Assume the Position

Friday, April 30, 2004
 
April is a Cruel Month

April 2004 has been the bloodiest month for American forces in Iraq since the invasion, with over 100 killed. I think April 2005 may be a very cruel month for Iraq if Kerry is elected. Some people want to equate Iraq to Vietnam, so let's look back before we look forward.

Twenty-nine years ago, April 30, 1975, Saigon fell and South Vietnam surrendered to the Communist North. That was the end of the Vietnam War. Not the "peace with honor" of the 1973 Agreement on Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam that only a nuanced internationalist like Kerry could believe the Communists would honor. Not the exit of US ground forces from Vietnam. Not the introduction of UN-led international monitors that only a nuanced internationalist like Kerry could believe would ensure peace and self-determination for South Vietnam as called for in the '73 agreement.

"John Kerry is proud of the work he did to end the Vietnam War," even if he no longer claims to have always been consistent in describing that work. Two high points in Kerry's anti-war activities also occurred in April, that of 1971, when he tossed his ribbons over the fence onto the Capitol grounds in "a symbolic gesture" along with the rest of the Dewey Canyon III protestors, the day after Kerry's testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

If Kerry is elected, the "foolish standard" of measuring a new president, his first 100 days in office, will end in April 2005. Kerry has outlined what he will do in his "100 Days to Change America" plans. His foreign policy prescription to deal with Iraq is to "put the United Nations in charge of the reconstruction and governance-building processes" and somehow entice the "international community" to send soldiers help establish "security and political stability." Yet the leadership of France, Germany, and Russia, and all the others he refers to as "those with meaningful military capabilities," have no doubt heard him saying on the campaign trail "You have to take the target off of American troops," and surely recognize the unstated coda—by putting the target on foreign troops. No matter what happens between now and the inauguration in 2005, neither Bush nor Kerry can promise those countries enough to get meaningful military participation from them. Nor will the oil-for-food scandal shame them into participating.

A Kerry presidency will see him face his own April 1971 congressional testimony, slightly updated, coming back to haunt him by April of 2005; probably presented for VAIW or VFP by an articulate, decorated combat veteran, likely an Army National Guard officer recently returned from duty in Iraq.

[The following is how I would update Kerry's speech if I were a member of those organizations. If it's similar to something someone else has written, it's because the rhetoric is obvious, not because it was plagiarized. Deletions are self-explanatory, additions are italicized.]

[Strike all to this point.]

The term "winter soldier" is a play on words of Thomas Paine's in 1776, when he spoke of the "sunshine patriots," and "summertime soldiers" who deserted at Valley Forge because the going was rough.

We who have come here to Washington have come here because we feel we have to be winter soldiers now. We could come back to this country, we could be quiet, we could hold our silence, we could not tell what went on in Vietnam Iraq, but we feel, because of what threatens this country, not the reds jihadist Islamic fundamentalism, but the crimes which we are committing that threaten it, that we have to speak out.

I would like to talk to you a little bit about what the result is of the feelings these men carry with them after coming back from Vietnam Iraq. The country doesn't know it yet, but it has created a monster, a monster in the form of millions thousands of men who have been taught to deal and to trade in violence, and who are given the chance to die for the biggest nothing in history; men who have returned with a sense of anger and a sense of betrayal which no one has yet grasped.

As a veteran and one who felt this anger, I would like to talk about it. We are angry because we feel we have been used it the worst fashion by the administration of this country.

[Strike two paragraphs.]

In our opinion, and from our experience, there is nothing in South Vietnam Iraq which could happen that realistically threatens the United States of America. And to attempt to justify the loss of one American life in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos Iraq or Afghanistan by linking such loss to the preservation of freedom, which those misfits supposedly abuse, is to us the height of criminal hypocrisy, and it is that kind of hypocrisy which we feel has torn this country apart.

We found that not only was it did it become a civil war, an effort by a people who had for years been seeking their liberation from the Baathist dictatorship and now any colonial influence whatsoever, but, also, we found that the Vietnamese Iraqis, whom we had enthusiastically attempted to molded after our own image, were hard-put to take up the fight against the threat we were supposedly saving them from.

