Friday, May 28, 2004

On This Memorial Day – A Salute to Veterans

Memorial Day is special, not just because I’m a veteran, but because it’s a time to remember the contributions of all veterans and their families, in war and peace, now and in times past. If you know a vet, or have one in your extended family somewhere, take time this weekend to say “Thanks!” And please do the same for any active duty folks you know (including Reserves & National Guard on active duty), especially those in harm's way.

A simple salute to all of you from this vet, and enjoy your long holiday weekend as much as you can.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Thursday, May 27, 2004

Richard Perle vs Richard Perle - a Study in Schizophrenia

Richard Perle, inside advisor to the president and the secretary of defense, once again is exhibiting the severe mental health dysfunction rampant in the administration.

Perle, was known to have a big influence with Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld and the decision to go to war in Iraq, but at first the details of his ideas were obscure. So late last year, while visiting London, he surprisingly announced that the war was illegal in terms of international law. Was this to be a major break with his bosses and the beginning of the end of the secrecy in the White House? No. The story was not picked up well in the U.S. media, maybe because, as it turned out, Perle wasn't saying that the war was "wrong" in his opinion, just "illegal."

Then you may recall that Perle and an associate revealed their true colors this January with the publication of An End to Evil, How to Win the War on Terror in which Perle urges Mr. Bush, after Iraq, to:

- Overthrow Iran's mullahs
- End the regime of Syria
- Withdraw support from the U.N. "if it does not reform"
- Squeeze China and blockade North Korea
- Abandon the "illusion of a Palestinian state"

Perle's writing, IMHO, reveal the true state of his mind, comparable to a Mein Kampf mentality. Am I going overboard here? I don't think so. He is truly scary and those of you who caught his interview on FOX, after General Zinni and Tom Clancy strongly criticized the president for the war in Iraq, know what I am talking about. Perle said Zinni is basically an Anti-Semite, and that's the real reason behind Zinni's comments. Scary? I told you so. But then again it's hardly surprising given this administration's strategy of character assassination starting with Paul O'Neill to Richard Clarke to Gen Zinni, with many others in between. As Al Gore said yesterday, this is an administration bent on the "Dominance" of everyone, not just the terrorists.

Then the psychotic Perle, once again, spoke out yesterday. The Toronto Star carried the headline, U.S War Policy 'Grave Error':

One of the ideological architects of the Iraq war has criticized the U.S.-led occupation of the country as "a grave error."

Richard Perle, until recently a powerful adviser to U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, described U.S. policy in post-war Iraq as a failure.

"I would be the first to acknowledge we allowed the liberation (of Iraq) to subside into an occupation. And I think that was a grave error, and in some ways a continuing error," said Perle, former chair of the influential Defense Policy Board, which advises the Pentagon.

With violent resistance to the U.S.-led occupation showing no signs of ending, Perle said the biggest mistake in post-war policy "was the failure to turn Iraq back to the Iraqis more or less immediately.

But, again, don't be too quick to give Perle slack. He is not recanting. He never says the war was wrong - after all, there is pride of authorship. But you should notice that the stink of Perle is quietly being removed from the White House and the Pentagon. He is now referred to as the "former" advisor to Rumsfeld and the "former" Chair of the Defense Policy Board.

He may have also had a formerly functioning brain. That's clearly not the case now.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Wednesday, May 26, 2004

A Vet's Call for a Plan

Smart business people have known about the concept of strategic planning for a long time. But for some reason, it's only the exceptional politician who understands it. The Bush administration does not understand it, maybe because the idea is so simple, and verified, that it's not worth their time. The Kerry campaign has sniffed around it and has the opportunity to use it.

So what is strategic planning?

Here's your short course. I wish I could give you college credit after you are complete, but it's so simple and obvious that it's like a riding a bike...oops, I forgot, some people have trouble with that also.

Lesson #1:

We all look at past events and try to determine what the future will look like. Simple concept, and it makes sense to look at the past - up to a point. We all tend to use the same methods that seemed to work for us in the past. Virtually all budgeting, like the use of your checkbook, takes place this way. Therefore this type of planning, often called programmed planning, is perfectly suited for government type thinking – in fact it permeates about 99.99% of it. But this type of planning is limited because: (1) The future is based on the past, therefore the same types of mistakes are repeated and, more importantly, (2) The future is where you THINK you will be – you are driven to REACT to events, rather than anticipating them.

Strategic Planning, on the other hand says this: Let’s try to determine where we WANT to be (not where we THINK we will be), and therefore, set goals to do so. We can’t control everything for the future, but this type of thinking encourages creativity and innovation because it is proactive in shaping events, not reacting to them. And we can change our planning if new factors become known – it’s flexible. Many of us responded to Gov. Dean's campaign because of this kind of thinking.

So students, which type of planning does Mr. Bush use? Right, you get an “A.” The results will tell you. In the business world, if you keep making the same mistakes, can’t anticipate the future, go into deep debt, and are driven by events, you are out of business in a hurry. In Mr. Bush’s world, you run for re-election.

Mr. Kerry, you are using strategic planning types of jargon, but more substance and action will be needed in the months ahead, especially with regard to veterans, if you want their vote. We’ll start building a strategic plan for veterans right here, in between reporting on why Mr. Bush’s thinking is stuck in reverse.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Someone, Please Explain This To Me.

Last night, after the “speech”, General Zinni & Tom Clancy were interviewed on fair & balanced Hannity & Colmes (I know, why do I waste my time…). After unsuccessfully trying to trap General Zinni, Hannity turned to Clancy and said something like, “You are a noted Republican administration supporter. By writing this book (Battle Ready – being released today) with General Zinni, aren’t you turning your back on President Bush?” Clancy: “No, but there was no justification for this war.” Hannity: “Will you vote for Bush again?” Clancy: “ I like the man, but there was no justification for this war, and yes, I’ll probably vote for him again.”

