Saturday, September 27, 2003

Airman Halabi's lawyers take the offensive

The Los Angeles Times reports that military lawyers for Airman Ahmad I. Al-Halabi have released details about his case, and explanations for some of the allegations against him. Al-Halabi is being held, along with CPY Youssef Yee, on capital charges connected to alleged acts of espionage at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In their first detailed account previewing Al-Halabi's defense, the lawyers also lashed out at the Air Force for subjecting him to secret military hearings at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and for refusing to let the 24-year-old senior airman speak in Arabic to members of his family. Air Force officials have expressed fear he might be passing on classified information.

The highly unusual defense statement comes as an Air Force general at Al-Halabi's home station, Travis Air Force Base in Northern California, prepares to make a decision on whether to send the young enlistee to a general court-martial. If convicted on charges of espionage and aiding the enemy, he could receive the death penalty.
* * *
. . . the Syrian government has protested that Al-Halabi was not working on its behalf, and his military defense team — Maj. James Key III and Maj. Kim E. London, both at Travis Air Force Base — suggested in a joint statement Friday that their client is not being treated fairly.

"Al-Halabi deserves a fair and public hearing and trial, just like every American is entitled to," they said.

They said his service record describes him as a "star performer for the Air Force," and they noted that he was quickly promoted to senior airman and recognized as "the 60th Supply Squadron Outstanding Airman of the Year for 2001."

"Senior Airman Al-Halabi had just finished a nine-month tour at Guantanamo Bay," they said. "He was on his way back to his home base [Travis] in July 2003 when he was arrested by agents from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations during a layover in Jacksonville, Fla.

"He did have tickets to fly to Syria a few days later out of California, where he was going to meet with his family for a wedding ceremony in Damascus. The wedding had already been postponed because his tour in Cuba had been extended two or three times," the attorneys said.
Analysis: One thing this story does is give lie to the myth that military defense lawyers don't do their job as defense counsel. I have argued for some time that military defense attorneys tend to do a better job than their civilian public defender counterparts. For one, they're better resourced. Second, they tend to have more experience -- both as a defense attorney and as a prosecutor. Third, they usually understand the system quite well. However, I think it's really interesting that these lawyers are launching a public relations offensive on Airman Halabi's defense. If I had to guess, I'd say they're trying to raise the stakes for the government in order to apply pressure that might lead to a plea bargain. And if these facts are true, they just might succeed.

Friday, September 26, 2003

Moussaoui inches one step closer to a military commission

The Justice Department said yesterday in a court filing that it would not oppose "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui's motion for dismissal of charges levied against him in U.S. District Court, according to the New York Times. The move comes at a time when Moussaoui is seeking access to other terrorists being held in custody by the U.S., including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaydah. The government disagrees, saying that even though these men may have exculpatory information, the national security interests at stake dictate that Moussaoui should not gain direct access to these potential witnesses.
The department's announcement that it would not oppose a defense request for dismissal cleared the way for the judge, Leonie M. Brinkema, to throw out the case against Mr. Moussaoui as early as Friday.

The judge, in district court in Alexandria, Va., had already signaled that she might have no other option because of the government's refusal to allow Mr. Moussaoui and his court-appointed lawyers to interview captured terrorists from Al Qaeda who might provide valuable defense testimony.

While dismissal of the case would be an obvious symbolic blow to the Justice Department and its larger prosecution strategy against terrorists, the department insisted today that the prosecution of Mr. Moussaoui was far from over and that the government was hopeful that an appeals court would allow the trial to proceed.

The Justice Department is seeking the death penalty in the case, the most prominent terrorist prosecution to result from the Sept. 11 attacks.

Officials of the Bush administration have also made clear that if Mr. Moussaoui cannot be prosecuted in a civilian court because of the question of defense witnesses, he will be moved to a military tribunal, where he may have fewer rights to seek testimony from the captured terrorists.

In a declaration filed on Wednesday and made public today by Judge Brinkema, the Justice Department did not ask directly that the charges be dismissed, but it said dismissal was "the surest route for ensuring that the questions at issue here can promptly be presented to the Fourth Circuit," a reference to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in Richmond, Va.
Analysis: That was the consensus of all the legal reporters at all the major newspapers, and I think it's probably right. The Justice Department is making a very safe bet here. First, the 4th Circuit has been relatively receptive to government arguments about national security in the Hamdi and Moussaoui cases, and there's no reason to think it will change course now. And even if the government loses on appeal, it has the recourse of designating Moussaoui as an enemy combatant and, if it desires, charging him with crimes in a military tribunal. Of course, that might look a little disingenuous, and someone would certainly petition a federal court for a writ of habeas corpus on Moussaoui's behalf. But I still think the administration would prevail, because of recent decisions in the Padilla and Hamdi cases which have upheld the government's right to do this (subject to a few exceptions such as access to counsel).

Does all this really matter, or is this a sideshow? Compared to the combat operations in Afghanistan or the anti-terrorism work done by the FBI and Treasury Department, this case is a sideshow. But it has important precedential value for the legal fight on terrorism, which may change course depending on the outcome of this case. If the federal government can successfully prosecute this case in federal court, they may do so in the future. That may paradoxically help defendants who might otherwise be hauled before a military tribunal or tossed in a brig as an enemy combatant. On the other hand, if the 4th Circuit delivers a smack-down to the Justice Department here, we may not see any future cases brought in federal court. More to follow.

Thursday, September 25, 2003

Rush Limbaugh gets liberal with the facts in anti-Clark column

The latest mud to get slung at retired Gen. Wesley Clark comes from Rush Limbaugh on the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Rush makes a facile comparison of Gen. Clark to Union Gen. George McClellan, another military figure who ran for President as a Democrat during wartime. In doing so, he cites to some instances from Clark's career which have been, according to Rush, less than stellar. Here's an excerpt:
Gen. McClellan graduated from West Point, second in his class. Also a trained engineer, he was decorated for his "zeal, gallantry, and ability" in constructing roads and bridges over routes for the marching army during the Mexican War. McClellan had much charisma. He was considered a great administrator who reorganized the Union army into a mighty fighting machine.

But, you say, McClellan was an indecisive general who feared using his forces. As NATO chief, Gen. Clark, on the other hand, urged his Pentagon bosses to let him introduce ground troops into the war against Serbia, and he even was willing to use military force to stop the Russians from occupying an airport at Pristina, Kosovo.

But Gen. Clark was badly wrong on both counts. If he had not been overruled by his superior, there would have been unnecessary casualties resulting from the deployment of ground troops. And if his subordinate, British Gen. Sir Michael Jackson, had not refused Gen. Clark's order to confront the Russian troops--who wound up cooperating with NATO peacekeeping efforts--the outcome could have been disastrous.
Now for the debunking. I'm not sure how well Rush Limbaugh knows these issues, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt that he's not intentionally misstating the facts here -- he's just doing so out of ignorance. In the interests of education, I'd like to correct one major mistake in his column.

Let's analyze this excerpt from Rush's column: "As NATO chief, Gen. Clark, on the other hand, urged his Pentagon bosses to let him introduce ground troops into the war against Serbia. . . If he had not been overruled by his superior, there would have been unnecessary casualties resulting from the deployment of ground troops . . ."

