Category Archives: Military

Repost: Where Did The Anti-War Movement Go?

I wrote this originally on April 20, 2009 about Obama’s escalation of the war in Afghanistan. Now with Obama’s undeclared war in Libya beginning, I feel this is timely so I’m reposting it.

In the American Conservative, Antiwar.com editor Justin Raitmando (whom I often disagree with) has a piece detailing some more leftist hypocrisy concerning their Messiah and his plans to expand the Afghan War

The antiwar rally at the University of Iowa was sparsely attended. The below 30 degree weather might have had something to do with it, but Paul Street, a local writer and one of the speakers, had another theory, as the Daily Iowan reported:

Before the crowd of fewer than 20, Street questioned why the ‘left’ locals and university officials aren’t doing more to help in the protests against the war. ‘The big truth right now, whether this town’s missing-in-action progressives get it or not, is that we need to fight the rich, not their wars,’ he said, citing big corporations for wasting their technology and funding on war.

The big truth is that the antiwar movement has largely collapsed in the face of Barack Obama’s victory: the massive antiwar marches that were a feature of the Bush years are a thing of the past. Those ostensibly antiwar organizations that did so much to agitate against the Iraq War have now fallen into line behind their commander in chief and are simply awaiting orders.

Take, for example, Moveon.org, the online activist group that ran antiwar ads during the election—but only against Republicans—in coalition with a group of labor unions and Americans Against Escalation in Iraq. Behind AAEI stood three of Obama’s top political operatives, Steve Hildebrand, Paul Tewes, and Brad Woodhouse. Woodhouse is now the Democratic National Committee’s director of communications and research. He controls the massive e-mail list culled by the Obama campaign during the primaries and subsequently, as well as a list of all those who gave money to the presumed peace candidate. These donors are no doubt wondering what Obama is doing escalating the war in Afghanistan and venturing into Pakistan.

As Greg Sargent noted over at WhoRunsGov.com, a Washington Post-sponsored site, “Don’t look now, but President Obama’s announcement today of an escalation in the American presence in Afghanistan is being met with mostly silence—and even some support—from the most influential liberal groups who opposed the Iraq War.”

In response to inquiries, Moveon.org refused to make any public statement about Obama’s rollout of the Af-Pak escalation, although someone described as “an official close to the group” is cited by WhoRunsGov as confirming that “MoveOn wouldn’t be saying anything in the near term.” A vague promise to poll their members was mentioned—“though it’s unclear when.” Don’t hold your breath.

Another Democratic Party front masquerading as a peace group, Americans United for Change, declined to comment on the war plans of the new administration. This astroturf organization ran $600,000 worth of television ads in the summer of 2007, focusing like a laser on congressional districts with Republican incumbents. Change? Not so fast.

The boldest of the peacenik sellouts, however, is Jon Soltz of VoteVets, described by WhoRunsGov as “among the most pugnacious anti-Iraq war groups.” They came out fists flying, endorsing the escalation of the Long War.

According to Soltz, there is “much to like in the plan,” but his faves boil down to three factors, which supposedly represent “a stark departure” from the bad old days of the Bush administration. He applauds the administration’s recognition that “The military can’t do it all.” Yet we’re increasing the troop levels by some 17,000, plus 4,000 trainers to babysit the barely existent Afghan “army.” We’re going to send thousands more civilians—aid workers, medical personnel, and military contractors—to build the infrastructure lacking in Afghan society and promote fealty to the central government in Kabul. Schools, clinics, roads, and shopping malls will be built with American tax dollars in order to foster trust between the Afghans, their occupiers, and their government.

The so-called “anti-war” groups that popped up before the Iraq War were never anti-war. Many of their founders and leaders cheered on BJ Clinton’s wars in the Balkans and in Haiti. They were not completely anti-American or merely “on the other side” as some conservative and neo-libertarian bloggers accused them either. The “anti-war” movement was simply a rallying point for leftists and Democrat party hacks who needed to gain traction against a popular (at the time) President Bush. They needed to sow doubt about the Iraq War (the mismanagement of the war by the Bush administration helped as well) in order to have a wedge issue against President Bush. Naturally, they rooted for more American deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq and for American objectives to go unfulfilled, at least while Bush was president.

Now their Messiah has been elected and he wants to expand the Afghan War, possibly into Pakistan. What’s a leftist posing a peace activist supposed to do. Well, what all good leftists do, follow their leader, in this case the Messiah. He wants to send 17,000 more Americans into Afghanistan to bring democracy, destroy the Taliban, and put in chicken in every Afghan pot. He has not defined what “victory” is in Afghanistan, nor does he have a plan, short of nuclear war, to combat the Talibanization of Pakistan. If George W. Bush planned this, the so-called peace activists would have been the ones having Tea Parties on April 15.

Aren’t the so-called “peace activists” being just a tad bit hypocritical now that their Messiah is in the Oval Office and wants his little war?

Finally, I just want to point out, I do not intend to attack sincere opponents of US foreign policy and interventionism, like Justin Raitmando. I disagree with some of Justin’s positions and lot of his rhetoric. However I can respect Justin and most paleoconservatives and paleolibertarians as principled noninterventionists who oppose most if not all US military campaigns over the past two decades and longer.

It is the unprincipled hacks on the left who adopt the phony cause of “anti-war” when they’re out of power that need to be condemned.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at IJ Review.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
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SCOTUS Gets Snyder v. Phelps Exactly Right

If there is one thing that unites most Americans of every political persuasion, it would be the universal disgust of Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church. Hell, even the KKK has distanced itself from this hate group ( a very small group that consists mostly of Phelps’ family).

All that said, even as disgusting, vile, and hateful as their speech is, even their speech is protected by the First Amendment. In a 8-1 ruling in Snyder v. Phelps, SCOTUS reached that very conclusion.

From Justice Roberts Opinion of the Court:

P12

Given that Westboro’s speech was at a public place on a matter of public concern, that speech is entitled to “special protection” under the First Amendment. Such speech cannot be restricted simply because it is upsetting or arouses contempt. “If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable.” Texas v. Johnson, 491 U. S. 397, 414 (1989). Indeed, “the point of all speech protection . . . is to shield just those choices of content that in someone’s eyes are misguided, or even hurtful.” Hurley v. Irish-American Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual Group of Boston, Inc., 515 U. S. 557, 574 (1995).

The jury here was instructed that it could hold Westboro liable for intentional infliction of emotional distress based on a finding that Westboro’s picketing “outrageous.”“Outrageousness,” however, is a highly malleable standard with “an inherent subjectiveness about it which would allow a jury to impose liability on the basis of the jurors’ tastes or views, or perhaps on the basis of their dislike of a particular expression.” Hustler, 485 U. S., at 55 (internal quotation marks omitted). In a case such as this, a jury is “unlikely to be neutral with respect to the content of [the]speech,” posing “a real danger of becoming an instrument for the suppression of . . . ‘vehement, caustic, and sometimes unpleasan[t]’” expression. Bose Corp., 466 U. S., at 510 (quoting New York Times, 376 U. S., at 270). Such a risk is unacceptable; “in public debate [we] must tolerate insulting, and even outrageous, speech in order to provide adequate ‘breathing space’ to the freedoms protected by the First Amendment.” Boos v. Barry, 485 U. S. 312, 322 (1988) (some internal quotation marks omitted).

[…]

[P14 and 15]

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. But Westboro addressed matters of public import on public property, in a peaceful manner, in full compliance with the guidance of local officials. The speech was indeed planned to coincide with Matthew Snyder’s funeral, but did not itself disrupt that funeral, and Westboro’s choice to conduct its picketing at that time and place did not alter the nature of its speech.

Justice Alito, the sole dissenting Justice also offered a very good observation about WBC’s activities:

Alito, J., dissenting

P4 and 5

On the morning of Matthew Snyder’s funeral, respondents could have chosen to stage their protest at countless locations […]

But of course, a small group picketing at any of these locations would have probably gone unnoticed.

[…]

This strategy works because it is expected that respondents’ verbal assaults will wound the family and friends of the deceased and because the media is irresistibly drawn to the sight of persons who are visibly in grief. The more outrageous the funeral protest, the more publicity the Westboro Baptist Church is able to obtain.

