Free Markets, Free People
It is becoming clearer and clearer that Barack Obama has no real intention of tackling the government spending programs that pose the greatest risk to our future financial security. And, if he has his way, he’ll certainly agree to some cuts in spending, to at least give himself some political cover and the ability to claim he’s engaged. But if there are going to be any spending cuts, I think we all know where they’ll be if he gets his way:
“I think what’s absolutely true is that core commitments that we make to the most vulnerable have to be maintained,” [President Barack] Obama said. “A lot of the spending cuts that we’re making should be around areas like defense spending as opposed to food stamps.”
That’s not the first time recently he’s voiced that theme:
During his first-ever Twitter town hall meeting Wednesday, Obama said the Defense budget is so large that even modest cuts to it would free up dollars for other federal programs.
So it isn’t conjecture to say that his target is defense and his plan is to spend what is ‘saved’, not pay down the debt. I also think it is quite clear that he plans to drastically reduce defense spending in a time we’re involved in three wars (how’s that “weeks, not months” war going? 5 months, counting and no end in sight), and defense commitments globally.
Of course you can always rely on the left to support such an idea. Ezra Klein tries to be “objective” about it, but it is clear what the intent of his “the US military in two charts” post is about at the Washington Post. Klein has taken the charts from The Economist. Let’s take a look. Chart one shows military spending as a percentage of all military spending in the world:
Another way to break it down is US 43%, rest of the world 57%. Or there’s a whole lot of military spending going on in the world, and we do a lot of it.
But we’ve known that for decades. What the chart doesn’t tell you, for instance, is how much China’s spending has increased. China’s defense budget for the past few years has seen double digit jumps, with the only year in single digits being 2010 when it only increased the budget by 7.5%. This year, it’s back in double digits at 12.7%. So that wedge you see in this static chart is a rapidly growing wedge. As China’s economy has heated up over the years, so has China’s military spending.
Russia too is increasing its spending on defense. It plans on spending $650 billion on its armed forces over the next 10 years.
France, on the other hand, has been cutting its level of military spending consistently over the years since 1988. But a country that isn’t cutting its spending and which now spends more of its GDP on the military than does France, is Iran.
The point, of course, is that while it is evident that we spend an inordinately larger amount than any other country on defense, we’ve done that because we’ve assumed an international role that others can’t fill or we don’t want them to fill.
And that’s an important point. One reason that we’ve generally seen a peaceful 50 or so years (with most wars being of the regional, not world wide, type) is because we’ve been the country which has shouldered the burden of keeping the peace. Peace through strength.
Obviously there is certainly an argument that can be made that we shouldn’t have to shoulder that burden and it’s time we gave it up. But as soon as you say something like that, you have to ask, “but who will fill the role”?
Certainly not the Third World Debating society known as the UN. They’re inept, corrupt and incompetent. And certainly not NATO – as Libya has proven, they can’t get out of their own way.
So who keeps Russia in its place and stands up to China as that country flexes its newly developed muscle? What about Iran? Or North Korea?
That’s the problem with being about the only country standing of any size after a world war.
So we have to ask ourselves, is it in our best interest to back out of our pretty dominant role and cut back drastically in our spending in that area? If we answer yes, we have to ask who we trust to pick up that slack. I know my answer to that – no one. But rest assured that power vacuum will indeed be filled. A dilemma for sure.
We lead the world in spending but do not have the largest military – not by a long shot. In fact, our entire military is just a bit smaller than the Chinese Army alone. Looking at that, and considering the spending chart, what would it tell you?
It would tell me we spend the majority of our money on technology. It costs money – and a lot of it – to maintain our level of superiority. We spend it on things like 5th generation fighters, state-of-the-art naval vessels, and the like. Programs that are designed not only to give us the technological edge on the battlefield, but also to deter would-be enemies from even trying, given their inability to match our capabilities. It is obviously an intangible – we can’t really measure how much this has saved us from brutal and even more costly wars – but with the budget battles and the fiscal crisis, we’re in a position where we certainly have to clearly state our priorities. Obama has stated his.
Is there room in our defense spending to make some cuts. Yes, of course there is.
But let’s be clear, to quote Obama. Defense spending is 4.7% of GDP and it is approximately 20% of the federal budget. But it is time for a third chart:
Entitlements (i.e. “mandatory spending”) total 56% of our budget – and growing. And we’ve so overspent that we’re spending 6% on interest alone. So 62% of the budget – as designed by those brilliant legislators we’ve elected decade after decade – is untouchable by law. That leaves 39% that these yahoos want to “balance the budget” on. The elephant in the room is ignored to go after the dog. And only part of the dog. We have a president who prefers the other end of the dog to the part that has teeth.
All of that to get to this question – Obama talks about core commitments in his first statement above: Is it a core commitment of the government of the United States to protect and defend the citizens of the country as outlined in the Constitution of the United States, or is it a core commitment to take other people’s money and redistribute it?
Because that’s the choice we’re talking about here. Make the commitment to national security and, within reason, the cost that entails, or, as Barack Obama seems comfortable with doing, throw it under the bus in favor of redistribution of income instead. While serving what he calls the “most vulnerable” he’ll make us all vulnerable.