I'm no Balkans expert; I didn't deploy to Kosovo or Bosnia like most Army MPs because I was in Korea, and then the experimental 4th Infantry Division. But I have read a lot on this subject, including Waging Modern War, War in a Time of Peace, The Mission, and A Problem From Hell. Gen. Clark did urge the Pentagon and White House to do two major things here: make ground troops a realistic option, and allow the use of Army aviation (Apache helicopters) to interdict Serbian ground units who were continuing their ethnic cleansing campaign.

(1) The ground troops option was necessary to make the threat of force credible to Slobodan Milosevic -- a man who Clark knew well from previous negotiations at Ramboillet and from the negotiation of the Dayton Accords. (See To End a War by Richard Holbrooke) President Clinton took this option off the table prematurely as a way to shore up domestic support and limit the scope of the conflict. Gen. Clark argued (quite correctly) that the credible threat of a ground invasion must be made to force Milosevic to capitulate. Recognizing the wisdom of this strategy, President Clinton made ground troops an option and set plans in motion that could have led to the land invasion of Kosovo. As it turned out, these plans subsequently formed the foundation for deployment plans for KFOR -- the force which eventually established peace and order in Kosovo. By leaning forward in his foxhole on this issue, Gen. Clark displayed a great degree of strategic, operational, and tactical acumen. Not only did the credible threat of ground invasion help Milosevic cave, but it also helped NATO forces quickly enter, occupy, and establish order in Kosovo.

(2) The Apache issue grew out of a basic problem: NATO high-altitude bombing could not successfully interdict Milosevic's ground forces, due to altitude, accuracy, and other issues. Interdicting Serbian units on the ground required slow, methodical, low bombing runs by aircraft with the capability to loiter on station for long periods of time: i.e. helicopters and A-10 aircraft. However, such aircraft are quite vulnerable to ground fire and surface-to-air-missiles, necessitating the use of artillery to suppress those air defenses. Clark wanted to stop the genocide, and he knew that Apaches could do the job. But to use Apaches without losing them, he also knew he had to shoot SEAD (suppression of enemy air defense). The Pentagon wouldn't let him do it. Pentagon lawyers told Clark that he could not do so because firing unobserved artillery fire would violate the Rules of Engagement. However, deploying forward observers (possibly Army Special Forces A-Teams) on the ground would have represented a serious escalation of the war and of the war's tactical risk. Clark was willing to take that risk because he felt, as I do, that we needed to stop the genocide on the ground with Apaches. Unfortunately, the White House was not willing to take that risk, advised by a Pentagon that was more concerned with force protection than mission accomplishment. The Army did eventually deploy Apaches to Albania, but they never flew one mission during the war.

Rush's column glosses over this entire issue, treating Clark as a trigger-happy general who wanted to start WWIII. I don't think the facts, as reported by journalists David Halberstam, Dana Priest, and Samantha Power, bear that out.

One other note: The long knives are coming out for Clark. At a town hall meeting in California, retired-Gen. Henry "Hugh" Shelton had some choice words for Clark in response to an audience question. Gen. Shelton is an old warrior who served his nation well, and wears both the scars and medals to prove it. He's also the man who effectively relieved Wes Clark as SACEUR, and with whom Clark clashed repeatedly during the Kosovo War. This is a clash of the titans, and it's hard for me to evaluate (from my position of relative ignorance) what's really going on here in this row between two four-star generals.
"What do you think of General Wesley Clark and would you support him as a presidential candidate," was the question put to him by moderator Dick Henning, assuming that all military men stood in support of each other. General Shelton took a drink of water and Henning said, "I noticed you took a drink on that one!"

"That question makes me wish it were vodka," said Shelton. "I've known Wes for a long time. I will tell you the reason he came out of Europe early had to do with integrity and character issues, things that are very near and dear to my heart. I'm not going to say whether I'm a Republican or a Democrat. I'll just say Wes won't get my vote."
In a sense, this was to be expected. Unlike the other politicians in the race, Clark hasn't lived under media scrutiny like this before. Clark's skeletons in the closet haven't been publicly aired like all the other candidates' skeletons. Moreover, Clark appears very threatening to various groups on both sides of the aisle -- he's likely to receive a lot more mud by the time this campaign ends. However, I wish that Gen. Shelton would have left things at "Wes won't get my vote" without making the vague allusion to Clark's integrity and character. Those comments seem out of character for a man like Shelton, whose reputation as a soldier's soldier is at least as great as Clark's reputation as a soldier-scholar.

Official details on the Yee and Halabi cases

After letting the media guess for nearly a week, the Pentagon finally released the official word on CPT Yee and Airman Halabi, the two servicemembers suspected of espionage at Guantanamo.
Senior Airman Ahmad I. Al Halabi, assigned to the 60th Logistical Readiness Squadron at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., is being held in pre-trial confinement at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., following his Article 32 hearing last week. An Article 32 hearing is the military's equivalent of a preliminary hearing and grand jury process in the civilian justice system.

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Jean Schaefer said Al Halabi, who was apprehended July 23 at Jacksonville Naval Air Station, Fla., is charged with numerous Uniform Code of Military Justice violations. These include three charges of aiding the enemy, four charges of espionage, and nine charges of making false statements. Four other charges allege violations of the U.S. Code relating to espionage and to executing a fraudulent credit scheme.

The six-page charge sheet against Al Halabi, a native of Syria, accuses him of activities at Jacksonville Naval Air Station on the day of his arrest conducted "with intent or reason to believe it would be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of Syria." These include delivering three e-mail messages containing classified information about the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, and attempting to deliver two handwritten notes and more than 180 electronic versions of written notes from detainees to a third party to be carried to Syria.

The writings "directly concerned intelligence gathering and planning for the United States' war against terrorism," the charge sheet against Al Halabi notes.

He also is accused of e-mailing detainees' names, countries of origins, addresses, and corresponding internment serial numbers "to unauthorized person or persons whom he, the accused, knew to be the enemy" and of failing to report to military authorities that he had made contact with the Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic.

Other charges against Al Halabi accuse him of wrongfully taking photographs of facilities in and around Camp Delta, of improperly handling classified information, of unauthorized communication with detainees and of failing to report other service members' unauthorized communications or attempted communications with detainees.

Schaefer said these activities occurred between December 2002 and July 2003, when Al Halabi was on temporary duty at Guantanamo Bay serving as a translator. He was apprehended at Jacksonville Naval Air Station when he returned to the states on personal leave. Al Halabi was transported to Travis Air Force Base the following day.
* * *
Meanwhile, a military magistrate ruled Sept. 15 that the military has sufficient reason to hold Army Capt. Yousef Yee while it continues its investigation into his case.

Duany said Yee was arrested at Jacksonville Naval Air Station on Sept. 10 and is being held at the Naval Consolidated Brig at Charleston, S.C.

No formal charges have been filed against Yee. Duany explained that the Uniformed Code of Military Justice gives the military up to 120 days to formally charge an accused service member and begin a trial.
This is a start. But it'd be nice to see redacted versions of the actual charging documents posted, so that legal experts could understand exactly what's going on down at Gitmo.

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Another soldier under suspicion at Gitmo

The Los Angeles Times reports that the Pentagon has launched a major probe at Guantanamo Bay after the arrests of two servicemembers for espionage and other charges. Speaking with reporters today, Gen. Peter Pace (Vice Chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) said that one or two specific individuals were under surveillance in connection with this investigation.
"We don't presume that the two we know about is all there is to it," Gen. Peter Pace, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Wednesday.

