Friday, June 29, 2007


War Crimes

Retired Air Force Lieutenant Colonel Buzz Patterson announces the release of his new book, War Crimes: The Left’s Campaign to Destroy the Military and Lose the War on Terror, posting short excerpts over at The Corner.

Buzz has spent the last couple of years building his case for War Crimes, in his many interviews with military and MILBLOGGERS on Rightalk Radio, and his dedication to amplifying the wattage of MILBLOGGER voices. He’s been guest of our inaugural MILBLOG Conference, and a guest contributor to MILBLOGS. All that, and he very graciously quoted me from one of my anti-media tirades, sent me an early draft for review, and invited me to contribute a blurb for the book jacket. (Suffice to say, this won’t be an entirely objective review. That’s okay. I’m not a journalist even if I don’t write in my pajamas.)

Buzz saw War Crimes as a mission he could accomplish: to give the American public an opportunity to hear military voices responding to media ignorance, apathy, hostility, and other journalistic malpractice and malfeasance. Here’s how he sees the current media climate, and his solution:

Realities on the ground often go unnoticed or under-appreciated. The American soldier has often lacked a voice to articulate his mission and his successes amidst the cacophony of defeat in Congress and public opinion polls. I invited warriors to weigh in with their perspectives, interviewing hundreds of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, many on the battlefields of Iraq. Together, their interviews constitute much of War Crimes: The Left’s Campaign to Destroy the Military and Lose the War on Terror. And the picture they paint of their fellow citizens at home is anything but rosy.

Read Buzz’s posting, or better yet, check out his book for what soldiers have to say about the war within.
Much of the mainstream media (MSM) and political opposition to US efforts to fight back against radical Islamic terrorism have been hateful, dishonest, disloyal, mean-spirited and self-aggrandizing. There are those who object and seek to change US foreign policy on principle, morally or ethically, and with seriousness see the war in Iraq as a grave mistake. Unfortunately, those in the opposition who reach their position through reason are not in positions of power nor editorial control in the media, or in politics, or in entertainment.

Having said that, I still prefer to view those whose position against the war is illogical, inconsistent, hypocritical or partisan-gain-seeking as ill- and mal-educated, other- and self-deceived, rather than traitorous. The premise of Buzz’s book makes me uncomfortable. I know how violently the targets of his wrath will clamor for his head and denounce his book. I know many reasonable people on both sides of the argument will say he’s gone too far, he’s branded honorable people with a harsh and unwarranted indictment that could be deserved by very, very few.

And yet. I am even more uncomfortable with the notion, which steadily creeps up in my consciousness, clamoring for my attention, that Buzz may have it more right than wrong.

Haven’t we allowed our political differences to justify all manner of evil in pursuit of our political goals? We pulled off the kid gloves and abandoned civility altogether, didn’t we? No Queensbury Rules for Twentieth (and now 21st) Century Politics.

Starting in the years since World War Two, didn’t we convince ourselves that the ends justify the means, that if our enemies were wrong, they were also evil? The 40s and 50s saw red-baiting against otherwise well-intended socialists, however wrong they might have been. The 1960s and 70s witnessed the denouncing of the architects of an idealistic fight against communist oppression as fascists and hate-mongers, and those in the military as baby-killers. Likewise, the rebels in the 60s and 70s were branded peaceniks, hippies, drug addicts and freaks. In the 80s, Reagan and his conservative supporters were crazy anti-communists, and arch-types for the Stepford Wives. In the 90s, how many right-side commentators pilloried Bill and Hillary Clinton as the embodiment of pure evil in the world? Granted, the Clintons provided plenty of ammunition, but were they really Mr. and Mrs. Anti-Christ?

Last but certainly not least, can Bush and Cheney Derangement Syndromes on the Left possibly develop any more poisonous variants as what we’ve seen since 2003?

I am absolutely certain that partisans on both sides of the war in Iraq will see evil and ill-intent only in the eyes of their opponents in the descriptions above, and completely dismiss the sins of commission of those who share their political affinities.

Still, call it a remnant quaintness on the part of Conservatives, but we reserve our insults for our political opponents, and sought to preserve the notion that politics ends at the water’s edge, and those who serve in the military would be treated with a special honor and respect, whether we agreed with their purposes and missions, or not.

For the targets of Buzz’s indictment in War Crimes, this is not the first time they have demonstrated they feel no such reservation about insulting, demeaning, disgracing and demoralizing their men and women in uniform. They have a criminal history in that regard.

And while I would never state my horror, revulsion, and anger towards the Left and their media and entertainment industry collaborators in terms as stark as Buzz, I know what he’s talking about, and I see what he sees for what it is.

The US military does not want to be in the middle of any kind of partisan bar-room brawl which diminishes their pride in nation, or service. Yet, in the current state of political discourse, the military is left with few options, none appealing. They can continue to watch and listen as opposition to their efforts continues to insult, malign and dishonor their service, or violate the longstanding reluctance of career military to take sides in political skirmishes.

Buzz can do what he wants, and he can do it well, with a bigger audience than I ever could. I don’t believe any of the contributors to War Crimes wrote the letters or blog posts they did, intending to contribute to an indictment such as War Crimes. Our testimony was not solicited, but sprang from the righteous anger of public servants tired of libel and hypocrisy.

As such, Buzz serves as public prosecutor, who gathered the testimony of men and women in uniform to form his indictment. It is up to the readers, to the American Public, to render a verdict. Many will bitterly attack his book, and angrily object to its premise. Many others will affirm his accusations.