More on this subject later, but that’s a pretty good start to the discussion.
I’m always somewhat naively amazed by stories like this (Google cache version – original link has been pulled) because I have to wonder how these guys think they can get away with claims like this. The first thing that obviously catches your eye are the inordinate number of ARCOMs and AAMs the man claims (54?). He claims he was a Ranger and claims “six Overseas Service ribbons for combat” but no CIB (all this apparently dutifully written up without question by the “reporter”). And of course the award from the “emperor of Saudi Arabia” along with “several dozen others”. Several dozen, mind you:
Jeff "Rock" Harris refuses to display his medals and honors in his Kinston home.
He tries to keep the awards – three Purple Hearts, two Silver Stars, a Bronze Star, 23 Army Commendation Medals, 31 Army Achievement Medals, six Overseas Service ribbons for combat, an award from the emperor of Saudi Arabia, along with several dozen others, he acquired during his time as a U.S. Army Ranger – packed away. However, those around him refuse to let him forget how important his time in the military was.
Yeah, I can understand why he refuses to display them (someone wondered what the gross poundage of the oak leaf clusters would be). Then this:
"I have 316 confirmed kills as a sniper, and that’s only in that last three years I was in the Army," Harris said. "Every one of those horrifies me regularly because they were somebody’s children, somebody’s husband or father."
He still feels conflicted about what he had to do, but in the end, he knew it was his duty as a sworn soldier.
"They’re bad people and they’ve done bad things, but who am I to take that away from them?" he asked. "But it was my job to do. Lives were safer because of that – but it’s never easy."
Gee, really? 316 confirmed kills, eh? Funny, but the 4 most storied snipers in our recent history, the top four snipers, only had a little over 400 confirmed kills between them. So here we have super-sniper who apparently absolutely no one knows about and he killed almost 3 times the confirmed number of our most lethal sniper, Adelbert Waldron (109 confirmed) had in VN. In fact he so badly outshot Chuck Mawinny (103 confirmed -VN), Eric England (98 confirmed-VN) and Carlos Hathcock (93 confirmed-VN) that he ought to be a legend in the SpecOps community.
Except apparently no one there has ever heard of him.
Finally there is this bit of “corroboration” which is just as puzzling:
James Murphy served in the Army as a Ranger with Harris and said he wouldn’t be alive if not for Harris’ heroic actions. Murphy recalled after he and another soldier were hit by a rocket-propelled grenade in Mogadishu, Harris ran to their position and carried both of them a half-mile away "not knowing if we were alive or not." He drove them to safety in a burning vehicle and returned to continue to fight.
"If you know him, you are privileged," Murphy said. "If you served with him, you were in the presence of a true American patriot. If he is your friend, you should be honored. He gives hope to humanity that there are still decent, amazing people all around you."
Mmmm … half-mile. Didn’t know if they were alive or dead (really?). Drove them to safety in a burning vehicle. Huh … so that relief taskforce in Mogadishu wasn’t really necessary – all they had to do was follow super-sniper out … in his burning vehicle. Hey, at least it would be easy to follow.
Of course this should all be easy to check out – as I recall, it was B Co., 3rd Bat, 75th Ranger RGT that was at Mogadishu. This nonsense has already caught the attention of the US Army Ranger Association (that’s where I found out about it). Their quick internal checks came up empty on the guy and Murphy.
Two questions – how does a person think such a story will pass undetected and unchallenged? The irony is this piece was in the Fayetteville Observer. Yeah, that’s right, the newspaper of the town in which Ft. Bragg, NC is located. Yeah, no one there is going to notice, are they?
Which brings me to the second question – how does something like this get through the editorial process without being heavily questioned, especially in a paper that should have a staff thoroughly educated in the military given their proximity and the huge part the base plays in the life of the town? Whatever happened to fact checking? What ever happened to knowing enough about your subject that you’re not as easily gulled as these folks appear to have been?
Anyway, something tells me this isn’t going to turn out well for “Rock”.
John Gonsalves, who runs one of the most awesome charities I know of, Homes for Our Troops, has a problem. And its one that will make your blood boil.
Gonsalves and his folks build specially built homes for disabled war veterans who have special needs. Such as SFC Sean Gittens.
Army SFC Sean Gittens was left paralyzed and unable to speak or communicate as a result of a battle related traumatic brain injury. Deployed for the third time in his career, SFC Gittens suffered multiple concussive traumas throughout his year-long deployment to Iraq from April 2007-April 2008. Upon returning home, suffering from headaches and other head-injury related symptoms, SFC Gittens suffered an aneurism in his brain and a subsequent stroke which left him with paralyzed and non-communicative. Treated at multiple hospitals, both military and civilian, SFC Gittens now receives care from trained medical personnel in his home.
Homes for Our Troops identified a place for the home they wanted to build SFC Gittens and his family and went to work getting buying the property and getting the necessary approvals.
Building on the 2700 square foot home was to begin this Friday. Homes for Our Troops purchased the land in December and preparations for building the home have been ongoing over the past month. These homes are a reflection of the gratitude of the community and are given mortgage free to the veterans once complete.