Indeed, military officials said investigators are scrutinizing at least two other individuals, including an outside contractor, in their widening security probe. The officials declined to elaborate, and stressed that there had been no new arrests.

"I do get the sense from our law enforcement guys that other arrests are imminent," said a U.S. Navy official.
While the LA Times didn't bury the lead of this story, it did bury some extremely interesting comments at the end of its story, which will run on Thursday:
Sources who have worked at Guantanamo Bay said it would not have been difficult for a translator such as Al-Halabi to be in unsupervised contact with prisoners and smuggle out classified and sensitive information.

Though there are inspection points and routine checks, the base operates on trust to a significant degree because those working there have security clearances.

"When I was there they didn't check your pockets and there was no metal detector," said William Tierney, a former Army intelligence officer who served as a civilian translator at Guantanamo in 2002 before being forced to leave after being accused of interfering with interrogations.

A former Guantanamo interrogator said that translators also have access to classified computer networks, and that documents such as flight schedules and cell configurations are widely available.

"Any one of us could walk out of there with security documents," the former interrogator said.
Analysis: There really isn't any excuse for sloppy security. It always traces to complacency on the part of security personnel, intelligence personnel, and individuals who ought to know better. If the mission at Gitmo was this important, then we should have put more command emphasis on making sure security was tight there. Maybe that means doing command inspections; maybe it means rotating troops frequently; maybe it means denying access to all but a few key personnel. But if it's true that security was lax at Gitmo, and that CPT Yee and Airman Halabi were simply doing what everyone else did there, that's going to be a pretty embarassing issue for the government to deal with at trial.

On the larger story, I'm not surprised that we have more people under suspicion. Given the circumstances, it's likely that quite a few soldiers befriended detainees, simply as a human reaction to living on opposite sides of the fence for so long. But it will shock me (as CPT Yee and Airman Halabi's arrests did) if we actually find more people who allegedly committed acts of espionage. Such a discovery will shake my faith in the fidelity of my fellow serviceperson, and give me pause to doubt the fidelity of those with whom I might serve alongside in the future. In the military, you rely on your brother (or sister) in the fighting position next to you to do his or her job in combat. Mission accomplishment in the military derives from unit effectiveness; unit effectiveness is built on unit cohesion; unit cohesion is built on trust and shared sacrifice. These traitorous acts, if true, undermine that trust, and as a result, undermine the entire American military.
Coda to the Max Cleland column

This note earned me a lot of feedback, for which I'm grateful. In response to comments from some extremely articulate readers, I'd like to clarify a couple of points.

(1) Max Cleland was wounded in combat, but not by enemy fire. One of his grenades exploded after falling from his Load Bearing Equipment to the ground as he exited a helicopter. Here's how Sen. Cleland recalls the incident:
I left my hometown of Lithonia, Georgia, a strong young man heading to a foreign land to fight for my country. Vietnam — another world, unlike anything I had ever seen before. I remember standing on the edge of the bomb crater that had been my home for five days and five nights, stretching my six-foot, two-inch frame, and becoming caught up in excitement. The battle for Khe Sanh was over, and I had come out of it unhurt and alive! Five terrible days and nights were behind us. In spite of dire predictions, we had held Khe Sanh. I had scored a personal victory over myself and my fears. I had become a soldier and could really look the old sarge in the face. As Stephen Crane put it in his great book on war, The Red Badge of Courage, "I went to face the Great Death and found it was only the Great Death." My tour of duty in Vietnam was almost over. In another month I'd be going home. I smiled, thinking of the good times waiting stateside.

On April 8, 1968, I volunteered for one last mission. The helicopter moved in low. The troops jumped out with M16 rifles in hand as we crouched low to the ground to avoid the helicopter blades. Then I saw the grenade. It was where the chopper had lifted off. It must be mine, I thought. Grenades had fallen off my web gear before. Shifting the M16 to my left hand and holding it behind me, I bent down to pick up the grenade.

A blinding explosion threw me backwards.
(Credit to Ted Barlow's weblog for this quote) Some have written me to say that Sen. Cleland should not get to take credit for his war wounds, since they happened by accident. With all due respect, that's a load of manure. The essential nature of war is that it is chaos -- the very antithesis of order. Soldiers are wounded in combat all the time by friendly fire, by mistakes, and by sheer bad luck. Cleland may not have taken an enemy bullet the way Wes Clark did. But I don't think that diminishes his wounds, or his valor, in the slightest. Regardless of how he earned his Purple Heart, Max Cleland knows the human cost of war. That personal understanding of war gives him credibility on the issue. I've never been in combat, and I'm glad for that fact, but I have volumes of respect for those who have been there.

(2) A lot's been made of the Iraq v. Vietnam comparison, with partisans on both sides of the issue making good arguments for why their case is right. I tend to think that Iraq is not another Vietnam, but that Iraq is a pretty bad situation nonetheless. One extremely smart reader writes to explain why the two conflicts are different, and I generally agree with his logic:
"The Vietnam analogy is so strikingly inappropriate to Iraq that one hardly knows where to begin. At this point, our enemies in Iraq are 1) unpopular with the locals, 2) unable to deploy any heavy weapons, 3) having to pay malcontents a bounty for killing Americans, 4) without reliable sanctuary in neigboring countries (although they are able to infiltrate effectively), and 5) without large-scale support from a superpower. None of these was true in Vietnam. The problems we are having in Iraq are also problems we didn't have in Vietnam: 1) Responsibility for building up a modern infrastructure in the face of sabotage, 2) establishing civic consciousness in a society that has been terrorized out of it, 3) dealing with sectarian and interethnic conflict among our allies, 4) primarily urban combat engagements which make shooting back tricky, 5) providing police services. The only similarities to Vietnam are superficial ones: We don't have enough native speakers, there's a cultural gap, the weather conditions are very unpleasant, etc."

That said, we still face an extremely difficult situation in Iraq. Our soldiers are fighting a difficult counter-insurgency campaign against trained ex-Iraqi soldiers, foreign paramilitaries, and other partisans. They have to cope with a staggering amount of munitions that melted back into Iraqi society after the war -- talk about a gun control problem! The Iraqi people do not wholly support us, nor do they wholly oppose us -- the issue remains in doubt. Furthermore, as my reader comments, we do have to manage all the nation-building stuff at the same time that we're fighting this counter-insurgency campaign.

So in a sense, the Iraq campaign is more difficult than Vietnam was, in the sense that it's more complex. Instead of merely facing a guerilla war, or merely facing a bipolar struggle between North and South, we face an incredibly complex situation in Iraq where several sides are vying for control of the country -- or their piece of it. We have international considerations that simply weren't present in Vietnam, and we have to cope with instantaneous global reporting of these issues while we deal with them. On top of all that, we have to rebuild Iraq. I don't think that Iraq is an impossible mission, and indeed, I think we must succeed there. But succeeding in Iraq will require pragmatic policies grounded in reality, not hope.