Why? Will someone please explain this to me? Why would a very intelligent individual, who has more military knowledge than many military professionals, vote for someone who is responsible for getting us into a war that had no justification?

And more importantly for November, why would any veteran, who knows that there was no justification for this war, vote for Mr. Bush?

Somebody, please enlighten me.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Monday, May 24, 2004

You Can Let the Media Tell You Why the President is Speaking at the Army War College Tonight...

....Or you can figure it out easily on your own:

It's a battered President Bush -- literally and figuratively -- who takes to the stage at the Army War College in Pennsylvania tonight for a prime-time speech intended, as one official told Steven Wiseman of the New York Times, to dispel "this idea that we don't know what we're doing" on Iraq.

The speech was not going to be carried nationally at first - now because of the pressure on the administration, that's changed. From the previews provided today regardless of what is being advertised, the speech will actually change nothing - no surprise.

The big date is now being switched. The June 30th transition date to "limited sovereignty" (whatever that means), which was "crucial" up until last week will now, all of a sudden, just be a "step on the road" (whatever that means). You will now be asked to believe that the important date is magically next year sometime (conveniently after our own elections) when the Iraqis will supposedly vote in their own elections. The number of troops won't change, we won't be bringing them home any sooner, and the military strategy won't change. If you hear the phrase "stay the course" one more time, that will be another clue that nothing has really changed - although nobody knows what the "course" is, including the president.

So why is the president speaking now, and specifically at the Army War College? The two real reasons:

1. His approval ratings went down to 41% today, continuing a trend for nearly two months averaging a 1 % loss per week. That fact is more than significant for Karl Rove and his poll takers - and they know it - even if their boss stubbornly stays in his Crusader Warrior motif.

2. Even more pertinent, and not reported anywhere that I have seen yet: the military infrastructure, and in particular the Army, without even factoring in Abu Ghraib, has been showing signs of major disagreement with the president's use of the military. Reports began coming out of that same Army War College last year severely criticizing how the war in Iraq was being prosecuted. That, after notables such as Gen Shinseki and Gen Zinni took public exception to the Bush/Rumsfeld doctrine.

The Army War College is the equivalent of private sector executive training: it is for seasoned proven professionals, namely those expected to make colonel and general and run the Army of the future. So disruption from this cream of the Army's crop is no little matter - for Mr. Bush, or for us as a nation.

Even the president realizes that he can't continue to lose support from the military machine that has saved his fried bacon to this point.

This speech is going to need a lot of make-up to make it presentable to his real audience at the Army War College. For that matter, so will the president himself:

Less serious Bush-watchers were absorbed by the accident-prone president's mishap when he fell on his face while biking Saturday, leaving him with some pretty serious road rash.

UPDATE: One item that will probably not be in the speech - it really was a wedding party that was bombed...(click on the girl holding the photo)

UPDATE: Gen Zinni spoke out again on 60 Minutes this weekend...

UPDATE: Those &%#$&((&%$# cameras are at fault for everything...

UPDATE: The case against Brandon Mayfield was just thrown out of federal court for lack of evidence (see Friday's post below)

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Friday, May 21, 2004

John Ashcroft’s Boys Screw Up – Again
Subtitle: Your rights are still going out the window...

Until further notice, Mr. Ashcroft, people are still innocent in this country until proven guilty….

Material Witness Law Allows Arrest Without Charges

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — After FBI agents showed up at his office door, Brandon Mayfield went immediately to jail without being charged with a crime.

It did not matter that Mayfield is an attorney and knows his legal rights, because some of the most important rights did not apply.

Mayfield was taken into custody under a 20-year-old federal law that prosecutors have used extensively to question potential terror suspects since the attacks in September 2001.

Under the so-called "material witness" law enacted in 1984, prosecutors may seek an arrest warrant if the grand jury testimony of a witness is considered "material" to a criminal case.

A judge must approve the warrant and the witness is entitled to an attorney, but he or she can be held indefinitely until a judge decides on release.

Mayfield was arrested after his fingerprints appeared to be a partial match for prints found on a plastic bag near the site of the March 11 terrorist bombings in Spain that killed 191 people and injured another 2,000.

But Mayfield was released Thursday after Spanish authorities determined the fingerprints belonged to a suspect from Algeria.

"It goes to show that it's subject to abuse by overzealous prosecutors who don't have enough evidence to bring formal charges, but use the statute to jail people who they have simply a suspicion about," said Robert Precht, a University of Michigan law professor and former federal defense attorney in the 1994 World Trade Center bombing.

Mayfield, a Kansas native who converted to Islam, attends a Beaverton mosque and had once represented a Muslim man in a child custody case. His former client, Jeffrey Battle, later was sentenced to federal prison after pleading guilty to charges of conspiring to wage war against the United States by helping al-Qaida and the former Taliban rulers of Afghanistan..

…Attorney General John Ashcroft has pushed the material witness law to its limits under the Bush administration. "It's hard to imagine the material witness statute would be used in this fashion without the express authorization of John Ashcroft," Precht said. (Robert Precht, is a University of Michigan law professor and former federal defense attorney in the 1994 World Trade Center bombing).

Michael Greenberger, a former senior Justice Department official …called the Mayfield arrest a "huge embarrassment" but he doubted it would change Bush administration policy."I'm fearful that the Justice Department has no capacity for learning — this is one in a long line of mistaken detentions," Greenberger said.

The Material Witness Law, like its big sister the Patriot Act, needs radical surgery so that our justice system doesn’t become more like a 3rd world dictatorship under Mr. Ashcroft. Mayfield was not getting out of jail anytime soon until Ashcroft & Co. were forced to let him go after the Spanish government finally said yesterday that it was not his fingerprint at the scene. The U. S. government is still pretending like they have a case. They don’t. A question Mr. Ashcroft: how did Mayfield’s supposed fingerprint get identified so quickly after the attacks all the way over in Spain? He wasn’t on one of your lists was he? You know, like the lists they have at airports now?