Homes for Our Troops received building permits for the project and has been working closely with the Knob Hill Board of Directors, making multiple changes to the plans for the home as requested. The written approval came from Knob Hill BOD President Rick Trump on June 2nd.
Everything is cool, no?
Late last week, a lawyer for the HOA served the contractors on site with a cease and desist letter to stop the preparation of the build site. Facing strong opposition from the Property Owners Association, the Knob Hill Board of Directors and the Property Owners Association met again on June 20th, just four days before the planned kickoff of the home build. Homes for Our Troops was then notified that the house plans do not meet the Knob Hill standards and the original approval was thus rescinded. Homes for Our Troops has now been told that it must begin anew the entire approval process and that the house needs to be at least 3400 square feet and multi-level to even be considered.
"Shockingly, it appears that the Knob Hill community has decided it does not want to welcome SFC Gittens and his family, as we were previously told," said Homes for Our Troops Founder John Gonsalves. "Despite our working closely with the Knob Hill Property Owners Association over the past four months, we find ourselves in an untenable situation. We cannot afford to add 700 square feet to the house, particularly under our special adaptive plans. And our experience in building over 100 homes dictates that severely injured veterans need a specially adapted single level home. Frankly, this late action begun by the Knob Hill Property Owners means we must suspend working on the home. The Knob Hill Property Owners Association has now assured that SFC Gittens and his family will not be able to have the home they so desperately need. We have done everything in our power to try to resolve this situation, but it appears that the community is not willing to accept this home, and SFC Gittens and his family into the community."
According to Gonsalves, the Knob Hill neighborhood covenants state that the minimum size for a house in the subdivision is 2,700 sq ft (see Fox News clip). He also points out that there are many 2,700 square foot homes in that subdivision. And, as you might imagine, given that’s the minimum size the covenants allow, that is the size of the proposed Gittens home. In other words, the Knob Hill Property Owners Association (Evans, GA) are not following their own covenants. Gonsalves was told the home was “too small” and “didn’t fit in” to the surrounding neighborhood (with some homes as large as 5,000 sq. ft).
I’m sympathetic to property owners rights 99% of the time. But this is that 1% where I’m totally against them. And that’s because they’re attempting to void their own covenants and not abide by them. Remember, these are their PUBLISHED covenants. These are the minimum standards they AGREED too when they built their homes in that subdivision. It is the document they’d certainly use to legally enforce the standards therein if it was necessary. But now they simply want to ignore the document and impose arbitrary new standards that simply don’t exist other than in their demands.
I think the Knob Hill Property Owners Association needs to rethink this entire thing, don’t you? If you’d like to share your opinion concerning their denial of a disabled vet’s opportunity to live in a home that meets all the standards of their covenants you may want to drop them a line.
Please be polite and respectful, but feel free to make your feelings clear about their actions. Also remember that, per Homes for Our Troops, not all the people living in that subdivision agree with the board’s decision. The email address for the board is - firstname.lastname@example.org
This is not how America should treat its disabled vets.
UPDATE: Just in (1:20 pm).
The president of the Knob Hill Property Owner’s Association says plans are moving forward for the construction of a home for Sgt. First Class Sean Gittens.
The homeowners association and Homes For Our Troops have been talking. A list of items Knob Hill requires is being provided to Homes For Our Troops.
Both organizations said they hope to make a joint announcement on Monday, June 27, in regards to moving forward with the plans.
Keep the pressure on, but please, be polite and respectful.
Gurkhas are incredible soldiers who live, eat, breath and sleep an amazing tradition associated with the British Army. From the tiny country of Nepal, these soldiers are, many times, legacy soldiers – 3rd or 4th generation serving in the 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles. And they hold themselves to the highest standards and traditions imaginable. So when you read that one of them did something like this, well, if you know their history, you’re still in awe, but you’re not that surprised. This is another brilliant and valorous chapter in their storied history.
The fight occurred at a remote checkpoint. The story is amazing:
‘At that time I wasn’t worried, there wasn’t any choice but to fight. The Taliban were all around the checkpoint, I was alone.
‘I had so many of them around me that I thought I was definitely going to die so I thought I’d kill as many of them as I could before they killed me.
Statement like that are stunning in their simple logic and the resolve they inspire. OK, odds are I’m going to die – so I’m going to make that noteworthy. A lot of times it is denial of reality (even if it doesn’t end up working out that way) that get people killed. Cpl Pun looked at the situation realistically, calculated the odds, made what I’d call the proper assessment and that drove his action. And it is that action which helped him beat the odds. Also note that he was resigned to being killed. No quitting, no surrender, no quarter asked and, as you’ll see, none given:
Cpl Pun, an acting sergeant during his Afghan deployment, was on sentry duty at the time of the attack when he heard a clinking noise outside the small base.
At first he thought it might be a donkey or a cow, but when he went to investigate he found two insurgents digging a trench to lay an improvised explosive device (IED) at the checkpoint’s front gate.
He realised that he was completely surrounded and that the Taliban were about to launch a well-planned attempt to overrun the compound.
The enemy opened fire from all sides, destroying the sentry position where the soldier had been on duty minutes before.