Too cheap to pay the whole fare?
Leave plan for soldiers in Iraq only covers the way to BWI

The 4th Infantry Division is starting a midtour leave program for its soldiers in Iraq, according to the San Antonio Express-News. The program is designed to boost soldier morale for men and women deployed to Iraq for a year, and is roughly analogous to the midtour leave given to soldiers in Korea during the 1-year hardship tour there. In theory, it's a good idea. In reality, this plan is something that only a Pentagon bureaucrat could come up with.
The division's commander, Maj. Gen. Raymond T. Odierno, told families and soldiers Tuesday that the "midtour" leave program for troops in the U.S. Central Command had been approved by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Two well-placed Defense Department officials later confirmed that statement, with one saying those leaves would begin in days.

Soldiers with the 4th Infantry Division, in Iraq since late March, will take leaves through January, Odierno said in an e-mail message obtained by the San Antonio Express-News. But he warned that only 21,000 of the 27,000 task force soldiers would be eligible.
* * *
Soldiers will be able to use up to 15 days of their annual monthlong leave for trips to the United States. They'll fly from Iraq or Kuwait to Frankfurt, Germany, with U.S.-based troops then flying to Baltimore-Washington International Airport at government expense. The troops will have to pay their ways home or meet relatives in the Baltimore-Washington area.

During Vietnam, troops flew at government expense to Hawaii but had to pay their own ways home.

One of them, Lawrence Korb, an assistant defense secretary in the Reagan administration, was critical of the Pentagon's decision to require soldiers to pay their own way home, saying he doubted that officials had "thought this thing through."

He also said he saw the move as a way of appeasing angry families, who might urge soldiers to leave the all-volunteer force once their duty tours end.
Analysis: In all fairness, the soldiers probably can afford to pay the rest of the way, considering that they've all been tax-free for the length of their deployment, and they've all earned supplemental pay for being in a combat zone. Of course, most soldiers have families these days, so it's not like that money goes into a bank account somewhere. But this plan still strikes me as boneheaded.

At the very least, the Pentagon could spring the extra $300 for a roundtrip flight from Baltimore. (Or less if these soldiers flew Southwest) Or, more logically, the Pentagon could fly these soldiers back to their home stations where their famiiles are -- Fort Hood, TX, Fort Carson, CO, or elsewhere. That would make sense, considering that's where these soldiers deployed from and that's where many of their families remain. But flying them to BWI makes almost no sense at all, unless you're trying to stimulate the Baltimore tourist economy after Hurricane Isabel.

Update: The Pentagon formally announced its leave policy yesterday afternoon, possibly in reaction to this story. The good news is that soldiers will not be stranded at BWI -- they'll be flown to one of a few major airports scattered around the country.
David S.C. Chu, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, approved a U.S. Central Command request for the program Sept. 23. Participants have the choice of traveling free from Iraq to gateway airports in Atlanta, Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles or Frankfurt, Germany, and return, according to Chu's approval memo. Travel beyond those points would be at the members' expense.
This is a little bit more fair. But I still think it'd make more sense to return them to their station of origin, if that's what the soldier wants. A couple of readers suggested that these soldiers might take advantage of military "space available" flights. Unfortunately, that's not really an option these days. With the exception of regular hops like Seattle-Korea, there really aren't a lot of space-A flights these days.

Military tribunals to begin in early 2004

The New York Daily News reports, on the basis of confidential unnamed sources, that the Pentagon plans to try men at Guantanamo Bay in military tribunals at the beginning of 2004. Many of the 600+ detainees there have been held since late 2001, when they were captured in Afghanistan, and are reputed to represent a mix of Taliban and Al Qaeda guerillas.
Four detainees have been picked to face the first round of terror trials before a military tribunal, the sources said.

Their identities were not revealed, but sources told the Daily News that they are lower-ranking members of Al Qaeda or the Taliban familiar with plans for terror attacks against the U.S. or its interests.

They likely will be charged with conspiracy to commit acts of terror, with prosecutors looking to secure plea bargains and use their testimony against higher-ranking operatives.

"It gives prosecutors ammo against others because they have their potential testimony," one source said.

Charges against the suspects are expected to be announced next month, with the tribunal expected to meet in November. The trials could begin as early as January, sources said.
As a prosecutorial strategy, this makes sense. You want to prosecute the little fish in order to a) get testimony on the record, b) test your cases, c) learn what evidentiary problems exist, and d) apply leverage against the big fish. If you can get these little fish to plead guilty in exchange for testimony, so much the better. Of course, it's hard to see how anything short of the death penalty will give prosecutors leverage in these cases, since the detainees are already being held indefinitely. It's hard for me to see a way we could make this incarceration worse, while still staying within the bounds of the Third Geneva Convention. (Note: the Pentagon says these detainees are not officials POWs under the GC. Technically, that's not true until we hold Art. V tribunals to determine their status, a formal step which has not been taken. Therefore, the default rule under international law is that they are POWs, and that they deserve Geneva Convention rights. The U.S. has observed this rule in practice, but not as a matter of policy.)

Politically, the decision to launch these tribunals is another matter. I'm not sure the President has the same political capital as when he signed his 13 Nov 01 Executive Order authorizing these tribunals, and I'm not sure this is the wisest move during an election year. The White House is essentially handing the Democratic party a major campaign issue on a silver platter -- "Look, we're willing to bend the Constitution and the Geneva Convention." Though they're probably horrified too, I'm sure that civil libertarians on both sides of the aisle are salivating over the prospect of debating this issue.

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Fmr. Sen. Cleland to the White House:
"Welcome to Vietnam, Mr. President. Sorry you didn't go when you had the chance."

TAPPED drew my attention today to a column by former-Senator Max Cleland which ran in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution about Iraq. At first glance, some might call this a facile comparison of Iraq to Vietnam. They would be wrong. A deeper look first reveals that Cleland has the credibility to say everything in this piece. He is a decorated Vietnam veteran who was grievously wounded in combat, and who rose to serve as administrator of the Veterans Administration. Cleland knows what war is all about, and he knows the human cost of war all too well. He also knows the strategic side of war, from his service in the U.S. Senate and current service on the independent 9/11 Commission. Suffice to say, Cleland has the c.v. to back up what he writes. And this essay doesn't read like your typical critique of the White House. Cleland takes on the White House, point by point, and explains why our policy in Iraq has run aground:
Unfortunately, the people who drove the engine to get into the war in Iraq never served in Vietnam. Not the president. Not the vice president. Not the secretary of defense. Not the deputy secretary of defense. Too bad. They could have learned some lessons:

* Don't underestimate the enemy. The enemy always has one option you cannot control. He always has the option to die. This is especially true if you are dealing with true believers and guerillas fighting for their version of reality, whether political or religious. They are what Tom Friedman of The New York Times calls the "non-deterrables." If those non-deterrables are already in their country, they will be able to wait you out until you go home.

* If the enemy adopts a "hit-and-run" strategy designed to inflict maximum casualties on you, you may win every battle, but (as Walter Lippman once said about Vietnam) you can't win the war.

* If you adopt a strategy of not just pre-emptive strike but also pre-emptive war, you own the aftermath. You better plan for it. You better have an exit strategy because you cannot stay there indefinitely unless you make it the 51st state.

If you do stay an extended period of time, you then become an occupier, not a liberator. That feeds the enemy against you.

* If you adopt the strategy of pre-emptive war, your intelligence must be not just "darn good," as the president has said; it must be "bulletproof," as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claimed the administration's was against Saddam Hussein. Anything short of that saps credibility.

* If you want to know what is really going on in the war, ask the troops on the ground, not the policy-makers in Washington.