But as a soldier whose words are included in that book, I would ask readers to ask themselves. Have you listened to the military? Do you know what we think, those who serve as defenders of our nation, our national interests, and who risk our lives as the human instrument of US Foreign Policy? We ask not for your patronage, nor do we ask for largesse, nor matronly protection. We ask only to be heard, and not disgraced.

When we cry “false” or “foul,” we expect to be taken seriously. When we support a fight in which our own lives are at stake, we expect you to do so as well. And if the opponents of our military would behave with honor and respect for our service, they wouldn’t need to worry about hearing accusations of treason. There wouldn’t be any.

Buzz realizes that the plea to listen to our military remains just that, a plea, and there are others who must listen, and then take action:

As with all wars, America’s fate resides in the hands of the vocal elite manning the editorial desks, congressional offices, and studio back lots. As we approach the birthday of our independence, let us add another voice to the dialogue: the uniformed men and women who, then as now, granted and preserved our freedom. Our way of life is at stake, as is the plight of 25 million Iraqis. Shouldn’t we listen?

W. Thomas Smith Jr., posting at The Corner, linked to Patterson’s press release today, while earlier in the week, Matt Burden posted a review and commentary on Patterson’s War Crimes over at Blackfive, and Glenn Reynolds made note of the book with a couple of short observations.

Glenn linked to Rusty Shackleford, who along with Glenn stirred up a defensive-seeming reaction from those on the other side of the issue: Kevin Drum and Oliver Willis. They view Patterson’s book as part of an orchestrated (read VRWC) to find a way to blame the “failure” in Iraq on Democrats.

For “fairness,” James Joyner posted a much less favorable review at Outside the Beltway.

As I said, this latest from Buzz may very well stir up quite the bee’s nest of angry left reactions. I have family within the hive – heck, I wonder how a family of bees could produce one lone ant -- so at least some of those angry barbs may be headed my way.

Friday, June 22, 2007


War Crimes

Buzz Patterson's latest book, War Crimes, looks like it might start quite a ruckus. It goes on sale next week.

I read the galley some time ago at the kind invitation of Buzz, and he makes quite the powerful argument that the opposition to our struggle against the war [not to be called the Global War on Terror] is anything BUT loyal.

Buzz is quite the firebrand, I don't know that I would go as far as he does in his thesis, but I do know that the targets of his wrath deserve every bit of enmity, scorn, and condemnation that would proceed from a careful consideration of their anti-American activities. They surely deserve public repudiation, which is far different from the coddling, sympathetic, and supportive treatment they get in the mainstream media. (Which is precisely Buzz's point.)

I'll see if I can't give it a more formal review in a few days.

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Thursday, June 21, 2007


Life Among the Amazons

NRO Editor Kathryn Jean Lopez asks, “Does Hillary Know Any Men Other Than Bill?”

The object of her question is a mostly gushing piece of Hillaryland, who’s only permanent citizens are women, as serenaded in The Washington Post.

If Bill Clinton and her male colleagues in the Senate represent her contacts with Male America, is it any wonder that she seems a tad too preoccupied with a narrow slice of gender issues? (Not to mention, how much that may have distorted and corrupted her views and attitudes towards men: In Hillaryland, men are either philanderers, or wimps, or gay. Strength as a personal character seems demonstrated only by the women in her world.

No kidding, wouldn’t Senator Clinton have a better understanding of America and all Americans if she had close, intimate working relationships with persons among that most maligned of minorities, the American Male?

Of course, if this meme gets any traction, expect a flurry of fawning pieces about Hillary’s close friendships with a variety of GenuineTM Men.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007


Sixty Years of Stove-Pipe

Mike McConnell, US Director of National Intelligence (DNI), calls for a dramatic overhaul of the US Intelligence Community (IC) in the July/August edition of Foreign Affairs.

On July 26, 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act.

The DNI explains what that allowed:

With the proper tools and public support and the help of allies, the United States built the world's premier intelligence establishment. It put spy planes in the sky, satellites into space, and listening posts in strategic locations around the world. It also invested in its people, developing a professional cadre of analysts, case officers, linguists, technicians, and program managers and trained them in foreign languages, the sciences, and area studies.

The DNI explains what went wrong since:

But by the time the Cold War ended, the intelligence establishment that had served Washington so well in the second half of the twentieth century was sorely in need of change. The post-Cold War "peace dividend" led to a reduction of intelligence staffing by 22 percent between fiscal years 1989 and 2001. Only now is staffing getting back to pre-Cold War levels. The National Security Act mandated that information be shared up the chain of command but not horizontally with other agencies. At the time of the act's passing, little thought was given to the need for a national-level intelligence apparatus in Washington that could synthesize information from across the government to inform policymakers and help support real-time tactical decisions. That reality, coupled with practices that led to a "stovepiping" of intelligence, arrested the growth of information sharing, collaboration, and integration -- patterns that still linger.

Few Americans seem to have paid attention to ongoing efforts to reform, improve, and redirect the efforts of the US IC, as reflected most recently by the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 (IRTPA), which itself created the post of director of national intelligence (DNI), currently inhabited by McConnell. However much change has already been implemented, McConnell advocates for much more.

McConnell asserts that the National Security Act unified military and foreign intelligence efforts, but what’s needed now is an integration of intelligence and law enforcement processes and practitioners.