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Thursday, May 20, 2004

The Horrors of War Made Worse By Hypocrisy & Flip-Flopping from the White House

First the Hypocrisy. Compare these two stories which you have probably heard about:

White House Criticizes Israel on Attack:

Gaza Incursion Does Not 'Serve the Purposes of Peace and Security,' U.S. Says.

In rare public criticism of Israel, the White House rebuked the Jewish state yesterday for its deadly incursion into Gaza, saying it did not "serve the purposes of peace and security" and had "worsened the humanitarian situation."

Compared with this story a few hours later:

Dozens Killed in U.S. Attack Near Syria
U.S. ground forces and aircraft attacked a village in Iraq's western desert before dawn Wednesday, striking what Iraqi witnesses said was a wedding celebration but U.S. officials called a way station for foreign infiltrators.

More than 40 civilians, most of them women and children, were killed, according to witnesses, Iraqi police officers and provincial health officials. Video footage from the scene showed fresh graves and the corpses of several children.

Apparently if it wasn't a wedding that was attacked, it was OK with the White House to kill a lot of women and children.

And then the next morning after Mr. Bush's advisors probably told him he screwed up, he speaks to a Jewish group and feeds them the Flip-Flop:

President Bush told the nation's pro-Israel lobby yesterday that the Jewish state "has every right to defend itself from terror," as the administration softened its opposition to an Israeli incursion into Gaza that has killed a score of Palestinians.

And then perhaps, most unbelievably:

The president(‘s) speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), was interrupted 67 times by applause and chants of "Four more years."

As John Hoover, the corporate expert on leadership writes: “Everywhere I turn, individual acts of stupidity are being eclipsed by acts of group stupidity.”

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Wednesday, May 19, 2004

The Real-Life JAGs were Ignored

You are going to see the same names in the administration come up throughout the Abu Ghraib investigation. Another neo-con Bush appointee Douglas Feith is knee deep in this mess along with other familiar names (see Monday's post below):

Lawyers from the military's Judge Advocate General's Corps, or JAG, had been urging Pentagon officials to ensure protection for prisoners for two years before the abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison came to light, current and former JAG officers told ABCNEWS.

But, the JAG lawyers say, political appointees at the Pentagon ignored their warnings, setting the stage for the Abu Ghraib abuses, in which military police reservists photographed each other subjecting Iraqi prisoners to physical abuse and sexual humiliation.

As the military's uniformed lawyers, JAG officers are in charge of instructing military commanders on how to adhere to domestic and international rules regarding the treatment of detainees.

"If we — 'we' being the uniformed lawyers — had been listened to, and what we said put into practice, then these abuses would not have occurred," said Rear Admiral Don Guter (ret.), the Navy Judge Advocate General from 2000 to 2002.

Specifically, JAG officers say they have been marginalized by Douglas Feith, undersecretary of defense for policy, and William Haynes II, the Pentagon's general counsel, whom President Bush has nominated for a judgeship on the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit.

But asked about some of these issues during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing Tuesday, the current Army JAG, Maj. Gen. Thomas J. Romig, was less dismissive, calling the charges "troubling" and saying, "We're trying to get to the bottom of it."

And from Reuters:

Three top U.S. generals on Wednesday denied approving coercive interrogation techniques to soften up Iraqi prisoners but acknowledged there may have been confusion at lower levels of the U.S. military.

Army Gen. John Abizaid, who is responsible for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, told the Senate Armed Services Committee there were systemic problems at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison, where U.S. personnel took photographs of detainees being abused and sexually humiliated that have shocked and angered Americans and fueled anti-American anger overseas.

"Abuse has happened in Afghanistan, it's happened in Iraq, it's happened at various places. I think the question before us: is there a systemic abuse problem with regard to interrogation that exists in the Central Command area of operations," Abizaid said.

Note that the robotic right media is determined to limit the damage to seven enlisted troops. But the Army knows better. They are admitting that known abuses have in fact taken place elsewhere - and it must be driving Limbaugh, Hannity etc. nuts, because an increasing number of people don't believe their extreme right wing moronic conclusions. Has anybody noticed that they used the opposite kind of an argument Monday to say that one old artillery shell was, once again, proof positive of massive amounts of WMDs in Iraq?

The job approval rating of the president is down to 42%. That means we are biting into the Republican base finally as they see the possibility of THEIR sons and daughters being drafted if Bush is reelected.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Tuesday, May 18, 2004

One Child Was Indeed Left Behind (cont.):

"[B]y the way, we rank 10th amongst the industrialized world in broadband technology and its availability. That's not good enough for America. Tenth is 10 spots too low as far as I'm concerned."—Minneapolis, Minn., April 26, 2004

"My job is to, like, think beyond the immediate."—Washington, D.C., April 21, 2004

"This is historic times."—New York, N.Y., April 20, 2004

"Recession means that people's incomes, at the employer level, are going down, basically, relative to costs, people are getting laid off."—Washington, D.C., Feb. 19, 2004

"The march to war affected the people's confidence. It's hard to make investment. See, if you're a small business owner or a large business owner and you're thinking about investing, you've got to be optimistic when you invest. Except when you're marching to war, it's not a very optimistic thought, is it? In other words, it's the opposite of optimistic when you're thinking you're going to war." —Springfield, Mo., Feb. 9, 2004

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Monday, May 17, 2004

"Ordinary American Soldiers Did This, But Someone Taught Them."

Read the whole article - here's an excerpt with some names and phrases highlighted. The usual cast of characters has circumvented international law, U.S. law, and the Uniform Code of Military Justice:

A NEWSWEEK investigation shows that, as a means of pre-empting a repeat of 9/11, Bush, along with Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Attorney General John Ashcroft, signed off on a secret system of detention and interrogation that opened the door to such methods. It was an approach that they adopted to sidestep the historical safeguards of the Geneva Conventions, which protect the rights of detainees and prisoners of war. In doing so, they overrode the objections of Secretary of State Colin Powell and America's top military lawyers—and they left underlings to sweat the details of what actually happened to prisoners in these lawless places. While no one deliberately authorized outright torture, these techniques entailed a systematic softening up of prisoners through isolation, privations, insults, threats and humiliation—methods that the Red Cross concluded were "tantamount to torture."

