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The Army had begun issuing a new helmet, dubbed the Advanced Combat Helmet. Made of a new type of Kevlar, the helmet is stronger and lighter than its predecessor. But the new helmet has a critical flaw, Col. Poffenbarger contends: It is about 8% smaller than the old helmet, offering less protection on the back and side of the head.Analysis: This is a really old problem. Warriors in ancient times used to worry about how large helmets might impede their vision, as well as how they might make them look weak by wearing too much armor. Similarly, ancient warriors worried about the extent to which body armor would restrict their flexibility and prevent them from fighting in hand-to-hand combat. Today's warriors rely principally on their eyes and situational awareness to keep them alive, so it makes sense that the Army would develop a helmet to maximize those things and allow visual scanning via head movement. But as always, the procurement process can have hiccups, and it can overemphasize or underemphasize some values if the testers and generals let it. Here, that seems to be the case. The Army rushed this helmet into production, unlike the Interceptor body armor program, with the result that the end product might not be the best thing for the warfighter. I hope the Army listens to Lt. Col. Poffenbarger, and reevalutes this program in light of what he's found.
In past wars, this might not have been a big problem. In infantry-style combat, soldiers typically are struck in the front of the head as they charge toward the enemy. But in Iraq, where the deadliest threat is remote-detonated roadside bombs, many soldiers are getting blasted on the sides and back of the head, says Col. Poffenbarger. In other words, they are getting hit in areas where the new helmet offers less coverage.
"I've become convinced that for this type of guerrilla fight, we are giving away coverage that we need to save lives," says Col. Poffenbarger, a 42-year-old former Green Beret.
This summer, he briefed Gen. George Casey, the top American general in Iraq, as well as a senior Army official in the Pentagon about his concerns regarding the helmet. Gen. Casey declined to comment on the matter. However, a senior defense official said the colonel's observations are raising questions about whether the Army should move forward with a helmet that may not be suited for the kind of hit-and-run insurgency it is fighting in Iraq. The Marine Corps has already decided not to issue the helmet to the vast majority of its forces.
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Col. Poffenbarger's observations are by no means a comprehensive study. His research is based on about 160 head-trauma patients who have passed through the 31st Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad, where he works. Because the hospital houses the only American neurosurgeons in Iraq, virtually every serious head-trauma patient is treated by him or his partner. "If you get shot in the head in Iraq, I see you," he says.
He has gone through the records of all the hospital's head-trauma patients, documenting the exact entry point at which the shrapnel or bullet entered the brain and the type of helmet the soldier or Marine was wearing. Extrapolating from this, Col. Poffenbarger estimates the new helmet might result in a 30% increase in serious head traumas if distributed throughout the entire force in Iraq.
As the Pentagon released a new report criticizing senior officials over abuses of Iraqi prisoners, military officers in Iraq said restrictions on interrogations imposed in the wake of the scandal are hampering their ability to get critical intelligence.- Military Promotes a Gentler Guantanamo, by Chris Cooper.
Serving tea to prisoners on a starlit evening seems light years away from the scene last fall at a sister facility in Abu Ghraib, Iraq -- and also at Guantanamo Bay, according to military officials and lawyers for prisoners. Abu Ghraib now is infamous as the prison where interrogators and guards employed techniques that included beatings and sexual abuse. The Pentagon itself has acknowledged that beginning in late 2002 it employed harsh techniques on two Guantanamo Bay prisoners -- including hooding them and interrogating them for as long as 20 hours -- who were believed to be harboring crucial intelligence.
A recent Army investigation of detention camps in Iraq and Afghanistan turned up 94 instances of soldier misconduct in the treatment of prisoners, including 20 deaths. The evidence suggests the tactics used in Iraq were imported from Guantanamo Bay, putting a harsh spotlight on operations at its Camp Delta.
Now, in an effort to rehabilitate Guantanamo Bay's image, Camp Delta's command has begun highlighting what they say is a strategy shift at the prison. For the first time since the prison camp opened more than two years ago, the Pentagon is allowing expanded tours of the facility for certain audiences.
Another reason for the softer interrogation techniques is that use of rougher tactics no longer may be effective. Many of the camp's 600 or so inmates have been wrung out after what essentially is a continual, two year interrogation.
Wesley Batalona, Scott Helvenston, Michael Teague and Jerry Zovko worked for Blackwater, a private security company based in Moyock in northeastern North Carolina.Analysis: I've written before on the problematic use of private military firms in a war zone, and I think this example illustrates some of those concerns. To be clear, Blackwater is one of the best PMFs in existence. It only selects the most elite former U.S. military personnel for employment, and typically conducts its missions in a very professional manner. Indeed, were it not for Blackwater employees, the U.S. diplomatic mission in Najaf probably would've been overrun in April 2004 by Iraqi insurgents. Nonetheless, the use of these contractors creates significant operational, legal and political challenges for the U.S.