We found most people didn't even know the difference between communism theocracy and democracy. They only wanted to work in rice paddies their villages without helicopters strafing them and bombs with napalm burning destroying their villages and tearing their country apart. They wanted everything to do with the war, particularly with this foreign presence of the United States of America, to leave them alone in peace, and they practiced the art of survival by siding with whichever military force was present at a particular time, be it Viet Cong, North Vietnamese Baath remnants, Iranian-backed theocrats or American.

We found also that, all too often, American men were dying in those rice paddies towns and cities for want of support from their allies. We saw first hand how monies from American taxes were used for a corrupt dictatorial regime to fatten the balance sheets of Haliburton. We saw that many people in this country had a one-sided idea of who was kept free by the flag, and blacks provided the highest percentage of casualties. We saw Vietnam Iraq ravaged equally by American bombs and search-and-destroy missions as well as by Viet Cong jihadist terrorism, - and yet we listened while this country tried to blame all of the havoc on the Viet Cong theocrats, jihadists, and Baathist reactionaries.

We rationalized destroying villages in order to save them. We saw America lose her sense of morality as she accepted very coolly a My Lia Abu Ghraib, and refused to give up the image of American soldiers who hand out chocolate bars and chewing gum.

We learned the meaning of free-fire zones--shooting anything that moves--and we watched while America placed a cheapness on the lives of orientals Muslims.

[Strike paragraph]

Now we are told that the men who fought there must watch quietly while American lives are lost so that we can exercise the incredible arrogance of "Vietnamizing" the Vietnamese the "Iraqification" of Iraq.

Each day, to facilitate the process by which the United States washes her hands of Vietnam Iraq, someone has to give up his life so that the United States doesn't have to admit something that the entire world already knows, so that we can't say that we have made a mistake. Someone has to die so that President Nixon won't be, and these are his words, "the first President to lose a war ."

We are asking Americans to think about that, because how do you ask a man to be the last man to die in Vietnam Iraq? How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?

[Strike remaining.]

The Kerry's of this world never believed the spread of communism represented a threat to America, and wouldn't have changed their minds even if the US was eventually bordered north and south by the People's Republic of Canada and the Socialist Republic of Mexico. Likewise, for all Kerry's insistence that he currently recognizes jihadist Islamic fundamentalism as a threat and that a stable and free Iraq is in America's best interest, he's shown as recently as April 14th that he is unable to stand up against his own '70s anti-war rhetoric.

If, as President, he finds that the international community refuses to relieve American forces in Iraq (a situation he will blame on Bush having "compromised American credibility and leadership" rather than geo-political reality), even after he promises to join the Kyoto protocol, join the the International Criminal Court, end the ballistic missile defense program, and whatever else, he's likely to abandon Iraq to a piece of paper of no more consequence to the foe than the one he worked to get the US to sign in 1973.


[This was mostly finished on April 30, 2004. After some interruption, the entry was published a day later, but I retained the original posting date because I really didn't want it under the "Saturday, May 1, 2004" heading.]


UPDATE - April 2, 2004: It seems the victors in Vietnam haven't forgotten the assistance of Kerry and friends. All was not lost, however, as "the newsies were hoping Gneral Giap would offer his sage counsel on Iraq and were rather disappointed that he merely trotted out the party line."



 
A Criminal and Costly Disgrace

Those directly involved in the flagrant abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad need to be prosecuted and, if convicted (which I hope they will be), sentenced to substantial prison terms. Their supervisors should, at a minimum, face charges of dereliction of duty.

That, apparently, is what is being done:

Last month, the U.S. Army announced 17 soldiers in Iraq, including a brigadier general, had been removed from duty after charges of mistreating Iraqi prisoners.

But the details of what happened have been kept secret, until now.

It turns out photographs surfaced showing American soldiers abusing and humiliating Iraqis being held at a prison near Baghdad. The Army investigated, and issued a scathing report.

Now, an Army general and her command staff may face the end of long military careers. And six soldiers are facing court martial in Iraq -- and possible prison time.

