Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Atrocities in Fallujah

Iraqi insurgents kill American contractors, then defile and display their bodies

Iraqi insurgents escalated the war of violence and images today by attacking a U.S. government contractor convoy in Fallujah, extracting the bodies of the killed Americans, and defiling them in full view of the mob and media present. In images reminiscent of Somalia, the mob towed one body throughthe street, burned others, beat one with a metal pole, and strung up two full corpses and other body parts from a bridge across the Euphrates. Also today, five Army combat engineers who were attached to the Marines also killed by an IED, according to the LA Times. (Correction: I double-counted the IED casualties earlier today due to conflicting reports.)

Every major news outlet -- NYT, WSJ, CNN, WP, LAT -- is running this as their top story right now, and they all have the graphic images displayed on their respective websites so you too can see the horror. Here's how Edmund Sanders of the LA Times described events in Fallujah:
The two burgundy SUVs were attacked at a stoplight with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades around 9:30 a.m. in Fallouja, a Sunni Triangle city about 35 miles west of Baghdad and the scene of some of the worst violence since the beginning of the American occupation a year ago.

Iraqis threw rocks and bricks at the cars, and mutilated some of the bodies with shovels and poles. At least two bodies were dragged behind cars through the streets and taken to the Euphrates River, where they were hung from a bridge.

Chants of "We will kill the Americans" sounded in the street.

For hours there was no military at the scene; the few Iraqi police seen did not stop the events.
CNN added these gory details about the treatment of the Americans' bodies after the attack:
Cheering residents in Fallujah pulled charred bodies from burning vehicles and hung them from a Euphrates River bridge.

Crowds gathered around the vehicles and dragged at least one of the bodies through the streets, witnesses said.

Residents pulled another body from one of the cars and beat it with sticks.
Finally, Jeff Gettleman of the New York Times puts the attack in the context of recent U.S. operations in Fallujah:
... [American] generals have been saying that their main focus in the conflict has shifted to Islamic terrorists who they believe to have been responsible for many suicide bombings and other attacks on the Iraqi police, civilians and foreigners. These attacks, they say, have effectively carried the Iraqi conflict into a new landscape that makes the fighting here part of the worldwide war on terrorism.

But today's events at Falluja indicate that the war may not have changed as much as the generals have suggested.

The fact that the attack on the civilian vehicles occurred in Falluja, an overwhelming Sunni city that is the most volatile stronghold of support for Mr. Hussein, and that it followed a 10-day offensive by United States marines aimed at gaining effective control of the city, suggested that the current war may, in practice, be an extension of the conflict that began last year.

Capt. Chris Logan of the Marine Corps said today that the city was becoming "an area of greater concern."

He added: "This is one of those areas in Iraq that is definitely squirrely. The guerrillas in Falluja are testing us. They're testing our resolve."

In a modulation of their assessments in recent days, the generals had begun to say that there may be a merging of diehard loyalists to Mr. Hussein and Islamic militants, with the two groups at least loosely coordinating their attacks.
Analysis: Capt. Logan is certainly right about one thing: this attack is designed to test American resolve. Insurgents and terrorists around the world have incorporated the lessons of Mogadishu into their doctrine. Indeed, they have an almost religious belief that they can win if they inflict grievous and gory casualties on American soldiers. Such a strategy is designed to undermine our national will; it assumes that we don't really have the stomach for this fight or its cost, and that we will pull out at the first sign of adversity. Unfortunately, the U.S. did that once. And like it or not, our enemies learned from Beirut and Mogadishu that they could prevail using similar tactics in the future. (See this interesting article on America's history of casualty aversion from the Naval War College Review.) But I don't think we will turn tail and run here. We have invested far too much in Iraq in terms of spirit, blood and treasure -- we will not cede victory to these bandits and reward them for their atrocities.

At the tactical level, this attack may have destroyed one American convoy. But news of this attack, and the Iraqi mob's behavior, has likely reached every American and coalition soldier now serving in Iraq. Just as the news of the Malmedy massacre during WWII enraged U.S. troops and gave them a reason to fight harder, so too will this event. I don't want to suggest for one minute that American troops will commit an atrocity to respond in kind. This isn't Vietnam, and our junior officers and NCOs are too professional to let that happen. But you can bet that every American fighting man and woman in Iraq feels the rage from this incident, and their leaders will now seek to focus and apply that rage constructively to dismantle and destroy every remaining part of the Iraqi insurgency. Payback will be swift, severe and certain.

The hardest part of any counter-insurgency operation, as Army LTC Gian Gentile and MAJ John Nagl have observed, is properly calibrating force to destroy the insurgency without losing the hearts and minds of the civilian population. The challenge for American commanders in Iraq will be to devise an appropriate response for this incident that effectively targets and kills the Iraqi insurgents without causing too much collateral damage. For what it's worth, there is enough anti-American sentiment in Fallujah that we don't have that much to lose there, and thus a heavy-handed approach will not risk much. However, I am confident that American planners are working on this problem right now.

More to follow...

