Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Anti-torture, American style

It is not a federal crime under new U.S. anti-torture laws to render accused persons to nations which will torture them. If we are against torture, then extraordinary rendition--transporting prisoners for torture--should be a federal crime. The anti-torture bill is a feel-good measure putting a Band-Aid on a gangrenous wound. That wound is the indecency of our involvement in the Iraqi project.

If the Vice President is so in favor of torture, then let him do it...that is, unless he has other priorities. It is interesting that he wants others to do what he himself doesn't have the balls to do. Can you even imagine V.P. Cheney pulling out somebody's fingernails or waterboarding him? It would be impractical for him to do so, because he might get blood on his solid gold Rolex. Shotguns are so much less messy.

Also, I used to think that the present Iraqi government was simply a U.S. puppet, but recently I've changed my mind. I now believe that the U.S. government is the puppet and somebody else is pulling the strings that reach deep into the pockets of every taxpaying American. I wonder who the ventriloquist is.

Money for Nothing

An assumed truth is that expenditure of hundreds of billions of dollars will make U.S. citizens safer in der Homeland. The fact is, the government cannot and does not provide security for its citizens. The acts that we accept as necessary for security provide only the illusion of security.
Harrassing lawful American citizens in airports and violating Constitutional rights has not made us safer. I pose this question: If the entire Federal law enforcement and intel apparatus cannot find, arrest, and prosecute the perpetrator of the anthrax letters following 9-11, then how can they protect us from Al Quaida? Even with illegal NSA intercepts, the anthrax mailer remains at large.
The Unabomber--Ted Kaczinski--would never have been caught if his brother had not turned him in. This doesn't inspire confidence in the FBI. In a related thought, in 2004 the government couldn't even provide adequate flu vaccine for our population, yet we're led to believe that Homeland Security has a handle on bioterrorism. Excuse me for being skeptical.
Suppose the Katrina tragedy in New Orleans was a bioterrorism attack instead--would the Federal response have been any more organized than an Arabian horse show?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Iraq is ETA and IRA, not Vietnam

Our press, government and military focus on the U.S. experience of counterinsurgency in the Republic of Vietnam (RVN) as analogy to Iraq. This is erroneous and misses the point.

The levels of violence we are now confonting in Iraq are more analogous to the Spanish and British experience with their own home-grown insurgencies than to the U.S. RVN experience. Vietnam was a campaign which had already gone beyond the Low Intensity Conflict (LIC). In fact, an examination of the Basque ETA and the IRA is much more relevant to the current situation in Iraq. The fighting in Iraq has not surpassed British or Spanish models and certainly are not on the same level as RVN.

Both ETA and IRA are indigenous separatists, and therefore similar to the Iraqi separatists. Iraqi separatists cannot be equated with the VC or NVA threat in RVN. The VC approached a military competancy far exceeding anything that can be expected in Iraq. VC units operated at regimental level, and actually fought pitched battles with RVN government forces, the battle of Ap Bia being a prime example.

Both ETA and IRA have political wings. The Iraqi separatists have religious wings that co-opt this function. The mullahs are the heart of these initiatives. The group's goals are analogous to the ETA and IRA, as each wants autonomy within their region. If we would understand what an endgame might look like, we will have to study the right game book.

Defeating Separatists a Chimera

The 3/23/06 Wall Street Journal reports, "Basque separatist group ETA said it will permanently end attacks in a possible response to Spain's offer on talks of greater autonomy." ETA is 45 years old, yet only now is reckoning with the country against which it had campaigned for regional autonomy. This brings to mind the IRA's 30-year campaign against the British, before they too came to the bargaining table in a way which meaningfully addressed their cessation of hostilities.

The point that I'd like to make is that both are home-grown insurgencies, or terrorists, if you will. While both Spain and England have sophisticated police, intelligence and military organizations, and both Spain and Britain are operating on interior lines and have cultural knowledge and common ties with the respective ETA-IRA groups, both countries are making concessions to these groups in order to end their campaigns of violence.

So here is my big question: If Spain and Britain can't defeat basic separatist movements within their historic borders, then how does the US propose to do so in Iraq? Unlike the cases of Spain and Britain, U.S. national security is not threatened by Iraqi separation. America cannot afford the expenditure of our national treasure to defeat insurgents in Iraq, a country not even remotely ours. Even if the insurgents are totally successful in overtaking Iraq, how would that jeopardize U.S. security? Even with WMD they are a negligible national threat. So, what's really the deal?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Conventional Wisdom

We hold these truths to be self-evident. I can't remember where I read this, but it's stuck in my memory bank. Truth and self-evident, what a wonderful combination. The truth that I'm discussing is actually a collection of assumptions cannibalized from conventional wisdom and knee-jerk feedback evident amongst today's political pundits. The upshot of it all is, truth is no longer self-evident, nor need it even be true. Well, as Bette Davis said, buckle up...