* In a democracy, instead of truth being the first casualty in war, it should be the first cause of war. It is the only way the Congress and the American people can cope with getting through it. As credibility is strained, support for the war and support for the troops go downhill. Continued loss of credibility drains troop morale, the media become more suspicious, the public becomes more incredulous and Congress is reduced to hearings and investigations.

Instead of learning the lessons of Vietnam, where all of the above happened, the president, the vice president, the secretary of defense and the deputy secretary of defense have gotten this country into a disaster in the desert.
Strong words from a strong-minded American who's been there, done that, and gotten the scars to prove it. I don't think that military service should be a prerequisite to political leadership. (For the record, the President served in the Texas Air National Guard and the SecDef served as a naval aviator on active duty and in the reserves.) But I do see a paucity of such experience in the White House and its command team -- as well as a lack of appreciation for the kinds of lessons that such experience brings. Sure, you can read about war and learn its impact from textbooks at the Kennedy School or Hoover Institute. But as one military historian wrote, the study of war by the uninitiated through books is like the study of sex by virgins with only pornography as their guide.

Much has been made in recent months about national service, and the extent to which our elites avoid national service -- particularly uniformed service. While I do not support conscription, I do think we need to do better as a society at voluntarily spreading the burden of military service. Our working class and middle class already do their part. The elite class does not. While doing some reading the other day, I came across this letter written by a general to a congressman during WWII about a conscript having adjustment problems. (Thanks to Andrew Olmsted) I think it expresses my point quite well.
27th Infantry Division
Office of the Commanding General
Fort Ord, California

27 February 1942

The Honorable Clinton P. Anderson, M.C.
House of Representatives

Dear Mr. Anderson:

. . . If doctors in the future are to have the privilege of practicing their profession, if archeologists are to investigate antiquity, if students are to have the privilege of taking degrees, and professors the privilege of teaching in their own way, somebody must march and fight and bleed and die and I know no reason why students, doctors, professors, and archeologists shouldn't do their share of it.

You say, "It strikes me as too bad to take that type of education and bury it in a rifle squad," as though there were something low or mean or servile being a member of a rifle squad and only morons and ditch diggers should be given such duty. I know of no place red blooded men of intelligence and initiative are more needed than in the rifle or weapons squad.

In this capacity, full recognition is given to the placing of men so that they may do the work most beneficial to the unit of which they are a part. Whenever men are needed for a particular duty, the record of all men having the required skills and qualifications are considered. I have examined the records of Private Lister and it is fairly complete. I know he holds the 100- yard dash and broad jump records in the Border Conference; that he was president of his fraternity; that his mother was born in Alabama and his father in Michigan; that his father lives at the Burlington Hotel in Washington and I suspect asked you to do what you could to get his son on other duty.

It is desirable that all men, regardless of their specialty, shall learn by doing; how hard it is to march with a pack for 20 miles; how to hold their own in bayonet combat; and how to respect the man who really takes it, namely the private in the rifle squad. . . .

Sincerely yours,

Brig Gen, USA
Sen. Cleland certainly understands what it means to be a private in a rifle squad. So do Wes Clark, Colin Powell, Richard Armitage, and Anthony Principi. American foreign policy might look a little wiser if we had more men like these in high office.

Second military servicemember detained for Gitmo security violations

The AP reports (via the NY Times) that military officials have taken an Air Force serviceperson into custody for allegedly misusing classified information in connection with Guantanamo Bay. Details are very sketchy at this point, as they are in CPT Yee's case.
The man is being held in California on security-related matters, one Pentagon official said. Neither of two officials who spoke about the matter on condition of anonymity would say whether the Air Force investigation was linked to the arrest earlier this month of the Muslim military chaplain at the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The military has classified many details about the prison camp and the detainees and has not identified any of the men being held there. Military officials have said the fight against terrorism could be hampered if terrorist groups got such information.
More to follow . . .

Update I: The AP adds some more details to its story (via the New York Times) about this second individual, who was actually arrested before CPT Yee. It's unclear whether the two men were working together, although it seems awfully coincidental if they weren't.
Senior Airman Ahmad I. al-Halabi is being held at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, facing 32 criminal charges, spokesman Maj. Michael Shavers said.

Al-Halabi worked as an Arabic language translator at the prison camp for al-Qaida and Taliban suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, Shavers said. The Air Force enlisted man knew the Muslim chaplain at the prison arrested earlier this month, but it's unclear if the two arrests are linked, Shavers said.

The translator was arrested more than six weeks before the chaplain, Shavers said.

Al-Halabi is charged with nine counts related to espionage, three counts of aiding the enemy, 11 counts of disobeying a lawful order, and nine counts of making a false official statement.
Notes on the charges: Once again, espionage and aiding the enemy are capital offenses under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The penalties for disobeying a lawful order and making a false official statement are comparitively light, but these sentences are cumulative in nature. I can only make a SWAG as to how these charges were chosen. The espionage and aiding the enemy counts go towards the overall plan. Each of the disobeying-an-order counts probably relates to a specific instance where the defendant did something wrong with a classified document. And if the defendant was required to sign some sort of log or register saying he had logged in documents, every signature would constitute a false official statement. A fact pattern like that could easily add up to the charges listed.

CPT Yee's last interview

This morning's Miami Herald carries excerpts from a 30 Jul 03 interview with CPT Youssef Yee conducted at the Guantanamo Bay base where more than 600 detainees are currently being held by the American military. These statements don't seem as defensive as those made in CPT Yee's article in "The Wire", but they are nonetheless odd for an American military officer.
''As the chaplain, what I do is focus on what the person is doing here and now in the present, rather than what a person was fighting for in order to get here,'' Capt. Youseff Yee said in a July 30 interview at the base where the Army is holding about 660 terrorism suspects from 42 countries. "What I try to do is improve a person's situation or help them with their quality of life -- what can I do to help them deal with the situation that they're dealing with?''
* * *
In his interview with The Herald at the hut that served as a mosque for the handful of Muslim soldiers at the base, Yee declined to answer questions about his feelings toward the accused members of the Taliban and al Qaeda.

''It's not my job here to brand someone as guilty or innocent,'' he said. "I look at my role as to try to help that person in any way I can deal with the difficulties thy are experiencing. This is the purpose of the chaplain.''

Yee said he had spoken to every detainee over the course of the past year, but declined to address what he termed the ''justice aspect'' or reveal what detainees told him about their indefinite detention without charges.
* * *
''I'm there as a chaplain to listen with a sympathetic ear to any concerns they may have,'' Yee said. "In terms of indefiniteness, not looking at a specific complaint in general, I would encourage any detainee to be as patient as possible with his situation. Patience is a general encouragement of the Koran.''

In ministering to the needs of the detainees, Yee said his duties included meeting with any enemy combatant who requested time to talk with him in order to pass on a complaint or a need. Guards would enter the chaplain's request in a computer system that would generate a daily printout for him. He said typical requests included talking about issues, getting religious books or a different translation of the Koran, or getting prayer beads, prayer oils or a prayer cap from a stock he kept to distribute.