I'm not inclined to accept poor training of reservists as an excuse. If somebody poorly trained and not certified to operate a forklift throws the wrong lever and rams it into a fuel tanker, blowing it up and destroying the surrounding area, with or without casualties, I'd entertain the notion that there was a lack of intent and no criminal culpability. Likewise, poor training could excuse some treatment that doesn't comport with the excessively generous interpretations Human Rights Watch and others give the 1949 Geneva Convention (III) relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, let alone the mess that is Protocol I (1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts). That, however, is not the case with the worst of the alleged treatment.

Colonel Jill Morgenthaler, speaking for central command, told the Guardian: "One contractor was originally included with six soldiers, accused for his treatment of the prisoners, but we had no jurisdiction over him. It was left up to the contractor on how to deal with him."

She did not specify the accusation facing the contractor, but according to several sources with detailed knowledge of the case, he raped an Iraqi inmate in his mid-teens.

Col Morgenthaler said the charges against the six soldiers included "indecent acts, for ordering detainees to publicly masturbate; maltreatment, for non-physical abuse, piling inmates into nude pyramids and taking pictures of them nude; battery, for shoving and stepping on detainees; dereliction of duty; and conspiracy to maltreat detainees".

One of the soldiers, Staff Sgt Chip Frederick is accused of posing in a photograph sitting on top of a detainee, committing an indecent act and with assault for striking detainees - and ordering detainees to strike each other.

He told CBS: "We had no support, no training whatsoever. And I kept asking my chain of command for certain things ... like rules and regulations."

His lawyer, Gary Myers, told the Guardian that Sgt Frederick had not had the opportunity to read the Geneva Conventions before being put on guard duty, a task he was not trained to perform.

Mr Myers said the role of the private contractors in Abu Ghraib are central to the case.

"We know that CACI and Titan corporations have provided interrogators and that they have in fact conducted interrogations on behalf of the US and have interacted the military police guards at the prison," he said.

"I think it creates a laissez faire environment that is completely inappropriate. If these individuals engaged in crimes against an Iraq national - who has jurisdiction over such a crime?"

You don't need to have read the Geneva Conventions to know that such behavior crosses the line.

The question of who has jurisdiction over the contract interrogators would be complete bull if the Coalition Provisional Authority hadn't essentially botched the part of Order 17, Status of Forces, dealing with contractors. For some reason, likely thinking mostly of shielding them from Iraqi business and employment regulations, Section 3 of the order seemingly grants individual non-Iraqi Coalition contract employees greater immunity than Coalition personnel receive under Section 2.

Section 3
Contractors

I) Coalition contractors and their sub-contractors as well as their employees not normally resident in Iraq, shall not be subject to Iraqi laws or regulations in matters relating to the terms and conditions of their contracts in relation to the Coalition Forces or the CPA. Coalition contractors and sub-contractors other than contractors and sub-contractors normally resident in Iraq shall not be subject to Iraqi laws or regulations with respect to licensing and registration of employees, businesses and corporations in relation to such contracts.

2) Coalition contractors and their sub-contractors as well as their employees not normally resident in Iraq, shall be immune from Iraqi Legal Process with respect to acts performed by them within their official activities pursuant to the terms and conditions of a contract between a contractor and Coalition Forces or the CPA and any sub-contract thereto. CP A/ORD/26 June 2003/17.

3) In respect of acts or omissions of Coalition contractors and sub-contractors as well as their employees not normally resident in Iraq, which are not performed by them in the course of their official activities pursuant to the terms and conditions of a contract between them and the Coalition or the CPA, no Iraqi or CPA Legal Process shall be commenced without the written permission of the Administrator of the CPA.

Coalition personnel, under Section 2, remain under the jurisdiction of their home countries.

Section 2
Coalition and Foreign Liaison Mission Personnel

) CPA, Coalition Forces and Foreign Liaison Mission, their property, funds and assets of shall be immune from Iraqi Legal Process.

2) All Coalition personnel and Foreign Liaison Mission personnel shall respect the Iraqi laws applicable to those Coalition personnel and Foreign Liaison Mission personnel in the territory of Iraq and the Regulations, Orders, Memoranda and Public Notices issued by the Administrator of the CPA.

3) Foreign Liaison Mission personnel shall be immune from Legal Process.

