Thursday, September 06, 2007


ACLU Depictions

(Coming soon to a theater near you. No doubt.)

Dan Riehl referenced a pending lawsuit to be filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) by way of making a cautionary rejoinder to Bob Owens recent defense of our troops. Riehl also linked to a report on the ACLU lawsuit published by Time Magazine, as well as the ACLU press release, and full text excerpts of military prosecutions and investigations of soldiers who were alleged to have committed criminal acts while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. More on the ACLU’s press release and documentary “evidence” below.

Why the note of caution from Riehl? He warns Owens and his readers that, “unfortunately, it isn’t all made up.” Riehl refers to Owens implication that negative stories about the US military attack “the integrity of those who serve.”

Owens points to numerous signs of progress in Iraq, admits that partisans on both sides (himself included) will “spin the data and the findings to support our political viewpoints.” Along the way, Owens highlights Hollywood propagandists, along with ubiquitous media doom-speak, and similar critical descriptions of Administration spin and “illusions.”

Owens notes the ease and frequency with which war critics suggest that GEN Petraeus and other military leaders will lie or misrepresent progress and “facts on the ground” for political ends. In this context, Owens mentions the “brutal fantasies” of Scott Beauchamp, and the dishonesty of TNR and its editor’s reactions to claims of serial untruthfulness in Beauchamp’s “diary” entries.

I suppose that’s the basis for Riehl’s cautionary disclaimer that “it isn’t all made up,” it being any comments or presentation of purported facts about military misbehavior. Doubtlessly Riehl is correct, but the object of his misgivings (the ACLU report) itself warrants scrutiny and skepticism.

The ACLU’s actual press release avoids making much of any generalizations about military misbehavior, summarizing their document release in neutral terms:

The Army has provided thousands of pages of documents chronicling civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Those documents include new evidence of coalition forces’ involvement in civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A critic of our military and efforts in Iraq or Afghanistan might interpret the phrase “evidence of coalition forces’ involvement in civilian casualties” as damning, but a careful study of many of the documents themselves suggest otherwise.

The ACLU excerpts of 10 Courts Martial Proceedings show convictions and other punishments for 9 out of the 10 cases, and they clearly show military wrong-doing. But the ACLU pad their cache of documents a great number that indicate exoneration, lack of negligence, outright innocence, and in only a few cases, possible criminal behavior.

The ACLU does manage to squeeze in those very few cherry picked examples of excess and extreme behavior that proves the rare exception, even within these documents that the ACLU apparently finds so conclusive. And in doing so, they even manage to misrepresent one of their most valued examples of wrongful deaths:

Yet another file describes an investigation of a riot at a U.S. interment facility at Camp Bucca, Iraq, evidently related to claims that U.S. personnel had defaced the Qur’an.  At least four Iraqi prisoners were shot and killed by Coalition Forces during the disturbance.

I read that file. Here are the details that the ACLU left out:

Investigation determined [redacted] were justified in their use of lethal force during the riot. After approximately 2 hours of rioting, with the riot escalating and non-lethal ammunition almost expended, [redacted] fire a total of eight lethal rounds at detainees engaged in the riot because of fear for their own lives and the lives of other US security personnel. The use of deadly force was consistent with applicable regulations and policies. [ed., and common sense]

The cause of death for Detainees ABID, MOUSA, HAMED, and TAWFEEEK was gunshot wounds. The manner of their deaths was homicide. The manner of death is a medical classification that should not be confused with criminal statutes. No personnel involved in controlling the riot, including [redacted] violated criminal statutes.

TIME, of course, exaggerates what the ACLU press release actually says:

New documents released Tuesday regarding crimes committed by U.S. soldiers against civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan detail a troubling pattern of troops failing to understand and follow the rules that govern interrogations and deadly actions.


The documents, released by the American Civil Liberties Union ahead of a lawsuit, total nearly 10,000 pages of courts-martial summaries, transcripts and military investigative reports about 22 incidents. They show repeated examples of soldiers believing they were within the law when they killed local citizens.

Other than the Courts Martial proceedings -- note to non-military, those document prosecutions, which mean the military sought to punish wrongdoing) -- these documents hardly detail anything of substance, and surely not a “pattern.” Twenty two incidents barely rise beyond any reasonable margin of error (and at that, really only 9 show confirmed criminal activity), and the “repeated examples of soldiers believing they were within the law” are matched in many cases by an administrative, investigation, or judicial determination that, in fact, they were within the law.

You won’t read that within the TIME report, nor see it mentioned by the ACLU, but you might well conclude it by reviewing a fair sample of the documents the ACLU tossed out by way of “evidence.” I read both IG reports, all 12 Criminal Investigation Command (CID) files, and sampled the Courts Martial records.

Again, other than the Courts Martial, one or two suggested possible wrong doing, but the great majority read like unsupported or even false allegations that fall apart during investigation. Most are routine confirmation of unfortunate deaths due to traffic accidents, collateral casualties during attacks, or even deaths resulting from the “victims” engaging US forces in active combat. There’s even a report of death due to a surgical complication.

There are a handful of serious examples of apparent misconduct or criminal behavior, as selectively quoted by the ACLU. They are far from the norm, even within the cases the ACLU highlights with great suspicion.

It might also be useful to point out that the ACLU is gathering all of its current data from files of Army investigations and criminal prosecutions. In other words, cases where the military very energetically investigating, and when warranted, prosecuting wrong-doing in the ranks.

If this is the best the ACLU could come up with, despite excessive zeal and deep motivation to damn and discredit our military, our troops are doing one heck of a job. And ACLU donors ought to be asking themselves if there’s a better use for their money.

(Links courtesy of Instapundit.)

Mrs. Greyhawk at MILBLOGS links to Stop the ACLU, which echoes Riehl’s cautionary note. Stop the ACLU includes some feedback from some who have read through the ACLU allegations, and found them predictable, consistent with anti-war propaganda, and often mischaracterized. Credibility and validity indicators, both “D” val.

Chapomatic, also at MILBLOGS, notes a related Glenn Reynolds post and suggests that the intent of allegations and accusations aren’t necessarily to achieve punishment, and surely not justice:

Oh by the way that series of accusations, of which you have heard? Nothing was proved. No wrongdoing was indicated. The accused were free to go, after their careers and reputations were ruined.

That's more effective than shooting someone in wartime--not only is one guy off the field, but so are many more comrades, and the chilling effect will kill more and render others unable to shoot the right person at the right time.

A “troubling pattern” of behavior by the ACLU, I’d say.

(Cross-posted at MILBLOGS)

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