One of the improvements to detainee life he said he initiated was getting prepackaged meals to be given to detainees who wanted to fast so they could eat before sunrise and after sundown.
Legal note: As a matter of law, nearly all this evidence may be excluded from the trial as irrelevant, or as inadmissable character evidence. (See Rules 403 and 404 respectively in the Military Rules of Evidence, found in part III of the Manual for Courts Martial.) All this character evidence may not be relevant at all to the issues before the military jury in CPT Yee's case. And even if it is relevant, the risk of prejudice or confusion may be too great, thus warranting its exclusion. Unless CPT Yee puts his character at issue, it will be a tough fight to get this stuff in evidence. The military prosecutors will need to show, just as they would in federal court, that this evidence is somehow relevant to CPT Yee's intent or state of mind, and that its probative value outweighs its prejudice. That will be a very tough case to make.

Ex-spinster joins CNN to provide spin analysis

Victoria Clarke, widely regarded as one of the better Pentagon press secretaries in recent years, has accepted a position with CNN that may put her across the airwaves from her former colleagues. (See NYT report here) In addition to managing the press after Sept. 11, Clarke is credited with helping to craft and stage-manage the public persona of Don Rumsfeld, as well as developing the "embedding" program for journalists in the second Gulf War.

Analysis of CPT Yee and the potential for a treason charge

Matt at Stop the Bleating has done substantial research into the history of America's treason law (uniquely codified in our Constitution), and has some thoughts today on how that law might apply to CPT Yee's case. As of yet, treason has not been listed in any story as a charge that CPT Yee may face. Nonetheless, I think the issues Matt identifies may be applicable to the other charges (e.g. espionage, aiding the enemy) that CPT Yee has been held over on.

Monday, September 22, 2003

About face!
Hackworth gives green light to Wes Clark's campaign

Col. David Hackworth once called Gen. Wesley Clark a "perfumed prince", a derogatory term for a senior officer more concerned with appearances and politics than with muddy boots soldiering. In a column today, Col. Hackworth reverses course abruptly, giving Clark a pretty strong endorsement as the kind of general you'd want to have as Commander-in-Chief.
No doubt he's made his share of enemies. He doesn't suffer fools easily and wouldn't have allowed the dilettantes who convinced Dubya to do Iraq to even cut the White House lawn. So he should prepare for a fair amount of dart-throwing from detractors he's ripped into during the past three decades.

Hey, I am one of those: I took a swing at Clark during the Kosovo campaign when I thought he screwed up the operation, and I called him a "Perfumed Prince." Only years later did I discover from his book and other research that I was wrong - the blame should have been worn by British timidity and William Cohen, U.S. SecDef at the time.

At the interview, Clark came along without the standard platoon of handlers and treated the little folks who poured the coffee and served the bacon and eggs with exactly the same respect and consideration he gave the biggies in the dining room like my colleague Larry King and Bob Tisch, the Regency Hotel's owner. An appealing common touch.

But if he wins the election, don't expect an Andrew Jackson field-soldier type. Clark's an intellectual, and his military career is more like Ike's - that of a staff guy and a brilliant high-level commander. Can he make tough decisions? Bet on it. Just like Ike did during his eight hard but prosperous years as president.
Analysis: Hack's an "opinion leader" in the military community, to use a phrase I learned in college. His weekly column gets circulated widely by e-mail, and often gets picked up by major newspapers. Hack is a bona fide war hero from Korea and Vietnam -- and his three books have earned him a great deal of prestige among soldiers and veterans. A lot of folks may see this as a signal to embrace Clark as the best pro-military candidate for 2004 -- to include the incumbent. This endorsement is very, very important for a man who hopes to sell himself as a veteran to the American public.

On the other than, this endorsement may provoke even more hostility towards Clark among military establishment types. Clark already has the reputation as an iconclastic intellectual who left others in his dust on the way to the top. Hack provokes a pretty violent reaction from many in the defense community, and his endorsement of Clark may make Clark seem like a more threatening candidate; someone who might really shake things up in the Pentagon. If that's the case, we can expect to see a barrage of character attacks on Gen. Clark in the near future. More to follow.

Panel releases report on US Air Force Academy scandal

The New York Times reports that an independent panel has issued its report on the sexual assault scandal which has rocked the U.S. Air Force Academy at Colorado Springs. The verdict isn't good for the youngest service academy, which comes as no surprise to those who have watched this case. (The full text of the report is available here from the Pentagon.) The most serious allegations concern the leadership of the Air Force Academy and the Air Force, who may have disregarded reports of sexual abuse at the academy for quite some time.
The commission also said that in an attempt "to shield Air Force Headquarters from public criticism," the Air Force's general counsel had largely ignored this history of official neglect when he reported on rape at the academy earlier this year.

The blistering report released here by the commission, led by former Representative Tillie Fowler, the Florida Republican, said sexual assault had been a problem at the Air Force Academy throughout the last decade, and possibly since women were first admitted in 1976.

The findings came as something of a surprise to victims' advocates, many of whom had initially criticized the panel's makeup as biased against women in the military, prompting the resignation of one member and the former director even before the panel began its work. Its members were appointed by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Citing repeated warnings from the Air Force surgeon general and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, as well as the Senate Armed Services Committee, the commission concluded that, "Since at least 1993, the highest levels of Air Force leadership have known of serious sexual misconduct problems at the academy," but failed to take effective action. Instead, it made fitful and limited attempts to investigate the issue, but quickly dropped them, the commission's report said.
Quick prediction: This report will torpedo the pending nomination of James Roche to be the Secretary of the Army. He was tapped to take over the Army after Secretary Rumsfeld fired former-Army Sec. Tom White. But now, it looks like his nomination will get wrapped around the axle of this issue. Why? For starters, a fair number of Congressmen have a bone to pick with the Pentagon on other issues, and this nomination will provide a convenient battleground. But more importantly, the buck has to stop somewhere for this Air Force Academy scandal, and the Secretary of the Air Force seems like the appropriate civilian official to hold accountable.

Wes Clark meets the press
Can this soldier crawl through the mud that's about to be thrown his way?

After declaring his candidacy last week for President, retired Gen. Wesley K. Clark has begun the long, hard, punishing campaign which may ultimately take him to the White House. Scores of profiles have surfaced of Wes Clark in the last few days, including stories in the NY Times, Washington Post (including this one and this one), LA Times, Newsweek, Slate, and the Atlantic Monthly. Most of these stories say essentially the same thing: Wes Clark was a brilliant "water walker" who shot to the top of the military (with some resentment from peers and superiors), and who ably led the war in Kosovo despite disagreements with just about everyone involved at the senior levels of NATO and the U.S. government. Consider this excerpt from Vernon Loeb's story in The Post.
Supporters and detractors agree on this much: The retired general is immensely talented, possessed of a keen strategic sensibility and the kind of gold-plated military credentials that could make him a formidable candidate in the Democratic race for president.

Clark's intense, emotional personality and his aggressive -- some say abrasive -- command style are likely to be the focus of intense scrutiny as he takes on the biggest challenge of a peripatetic career almost defined by the pursuit of challenge -- a run for the presidency in which his national security credentials will figure large in his potential appeal.
* * *
But Clark's hard-charging style, his penchant for dealing directly with the White House and his ceaseless agitation for ground forces during the Kosovo conflict -- over the wishes of Defense Secretary William S. Cohen -- caught up with him a month after the end of the war. In July 2000, while dining with the president of Lithuania in London, Clark was called by Gen. Henry H. Shelton, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who curtly informed him that Cohen had decided to ease him out of his NATO command. The call stunned Clark. It meant he would have to leave his NATO post three months earlier than scheduled and without a year's extension, which he had expected.