Defending the base from the roof, the Gurkha remained under continuous attack from rocket-propelled grenades and AK47s for more than a quarter of an hour.
Most of the militants were about 50ft away from him, but at one point he turned around to see a ‘huge’ Taliban fighter looming over him.
The soldier picked up his machine gun and fired a long burst at the man until he fell off the roof.
When another insurgent tried to climb up to his position, the Gurkha attempted to shoot him with his SA80 rifle. But it did not work, either because it had jammed or because the magazine was empty.
He first grabbed a sandbag but it had not been tied up and the contents fell to the floor.
Then he seized the metal tripod of his machine gun and threw it at the approaching Taliban militant, shouting in Nepali ‘Marchu talai’ (‘I will kill you’) and knocking him down.
Two insurgents were still attacking by the time the heroic Gurkha had used up all his ammunition, but he set off a Claymore mine to repel them.
In all he killed 30. When relief arrived, he was unwounded:
In total he fired off 250 general purpose machine gun rounds, 180 SA80 rounds, six phosphorous grenades, six normal grenades, five underslung grenade launcher rounds and one Claymore mine.
More importantly, he was still in control of the checkpoint and the Taliban had retreated. He was also out of ammunition.
As for tradition and legacy:
The only weapon he did not use was the traditional Kukri knife carried by Gurkhas because he did not have his with him at the time.
The married soldier, whose father and grandfather were also Gurkhas, is originally from the village of Bima in western Nepal but now lives in Ashford, Kent.
Finally, from his Conspicuous Gallantry Cross citation (just under the Victoria Cross and equal to our Distinguished Service Cross or Navy Cross):
‘Pun could never know how many enemies were attempting to overcome his position, but he sought them out from all angles despite the danger, consistently moving towards them to reach the best position of attack.’
He attacked. He didn’t defend. He attacked.
Both amazing and awe inspiring.
And mission creep continues apace because, as most military experts would have told you, you can’t change a government with a “no-fly zone” and only airpower.
French and British officials said this week that they were sending more than a dozen attack helicopters to allow for more precise ground attacks, particularly around Misurata, where loyalist forces continue to fire mortars and artillery despite rebel gains and heavy air attacks.
With no troops on the ground, NATO planners and pilots acknowledge that they often cannot pinpoint the shifting battle lines in cities like Misurata. “The front lines are more scattered,” said Col. L. S. Kjoeller, who commands four Danish F-16s flying eight daily strike missions from Sigonella air base in Sicily.
Unsaid in those two paragraphs, but reported elsewhere, are that groups of special operations types will be inserted to do targeting for the helicopter attack assets. Yes, “boots on the ground”.
And why is this supposed war of days taking months if not longer? Well, they obviously underestimated their foe and overestimated their capabilities. Also, they planned for one mission and tried to execute another (no-fly and regime change) and don’t have the assets necessary to accomplish that real mission). We’re now seeing them begin to understand that they may have bitten off more than they can chew – at least as they’re presently arrayed.
Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the overall commander of NATO forces in the Mediterranean, said from his office in Naples that the allied mission has largely achieved its goal of protecting civilians, especially in eastern Libya, and has seriously damaged the Libyan military.
“Qaddafi will never be able to turn a large army on his people again, because it’s gone,” said Admiral Locklear, noting that the air campaign has wiped out more than half of Libya’s ammunition stockpiles and cut off most supply lines to forces in the field.
But the admiral acknowledged Colonel Qaddafi’s resiliency, and said that without sustained political and economic pressure as well, “the military piece will take a very long time.”
Not really – if its mission is to establish and enforce a no-fly zone as we were told in the beginning. And as is obvious, Adm. Locklear certainly isn’t talking days or weeks anymore. He’s talking months and possibly longer. Meanwhile, British papers are reporting the war of “days not weeks”, that their present visiting guest talked them into, is in the $1 billion to 1.5 billion pound range – a cost the debt ridden country can ill afford. Makes you wonder how much longer they’re willing to wage it (even as they escalate their presence with attack helicopters).
Nice mess you’ve got there Mr. Obama. So much for being against “dumb wars”, huh?
Richard Cohen wrote a nasty little piece the other day in which he essentially declared American exceptionalism a myth. There is no such thing, according to Mr. Cohen. We’re all really a bunch of dummies living in a dysfunctional society, because, you know, we were mean to the American Indians once upon a time and we had slaves, or something. Oh, and too much religion.
Michael Moore, on the other hand, finds us to be just a bunch of hypocrites and blathers on about how killing Osama (even though Moore is obviously pleased he’s dead) was a forfeiture of our principles (something Ron Paul apparently agrees with Moore about).
"The Nazis killed tens of MILLIONS. They got a trial. Why? Because we’re not like them. We’re Americans. We roll different."
As I’ll explain later, Moore hasn’t a clue of what he’s talking about – nor does Cohen.