The four men drove into an ambush March 31 along a main road in Fallujah without the full six-man team specified in Blackwater's contract to protect a company feeding U.S. troops. The contract was obtained by The News & Observer.
Iraqi insurgents riddled their vehicles with bullets before a mob defiled their bodies and hung two of them from a bridge over the Euphrates River. The incident, shown on television and front pages around the world, kicked off the bloodiest month in the Iraq war and led to a U.S. assault on Fallujah in which 600 Iraqis and 10 U.S. Marines died.
The four men were riding in a pair of Mitsubishi Pajero sport utility vehicles while guarding three flatbed trucks operated by Eurest Support Services, a European food company. Blackwater said the convoy was en route to a military base to pick up kitchen equipment. The Pajeros had no armor on the sides, just one plate in back.
All the factors that led to the ambush may never be clear. But several people who worked with Blackwater said the company should have sent its standard six-man team and two armored vehicles.
Also, they said, squabbling with its client over the vehicles didn't leave Blackwater operators enough time to familiarize themselves with their routes before starting work.
The contract for the work, which Blackwater signed March 12, says that such security teams would include at least six people because of the high risks in parts of Iraq. Topping the danger list: Fallujah.
"Further to Blackwater's analysis of ESS requirements and the current threat in the Iraqi theater of operations as evidenced by the recent incidents against civilian entities in Fallujah, Ar Ramadi, Al Taji and Al Hillah, there are areas in Iraq that will require a minimum of three Security Personnel per vehicle," the contract states. "The current and foreseeable future threat will remain consistent and dangerous. Therefore, to provide tactically sound and fully mission capable Protective Security Details, the minimum team size is six operators with a minimum of two vehicles. ... "
The U.S. military seldom ventured into Fallujah with fewer than four trucks loaded with heavily armed troops. Many private security contractors in Iraq work with at least three people in a vehicle so that the two armed passengers can "scan" 360 degrees around it to try to prevent ambushes.
Blackwater officials declined to discuss the company's decisions.
The amici, in their primary argument, contend that strict scrutiny should apply to this Court's review of Article 125 because the Article impinges on a fundamental constitutional liberty interest.Huh??? Either I slept through Constitutional Law and BarBri, or I haven't heard of this standard of review before. This is really odd. The CAAF judges make a valid point when they say that the Supreme Court really muddied the waters with its prose in Lawrence. (Thanks Justice Kennedy) But then, instead of choosing one of the established levels of scrutiny and going with it, the CAAF decides to invent a fourth standard — "searching constitutional inquiry", which I take to fall somewhere below "strict scrutiny", probably between "intermediate scrutiny" and "rational basis". I'm not sure what value this new level of scrutiny adds, if any, or why the court chose to do this. It's just odd.
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In contrast, the Government contends the Supreme Court did not find a fundamental right to engage in homosexual sodomy by overruling Bowers because the Supreme Court applied the rational basis standard of review in Lawrence.
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Although particular sentences within the Supreme Court's opinion may be culled in support of the Government's argument, other sentences may be extracted to support Appellant's argument.
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The Supreme Court did not expressly state which test it used. The Court did place the liberty interest in Lawrence within the Griswold line of cases. See Lawrence, 539 U.S. at 564-65. Griswold and Carey address fundamental rights. However, the Supreme Court has not determined that all liberty or privacy interests are fundamental rights. In Lawrence, the Court did not expressly identify the liberty interest as a fundamental right. Therefore, we will not presume the existence of such a fundamental right in the military environment when the Supreme Court declined in the civilian context to expressly identify such a fundamental right.
What Lawrence requires is searching constitutional inquiry. [emphasis added]
The military landscape, however, is less certain than the government suggests. The fog of constitutional law settles on separate and shared powers where neither Congress nor the Supreme Court has spoken authoritatively. Congress has indeed exercised its Article I authority to address homosexual sodomy in the Armed Forces, but this occurred prior to the Supreme Court's constitutional decision and analysis in Lawrence and at a time when Bowers served as the operative constitutional backdrop. Moreover, the Supreme Court did not accept theThat's very interesting. I think it shows that the defendant's amici had an effect on the court, because they argued this point quite strongly in their brief. This language will probably be favorably cited in future attempts to overturn "don't ask/don't tell" in the court system, based on the law of Lawrence. We'll see how those play out.
