Tag Archives: Blackfive

By The Way, This May Be The First Time The Phrase “Getting Up In The Grill” Was Used At The Supreme Court

Robert Barnes at WaPo:

A nearly unanimous Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that the First Amendment protects even hurtful speech about public issues and upheld the right of a fringe church to protest near military funerals.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. wrote that the Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church’s picketing “is certainly hurtful and its contribution to public discourse may be negligible.” But he said government “cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.”

“As a nation we have chosen a different course – to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate,” Roberts said.

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. was the lone dissenter.

“Our profound national commitment to free and open debate is not a license for the vicious verbal assault that occurred in this case,” Alito wrote.

Ilya Shapiro at Cato:

Stepping aside from the emotions and bizarre facts, this case implicates all sorts of legal issues aside from the First Amendment.  A private cemetery can and should remove unwanted visitors for trespassing — but the Phelpses didn’t enter the cemetery.  A town can pass ordinances restricting the time, place, and manner of protests — but the Phelpses stayed within all applicable regulations and followed police instructions.  Violent or aggressive protestors can be both prosecuted and sued for assault, harassment, and the like — but the Phelpses’ protests did not involve “getting up in the grill” of people, as their lawyer put it during oral argument.

As the brevity of Chief Justice Roberts’s opinion confirms, there’s very little to this case and the Phelpses’ actions, ugly and objectionable as they are, are as constitutionally protected as a neo-Nazi parade.  If people don’t like that, they can change state laws to put certain further restrictions on protests near funerals or other sensitive areas — or federal laws in the case of military cemeteries — but they shouldn’t be able to sue simply for being offended.

Tom Goldstein at SCOTUSBlog:

The Court clearly felt considerable sympathy for the slain soldier’s family, but concluded that the First Amendment interests at stake were overriding.  “The record makes clear that the applicable legal term—‘emotional distress’—fails to capture fully the anguish Westboro’s choice added to Mr. Snyder’s already incalculable grief.  But Westboro conducted its picketing peacefully on matters of public concern at a public space adjacent to a public street.”  The Court continued:  “Westboro believes that America is morally flawed; many Americans might feel the same about Westboro.  Westboro’s funeral picketing is certainly hurtful and its contribution to public discourse may be negligible. …    Speech is powerful.  It can stir people to action, move them to tears of both joy and sorrow, and—as it did here—inflict great pain.  On the facts before us, we cannot react to that pain by punishing the speaker.  As a Nation we have chosen a different course—to protect even hurtful speech on public issues to ensure that we do not stifle public debate.”

The Court left undecided two important issues that it concluded were not squarely presented.  First, recognized that the government may regulate the “time, place, and manner” of speech and that the State of Maryland (where this protest was held) subsequently enacted a statute governing the circumstances in which funeral protests may be held.  The Court did not decide the constitutionality of that statute or other similar federal and state laws.  The Court may have been motivated to grant review in the case and still affirm in order to issue an opinion that, unlike the arguable implications of the court of appeals’ decision, did not call such statutes into question.

Second, the Court acknowledged that the plaintiffs had also brought suit on the basis of statements made by the defendants on a website.  But it concluded that the issue had been waived by not preserving it in the petition for certiorari and only briefly mentioning it in the merits briefing.  The Court was therefore able to limit its decision strictly to the context of funeral protests.

Dan Miller at PJ Tatler:

Justice Roberts, for the majority, noted that “Our holding today is narrow. We are required in First Amendment cases to carefully review the record, and the reach of our opinion here is limited by the particular facts before us.” That is nearly always the case, so much so that the Court does not generally bother to mention it in its decisions unless it intends the comment to have significant effect beyond a yawnIn his concurrence, Justice Breyer expanded on this cautionary note:

I agree with the Court and join its opinion. That opinion restricts its analysis here to the matter raised in the petition for certiorari, namely, Westboro’s picketing activity.  The opinion does not examine in depth the effect of television broadcasting. Nor does it say anything about Internet postings. The Court holds that the First Amendment protects the picketing that occurred here, primarily because the picketing addressed matters of “public concern.”

While I agree with the Court’s conclusion that the picketing addressed matters of public concern, I do not believe that our First Amendment analysis can stop at that point. . . . [S]uppose that A were physically to assault B, knowing that the assault (being newsworthy) would provide A with an opportunity to transmit to the public his views on a matter of public concern. The constitutionally protected nature of the end would not shield A’s use of unlawful, unprotected means.  And in some circumstances the use of certain words as means would be similarly unprotected (emphasis added).

Justice Alito expanded on the points raised in Justice Breyer’s concurrence at some length in his dissent at pages 23 – 36, particularly the analogy to a physical assault by A on B in order to gain an otherwise unlikely media audience for his views.  Both Justices Breyer and Alito seem to think that A’s  statement of views in the media presence would not shield him from liability for the assault, physical or verbal.

In raising the matter, Justice Alito seems  to rely on matters noted by Justice Breyer not to have been before the Supreme Court.  The majority opinion observes, in a footnote:

A few weeks after the funeral, one of the picketers posted a message on Westboro’s Web site discussing the picketing and containing religiously oriented denunciations of the Snyders, interspersed among lengthy Bible quotations. Snyder discovered the posting, referred to by the parties as the “epic,” during an Internet search for his son’s name. The epic is not properly before us and does not factor in our analysis. Although the epic was submitted to the jury and discussed in the courts below, Snyder never mentioned it in his petition for certiorari. See Pet. for Cert. i (“Snyder’s claim arose out of Phelps’ intentional acts at Snyder’s son’s funeral.” (emphasis added)). . . .

It is up to the petitioner for certiorari to do what Mr. Snyder evidently did not do. Unfair, perhaps, but here it serves to emphasize and give some flesh to the statements in the majority opinion as well as in the concurrence that the majority opinion is narrowly limited to the facts before the Supreme Court.

Blackfive:

This is a tough decision (and one which I grudgingly concede until I can read the actual decision) which is only tempered if you believe that there is a special place in hell for the Phelps family.

Also, please remember that these protests are stunts in order to evoke a visceral reaction from normal Americans in order to sue them in court and receive funds which keeps bread on the Phelps family table. Do not engage these horrible disgusting animals as that is exactly what they want.

Scott Lemieux at Lawyers, Guns and Money:

It’s hard to celebrate any victory for Phelps and his band of bigots, but that’s the point — you don’t need the First Amendment to defend popular speakers.

Appropriately enough — given her recent hypotheticals resting on the assumption that atheists expressing views in ways that aren’t sufficiently “solemn” for a public place is such an self-evidently intolerable outcome that preemptive attacks on other speech she finds ideologically objectionable are required — Althouse’s beloved statist reactionary Sam Alito was the only dissenter.   You’d think that this case would kill of his wholly unearned reputation for moderation, but it seems as durable as Newt Gingrich’s wholly unearned reputation as an intellectual.

Andy Barr at Politico:

Sarah Palin voiced disappointment with a Supreme Court decision Wednesday protecting the First Amendment rights of anti-gay protesters at military funerals.

“Common sense & decency absent as wacko ‘church’ allowed hate msgs spewed@ soldiers’ funerals but we can’t invoke God’s name in public square,” Palin tweeted .