Interestingly, Moore makes this point when talking about the killing:
I know a number of Navy SEALs. In fact (and this is something I don’t like to talk about publicly, for all the obvious reasons), I hire only ex-SEALs and ex-Special Forces guys to handle my own security (I’ll let you pause a moment to appreciate that irony). These SEALs are trained to follow orders. I don’t know what their orders were that night in Abbottabad, but it certainly looks like a job (and this is backed up in a piece in the Atlantic) where they were told to not bring bin Laden back alive. The SEALs are pros at what they do and they instantly took out every adult male (every potential threat) within a few minutes – but they also took care to not harm a single one of the nine children who were present. Pretty amazing. This wasn’t some Rambo-style operation where they just went in guns blazing, spraying bullets. They acted swiftly and with expert precision. I’m telling you, these guys are so smart and so lethal, they could take you out with a piece of dental floss. (And in fact, one of my ex-SEAL guys showed me how to do that one night. Whoa.)
The raid, despite Moore’s blathering and Cohen’s nonsense actually points out why Americans are exceptional. Here’s what CBS News had to say about the details of the raid:
The SEALs first saw bin Laden when he came out on the third floor landing. They fired, but missed. He retreated to his bedroom, and the first SEAL through the door grabbed bin Laden’s daughters and pulled them aside.
When the second SEAL entered, bin Laden’s wife rushed forward at him — or perhaps was pushed by bin Laden. The SEAL shoved her aside and shot bin Laden in the chest. A third seal shot him in the head.
Read that very carefully. Very slowly.
“The first SEAL through the door” did what?
Risked his life to protect the daughters of a mass murderer we’re at war with plotting to kill even more Americans in the future.
And the second SEAL? He didn’t spray and pray, he shoved aside a woman, saving her life, and went precisely after the target.
I don’t dispute Moore’s point about what the SEALs were told to do. I concluded that immediately (and I talk about that on our latest podcast). Had they been told to capture him, he’d right now be cooling his heels in an “undisclosed location” and not enjoying his vacation at all.
Moore thinks we let our principles down when we killed him. I can only say that comes from a very warped idea of what our principles are. Justice isn’t a process – it is a result.
Moore puts this out there as an example of what we should have done:
Hideki Tojo killed my uncle and millions of Chinese, Koreans, Filipinos and a hundred thousand other Americans. He was the head of Japan, the Emperor’s henchman, the man who was the architect of Pearl Harbor. When the American soldiers went to arrest him, he tried to commit suicide by shooting himself in the chest. The soldiers immediately worked on stopping his bleeding and rushed him to an army hospital where he was saved by our army doctors. He then had his day in court. It was a powerful exercise for the world to see. And on December 23, 1948, after he was found guilty, we hanged him.
When he was captured, did anyone say “justice has been served?” Nope, that happened when, after his show trial (anyone – was Tojo going to be exonerated or left to live?) -actually, a military tribunal -, he was hanged.
Then and only then was the the term “justice has been served” used. Moore concludes:
A killer of millions was forced to stand trial. A killer of 4,000 (counting the African embassies and USS Cole bombings) got double-tapped in his pajamas. Assuming it was possible to take him alive, I think his victims, the future, and the restoration of the American Way deserved better. That’s all I’m saying.
The resulting justice was the same – both died. However, here is the key point: One after a show trial and AFTER a war had ended (same with Nuremberg), the other at the hands of his enemies DURING a war which he started and was still fighting. If you can’t figure out the difference in those situations, then you’re not the sharpest knife in the drawer. That’s the part Moore and his ilk always forget.
As for American exceptionalism – well you saw a small example of it in the raid demonstrated by that first SEAL in the room. Our armed forces demonstrate that exceptionalism daily as they fight the Taliban and terrorists. It comes from the culture in which they were raised.
I’m reminded of the story Oliver North likes to tell about the young Navy Corpsman in the battle of Baghdad:
By God, if that’s not "exceptionalism" I don’t know what the hell is.
One of the “Rules for Radicals” that Saul Alinsky touted was:
"Make the enemy live up to its own book of rules.”
In a piece published by the New York Times, the “bin Laden family” condemns the attack on their father and demands that there be a reckoning:
If OBL has been killed in that operation as President of United States has claimed then we are just in questioning as per media reports that why an unarmed man was not arrested and tried in a court of law so that truth is revealed to the people of the world. If he has been summarily executed then, we question the propriety of such assassination where not only international law has been blatantly violated but USA has set a very different example whereby right to have a fair trial, and presumption of innocence until proven guilty by a court of law has been sacrificed on which western society is built and is standing when a trial of OBL was possible for any wrongdoing as that of Iraqi President Sadam Hussein and Serbian President Slobodan Miloševic’. We maintain that arbitrary killing is not a solution to political problems and crime’s adjudication as Justice must be seen to be done.
They’re also threatening to take the case to the International Criminal Court which would be an interesting turn of events.
The hidden premise, of course, is OBL was a criminal, not an unlawful combatant. The UN is also pushing that premise through its odious "Human Rights Council":
The United Nations (UN) affiliated human rights attorneys say the United States should release more details on the death of Osama Bin Laden during a military raid in Pakistan.They say in the statement that
“actions taken by States in combating terrorism, especially in high profile cases, set precedents for the way in which the right to life will be treated in future instances.”