McConnell suggests a prescription for what ails the IC, which his Office of the DNI (ODNI) evidently already implements in its ongoing transformation:

To capture the benefits of collaboration, a new culture must be created for the entire intelligence community without destroying unique perspectives and capabilities.

The way to do so would be to follow the model provided by the Goldwater-Nichols reforms of the military in the late 1980s. The Goldwater-Nichols Act created a unified military establishment and, among other things, laid the foundations for a "joint" military.

It created incentives for interservice collaboration (such as requiring joint service to achieve flag rank) and promoted joint training and development. What Goldwater-Nichols did for the military, IRTPA should provide the means to do for the U.S. intelligence community.

As McConnell presents it here, ODNI is going way beyond the techniques of the recent past, and embracing new collaborative tools like Wiki, blogs, and other new media capabilities:

Interagency collaboration needs to be established at two levels: intelligence collection and intelligence analysis. To this end, the Office of the DNI is in the process of developing virtual communities of analysts who can securely exchange ideas and expertise across organizational boundaries and harness cutting-edge technology to find, access, and share information and analytic judgments. Analysts are increasingly using interactive online journals, such as classified blogs and wikis, to this end. Such tools enable experts adept at different disciplines to pool their knowledge, form virtual teams, and quickly make complete intelligence assessments.

As head of 16 Federal Agencies, McConnell’s stressing joint operations:

Interagency joint-duty programs are also being implemented so that personnel from any agency can benefit from the knowledge of the entire intelligence community. An example of progress thus far is the newly created Rapid Analytic Support and Expeditionary Response, or RASER, team, a group of relatively new analysts drawn from all the intelligence agencies who undertake special training so that they can react rapidly to crises, drive intelligence- collection efforts, and work as catalysts for increased integration. Starting this summer, this elite "special forces" analytic team will be ready to be deployed against some of the United States' hardest intelligence targets.

Intelligence professionals in the 80s and 90s grew accustomed to policies, security, and access procedures governed by the concept of need to know. Compartmentalized intelligence was, in fact, placed in “compartments” precisely to limit those who could be granted access to the compartment’s information. Those who could not demonstrate an immediate and clear need for information were kept out “of the know,” even if they otherwise possessed valid and sufficient security credentials.

Now, McConnell is among those heralding (and implementing) a new paradigm: that of a responsibility to provide. When missed warnings and indicators of imminent threats can fail to prevent mass casualty results, stringent compartmentalization can have a catastrophic consequence.

McConnell explains the need to convince “data owners” to become “data providers”:

Most important, the long-standing policy of only allowing officials access to intelligence on a "need to know" basis should be abandoned. The U.S. intelligence community needs to adopt a mindset guided by a "responsibility to provide" intelligence to policymakers, war fighters, and analysts while still reasonably protecting sources and methods. Significant progress has been made since 9/11, but policy and cultural impediments remain. The challenge now is to convince collectors that they are not data owners so much as data providers.

The way to do so would be to share threat information with state and local officials as well as members of the private sector. The unique contribution made by men and women on the ground is vital to U.S. national security. In 2000, for example, a county sheriff's investigation into a local cigarette smuggling case in Charlotte, North Carolina, uncovered a multistate terrorist cell supporting Hezbollah. In 2005, a local police detective investigating a gas station robbery in Torrance, California, uncovered a homegrown jihadist cell planning a series of attacks in Illinois. State and local partners should no longer be treated as only first responders; they are also the first lines of prevention. Changing mentalities in this way is the responsibility of the program manager for the Information Sharing Environment, which was created by the IRTPA and exists to foster a partnership between all levels of government and both the private sector and foreign partners in order to share terrorist threat information.

McConnell makes some standard assertions that recent organizational and procedural changes will help the IC acquire and deploy advanced technology tools and capabilities. He mentions the tendency to overburden research and development processes with excessive requirements, but by way of solution makes reference only to the organizational elevation of the acquisition function to the “the level of a deputy director of national intelligence (there are four deputy directors).”

Unmentioned in the McConnell’s paean to IC reform is another massive Federal bureaucratic “reform” of critical National Security interest, that of the creation of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Unfortunately, too many of the reforms of the IC (and National Security for that matter) undertaken since 9/11, reflect a bureaucratic mindset to solving intractable problems, including: data overload, doctrinal ignorance, civil service and other bargaining unit impediments, organizational barriers, inadequate analytic tools, technology backwaters, system and data incompatibilities, political interference, legislative over-regulation and misdirected oversight. These I would suggest may be beyond the power of bureaucracy to confront and overcome, as they are more the cause than the source of any potential solution.

Several of the Old Bureaucracies played central and domineering roles in creating these problems: the CIA, the FBI, Department of State, DoD. Reorganizing those same organs within an even larger and more moribund bureaucracy hardly seems prescriptive to make those same problems go away.

In the end, the issue surely is all about breaking down walls between sources of information and those organizations charged with acting upon that information. Overcoming barriers to data exchange among intelligence agencies, and between the US IC and Federal, state and local law enforcement.

Yet, the latest IC reforms leave plenty of organizational walls in place, however much they’ve now gathered these “16 intelligence agencies” under the ODNI roof. ODNI, after all, was built over and above bureaucracies already in place. And as any builder will tell you, to build a roof, you’re going to need to build some walls.

Nevertheless, reforms are welcome, and plans for more reform are even more welcome. Having spent the better part of three years building a new bureaucracy, it yet remains possible that the ODNI may now implement the kinds of strategic and tactical improvements that will generate real results that go beyond line and block chart initiatives. The National Security of the US, our very future, will critically depend on those results.