Update I: I corrected an earlier lead paragraph where I indicated two separate IED attacks which killed five Marines and five soldiers. Those two attacks were actually just one attack, which killed five Army engineers attached to the Marines in the Sunni Triangle.

Update II: Neil King and Greg Jaffe add some more context to the incident in Fallujah today in a story that will appear in tomorrow's Wall Street Journal. Specifically, the WSJ article reports on the implications of this attack for the government contractors now working with U.S. government agencies to rebuild Iraq.
For now, the administration is sending a mixed message, issuing billions of dollars in contracts and encouraging companies to join in reconstruction while warning Americans against traveling in Iraq on their own and requiring contractors to provide their own security, which the government pays for. Army and Marine officers, for their part, are debating what tactics hold the most hope for gaining control of the seething Sunni Triangle area to the north and west of Baghdad.

Contractors have been increasingly on edge as violence escalates against foreign workers. Yesterday's attack, on a main street in the tense town of Fallujah west of Baghdad, is the latest in a series of assaults that has left more than a dozen foreign civilians dead over the last month. Five U.S. soldiers also died yesterday when a bomb exploded beside their convoy west of Baghdad.

"We're all very concerned about this incident, and we're taking every precaution we can," said Erin Kuhlman, a spokeswoman for California-based Parsons Corp., which is now working on electrical and construction projects in Iraq. Like other contractors, she declined to provide specifics on precautions.

* * *
The murdered contractors were security guards from a closely held North Carolina company, Blackwater Security, that relies heavily on retired U.S. soldiers and intelligence operatives, especially from Delta Force and special forces. The men were working under a U.S. government contract to protect food shipments to the Fallujah area, the company said in a statement. The names of the victims weren't released pending notification of relatives.

* * *
One Bush official, who declined to be identified, said that "because of the gruesome nature of this" the administration now expects "renewed requests from contractors for more funding and more help on security. That seems unavoidable at this point." Such desires are even more likely because the latest round of rebuilding contracts means that hundreds more U.S. civilian workers are supposed to begin streaming into Iraq in coming weeks.
In government contract terms, those requests are called "changes". (Finally, a government term that makes intuitive sense.) It is very likely that major contractors and smaller subcontractors will request a change to the terms of their contract to cover the increased costs of security for the more threatening environment in Iraq. The government basically has no choice here -- either it supports the contractors here, or faces the likelihood that the contractors will walk away from their work. Ultimately, these changes will add to the cost of the Iraqi rebuilding effort, both in terms of money and time. Additional security measures will impede rebuilding efforts by limiting the exposure of contractors to situations where they can be secured. For example, instead of 5 food convoys, you might now see 1 or 2 being run.

Though American taxpayers will pay the bill, it is the Iraqis who will suffer. The deteriorating security situation will disproportionately hurt contractors, relief agencies and non-governmental organizations much more than it hurts the military. The US Marines and US Army can adjust to a more threatening environment much more easily than these civilian agencies can. And it is these civilian agencies that do the majority of good for the Iraqis. The tough task now is to convince the Iraqi population of this fact, so that they take the lead in stopping their own insurgent brethren.
New reservist civilian employment program announced by DoD

The Pentagon announced today that it would require all reservists to register in its Civilian Employer Information database. The new database will pull information from reservists about where they work, what skills they have, and what they do in order to aid the deployment process and help DoD and other federal officials interface with civilian employers about mobilizations.
Guard and Reserve members are required to register information about their civilian employer and job skills, in order for the department to meet three different requirements defined in law. The Department of Defense is required to: give consideration to civilian employment necessary to maintain national health, safety and interest when considering members for recall; ensure that members with critical civilian skills are not retained in numbers beyond those needed for those skills, and; inform employers of reservists' of their rights and responsibilities under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act.

The goal is to populate and maintain an employer database with 95 percent accuracy of the Selected Reserve and 75 percent accuracy of the Individual Ready Reserve.
Analysis: Ideally, we'd have had this program in place in Sept. 2001, because it would have been enormously helpful for DoD to have visibility of this stuff as it has mobilized 300,000+ reservists since then for the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. But given some of the issues (such as reemployment problems upon redeployment) now surfacing with respect to reservists, this is a good step. The first step when solving any problem is to gather more information, and this program will ideally gather lots of information about reservists and their civilian employment. I hope that the Pentagon continues to work this issue once it has the information, developing policy ideas and options to better manage the reserve force with this information.

In the wake of the past two years' reserve mobilizations, a number of academics and policy officials have speculated about the proportion of reservists who work as civilian first responders, or the proportion of reservists who work in other critical areas. The idea was that we might be doing harm to our civilian consequence-management community by calling up so many reservists, and a number of news accounts surfaced from small towns where the police or fire department was decimated by a mobilization. This program will tell us once and for all what the ground truth is about that problem, and it should enable the Pentagon to develop better policies for managing this problem so that its federal mobilizations don't harm the anti-terrorism readiness of state and local governments across America.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan
: I missed it earlier today because I was focused on other projects, but David Rohde has an exceptional article in today's New York Times on the efforts of one light infantry company in the mountains of Afghanistan to win the allegiance of the civilians who live there.
A new exception to the 4th Amendment
: The AP reports that the Supreme Court has issued a ruling in United States v. Flores-Montano, holding the government may search, dismantle and inspect gas tanks of individuals driving into the United States at border checkpoints without any particular probable cause about that individual or car. The decision effectively expands the existing regulatory exception to the 4th Amendment, and it also limits the privacy expectations (in a 4th Amendment sense) of individuals in public spaces. "The government's interest in preventing the entry of unwanted persons and effects is at its zenith at the international border," Rehnquist writes for a unanimous court.