In a free society, we have to accept that there will be people like Fred Phelps that we have to tolerate. It’s a very slippery slope to suggest that due to the offensive nature of WBC’s speech that the First Amendment doesn’t apply. As Justice Alito says here, the only reason why WBC chooses to picket funerals is because they know they will get publicity. The best thing the MSM can do is ignore them; don’t give them the free publicity they so crave. Phelps has a right to speak but not a right to be heard.

I have nothing but sympathy to the Snyder family and am very sorry they had to be subject to the hateful antics of Fred Phelps on the day they buried their son. The sad irony is, if not for the brave men like Matthew Snyder, Fred Phelps would not have the ability to express himself in the manner he does.

Nolan Exposes McCain’s Antipathy for Civil Liberties in Arizona Senate Debate

David Nolan, co-founder of the Libertarian Party and author of “The World’s Smallest Political Quiz” (to which the result is plotted on the “Nolan Chart”) is running against none other than the most recent Republican presidential nominee, Sen. John McCain for his senate seat. KTVK-3TV hosted a debate last Sunday which included Sen. McCain along with challengers Rodney Glassman (D), Jerry Joslyn (G), and David Nolan (L). Believe it or not, all candidates were given equal time to debate the issues; something that is usually missing from the debates I’m accustomed to watching.

Despite the skills of those challenging Sen. McCain – particularly the two 3rd party candidates, the latest Real Clear Politics Average Poll shows McCain with a comfortable 17.4 point lead over his closest challenger, Rodney Glassman. Critics of 3rd parties look at poll results like this and wonder “what’s the point” of allowing 3rd party candidates to participate when their chances of winning are so miniscule.

IMHO, I believe that both Nolan and Joslyn did a fine job demonstrating why 3rd party candidates should be included by raising issues, proposing solutions, and exposing the shortcomings of the two party system and the candidates themselves to voters and concerned citizens.

In the 3rd part of this debate (below), Nolan brought up a McCain sponsored bill that is most likely not on the radar of very many people: S. 3081, the “Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.”

(Beginning at -6:14 in part 3 of the debate)

Nolan: “One of the reasons I got into this race is that right now, at this very moment Sen. McCain is a sponsor – I think the lead sponsor of Senate Bill 3081 […] a bill which would authorize the arrest and indefinite detention of American citizens without trial and without recourse. This is one of the most dangerous, evil, un-American bills that’s ever been proposed in congress and nobody who would sponsor such a bill should be sitting in a seat in the United States Senate.”

And what was Sen. McCain’s response to the charge by Nolan of sponsoring such a “dangerous, evil, un-American” bill?

McCain: “Well again, I hope that our viewers won’t judge me by the remarks just made [by Nolan], they may be a little bit biased.”

Nolan raised the issue again in his closing remarks. Sen. McCain did not respond.

Okay, fair enough. Perhaps Mr. Nolan is biased. He is trying to take his job after all. Fortunately for now at least, the average person with an internet connection can freely search and find the bill and learn of its contents. Let’s take a look and see how “biased” Mr. Nolan was and determine whether or not Arizona’s senior senator should be “judged” by the bill he is currently sponsoring.

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.

This Act may be cited as the ‘Enemy Belligerent Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010’.

SEC. 2. PLACEMENT OF SUSPECTED UNPRIVILEGED ENEMY BELLIGERENTS IN MILITARY CUSTODY.

(a) Military Custody Requirement- Whenever within the United States, its territories, and possessions, or outside the territorial limits of the United States, an individual is captured or otherwise comes into the custody or under the effective control of the United States who is suspected of engaging in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners through an act of terrorism, or by other means in violation of the laws of war, or of purposely and materially supporting such hostilities, and who may be an unprivileged enemy belligerent, the individual shall be placed in military custody for purposes of initial interrogation and determination of status in accordance with the provisions of this Act.

(b) Reasonable Delay for Intelligence Activities- An individual who may be an unprivileged enemy belligerent and who is initially captured or otherwise comes into the custody or under the effective control of the United States by an intelligence agency of the United States may be held, interrogated, or transported by the intelligence agency and placed into military custody for purposes of this Act if retained by the United States within a reasonable time after the capture or coming into the custody or effective control by the intelligence agency, giving due consideration to operational needs and requirements to avoid compromise or disclosure of an intelligence mission or intelligence sources or methods.

“Suspected unprivileged enemy belligerent” ? No, that doesn’t sound Orwellian at all. Now let me highlight Sec. 3b3 and let you, the reader decide if any of this strikes you as “dangerous,” “evil,” or even “un-American.”

(3) INAPPLICABILITY OF CERTAIN STATEMENT AND RIGHTS- A individual who is suspected of being an unprivileged enemy belligerent shall not, during interrogation under this subsection, be provided the statement required by Miranda v. Arizona (384 U.S. 436 (1966)) or otherwise be informed of any rights that the individual may or may not have to counsel or to remain silent consistent with Miranda v. Arizona.

Talk about double speak! Such individuals are not “criminal suspects” who in our criminal justice system normally considers “innocent until proven guilty” who have Constitutionally protected rights but “suspected enemy belligerents” who are apparently assumed guilty until a high ranking official in the executive branch, or the president himself determines otherwise.

Sorry, I’m getting a little ahead of myself. I haven’t even got to the most disturbing part of the bill yet – Section 5:

SEC. 5. DETENTION WITHOUT TRIAL OF UNPRIVILEGED ENEMY BELLIGERENTS.

An individual, including a citizen of the United States, determined to be an unprivileged enemy belligerent under section 3(c)(2) in a manner which satisfies Article 5 of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War may be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners in which the individual has engaged, or which the individual has purposely and materially supported, consistent with the law of war and any authorization for the use of military force provided by Congress pertaining to such hostilities.

So here we are in 2010, Sen. McCain et al advocating giving American citizens POW status under Article 5 of the Geneva Convention as they may be “enemy belligerents” in an ill-defined and open-ended “war on terror.” The provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act which were originally supposed to be temporary but now as a practical matter, a permanent fixture of federal law, apparently don’t go far enough to dismantle what is left of the Bill of Rights.

One thing I found interesting in this debate was not only Sen. McCain’s response (or lack thereof) but also the deafening silence of his Democrat challenger who could have easily picked this issue up and ran with it if he shares Nolan’s civil liberties concerns. Could it be that Mr. Glassman would also support this bill if he were elected to replace Sen. McCain? If so, I wouldn’t be at all surprised considering that President Obama who is a member of the same political party as Glassman actually believes he can assassinate Americans without due process of any kind. Both the Obama and Bush administrations have even gone as far to say that if or when the president makes a “state’s secrets” claim, no court can even consider the legality of such cases. There’s little doubt in my mind that President Obama would sign S. 3081 into law as this would only enhance his power.

Maybe for now on we should stop referring to the first ten amendments as “The Bill of Rights” and call them “The Bill of Privileges.” This would at least be honest because rights cannot be taken away and therefore can never be “inapplicable.”

The New Prison Ray of Death

Some things you just cannot make up:

A device designed to control unruly inmates by blasting them with a beam of intense energy that causes a burning sensation is drawing heat from civil rights groups who fear it could cause serious injury and is “tantamount to torture.”

The mechanism, known as an “Assault Intervention Device,” is a stripped-down version of a military gadget that sends highly focused beams of energy at people and makes them feel as though they are burning. The Los Angeles County sheriff’s department plans to install the device by Labor Day, making it the first time in the world the technology has been deployed in such a capacity.

Maybe this is the sort of thing that Ray Bradbury had in mind when he assessed that government was too big. I’d certainly rather have tax dollars going toward exploring space than coming up with new way to control inmates likely in jail for violating drug laws.

Obama: Judge, Jury, and Executioner in Chief

“No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” – Amendment V of the U.S. Constitution

I don’t know how I missed this, but apparently the 5th Amendment was repealed a few months back with very little concern on the part of the media. Or maybe this was a big story back in February and I just wasn’t paying attention. I have been quite busy lately but I still don’t see how I missed this most disturbing power grab on the part of the Obama administration to date: the power for the president to order the assassination of American citizens without trial*.

If you missed this like I did and have read about this for the first time here, you may believe this sounds like some kooky black helicopter Soldier of Fortune conspiracy propaganda. When I heard about this the first time from Glenn Beck (of all people) on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s Freedom Watch, I thought it was probably another one of Beck’s over the top Obama boogey man theories. I thought surely if a president, even this president, were to do such a thing as order CIA snipers or perhaps Predator drones to take out an American citizen without trial, even the media on Left would be scandalized by such a policy.