What started as a carefully thought-out, if aggressive, policy of interrogation in a covert war—designed mainly for use by a handful of CIA professionals—evolved into ever-more ungoverned tactics that ended up in the hands of untrained MPs in a big, hot war. Originally, Geneva Conventions protections were stripped only from Qaeda and Taliban prisoners. But later Rumsfeld himself, impressed by the success of techniques used against Qaeda suspects at Guantanamo Bay, seemingly set in motion a process that led to their use in Iraq, even though that war was supposed to have been governed by the Geneva Conventions. Ultimately, reservist MPs, like those at Abu Ghraib, were drawn into a system in which fear and humiliation were used to break prisoners' resistance.

...What Bush seemed to have in mind was applying his broad doctrine of pre-emption to interrogations: to get information that could help stop terrorist acts before they could be carried out. This was justified by what is known in counterterror circles as the "ticking time bomb" theory—the idea that when faced with an imminent threat by a terrorist, almost any method is justified, even torture.

Cut out of the process, as usual, was Colin Powell's State Department. So were military lawyers for the uniformed services.…(Alberto) Gonzales, the White House legal counsel told the president that Powell had "requested that you reconsider that decision." Gonzales wrote to Bush. "The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors…In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

When Powell read the Gonzales memo, he "hit the roof," says a State source...Desperately seeking to change Bush's mind, Powell fired off his own blistering response the next day, Jan. 26, and sought an immediate meeting with the president. The proposed anti-Geneva Convention declaration, he warned, "will reverse over a century of U.S. policy and practice" and have "a high cost in terms of negative international reaction."

Toward the end of 2002, orders came down the political chain at DOD that the Geneva Conventions were to be reinterpreted to allow tougher methods of interrogation. "There was almost a revolt" by the service judge advocates general, or JAGs, the top military lawyers who had originally allied with Powell against the new rules, says a knowledgeable source. The JAGs, including the lawyers in the office of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Richard Myers, fought their civilian bosses for months—but finally lost. In April 2003, new and tougher interrogation techniques were approved.
And the prime movers in this effort, they told him, were DOD Under Secretary for Policy Douglas Feith and DOD general counsel William Haynes. There was, they warned, "a real risk of a disaster" for U.S. interests.

… Rumsfeld was getting impatient about the poor quality of the intelligence coming out of (Iraq). He wanted to know: Where was Saddam? Where were the WMD? Most immediately: Why weren't U.S. troops catching or forestalling the gangs planting improvised explosive devices by the roads? Rumsfeld pointed out that Gitmo (Guantanimo Bay prison camp) was producing good intel.

So he directed Steve Cambone, his under secretary for intelligence, to send Gitmo commandant Miller to Iraq to improve what they were doing out there. Cambone in turn dispatched his deputy, Lt. Gen. William (Jerry) Boykin—later to gain notoriety for his harsh comments about Islam—down to Gitmo to talk with Miller and organize the trip. In Baghdad in September 2003, Miller delivered a blunt message to Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was then in charge of the 800th Military Police Brigade running Iraqi detentions. According to Karpinski, Miller told her that the prison would thenceforth be dedicated to gathering intel. (Miller says he simply recommended that detention and intelligence commands be integrated.)

On Nov. 19, Abu Ghraib was formally handed over to tactical control of military-intelligence units.

…it is growing harder for top Pentagon officials, including Rumsfeld himself, to absolve themselves of all responsibility. Evidence is growing that the Pentagon has not been forthright on exactly when it was first warned of the alleged abuses at Abu Ghraib. U.S. officials continued to say they didn't know until mid-January. But Red Cross officials had alerted the U.S. military command in Baghdad at the start of November. Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, and his Iraq command didn't begin an investigation until two months later, when it was clear the pictures were about to leak.

…if America is going to live up to its promise to bring justice and democracy to Iraq, it needs to get to the bottom of what happened at Abu Ghraib.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Friday, May 14, 2004

'A Failure of Leadership at the Highest Levels'

"...the folks in the Pentagon are talking about the wrong morons"

The Army Times lead editorial for this week says it all:

Around the halls of the Pentagon, a term of caustic derision has emerged for the enlisted soldiers at the heart of the furor over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal: the six morons who lost the war.

Indeed, the damage done to the U.S. military and the nation as a whole by the horrifying photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees at the notorious prison is incalculable.

But the folks in the Pentagon are talking about the wrong morons.

There is no excuse for the behavior displayed by soldiers in the now-infamous pictures and an even more damning report by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba. Every soldier involved should be ashamed.

But while responsibility begins with the six soldiers facing criminal charges, it extends all the way up the chain of command to the highest reaches of the military hierarchy and its civilian leadership.

The entire affair is a failure of leadership from start to finish. From the moment they are captured, prisoners are hooded, shackled and isolated. The message to the troops: Anything goes.

In addition to the scores of prisoners who were humiliated and demeaned, at least 14 have died in custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army has ruled at least two of those homicides. This is not the way a free people keeps its captives or wins the hearts and minds of a suspicious world.

How tragically ironic that the American military, which was welcomed to Baghdad by the euphoric Iraqi people a year ago as a liberating force that ended 30 years of tyranny, would today stand guilty of dehumanizing torture in the same Abu Ghraib prison used by Saddam Hussein’s henchmen.

One can only wonder why the prison wasn’t razed in the wake of the invasion as a symbolic stake through the heart of the Baathist regime.