More to follow...
Another exodus of the military's 'best and brightest'

America's special operations community may soon lose many of its operators

In what seemed like another world, I wrote about the junior officer and NCO exodus that was affecting America's Army in 2001 and early 2001. Simply put, this exodus had the potential to strip the military of many of its best junior officers, and was being driven by a frustrating Army bureaucracy and better opportunities on the outside. Mark Lewis and Don Vandergriff also wrote on the subject, describing the effects on the Army of what appeared to be a serious attrition problem among Army lieutenants and captains.

That problem has been overtaken by events since Sept. 11. But today, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker report in the NY Times that America's special operations forces may be facing an exodus of their own. This exodus is being driven by an unbelievably high operational tempo (OPTEMPO), coupled with economic opportunities on the outside driven by demand abroad for American special ops training and personnel.
Senior enlisted members of the Army Green Berets or Navy Seals with 20 years or more experience now earn about $50,000 in base pay, and can retire with a $23,000 pension. But private security companies, whose services are in growing demand in Iraq and Afghanistan, are offering salaries of $100,000 to nearly $200,000 a year to the most experienced of them.

The Central Intelligence Agency is also dangling such enticing offers before experienced Special Operations personnel that the Pentagon's top official for special operations policy, Thomas W. O'Connell, told a House panel this month that intergovernmental poaching "is starting to become a significant problem."

Evidence of a drain of seasoned Special Operations members, including elite Delta Force soldiers, is largely anecdotal right now, but the head of the military's Special Operations Command, Gen. Bryan D. Brown of the Army, is so concerned about what he is hearing from troops in the field that he convened an unusual meeting of his top commanders in Washington last week to discuss the matter. "The retention of our special operating forces is a big issue," General Brown said.

* * *
One of those senior noncommissioned officers who chose to leave the Army for a private security job in Baghdad paused for a few moments on Monday to describe his decision, but requested that his name be withheld. After enlisting just over two decades ago, he received Airborne, Ranger and Special Forces training. At the end of 20 years of service, he received an offer to go to Iraq to guard public officials and help train local Iraqis to do the same.

"It wasn't that I minded the op-tempo or the deployments, that's why I joined," he said about the pace of operations. "But after putting in my time, I had this chance to make three times the money, and some of the guys are making even more than that."

Seasoned enlisted troops and officers have always offered skills that make them attractive to civilian employers, including military contractors, security companies and military consulting firms. Military personnel experts are cautioning that longer and more frequent deployments are threatening the ability of all the armed services to retain many of their best and brightest.
Analysis: First, let's be clear about what's happening here. There is no data which presently indicates there is a special ops exodus underway. The NYT is reporting on the basis of a few anecdotal examples, and the sense of the Special Operations Command's top generals that an exodus may happen as its operators return from overseas. So, the first thing is to gather data about what's going on here, and to make policy based on that data.

The second thing is that we should not be too worried about a natural level of attrition in our military, even in our special ops units. Every soldier is valuable, and that's even more true of these guys because of their training and experience. However, we have an all volunteer military, and our system is designed to accomodate a reasonable level of attrition. Often, it's better to let guys get out if they're feeling disenchanted or overused, because they may be less than motivated about future missions. I do think it's a problem if the special ops community loses its best soldiers, but there's no evidence yet that this is happening. So I go back to point #1 -- we need to see what the actual attrition numbers say, because this may just be natural post-deployment attrition. (Stop loss policies have prevented attrition in these units for a while, so it may even be natural to expect a surge right now.)

Third, I think it's interesting to note that the CIA is one of the leading employers taking personnel away from military special ops. That's probably a net positive thing for the United States, because presumably, these guys (and a few women too) are being hired to rebuild America's "human intelligence" ("HUMINT") capabilities in the CIA's Directorate of Operations. The CIA desperately needs these operators' experience to build more reliable and robust HUMINT capabilities -- the kind of capabilities that can gather the intel we need about emerging threats in the 21st Century.