As it turns out, Beck was right. When I entered the phrase “Obama can assassinate Americans” into a Google search, I did find at least one Left wing blog, Democracy Now! podcast hosted by Amy Goodman back in February explore this issue. And to Congressman Dennis Kucinich’s (D-OH) credit, he made an appearance on the podcast to explain why he isn’t giving President Obama a pass.

Kucinich:

Well, I think its incumbent upon the Attorney General to explain the basis in law for such a policy. Our Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, our Seventh Amendment, our Fourteenth Amendment all clearly provide legal protections for people who are accused or who would be sentenced after having been judged to be guilty. And what’s happened is that the Constitution is being vitiated here. The idea that people are—have—if their life is in jeopardy, legally have due process of law, is thrown out the window.

And, Amy, when you consider that there are people who are claiming there are many terrorist cells in the United States, it doesn’t take too much of a stretch to imagine that this policy could easily be transferred to citizens in this country. That doesn’t—that only compounds what I think is a slow and steady detachment from core constitutional principles. And once that happens, we have a country then that loses its memory and its soul, with respect to being disconnected from those core constitutional principles which are the basis of freedom in our society.

Not everyone on the Left is as willing to hold the Obama administration accountable though. Salon.com writer Glenn Greenwald (also a guest interviewed in the above podcast), one of the few columnists to give this policy the condemnation it deserves, wrote a very disturbing piece to remind those who were (rightly) critical of the Bush administration’s policies concerning extraordinary rendition, holding “enemy combatants” indefinitely without trial (including American citizens), warrantless wiretapping, and so on, should be at least as critical of Obama’s policy which goes even further.

Greenwald writes:

“Today, both The New York Times and The Washington Post confirm that the Obama White House has now expressly authorized the CIA to kill al-Alwaki no matter where he is found, no matter his distance from a battlefield. I wrote at length about the extreme dangers and lawlessness of allowing the Executive Branch the power to murder U.S. citizens far away from a battlefield (i.e., while they’re sleeping, at home, with their children, etc.) and with no due process of any kind.

[…]

And what about all the progressives who screamed for years about the Bush administration’s tyrannical treatment of Jose Padilla? Bush merely imprisoned Padilla for years without a trial. If that’s a vicious, tyrannical assault on the Constitution — and it was — what should they be saying about the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s assassination of American citizens without any due process?

[…]

When Obama was seeking the Democratic nomination, the Constitutional Law Scholar answered a questionnaire about executive power distributed by The Boston Globe’s Charlie Savage, and this was one of his answers:

5. Does the Constitution permit a president to detain US citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants?

[Obama]: No. I reject the Bush Administration’s claim that the President has plenary authority under the Constitution to detain U.S. citizens without charges as unlawful enemy combatants.

So back then, Obama said the President lacks the power merely to detain U.S. citizens without charges. Now, as President, he claims the power to assassinate them without charges. Could even his hardest-core loyalists try to reconcile that with a straight face? As Spencer Ackerman documents today, not even John Yoo claimed that the President possessed the power Obama is claiming here.

Even though I did not vote for Obama in 2008 and was very critical of his policy positions at the time, I thought he would at least be an improvement in the area of civil liberties. I couldn’t have been more wrong. It seems that rather than rolling back these Bush era unconstitutional power grabs, Obama has grown accustomed to them and decided to take these powers to the next level: killing Americans he believes to be enemies of the state.

Perhaps there is room to debate whether or not foreign suspected terrorists deserve all the legal protections of our courts but the idea of killing American citizens without trial most certainly is not debatable. If our government does anything well its identifying individuals and putting them in prison and/or sentencing said individuals to death. This is done successfully every day in our criminal justice system. We need not worry that many actual terrorists will escape going through the criminal justice system provided that the prosecutors have a minimum standard of proof and a jury of average intelligence.

Even as badly broken as our criminal justice system is, this is our system. Ordering the killing of American citizens even in an “emergency” is not among the powers provided to the president under the Constitution (I just double checked) and is not a suitable substitute.
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I Was Wrong About the War in Iraq

The following is a post I started a little over 2 years ago explaining my 180 concerning the war in Iraq. This is easily the most difficult post I’ve ever written because of the life and death nature of the subject matter and admitting being on the wrong side of this issue for so long. As tempting as it has been to continue to ignore this issue, I felt that I owed it to the readers of The Liberty Papers to finally explain myself before moving on to other posts.

I think that most Americans on both sides of the Iraq debate have the best interests of America at heart (to the extent there even is a debate anymore).

Much of the Iraq debate seems to be based on emotion rather than reason. Emotional talking points from the Left such as “Bush lied, people died” (though I do believe he over sold the threat), “Bush wanted to be a war time president,” and “the Iraq war is really about Halliburton” or “BIG oil” remain unconvincing to me. I took great exception to war critics who resort to calling anyone who supports any war for any reason a “war monger” or a “chicken hawk” (and I still do).

I also took great exception to those on the Right who would say that “you can’t support the troops if you don’t support the mission.” Such a claim is obviously ludicrous because some of the troops themselves do not support the mission. That would mean they do not support themselves! Arguments that individuals should not criticize the president because “we are at war” have always seemed Orwellian and scary to me.

Though I like to think of myself as a man of reason, reasonable people will fall into emotional traps from time to time; no one is 100% logical or reasonable 100% of the time on each and every issue. I fell into the emotional traps that many on the Right (and most everyone else for at least a short time) fell into in the aftermath of 9/11: anger, hatred, and fear.

Why I supported the War in Iraq

My immediate response to the aftermath of 9/11 was anger, hatred, and fear (and I’m sure I wasn’t alone). I was angry that these religious extremists attacked my country, I hated them for their reasons for doing so, and I feared more attacks would come at any moment. I wasn’t interested in justice for those responsible for the attacks, I wanted vengeance!

Though I never believed that Iraq had anything to do with the 9/11 attacks, I believed that it was time to rethink my positions on how America should deal with rogue states such as Iraq. While I would not have supported invading a nation, overthrowing that nation’s government, and rebuilding a nation prior to 9/11, it seemed that America needed to be proactive and “preempt” such nations from even the possibility of attacking America first. I supported the invasion because I truly believed the WMD threat was real and that overthrowing Saddam Hussein would lead to liberty spreading throughout the region and thus would make America safer.

For a short time, this theory seemed to becoming a reality. U.S. and coalition troops defeated the Iraqi forces in record time. The cable news channels showed Iraqis pulling down Saddam Hussein’s statue and in broken English saying such things as “Thank you America” and “Thank you Mr. Bush.” Shortly thereafter, President Bush made his infamous tail-hook landing on the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln which had a large banner which read “Mission Accomplished.” I thought for sure that this meant the troops would be coming home and that the critics of the war had been proven wrong in their dire predictions. Sure, Saddam Hussein and his sons were still at large, there was still some violence in the immediate aftermath, and no stockpiles of WMD had been found but all these things would be taken care of in a matter of time. A few more months perhaps?

It all made a great deal of sense in theory but the reality seems to be quite different.

What Changed?

It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly when I began to realize the invasion and subsequent occupation Iraq to be a mistake. When weapons hunters failed to find the WMD in the first couple of years after the invasion, my thinking was that perhaps the “preemption” approach was wrongheaded but because the troops were already there, the damage had already been done. I believed that because American foreign policy lead to the chaos that followed the invasion, it was the duty of our government to clean up the mess (i.e. the “you broke it, you bought it” argument). I further believed that if coalition troops pulled out of Iraq “the Islamofascists will follow us home” unless the Iraqi government was stable enough to handle the violence itself.

The truth of the matter is my reasoning was clouded by fear. This post I wrote in early 2007 illustrates this fear . We could not afford to allow our enemies to claim victory in Iraq as they would become “emboldened” and be encouraged to carry out future attacks both on American soil and abroad. This is not a war we could afford to lose; failure was not an option.

But when I was challenged by readers and fellow TLP contributors define exactly what “victory” in Iraq would look like, I struggled in vain to find a satisfactory answer. I now realize that if American troops were to leave tomorrow, next year, or 100 years from now, the radical Islamists will claim victory no matter when the troops leave. They are master propagandists and those who follow their ideology do not allow facts to get in the way of their beliefs. Some of these people don’t even acknowledge that the Holocaust even happened despite all of the mountains of documentary evidence to the contrary.