Army commanders in Iraq bear responsibility for running a prison where there was no legal adviser to the commander, and no ultimate responsibility taken for the care and treatment of the prisoners.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, also shares in the shame. Myers asked “60 Minutes II” to hold off reporting news of the scandal because it could put U.S. troops at risk. But when the report was aired, a week later, Myers still hadn’t read Taguba’s report, which had been completed in March. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also failed to read the report until after the scandal broke in the media.

By then, of course, it was too late.

Myers, Rumsfeld and their staffs failed to recognize the impact the scandal would have not only in the United States, but around the world.
If their staffs failed to alert Myers and Rumsfeld, shame on them. But shame, too, on the chairman and secretary, who failed to inform even President Bush.

He was left to learn of the explosive scandal from media reports instead of from his own military leaders.

On the battlefield, Myers’ and Rumsfeld’s errors would be called a lack of situational awareness — a failure that amounts to professional negligence.
To date, the Army has moved to court-martial the six soldiers suspected of abusing Iraqi detainees and has reprimanded six others.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who commanded the MP brigade that ran Abu Ghraib, has received a letter of admonishment and also faces possible disciplinary action.

That’s good, but not good enough.

This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential — even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Its the Republicans Democrats Who Walk-the-Talk on Veterans' Health Care

The National Gulf War Resource Center (NGWRC) is based at the Vietnam Veterans of America offices in Washington D.C. They report on the newly proposed Healthy Troops Act of 2004.

Voice of a Veteran has reported often over the last 6 months that military health care is broken, including important elements of Veterans Administration care, except that many vets refuse to believe that this is possible.

It took a Georgia Democrat to finally get something done about the mistreatment of our returning troops, based on the vast number of ignored vets needing medical care from Gulf War I. Unbelievably, it’s taken almost 15 years to get something done for all vets.

A Voice of a Veteran Salute to:

Congressman Sanford Bishop (Democrat - Georgia)
2429 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Congressman Bishop’s website says this:

Putting a priority on the health of American servicemen and women, Congressman Sanford Bishop introduced the Healthy Troops Act of 2004 today, which, if enacted, would guarantee that all service members receive a clinical medical examination before and after deployment.

“It is beyond irresponsible to base the health of our troops on their ability to self-diagnose. Not only is this an inaccurate way to record health status, it is an ineffective way to detect many conditions that do not present obvious symptoms,” said Congressman Bishop. “Yes, a medical exam will be more expensive than a written questionnaire, but we are asking these men and women to put their lives on the line. The least we can do is put our focus on their health.”

Veterans for Common Sense (VCS) highlights this story today and says:

The need for such a system was demonstrated after Operation Desert Storm, when veterans began complaining of symptoms later identified as “Gulf War Syndrome.” Without both pre- and post-war documentation it was impossible for veterans of the first Gulf War to prove that their deployment had in fact caused their symptoms. Without verification that symptoms were war-related, claims for medical compensation were denied.

Email your thanks to Congressman Bishop and your representatives to get their support for this very important bill.

Posted by a Vet -- -- permanent link

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Why Am I Not Surprised: Gen Boykin May Be Involved in the Iraqi Prison Debacle...

This couldn't wait until tomorrow. Wired reports the following Reuters News Story:

The U.S. Army general under investigation for anti-Islamic remarks has been linked by U.S. officials to the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal, which experts warned could touch off new outrage overseas.

A Senate hearing into the abuse of Iraqi prisoners was told on Tuesday that Lt. Gen. William Boykin, an evangelical Christian under review for saying his God was superior to that of the Muslims, briefed a top Pentagon civilian official last summer on recommendations on ways military interrogators could gain more intelligence from Iraqi prisoners.

Since my old archive links are being subterfuged by Blogger, to refresh your memory about Gen Boykin, here's what I wrote on Oct 16, 2003:


Crossing A Line

The issue I present today is a very personal one for me and many of you who are veterans or on active duty. The question presented by the following article is what role should your religious beliefs, or agnosticism for that matter, play in your decision making while on active duty. Personally, my beliefs played a strong role on how I tried to treat people while on active duty and in how I decided whether I believed something to be right or wrong, ethical or unethical. But those beliefs remained personal in the work environment unless someone asked me directly about them.

The U.S. military sets guidelines in this regard, and the expression of religious beliefs are, of course, allowed within the context of worship at base chapels or in the outside community. But, the distinguished battle veteran Lt. Gen Boykin has crossed the line professionally – not in what he believes (that’s a matter of personal faith) but in how he uses his beliefs as a military officer and as a highly visible representative of the U.S. government. You should make up your mind for yourself, but as for me, Gen. Boykin has frankly not only failed the professionalism test in this case, he has failed the tests of leadership, wisdom, and common sense. Military officers are not primarily trained in the art of international relations, so picking someone for such an important job as his, requires skill and discernment. This clearly did not happen. From the President’s perspective, Gen. Boykin may be the one most qualified senior officer to chase down Bin Laden. But Gen. Boykin doesn’t understand what virtually every other officer (and enlisted person) understands concerning the proper expression of religious beliefs while on active duty.

The story is presented completely as it appeared this morning in the L.A. Times:

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon has assigned the task of tracking down and eliminating Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein and other high-profile targets to an Army general who sees the war on terrorism as a clash between Judeo-Christian values and Satan.

Lt. Gen. William G. "Jerry" Boykin, the new deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence, is a much-decorated and twice-wounded veteran of covert military operations. From the bloody 1993 clash with Muslim warlords in Somalia chronicled in "Black Hawk Down" and the hunt for Colombian drug czar Pablo Escobar to the ill-fated attempt to rescue American hostages in Iran in 1980, Boykin was in the thick of things.

Yet the former commander and 13-year veteran of the Army's top-secret Delta Force is also an outspoken evangelical Christian who appeared in dress uniform and polished jump boots before a religious group in Oregon in June to declare that radical Islamists hated the United States "because we're a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian ... and the enemy is a guy named Satan."

Discussing the battle against a Muslim warlord in Somalia, Boykin told another audience, "I knew my God was bigger than his. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol."