The statement, issued jointly by law professors Christof Heyns of South Africa’s University of Pretoria and Martin Scheinin of European University Institute in Florence, Italy, says that the “use of deadly force may be permissible” in certain circumstances “as a measure of last resort.” But they say that "the norm should be that terrorists be dealt with as criminals, through legal processes of arrest, trial and judicially decided punishment.” These guidelines, the men say, are “international standards on the use of force. [emphasis mine]
The death of bin Laden is being described in some quarters as an “extrajudicial killing”. In fact, bin Laden was always considered to be an “unlawful combatant” by us and as such had no such protections. In warfare, the targeted killing of an enemy, in this case unlawful combatant, is quite legal.
So what you are seeing here are competing premises, one saying terrorism is simply a criminal act and therefore terrorists must be treated as common criminals would be treated as well as afforded various rights because of that. The other says these are enemies who have declared war on the US, committed numerous acts of war and, in accordance with the Geneva Conventions, are “unlawful combatants” and enemies whose targeted killing is an accepted practice of warfare.
Lawfare vs. warfare.
I think we’ve been pretty clear since the beginning, with the AUMF (which the Obama administration ironically used as the legal basis for its raid into Pakistan), that we’re at war (and yes, I also accept the AUMF as a declaration of war).
Second guessing by all the world’s hand wringers should simply be ignored. This isn’t a criminal matter. It is a military matter and it was executed as such. The lesson it teaches other terrorists who’ve declared war on “the Great Satan” is we are relentless and remorseless. Those are two good messages to send.
As for the bin Laden family – sorry about dear old dad. Go float a wreath.
One thing about the Dems when they want to try to sell something they are very good at syncing the talking points.
In an attempt to make the Jr. Chipmunk sitting in the small chair in the so-called “iconic” photo seem more than he is, we have our word of the day as spread by the usual suspects. Toby Harnden caught the attempt. First John Brennan (wow, should that guy be somewhere else saying “would you like fries with that”, or what?) in the White House briefing room:
When President Obama was faced with the opportunity to act upon this, the president had to evaluate the strength of that information and then made what I believe was one of the most gutsiest calls of any president in recent memory.
Yup. Definitely more gutsy than ordering the surge in Iraq in the face of a political firestorm. Gutsy.
Then the French looking guy who I believe claims to have served in Viet Nam, John Kerry, was next up:
This was a gutsy decision by the president. A lot of things could have gone wrong.
No kidding – that chair could have turned over and dumped him in the floor. Gutsy.
DiFi takes a run at it:
It was a very gutsy decision made by the president. I mean, he could have sent some Hellfire missiles in there and destroyed everybody and everything.
Well, there you go – Much gutsier to risk the lives of our troops than to risk the lives of others, no? Gutsy.
All of those risks were debated. All of them were thoroughly explored. And in the end, I think that’s why the president made a very gutsy decision by deciding that for all of those risks, we had to do this.
Because, you know, he only ran on getting Osama, promised he’d go anywhere he had to to do so and, well, somehow doing that was “gutsy” on his part – especially since he really didn’t have to do any of that but could send the SEALs in instead. Then he took the small chair to the side and let it roll. Gutsy.
Denis McDonagh on CNN:
You know, the president had an opportunity, on a very granular basis, to work with those guys every day, particularly the leaders of the bin Laden team, two very impressive guys. And the president came away very impressed. And it was their information that allowed him to make this gutsy call.
Or, said another way, they presented so much hard evidence that Obama had no choice but to make the call. Gutsy.
Finally, the last to be passed the knee pads, and apparently one who wanted to ensure her bit of praise was the best was former Ambassador to Pakistan and Middle East Institute president Wendy Chamberlain:
But he made that decision to go without telling Pakistan and that took some real courage, as much courage as our Navy SEALs did in pulling off a near flawless operation.
Yessiree Bob – not telling Pakistan was just as gutsy as flying into a foreign land, at night, nap of the earth, hoping no one sees your helicopter and blows it out of the sky. Then fast roping into a compound of hostiles, number unknown, engaging in a firefight and clearing it. Then exfiltrating. Yup, not telling Pakistan is just like that.
You’re right, Chamberlain forgot to use the buzz word of the day but let’s be honest she was going for a 3-point shot from half-court here and “gutsy” just wasn’t enough. Tying Obama’s decision to the courage of the SEALs?
Sometimes something is written which has you shaking your head in both wonder and disgust as you read it. Michael Hirsh manages that in his National Journal article entitled “Obama’s War” where he states:
Ever so gingerly, even as they praised President Obama’s success against Osama bin Laden, some former senior Bush administration officials have sought to take a little credit for the mission themselves. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, interviewed by MSNBC this week, even called the operation “a good story for continuity across two presidencies.”
That assessment couldn’t be further from the truth.
In fact, in a convoluted way, he’s right – the major kudos should go to the Bush administration.
Look, you expect a little cheerleading concerning the killing of Osama because of the desperate desire by the left to make Obama into something he’s simply not – the steely eyed Commander-in-Chief solely responsible for the result of the bin Laden raid.
But any impartial observer who knows a thing or two about how taking down someone like OBL occurs simply knows that’s not the case.