Leave a comment

Filed under Supreme Court, The Constitution

Governor Moonbeam And The Color Pink

Jim Hanson at Big Peace:

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that Jerry Brown has some unsavory friends; he has been a far-left extremist most of his life. But it is worth looking at which Californians are supporting him in his current run for Governor.

One who bears some serious scrutiny is Jodie Evans, co-founder of the reprehensible Code Pink. This collection of foul harridans is in the anti-America/military protesting business and specializes in theatrical grotesqueries. Like most veterans, military folks and patriotic Americans she makes my skin crawl.

Perhaps their most reprehensible act was protests outside the Walter Reed Medical Center where our wounded troops were recuperating. They would gather on Friday nights to coincide with the arrival of the bus carrying our wounded just arrived from overseas. What kind of low human being does it take to attack those injured while fighting for our freedom? A Code Pinko, that’s who.

Debbie Lee at Big Peace:

I still clearly remember the day that I was summoned home by my oldest son Kristofer to find the Navy officers and chaplain waiting inside my home to tell me the most painful and agonizing words I would ever hear, “We are sorry to inform you that your son Marc Alan Lee was killed in action.”

August 2nd, 2006 forever changed my life. I don’t breathe the same, I don’t think the same, I don’t act the same, I don’t live the same. Everything I do since that day is much deeper and with greater passion. I cherish every moment that I breath, every person in my life, every hug and the precious gift of life. Since that day I have dedicated my life to honoring and supporting our troops, their families and especially the families of the fallen.

I have always been a patriot and understood that our men and women serving have paid for my freedoms but since the day Marc willingly sacrificed his life, I understand in a much deeper way the cost and sacrifice that our brave warriors and their families make. “Freedom isn’t free” is a reality not just a patriotic slogan.

It’s hard to believe that we have just passed the four year anniversary of Marc’s death. I have dedicated the last four years to telling Marc’s heroic story, standing for our troops, thanking them, and fighting across this nation to make sure they have the funding, benefits, health care, respect, and support they need. This is more than a full-time endeavor for me. These are our heroes who are willing to give up their lives if need be to defend this country and fight for our freedoms.

Numerous times over the past four years I have confronted the antics of Jodie Evans and her anti-war Code Pink cronies. We’ve all seen the nightly news with them being arrested time and time again throwing their leftist temper tantrums with their pink boa feathers wrapped around their necks as they kick and scream like a two-year-old throwing a tantrum to get attention. They have sent over $600,000.00 to the terrorists in Fallujah, or as they called them, “freedom fighting” heroes. You would think treasonous acts like this would have them locked in jail. Over and over they have attacked our military recruiting offices causing thousands of dollars of damage to the offices and threatening the recruiters.

In 2008 they barricaded the recruiting office in Berkeley with the blessing of the Berkeley City Council. We at Move America Forward had all we could stomach when we heard them tell the Marines they were unwelcome, unwanted intruders, not in Iraq or Afghanistan but on American soil in Berkeley, California. Americans from across the nation joined us in Berkeley to counter-protest these anti-war hippies. Numerous times they told me they support the troops but not the war, yet over and over when I asked if they had sent care packages, phone cards, written letters, or helped the families left behind in anyway, they conveniently couldn’t remember anything they had done. Yet they had a successful fundraiser to send $600,000.00 to our enemies in Iraq?  Yet Jodie Evans and her Code Pink degenerates taunted me and made light of my son’s sacrifice telling me, “Your son deserved to die in Iraq if he was stupid enough to go over there.”  It took every ounce of reserve in my body to not level these idiots to the ground. These same people who call terrorists “freedom fighters” says that my son, who gave up his life for their freedoms, deserved death.

Now Jodie Evans is at her fundraising efforts again, this time to support Jerry Brown for Governor of California. California is at the top of the list for military bases and boasts one of the largest populations of Veterans, yet Jerry Brown a past governor of the state and candidate for the office again, is willing to take thousands of dollars from one of the largest anti-war groups in America.  What a slap in the face to all of our brave warriors who have fought and sacrificed so much for our freedoms.

Andy McCarthy at The Corner:

Evans, a major Obama ally and fundraiser, is about to hold a fundraiser for California Democrat and gubernatorial candidate Jerry Brown. In her spare time, she raises money for terrorists and other America-haters – with impunity. This includes helping launch the “peace flotillas” against Israel in order to help the Hamas terroristorganization, a project on which she works with the president’s friends Bill Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn (the former Weather Underground terrorists).

Melanie Morgan explains Move America Forward’s protest against Evans’s Brown fundraiser, here. That so disgusting a figure as Evans could be a mover and shaker in Democratic Party politics explains a lot about the current mood of the country.

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

The Code Pink Marxists taunted wounded soldiers at Walter Reed, they traveled to Iraq to support Saddam Hussein before the war, they sent thousands of dollars to support Al-Qaeda in Fallujah, they’ve traveled to Afghanistan to meet with the Taliban, they’ve met the leaders of the Iranian regime…

Blackfive:

“Disgust” is a word that, while appropriate, doesn’t begin to carry the heft required to describe my feeling for anyone who would say that to any person who has lost a son or daughter in war – any war – whether I agreed with the war or not.  And I couldn’t help but wonder if Evans ever said that to Cindy Sheehan.

Debbie Lee’s son, Marc Alan Lee, was the first Navy SEAL to lose his life in OIF.  Lee has worked ceaselessly since then to honor her son’s memory by standing for our troops, thanking them personally – by the thousands – for what they’ve done and making sure “they have the funding, benefits, health care, respect, and support they need.”

To be confronted like she was by the absolute scum that people the Code Pink movement – who always claim to “support the troops but not the war”, makes me physically ill.  As for their claim of “supporting the troops and not the war”, this is the same crew who raised and sent $600,000 to the insurgents in Fallujah during the battle there, calling the insurgents “freedom fighting heroes”.

I don’t know about you, but I consider such activity traitorous at the least.  And now this traitor is engaged in fundraising for Jerry Brown, the Democratic candidate for Governor in California.

John Hinderaker at Powerline:

This episode tells us something about Jerry Brown. He is sometimes viewed as a harmless eccentric, a left-over hippie, a crazy uncle who means well. But he is much worse than that. He is a dyed-in-the-wool leftist, as shown by his willingness to align himself with the vicious anti-Americanism of the Code Pink loonies.

Coincidentally, I talked yesterday with a Minnesotan who recently attended a fundraiser for Meg Whitman, Brown’s opponent in the race to be California’s governor. He was blown away by Whitman’s command of the issues and her commitment to get California’s economy and educational system back on the track through free-market policies. A strong America needs a strong California. Please go here and make a modest contribution to Whitman’s campaign.

Leave a comment

Filed under Military Issues, Political Figures

The End?

Laura Rozen at Politico:

In Morning Defense, POLITICO’s Jen DiMascio and Gordon Lubold make sense of the somewhat confusing drama last night as a convoy of troops from the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division crossed from Iraq into Kuwait:

OVERNIGHT — More than seven years after the U.S. invasion, the last U.S. combat troops rolled out of Iraq and into Kuwait in the early-morning darkness. That’s two weeks ahead of Barack Obama’s schedule, but it ain’t over ’til it’s over: A U.S. Army spokesman tells CBS that the U.S. still has “plenty of trigger-pullers there.”