Finally, I think we should be very careful as we go about expanding special operations -- which includes everything from Delta Force and the SEALs to Army Civil Affairs -- in order to meet the demands of current and future operations. The key to special ops success is people; they wholeheartedly endorse the John Boyd saying of "People, Ideas, Hardware -- in that order!" Special operations puts an enormous amount of resources into its people, and into building its units into the most professional and effective teams imaginable. Expanding special operations too quickly will almost certainly affect the quality of the special operations community, and that would be a very bad thing. It might make a lot more sense for the Army, for example, to make more of its units "special operations capable" like the Marines presently do with their MEUs prior to deployment. Similarly, it might make more sense to give Army units more full-spectrum capability in the area of low-intensity combat and stability operations, rather than standing up more Civil Affairs units and Special Forces units. The right answers are not necessarily apparent, and it may not be wise to simply throw money at the problem.
New banner ads at
: "New careers come to those who speak Arabic -- U.S. Army: click here for more". This ad banner is running on the top of the home page in bold black/gold colors with arabic script behind the text of the ad; it's also featured prominently on story pages inside The Army generally doesn't do MOS-specific recruiting like this (except for recruiting JAGs in law schools, doctors in med schools, etc)., so it struck me as interesting.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Legislative update:
government contractors may
soon be sanctioned for failing to take care of their reservists --
Citizen Smash lobbies for legislative proposal to aid reservist-employees

Last week, I wrote a note describing the disturbing treatment of Oregon National Guardsman CPL Dana Beadine by Securitas Corporation, following CPL Beaudine's redeployment from Iraq as a combat-wounded veteran. The essence of the story was that CPL Beaudine suffered injuries in combat, to include a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, and his civilian employer displayed a startling unwillingness to take care of him after his discharge from active duty. Even the Department of Labor thought that CPL Beaudine was being mistreated in this case, yet the employer stood firm. The detail that stood out to me, and to several other mil-bloggers, was that Securitas was the holder of several major government contracts. It seemed incongruous and unjust that a government contractor should be allowed to break the law, mistreat a reservist, and profit from taxpayer money.

One of my readers now deployed to Iraq suggested that there ought to be a law proscribing such war profiteering by recalcitrant government contractors. I agreed, and wrote the following note:
Update II -- Memo to Congress: One of my readers now deployed to Iraq had an excellent suggestion -- why not amend federal law (and/or the Federal Acquisition Regulation in the CFR) to provide for suspension or debarment (or both) as penalties for government contractors who violate the USERRA or SSCRA protections for their employees who are mobilized as reservists? I think this is a great idea, and I hope that some Congressional staffer reads Intel Dump and recommends this to his/her boss. I don't think we should reward this kind of bad corporate behavior with government contracts and the money from American taxpayers. Congress already attaches all kinds of conditions to the receipt of taxpayer money, and it seems like proper treatment of reservists should be one of them.
Several of my MilBlogs colleagues -- including Citizen Smash, Donald Sensing, BlackFive, GreyHawk, and others -- added their voices to the fray. But Citizen Smash (who himself served in OIF as a reservist) took the issue one step further. At a recent event in San Diego, he cornered Congresswoman Susan Davis and her legislative aide on this issue; here's what happened.
When she had finished speaking, she opened it up for questions. The first guy she called on asked, "Is there any way we can get Bush impeached?"

As the Congresswoman was busy dodging around that one, I made my way over to Todd.



I introduced myself. "Can I bend your ear for a minute about a veterans' issue?"

He immediately brightened. "Sure! Let's walk over this way. How can we help you?"

"It's not me, specifically, it's more of a general issue." I very briefly summarized the Securitas case, and the subsequent online discussion regarding contractors abusing their returning reservists. "So the question is, if we currently withhold funds from universities that refuse ROTC and military recruiters, why can't we do the same to corporations that don't fulfill their obligations to returning reservists?"

I could see the lightbulb go on over his head. "Hey, you've got a good point there."

I continued along that line, explaining that I had searched through the acquisition regulations, as well as some Department of Labor information, and couldn't find anything like what we had envisioned. "I don't think it exists, to be honest," I concluded, "But it should..."

"And you know," he responded, "It wouldn't be difficult to get something like that passed right now."

* * *
FINALLY the forum broke up, as Davis announced that she had another function she had to attend. At this point, I had already maneuvered myself to her right flank, immediately between her and the parking lot.

She turned to Todd, who directed her attention towards me. "This man has something to discuss with you," he told her.

I smiled, shook her hand, and gave her my name. "I'm a reservist, and I just got back from the Middle East last August," I began.

"Oh, thank you for your service!"

"Your welcome, Ma'am. I'd like to talk to you briefly about a veterans' issue - it will only take one minute."


I quickly summed up the proposal. When I mentioned the parallel between our proposal and the current policy towards educational institutions and ROTC, her eyes lit up. I sensed that she had fully grasped what I was proposing, and she was already mentally writing a floor speech in support of such a bill.

"I know you've got to get going," I told her, "but I want to thank you for taking a minute to listen to my idea. I'll fax the details to Todd on Monday."

"No, I should thank you," she replied. "I think we've got a sure-fire winner here..."