4) All Coalition personnel shall be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of their Parent States and, they shall be immune from local criminal, civil, and administrative jurisdiction and from any form of arrest or detention other than by persons acting on behalf of their Parent States, except that nothing in this provision shall prevent Coalition Forces personnel from preventing acts of serious misconduct by Coalition personnel, or otherwise temporarily detaining Coalition personnel who pose a risk of injury to themselves or others, pending expeditious turnover to the appropriate authorities of the Parent State. In all such circumstances the national contingent commander of the detained person shall be notified immediately.

5) In respect of those Coalition personnel who commit an act or acts in Iraq for which there are no criminal sanctions in the Parent State, the CPA may request from the Parent State waiver of jurisdiction to try such act or acts under Iraqi law. In such cases, no Legal Process shall be commenced without the written permission of the Administrator of the CPA.

Section 3 covering contractors and sub-contractors should have a provision almost identical to Section 2, Paragraph 4, explicitly placing contract employees (as individuals) under "the exclusive jurisdiction of their Parent States."

However, between the procedures allowing the home country to waive immunity in Section 5…

Section 5
Waiver of Legal Immunity and Jurisdiction

1) The immunity from Legal Process of Coalition personnel, Foreign Liaison Mission personnel, Coalition contractors and their sub-contractors as well as their employees not normally resident in Iraq is not for the benefit of the individuals concerned and may be waived by the Parent State.

2) Requests to waive jurisdiction over Coalition personnel or Foreign Liaison Mission personnel shall be referred to the respective Parent State.

3) Requests to waive the immunities with respect to Coalition contractors and sub-contractors and their employees not normally resident in Iraq as set forth in Section 3 of this Order shall be referred to the respective Parent State with which the contractor has contracted.

…and possibly the provisions of Section 3, Paragraph 3, the US can waive immunity for any US contract employee(s) involved in the alleged acts and allow them to be tried under 1) the CPA Legal Process, 2) a Central Command military tribunal—which might be equivalent to the CPA Legal Process, 3) US federal law, or even 4) the Iraqi Legal Process. I hope the question is only a matter of which venue will be used, and not whether involved contract personnel will be indicted or given a pass.

One thing that isn't clear from the reports is the status of Abu Ghraib. Is it being used to hold POWs, or is it being used as a jail for criminals, or both (which might be another potential violation of the Third Convention)?


UPDATE: Al Maviva has quite a bit to say about these reports, and presents the possibility for some positive outcomes:

In spite of the big 60 Minutes II splash, this has the potential to turn into a good thing.

First off, few Iraqis (other than the ones who hate us already) will be upset that some Baathists and extremists were getting mildly mistreated. (And yes, in a land where people were fed feet first into a plastic shredder, getting a German Shepard sicc'ed on you briefly, or getting punched in the back is mild mistreatment). It is still wrong, meriting charges of conspiracy, dereliction of duty, cruelty, maltreatment, assault and indecent acts with another, at least in the opinion of the convening officer, but it should be kept in perspective. This is akin to straightforward police abuse, and it should be treated that way.

Second, among the many Iraqis who don't dislike us, and who have built up some trust for us, this gives us a chance to reinforce the trust by making an example of those found guilty of the abuse. The Army should hold the courts martial in Baghdad, open them to the press and public, and post a summary of the results each day in every town in the country. Show them how a court system - even the somewhat cramped military justice system - works openly and fairly in a free country.

There are some obstacles to justice here, of course.

Due to political events at home, the Army has every incentive to minimize the damage, to try and hide this. It should not do so…

While I wouldn't have said, "this has the potential to turn into a good thing," without making sure that "this" clearly referred to how the US handles the case from here out; I pretty much agree with his assessment.

ADDENDUM: I should also add that any benefits from open proceedings will probably be outweighed by the damage done in handing the opposition a propaganda feast. You want to talk about California police: Rodney King. You want to talk about New York police: Abner Louima. You want to talk about US Army Reserve Military Police: Abu Ghraib prison. End of discussion as far as HWR, UNHRC, and most of the world press are concerned.