THE PRESIDENT, IN OHIO: “We are keeping the promise I made when I began my campaign for the presidency. By the end of this month we will have removed 100,000 troops from Iraq and our combat mission will [end].”

THE AP’S REBECCA SANTANA IN KHABARI CROSSING, KUWAIT: “For these troops of the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, it was a moment of relief fraught with symbolism. As their convoy reached the barbed wire at the border crossing out of Iraq on Wednesday, the soldiers whooped and cheered. Then they scrambled out of their stifling hot armored vehicles, unfurled an American flag and posed for group photos.” http://yhoo.it/dcT5Wj

It’s Thursday morning, and this is Morning Defense.

IRAQ BY THE NUMBERS, from Stars and Stripes:
U.S. troops killed: 4,414
U.S. troops wounded in action: 31,897
Number of U.S. troop amputees: 1,135
Iraqi civilian deaths: 113,166
War’s operating cost: $747.6 billion
Per American: $2,435; Per Iraqi: $25,828
Estimate of the total cost of the war: $3 trillion
Cost of maintaining 50,000 troops from now to end of 2011: $12.75 billion
Cost of medical care and disability compensation for Iraq war veterans over their lifetimes: $500 billion.

Max Fisher at The Atlantic with the round-up

Grim at Blackfive:

4/2 SBCT rides out.

The 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, which left Iraq this week, was the final U.S. combat brigade to be pulled out of the country….”Operation Iraqi Freedom ends on your watch!” exclaimed Col. John Norris, the head of the brigade.

“Hooah!” the soldiers roared, using an Army battle cry.

Shortly before midnight Saturday, a group of infantrymen boarded Stryker fighting vehicles, left an increasingly sparse base behind and began scanning the sides of a desolate highway for bombs. For many veterans, including some who made the same trip in the opposite direction years ago under fire, it was a fitting way to exit.

“They’re leaving as heroes,” Norris said of his soldiers. “I want them to walk home with pride in their hearts.”

They are heroes.  The advise and assist brigades, and the strong Special Operations contingent, remain behind for a time.  It’s a strange war that ends this way; but as Clausewitz said, war is the continuation of politics by other means.  We’re moving from war to a very tense political environment.  That’s more or less what we should expect.  What comes next?  Either compromise arises that allows tensions to ramp down, so that the political takes over from the war; or it goes the other way, and war blooms anew from the failure of politics.

Victor Davis Hanson at The Corner:

The departure of the last combat brigade from Iraq is full of symbolic weight.

1. President Obama, to his credit, dropped the nonsense from his candidacy about promising withdrawal by March 2008 and stuck to the Bush-Petraeus plan.

2. While there is violence in Iraq (as there is in Pakistan and in many nations of the Arab Middle East), the surge worked, broke the back of the resistance, and allowed some sort of consensual government to survive.

3. We are reminded by the departure that the campaign-constructed “bad” war in Iraq become okay in late 2008, while the okay war in Afghanistan turned bad, something candidate “Let me at ’em in Afghanistan” Obama probably never anticipated, as his post-campaign surprise seems to suggest.

4. We should remember that while the surge coincided with a booming economy, the departure is taking place against the backdrop of a deep recession, and borrowed money is now as big a consideration as grand strategy (e.g., it will be difficult to ever reinsert the troops at their former levels should the terrorists return) . . .

5. . . . but the 50,000-something troops left in Iraq are not weaponless, and with air support can in extremis aid the Iraqi security forces.

6. If the calm holds, George Bush will be seen in a rather different light than when he left in January 2009, not just because Iraq miraculously has functioned under a constitutional system for years now, but because we have seen how different governance is from perpetual campaigning. In the latter, the rhetorical choices are always good and bad, rather than bad and worse, as is the case when one must be responsible for consequences. In short, despite all the “war is lost,” the “surge is not working,” and the “General Betray Us,” Bush’s persistence paid off — and now Joe Biden, of erstwhile “trisect Iraq” fame, thinks that Iraq could be one of the Obama’s administration’s “greatest achievements.”

James Jay Carafano at The Corner:

In the waning days of World War II, the OSS gave FDR a briefing that would have turned his hair white, if it hadn’t been white already. The president was told to expect a sea of German saboteurs and assassins running rampant through post-war Europe. They would number in the tens of thousands. It might take years to quell the havoc.

The briefers were wrong. The Nazis did, indeed, have a “Werewolf” campaign to continue the fight after armistice, but it largely fizzled. Hundreds of thousands of American troops flooded back home sooner than expected.

Yet some stayed and, for reasons that shifted over the years, American troops remain there today. They remain in Japan and South Korea, too.

This history is not recited to suggest that Iraq is on the road to becoming the next South Korea, but it is a reminder of how the future unfolds. There is no predictable linear path, and in matters of war, everybody gets a vote — enemies as well as allies. Anyone who tells you today just how many troops will be in Iraq ten years hence and just what shape the country will be in is guessing just as much as the OSS agents who briefed FDR on the post-war nightmare that never came.

Here is what we know for sure. 1) Given the state of Iraq in 2006, the country is in a much better place today that any reasonable observer then dared hope. 2) Iraq is better off than it was in the age of Saddam. Now the country has a future, and it rests in the hands of its people. Bonus: The world is rid one of its most dangerous and bloodthirsty thugs. Yes, it was a heavy price. Freedom rarely comes cheap. 3) The surge worked. The surge never promised a land of “milk and honey.” It just promised to break the cycle of continuous, unrelenting violence, to give the new Iraqi political process a chance, and to allow the Iraqis time to build the capacity for their own security. It did that. 4) Things didn’t turn out the way Bush planned. But the vision — a free Iraq without Saddam — was achieved. Remember, things didn’t turn out the way FDR planned either. He said all the troops would be out of Europe in two years.

Here is what we don’t know. How much longer will U.S. troops need to stay there? The fact that the “combat” troops are gone does not mean that the mission is done or that U.S. troops won’t see some kinds of combat. While troops don’t and should not remain permanently in Iraq, they will obviously need to stay longer than one or two more years. Withdrawing U.S. forces too fast would jeopardize progress. Freedom may lose its momentum. Everything is contingent on events on the ground. There cannot even be serious discussions about the long-term U.S. presence until after an Iraqi government is formed.

John Negroponte at Foreign Policy:

Having landed in Baghdad as U.S. ambassador to Iraq at the end of June 2004, I find it a truly remarkable and positive accomplishment that we are able to look to the day not too far off when Iraqi security forces will be able to assume full and complete responsibility for their country’s security. At the time of my arrival, Iraqi security forces were, for all practical purposes, nonexistent. There was, for example, only one — yes, one — Iraqi army battalion and it was composed of various ethnic and sectarian elements. Today, there are some 600,000 Iraqi security forces and important strides have been made toward giving Iraq’s security organizations a national rather than partisan character. This is no small achievement; it has taken seven years to accomplish and only after some false starts and perilous moments.

In the wake of the Samarra Mosque bombing in 2006 and the ensuing sectarian strife, those of us concerned with Iraq could not have imagined the dramatic reversal of fortunes that would occur in the ensuing two years — the death of al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the liberation of Basra by the Iraqi army, and the extension of the government’s authority to the country as a whole. By 2008, these improvements had given the government of Iraq the necessary self-assurance to negotiate the withdrawal arrangements that are now being implemented.