The first truth which we accept is that George W. Bush is a wartime President. This is not a truth, but rather, a construction based on a simple-minded slogan aimed at the masses. Where is the war? War is a state of belligerancy between nation states. Are U.S. forces actually at war with insurgents?

I don't believe this is true. More truthfully, U.S. forces are engaged in combat operations that obviously benefit the Shiite majority, to the detriment of the Sunni population. The Sunnis are not a threat to the national security of the U.S., nor are they likely to export terrorism to the U.S., so why are we complicit in their suppression?

We should let the country balkanize and take its natural course. U.S. policy should encourage the division of the country into separate entities and then do what we do best--pull out and sell arms to everyone!

"Over There, Over There..."
GWB constantly hammers, if we don't fight them there (whoever them is) we'll have to fight them here. Unless, that is, they are busy killing each other over there. Let them turn their anger, aggression and hostility inward, thereby allowing the U.S. military to do what it does best, which is to defend U.S. national strategic interests.

We Have Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself
The next self-evident truth which is patently accepted by Americans is that terrorism is a major threat to the security and national existence of the United States. HOGWASH! Terrorism is a minor irritant, and will never endanger the U.S. national existence.

Shades of Dr. Strangelove...
Doesn't anybody other than me remember when the U.S. military faced the awesome armed might of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact troops? Soviet forces in Central Europe possessed nuclear weapons readied for tactical deployment, and had an overall nuclear arsenal that was capable of lighting up the entire continent. Now that's a threat! Apparently, our national leaders are oblivious to this because they never wore combat boots or carried a rifle.

Mad, Mad world...
Our entire national policy was based upon MAD--Mutually Assured Destruction. What a concept, and I served in that MAD military that was willing to destroy the entire world to save democracy and defeat communism.

At this point one must ask: Is Al Quaeda willing to destroy the world to defeat the U.S.? I don't believe so; therefore, I suggest that maybe they aren't as maniacal as we once were.

Didn't the U.S. once drop megaton weapons on Japan, and also introduce the concept of "teror bombing" into the world military lexicon? The real threat resides in nation-state violence which our Western society has grown to accept.

The average U.S. citizen is o.k. with the U.S. military killing thousands of innocent civilians as collateral damage, but they cannot brook the 2,500 civilian casualties on 9-11. What's the difference? In our national egoism, we have mutated Iraqi's into terrorists-cum-monsters. We are cultural alchemists, turning at will an entire nation into terrorist adversaries. All we have to do is add lead to the mixture to create the transmogrification. Once we add the lead from our M-16's--viola--they become terrorists.

The next untruth is that a democratic Iraq is beneficial to the national interests of the U.S.

Nobody can explain how or why this is true, other than accepting that it is because GWB declares it to be so. The entire Middle East has been and will continue to be a Gordian knot well after the entire neocon leadership is dead and gone. And I will openly be the first to say: I don't care one rat's ass about Iraq!

Even if U.S. policies are wildly successful and Iraq becomes totally democratic, so what? This does not benefit America one iota, and to imagine so is chimerical.

If Woodrow Wilson could not make the world safe for democracy, then how can GWB?

The U.S. fought WWI ostensibly to make the world safe for democracy, yet the outcome was the arbitrary split-up of the Middle East into French and British spheres, and the unintended consequence that Russia became a Soviet state and a greater threat to democracy than Imperial Germany had been.

The only concern of the U.S. President should be the survival of democracy in the U.S. If Social security is in danger and if we are required to cut $59 billion from social programs in the current budget, then possibly our priorities should be realigned. As Pogo said, we have met the enemy, and he is us.

Revisiting Pat Tillman's Friendly Fire

A new investigation has begun, this time criminal, into the "friendly fire" death of Ranger and former football hero, Pat Tillman. According to a New York Times article of March 5, 2006, the investigation is being insituted because the Rangers in the action may have violated military law (i.e., US code). The invesitigation will determine if they "failed to identify their targets before opening fire." If so, this finding would possibly constitute "negligent" homicide and "dereliction of duty."
As a retired Army Ranger, I'd like to make a few salient points:

(1) During the Bush years, only lowly enisted men were ever punished for any offenses.

(2) The Rangers in question were tired, scared, isolated, and probably hungry and cold when they perpetrated this mistake. Certainly, they weren't drinking beers before the shooting.

My question is: Why are they being investigated as described, yet nobody is faulting VP Dick Cheney for the very same offense, (minus the death of his victim)? Why are there different yardsticks for criminality being applied?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Posse Comitatus Violation in NSA Eavesdropping

The current concern over the constitutionality of the President's authorization of the National Security Administration (NSA) to gather intelligence--read, spy--on U.S. citizens without warrants doesn't tell the whole story.