"We in the army of God, in the house of God, kingdom of God have been raised for such a time as this," Boykin said last year.

On at least one occasion, in Sandy, Ore., in June, Boykin said of President Bush: "He's in the White House because God put him there."

Boykin's penchant for casting the war on terrorism in religious terms appears to be at odds with Bush and an administration that have labored to insist that the war on terrorism is not a religious conflict.

Although the Army has seldom if ever taken official action against officers for outspoken expressions of religious opinion, outside experts see remarks such as Boykin's as sending exactly the wrong message to the Arab and Islamic world.

In his public remarks, Boykin has also said that radical Muslims who resort to terrorism are not representative of the Islamic faith.

He has compared Islamic extremists to "hooded Christians" who terrorized blacks, Catholics, Jews and others from beneath the robes of the Ku Klux Klan.

Boykin was not available for comment and did not respond to written questions from the Los Angeles Times submitted to him Wednesday.

"The first lesson is to recognize that whatever we say here is heard there, particularly anything perceived to be hostile to their basic religion, and they don't forget it," said Stephen P. Cohen, a member of the special panel named to study policy in the Arab and Muslim world for the U.S. Advisory Commission on Public Diplomacy.

"The phrase 'Judeo-Christian' is a big mistake. It's basically the language of Bin Laden and his supporters," said Cohen, president of the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development in New York.

"They are constantly trying to create the impression that the Jews and Christians are getting together to beat up on Islam.... We have to be very careful that this doesn't become a clash between religions, a clash of civilizations."

Boykin's religious activities were first documented in detail by William N. Arkin, a former military intelligence analyst who writes on defense issues for The Times Opinion section.

Audio and videotapes of Boykin's appearances before religious groups over the last two years were obtained exclusively by NBC News, which reported on them Wednesday night on the "Nightly News with Tom Brokaw."

Arkin writes in an article on the op-ed page of today's Times that Boykin's appointment "is a frightening blunder at a time that there is widespread acknowledgment that America's position in the Islamic world has never been worse."

Boykin's promotion to lieutenant general and his appointment as deputy undersecretary of Defense for intelligence were confirmed by the Senate by voice vote in June.

An aide to the Senate Armed Services Committee said the appointment was not examined in detail.

Yet Boykin's explicitly Christian-evangelical language in public forums may become an issue now that he holds a high-level policy position in the Pentagon.

Officials at his level are often called upon to testify before Congress and appear in public forums.

Boykin's new job makes his role especially sensitive: He is charged with speeding up the flow of intelligence on terrorist leaders to combat teams in the field so that they can attack top-ranking terrorist leaders.

Since virtually all these leaders are Muslim, Boykin's words and actions are likely to draw special scrutiny in the Arab and Islamic world.

Bush, a born-again Christian, often uses religious language in his speeches, but he keeps references to God nonsectarian.

At one point, immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the president said he wanted to lead a "crusade" against terrorism.

But he quickly retracted the word when told that, to Muslim ears, it recalled the medieval Christian crusaders' brutal invasions of Islamic nations.

In that context, Boykin's reference to the God of Islam as "an idol" may be perceived as particularly inflammatory.

The president has made a point of praising Islam as "a religion of peace." He has invited Muslim clerics to the White House for Ramadan dinners and has criticized evangelicals who called Islam a dangerous faith.

The issue is still a sore spot in the Muslim world.

Pollster John Zogby says that public opinion surveys throughout the Arab and Islamic world show strong negative reactions to any statement by a U.S. official that suggests a conflict between religions or cultures.

"To frame things in terms of good and evil, with the United States as good, is a nonstarter," Zogby said.

"It is exactly the wrong thing to do."

For the Army, the issue of officers expressing religious opinions publicly has been a sensitive problem for many years, according to a former head of the Army Judge Advocate General's office who is now retired but continues to serve in government as a civilian.

"The Army has struggled with this issue over the years. It gets really, really touchy because what you're talking about is freedom of expression," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"What usually happens is that somebody has a quiet chat with the person," the retired general said.

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Check out two added blogs under "Go Back to Crawford Links"

George Bush Will You Please Go Home?


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'This strange combination of arrogance and incompetence has not only destroyed the hopes for a new Iraq...'

Mr Bush, when referring to wayward CEOs, said this:

You're beginning to see the consequences of people making irresponsible decisions. They need to pay a price for their irresponsibility...without realizing that he was talking about himself as well. As noted in yesterday's post below, Mr. Bush had no idea of what the ramifications could be from the Iraqi prison debacle. Just a few short hours later, the animals holding a U.S. contractor beheaded him on television.

Since 9/11, a handful of officials at the top of the Defense Department and the vice president's office have commandeered American foreign and defense policy. In the name of fighting terror they have systematically weakened the traditional restraints that have made this country respected around the world. Alliances, international institutions, norms and ethical conventions have all been deemed expensive indulgences at a time of crisis.

Last week he (Rumsfeld) said again that the Geneva Conventions did not "precisely apply" and were simply basic rules.

The conventions are not exactly optional. They are the law of the land, signed by the president and ratified by Congress. Rumsfeld's concern—that Al Qaeda members do not wear uniforms and are thus "unlawful combatants"—is understandable, but that is a determination that a military court would have to make. In a war that could go on for decades, you cannot simply arrest and detain people indefinitely on the say-so of the secretary of Defense.

The basic attitude taken by Rumsfeld, Cheney and their top aides has been "We're at war; all these niceties will have to wait."

I have just one question for you Mr Bush and you Mr. Rumsfeld: would any of this have happened without the pre-emptive invasion of Iraq, unsupported by any facts?

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Tuesday, May 11, 2004

Leadership 101 – Not

1. If I understand the gibberish emerging from the robotic right, they see no big deal with the Iraqi prisons. The line of “reasoning” is short and it goes like this all over the TV/radio/print media: “Compared to 9/11, this is small potatoes – get over it liberals, Rumsfeld isn’t going anywhere.”