But can Iraq really remain stable once U.S. troops have completely withdrawn? While there are no guarantees, the prospects for Iraq’s security and stability beyond 2011 look as good or better than they have at any time in the recent past. The Iraqi army now has close to 200 trained combat battalions, a formidable increase from the somber days when I arrived in 2004, and they are spread throughout the country. The specter of sectarianism poisoning the ranks of Iraqi military and police forces remains the single most serious threat to be guarded against. But progress since the 2007 surge in nurturing the army and police as truly national institutions has been encouraging. Vigilance and political maturity will be needed to ensure that this positive trend continues.

Conn Carroll at Heritage

Max Boot at The Wall Street Journal:

Americans can take pride in how Iraq has developed. But have we truly “won” the war? That is a hard question to answer.

Opponents of the war effort—including Barack Obama and Joe Biden—once had an interest in saying that the war was unwinnable. Now they claim that we should sit back, relax and prepare for a smooth on-time departure. If only.

Iraq has made tremendous strides, but it still has a long way to go. Violence has fallen more than 90% since 2006. Al Qaeda in Iraq has lost most of its leadership. The Jaish al Mahdi, Moqtada al-Sadr’s militia, has been silenced. But this uneasy peace is still broken by too many acts of terrorism. One still reads headlines like this one, from earlier this week: “61 Killed in Bomb Attack on Iraqi Army Recruits.” Baghdad is considerably safer than it once was but is still more dangerous than Kabul, where I’ve also visited recently. Iraq had clean elections in March but still has no new government. Investors are holding off committing funds, the Iranians are licking their chops, and various militias are nervously fingering the triggers of their AK-47s.

Iraq’s future is still to be determined: Will it continue on the path of prosperity and democracy? Will it emerge as a key American ally in the Middle East? Or will it regress into civil war or dictatorship? U.S. forces still have a vital mission: to ensure that a newly sobered Iraq does not fall off the wagon and once again imbibe the deadly brew of ethno-sectarian violence.

The primary remaining military mission is to continue providing support to the Iraqi security forces. There are now 440,000 Iraqi police and 220,000 Iraqi soldiers, but they still lack the capacity to defend their own borders. The U.S. plans to deliver M-1 tanks and F-16 fighters to Iraq, but it will be many years before the Iraqis can operate such sophisticated weapons systems on their own. In the meantime they cannot even control their own air space; that will remain the job of American personnel. The U.S. Navy will continue to safeguard Iraq’s main oil export terminal near the southern city of Basra.

The remaining political mission is even more important—to reassure all sides in Iraq’s fractious politics that their opponents will not resort to the car bomb or the powerdrill-through-the-temple to get their way. Iraq is still recovering from the trauma of internecine bloodletting—as are, for example, Bosnia and Kosovo. In Bosnia it has been 15 years since the guns went silent; in Kosovo 11 years. In both places thousands of foreign troops remain to safeguard a fragile peace.

It would be the height of hubris—the kind once displayed by George W. Bush’s prematurely proclaimed “Mission Accomplished”—to suggest that Iraq, a country of more than 25 million, needs less help in its post-conflict transition than did the micro-states of the former Yugoslavia.

Allah Pundit:

The last combat troops are out and now 50,000, er, “advisors” remain. It’s not the end of the war, in other words, but as a not-so-grim milestone for a lot of guys who are no longer in harm’s way, it’s a moment worth celebrating. Rather than waste your time by blathering at you, let me give you some reading and viewing material. Watch the two clips below from NBC, which, to its credit, did a bang-up job in covering the occasion. And note well Col. Jack Jacobs’s reminiscence about being sent to Vietnam after combat had supposedly ended there too. The fighting isn’t over yet; the question is who’ll be doing it from now on. And the NYT has an answer sure to please liberals of all stripes: “Mercenaries.”

To protect the civilians in a country that is still home to insurgents with Al Qaeda and Iranian-backed militias, the State Department is planning to more than double its private security guards, up to about 7,000, according to administration officials who disclosed new details of the plan. Defending five fortified compounds across the country, the security contractors would operate radars to warn of enemy rocket attacks, search for roadside bombs, fly reconnaissance drones and even staff quick reaction forces to come to the aid of civilians in distress, the officials said…

The department’s plans to rely on 6,000 to 7,000 security contractors, who are also expected to form “quick reaction forces” to rescue civilians in trouble, is a sensitive issue, given Iraqi fury about shootings of civilians by American private guards in recent years. Administration officials said that security contractors would have no special immunity and would be required to register with the Iraqi government. In addition, one of the State Department’s regional security officers, agents who oversee security at diplomatic outposts, will be required to approve and accompany every civilian convoy, providing additional oversight.

It’s the State Department’s show now, on an “unprecedented” scale for such a dangerous area. But can they run it with so few troops left in the country if the electoral stalemate between Maliki’s and Allawi’s factions blows up? (Ryan Crocker: “Our timetables are getting out ahead of Iraqi reality.”) That’s the story you want to read if you’re interested in the “what now?” angle. If you’re looking for something more human, i.e. troop reactions on finally getting to leave, MSNBC’s and WaPo’s pieces are the way to go.

UPDATE: James Joyner

Andrew Berdy at Tom Ricks place at Foreign Policy

Chris Bodenner at Andrew Sullivan’s place

UPDATE #2: Max Fisher at The Atlantic with another round-up

1 Comment

Filed under Iraq

Now That’s What I Call A Document Dump

Wikileaks

Nick Davies and David Leigh at The Guardian:

A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan, revealing how coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents, Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency.

The disclosures come from more than 90,000 records of incidents and intelligence reports about the conflict obtained by the whistleblowers’ website Wikileaks in one of the biggest leaks in US military history. The files, which were made available to the Guardian, the New York Times and the German weekly Der Spiegel, give a blow-by-blow account of the fighting over the last six years, which has so far cost the lives of more than 320 British and more than 1,000 US troops.

Their publication comes amid mounting concern that Barack Obama’s “surge” strategy is failing and as coalition troops hunt for two US naval personnel captured by the Taliban south of Kabul on Friday.

The war logs also detail:

• How a secret “black” unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders for “kill or capture” without trial.

• How the US covered up evidence that the Taliban have acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles.

• How the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada.

• How the Taliban have caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of their roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date.

Spiegel

New York Times

Spencer Ackerman at Danger Room at Wired:

Turns out “Collateral Murder” was just a warm-up. WikiLeaks just published a trove of over 90,000 mostly-classified U.S. military documents that details a strengthening Afghan insurgency with deep ties to Pakistani intelligence.

WikiLeaks’ release of a 2007 Apache gunship video sparked worldwide outrage, but little change in U.S. policy. This massive storehouse has the potential to be strategically significant, raising questions about how and why America and her allies are conducting the war. Not only does it recount 144 incidents in which coalition forces killed civilians over six years. But it shows just how deeply elements within the U.S.’ supposed ally, Pakistan, have nurtured the Afghan insurgency. In other words, this has the potential to be 2010’s answer to the Pentagon Papers — a database you can open in Excel, brought to you by the now-reopened-for-business WikiLeaks.

Now, obviously, it’s not news that the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligences has ties to the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani network and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar’s Hezb-e-Islami That’s something that pretty much every observer of the Afghanistan war and the Pakistani intelligence apparatus has known for the better part of a decade.