Given, Osama bin Laden was killed on Obama’s watch. He gave the order. Good for him, and thank you for making the decision. But let’s be real – it wasn’t much of a decision to make. This was America’s most wanted – heck, he was the West’s most wanted. How do you not make that decision?
But Hirsh, goes off into history revision-land in an attempt to give all the credit to Obama and none to Bush. He seems to understand that making the decision really isn’t that special so he attempts to rewrite recent history in such a way that he can, one assumes, credibly make the claim that this was all Obama. He, among a long line of journalists who may know politics, but have little knowledge of intelligence operations, makes a hash of his attempt. He attempts to convince us the only thing Obama didn’t inherit from Bush was anything to do with taking out bin Laden.
Hirsh pitches this:
From his first great public moment when, as a state senator, he called Iraq a “dumb war,” Obama indicated that he thought that George W. Bush had badly misconceived the challenge of 9/11. And very quickly upon taking office as president, Obama reoriented the war back to where, in the view of many experts, it always belonged. He discarded the idea of a “global war on terror” that conflated all terror threats from al-Qaida to Hamas to Hezbollah. Obama replaced it with a covert, laserlike focus on al-Qaida and its spawn.
This reorientation was part of Obama’s reset of America’s relations with the world. Bush, having gradually expanded his definition of the war to include all Islamic “extremists,” had condemned the United States to a kind of permanent war, one that Americans had to fight all but alone because no one else agreed on such a broadly defined enemy. (Hezbollah and Hamas, for example, arguably had legitimate political aims that al-Qaida did not, which is one reason they distanced themselves from bin Laden.) In Obama’s view, only by focusing narrowly on true transnational terrorism, and winning back all of the natural allies that the United States had lost over the previous decade, could he achieve America’s goal of uniting the world around the goal of extinguishing al-Qaida.
Very quickly after taking the presidency he “reoriented the war back to where … it always belonged?”
Nonsense. In Iraq – the”dumb” war – Obama followed the Bush plan to the letter, not changing a thing. Nothing. It still continues down the Bush timeline.
In Afghanistan, where Obama said we should be fighting, he actually surged conventional troops, and not to hunt al-Qaeda. Instead the focus of the surge were the Taliban. Again, the same focus the Bush administration had and one upon which Obama doubled down. So much for that laserlike focus on al-Qaeda.
And unfortunately for Hirsh’s narrative, the focus on al-Qaeda was already in place and functioning when Obama took office. We immediately learned, upon hearing of bin Laden’s death, that the beginning threads of intelligence came from interrogations in secret CIA prisons 4 years ago. Prisons which no longer exist under Obama, nor would have existed had he been president on 9/11. Where was Mr. Obama 4 years ago?
We also know that during the Bush administration, our intelligence community was put through a major overhaul that has yielded much better, fresher and actionable intelligence – all of which Obama “inherited.” Drone strikes generated by fresh actionable intelligence didn’t start on Mr. Obama’s watch.
Finally, a robust Special Operations Force command was created by, oh my, the “dark knight” – Donald Rumsfeld.
At the time of the Sept. 11 attacks, special operations – Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets and Delta Force, and Air Force AC-130 gunships – were generally neglected. The previous Clinton administration had not called on them to go after bin Laden or his network.
All that changed under Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld: Green Berets led the initial invasion of Afghanistan. Joint Special Operations Command enlarged and expanded its manhunting skills worldwide. The Marine Corps created its first special forces command.
“We increased the size of special operations forces,” said former Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and former chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “We obviously increased their funding for new technical capabilities.”
One key move was to make Special Operations Command a “supported” command, not just one that did the bidding of other commands, but could plan and execute battles.
“Rumsfeld elevated special operations to where they had field command empowerment, which is something they never had before,” Mr. Hunter said. “We increased generally across the board the size and the capability of special operation commands. … We made them more robust than they were.”
Shocking, I know, but then the media cheerleaders have never been particularly concerned with facts and history when they have a narrative to peddle.
It was Bush and Rumsfeld who built the organization that eventually got bin Laden:
President George W. Bush’s war on terrorism translated into robust spending on what are affectionately called “snake eaters.”
Special Operations Command’s budget grew from $2.3 billion in 2001 to nearly $10 billion today. Manpower expanded from 45,500 to 61,500.
“It’s an order of magnitude better,” said Adm. Worthington. “The training these guys are getting, it’s 10 times what we were getting when I went through. They’re getting training right now that makes them the best in the world.”
And it’s first success in getting a high profile al-Qaeda member didn’t come last Sunday. It came in 2006, something I’m sure Mr. Hirsh would find an inconvenient fact:
In Iraq and Afghanistan, the Joint Special Operations Command has teamed with aviation units, CIA officers and agents of the eavesdropping National Security Agency to form potent manhunting groups.
This fusion first gained wide public notice in 2006, when the command, then led by Army Lt. Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, hunted down Abu Musab Zarqawi, a particularly deadly al Qaeda terrorist in Iraq.
That is the “gun” Mr. Obama inherited from Mr. Bush. And it had been fired a number of times successfully well before Mr. Obama ever darkened the entrance to the Oval Office.