The first thing that has changed in my thinking is the fear factor. The whole purpose of terrorism is to cause people to be terrorized. When we overreact and do such things as pass the Patriot Act, surrender liberties we otherwise would not, or send troops to fight undeclared wars against countries that might have WMD and may directly or indirectly use these weapons against the U.S. or her allies, the terrorist act has accomplished its intended goal.

The second big change is my understanding of contemporary history. My thinking was that America’s military might would be enough to transform the Middle East from a region of oppression to a region of freedom. These were people yearning to be free. All that needed to happen was for the despots to be deposed, the people liberated, and our world would be more peaceful as a result.

In the Point post “A Case for Non-Intervention,” Brad correctly pointed out the flaws of this logic of fatal conceit: that man can shape the world around him according to his wishes. By the time I wrote the Counterpoint to Brad’s post, I was already beginning to see the error of my thinking but still holding out hope that somehow we could avoid the “reverse King Midas effect” this time.

But why would this time be any different?

At least since President Woodrow Wilson, the U.S. has been intervening in internal affairs of other countries allegedly to “make the world safer for democracy.” But rather than making the world safer, in most cases it seems, American foreign policy has created more enemies rather than less. The conditions that led up to the adventures in both Iraq and Afghanistan are in many ways the result of American foreign policy. The continued presence of American troops occupying and nation building in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere fosters resentment among these populations.

Lessons Learned

One argument I used to make was that leaving Iraq as a failed mission would mean that those troops who had died for the cause would have died in vain. I no longer believe this necessarily has to be the case if we as a people learn the right lessons of Iraq.

There were people who opposed the war in the very beginning for very principled reasons (and I’m not talking about the so-called anti-war Democrats who seem to have nothing to say about Iraq now that their guy is in office). Others like me, unfortunately, had to learn the lessons of Iraq the hard way. I was naive and trusted that the government was acting in such a way that would make its citizens safer but I now see the error in this thinking. Neither North Korea nor Iran seems to be slowing down their WMD programs as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom. And despite the anti-terror policies that have been enacted since 9/11 and despite this war, our cities are likely as vulnerable if not more so than before 9/11. Our own government is a much greater threat to our liberties than al Qaeda ever will be.

It’s really the open-ended nature of this “war on terror” and failure on the part of our government to define who exactly the enemy is that makes the concept of victory unobtainable. Who specifically is our enemy? Is it just al Qaeda and/or the Taliban or is it anyone and everyone the U.S. government calls a “terrorist”? If we cannot even define exactly who our enemy is, how is victory even possible?

Once the enemy has been identified, the congress (not the president) should debate whether or not to declare war on the enemy. Any declaration of war should include not only who the enemy is but define in precise terms the meaning of victory (as opposed to making it up as they go along). The idea of going into another undeclared war in the future should be considered a complete non-starter (and the notion of “preemptive” wars of choice in particular).

Now What?

Its time for the people of Iraq to decide for themselves what kind of future they want. Our brave soldiers have done the heavy lifting for far too long. Its time for our brave troops to come home to their families and let them move on with their lives.

Ditto for Afghanistan. The only troops that should be left behind should be those with the sole mission of hunting Bin Laden and his extremist followers. The nation building mission should be brought to an end.

Its time to completely rethink the American foreign policy of the last 100 years or so. Has the presence of American troops made the world, and more importantly America safer? Is it still necessary to our national security to have so many troops stationed around the globe? (Was it ever?) What ever happened to the “walk softly” part of “walk softly but carry a big stick”?

Its time to move beyond the Cold War posture and allow other nations to determine their own futures.

In the mean time, we should be doing all we can to secure our own futures and help our wounded war veterans put their lives back together.

It’s Still Charlie Wilson’s War

In the fantastic Tom Hanks film Charlie Wilson’s War, Hanks’ character is seen frequently bringing up the deteriorating post-Soviet situation in Afghanistan to his fellow congressmen. Having been active in funding the American involvement in combatting the Soviets during their invasion of the Southwest Asian country, Wilson found it very irresponsible to quickly abandon the country once the Soviet Union had fallen apart. Other lawmakers derided him as being the “congressman from Kabul” in the film. Given the events of 9/11, his maintained concern over Afghanistan seems quite prophetic.

The hard part in life is that there are no solutions, only trade-offs. Seemingly endless wars understandably are quite unaffordable, with record unemployment and enormous deficits. On Twitter, I caught Joe Scarborough saying “What is the end game in Afghanistan? What is our goal?” Not a bad question. I also caught O’TooleFan saying
“Does anyone seriously believe we’re ever going to be able to turn things over to the Afghan army?” Another good question, but one that needs to be coupled with consideration for long term responsibility and rational self-interest.

I am only a twenty something writer. I hardly know the answers. I do, however, have enough knowledge of history to know that troublespots in the world do not stop calling us just because we stop calling them. With Kurdistan showing considerable promise as a home for modernity in the Middle East and a strong amount of blood and treasure spent in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is foolish and irresponsible to think we can just abandon it wholesale. It would not be shocking to witness those whose familes or loved ones fall victim to the tyrannical dictators or roaming ethno-nationalists that will inevitably fill that sort of power vacuum blame it on America.

The strongest alternative, in my view, is to try to recruit the budding powers of the world stage who also share an interest in a stable and non-volatile Middle East to become involved. This requires a level of diplomacy that will require considerable improvement in ties with growing superpowers like Brazil and strengthening of ties with India. It may also, as Stephen Kinzer has suggested in his prescient book Iran, Turkey, America’s Future, require the courting of natural but untraditional allies.

Explaining DADT & Gays In The Military To A Seven-Year-Old

As the father of 2 1/2 year old and soon-to-be 1 year old boys, I know that there are going to be a lot of questions to be answered in the future on a wide range of subjects. Those questions need good answers, because there’s a big thing out there called “reality” and a lot of it can be bewildering to a child. Some questions will be easy, and some will be hard. One of those questions that will probably be easier than I expect will be the day that my kids start asking about a couple that are very good friends of ours — Manny and Chuck.

That might be an awkward day, but it’s a great chance to teach my kids about respect, and to treat people as individuals rather than by some “group identity”. In some ways, I think they’ve got an advantage. Growing up in a very sheltered environment as I did, I met them (through my wife) as “gay Manny & Chuck” instead of “Manny & Chuck, who happen to be gay”. It took me time to learn to treat them as individuals first and as members of a “group” second. My kids will be lucky enough to know them as individuals first, and then as they become old enough to understand a little bit more about the world can put the rest of the pieces together.

But Congressman Ike Skelton of Missouri would prefer that his constituents and their children grow up in a world of ostracizing those who are different. Here’s why he’s going to push against the repeal of DADT:

“What do mommas and daddies say to a seven-year-old child about this issue? I don’t know,” Skelton said. “I think it would be a family issue that would concern me the most … What they might see in their discussions among the kids.”

Really? That’s why you’re going to block DADT?

First things first. The whole argument is a red herring. I can’t imagine that some 7 year old is going to ask their parents question about some hypothetical gay soldier. They’re probably going to ask questions about some classmate who’s getting teased every day because he’s got two daddies who hopped the border to Iowa to get married, or because he overheard someone singing Katy Perry’s song, “I kissed a girl”. DADT is going to be a non-starter.

The truth is that it’s not going to be possible for Skelton to shelter all the parents of Missouri from these questions. The only way for Skelton to be sure that parents don’t have to have these discussions with their children is for gays to not exist at all. That’s may be his ideal world, but it’s certainly not reality.

But let’s say the question comes up. Let’s say that some politically astute 7 year old asks his parents whether gay people should be allowed to serve in the army. And just for the sake of argument, I’m going to try to put myself in the character of a typical conservative, red-blooded, patriotic Christian parent from Missouri. This certainly isn’t the answer that I would give, but I think it’s an answer that would allow them to teach their kids true American values without impinging on the morality they’re trying to instill.

Kid: Daddy, why is it that they let gays in the Army? Doesn’t Jesus say it’s wrong?

MO Parent: Yes, son, that’s correct. But this is America. It’s a free country, and even though it’s not something we approve of, it’s not something that we can or should make illegal. Soldiers exist to protect freedoms, even some freedoms that we don’t approve of. There’s no reason that we should discriminate to stop gays from joining in the fight to protect those freedoms, is there? They may have to answer to God someday, but they shouldn’t have to answer to Washington.