Executive order cannot contravene constitutional requirements of the 4th Amendment's search and seizure restrictions. But this is not my focus; this issue should be challenged in Federal court, and in an ideal world should reach the U.S. Supreme Court. The rightness or wrongness of said move on a constitutional basis is a question for the courts and the legislature. Surely Congress has reason to address the issue, but as always since 9-11, the President is being given a free pass to interpret his "wartime" powers in a loose manner. Never mind that a state of war does not exist in any legal sense of the word.

Rather, my opposition to the NSA spying is not based upon the 4th Amendment; it is based on the fact that the President is ignoring and violating the Posse Comitatus Act that is U.S. law concerning the use of the military to enforce civilian law.

Since the conceptualization of the USA, there has been a fear of military domination of society. The 4th Amendment was adopted by our founders due to British Army excesses, such as searching colonial homes often based upon less-than-reasonable cause.

The Posse Comitatus Act of 1868 prohibits the use of the army (or air force) to execute civil law unless "expressly" authorized by the Constitution or Congress. Posse Comitatus was authorized as law due to the unconstitutional use of the U.S. Military to enforce civilian law in the south after the Civil War. Without a history lesson, suffice it to say the excesses and flagrant violations of the Constitution caused the passage of this law. Since then, use of the military to enforce civilian law has been strictly overseen by the legislative branch, and rightly so.

Congress may authorize exceptions, as has been done in the "War on drugs", and these exceptions are usually acceptable to the U.S. public since they are viewed as necessary to counter a grave threat. But using the military in the drug arena has made further exceptions to Posse Comitatus easier to authorize. (How appropriate that the leader of that particular pursuit is known by the moniker, drug "czar".) Unfortunately, Congress has not authorized the long-term use of the military (=NSA) to conduct signals intelligence without warrants, nor does the President have the Constitutional authority to do so.

The U.S. military is designed to protect the U.S. citizenry from external threats and enemies. The military cannot police our citizens. Nowhere does the Constitution authorize this passage, and this limitation has not been abrogated nor abridged by subsequent amendments.

As a Department of Defense(DoD)agency, the NSA is military, yet the President is being given a free pass to utilize these military assets to fulfill a purely police function. The NSA is not a police or a federal law enforcement agency; it is purely an intelligence agency of the combined armed services.

One of the reasons we eliminated Saddam was because he misused his military to suppress his civilian population. How is the NSA spying without warrants upon U.S. citizens any better than Saddam's actions?

Please don't think that 9-11 can be an excuse to allow the U.S. military free range to suppress U.S. civil rights on a long-term basis. And make no mistake: that is exactly what is happening. Of all the millions of personal calls monitored, where is even one subsequent conviction in federal court?

As a nation of law, fair and open trials are afforded to even the most dastardly. NOTHING CHANGED ON 9-11. Neither the Constitution, the Geneva Convention, International law, nor the moral positions of Americans was altered one iota as a consequence of the terrorist attacks, which happened to occur this time in the United States.

The beauty of democracy is the ability of the system to overcome and moderate hysterical responses in crisis environments. Osama bin Laden and Saddam can improvise, but the U.S. system must respond in a legal and reasoned manner. In the post 9-11 world, one must wonder if courts are now secret (i.e., rarely turning down requests for warrants.) And if everything is so secret that the electorate cannot be trusted with the information, then are we still a democracy? What is next--secret police?

The mantra of Bush as wartime Commander-in-Chief exercizing his legitimate and implied area powers does not work. Authorizing exceptions is the domain of Congress. While the President admittedly has the construed latitude to authorize short-term quick fixes that are technically legal and utilize military assets, it must be emphasized that these are short-term, until another agency can assume command of those tasks. NSA wiretapping is not a short-term fix.

An example of this was the use of military guards employed in civilian airports throughout America following 9-11 until an appropriate civilian law enforcement reply could be organized. Specifically, Title 18, US code, states: military personnel may not make arrests, participate directly in searches or seizures of evidence, or PARTICIPATE DIRECTLY IN INTELLIGENCE COLLECTION FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT PURPOSES, unless such action is necessary for the IMMEDIATE protection of human life AND cannot be accomplished by law enforcement personnel (10 USCP 382 (d)(2)). In emergency situations, the Congress must execute its Constitutional authority to regulate the armed forces.

The President's actions authorizing NSA wiretapping are long-term violations of Posse Comitatus that usurp the powers of the Congress.

It is remarkable to me that this question of Posse Comitatus violations has not surfaced. While nobody has ever been prosecuted for PCA violations, it would seem George W. Bush should be the first. He clearly admits his guilt in a direct and open manner, but without Congressional action, it is doubtful the Gonzales Department of Justice will investigate this violation.

I hope that someone other than me is concerned with this blatant disregard of U.S. code.