I conclude, as DNI McConnell concludes:

If the efforts to improve the intelligence community are to endure, they will need sustained support from the executive branch, Congress, and the American people. It will take years to fully clarify and coordinate the DNI's responsibilities and powers, transform the collection and analysis of intelligence, accelerate information sharing, change institutional cultures, build high-tech capabilities, and boost the acquisition of new technologies. And it will take the patience of the American people and their willingness to lend their talent and expertise to the intelligence community.

(My thanks to some new friends at Mercyhurst College and the International Association of Intelligence Educators (IAFIE), who tipped me off to the DNI article in Foreign Affairs.)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Law at War

The National Review offers two stinging rebukes of the Fourth Circuit decision in the enemy combatant case: one from the NRO Editors, another by Andrew McCarthy.

No surprise that everybody at NRO, a media organization that considers the war waged against us [not to be called the Global War on Terror] with some seriousness, express alarm and outrage at the decision. Note the references to September 10th thinking, and how obvious enemy foes such as Mohammad Atta would warrant full constitutional and legal protections under the logic of this poorly reasoned decision.

Here’s McCarthy’s summary:

The Supreme Court has previously held that alien combatants may be detained for the duration of hostilities even if they are American citizens. The panel majority did not dispute this, nor did it doubt that al-Marri is a trained terrorist — schooled during the late 1990s in al Qaeda’s paramilitary camps — who was in the United States to do us great harm. Rather, it sought to distinguish those precedents as limited to situations in which combatants are either apprehended on a conventional battlefield or working for a conventional enemy.
That is, the court astoundingly reasoned that because al Qaeda is a sub-sovereign, transnational terror network — i.e., it is neither a traditional sovereign enemy like Germany during WWII, nor an extension or militia belonging to a nation-state, like the German saboteurs captured inside the U.S. during WWII — its operatives inside the United States must be considered civilians, not enemy combatants, at least in the absence of traditional “battlefield” conditions of capture. As civilians, the judges held, they must either be tried in the civilian courts for terrorist crimes, or be released.
That is simply a preposterous assessment of our present threat conditions, to say nothing of the law. To being with, the president’s commander-in-chief authority is premised on preserving the national security of the United States against foreign threats; it is plainly triggered when a threat is foreign; there is no requirement that the foreign threat come in the form of a nation state. The president’s job is to protect Americans, and Americans are just as dead whether they are killed by al Qaeda or Iran. There is nothing new about that commonsense reality; the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which has risen to national attention since revelation of the NSA’s Terrorist Surveillance Program, has always recognized that a “foreign power” — the kind for which FISA permits wiretapping and physical searches — can be either a national state or an international terrorist organization.
Moreover, the most dangerous operatives of al Qaeda — which continues to attempt a reprise of 9/11 — are patently those planted inside the United States. Without them, a 9/11 can’t happen. And it is worth noting that, under the reasoning of this decision, Mohamed Atta would have to have been given a full-blown trial in the civilian justice system, or released, if he had been apprehended before boarding a plane on 9/11.

However we may view this ruling, there’s no doubt the terrorists will celebrate it. By intentionally targeting and killing civilians, by violating every known law of war, by hiding their combatant identities, by conducting acts of sabotage and terror, any state sponsored terrorist, terror proxy, or terror entrepreneur can avoid the harsh treatment and military response they so rightfully deserve, and earn instead limitless legal protections.

If today’s jurists had been around in World War Two, we’d have had to sue for peace, if not from Hitler, than from our own legal system. That’s how insane this ruling is, just from a non-legal perspective. That the two judicial goons responsible for the ruling also grossly distort and misread the law and precedent upon which they base their decision is even more outrageous.


In Transit

At the risk of sounding like Glenn Reynolds when he's in travel blog mode, I'm in transit, making my way back from an Intelligence Community Conference in the DC area. I hope to make some general comments about that experience later this week.

I was all set to be angry and frustrated, first, because I'm flying United, and second, I'm flew in and now fly out via Dulles.

I don't know how the beltway types put up with this Airport. Maybe it's me, but everything about this place, its layout, accoutrement, features, seem like some Disney ImaginariumTM view of the Future from 20 years ago.

What is it with these people mover shuttles? Does anyone seriously think this is more efficient or economical? For those who aren't familiar with these beasts, the people mover is a huge cabin, like two end-to-end subway cars, mounted on a huge truck, with a couple of wings on top like some kind of cheesy "Flight to the Future." They move passengers from one terminal to another, not in a shuttle type circuit, but point to point in their assigned route.

The driver escorts passengers into the cabin, sets a 5 minute timer letting passengers know when the Shuttle will depart, and at the assigned time, locks everybody in and then enters the "cockpit" to initiate the transport sequence. (That's another of the Futurama effects, there's a message that tells you to remain seated until the shuttle completes its docking procedure.)

And why do I think employee ownership has made the people of United seem more like sullen Soviets? Aside from the fact that one encounters few if any speakers of English as a first language, customer service borders on the catatonic. Apparently freed from the oppression of the Owners, United staff encountered the burden of having to provide customer service to a new set of “masters,” as in the traveling public.

I must some like some kind of grump. Maybe it was all the delays, the minor and unexplainable inconveniences, all manner of construction. Someone please tell me that they're building a train, or moving walkways, or even regular walkways under the terminals.

Normally I would be stressed, agitated, annoyed. Rather, I’m comfortable and relaxed.