And that, my dear readers, is how representative democracy is supposed to work.
Here's what you can do: If you support us on this issue, please write to your representative in Congress to make your voice heard on this issue. I think this one cuts across party lines, so write to your representative regardless of his or her party. Let them know that you support the full rights of reservists to reemployment under federal law, and that you don't want your taxpayer dollars going to corporations who mistreat their reservist-employees. Also, write your state legislators too, because plenty of reservists work for state and local government contractors, and they need legal protection too. In an ideal world, we'd have nothing but good corporate citizens, and there'd be no need for this kind of law. Indeed, I believe that most American corporations do the right thing when it comes to their reservist-employees. Yet, there are companies out there that don't do the right thing, and it adds insult to injury when we allow those companies to profit from taxpayer money.
Thanks again for your support
: I greatly appreciate the generous donations that so many of you have made to Intel Dump in the last week. Whether you gave $1, $5 or $25, I appreciate your vote of confidence and will do my best to return your investment in the coming weeks and months. I have raised enough so far to purchase server space and the domain name, which will eventually become the new home for this site. However, I need additional support to facilitate this site's move and several other upgrades that will allow me to maintain Intel Dump. If you read my site and think it's worth as much as a daily newspaper, magazine, or even a magazine subscription, I would greatly appreciate your financial support. Thanks!

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"Sitting national security advisers do not testify before the Congress"

Update: Unless the White House says it's okay for them to do so after a public furor erupts

National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice invoked the time-honored principle of executive privilege yesterday in defending the White House's decision not to allow her to testify to Congress or the 9/11 commission. (Thanks to Tapped for the pointer to this quote)
"Nothing would be better, from my point of view, than to be able to testify. I would really like to do that. But there is an important principle here ... it is a longstanding principle that sitting national security advisers do not testify before the Congress."
For what it's worth, this principle is something that Presidents on both sides of the aisle agree with, starting with President Eisenhower and moving forward. As a general rule, the President's decisionmaking staff cannot be forced to testify before Congress. (Past NSAs have voluntarily testified though.) I agree with this rule, because I think it safeguards the national security process and increases the candor of those people giving advice to the President -- both political appointees and professionals.

However, two obvious questions emerge.

- First, Ms. Rice has said that she would step down as National Security Adviser by the end of 2004, either by virtue of an administration change or of her own volition. After that happens, she will no longer be a "sitting" adviser to the President. Will she then testify before the 9/11 commission, or another body such as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence?

- Second, it is a well-settled principle that no adviser to the President can be compelled to testify before Congress; such compulsion is considered to violate the executive privilege. But there is no such legal rule against voluntary testimony before Congress, either in open or closed session. Thus, Ms. Rice misstates the rule in her comments on CBS. The absence of compulsion would remove the major separation of powers problem here. Presumably, this commission is supposed to be bigger than politics. (Yeah right) If the White House supports the goals and objectives of the 9/11 commission, so much so that it will volunteer the President himself to testify in closed session, why not allow the NSA to testify too? If we're all on the same team, trying to prevent another 9/11, what's the right thing for the White House to do here?

Update: The White House has answered that the right thing to do here is to let the National Security Adviser testify in public, under oath, before the 9/11 commission.
The decision was conditioned on the Bush administration receiving assurances in writing from the commission that such a step does not set a precedent and that the commission does not request "additional public testimony from any White House official, including Dr. Rice," White House counsel Alberto Gonzales said in a letter to the panel.

Subject to the conditions, the president will agree "to the commission's request for Dr. Rice to testify publicly regarding matters within the commission's statutory mandate," Gonzales's letter stated.

"The president recognizes the truly unique and extraordinary circumstances underlying the commission's responsibility to prepare a detailed report on the facts," Gonzales added.

Congressional leaders, Gonzales noted, have already stated that this would not be a new precedent.

A very interesting First Amendment case study in Iraq

CPA officials shut down an Iraqi newspaper, citing "incitement"

Actual incitement cases in the U.S. -- where some legislature criminalizes speech that advocates crime -- tend to be rare these days. After the Supreme Court's ruling in Brandenburg v. Ohio, most legislatures realized that these speech restrictions would have a really tough time in court. Prosecutors now target some of the same conduct with other statutes, such as conspiracy statutes and inchoate crimes, in order to accomplish the same goal of preventing extremist groups from acting on their ideologies. Nonetheless, the issue remains, and occasionally comes up in court.

Now, it appears that incitement law has made an appearance in Iraq. According to the LA Times, the U.S. Coalition Provosional Authority has decided to close a newspaper run by a popular anti-American cleric because it thinks this newspaper is inciting violence against coalition troops.
It was unclear why officials chose this particular moment to close the paper, but one senior coalition official said the publication had been warned several times before Sunday. "This is not the first time. We've given them a chance to retract and clean themselves up," the official said. "But if they continue to spew vitriol, well?. "

The occupation administration has had an ongoing battle with Sadr that extends far beyond the pages of his newspaper.

Sadr, who is in his early 30s, has routinely denounced the occupation in his Friday sermons and has sought to raise his own militia, the Mehdi Army. Initially a ragged collection of unemployed youths, it has become increasingly organized, and Sadr now has militias operating in several southern cities, including Nasiriya, as well as Baghdad's Sadr City, home to more than 1 million Shiites. U.S. officials have been closely tracking Sadr's efforts to expand the corps.