But as the early-viewing New York Times reports, WikiLeaks presents a new depth of detail about how the U.S. military has seen, for six years, the depths of ISI facilitation of the Afghan insurgency. For instance: a three-star Pakistani general active during the 80s-era U.S.-Pakistani-Saudi sponsorship of the anti-Soviet insurgency, Hamid Gul, allegedly met with insurgent leaders in South Waziristan in January 2009 to plot vengeance for the drone-inflicted death of an al-Qaeda operative. (Gul called it “absolute nonsense” to the Times reporters.)

Other reports, stretching back to 2004, offer chilling, granular detail about the Taliban’s return to potency after the U.S. and Afghan militias routed the religious-based movement in 2001. Some of them, as the Times notes, cast serious doubt on official U.S. and NATO accounts of how insurgents prosecute the war. Apparently, the insurgents have used “heat-seeking missiles against allied aircraft,” eerily reminiscent of the famous Stinger missiles that the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Pakistan provided to the mujahideen to down Soviet helicopters. One such missile downed a Chinook over Helmand in May 2007.

Typically, NATO accounts of copter downings are vague — and I’ve never seen one that cited the Taliban’s use of a guided missile. This clearly isn’t just Koran, Kalashnikov and laptop anymore. And someone is selling the insurgents these missiles, after all. That someone just might be slated to receive $7.5 billion of U.S. aid over the next five years.

That said, it’s worth pointing out that the documents released so far are U.S. military documents, not ISI documents, so they don’t quite rise to smoking-gun level.

Blake Hounshell at Foreign Policy:

I’ve now gone through the reporting and most of the selected documents (though not the larger data dump), and I think there’s less here than meets the eye. The story that seems to be getting the most attention, repeating the longstanding allegation that Pakistani intelligence might be aiding the Afghan insurgents, offers a few new details but not much greater clarity. Both the Times and the Guardian are careful to point out that the raw reports in the Wikileaks archive often seem poorly sourced and present implausible information.

“[F]or all their eye-popping details,” writes the Guardian‘s Delcan Welsh, “the intelligence files, which are mostly collated by junior officers relying on informants and Afghan officials, fail to provide a convincing smoking gun for ISI complicity.”

The Times‘ reporters seem somewhat more persuaded, noting that “many of the reports rely on sources that the military rated as reliable” and that their sources told them that “the portrait of the spy agency’s collaboration with the Afghan insurgency was broadly consistent with other classified intelligence.”

Der Spiegel‘s reporting adds little, though the magazine’s stories will probably have great political impact in Germany, as the Wikileaks folks no doubt intended. One story hones in on how an elite U.S. task force charged with hunting down Taliban and Al Qaeda targets operates from within a German base; another alleges that “The German army was clueless and naïve when it stumbled into the conflict,” and that northern Afghanistan, where the bulk of German troops are based, is more violent than has been previously portrayed.

Otherwise, I’d say that so far the documents confirm what we already know about the war: It’s going badly; Pakistan is not the world’s greatest ally and is probably playing a double game; coalition forces have been responsible for far too many civilian casualties; and the United States doesn’t have very reliable intelligence in Afghanistan.

I do think that the stories will provoke a fresh round of Pakistan-bashing in Congress, and possibly hearings. But the administration seems inclined to continue with its strategy of nudging Pakistan in the right direction, and is sending the message: Move along, nothing to see here.

Stephen F. Hayes at The Weekly Standard:

Expect this story from the New York Times to restart the discussion on U.S. policies and strategies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Under the headline “Pakistani Spy Service Aids Insurgents, Reports Assert,” a team of Times reporters summarize and analyze a huge batch of secret U.S. intelligence reports on the war in Afghanistan. Those reports show, in compelling detail, that Pakistan’s ISI (Inter-Services Intelligence) has been actively – and regularly – aiding insurgents fighting Americans in Afghanistan.

[…]

The central claim in the piece is not new. Tom Joscelyn and Bill Roggio have written about ISI’s duplicity for years. See here, here and here for examples.

The Times report – along with the public examination of the trove of WikiLeaks documents – will almost certainly reignite the public debate over the war in Afghanistan, and the Obama administration’s strategy there. The president’s already soft support in his own party will probably soften further. The key question is whether nervous Republicans will join them.

Michael Scherer at Swampland at Time:

The White House has reacted in full damage control mode to the release of classified documents detailing the U.S. military’s struggles in Afghanistan, which the New York Times calls “in many respects more grim than the official portrayal.”

To see the New York Times summary of the documents, click here. To see the Guardian’s coverage, click here. (Advance copies of the documents were provided to both the Times and Guardian, on the condition that they not be released until Sunday.) For more on Wikileaks and its founder, read this excellent New Yorker profile here.

In response, the White House press office is emphasizing two facts. First, the documents concern a time period (2004 to 2009) that precedes the Presidents latest new strategy for Afghanistan. Second, government officials have not exactly been secretive in the past about the connection between the Pakistani ISI and radical elements in the region that are working against U.S. interests. “In the past, there have been those in Pakistan who’ve argued that the struggle against extremism is not their fight, and that Pakistan is better off doing little or seeking accommodation with those who use violence,” President Obama said, when he announced his latest strategy in December of 2009. (Indeed, in recent months, as TIME has noted, there has been some good news on this front, with the Pakistan government, including the ISI, taking more aggressive actions.)

Laura Rozen at Politico:
“It is important to note that the time period reflected in the documents is January 2004 to December 2009,” National Security Advisor ret. Gen. Jim Jones said in a statement Sunday.”On December 1, 2009, President Obama announced a new strategy with a substantial increase in resources for Afghanistan, and increased focus on al Qaeda and Taliban safe-havens in Pakistan, precisely because of the grave situation that had developed over several years,” he continued. “This shift in strategy addressed challenges in Afghanistan that were the subject of an exhaustive policy review last fall.”

Some 180 of the war logs and raw intelligence reports concern previously reported allegations that the Pakistani intelligence services have been providing covert support to Afghan insurgents.

“Taken together, the reports indicate that American soldiers on the ground are inundated with accounts of a network of Pakistani assets and collaborators,” the New York Times reports.

But, the paper cautions, many of the raw intelligence reports and field threat assessments “cannot be verified,” while “many … rely on sources that the military rated as reliable.”

“The records also contain firsthand accounts of American anger at Pakistan’s unwillingness to confront insurgents who launched attacks near Pakistani border posts, moved openly by the truckload across the frontier, and retreated to Pakistani territory for safety,” the paper said.

Adrian Chen at Gawker:

This is going to be huge. And Wikileaks’ strategy to collaborate with mainstream media this time around should heighten the impact of this data. The Guardian is using the log to argue that it presents “a very different landscape” than the one put forward by coalition leaders. Meanwhile, the Times picks out military concerns that Pakistani intelligence is directly aiding insurgents. That “real” journalists are in charge of these reports should move focus off the biases of Wikileaks and Julian Assange—as happened with their “Collateral Murder” video—and onto the leak itself. (Wikileaks agreed to not have any input into the stories built around their leak.)

It’s unclear at this time if this leak is related to the case of army intelligence specialist Bradley Manning, the alleged source of the Apache video. But this leak should cause a similar-sized uproar and deliver a more pointed impact than even that graphic video did. The elaborate packages put together by the Times, Der Spiegel and The Guardian are only the beginning of this story.