Analysis: I get it – it doesn’t matter what we do from now on, or what the subject matter is: As long as we compare it to 9/11, our actions as a country are always morally justified! I’m sure the rest of us and rest of the world will have no problem agreeing with that position, right?

2. Bush told Rumsfeld, “You are doing a superb job. You are a strong secretary of defense and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude.”

Analysis: For what? Mangling our military morale? Severely damaging its effectiveness? Ruining the stability and readiness of the Reserves and National Guard? Displaying a singular lack of operational (and moral) leadership? Not knowing (or not admitting knowing) about the most despicable behavior since My Lai? Shall I go on?

3. First lady Laura Bush said Monday her husband is "very anguished" over the issue. "To be perfectly frank, I can't bear to look at the ones (pictures) that have been in the newspaper," she said on ABC's Good Morning America.

Analysis: Guess what Mrs. Bush, we can’t bear to look at them either. Do you happen to know anybody who might be responsible for setting the “moral” tone for this country? That “morality” has come back to bite us, in spades.

4. “Bush sees indications of waning public confidence in his senior military ranks and declining credibility abroad.”

Analysis: Wow, what depth of insight. How did he come to those conclusions - by reading body language? We may have to revise his governing IQ from zero up to 10 (out of 100). But, maybe such praise is premature - he and his advisors aren’t even smart enough to know that they could have taken a good chunk of the heat off of themselves, even in the past couple of days, by firing Rumsfeld and Gen Myers and tearing down the prison - along with starting aggressive but fair investigations of the people involved, including the officers responsible, up the chain of command.

But then again, we are talking about real leadership here, and Mr. Bush doesn’t get the concept. He doesn’t understand leadership, accountability, or responsibility – or the scope of what Abu Ghraib is all about and its effects on our military, our country, and the rest of the world, now and in the future.

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Monday, May 10, 2004

Comments You Would Not Have Heard in Public in the Past

'Dissension Grows In Senior Ranks On War Strategy'

For those of you not familiar with how the military operates, it is extremely unusual for active duty senior officers to speak out in public, dissenting with wartime operations. In fact it virtually never happened in the past except for a very few well publicized cases like the Gen MacArthur/Harry Truman clash over the Korean War (50 years ago). But for those who experienced the terribly wrong decisions and use of the military during the Vietnam War, it's all too clear and familiar. These officers are taking a chance that they will be disciplined or forced to retire themselves, but their courageous words are welcome and show the gravity of the damage being done by our policies in Iraq and some insight into senior military leadership morale:

U.S. May Be Winning Battles in Iraq But Losing the War, Some Officers Say

Deep divisions are emerging at the top of the U.S. military over the course of the occupation of Iraq, with some senior officers beginning to say that the United States faces the prospect of casualties for years without achieving its goal of establishing a free and democratic Iraq.

Their major worry is that the United States is prevailing militarily but failing to win the support of the Iraqi people. That view is far from universal, but it is spreading and being voiced publicly for the first time.

Army Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., the commander of the 82nd Airborne Division, who spent much of the year in western Iraq, said he believes that at the tactical level at which fighting occurs, the U.S. military is still winning. But when asked whether he believes the United States is losing, he said, "I think strategically, we are."

Army Col. Paul Hughes, who last year was the first director of strategic planning for the U.S. occupation authority in Baghdad, said he agrees with that view and noted that a pattern of winning battles while losing a war characterized the U.S. failure in Vietnam. "Unless we ensure that we have coherency in our policy, we will lose strategically," he said in an interview Friday.

"I lost my brother in Vietnam," added Hughes, a veteran Army strategist who is involved in formulating Iraq policy. "I promised myself, when I came on active duty, that I would do everything in my power to prevent that [sort of strategic loss] from happening again. Here I am, 30 years later, thinking we will win every fight and lose the war, because we don't understand the war we're in."

Thanks to Preemptive Karma for the link.

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Friday, May 07, 2004

At the Barbershop…

My barbershop is a throwback to the 1950s – a one-chair business run by a blue collar no-nonsense motorcycle rider who knows everyone and everything going on in our partially restored downtown suburb. The shop is adjacent to our little Main St. (no kidding, that’s its name), and the old-timers drop by to talk, not necessarily to get a haircut. The barber (we’ll call him Joe), usually has his TV turned on for his customers to Bush Rove Fox News, as he calls it, so he can yell at it. But today for the first time I could remember, Joe had the TV off as I came in, and Air America radio was on instead.

He had been arguing vehemently with an older retired lady school-teacher, Joe being from the far left, and the lady school-teacher (we’ll call her Emma) from the far right. Now these two clearly love each other as friends and they also apparently love to tear into each other politically. If Emma had any ideas that I (as a retired military man) would completely support her point of view, that Mr. Bush was the best thing to happen to America since Abe Lincoln, I soon became a major disappointment for her – she probably was hoping for a 2-to-1 victory. Surely, I thought, Emma would at least agree that Rumsfeld had to go. But in mock anger, she harrrummmmpphhhed and stomped out the door.

A couple of minutes later, she appeared outside the glass door again, scowled into the barbershop at Joe and stuck a folded piece of paper into the door crack. Joe, now using a straight razor on me said, “Wait a minute, I’ve got to go see what that piece of paper says.” He walked over, got it, stared at it for a couple of seconds, and then broke out into hysterical laughter. Outside the door, I could see Emma walking away with a little triumphant smile on her face – and, I could swear, she was smothering a laugh. Joe, now with tears in his eyes from laughing so hard, came back to the chair and handed me the note. In big letters, it said simply, “COMMIE PINKO!!”

I thought to myself, as I too laughed, how much better this country would be if we could again laugh with each other, agree to disagree, but still remain close friends.

By now, Joe had the straight razor back in his hands, and was reading the note again over my shoulder, and again broke into hysterics. I said, “Hey Joe, be careful with that razor.”