The coalition has also forced government officials and security forces in the city of Najaf to shut down an illegal court convened by Sadr and a private prison where he was believed to be torturing some of the people sentenced by his court.

* * *
Al Hawza newspaper was closed Sunday morning when dozens of U.S. soldiers arrived at its offices in Baghdad, ordered the staff out and locked and chained its doors. Troops handed the paper's editor, Sheik Ali Yasseri, a letter from Bremer alleging that the paper had breached an order issued last year that bans the incitement of violence.

"They told us they would arrest us if we did not leave. They said our articles incite people against America," Yasseri told Reuters news agency outside the paper's office.

The weekly paper, whose name refers to the students of the Shiite clerics based in Najaf, is read primarily by followers of Sadr. Its circulation is thought to be well below 50,000. Under Bremer's decision, it is banned from publishing for two months. Another breach of the anti-incitement order would result in jail and a $1,000 fine, the letter said.
Analysis: My First Amendment law professor, Eugene Volokh, is surely the better person to comment on this story. Obviously, American constitutional law doesn't directly apply to this case in Iraq. But considering that we are trying to export the rule of law generally to Iraq, and that we want to build a lasting democracy in that nation, I wonder if we might reconsider our instincts here to suppress the presses. Dissent -- even dangerous dissent -- often serves a valuable role in free societies by letting dissident groups blow off steam peacefully. Moreover, the best test for bad ideas is to let them fight for airtime in the marketplace of ideas, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes observed in his famous Abrams v. United States dissent:
. . . Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition. To allow opposition by speech seems to indicate that you think the speech impotent, as when a man says that he has squared the circle, or that you do not care whole heartedly for the result, or that you doubt either your power or your premises. But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year if not every day we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country. . . . [250 U.S. at 626]
That said, I can see substantial security interests at stake here, and I can certainly understand the motivations of the CPA authorities who made this call. It's entirely possible that the prohibition of this speech meets the test from Brandenburg, and that even in America the authorities would be able to outlaw this newspaper as a brand of incitement. Clearly, it doesn't help the security situation in Iraq to have a firebrand publishing doctrine and operational edicts in a newspaper, and it's even worse if this newspaper is actually being used to religiously sanction and order attacks. I'm sure the CPA authorities are cognizant of the blowback potential here, and the risk that this move may actually incite more protest and violence. But I think they probably assessed that risk as less than the risk of letting this newspaper continue to publish, and made their decision accordingly. Was it the right call? Only time will tell. Perhaps this will be one of the first legal issues for the nascent Iraqi court system to decide.

Update I: Jack Balkin, a constitutional law professor at Yale Law School, has a note on this incident, complete with an excerpt from the part of the Iraqi Constitution dealing with free speech.
New trends in the Al Qaeda threat

Global terror network demonstrates new features in Madrid operation

Monday's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) carries a very provocative article about the tactical and operational changes apparent in Al Qaeda's Madrid operation, and how they represent a more advanced and lethal terror organization. (I wish I could excerpt the entire thing, but federal copyright law won't allow that.) The essence of the story is that Al Qaeda has evolved again, into a more decentralized, less predictable, less hierarchical terror network that retains some operational capability to strike at Western targets abroad.
Evidence in the Madrid train bombings points to the participation of a new breed of Islamic holy warrior, unfettered by many of the religious and ideological constraints that defined Islamic terrorism in the past.

These Islamist warriors -- schooled in the North African doctrine known as Takfir wal Hijra and trained by Afghan veterans of al Qaeda -- think, recruit and operate differently from traditional Islamist networks. For Europe, that makes the threat particularly acute. The Takfir movement is strongest in Morocco and Algeria, the primary sources of Muslim immigration to Western Europe. Takfiri theorists openly advocate using immigration as a Trojan horse to expand jihad, or holy war.

* * *
Many elements common to the suspects in custody for the Madrid bombings so far, investigators say, bear hallmarks of the ultrafundamentalist Takfiris or their close cousins, the Algerian-based Salafists. These include the use of petty crime and drug trafficking to raise funds, the recruitment of women, and operatives who adopt a Western lifestyle to keep a low profile. The virulent brand of Takfiri Islam makes all-out armed jihad an obligation for all true believers; even apostate fellow Muslims are fair game.

* * *
As Osama bin Laden's control over terror networks has been disrupted, new radicals operate at the fringes of his movement. Many of his core beliefs, especially his anti-American animus, are being superceded by broader interpretations of global jihad. Instead of just apostate Muslim regimes or U.S. interests, jihad is being expanded to include virtually everyone outside the sect. That leads many antiterror specialists to say the Madrid bombings may represent a change for Islamic terrorism. "This is al Qaeda 2.0," says Jonathan Schanzer, a terrorism specialist at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Immigration is a key way to extend the radical ideas into Western Europe. One Takfiri scholar, Abu Basir, wrote in 2001 that "jihad and immigration go together...the one cannot be achieved without the other."

* * *
Unlike previous generations of radical Islamists, who attracted police attention by their long beards, public proselytizing and orthodox postures, the newer generation of holy warrior blends in better. They are encouraged to lead a double life in the ultimate pursuit of jihad, according a German intelligence report.