Andrew Bacevich at TNR:

The leaks are unlikely to affect the course of events on the ground. However, they may well affect the debate over the war here at home. In that regard, the effect is likely to be pernicious, intensifying the already existing inclination to focus on peripheral matters while ignoring vastly more important ones. For months on end, Washington has fixated on this question: what, oh what, are we to do about Afghanistan? Implicit in the question are at least two assumptions: first, that something must be done; and, second, that if the United States and its allies can just devise the right approach (or assign the right general), then surely something can be done.

Both assumptions are highly dubious. To indulge them is to avoid the question that should rightly claim Washington’s attention: What exactly is the point of the Afghanistan war? The point cannot be to “prevent another 9/11,” since violent anti-Western jihadists are by no means confined to or even concentrated in Afghanistan. Even if we were to “win” in Afghanistan tomorrow, the jihadist threat would persist. If anything, staying in Afghanistan probably exacerbates that threat. So tell me again: why exactly are we there?

The real significance of the Wikileaks action is of a different character altogether: it shows how rapidly and drastically the notion of “information warfare” is changing. Rather than being defined as actions undertaken by a government to influence the perception of reality, information warfare now includes actions taken by disaffected functionaries within government to discredit the officially approved view of reality. This action is the handiwork of subversives, perhaps soldiers, perhaps civilians. Within our own national security apparatus, a second insurgent campaign may well have begun. Its purpose: bring America’s longest war to an end. Given the realities of the digital age, this second insurgency may well prove at least as difficult to suppress as the one that preoccupies General Petraeus in Kabul.

UPDATE: Richard Tofel at ProPublica

Allah Pundit

Jay Rosen

James Joyner

Andrew Sullivan has a round-up

Andrew Exum at NYT

UPDATE #2: Marc Ambinder

Fred Kaplan at Slate

Marc Lynch at Foreign Policy

UPDATE #3: Richard Fernandez at Pajamas Media

Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive

UPDATE #4: Anne Applebaum at Slate

Ed Morrissey

UPDATE #5: Marc Thiessen at WaPo.

Eva Rodriguez responds at WaPo

Thiessen responds to Rodriguez

Michael Scherer at Swampland at Time

Mark Thompson at The League

UPDATE #6: Joshua Cohen and Jim Pinkerton at Bloggingheads

2 Comments

Filed under Af/Pak, GWOT, New Media

Wikiarrest

Kevin Poulsen and Kim Zetter at Wired:

Federal officials have arrested an Army intelligence analyst who boasted of giving classified U.S. combat video and hundreds of thousands of classified State Department records to whistleblower site Wikileaks, Wired.com has learned.

SPC Bradley Manning, 22, of Potomac, Maryland, was stationed at Forward Operating Base Hammer, 40 miles east of Baghdad, where he was arrested nearly two weeks ago by the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division. A family member says he’s being held in custody in Kuwait, and has not been formally charged.

Manning was turned in late last month by a former computer hacker with whom he spoke online. In the course of their chats, Manning took credit for leaking a headline-making video of a helicopter attack that Wikileaks posted online in April. The video showed a deadly 2007 U.S. helicopter air strike in Baghdad that claimed the lives of several innocent civilians.

He said he also leaked three other items to Wikileaks: a separate video showing the notorious 2009 Garani air strike in Afghanistan that Wikileaks has previously acknowledged is in its possession; a classified Army document evaluating Wikileaks as a security threat, which the site posted in March; and a previously unreported breach consisting of 260,000 classified U.S. diplomatic cables that Manning described as exposing “almost criminal political back dealings.”

“Hillary Clinton, and several thousand diplomats around the world are going to have a heart attack when they wake up one morning, and find an entire repository of classified foreign policy is available, in searchable format, to the public,” Manning wrote.

How did Manning get caught? He bragged about his exploits to a reformed ‘Net hacker named Adrian Lamo, who is famous for turning himself in to to authorities after he hacked into the New York Times in 2004. Lamo, who goes by the Twitter handle @6, contacted the Army’s Criminal Investigative Division when Manning boasted to him that he had leaked more than 250,000 highly classified diplomatic cables to Wikileaks. That, Lamo felt, could seriously endanger national security.

After Wired posted its story, Lamo began to receive inquiries over Twitter. He responded with a series of Tweets acknowledging he played the snitch.

“I outed Manning as an alleged leaker out of duty.I would never out an Ordinary Decent Criminal. There’s a difference,” he said in one. “I’m heartsick for Manning and his family. I hope they can forgive me some day for doing what I felt had to be done.”

Jullian Assange, the founder of Wikileaks, responded with a furious barrage of Tweets a bit later in the evening. “If Brad Manning, 22, is the ‘Collateral Murder’ & Garani massacre whistleblower then, without a doubt, he’s a national hero.” He called Lamo and one of the journalists who wrote the story “notorious felons, informers and manipulators.” And allegations that “we have been sent 260,000 classified US embassy cables are, as far as we can tell, incorrect.”

Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive:

I love the fact that what this loser did was repulsive enough to convince a former computer hacker to turn him in. The worst security breaches always com from inside the network and now we have this fool giving away tons of info to a collection of left wing hacks with an anti-American agenda. Well done dipshit, you are gonna love Leavenworth.

Matthew Yglesias:

It’s really no surprise that the Army is interesting in arresting leakers, but it’s a reminder of what weak tea the notion that there can be no prosecutions of Bush administration officials because that would be “looking backwards” instead of forwards is. Investigatory agencies are always looking back, it’s just a question of what they look for. And under Barack Obama we’re basically looking at the things the permanent national security state wants looked into. An alternative investigation might focus not on who leaked classified video of a U.S. military operations, but on the question of why that sort of video should be classified. Certainly I can see why the Army might have preferred to keep it under wraps—in the eyes of many it reflected poorly on their conduct—but it hardly contained operational military secrets. In general, we expect things undertaken by America’s public servants in America’s name on America’s dime to be matters of public record. The security services have, however, largely managed to leverage the legitimate need for some level of operational secrecy into a fairly broad exemption of themselves from this basic principle.

Jim Hoft at Gateway Pundit:

As Confederate Yankee reported,

“In every instance cited above by Manning there are avenues to blow the whistle on corruption and illegality through channels that would bring wrongdoers to justice.”

But, instead Manning released the video to Wikileaks where they were doctored to smear our troops in Iraq.
What a loser.

Emptywheel at Firedoglake:

The military is likely to be most interested in learning how the encryption on the video(s) was broken–and whether Wikileaks allegedly got that from Manning or not. That, plus I would imagine they’re interested in breaking Wikileaks’ own code to prevent any further leaking. But if Manning’s telling stories about what he leaked to Wikileaks, it might mean he’s not the guy–or the only guy–who leaked this.

UPDATE: Glenn Greenwald

Adrian Chen at Gawker

1 Comment

Filed under Crime, Homeland Security, Military Issues

The Code Name For This Blog Post Is Guacamole

Mark Mazzetti at NYT:

The top American commander in the Middle East has ordered a broad expansion of clandestine military activity in an effort to disrupt militant groups or counter threats in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and other countries in the region, according to defense officials and military documents.