Without skipping a beat, he kept the haircut going and, still laughing, said, “Don’t worry, unlike our &%$@% president, I can do two things at once, including speaking in complete sentences.”

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Thursday, May 06, 2004

New Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Tenet Calendar Link on the Right Side of This Blog

UPDATE: We'll just focus on Rumsfeld first - he needs to leave now. But here's the problem: Wolfowitz will take over - the 2nd in command at DoD who was unaware of the true casualty figures in Iraq when questioned last week - inexcusable from a prime architect for the war that didn't need to happen. But then, "unaware" is the word of the week from this administration, pitifully put forward by Rumsfeld as some sort of defense for his ignorance of the Iraqi prison debacle. That was followed by George Bush who said he was "disappointed" in Mr. Rumsfeld for not keeping the White House informed of the situation. The blind leading the blind leading the blind...

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Tuesday, May 04, 2004

Iraqi Prison Barbarism & Its Aftermath: To Veterans, and Anyone Else Listening, Part II

'How did this happen without the Secretary of Defense, the administration or the Congress not knowing about it?'

As Congress itself loudly debates the horrible actions of those responsible for the Iraqi prison outrage, let's get a few things straight. First, for a few minutes, stop listening to Fox News AND Air America and use your own brains and not the brains of others, because I have some choice words for BOTH sides of the political spectrum today. There's plenty of blame to go around, and symptomatic of today's society, no one will assume responsibility. So let's start assigning responsibility and accountability where it belongs, because many want to pontificate about our military, but 99% of those making the comments have never been in the military, and it is reported that only one Congress member has a family member now serving.

First, those directly responsible for the Iraqi prison debacle should be punished to the full extent of the law - and when we are talking military law, the punishments are geometrically more harsh, in terms of prison terms for example, than civilian courts and prisons. The Guardian reports this morning that they think this will happen:

The reports of American soldiers abusing Iraqi prisoners during interrogations are horrifying. Fortunately, there is a clear and proper legal response. Those accused will be court-martialled and, if found guilty, they will be punished.

But , if so, the Pentagon, Mr. Rumsfeld, and top level field commanders are off to a bad start:

(1) The prison thuggery has been known about for almost six months, and kept under a cloak of secrecy.
(2) The blatant and reckless disregard for the human rights of prisoners of war not only grossly violates international law, but casts a large shadow over the 99% + of the military who attempt to do the right thing in wartime under stress and threats of personal danger.
(3) The use of mercenaries and "outside agencies" (read CIA etc) have greatly contributed to this disaster
(4) The over-extended use of Reserves and National Guard in critical positions THEY WERE NOT TRAINED FOR has greatly contributed to this disaster
(5) The fact that many "non-judicial" punishments (e.g. letters of reprimand, minor hand-slapping) and less-than-honorable discharges have been handed out already, clearly shows that the military knew it had problems and were attempting to put the issues behind them. EVERY ONE OF THESE ACTIONS NOW NEEDS TO BE REVIEWED AGAIN to see if proper discipline and punishment were assigned, in addition to the impending courts-martial that are apparently in the works. This whole debacle reeks of the "gook" mentality present during the Vietnam war - the dehumanizing of the enemy to the point where judgment and wisdom no longer operate.

As has been called for on this blog at least half a dozen times before, heads do, in fact, need to roll, starting with Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Tenet, and in November, this administration. However, military commanders in charge will bear the brunt of the investigations for the administration (and some of them rightly so), but Mr. Bush & Company will distance themselves as much as possible from another election year Iraq "problem." Mr. Rumsfeld, according to ABC radio news this morning has reportedly said he knew nothing about the Iraqi prison cover-up, not realizing that this is a worse admission than his knowing about it - and doing something about it.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., told reporters; he was "extremely hopeful that ... this was not a widespread pattern of abuse and that the conduct of the overwhelming majority of Americans is honorable and decent."... McCain, who spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, added, however that the abuses themselves would not be tolerated or excused. "The rules for the treatment of prisoners of war are very clear," McCain said. "There is no justification for this kind of treatment."

Sen. McCain is one of very few in the government who can speak with knowledge, authority, and wisdom on this subject, but his words not spoken, speak even louder:

We are officially now in a Quagmire, with a capital Q:
(1) We have lost the support of those Iraqis who supported us
(2) We have lost any chance for impacting the Muslim world
(3) We have created potentially long-lasting damage within the military that could take years (like Vietnam) to overcome
(4) Our pronouncements for freedom and democracy in the Middle East now mean little because we don't "walk-the-talk."
(5) Our country becomes more and more divided in half
(6) Our allies, many of whom we've blown off, can't help us

Who is responsible? You don't have to listen to any media to know that it's those in charge. It begins at the top:
(1) With a government that works in secrecy
(2) With a government that disregards human rights (e.g. Guantanimo)
(3) With a government that is throwing the baby out with the bath water in terms of our individual rights (Patriot Acts I and II)
(4) With Cabinet members who don't know what's going on during their watch or allow illegal or unethical activities to exist.
(5) With a disregard for the proper uses of our military in pre-emptive wars, and the personal (and now mental) dismantling of our citizen solders (the National Guard and the Reserves), the vast majority of whom do their best to assist our active duty troops.

Predictably, all of these examples inevitably had their impact below the top levels of government eventually, and worked themselves out in wrong ways, as has happened now.

But, I would be remiss if I didn't dish out some well-deserved criticism of a few liberal (even some progressive), vocal critics now also airing their dismay on various blogs. Some of you are taking this opportunity to come out of your military-hating closet that you've felt forced to be in throughout the Afghanistan-Iraq wars. That is exactly the wrong thing to be doing right now. Let's put the blame where it belongs and not spread it where it doesn't belong. I'll be reporting later this week on some other emails from Iraq, the ones you don't hear about - the ones that show the real character of the vast, vast majority of our military, of whom as a progressive, I remain very, very proud.

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