"Outwardly they pretend to lead a modern lifestyle," says terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp. "But deep inside they adhere to a pure medieval strain of Islam." Many Takfiris shave their beards and avoid mosques for security reasons. "Recruits conceal their true beliefs until the time is right," Dr. Ranstorp says.
Analysis: There is a lot of great material in this article; I recommend buying today's Journal in order to read the whole thing. As I said above, the essence of the story is that Al Qaeda's offshoots have evolved into something different -- and potentially more dangerous -- than the Al Qaeda that attacked the USS Cole and conducted the WTC/Pentagon operation.

The decentralization of Al Qaeda is an especially important development because of its implications for U.S. policy. Until now, American counter-terrorism policy has focused mostly on decapitating and dismantling the Al Qaeda organization proper -- the parts that used to reside in Afghanistan, the parts that conducted the 9/11 attack, and any parts that had a footprint on U.S. soil. If there are now Al Qaeda-inspired affiliates in Spain, the Philippines, Algeria, and other places, that calls into question our entire decapitation/dismantling strategy. What purpose would it serve now to capture Osama Bin Laden? It would not impede the operational effectiveness of these splinter groups one iota. At best, it will remove some of the spiritual and operational coherence which has enabled this global terror network to remain viable. But I think it's more likely that it will have only a tangential operational effect, and that there are more than enough lieutenants willing to carry on OBL's guidon.

The moves to secular tactics, techniques and procedures also represent an important trend. We saw this with the 9/11 hijackers, and it enabled them to blend into U.S. society for so long to conduct their pre-mission training and reconnaissance. This trend has several implications. Primarily, it means that we must reevaluate our indicators of terrorist activity, and look deeper into backgrounds and connections. That may eventually necessitate some sort of Total Information Awareness-like program capable of non-obvious relationship analysis. Or it may require redoubled efforts to penetrate this world with HUMINT assets; something which has eluded Western intelligence agencies for decades.

Stories like this one paint a fairly bleak picture of the enemy, but it is one we must understand nonetheless. The enemy of terrorism will not go away anytime soon; there will likely be no end to the global war on terrorism. Terrorism is a methodology that small groups and states will use to asymmetrically attack large states and powerful interests. Its success hinges on the ability of the terrorists to see opportunities, develop TTPs, and to strike before states can develop appropriate countermeasures. The key, for us, is to develop institutions capable of observing this threat, assessing it, and reacting on a faster timeline than the enemy. Building large agencies like the Department of Homeland Security won't cut it. We have to create new models of organization and action that combine intelligence, analysis, decisionmaking and action.
L.A. chapter of the Nathan Hale Society
: We had our first meeting last night near Beverly Hills and spent the better part of the time discussing American "grand strategy" -- what it is, what it ought to be, and what it's not. As you can imagine, the discussion ranged from the war in Iraq to U.S. foreign aid policy to conceptual discussions of what a grand strategy actually is. The discussants brought a good mix of backgrounds and experience to the table, and it was a very interesting evening. Our next discussion is scheduled for April 25, with possible topics including intelligence reform, North Korea, and democracy promotion. If you're interested in learning more, surf over to chapter president Robert Tagorda's site, or e-mail him.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Good and bad news from the "band of sisters"

WP survey of military families paints a mixed picture for military retention

Tom Ricks reports on the front page of today's Washington Post that a sizable percentage of military spouses are having doubts about continued service by their husbands or wives in uniform. The survey was conducted by The Post in conjunction with the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard, and it talked to more than 1,000 military spouses on ten separate installations. Mr. Ricks' lengthy article discusses the survey's findings, and includes many actual responses from military spouses; it also discusses some of the ways the military plans to mitigate this issue in the coming months and years. One point that quickly becomes evident is that military spouses don't speak with one voice:
Large majorities of Army wives said that coping with their spouses' deployment had been a problem, but that they were proud of their service to the country. Many resented media coverage that portrays them as not handling it well. "It's not fair to us, or to the guys over there, to say that we're all having nervous breakdowns, because we're not," said Holly Petraeus, wife of the commander of the 101st Airborne.

* * *
While half of the spouses rated their own morale as high, less than a third rated the morale of the families around them similarly.

And even though they feel at least somewhat supported by their nonmilitary countrymen, the spouses do not feel particularly well understood by them -- not even by their own extended families. With the community of wives living on and around Army bases offering an attractive alternative, this generation has broken the long-established pattern of going back home for the duration of a husband's deployment.

"We have become a sorority of separation," said Anne Torza, wife of an Apache attack-helicopter pilot in the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, "and I wouldn't give up my sisters for anything. You know that 'band of brothers'? We're a band of sisters."
The story also included a really interesting discussion of the way that technology has affected this issue. Military spouses in previous wars had nowhere near the information flow as those in OIF -- especially from e-mail and embedded reporters.
Technology -- not only 24-hour news, but also e-mail -- has kept this generation of spouses extraordinarily close to their husbands' lives. But that, they have discovered, is a mixed blessing. The Iraq deployment has been the U.S. military's first war fought in an interconnected environment, in which even front-line soldiers generally have access to e-mail and the Internet. "It's the 'kitchen table to the battlefield' war," Morgan said. "Something happens -- between cable news, the cell phone, the Internet, e-mail -- it goes back and forth instantly."