The secret directive, signed in September by Gen. David H. Petraeus, authorizes the sending of American Special Operations troops to both friendly and hostile nations in the Middle East, Central Asia and the Horn of Africa to gather intelligence and build ties with local forces. Officials said the order also permits reconnaissance that could pave the way for possible military strikes in Iran if tensions over its nuclear ambitions escalate.

While the Bush administration had approved some clandestine military activities far from designated war zones, the new order is intended to make such efforts more systematic and long term, officials said. Its goals are to build networks that could “penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy” Al Qaeda and other militant groups, as well as to “prepare the environment” for future attacks by American or local military forces, the document said. The order, however, does not appear to authorize offensive strikes in any specific countries.

In broadening its secret activities, the United States military has also sought in recent years to break its dependence on the Central Intelligence Agency and other spy agencies for information in countries without a significant American troop presence.

Marc Ambinder:

The Times did not report its original classified codename, “Avocado.” The name has since been changed.

Other “ex-ords” signed by combatant commanders include provisions for secret American bases and operations in countries like Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and in the Dagestan region of the North Caucuses. In the latter space, U.S. soldiers were tasked with tracking down members of identified separatist groups with loose ties to Al Qaeda. One of those groups was responsible for the March 31 bombings in Kizlyar, according to American intelligence officials.

The Obama administration had been reluctant to allow such an expansion of nontraditional military activities in countries where the U.S. formally has no presence. That practice was unfavorably associated with the Bush-Cheney administration’s disregard for international norms.

But political imperatives, the threat of terrorism, and the knowledge of what the U.S. military can accomplish if its strings are cut away has slowly changed the minds of some of Obama’s senior advisers. It is helpful that Congress has generally given the military a wide berth to conduct activities that intelligence agency paramilitaries would find objectionable.

Spencer Ackerman at The Washington Independent:

Petraeus’ spokesman declined comment. But if that’s faithfully reported, it sounds a lot like uniformed personnel could assume civilian cover for intelligence purposes. And that carries the non-trivial risk of unaffiliated businesspeople or academics or journalists or tourists in the Middle East or South Asia being presumed to be spies — and, hence, targets — by local security forces or extremists. Foreign allied governments in the region might also not like the U.S. sponsoring “local indigenous groups” that might destabilize their countries or threaten their rule.

Kenneth Anderson:

The document does not authorize any offensive use of force activities; the purposes are apparently intelligence-gathering and relationship building, in friendly and hostile countries.   Contingency plans related to thwarting expansion of terrorist networks as safe havens in AfPak and, presumably, Yemen are disrupted to other lightly governed or hostile places such as Somalia or Iran are important; likewise contingency plans around Iran nuclear weapons acquisition.   Of particular interest, beyond the news report itself, is the article’s discussion of the relationship between “clandestine” military activities and “covert” CIA actions (the statutory definition of “covert” for purposes of the intelligence community is found at USC Title 50, 413(b)(e)).  According to the article:

The order … calls for clandestine activities that “cannot or will not be accomplished” by conventional military operations or “interagency activities,” a reference to American spy agencies …  Unlike covert actions undertaken by the C.I.A., such clandestine activity does not require the president’s approval or regular reports to Congress, although Pentagon officials have said that any significant ventures are cleared through the National Security Council. Special Operations troops have already been sent into a number of countries to carry out reconnaissance missions, including operations to gather intelligence about airstrips and bridges.

One of the assumptions many people seem to have is that the military is more accountable than the CIA in such activities.  I’m not suggesting any problem with the activities described in this article by the military — far from it — but as the article says, these clandestine activities do not require the regular covert action accountability mechanisms required of the CIA as a matter of law, although NSC is involved in anything significant.

However, as these activities get closer to, well, “spying” in the traditional sense, then the line between clandestine and covert risks becoming blurred.  Besides the statutory definition of covert, the term also refers to the fact that US military personnel, even though acting clandestinely, will be acknowledged by the US if taken prisoner and it will demand Geneva III treatment for them.  But the article says that many in the military “are also concerned that as American troops assume roles far from traditional combat, they would be at risk of being treated as spies if captured and denied the Geneva Convention protections afforded military detainees.”

CIA civilian operatives do not have that assurance of being avowed, and of course in many circumstances — though not all, because covert refers to many things beyond the use of force, including information and disinformation activities, things that are not necessarily illegal under a country’s local law — their activities will be illegal espionage, and in other more extreme cases murder under local law.  This is the whole issue of NOC.  (BTW, there is a fun and useful FAQs page at the CIA’s website that covers a number of questions both policy and practical, including internship opportunities at the CIA.)  Here is what the CIA itself tells the public about covert action on its web page (emphasis added):

7. Who decides when CIA should participate in covert actions, and why?

Only the president can direct the CIA to undertake a covert action. Such actions usually are recommended by the National Security Council (NSC). Covert actions are considered when the NSC judges that US foreign policy objectives may not be fully realized by normal diplomatic means and when military action is deemed to be too extreme an option. Therefore, the Agency may be directed to conduct a special activity abroad in support of foreign policy where the role of the US government is neither apparent nor publicly acknowledged. Once tasked, the intelligence oversight committees of the Congress must be notified.

These activities are not illegal under US law, of course, provided that the requirements of the different services — the military or the civilian agencies — are followed, including required accountability and oversight.  Nor are they illegal, in my view, under international law; state practice by a wide variety of states has sanctioned espionage, up to and including uses of force illegal under the local law of the sovereign, so widely and for so long that the rule would have to be something like, “liable under local sovereign law but not contrary to international law,” including uses of force if they are correctly described as “self-defense.”

However, as a matter of US policy, the divisions between the various services matter over the long run, and so there are important questions as to the proper division of roles.  Many people in the international law community — believing that all lawful use of force divide into law enforcement and armed conflict — naturally believe that as domestic law and policy, the CIA should not have a role in using force.  As I remarked in a second round of Congressional hearings a few weeks ago on drone warfare (I’ll post this soon to SSRN), states have not generally found that the best solution to real-world problems.  States want, and in my view of international law, have plainly preserved, the ability to use covert force and preserve deniability and indeed in an extreme situation disavow the civilian agent.  It appears to many states an important security capability, including the United States.

On another hand, there are real questions as to whether — as a matter of policy, not law — the CIA is the right agency to conduct what increasingly looks to amount to a parallel conventional war using drones in Pakistan, not in a pure counterterrorism strategy, but really in support of the conventional war by Pakistan against the Pakistan Taliban.  As a matter of internal US division of labor, there are policy (again, not legal) questions as to whether the CIA should be engaged in overt conventional war, or something starting to approach that.  Yet the real world constraint — trumping, it would appear up to this point and probably for quite some time — is Pakistan’s desire to have a fig leaf of deniability as to a US military role.

Conversely, as the Mazzetti article signaled there are important questions as to whether it is a good idea to have the US military expanding further into clandestine, secret — covert, in the vernacular, not legal term-of-art, sense — operations.  As I said, in some important respects, civilian oversight and accountability is stronger regarding the CIA — although I believe that in any case, the rise of new technologies such as smaller and smaller drones that allow for still more discrete uses of force argue for a review and revamping of oversight and accountability.

Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive:

Once again the NY Times is announcing a covert program to the world. The problem for us and anyone actually interested in vigorously prosecuting the overseas contingency operation to eliminate man-caused disasters is that there are those in DoD and other government agencies who don’t want us to. So when something happens that offends their delicate sensibilities they call the NYT who has proven they value anything that can draw attention to their dying rag more than they do our national security.

[…]

Publishing this is disgraceful and now has given ammunition to the most dangerous regime on Earth as they avoid sanctions and take the last few steps to become the least stable nuclear power on Earth. Well done you worthless scum. Just what is the justification for releasing this extremely sensitive information? There is no indication any laws are being broken by the military. There is simply disagreement about a policy. That does not and should not justify exposing classified information and endangering our operators in the field

Emptywheel at Firedoglake:

And to a detail Jeremy Scahill pointed out via Twitter this morning.

interesting that the Petraeus directive for Junc-WTF is exactly what Erik Prince discussed in January

Scahill’s talking, of course, of the big Vanity Fair piece in which Prince revealed that Blackwater had been tasked with just the kind of mission that JUnc-WTF envisions.

That’s the background, then, against which the military continues to build permanent prisons–at which we continue the abuse Cheney instituted–in Afghanistan and Obama prepares to ask Congress for more money to support the seemingly endless war there.

1 Comment

Filed under GWOT, Homeland Security, Military Issues

Milbloggers Release A Statement

Uncle Jimbo at Blackfive:

JOINT STATEMENT FROM MILITARY BLOGGERS                                                      12 MAY 2010

We consider the US military the greatest institution for good that has ever existed. No other organization has freed more people from oppression, done more humanitarian work or rescued more from natural disasters.  We want that to continue.

Today, it appears inevitable to us that the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy and law restricting those displaying open homosexual behavior from serving will be changed.  And yet, very little will actually change.  Homosexuals have always served in the US Military, and there have been no real problems caused by that.

The service chiefs are currently studying the impact and consequences of changing the DADT policy, and how to implement it without compromising the morale, order and discipline necessary for the military to function. The study is due to be completed on Dec. 1st. We ask Congress to withhold action until this is finished, but no longer.  We urge Congress to listen to the service chiefs and act in accordance with the recommendations of that study.

The US Military is professional and ready to adapt to the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell without compromising its mission.  Echoing Sec. Def. Gates and ADM Mullen, we welcome open and honorable service, regardless of sexual orientation.

Matt Burden- Warrior Legacy Foundation & BLACKFIVE

Jim Hanson- Warrior Legacy Foundation & BLACKFIVE

Blake Powers- BLACKFIVE

Fred Schoenman- BLACKFIVE

David Bellavia- House to House

Bruce McQuain- Q&O

JD Johannes- Outside the Wire

Diane Frances McInnis Miller- Boston Maggie

Mark Seavey- This Ain’t Hell

Michael St. Jacques- The Sniper

Mary Ripley- US Naval Institute Blog

John Donovan- Castle Argghhh!

Andrew J. Lubin- The Military Observer

Marc Danziger- Winds of Change

Greta Perry- Hooah Wife

Bruce McQuain at Questions And Observations:

The expected pushback is already beginning to mount in the comment section of the link above.  I’ve thought about it long and hard.  I’ve actually changed my mind from years ago.  I guess that’s because I’ve known of and served with soldiers I knew were gay.  And every one of them were good soldiers who served honorably and did an excellent job.

I’ve also come to understand that it isn’t going to be the activists or those who want to flaunt their homosexuality who are going to seek to serve their country. Being a Soldier, Sailor, Marine or Airman is a hard, dirty and dangerous job.  Those that choose to serve are not going to do it because of who they love, but simply because want to serve their nation and the military is their chosen method of doing so.

This is a cultural change thing.  And the culture has been changing for years to more and more acceptance of homosexuality in terms of offering equal rights and protections.  This is simply an extension of that.  If I thought it would seriously effect readiness, I’d probably oppose it – but I don’t think it will.  Will there be some problems and some objections to overcome?  Yes.  But the military can and will overcome them.

The institution of the military is important to me, I’ve thought about this in some depth and come to the conclusion this is the right thing to do.  I agree with SecDef Gates and the JCS that DADT is a policy which needs to be repealed.  But I also support their recommendation that it needs to be done thoughtfully and at their own pace.  It also means that Congress will need to enact legislation to makes changes the UCMJ and some other necessary legislative steps to make this come to pass.

Sexual orientation should never be a bar to serving your country honorably in the profession of arms.

Ben Smith at Politico:

The community of “mil-bloggers” — often hawkish, critical of White House and military leadership, devoted to both the First and Second Amendments — isn’t easy to define politically, but has proven an increasingly powerful voice from the ranks. The statement, which says that there have always been gay soldiers and that “very little will actually change” with the repeal of “Don’t Ask,” carries the signatures of the authors of some of the most prominent: Blackfive, Q&O, Outside the Wire, and the US Naval Institute Blog, among others.

Rachel Slajda at Talking Points Memo:

Jim Hanson of BlackFive, who organized the effort, told TPM that not everyone who signed the statement wants repeal.

Instead, Hanson said, there was a sea change earlier this year when Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen announced their support for repeal. That’s when, for many who serve in or cover the military, repeal became inevitable.

“We wanted it done right,” he said. “We’re of the impression that if it’s gonna be done, that Congress doesn’t do it precipitously.”

Gates and Mullen have warned Congress against legislating such a change before December, the deadline for a Department of Defense review into how to best implement repeal.

The bloggers said they support waiting.

“We ask Congress to withhold action until this is finished, but no longer,” they wrote in the statement. “We urge Congress to listen to the service chiefs and act in accordance with the recommendations of that study.”

There are “a bunch of issues that need to be worked through if it’s gonna be the non-problem I think it’s gonna be,” Hanson said. “Let the service chiefs figure out how to do this, pass legislation that mirrors that and I think you’ll have a much less painful transition.”

Armed Services Chairman Sen. Carl Levin (D-MO), however, said yesterday that he will put repeal into the Defense Authorization Act in committee markup this month if he can get the votes for it. That could lead to passage months earlier than Gates and Mullen want, but Levin said he’d make the effective date of repeal after December 1.

Hanson said he thinks including repeal in the authorization bill is a “horrible idea, because the military hasn’t had a chance to weigh in yet.”

“There’s no need for people to be chaining themselves to the White House fence,” he said, referring to Lt. Dan Choi, who recently did so to protest how slow repeal is moving. “Relax, and let’s do a good job of it.”

Vodka Pundit at Pajamas Media:

We’ve come a long way in just 15 years. By and large the troops support repeal, and I’ve never met a better or smarter group of people (even if we were in Vegas at the time, and I’m even including Uncle Jimbo ) than the folks at BlackFive and the other milbloggers. If they all say it’s time, then it’s time.

Allah Pundit:

I think it’s an impressively bold move, not only because they didn’t have to make it but because the bulk of their readership, I assume, comes from vets and hawks, both of which are perceived (fairly or not) as being cooler to repealing DADT than the average joe. But then, as Uncle Jimbo says of those who disagree, “no one’s going to lose their mind over DADT.”

Tom Maguire:

My *guess* was that the repeal of DADT would actually be easier in wartime when soldiers are focused on more important issues such as not getting blown up.

Leave a comment

Filed under LGBT, Military Issues, New Media