Was that so hard?

Hat Tip: Kevin Drum

President Obama establishes Council of Governors by Executive Order

Brad just asked what people are reading today.  President Obama just provided some interesting reading material indeed. Here’s the opening text from an Executive Order dated January 11, 2010:

EXECUTIVE ORDER
ESTABLISHMENT OF THE COUNCIL OF GOVERNORS

By the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, including section 1822 of the National Defense AuthorizationAct of 2008 (Public Law 110-181), and in order to strengthenfurther the partnership between the Federal Government and State governments to protect our Nation and its people and property, it is hereby ordered as follows:

Section 1. Council of Governors.
(a)
There is established a Council of Governors (Council).The Council shall consist of 10 State Governors appointed bythe President (Members), of whom no more than five shall be ofthe same political party. The term of service for each Member appointed to serve on the Council shall be 2 years, but a Membermay be reappointed for additional terms.
(b)
The President shall designate two Members, whoshall not be members of the same political party, to serve asCo-Chairs of the Council.
Sec. 2. Functions. The Council shall meet at the call of the Secretary of Defense or the Co-Chairs of the Council toexchange views, information, or advice with the Secretary ofDefense; the Secretary of Homeland Security; the Assistant tothe President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism; theAssistant to the President for Intergovernmental Affairs andPublic Engagement; the Assistant Secretary of Defense forHomeland Defense and Americas’ Security Affairs; the Commander,United States Northern Command; the Chief, National GuardBureau; the Commandant of the Coast Guard; and other appropriateofficials of the Department of Homeland Security and theDepartment of Defense, and appropriate officials of otherexecutive departments or agencies as may be designated by theSecretary of Defense or the Secretary of Homeland Security.Such views, information, or advice shall concern:
(a)
matters involving the National Guard of the variousStates;
(b)
homeland defense;
(c)
civil support;
more
(OVER)
2
(d)
synchronization and integration of State and Federalmilitary activities in the United States; and
(e)
other matters of mutual interest pertaining toNational Guard, homeland defense, and civil support activities.

Read the rest here.

To The Veterans And Those Potential Veterans Who Serve

There are a lot of debates one can have about the military. One can ask, as the founding fathers might, whether it be necessary to have a standing army at all. One can ask, as a non-interventionist might, whether it is worth spending American lives on non-essential tasks. One can ask whether our military is used wisely, used justly, and whether its soldiers are acting in the furtherance of societal good or a president’s whim. These questions have been asked and debated here, and rightly so. But not today.

I have the most profound respect for someone who says “here is what I believe and who I am — I will serve my countrymen and pledge to back that up with my life if it is necessary.” It’s one of those traits that I’d like to hope I possess, but one in civilian life, in the peaceful little enclave I raise my family, can never be truly sure. But those who choose the life of a soldier don’t need to question themselves. They’ve already signed up to be the tip of the spear. They’ve sworn an oath and joined an organization and command structure to carry out a mission. Some are never called on to perform the task they train for, but they’ve still earned my respect by offering to shoulder that burden. Others, however, are given that calling, and we call them Veterans. Today is the day to thank them for living up to the convictions they’ve pledged themselves to.

On this particular day, however, I think of one veteran in particular. Thanks, well wishes, and a great deal of concern go out to Major Jeff Warbiany, marine aviator, veteran of the first Gulf War and in theater for a good portion of the second, currently on float on a boat somewhere in the South Pacific. Jeff is my brother, and while one might think that his choice to serve shows him to be the hoo-rah counterpoint to every way that I’m a radical libertarian, he matches me nearly stride for stride in political belief. He understands what he’s doing, and even when he might disagree with the political calculations that have him deployed and away from his wife and son, he knows that he has a job to do and will do it to the utmost of his abilities for his brothers in arms and for those of us here at home. I’d much rather he be home safe right now, and that the two of us were discussing the evils of the Federal Reserve over a beer and a cigar, but since that’s not possible, all I can say is thank you and come home soon, bro.

Thoughts On Veterans Day

veterans

As we mark Veterans Day here in the United States, it is worth remembering that, for the rest of the Western world, today marks the end of what may very well be the most pointless war in human history

The war in which millions of educated and working class men sacrificed their lives to fight over the remnants of a Europe that was still ruled by Hohenzollern’s, Hapsburg’s and Romanov’s —Middle Age Europe’s inbred contribution to insanity.

And what were they fighting over ? The same stupid battles that Europeans were fighting 100 years previously when Napoleon raged across the Russian frontier. Only this time, they were doing it with tanks, planes, and mustard gas.

It was massacre writ large and insanity on display for four long years — and it all started when some guy got shot in Sarajevo.

And yet, somehow, the boys of America ended up in the middle of this mess that the Royalists and Europeans has created. Rationally, there was no reason we should’ve been there and yet we were led by a man convinced that he could remake the world in America’s democratic image.

Sound familiar ?

That didn’t work out so well back then, as people unlucky enough to live in Europe in the 1930s and 40s can attest. Not to mention the men who the United States sent back to Europe in 1941.

So as we remember Veterans today, and thank them for their service, perhaps it’s time to think about how we can stop creating so many gardens of stone in so many corners of the world in the name of misplaced idealism.

Comment of the Day: A Welcome Voice from Liberty Papers Past

Re: Mancow gets waterboarded

It’s always a treat to hear from Eric, the founder of The Liberty Papers. Its comments like this one which make me miss his “grumbles.” This comment was in response to a discussion sparked by Stephen Gordon’s post concerning waterboarding:

Interesting discussion. Chris has a very valid point about altering the meaning of the language. He also points out that waterboarding is a form of coercion and that coercion should not be used on prisoners. But, in the heated and traumatic rejection of his assertions about what torture is, the more important point he makes is lost.

The point is, coercive interrogation is wrong to do to someone who we hold prisoner. Chris said that loud and clear, but folks are so incensed that he might not agree that something is torture that they miss the fundamentally more important point. Another fundamentally important issue, if you believe in The Rule of Law, is that we don’t have clear laws on what to do with terrorist combatants and that poses a problem. One of the keys to solving the problems of piracy in the 17th and 18th centuries was to promulgate clear, consistent, logically and legally sound laws and regulations for dealing with pirates.

We don’t have that for terrorists today, and that’s a problem.

P.S. adding to the point about use of language. We used to know that torture meant causing permanent injury to someone. When we talked about the police giving someone the “third degree”, it meant physically injuring someone to coerce them to do something. The reason we said “third degree” is that there were three levels of Inquisition used during the Catholic Inquisition.

1st Degree – Discussing the crimes someone is accused of and informing them that stronger methods of inquisition can be used if they don’t cooperate

2nd Degree – Showing the accused person the methods that can be used, like racks, knives, flails and other implements of torture

3rd Degree – Actually using those implements on the accused person, i.e. the Third Degree of Inquisition.

So, the very tortured definitions of torture that folks are trying to come up are actually changing the meanings of the language in ways that support the individual’s position. This is something that Orwell argued strenuously against and that most “libertarians” argue against, as well. Except, it seems, when being for it supports their personal beliefs.

Causing PTSD does not automatically make something torture. PTSD can be caused by a car accident, by seeing your sibling die, by participating in violent combat and many other things. None of which are “torture”. I suggest that we should return to the traditional definition that doing things which would be considered “the third degree” is torture. Let’s use the language right. AND we can still agree that things which are not torture, but are inhumane or coercive, or both, are wrong for US interrogators to do to our prisoners.

Comment by Eric — June 5, 2009 @ 8:24 am

Quote Of The Day

From David Rittgers, Cato@Liberty:

As I have said before, the quickest way to create an insurgent is to burn a man’s livelihood. This may be a competent counternarcotics tactic, but it is an epic failure as a counterinsurgency strategy. We can fight a war against the Taliban or we can fight the war on drugs, but we can’t do both in the same place at the same time.

Internally, libertarians can debate the merits of the Afghanistan conflict and whether the end result will be a safer or less safe America. My view is that if done properly, counterinsurgency operations can be successful over the long term, but it is situationally dependent whether they’re worth the effort.

What I think we can all agree on is that the drug war is unwinnable, and that fighting the drug war in Afghanistan is a mutually exclusive goal with our counterterrorism efforts there. If we have to give up one goal, I suggest the drug war.