I had been trying for a standby on an earlier flight that was cancelled. I had a confirmed reservation on the later flight, which meant I didn’t have to stand in line for an hour in customer service with my fellow passengers.

I found a delightful brew pub in the airport that serves its own Hefe-Weizen, as well as some tasty garlic fries that well accompanies a pulled pork and coleslaw sandwich.

With four hours to kill, I enjoyed a nice dinner, and buoyed by that and my favorite beverage of choice, relax with wireless and an overfull stomach.

I said some unpleasant things about Dulles, didn't I? I'm sorry, I take them all back.

Friday, June 08, 2007


Killing Fields

The New York Times published an Op Ed yesterday, written by Peter Rodman and William Shawcross, with the evocative title Defeat’s Killing Fields.

Rodman and Shawcross make a cause and effect comparison between Vietnam and Iraq and warn that Defeat in Iraq, as it did in Vietnam, will have disastrous consequences:
SOME opponents of the Iraq war are toying with the idea of American defeat. A number of them are simply predicting it, while others advocate measures that would make it more likely. Lending intellectual respectability to all this is an argument that takes a strange comfort from the outcome of the Vietnam War. The defeat of the American enterprise in Indochina, it is said, turned out not to be as bad as expected. The United States recovered, and no lasting price was paid.

We beg to differ. Many years ago, the two of us clashed sharply over the wisdom and morality of American policy in Indochina, especially in Cambodia. One of us (Mr. Shawcross) published a book, “Sideshow,” that bitterly criticized Nixon administration policy. The other (Mr. Rodman), a longtime associate of Henry Kissinger, issued a rebuttal in The American Spectator, defending American policy. Decades later, we have not changed our views. But we agreed even then that the outcome in Indochina was indeed disastrous, both in human and geopolitical terms, for the United States and the region. Today we agree equally strongly that the consequences of defeat in Iraq would be even more serious and lasting.
For such as need the lesson in latter half 20th century American History – and many rhetorical opponents of our efforts in Iraq surely need one – Rodman and Shawcross patiently explain exactly the catastrophe our abandonment made of Vietnam.

Rodman and Shawcross assess the current situation in Iraq with similar clarity, and strongly urge the US to remain committed to the struggle:
The new strategy of the coalition and the Iraqis, ably directed by Gen. David Petraeus, offers the best prospect of reversing the direction of events — provided that we show staying power. Osama bin Laden said, a few months after 9/11, that “when people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse.” The United States, in his mind, is the weak horse. American defeat in Iraq would embolden the extremists in the Muslim world, demoralize and perhaps destabilize many moderate friendly governments, and accelerate the radicalization of every conflict in the Middle East.

Our conduct in Iraq is a crucial test of our credibility, especially with regard to the looming threat from revolutionary Iran. Our Arab and Israeli friends view Iraq in that wider context. They worry about our domestic debate, which had such a devastating impact on the outcome of the Vietnam War, and they want reassurance.

When government officials argued that American credibility was at stake in Indochina, critics ridiculed the notion. But when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, he and his colleagues invoked Vietnam as a reason not to take American warnings seriously. The United States cannot be strong against Iran — or anywhere — if we accept defeat in Iraq.
That is the fatal flaw in the argument of those who would presume to support the national interest of the US, and the interests of the Iraqi people as well, while at the same time saying we must “end this war.” Our enemies are watching us, and they are careful students of American History, even if US war opponents and majority partisans are not.

I would not have grasped the full significance of these particular two writers making their argument without an encyclopedic recollection by John Podhoretz writing at The Corner:
Twenty-eight years ago, in the pages of the American Spectator, Rodman wrote one of the most authoritative takedowns I (or anybody else) has ever read or written. The subject? William Shawcross's Sideshow — a book that blamed the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia on the United States and on Henry Kissinger. Shawcross, then perhaps England's foremost leftist journalist, has undertaken a singular journey over the past two decades to the view that the United States is the key positive force for good in the world. Today's op-ed completes that journey, and it represents a degree of grace in transformation that is very, very rare.
I very much admire that description, “it represents a degree of grace in transformation that is very, very rare.”

Eventually, we may well hope that opponents of our efforts in Iraq will someday achieve that transformation. Perhaps then, they will see clearly, without the funhouse mirror distortions of their hatred for George Bush and everything they see him stand for. Whether they show any “grace in transformation” will remain to be seen.

(Excerpts posted at MILBLOGS.)



Democracy in Prague

Michael Rubin writing on The Corner a few days back reported that the participants of the Prague “Democracy and Security Conference” issued a Prague Document. Contributors included former Czech President Vaclav Havel, famed Soviet dissident and Israeli Parliamentarian Natan Sharansky, and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, and the document was immediately lauded by President Bush.

Rubin noted the following points:
1. To demand the immediate release of all non violent political prisoners in their respective countries
2. Instructing diplomatic emissaries to non-democratic countries to actively and openly seek out meetings with political prisoners and dissidents committed to building free societies through non-violence.
4. Raising the question of human rights in all meetings with officials of non-democratic regimes.
5. Seeking national and international initiatives, in the spirit of the Helsinki Accords, that link bilateral and international relations to the question of human rights.
8. Isolating and ostracizing governments and groups that suppress their peaceful domestic opponents by force, violence, or intimidation.
9. Isolating and ostracizing governments and groups that threat other countries and peoples with genocide or annihilation.
Oh, Rubin also has something to say to those who pretend to care about human rights and “prisoners of conscience” the world over:
Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, European Union, Middle East Studies Association, BBC: Your silence is deafening.
The more I reflect on this document, the more it reminds me of former President Carter’s attempt to premise much of US foreign policy on human rights, an exercise of quixotic proportions often viewed by conservatives as naïve.