Clark had clashes outside the administration as well. In the war's immediate aftermath, when a contingent of Russian troops moved quickly into Kosovo and occupied the airfield at Pristina, the provincial capital, a British officer, Lt. Gen. Michael Jackson, refused a direct order from Clark to block the runway so the Russians could not fly in reinforcements.

Clark, who believed additional Russian troops could have led to a confrontation with NATO and possibly jeopardized the nascent allied peacekeeping mission, insisted. But Jackson stood firm, believing the Russians were isolated at the airfield and did not represent a threat. "Sir, I'm not starting World War III for you," Jackson replied.
* * *
Clark's many supporters inside and outside the military dispute the contention voiced by critics that his ambition and drive to come out on top made him untrustworthy in the eyes of his peers.

"I have watched him at close range for 35 years, in which I have looked at the allegation, and I found it totally unsupported," said retired Gen. Barry R. McCaffrey, who taught with Clark at West Point in the 1970s. "That's not to say he isn't ambitious and quick. He is probably among the top five most talented I've met in my life. I think he is a national treasure who has a lot to offer the country."

McCaffrey acknowledges that Clark was not the most popular four-star general in the Army leadership. "This is no insult to Army culture, a culture I love and admire," McCaffrey said, "but he was way too bright, way too articulate, way too good looking and perceived to be way too wired to fit in with our culture. He was not one of the good ol' boys."
Pundits on the left and right, such as Paul Glastris and William Safire, have also jumped into the fray. The pundits see this candidacy in strategic terms, opining on what this move means for the Democratic party and larger body politic. The consensus seems to be that this will only help the Democratic party, especially if it sparks some serious debate over national security issues in that party's primary.

My prediction: Before Wes Clark reaches the White House, he'll have to low crawl through about 3,000 miles of mud. The military establishment will leak every negative detail of Clark's military performance to the press that's there to leak -- and some that aren't. These will include: his tendency towards personal tirades, his micromanagement of subordinates and abusive behavior towards subordinates, his precise job performance at key positions where he was under scrutiny, and anything else that can be spun by Clark's opponents. At some point, Clark will have to deal with that Ratko Mladic incident from the mid-1990s. (For the record, Clark met with him before his indictment for war crimes, just as he met with Slobodan Milosevic before his indictment. In both cases, these meetings produced tangible results for American foreign policy.) Democrats will fire HEAT rounds at Gen. Clark for his moderate views that may not sell well to key Democrat constituencies. Clark will respond with his wonkish side, and he will quickly formulate policies on all the important issues, but it may be too late by that point. And the press will soon stop swooning over Clark like a first date.

At that point, which I will call the "decisive point" of the campaign, Clark will have to retain the ability to raise money and raise issues. If he can, he has a chance; if he doesn't, he's toast. It's still too early to tell whether Clark will make it through this mud run, and I'll reserve judgment for now. But this will be the toughest fight of Clark's long and impressive career.

More facts emerge about CPT Yee's case

Rowan Scarborough reports in this morning's Washington Times about the specific documents held by CPT Yee at the time of his arrest, and why the government was so concerned. At first glance, this looks like more than a technical violation of classified-documents rules.
A law-enforcement source said yesterday those papers included a list of detainees and the names of U.S. prison personnel at Guantanamo.

If al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden's terror network, were to learn the detainees' identities, it would provide valuable information on the whereabouts of operators who are missing. This information could then allow al Qaeda to change operating methods for fear the detainee provided such information to his American captors, the law- enforcement official said.

The Pentagon has refused news media requests to release the names of the 660 detainees for that very reason.

A list of American personnel at the base in the hands of terrorists could put them and their families in danger, the source told The Times. The source said there was a debate within the administration on whether to arrest Capt. Yee or keep him under surveillance.

The source declined to say which agency advocated the Sept. 10 arrest, but said the order came from "the highest levels."

"If the list of detainees got out, then you have a whole lot of al Qaeda cells go to ground," a senior Bush administration official said yesterday. This source said the Pentagon pushed to make the arrest and said the White House was involved in the decision.

The official said one document in Capt. Yee's possession was a drawing showing where certain prisoners and American personnel were located.
Analysis: There's another issue lurking in this story that I haven't seen any of the intelligence sources say in any of the major newspaper stories on CPT Yee. If this man sympathized with the enemy, and he counseled these detainees while they were going through the interrogation process, it's very likely that he hindered the interrogations in a substantial way. Interrogations depend on control, and a sense of total isolation on the part of the detainee. Any outside contact, particularly from someone with authority (as a military officer) and moral authority (as a Muslim cleric) would threaten the methods used by most military interrogators.

Consider this excerpt from the Declaration of U.S. Navy Commander Donald D. Woolfolk, given in the case of Yaser Hamdi to substantiate the government's case for holding him as an enemy combatant.
(FOUO) . . . When done effectively, interrogation provides information that likely could not be gleaned from any other source. Loss of this tool, in any respect, would undermine our nation's intelligence gathering efforts, thus crippling the national security of the United States. The United States does not employ any corporal means of coercion to gain information from persons being interrogated. Rather, the United States has adopted a humane approach to interrogation that relies upon creating an atmosphere of dependency and trust between detainees and the intelligence gathering staff assigned to that detainee. Over time, information is learned. The United States is now engaged in a robust program of interrogating individuals who have been identified as enemy combatants in the global War on Terrorism. This is because it is recognized that they unquestionably hold critical information that is crucial to our national security. A prime example of the effectiveness of this method of interrogation through dependency and trust can be found in the announcement this week of the U.S. Government's disruption and detention of a U.S. citizen working in coordination with al Qaida to detonate a "dirty bomb" in the United States. Knowledge and disruption of this plot may not have occurred absent effective intelligence gathered through interrogation. [emphasis added]

(FOUO) Interrogation leading to the development of meaningful and useable intelligence is not static. The collection of intelligence is active and ongoing. As new intelligence information is derived from any source, the opportunity to learn additional information through interrogation is presented. We are now living in an age where our nation is engaged in international armed conflict, we face a foe that knows no borders and perceives all Americans, wherever they may be, as targets of opportunity. Under such circumstances the need to maintain the tightly controlled environment, which has been established to create dependency and trust by the detainee with his interrogator, is of paramount importance. Disruption of the interrogation environment, such as through access to a detainee by counsel, undermines this interrogation dynamic. Should this occur, a critical resource may be lost, resulting in a direct threat to national security. [emphasis added]
This statement was made to justify the seclusion of a detainee at the same brig that now holds CPT Yee, and to specifically prevent Hamdi from having access to legal counsel. The reasoning is the same. Allowing access to legal counsel would disturb the isolation and dependency necessary for successful interrogation -- interrogation which can yield details of plans to kill Americans. (Let's not forget what's at stake here) A sympathetic chaplain can also frustrate such interrogation efforts, and impede the collection of human intelligence from the detainees. That's not a good thing. We have allowed the detainees access to a Muslim chaplain out of humanity, and compliance with the Third Geneva Convention. But we cannot allow our chaplain -- an American military officer -- to impede the collection of intelligence because of his uncertain loyalties.