UPDATE: Edited post to correctly attribute quote to David Rittgers, not Doug Bandow. My mistake and my apologies to David for the error.

MD and AL: Two Tea Party items of interest

Maryland

It’s being reported that the Maryland National Guard issued an alert to be on the lookout for numerous entities which “have formed recently to express displeasure/anger over recent federal/state government actions: more taxes, increased spending, higher deficits, a surge of borrowing to pay for it all, bailout of the financial institutions.”

“This movement can be identified by different variations of “TEA Party” or “Tea Party.” Past “TEA Party” events have been peaceful. There was a “Tea party” event at Solomons, Maryland, on March 22, 2009. “TEA” stands for “Taxed Enough Already,”the report continues.

Following the Missouri Information Analysis Center report and the one issued by the Department of Homeland Security, this is beginning to look like a most disturbing trend.

Alabama

The following blog comment (from a source I personally know) illustrates that the Birmingham/Shelby County Tea Party stuck to their activist guns:

The highlight of the event in Birmingham was Beth Chapman, our Secretary of State.

Unbeknowst to most people, she showed up unannounced at the back of the stage and demanded to speak. Apparently she wasn’t there when I announced that no elected officials would be speaking and that at this rally politicians would listen to we the people.

As a matter of fact, she wasn’t there when the Rainy Day Patriots (25 in number) stood on 280 in the middle of a tornado warning with their protest signs. She wasn’t there during our organizational meetings. She wasn’t there during setup of the event. And she certainly wasn’t there during cleanup.

Needless to say, she wasn’t a very happy camper when she was told “NO”. I guess politicians are not used to being told no because she lingered for another 30 minutes quibling for a speaking spot.

It was a great day in Alabama when a group of citizens can grow their numbers from 25 to 7000 in a couple of weeks and tell our politicians “NO!”

Chapman is Alabama’s Republican Secretary of State. Commenter Marcelo Munoz is a local Campaign for Liberty organizer.

Obama’s Policy to Fight Mexican Drug Cartels is Doomed to Fail

The Obama administration, rather than dealing with the root cause of the violence along the Mexican border, has decided to adopt a policy to deal with the symptoms. The problem is that this policy will neither alleviate the symptoms nor come close to treating the problem.

WASHINGTON – The Obama administration promised Tuesday to help Mexico fight its drug war by cutting off the cartels’ supply of guns and profits, while resisting the Texas governor’s call for a troop surge at the border to ward off spillover violence.

Let’s assume for a moment that Obama’s policy to prevent Mexico bound firearms from leaving the U.S. 100% successful. Given the fact that the drug cartels can acquire firearms from other sources (such as corrupt Mexican government agents with access to firearms among other sources) the only difference would be that the firearms are no longer coming from the U.S.

The Obama administration correctly identifies that the drug cartels are so powerful because of the profitability of the illicit drug trade. It’s this ability to make enormous profits, particularly in an impoverished country as Mexico, that attracts players into the business and makes corruption on the part of government officials almost irresistible. Unfortunately, though the Obama administration has identified the profitability of the drug trade as the source of the drug cartels’ power, there is clearly a profound misunderstanding of the way basic economics work (as if the bailouts, handouts, and myriad of other government programs were not proof enough).

The steps announced by Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano – 450 federal agents shifted to border duty, supplied with dogs trained to detect both drugs and cash, and scanners to check vehicles and railcars heading into Mexico – amount to a subtle but important shift:

The blockade of contraband will now be a two-way effort. The fence begun under the Bush administration will be completed, to deter smugglers of drugs and workers. But the new emphasis will be on disrupting the southbound flow of profits and weapons that fuel the cartels.

At his televised news conference Tuesday, President Barack Obama said that for now, it’s more important to disrupt the cartels’ access to profits and weapons than to fortify the border with soldiers.

“That’s what makes them so dangerous,” he said. “The steps that we’ve taken are designed to make sure that the border communities in the United States are protected and you’re not seeing a spillover of violence. … If the steps that we’ve taken do not get the job done, then we will do more.”

So what’s wrong with this approach? The basic economic law of supply and demand tells us that whenever a product is in high demand (drugs in this case) and the supply is lower (in this case by successful drug interdiction by the U.S. governemnt), those who supply the given demand stand to profit more NOT LESS! Whether Obama’s policy results in a decrease in the supply of drugs of 1% or 99%, those drugs which do make it to the end customer will pay even more to get them.

I would even go as far as to say that the Mexican drug cartels would cheer this policy. Sure, the cartels might have more difficulty moving their product into the U.S. and their profit and firearms out of the U.S. but for the most clever smugglers, these enhanced drug interdiction efforts would filter out the competition! (And we know how black market operators hate competition).

On some level, I do believe that even the political class understand this but somewhere, there is a disconnect. Just yesterday in her visit to Mexico, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admitted that the war on (some) drugs over the past 30+ years “has not worked.”

“Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade.”

And now the disconnect:

“Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians…”

Mrs. Clinton apparently recognizes how the war on (some) drugs has been an abject failure fails to realize that the Chosen One’s policies will do little to reverse this trend. If she truly wants to do something productive, something has to be done about what she (correctly) describes as this “insatiable demand” for these drugs. She seems to understand that the “Just say No” campaign didn’t work but does she and others within the Obama administration really believe that more drug hysteria PSA’s will do anything to curb this demand?

Given how the Obama administration has decided to deal with the drug war related violence along the border, I’m not optimistic. If spending billions of dollars annually on this insane war on (some) drugs which has contributed to leading the world in the number of people in prison (imprisoning 1 out of every 100 adults; more than half of the U.S. prison population is there because of drug related offenses) has failed to curb the demand, then perhaps it’s time to try a different approach.

Nothing short of legalizing the drug trade will stop the violence, so why does the politicos, law enforcement, and government bureaucrats at almost every level continue the same “get tough” policy which clearly has not worked? The only conclusion I can come to: they must be high.

Preliminary government answers about MPs in Alabama not passing sniff test

With respect to the story starting to hit both the mainstream media and “the tubes” about the recent US Army deployment in Alabama, the federal government response I’m seeing so far isn’t quite hitting hitting the common-sense sniff test.

The abbreviated version of this story is that US Army personnel were sent to assist with operations immediately following Michael McLendon’s murderous rampage in southern Alabama.  While this seems to be a clear violation of the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act, my initial response was to defend the military as much as possible.

As a veteran who has been involved in remotely similar operations, I’ve got a strong degree of empathy for the military side of the issue.  However, the Army Times‘ and Jerome Corsi’s World Net Daily explanations ain’t satisfying me, yet…

From the Army Times:

Geneva County Sheriff Greg Ward said Wednesday that he requested the MPs in response to an offer of assistance from a lieutenant colonel at Fort Rucker for generators, lights and other equipment.

“The lieutenant colonel called our [911] dispatch to say ‘we’re here if you need us,’” Ward told Army Times in a phone interview from his office in Geneva.

With seven separate crime scenes spanning a 20-mile area, Ward’s force of 12 deputies and about 10 more police from neighboring towns, were becoming overwhelmed, he said.

“I thought, let me call them back. So I asked for MPs to come in and relieve our personnel long enough so they could get something to eat,” Ward said, explaining that most of his men had been on the job since 7 a.m. and were exhausted.

The soldiers, he said, were assigned to five highway intersections to help keep traffic flowing and stood guard outside the most horrific crime scene in Samson in which six of the victims, including an 18-month old baby, were killed.

What Ward didn’t want, he said, was for anyone to sneak up and get a picture of the bodies and the soldiers watching the crime scene were instructed to inform the police if that was in danger of happening.

Here’s Corsi’s version:

The mystery over who ordered U.S. Army forces to patrol the streets of the south Alabama town where 11 people were killed in a shooting spree last week has been solved. WND confirmed troops from nearby Ft. Rucker provided limited assistance after a request from the police chief of Samson, Ala.

Multiple news agencies reported the Army was launching an investigation into why the troops were sent to the town, a possible violation of the law. The Associated Press reported uncertainty over who requested the assistance, noting it didn’t come from Republican Gov. Bob Riley or the White House.

“Under the authority of a mutual aid agreement which Fort Rutgers has with local law enforcement community in Samson, Alabama, the Samson city police chief requested support from military police after the shooting,” Lt. Col. Almarah Belk, an Air Force officer working for the Department of Defense press office, told WND in a telephone interview.