Oh, and Mr. Hirsh? Even the Obama White House isn’t buying your claptrap theory:
An Obama White House official told reporters that killing bin Laden was the result of years of work.
“This remarkable achievement could not have happened without persistent effort and careful planning over many years,” the official said. “Our national security professionals did a superb job.”
Yes, Mr. Hirsh, Obama got Osama – but he pulled the trigger of the gun built and loaded by the Bush administration, and whether you like it or not, there’s simply no question about that.
One of the most enduring themes of the Viet Nam era was that of the badly damaged Vietnam vet who came home and created mayhem – all because of his experiences and training. It was a myth that died hard only because the war was so unpopular and so many people wanted to believe it.
BG Burkett in his book Stolen Valor, completely takes all the underlying premises that supported that myth apart with facts and statistics. I don’t have time to relate them all but I cannot recommend that book highly enough.
The case against American soldiers accused of murdering Afghan civilians turns on the idea of a rogue unit. But what if the killings are a symptom of a deeper problem?
Instead of telling the story of the now infamous “kill squad” from the 5th Stryker Brigade out of Ft. Lewis WA, and the reasons for their actions and activities, Mogelson does what many hacks do and tries to conflate what happened in a single platoon out in the middle of nowhere in Afghanistan with a problem that infects the entire military.
Granted – no, stipulated – war is hell, it changes people, it is something which anyone who has ever experienced it up close and personal would never wish on another person. And yes, there are stresses that come from multiple deployments, leaving your family behind and watching men you think more of than anyone in the world die in action. But those stresses aren’t unique to these wars. Yes, multiple deployments are fairly unique. But then the alternative is the duration – which my parents did in WWII – 4 years of war, from beginning to end.
But that’s not the point of the article. Mogelson does a credible job of telling the “kill squad” story. It’s a horrible story in which a deviant but charismatic junior leader, in an isolated outpost, talks some impressionable squad members into doing the unthinkable all while the weak leadership in charge of the platoon failed in their roles.
Had he left it here, I could actually find myself saying nice things about it. It is a story that must be told.
But he didn’t leave it there. He started to veer in that old and predictable lane in which the military is indicted for making robot killers out of their charges and becoming so good at it that things like this happen.
In fact, just the treatment of the title outlines his attempt. And interestingly, later on in the article, he uses the full quote from Gen. George C Marshall from which the line comes:
“Once an army is involved in war, there is a beast in every fighting man which begins tugging at its chains. And a good officer must learn early on how to keep the beast under control, both in his men and himself.”
Mogelson deals with the first part, but he makes absolutely no effort at all to understand the second part and how critical it is to the institution he attacks. That is, “good officer[s]” and NCOs do keep control of it and they comprise the vast majority of the leadership in our military. That’s why the military spends so much time and effort training them to do so.
Mogelson is reduced to using the Philippine insurrection and My Lai, two isolated examples decades apart as some sort of proof of his premise. They are, instead, outliers. As was Abu Ghraib. There are always going to be bad people found in good institutions. We see bad cops – but we don’t think all policemen are bad nor do we pretend that law enforcement as a whole deserves blanket condemnation. We realize that with any organization of size which deals in a deadly business that there may be some bad people who we will have to weed out at some point or another.
However, Mogelson, via sociologist Stjepan Mestrovic, rejects that premise:
If we lack a sense of collective responsibility for these more recent war crimes, Mestrovic blames this on our readiness to believe that such occasional iniquities are aberrations perpetrated by a derelict few, rather than the inevitable result of institutional failures and, more generally, the nature of the conflicts in which we are engaged.
Institutional failures? A military that fights the cleanest wars imaginable, does everything in its power to avoid collateral damage, demands that its leadership monitor and control that so-called “beast” by being totally involved and leading from the front. A military that has fought like no other military has ever fought in history is an institutional failure?
Yeah, it was 40 years ago too according to these experts. Except it wasn’t.
Welcome to my world of those long gone days of the Viet Nam era when exactly this sort of nonsense was written about Viet Nam and it’s vets. And, if you read the comments to this story, you’ll find “mission accomplished” is appropriate:
These men and women return to abuse and often kill innocent people stateside. Their minds are permanently mangled.
The United States military is not protecting us but putting every US citizen in grave danger from the killing robots they have created..
END the military. We will all be safer.
In sum, the military’s purpose in training young men and women is to twist, destroy, and pervert basic human decency, empathy and consideration of other human beings– everything that most likely his or her family has also strived to cultivate in him or her– in order to serve the aims of empire.
Thus, the military is essentially an evil institution.
The old meme is resurfacing and gaining some traction. As I said way back then, “never again”.
The military is both an honorable profession and a extraordinarily necessary one. Its members are not “victims” of some evil institution. They’re not robots. They’re not “killing machines” who come home to “abuse and often kill innocent people stateside”. The purpose of our military isn’t now nor has it ever been to “pervert basic human decency”. It’s to do a necessary and often distasteful and dangerous job for the BENEFIT of those back home – for their safety and freedom.
Ironically the NYT publishes this garbage just after some hard men heroically risked their lives in a daring raid to kill a mass-murdering terrorist who struck the very city they print this in.
This is the thanks they get.