Government's present characterization of the right as one of homosexual sodomy. The Court stated, "To say that the issue in Bowers was simply the right to engage in certain sexual conduct demeans the claim the individual put forward[.]" Lawrence, 539 U.S. at 567. "The State cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making their private sexual conduct a crime." Id. at 578. Nor did the Supreme Court define the liberty interest in Lawrence in a manner that on its face would preclude its application to military members.
While servicemembers clearly retain a liberty interest to engage in certain intimate sexual conduct, "this right must be tempered in a military setting based on the mission of the military, the need for obedience of orders, and civilian supremacy."Analysis: I agree with this verdict. Unit cohesion is a very important thing, and the military environment is unique in that it restricts all sorts of private relationships that might adversely impact unit cohesion. This is roughly analogous to what feminist law scholars have said for some time about rape and sexual harassment in the workplace -- that consent is always suspect where there is a power imbalance between otherwise consenting individuals. In the military environment, these power imbalances are both more clearly defined and more significant, because they could ultimately become the relationship of commander and subordinate on the battlefield, with life and death at stake. I think it's fair to say that consent is an issue in any sexual relationship where there is a difference in military rank -- and certainly in Marcum's case, given the facts here. So I think the CAAF came to the right conclusion, even if I don't agree with their reasoning.
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As the supervising noncommissioned officer, Appellant was in a position of responsibility and command within his unit with respect to his fellow airmen. He supervised and rated SrA Harrison. Appellant also testified that he knew he should not engage in a sexual relationship with someone he supervised. Under such circumstances, which Appellant acknowledged was prohibited by Air Force policy, SrA Harrison, a subordinate airman within Appellant's chain of command, was a person "who might be coerced" or who was "situated in [a] relationship where consent might not easily be refused." Lawrence, 539 U.S. at 578. Thus, based on this factor, Appellant's conduct fell outside the liberty interest identified by the Supreme Court.
If you look at the hidden details of the legislation, it's clear that Congress has failed dismally — and deliberately — to fulfill its constitutional mandates to "raise and support armies" and to "provide and maintain a navy."Analysis: The problem is not just "pork" — which my friend on the Hill defines as those things added to the budget by Congress after the President submits the bill for consideration. The problem is also "fat" — which he defines as those things put in the bill by the President and Defense Department when it comes over to the Hill. Those things, which Fred Kaplan has written about for Slate, include such unnecessary items such as:
Legislators have amply demonstrated that what they're really interested in is raising and providing some home-state pork to impress voters in an election year. To that end, they have busied themselves with squeezing funds for war essentials such as training, weapons maintenance and spare parts — things troops in combat need more, not less, of — to send extra dollars their constituents' way. And it's equal-opportunity raiding: Both Republicans and Democrats have been fully engaged in this behavior. Even Capitol Hill's self-proclaimed "pork buster," Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona, who has made a regular practice of calling his colleagues on their gluttony, has essentially given the gorging a wink and a nod.
A pork-hungry Congress has long been with us, of course, but this year, with our armed forces engaged on two major fronts, Congress has pushed the pork in the defense budget to an all-time high, totaling $8.9 billion. And even as they did so — and voted to fund wartime operations at only a fraction of what nearly all analysts agree is needed for the duration of 2005 — conservatives, liberals and moderates alike have presented themselves as doing everything they can think of to support the troops in the field. Don't believe it.
A brief examination of how the Senate, where I worked for three decades for senators from both parties, handled the defense appropriations bill this summer illustrates the chasm between appearances and reality. On June 24, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Alaska Republican Ted Stevens, rammed the $416 billion bill through the Senate in just a few hours. Forty-two amendments, the majority of them involving small spending projects promoted by senators with an eye on bringing home the bacon, were adopted by unrecorded "voice" votes — usually after cursory deliberation that failed even to explain the subject matter.
The next day's Congressional Record provided some details when it printed the text of the amendments. There, for example, you can find the amendment offered by Democratic Sen. Max Baucus for a grant to Rocky Mountain College in his state of Montana for three Piper aircraft and a simulator, and Republican Sen. Rick Santorum's $3 million add-on for an unbudgeted artificial lung device for the Army. By the time Congress had finished with the bill in July, House and Senate members had added more than 2,000 of these "earmarks," thereby achieving their new porcine record. Some of these items had at least some tenuous relevance to defense, but many didn't. None, though, had been included in the defense budget put together by DOD and the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and there was subsequently little, if any, objective evaluation — for instance, either by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the Government Accountability Office (GAO) or in a congressional hearing — of their cost and efficacy. Each one was literally a pig in a poke.