“Fort Rutgers provided 22 military police personnel, and five vehicles were sent into Samson to provide non-law enforcement support in the town of Samson, Alabama,” Belk said.

To be sure, I’ve had some serious problems in the past with both President Obama and Governor Riley. I strongly doubt either of them were involved in this.  To the conspiracy theorists trying to push this into a more serious issue, I’ll suggest trying to do some Freedom of Information Act requests for DNA testing on moon rocks.

However, it does appear that a law was broken — and one which helps bind the trust of citizens to the federal government.  Merely stating that local law enforcement requested federal help does not excuse whomever sent out the orders. If one is an agent of the U.S. Army, a local request does not trump federal law.

So far, I’ll stand by the points I made to the Associated Press and blogged earlier.  Here’s the AP version:

The chairman of the Libertarian Party of Alabama, Stephen Gordon, said while many are worried about the use of Army troops in civilian police roles, he doubts there was anything nefarious about the soldiers in Samson.

“There is no apparent harm here, but the principle still needs to be upheld,” Gordon said. “The barrier has been lowered for the next time, and we really need to take a look at what happened.”

Here are the points I made earlier:

  • This does seem (based on evidence presented so far) to be a clear-cut violation of federal law.  There may be some local law enforcement arrangements for pooling local law enforcement resources in time of disaster, but they would not override federal law on the matter.
  • There doesn’t seem to be any major harm done, so long as we don’t allow the bar to be lowered for similar future tragedies.  However, as citizens, it is important that we remain vigilant when things like this do occur.
  • This needs to be investigated to determine where the fault lies.  As I told the AP, if some local commander made a mistake, his wrist probably needs to be slapped, as appropriate.  We do need to find where the system broke down in order to prevent something like this from happening again.
  • This doesn’t seem to be part of any nefarious Obama plot to impose martial law across the land.  Some folks seem to be claiming this is President Obama’s first step in some apocalyptic total-takeover scheme.  For the conspiracy-minded out there, if this is such a plot, the Alabama mass murder seems to be a bad case to begin operations.  It was a quick response to a local event with no advance notice.  Anyway, it seems that Obama has a whole lot on his plate right now.  He’s probably too occupied at the moment to be concentrating on how to use a handful of MPs to overturn the Constitution in the deep south.
  • There are times when U.S. military forces do reasonably need to be involved in local issues.  When I was in the Army, I was involved in an operation to remove unexploded military ordinance found on private property in the D.C. area.  In this case, FEMA, local law enforcement and military personal cooperated and communicated about how to handle the issues involved and we (the military) were very mindful about the line between the military and civilians.
  • That someone didn’t quickly answer the question about who ordered the MPs offbase is concerning.  A quick and honest answer probably would have stopped online speculation which may continue for some time.  It also (probably needlessly) undermines public confidence in the military.  Why not simply say “who dunnit” so folks can move back to more important issues in their lives?

I’ve called Fort Rucker’s Public Affairs Office and left a message.  I’m sure I’ll probably get a reasonable response in the morning.  In the meantime, both sides would probably benefit from laying off the spin and simply providing both reasonable answers and rational responses.  I do spin for a living and am glad I didn’t step in this pile of it.  I also deal with conspiracy-minded folks and don’t like stepping in that equally smelly pile of stuff.

Based on what I know (mostly from the press) of the situation, the military response to the initial situation was “common-sense” reasonable and the situation doesn’t seem to have harmed anyone.  But it seems to be illegal.  The initial media responses seem to be disregarding mention of any actual law involved.

As I wrote earlier today, “This needs to be investigated to determine where the fault lies.  As I told the AP, if some local commander made a mistake, his wrist probably needs to be slapped, as appropriate.  We do need to find where the system broke down in order to prevent something like this from happening again.”

If I was writing the Letter of Reprimand, it might begin with: When [insert rank and name] was faced with an important and timely situation, his immediate focus was upon the local crisis, but…

I also wrote: ” Anyway, it seems that Obama has a whole lot on his plate right now.  He’s probably too occupied at the moment to be concentrating on how to use a handful of MPs to overturn the Constitution in the deep south.”

From either a legal or prophetic perspective, this seems to be relevant: “There may be some local law enforcement arrangements for pooling local law enforcement resources in times of disaster, but they would not override federal law on the matter.”

I’ll add that a possible solution is to rewrite the law to state that if military personnel enter into domestic operations such as this, they should not be armed (which includes sidearms).  I’ve done my share of military operations in civilian areas unarmed and still survived.  Don’t tell me it can’t be done.

While everyone seems to be concentrating on an issue which (IMO) shouldn’t be a serious one, I’ve been trying to spend my day ensuring that African Americans have the same access to the law that the rest of us have when it comes to eminent domain issues.  I’m now several hours behind on the project, but I doubt anyone interested in this issue will care.

I used to co-edit a website with the tagline of “Common sense shoved up your …”

Perhaps it’s time for both sides in this debate to apply some common sense before they deservedly take it up their ellipses.

Posse Comitatus Alert: Military Deployed in Alabama to Aid with Murder Spree Law Enforcement Activities

As I was just interviewed by the Associated Press pertaining to federal troops being sent to Samson, Alabama immediately following a rampage last week which left 11 people dead, I’d thought I’d collect my thoughts on the issue here.

Preliminary reporting includes these stories: the initial AP piece, USA Today, LewRockwell.com, and CNS News.

The AP is currently reporting the following:

The Army has launched an inquiry into whether federal laws were broken when soldiers were sent to an Alabama town after 11 people died in a shooting spree.

The Army confirmed Wednesday that 22 military police and an officer from Fort Rucker were sent to the nearby town of Samson after slayings last week. The town’s tiny police force and county officers were stretched to the limit after a gunman killed 10 people and himself.

Authorization from the governor or president is typically required for the deployment of federal troops on U.S. soil. It’s not clear who ordered the troops sent to Samson.

An Army spokesman says the military is trying to determine what happened. Among the questions is why the troops were sent and what they did while there.

CNS adds photographic evidence of military members on the scene as well as the following:

The troops were apparently not deployed by the request of Alabama Gov. Bob Riley — or by the request of President Obama, as required by law.

When contacted by CNSNews.com, the governor’s office could not confirm that the governor had requested help from the Army, and Gov. Riley’s spokesman, Todd Stacy, expressed surprise when he was told that troops had been sent to the town.

No request from President Obama, meanwhile, was issued by the White House–or the Defense Department.

Wrongful use of federal troops inside U.S. borders is a violation of several federal laws, including one known as the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878, Title 18, Section 1385 of the U.S. Code.

“Whoever, except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress, willfully uses any part of the Army or the Air Force as a posse comitatus or otherwise to execute the laws shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both,” the law states.

David Rittgers, legal policy analyst at the Cato Institute, said there are other laws barring use of federal troops outside of federal property, as well.

“Title 18, Section 375 of the U.S. Code is a direct restriction on military personnel, and it basically precludes any member of the army in participating in a ‘search, seizure, arrest or other similar activity, unless participation is otherwise authorized by law,’ “ Rittgers told CNSNews.com.

“The security of a crime scene is something I think that would roll up in the category of a ‘search, seizure or other activity,’” Rittgers added.

In addition, there is the Insurrection Act of 1808, as amended in 2007, (Title 10, Section 331 of the U.S. Code) under which the president can authorize troops “to restore order and enforce the laws of the United States” in an insurrection.

Some quick thoughts on the topic:

  • This does seem (based on evidence presented so far) to be a clear-cut violation of federal law.  There may be some local law enforcement arrangements for pooling local law enforcement resources in time of disaster, but they would not override federal law on the matter.
  • There doesn’t seem to be any major harm done, so long as we don’t allow the bar to be lowered for similar future tragedies.  However, as citizens, it is important that we remain vigilant when things like this do occur.
  • This needs to be investigated to determine where the fault lies.  As I told the AP, if some local commander made a mistake, his wrist probably needs to be slapped, as appropriate.  We do need to find where the system broke down in order to prevent something like this from happening again.
  • This doesn’t seem to be part of any nefarious Obama plot to impose martial law across the land.  Some folks seem to be claiming this is President Obama’s first step in some apocalyptic total-takeover scheme.  For the conspiracy-minded out there, if this is such a plot, the Alabama mass murder seems to be a bad case to begin operations.  It was a quick response to a local event with no advance notice.  Anyway, it seems that Obama has a whole lot on his plate right now.  He’s probably too occupied at the moment to be concentrating on how to use a handful of MPs to overturn the Constitution in the deep south.
  • There are times when U.S. military forces do reasonably need to be involved in local issues.  When I was in the Army, I was involved in an operation to remove unexploded military ordinance found on private property in the D.C. area.  In this case, FEMA, local law enforcement and military personal cooperated and communicated about how to handle the issues involved and we (the military) were very mindful about the line between the military and civilians.
  • That someone didn’t quickly answer the question about who ordered the MPs offbase is concerning.  A quick and honest answer probably would have stopped online speculation which may continue for some time.  It also (probably needlessly) undermines public confidence in the military.  Why not simply say “who dunnit” so folks can move back to more important issues in their lives?