Aside from what anyone might think of such attempts to isolate and ostracize dictatorships through moral condemnation, it amazes me that President Bush has formulated one of the most idealistic foreign policies of the past 100 years. What irony that many of those who most denigrate the Carter Presidency for naïve idealism so strongly support President Bush and his more “assertive” attempts to promote democracy. Likewise, note how those who should be Bush’s allies internationally rather condemn and excoriate him, and elevate Carter as a sage.

The many inconstant on Left and Right pick their heroes and villains first, and then justify their passions. There no doubt is some ancient term for such phenomena.

(Cross-Posted at MILBLOGS.)

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Tuesday, June 05, 2007


Unlawful Combatants

The Associated Press yesterday reported that Army military judge threw out the military commission case against Omar Khadr, a Canadian member of a known terrorist family intricately enmeshed with Al Qaeda:

The judge, Army Col. Peter Brownback, said he had no choice but to throw out the Khadr case because he had been classified as an "enemy combatant" by a military panel years earlier — and not as an "alien unlawful enemy combatant."

The Military Commissions Act, signed by President Bush last year, says only those classified as "unlawful" enemy combatants can face war trials here, Brownback noted during the arraignment in a hilltop courtroom.

COL Brownback recognized Khadr as “merely” an enemy combatant. Thus COL Brownback simplistically ruled that Khadr was not properly designated an “alien unlawful enemy combatant,” and thus the judge dismissed the case “without prejudice,” asserting the military commission did not have jurisdiction over Khadr.

In effect, the court constructively defined the youthful defendant as “merely” a prisoner of war.

I am not a legal expert, nor per force more specifically a military law expert. But I can sometimes retain the patience to read through the tendentious (and often bombastic) legalese in legal arguments.

It seems to me that, as in previous wars, the US military and its civilian leadership can consider various options for what to do with the poor misguided soul for whom these charges were dismissed:

They can attempt to “officially” designate him as an illegal enemy combatant, and charge him with any war crimes he may be guilty of, such as fighting as an enemy combatant without a uniform or identifying himself as a soldier, or killing or conspiring to kill civilian non-combatants.

They can try him criminally for murder, or conspiracy to commit acts of violence, or other criminal charges.

They can engage in negotiations for his release, say under a “prisoner swap” with our enemies.

They can hold him until the cessation of hostilities, at which time he can be returned to his country of origin.

They can deport him to his country of origin or extradite him to any other third country in which the defendant faces criminal or terror charges.

They can release him.

I suppose some more interested in an ideal jurisprudence will consider Khadr’s age an important factor in any legal proceedings against him. Khadr was 15 at the time of his capture, and is 20 now. While in custody, Khadr’s Father was killed in fighting in Afghanistan, and his siblings (including one younger than Khadr!) have been sought or captured in counter-terrorist fighting and other military operations.

Yet you’d never guess that from how his Defense Lawyers portray the youthful Jihadi:

A prosecutor, Army Capt. Keith Petty, said he had been prepared to show Khadr was an unlawful combatant because he fought for al-Qaida, and videotapes showed Khadr making and planting explosives targeting American soldiers.


The son of an alleged al-Qaida financier, Khadr is accused of killing U.S. Army Sgt. Christopher Speer with a grenade during a firefight in Afghanistan on July 27, 2002.

Khadr's attorneys said he was a child soldier and should be rehabilitated, not imprisoned.

"The U.S. will be the first country in modern history to try an individual who was a child at the time of the alleged war crimes," the attorneys said in a joint statement in April.

As I admitted, I am not an expert in Military Law, nor am I as well versed as some in the seminal laws, regulations, and other documents that form the basis for military tribunals or military commissions. But I do know something about the enemies we face in radical Islamic terror organizations, and I know they consciously and carefully plan intricate legal strategies to confound counter-terror operations, and turn our own legal system into knots, and against our National Interest.

Andrew McCarthy, writing at National Review Online, sharply rebukes COL Brownback and most of Brownback’s legal reasoning as silly. Again – not a lawyer – but this strikes me as pretty pointed criticism of a jurist.

First, McCarthy provides a very helpful primer on Khadr and his Al Qaeda bona fides:

In July 2002, Khadr was on the battlefield in Afghanistan, aligned with al Qaeda. During a ferocious firefight against U.S. forces, Khadr allegedly threw a grenade at his enemies, killing a medic, U.S. army Sergeant Christopher Speer, and wounding three other Americans, including Sergeant Layne Morris, who lost an eye.
At the time, Khadr was 15 years old. Young? Sure, but it was no surprise to find him waging war against Americans. His father, Egyptian-born Ahmed Said Khadr, was an intimate of Osama bin Laden. The elder Khadr was reputed to be al Qaeda’s highest ranking operative in Canada. His sons were trained in al Qaeda camps. His daughter married an al Qaeda operative in a ceremony attended by bin Laden himself.
In 1995, Ahmed Khadr was arrested by Pakistani authorities in connection al Qaeda’s bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad. By intercession of the Canadian government, he was released. In October 2003, over a year after his son Omar is said to have murdered Sgt. Speer, Ahmed Khadr was finally killed in Pakistan. During the same counter-Qaeda operation, Pakistani authorities also encountered Omar’s younger brother, then-14-year-old Abdul, who was paralyzed. Meanwhile, of Omar’s two older brothers, one, Abdullah, is a fugitive, and the other, Abdurrahman, was captured fighting Coalition forces in Afghanistan in November 2001.

