Previously, Suveges served as a U.S. Army reservist in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, supporting the multinational SFOR/NATO Combined Joint Psychological Operations Task Force.

She held a Master of Arts in political science from The George Washington University. Suveges was soon to complete her Ph.D. in political science with an emphasis on international relations from Johns Hopkins University, where she also served as managing editor for the Review of International Political Economy. Her dissertation was on Markets & Mullahs: Global Networks, Transnational Ideas and the Deep Play of Political Culture. She presented numerous papers to international relations organizations and served as a graduate teaching assistant.

During her time with the 3rd BCT, she brought a wealth of skill and knowledge to support the mission in Iraq. Her experience in Bosnia-Herzegovina, coupled with her academic credentials contributed materially to the success of the brigade in reducing the level of violence in the local community and in improving critical infrastructure. She worked closely with her HTS team members to help Iraqis achieve peace, stability and prosperity.

These statements might come across as a bit more human if the companies that issued them didn’t also seize upon the opportunity to promote their offerings in the same breath that they note the loss of a staffer. For anyone who gives a rat’s ass about how special BAE Systems is and all the wonderful things it does, go read the original statement on the death of Suveges in full, which concludes with just such detail. I’m not gonna promote that kind of B.S. here. Sorry. Sue me. Also, anyone interested in dialing up BAE to commend it on its sensitivity, points of contact are provided.

I didn’t know Nicole. Not directly. She would have been one of the many soldiers that rotated through SFOR. CJPOTF was right down the street from the HQ, so I have no doubt she’s a familiar face.

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4 thoughts on “Another Human Terrain Operator Killed

  1. From what I understand Ms. Suveges was a contractor.Also from what I can tell is that the two deaths where the only two while the program has been in existence.

  2. The BAE part of the statement simply tells what BAE and HTS does.It is the TSS part that is out of place.

  3. @Darksaga:First, thanks for your interest in the CTLab site, and for taking the time to read & comment. With regard to Nicole’s employment status, I’m only privy to what BAE itself wrote. It referred to her in the title of its press release as "employee", which in some fields/places is quite distinct from contractor status. I’d referred to her as a staffer, but ultimately the nature of her employment status is neither here nor there, really, given that she was serving her country. My comment, though, was about the content of BAE’s statement, which when read in full comes across as more than a little crass. If I were to review this coldly, detached from the subject of Nicole’s death, I’d suggest that there’s an IO/marketing element to this that falls far short. There’s certainly a reasonable argument that the TSS and BAE details provide context to the story, but as issued, those details are boilerplate. In light of the sad news, they come across as unnecessary, crass and opportunistic. Do such statements have to be crafted so? I would argue not. BAE hardly needs to market itself through press releases on the deaths of employees. It could easily afford to step back from the corporate mantra in such cases and focus on the personal a bit better. Strange irony that local contingency is exactly what human terrain operators are employed to do.

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