That speed can be vexing: Almost every wife seems to have gotten a predawn call telling her to turn on the television because the "crawl" on the bottom of the cable news screen was reporting that a soldier had been killed in the region of Iraq where her husband was posted.

To squelch rumors sparked by such reports, the Army has had each unit's Family Readiness Group quickly transmit information on events in Iraq. "When something happens, the phone tree lights up, so you're not sitting there watching TV trying to figure out if your husband is hurt," said Kristin Jackson, whose husband is a mechanic in the 101st Airborne.
One other trend in the responses was the perception of a civil-military gap among military spouses. This is very interesting for military scholars like me, because it's one of the pitfalls inherent in an all-volunteer force where the burden of service is not universally or equitably distributed. It also has significant social, economic, political and cultural implications, both for the military and for civil society.
... military wives see a gap between themselves and the civilian world. About 90 percent of spouses said they were satisfied with the respect the American public shows soldiers. But Davis, wife of the 101st Airborne Division lieutenant, spoke for many when she said: "The farther away you get from post, the less understanding there is."

Often, the spouses see good intentions thwarted by a lack of comprehension. Desaree Venema, whose husband has been gone for a year as a senior sergeant in the 4th Infantry Division, said that in her nonmilitary neighborhood, residents have been supportive, shoveling snow and babysitting her daughters "when I have a bad day." But when they complain about a spouse having to go on a week-long business trip, she said, "I just about have to draw blood from my tongue" to stop from shouting at them.

"It's wonderful to put the red, white and blue Dixie Cups in the chain-link fence to show patriotism, but you need specific tools," said McConnell, the Fort Carson youth services coordinator. Civilians sometimes will say things such as, "It's good your dad can e-mail you because it shows he's alive," unaware of how scary it will sound to a child -- especially when the e-mail breaks down, said Mary M. Keller, executive director of Military Child Education Coalition, a nonprofit group.
Ultimately, Mr. Ricks comes back to the basic policy issue undergirding this story: will military families push their men and women in uniform to leave the service when their term is up? On this point, the data is inconclusive. Many families think there will be a problem with military retention, but when pressed on this point in terms of their family, they seem less adamant about leaving the service.
About 76 percent of those polled said they believe the Army is heading for personnel problems as soldiers and their families tire of the post-9/11 pace and leave the service.

And yet, the same percentage said that, knowing what they know now about the Army, they would do it all over again.

What those numbers reflect, said wives and other Army insiders, is that the Army is adapting to the post-9/11 world. "We're seeing a harder Army come out of this," full of veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, said Lt. Jason Davis, the husband of Meg Davis.

"The reenlistments that we'll see will be good ones," the Iraq veteran said. "These guys are experts, and they know what they're getting into."

A strong minority of military wives want no part of that frequent-flier life.

About half of those polled said they expect their spouses to reenlist, and that they will support the decision. But about three in 10 said that they are certain their spouses will get out -- and that they want that to happen.

If those numbers prove true, "that's a good news story for the Army," said Master Sgt. J.D. Riley, a Pentagon expert on enlisted personnel issues. Currently, he said, about 50 percent of soldiers leave at the end of their first term.

The greater worry is that more seasoned soldiers -- especially the senior sergeants who are the backbone of today's Army -- will start leaving in unusually large numbers, as they did during the latter part of the Vietnam War. It is too early to tell if Iraq will provoke such an exodus, but some Army experts are concerned by internal Army data indicating morale problems among troops serving there.
Analysis: So, the conclusion to be drawn from this story is that there is an issue here, but that the Army needs more data before it can establish exactly what is going to happen as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Anecdotal reports from the field indicate that redeployed units have not experienced an exodus of soldiers or officers as some have predicted, and that the majority of exiting soldiers have been those kept on active duty involuntarily through "stop loss" policies. Indeed, other surveys of military morale conducted by the Army have shown fairly high levels of job satisfaction and reenlistment intentions, although there is a significant gap between responses from active-duty soldiers and reservists.

Mr. Ricks does a good job of reporting on family support groups, but I think this point deserves some more emphasis. A major reason the military is doing well here is because it has learned how to deal with family issues in the 1990s. In the first Gulf War, the Cold War-minded military did a less than stellar job at managing these kinds of issues, and it did not have the benefit of institutionalized processes like the Family Readiness Groups in every company and battalion-sized unit. However, the Army learned during the deployments of the 1990s how to manage these issues, as well as a host of other deployment-related issues, and the result is that it now has a pretty good system. It will never be perfect -- deployment is necessarily hard on families, and there is no way to minimize the emotional and physical strain on familymembers from the actual separation and risk involved. But by forming "band[s] of sisters" (and brothers) for military spouses around the country, the military has gotten a lot better at taking care of its families at home while it fights abroad.