In short, we should probably try to figure out what happened and fix the problem so a) the bar doesn’t get lowered and b)  we can prevent this from happening in the future.  We need to remain vigilant, but not overreactive.  Based on information available so far, it appears that no serious harm was done but we do need to get to the bottom of it — and with no stonewalling, either.

UPDATE: Here’s an updated AP report from the Houston Chronicle:

The chairman of the Libertarian Party of Alabama, Stephen Gordon, said while many are worried about the use of Army troops in civilian police roles, he doubts there was anything nefarious about the soldiers in Samson.

“There is no apparent harm here, but the principle still needs to be upheld,” Gordon said. “The barrier has been lowered for the next time, and we really need to take a look at what happened.”

Another Whimper In The Continuing Death Of Liberty

And this time, I doubt that anyone will even notice:

The U.S. military expects to have 20,000 uniformed troops inside the United States by 2011 trained to help state and local officials respond to a nuclear terrorist attack or other domestic catastrophe, according to Pentagon officials.

The long-planned shift in the Defense Department’s role in homeland security was recently backed with funding and troop commitments after years of prodding by Congress and outside experts, defense analysts said.

There are critics of the change, in the military and among civil liberties groups and libertarians who express concern that the new homeland emphasis threatens to strain the military and possibly undermine the Posse Comitatus Act, a 130-year-old federal law restricting the military’s role in domestic law enforcement.

But the Bush administration and some in Congress have pushed for a heightened homeland military role since the middle of this decade, saying the greatest domestic threat is terrorists exploiting the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Before the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, dedicating 20,000 troops to domestic response — a nearly sevenfold increase in five years — “would have been extraordinary to the point of unbelievable,” Paul McHale, assistant defense secretary for homeland defense, said in remarks last month at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. But the realization that civilian authorities may be overwhelmed in a catastrophe prompted “a fundamental change in military culture,” he said.

This comes despite the fact that the Posse Comitatus Act, passed all the way back in 1878 clearly and emphatically prohibits the use of American military forces in the United States as “law and order” forces in areas not already considered to be the property of the Federal Government.

The dangers of using military forces in areas that, by law and tradition, are the jurisdiction of domestic law enforcement should be manifest and, as Radley Balko predicts, it seems fairly clear that their role would, inevitably and inexorably, expand:

I predict that while now couched in terms of the necessity for a ready response to a cataclysmic terrorist attack, within five years there will be calls to use these forces for less urgent matters, such as crowd control at political conventions, natural disaster response, border control, and, inevitably, some components of the drug war (looking for marijuana in the national parks, for example).

Slowly but surely, the distinction between local, state, and federal law enforcement — all of which operate within limitations prescribed by the Constitution — and the military would be blurred.

From early days of the Republic, one of the greatest fears that the Founding Fathers had involved the creation of a standing army that would operate domestically in a manner that threatened the liberty of the people. Prior to the Civil War, that wasn’t a real concern because the standing army didn’t amount to very much. The passage of the Posse Comitatus Act sought to ensure that a larger Army would not become a threat to freedom.

Now, we’re on the verge of reversing 200 years of history.

There’s no real possibility that this new power won’t be abused.

Third Party Debate

The City Club of Cleveland extended an invitation to the top six presidential candidates*. Of the six candidates, Libertarian Party candidate Bob Barr, Constitution Party candidate Chuck Baldwin, and independent candidate Ralph Nader participated; Democrat Barack Obama, Republican John McCain, and Green Party candidate Cynthia McKinney were no-shows.

Unlike the debates we have already seen in this cycle, the candidates in this debate actually debated the issues!

*The candidates who could theoretically receive the requisite electoral vote to win the presidency

Don’t Forget to Study Before the Final!

I just received my mail-in ballot a week or so ago. The ballot, with multiple choices with arrows to be filled out next to each choice, reminds me of taking standardized tests back in the day. Some tests were easier than others but I knew that if I did not study, one of two things could happen: (1) I could get lucky and answer enough of the questions correctly to pass or (2) I could possibly fail.

In a way, the general election is a final exam. Whether one “passes” the exam or not depends on whether s/he votes according to his or her principles. In order to increase your chances of voting according to your principles, you must study.

I am disgusted with the Republican and Democrat parties. When going over my ballot, my first instinct was to vote Libertarian in every race with a Libertarian candidate. I had studied all of the ballot measures and was satisfied that I could make intelligent choices there, but I hadn’t researched the candidates below the presidential level*. In the U.S. House race, I found three choices: the incumbent Diana DeGette (D), George Lilly (R), and Martin Buchanan (L). I knew that DeGette supported the bailout so she was never an option. Buchanan is a Libertarian and his positions he posted on his website are indeed Libertarian.

So why not just support the Libertarian you ask?

Regardless of how much I despise the Republican and Democrat parties, I make an effort to learn about the individual candidates and their positions before making a choice. Much to my delight and surprise, I found the Republican, George Lilly to be a “Ron Paul Republican.” I knew that there were such individuals running in this election but I never thought I would have had an opportunity to vote for one!

Now, I know that an endorsement from Ron Paul is not necessarily all it’s cracked up to be but take a look at Lilly’s positions posted on his website:

Please join me in RESTORING the Constitution, and together, let’s:

1. RESTORE the economy — free up business from onerous outdated regulations.

2. RESTORE proper use of the military (136 nations have U.S. military presence.)

3. RESTORE integrity to the treaty process to protect America’s interests first.

4. RESTORE individual privacy and say “no” to the Real I.D. Act.

5. RESTORE high quality medical care at affordable prices.

6. RESTORE checks & balances — the executive branch has gotten too powerful.

7. RESTORE integrity in the campaign financing process.

8. RESTORE integrity to the dollar — re-institute the gold standard. Watch this YouTube video!

9. RESTORE integrity to the tax system — rein in the I.R.S.

10. RESTORE and retain rights to unregulated health supplements & the Internet.

The following will be my top priorities in Congress:

1. Create a level playing field for Americans who receive the benefit of Workmen’s Compensation, mandatory health insurance, retirement benefits, taxes, OSHA, EPA etc. and calculate that into the cost of the products manufactured so that any foreign country not providing the same benefits to their employees would have to pay a tariff on their imported products to equal that amount.

2. Support a bill that calls for a single subject on all spending bills.

3. Oppose unconstitutional spending in the form of corporate subsidies.

4. Oppose unconstitutional spending in the area of education so that “No (every) Child Left Behind” is abolished.

5. Hold the Federal Reserve to account for their corruption of the dollar which has driven up the price of everything way beyond what any normal person can even consider affording!

While I have some concern about his #1 priority being a little on the protectionist side, I certainly applaud his willingness to stand up for the Constitution and against big government**. He’s not purely libertarian but in my estimation, he’s at least as libertarian as Ron Paul.

Having learned about George Lilly’s positions, most of which I agree with, I am very glad I had taken the time to make an informed choice. Now my choice was between the Ron Paul Republican and the Libertarian. Who should I choose?

Most things being equal, I decided to support Lilly. As a practical matter, the Republican Lilly would have a much better chance of unseating DeGette than the Libertarian Buchanan. I have not seen any polls regarding the District 1 race, but I suspect that in a district which seems to worship the ground Barack Obama walks on, DeGette will be difficult if not impossible to beat. If most of the libertarian vote goes to Buchanan, we’ll almost certainly re-elect a tax and spend Democrat to another term.

This is why I urge everyone to study each race before casting a vote***. Put emotions aside and “think the vote.” Though the electorate as a whole may fail the exam, we should each make the effort to pass individually.
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