And here’s how McCarthy characterizes those who celebrate COL Brownback’s decision (just for a healthy dab of high sarcasm):

Naturally, the ruling has provoked squeals of joy from Bush-bashers who’ve devoutly sought a return to the good old pre-9/11 days when terrorist operatives were treated like common tax cheats — committed to the civilian justice system and bathed in the bountiful privileges the U.S. Constitution fashioned for American citizens. The dismissal, moreover, is quietly applauded by many military justice officials who’ve made little secret of their resentment over being frozen out of the administration’s decision to employ commissions — something wartime commanders-in-chief have done since General George Washington convened such tribunals during the Revolutionary War.

Opponents of this Administration and our efforts to confront the sworn Jihadi enemies of any age who fight us in this war [not to be called the Global War on Terror] seem bound a determined to re-label the entire problem as one of law enforcement and legal wrangling.

Admittedly, most citizens of these United States are far more fearful of lawyers than they are of armed forces, but I think terrorists view this Army of Lawyers more as useful irregulars in their fight against civilization.

McCarthy’s explanation of the current legal basis for determining who is an unlawful enemy combatant seems definitive, so I quote in its entirety:

, the crucial inquiry with a combatant is whether he is properly categorized as unlawful, as the MCA requires. So how does the military make that determination? It conducts what is known as a Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT). And it is in connection with the CSRTs that Col. Brownback has gone astray, needlessly inflating into a mountain the molehill created by some — at most — semantic differences between what the MCA calls for and what the military’s CSRT procedures provide.
The military’s [Combat Status Review Tribunal] CSRT procedures are set forth in a memorandum issued by the Deputy Secretary of Defense, which is available on the Defense Department’s website. (See here, last updated May 21, 2007.) The memo was issued on July 14, 2006. Note that that is five months before the MCA. It would be a fair criticism to argue that once the MCA was enacted, the Pentagon’s legal staff should have gone carefully over the memo to ensure symmetry between the MCA’s requirements for military commission jurisdiction and the CSRT findings that would be used to satisfy those requirements. Still, to give the Defense Department its due, it would have been reasonable — notwithstanding Monday’s ruling — to conclude that the CSRT procedures were adequate to the task.
The basic problem is some loose language. The CSRT procedures, in shorthand fashion, speak of determining whether a detainee is an enemy combatant, not an unlawful enemy combatant as the MCA requires. Under the memo’s “Purpose and Functions” section (p. 1 of the memo’s first enclosure), it is explained that the CSRT will “determine whether each detainee … meets the criteria to be designated as an enemy combatant.” Does that mean the Pentagon somehow forgot about unlawful? No, not at all. On close examination, we learn the difference in terminology used by the MCA and the CSRT procedures is superficial, not substantive.
That’s because the memo does not merely state that CSRTs should establish that the detainee is an “enemy combatant.” It also takes pains to define what is meant by that term (again, at p. 1 of the memo’s first enclosure):

An “enemy combatant” for purposes of this order shall mean an individual who was part of or supporting Taliban or al Qaida forces, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners. This includes any person who has committed a belligerent act or has directly supported hostilities in aid of enemy armed forces. [Emphasis added.]

In other words, even though the CSRT procedures do not mandate a separate finding that an enemy combatant has acted “unlawfully,” they necessarily call for a conclusion that he has done so. By definition, a detainee can only be found to be an enemy combatant if he has been part of, or provided support for, al Qaeda, the Taliban, or their affiliates. Those forces conduct their operations in blatant violation of the laws of war, which require combatants to be part of a regular armed force, wear uniforms, carry their weapons openly, and refrain from targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. Thus, if you are part of or supporting al Qaeda and its allies, you are necessarily conducting your operations unlawfully in the sense of violating the laws of war.


The CSRT found that Khadr was an “enemy combatant” by employing procedures under which such a finding cannot happen unless the person is found to be an unlawful enemy combatant. But because the CSRT procedures don’t require the tribunal to say the magic word “unlawful” — just to find the real-world fact of unlawfulness — Colonel Brownback has found the CSRT wanting.
Not to get too technical, but the clinical word for that is “silly.”

I find McCarthy’s conclusion quite persuasive, but then I think we’re at war with real enemies, vicious and ruthless ones, who will use every weapons they can – their own and our own – against us. This is no bumper sticker invention, no product of spin. This war exists, and did long before 9/11 or even the much-maligned Presidency of George W. Bush.

Rather than create legal Melodrama over imagined US human rights violations, these same critics need to stand face to face with our enemies, the real ones, not the bogey-man of their partisan imaginings.

It is long past time for serious policy opponents to formulate and argue intelligently for realistic alternatives, if they have any. It is long past time for critics of US policies to design realistic models of jurisprudence towards war criminals, illegal enemy combatants, terrorists and those state and non-state actors, who daily defy Conventions, civil compacts, laws of war, and basic covenants of humanity.


Monday, June 04, 2007


Steve Gilliard, RIP

The Armed Liberal posting at Winds of Change passes on news that Steve Gilliard died this past weekend. Beloved, we are told, on the left, despised (when acquainted) on the right, and probably rather anonymous outside blogging, Gilliard was a frequent contributor to The Huffington Post and founder of The News Blog.