- $4.1 billion for 24 F-22 Raptor "stealth" planes, and $4.6 billion for R&D; into future generations of stealth aircraft... and the list goes on. If you plumb the depths of the National Defense Authorization Act and the annual defense appropriations bill, you will find tons and tons of fat — added to the bill before it ever saw the light of day. Add in some pork on top of this fat, and you get one incredibly wasteful piece of government spending.
- $2.5 billion for a new Navy Virginia-class nuclear sub
- $10.7 billion for missile defense
William Rood, 61, said he decided to break his silence about the Feb. 28, 1969, mission because reports by the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are incorrect and darken the reputations of veterans who served with Kerry, according to a report in the Tribune's Sunday editions.I read Mr. Rood's account of the events that day in the Los Angeles Times, which also printed his story. Suffice to say, Mr. Rood's account impressed me with its detail, its depth, and most importantly, its basis in documentary evidence. Here's a short excerpt:
Rood, an editor on the Tribune's metropolitan desk, said the allegations that Kerry's accomplishments were overblown are untrue. Kerry came up with an attack strategy that was praised by their superiors, Rood said.
"The critics have taken pains to say they're not trying to cast doubts on the merit of what others did, but their version of events has splashed doubt on all of us," Rood said in a 1,700-word first-person account published in the newspaper. "It's gotten harder and harder for those of us who were there to listen to accounts we know to be untrue, especially when they come from people who were not there."
According to the Tribune, Rood's recollection of what happened that day in South Vietnam was backed by military documents, including his citation for a Bronze Star and a report written by then-Capt. Roy Hoffmann, who commanded his and Kerry's task force and is now a critic of the Democratic candidate.
The mission has become a focal point of a political and media firestorm fueled by the Swift Boat Veterans.
One of the group's leaders, John O'Neill, succeeded Kerry in command of a swift boat. O'Neill is co-author of the book "Unfit for Command," which accuses Kerry of lying about his wartime record and betraying comrades when he returned from Vietnam by alleging widespread atrocities by U.S. troops. The Swift Boat Veterans have repeated the accusations in TV ads.
I was part of the operation that led to Kerry's Silver Star. I have no firsthand knowledge of the events that resulted in his winning the Purple Hearts or the Bronze Star.Analysis: The fog of war obscures what actually happened nearly 40 years ago in Vietnam; the inherent flaws of the human mind cloud the picture even more. If this were 1976 and we were discussing the facts, I'd say there was a fair chance of getting to the truth — but not a great one. But this is 2004. The combat stress literature suggests that no veteran's first-hand account will be necessarily accurate because of the way that war affects the mind. At best, many veterans will accurately see things in their narrow lane, from their narrow perspective, but even those things may be subject to some cognitive interpretation. Add in 30+ years, a lot of anger, and a lot of politics, and you get a formula for inaccuracy. Notwithstanding all of that, I still think that Mr. Rood's account carries a great deal of credibility. It tracks what is in the official record; it tracks what other vets on Sen. Kerry's boat said; and it tracks with what I've read about U.S. riverine warfare during the Vietnam War.
But on Feb. 28, 1969, I was officer in charge of PCF-23, one of three Swift boats — including Kerry's PCF-94 and Lt. j.g. Donald Droz's PCF-43 — that carried Vietnamese Regional and Popular Force troops and a Navy demolition team up the Dong Cung, a narrow tributary of the Bay Hap River, to conduct a sweep in the area.
The approach of the noisy 50-foot aluminum boats, each driven by two huge 12-cylinder diesels and loaded down with six crew members, troops and gear, was no secret.
Ambushes were a virtual certainty, and that day was no exception.
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The difference was that Kerry, who had tactical command of that particular operation, had talked to Droz and me beforehand about not responding the way the boats usually did to an ambush.
We agreed that if we were not crippled by the initial volley and had a clear fix on the location of the ambush, we would turn directly into it, focusing the boats' twin .50-caliber machine guns on the attackers and beaching the boats. We told our crews about the plan.
The Viet Cong in the area had come to expect that the heavily loaded boats would lumber on past an ambush, firing at the entrenched attackers, beaching upstream and putting troops ashore to sweep back down on the ambush site. Often, they were long gone by the time the troops got there.
The first time we took fire — the usual rockets and automatic weapons — Kerry ordered a "turn 90" and the three boats roared in on the ambush. It worked. We routed the ambush, killing three of the attackers. The troops, led by an Army advisor, jumped off the boats and began a sweep, which killed another half-dozen VC, wounded or captured others and found weapons, blast masks and other supplies used to stage ambushes.