UPDATE - May 6, 2004: MSNBC published Major General Antonio M. Taguba's report on the 800th Military Police Brigade and Abu Ghraib prison sans some witnesses' names and the 100+ annexes. (Now everybody can play at being Seymore Hersh.)

I haven't finished reading the report, but it does answer my question about the status of Abu Ghraib:

Currently, due to lack of adequate Iraqi facilities, Iraqi criminals (generally Iraqi-on-Iraqi crimes) are detained with security internees (generally Iraqi-on-Coalition offenses) and EPWs in the same facilities, though segregated in different cells/compounds.

That description includes the prison population at Abu Ghraib.



Thursday, April 29, 2004
 
Reuters: We Only Dare to Offend Western Governments

Reuters' policy:

Why don't you describe terrorists as terrorists?

As part of a long-standing policy to avoid the use of emotive words, we do not use terms like 'terrorist' and 'freedom fighter' unless they are in a direct quote or are otherwise attributable to a third party. We do not characterize the subjects of news stories but instead report their actions, identity and background so that readers can make their own decisions based on the facts.

So the March 11, 2004, Madrid bombing was a "guerrilla attack" possibly carried out by "militants" linked to al Qaeda, according to Reuters.

But when an attack occurs in Syria, it's a different story:

DAMASCUS (Reuters) - Syrian security forces killed two terrorists and wounded two in a shootout after the group detonated a car bomb in the diplomatic quarter of Damascus, the state-run news agency SANA reported on Wednesday.

[…]

The ministry official told SANA the clash between security forces and the terrorists in the well-guarded diplomatic quarter erupted after the car bomb exploded, badly damaging an uninhabited building that formerly housed U.N. offices and setting fire to it.

[…]

The United States has accused Syria of sheltering "terrorists" and not doing enough to stop foreign fighters infiltrating from its territory into neighboring Iraq.

Syria says it has done its utmost to control the border and has helped the United States in its "war against terror."

The trick to making that story comply with Reuters' editorial policy is to attribute those first two sentences, paraphrased though they are, to SANA. The final two lines come from the reporter. This shows up in two other unattributed sentences in the report (italics added):

He did not say who the attackers were, their nationality or likely motive for the attack.

Residents said the armed group had used rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles.

It's a simple rule that allows Reuters to avoid offending terrorists, their supporters and non-Western governments while using scare quotes around words they don't like from Western sources. Had that shootout occurred in the West, the opening line probably would have read something like, 'Security forces killed two gunmen and wounded two in a shootout after the group allegedly detonated a car bomb in the diplomatic quarter of the city, officials said on Wednesday.' But when the officials are Syrians speaking through the state-run news agency, Reuters dares not characterize terrorists as something else or put scare quotes around the word.



Wednesday, April 28, 2004
 
Outside a Theater Near You

A new film takes an indepth look at the American left.


Monday, April 26, 2004
 
What Office is Kerry Running For?

Sharp Knife gets to the heart of the matter with a cutting look at two of Kerry's recent exchanges:

nee-jurk lib-rul-izm, see also: "They shut a newspaper that belongs to a legitimate voice in Iraq...well, let me...change the term 'legitimate.' It belongs to a voice--because he has clearly taken on a far more radical tone in recent days and aligned himself with both Hamas and Hezbollah, which is a sort of terrorist alignment."

When asked about al Sadr, Kerry's first response is to bash Bush for quashing 'dissent', as if al Sadr had a constitutional right to shout "Fire on the Americans!" in a crowded Theater of War. After conferring legitimacy on our enemies, he then has to backtrack; both habits of a lifetime. And he diminishes calling a terrorist a terrorist by interjecting the qualifying words "sort of".

Asked if he supported al Sadr's arrest, the "Law-Enforcement On Terrorism" candidate said "Not if it's an isolated act without the other kinds of steps necessary to change the dynamics on the ground in Iraq." Is this guy really running for president...or auditioning for the role of the sophisticated, worldly sheriff in "High Nuance"?

Sometimes I think Kerry is running for Secretary General of the UN instead of President of the US. The second exchange — "Here Kerry misses his opportunity for his 'Sister Souljah' moment…" — is even more telling in that regard.



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