Here’s how AL eulogized Gilliard:

The News Blog is very much a kind of Bizzaro Winds of Change; it's a progressive, antiwar site with an eye toward serious military knowledge. While we disagreed deeply on many many issues, it was a place where I went to see what smart antiwar people who weren't clueless about war had to say.

This weekend, Steve Gilliard, the founder of The News Blog died. He'd been profoundly ill for some time, and it was sad to go over and see what his co-bloggers were saying as his condition deteriorated.

We seldom agreed, never spoke or even emailed, but my world is smaller because he's gone.

Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit linked to Dean Bartlett, who likewise expressed condolences and payr Gilliard respect at Hugh Hewitt's Blog.


Most of you have probably never heard of Steve Gilliard. Steve was a Daily Kos front-pager, and then when his time there expired he formed his own blog. I always thought he was the most gifted wordsmith in the left half of the blogosphere. I don’t mean that as a damning-with-faint-praise backhanded compliment. The guy could write, even though I virtually never agreed with what he wrote.

Steve Gilliard died yesterday. The eulogy of Steve that appeared in the Daily Kos referred to him as “hard-nosed, independent, (and) acerbic. Steve often pissed off the same readers he wowed with his take-no-prisoners style.” I read Gilliard every day, and I can attest to the accuracy of this summation. He wowed me, and he pissed me off, usually multiple times in the same post. As I made my daily virtual stroll through the lefty blogs, I always looked forward to hitting his site. He was profane, angry and offensive, but also intelligent and still somehow fun.

I had one encounter with Gilliardthat I knew of – in the matter of my 2005 complaint, suggesting Gilliard was manipulating data to convey a false picture of defeat

. I posted this response early in OIF III tour in March 2005, when I had been in Iraq about two months or so.

Steve Gilliard responded in comments with respectful civility. Maybe the fact that I was at that moment serving in Iraq tempered what would otherwise have been a more typical response. Since that exchange in comments, I’d seen his posts from time to time. I decided pretty quickly that whatever rationality or reasoned argument he revealed in our exchanges in 2005. I think his “acerbic, take no prisoner style” grew exaggerated the more he grew in popularity in the left side of the blogosphere. (Not an uncommon phenomenon on either side of the blogging divide.)

Later in comments in the same post, the Liberal Avenger took up the line of argument.

Our debate in comments remained remarkably civil, despite our passion for our respective positions. That led to the creation of Debate Space, my now dormant attempt to initiate a civil debate between left and right (especially on Iraq, the military, and the war on terror). AL and I left Gilliard behind, and in over a dozen extended debates on a wide range of topics, made a fair demonstration that a civil debate was still possible between left and right sides of the blogosphere.

(Sigh.) That was then, this is now.

Tragically, the longer this fight lasts, the less and less room for (sane, rationale and non-vituperative) discussion on issues of critical importance to our nation. Where is that middle ground where reason and argument can lead to solutions?

And just as sadly, Gilliard, his many admirers on the left, and perhaps as many detractors on the right, abandoned that middle ground a long time ago.

Steve, in tribute to your too-short life, your passion, your writing, your friends and your admiring detractors, may I say, rest in peace.

We will all of us follow you some day, and well might we hope that others take note of our passing. For their betterment, in not for ours; we will be in Another’s Hands then.


Friday, June 01, 2007


Lies of the Times

Charles Krauthammer, writing in the Washington Post, provides a perfect illustration of how the New York Times intentional distorts fact in their reporting in service to their partisan agenda. Few examples of media deceit are this obvious.

Here’s the Times dishonesty to which Krauthammer refers. (He uses the gracious word mendacity, but the rest of us know it as lying. Liberals and Democrats of course reserve that term of art to political disputes in which honest people disagree as to what facts mean or indicate, and only when it suits their politics.)

But the campaign for legalization does not stop at stupidity and farce. It adds mendacity as well. Such as the front-page story in last Friday's New York Times claiming that "a large majority of Americans want to change the immigration laws to allow illegal immigrants to gain legal status."

Sounds unbelievable. And it is. A Rasmussen poll had shown that 72 percent of Americans thought border enforcement and reducing illegal immigration to be very important. Only 29 percent thought legalization to be very important. Indeed, when a different question in the Times poll -- one that did not make the front page -- asked respondents if they wanted to see illegal immigrants prosecuted and deported, 69 percent said yes.

I looked for the poll question that justified the pro-legalization claim. It was Question 61. Just as I suspected, it was perfectly tendentious. It gave the respondent two options: (a) allow illegal immigrants to apply for legalization (itself a misleading characterization because the current bill grants instant legal status to all non-criminals), or (b) deport them.

The other dishonesty revealed in this example is the widespread phenomena of partisan and political agenda driven pollsters intentionally devising polls with ambiguous or loaded questions like these, that they design precisely to pre-salt an inevitable result. That gives them a guaranteed result that appears to lend objective truth to the lie they construct. That’s deceit, and the editors at the Times know it.

Is deceit too strong a word for what the Times tried to pull off? I don’t think so. They and their editors no doubt read through the results of the poll in question. They knew what they wanted to find out of the results, they knew what they didn’t like. So they twist the most unrepresentative finding of a single horrendously written poll question to frame a story they want to tell, contrary to overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

All the news that’s fit to print, not. Rather, news made to fit, any which way we can.

(Via Memeorandum)

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