CPT Yee was in a critical position; he had unsupervised, unblocked, personal access to the detainees at a time when their isolation and dependency was critical. Knowingly or unknowingly, he may have given these detainees the will to fight our interrogators, to hold onto information a little longer that might be used to save American lives. If the facts are as alleged, then CPT Yee had about as large of an effect on the war on terrorism as can be imagined. While not as spectacular or bloody as the betrayal allegedly committed by SGT Hasan Akbar against his officers in the 101st, this betrayal is probably more deadly for all of us.

Economic slump helps military recruiting

The New York Times reports this morning that the Army is poised to meet or exceed its recruiting goals for this fiscal, largely thanks to a depressed economy and other factors that help sell the military opportunity to young Americans.
All the armed services say they will meet or exceed their recruiting goals for the fiscal year ending on Sept. 30.

But many military personnel experts say the Army's efforts are most vulnerable over time because the Army recruits more active-duty and Reserve troops than all the other services combined — 73,800 active-duty and 26,400 Reserve soldiers this year — and it is now fielding about 90 percent of the 180,000 troops in Iraq and Kuwait.

"That's the driver, the economy," said Maj. Gen. Michael D. Rochelle, the head of the Army Recruiting Command here, adding that the chaotic conditions in Iraq have yet to hurt recruiting.

Army recruiters have always offered educational benefits, job security and training skills to prospective soldiers. But recently they have been armed with more logistical support and a growing arsenal of financial incentives that look even more enticing in a down market.

The Army has raised signing bonuses to as much as $20,000 for badly needed positions like intelligence analysts. It has also increased college aid. And it has nearly doubled its advertising budget, to $227 million, in the last four years, shelving its 20-year-old "Be All You Can Be" slogan in favor of the "Army of One" campaign, aimed at Generation Y youths. It has ramped up a cyberrecruiting operation, with daily online chat rooms in English and Spanish. Next month it is rolling out a 15-month enlistment option (the current minimum length for a tour is two years) aimed at college students, an increasingly important target group.
This is good news. First, the all-volunteer military (and by extension, American society) depends on a steady stream of young Americans who are willing to step into the breach. Without such volunteers, the current force structure will fail, and America will have to resort to more coercive means (read: draft) to populate its military. As recent operations from Baghdad to Belgrade show, our professional military is worth keeping around.

One note on the economic opportunity aspect. I think that Mr. Schmitt overreported that story here, in a way that almost panders to people like Rep. Charlie Rangel who argue that the military disproportionately "targets" low-income youth and presses them into service as a form of indentured servitude. I think that argument gets it absolutely wrong. Giving economic opportunities to low-income communities should be a good thing for government to do. It seems ironic that some would criticize the military for providing that opportunity when they chastise other departments for failing to. Young Americans are joining the military to take advantage of the professional, personal, patriotic -- and economic -- opportunity. This is a good news story.

Unfortunately, the news is not all good. Later in his story, Mr. Schmitt reports that the Army Reserve and Army National Guard are having less success with their recruiting efforts.
Recruiting part-time Army National Guard and Army Reserve troops, who are typically older and have civilian jobs, presents mounting challenges. Military experts warn that recruiting and retaining these citizen soldiers will get more difficult as they are repeatedly called up to serve extended tours in Iraq or Afghanistan as military police, civil affairs specialists, water-purification experts and other jobs.

"How long people will continue to be deployed will ultimately have some effect on retention," said Frank Shaffery, deputy director of Army recruiting operations here. "We're concerned about it."

Those concerns grew this month when the Army announced that 20,000 Reserve and National Guard soldiers would stay in Iraq or Kuwait for as long as 12 months, extending their tours on the ground by several months.

Army National Guard officials said this week that the Guard would probably fall short of its goal of recruiting 62,000 soldiers this year. But because fewer Guard forces will leave this year than had been anticipated, the Guard still expects to maintain its overall troop level at 350,000.
There are lots of reasons why the reserves are struggling. For starters, the benefits packages aren't as good, so they don't have the same buying power in the market for young men and women. Second, the new enlistment options (2 years) are much more attractive to someone who's not fully sold on the military, but wants the benefits that active service brings. Third, joining the reserves today is an incredibly risky and uncertain proposition. In the old days, soldiers in the reserves wondered if they would be called up. Today, soldiers in the reserves wonder when they'll be called up -- and how many times, and if their employers will take them back (notwithstanding the USERRA), and whether their families will be there when they return.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Captain Yee -- the author?

Timothy Goddard at The Flag of the World passes on a link to something that CPT Yee wrote for "The Wire" an in-house newsletter published for the Joint Task Force servicemembers and civilians at Guantanamo Bay. I think that Mr. Goddard's summary is on target: "For the most part, is no different from most of the "There's nothing to fear from true Islam, just that nutty stuff" articles that have come out so often in the past two years. This one, however, seems a good deal more defensive than most--not to the point that you'd notice anything weird about it unless you knew that he'd just been arrested for espionage, though." Here's an excerpt from what CPT Yee wrote:
September 11th, the pending war on Iraq, and our own day to day experiences of the Joint Task Force Guantanamo mission have all contributed to the picture many of us as Americans have painted about Islam and Muslims. And now, this universal religion of more than one billion followers worldwide is scrutinized by a population that has little knowledge of its basic tenets and practices. It is with a fearful eye that Islam and its worshippers are now being examined with the notion that they have become our nation's greatest enemy. However, a truly objective look makes it quite clear that Islam is really nothing to be afraid of at all. [emphasis added]
* * *
Yes, another terrorist attack or the possibility of hidden Iraqi weapons of mass destruction are enough to strike fear in the American people. But in reality, the majority of Muslims around the world from Indonesia to America are God-loving people. So why has it been so difficult for most in our society to distinguish these millions from the extreme fanatical minority? Why are we still afraid of Islam, the religion? Answer: lack of knowledge and unfamiliarity with Islam and Muslims. In most cases, people have limited personal experiences with Muslims and know Islam only through references made towards Muslim extremism.
Analysis: Putting theological and political debates aside for a second, this is really interesting language to be coming from a U.S. Army chaplain -- regardless of faith. He may have legitimate points to make about Americans' attitudes towards Muslims, and the effect of our ignorance on our tactics and strategy. However, it appears odd to me that an Army chaplain would be the guy to make those arguments. He's part of the team, and not supposed to play the devil's advocate (in any sense).

I will put forth a theory now about why CPT Yee may have felt persecuted down at Gitmo, and why he may have written this article. This is a "SWAG" (military jargon for "super wild a**ed guess"), and not based on any independent reporting, but rather on my experience as an Military Police platoon leader and staff officer.

Guantanamo Bay is a prison. The soldiers there think of themselves as "us", and the detainees as "them". Nearly all of the detainees are Muslim. There is a natural tendency in situations like this to dehumanize the "them" population. That tendency is probably exacerbated by the nature of our war on terrorism, and the religious overtones of this conflict. It's even possible that commanders are encouraging such attitudes towards the detainees, and that such aggression has spilled over into open displays of animus, hatred, and anti-Muslim behavior. To the extent that CPT Yee represents the Muslim community in the military, he may be duty bound to speak up against such hostility, within the bounds of the command. He also may be obliged under DoD equal opportunity policy to take a leadership role in stopping such behavior. If that's the case, this article appears to be one effort towards that end.

That's just a guess. It certainly doesn't excuse the criminal acts he's accused of. But it might explain some of the things CPT Yee has been accused of, from speaking up on behalf of detainees to publishing this article. More to follow.