Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Blog You Must Visit

It's called The JAG Hunter, and its mission is to promote proper and fair and coverage and treatment of our soldiers in Iraq.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Rethinking Jimmy Carter

With special permission from Bruce Kesler of the Democracy Project, I'm cross-posting below Bruce's excellent essay on the worst U.S. president in recent memory:

Much of the commentary upon the passing of President Gerald Ford debates his decision to pardon President Nixon for his Watergate break-in cover-up: whether it healed to move forward, or whether it missed an opportunity to make more explicit the rule of law for his successors. There’s another pardon that isn’t discussed, which may have had more lasting effects: the Ford and President Carter approaches to amnesty and pardon for Vietnam war draft dodgers and deserters.

President Carter’s abdication of the even minimal responsibility for one’s actions demanded by both President Ford and the public has had more lasting deleterious effects for America than the pardon of an already punished Nixon.

The consensus reflection upon the life of President Gerald Ford is that he led by an exceedingly decent, honorable and honest life, and that at a most trying and divisive time in our history he calmed tensions for the nation to go forward. I couldn’t agree more. The Moderate Voice offers a broad sampling of the reflections. One, by “Captain” Ed Morrissey of CaptainsQuarters blog, is referred to as a “must read,” and as usual for the “Captain” it is.

Regarding the pardon of President Nixon, most see the need for this healing, with Nixon having paid the price of loss of office being seen as adequate punishment. Some on the Left see a lost opportunity to further damn the electorate that overwhelmingly elected him. These critics revile Nixon, and Ford, for seeking a “peace with honor” finale to the U.S. involvement in Vietnam. They ignore the consequences of their post-Watergate abandonment of U.S. pledges of aid to South Vietnam, including the death and concentration camps suffered by millions, and the encouragement to adversaries elsewhere against a weak-willed America that continues to this day.

To get a better appreciation of the arguments, one might consider the Ford and Carter approaches to amnesty and pardon for Vietnam era draft dodgers and deserters. Ford offered a healing plan that was consistent with America’s post-war treatment of draft evaders and deserters, conditioned by pledge of allegiance to America and two-year’s service. The Left held out for an unconditional pardon, which they largely got from Carter.

I was part of this debate at the time. In the March 3, 1972 The Daily Pennsylvanian, I wrote an op-ed in the University of Pennsylvania newspaper (where I was a post-Vietnam service grad student) opposed to unconditional amnesty. It caught the eye of Freedom House, where an expanded version was published in the March-April 1973 Freedom at Issue magazine. This caught the attention of the Los Angeles Times, who reprinted it in their Sunday, March 25, 1973 opinion section. (My piece was given twice the space as the opposing view by Jean-Paul Satre!)

I noted that a Gallup poll in 1972 found only 7% in favor of unconditional amnesty. I showed that most of the unconditional amnesty supporters came from a “premise of intolerance. Not only are the evaders and deserters to be welcomed back, but they are to be welcomed as heroic resisters of a nefarious policy of purposeful genocide.”

As late as February 23, 2001, James Webb (before his devil’s deal with the Kos’ian descendants of the decision by Carter to pardon Vietnam era evaders and deserters) wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

Mr. Carter's first official act as president was to pardon, en masse, all those who had been or could be charged with draft evasion during the Vietnam era. Motivated by the ever-present desire of American politicians to "heal the wounds" of the Vietnam War, and beyond doubt manipulated by the army of antiwar McGovernites who had seized control of the Democratic Party, Mr. Carter's gesture had the symbolic effect of elevating everyone who had opposed the Vietnam War to the level of moral purist, and by implication insulting those who often had struggled just as deeply with the moral dimensions of the war and had decided, often at great sacrifice, to honor the laws of their country and serve….

Nor did President Carter's abuse of power end with the pardoning of draft evaders. Some had criticized this blanket amnesty as having made class distinctions between college boys who were "enlightened" enough to oppose the draft and blue-collar boys who had gone into the military and then either seen the light regarding the war or suffered the supposed abuses of the military system. Liberal groups and antiwar politicians assailed the "inequities" of military justice and the "randomness" of its characterization of service when one left the military, despite the fact that 97% of those who served during Vietnam had been discharged under honorable circumstances. Within weeks of pardoning all the draft evaders, Mr. Carter invoked his powers as commander in chief and ordered that the "bad paper" military discharges of hundreds of thousands of deserters, malcontents and nonperformers be mandatorily upgraded, so long as they met one of six easily attained criteria.

Again President Carter had upset a delicately balanced apple cart among the Vietnam generation. By wiping the slate clean for those who had dodged the draft or created problems while in the military, he signaled to those who had served honorably during a horribly emotional period that their self-discipline, loyalty, wounds and even deaths did not matter….

These acts resonate when one evaluates Bill Clinton's incessantly arrogant presidency, from the endless string of conscious and serious abuses of power to the "conversion" of White House furniture and china on his way out the door. For what we are seeing are the echoes of a pervasive elitism, from people who were taught when young that the laws that applied to their countrymen did not necessarily apply to them.

Bruce Kesler

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

U.S. Media May Hope Haditha Charges Are Dismissed.

The following superb article is cross-posted from the Democracy Project, with the permission of its author, Bruce Kesler:

For two reasons, the U.S. media may hope the Haditha charges against eight Marines are dismissed, or don’t come to trial.

First, it will allow those within the media who write that the U.S. is guilty of atrocities, an evil plan gone awry, or even just that the whole engagement is a tragic miscalculation, to claim that the U.S. military doesn’t care or is engaged in a cover-up.

Second, the U.S. media would avoid itself possibly being put on trial for its shortcomings in coverage of the Iraq war. To the extent that the prosecutors’ case relies upon the Iraqi stringers and suspect “witnesses” used by U.S. media, their case will be both weak and will publicly expose the grave shortcomings of the U.S. media’s operations in the Iraq war zone – in effect, functionally often acting as useful adjuncts to our enemies and the secure and free future of Iraq and the region.

As I wrote last June:

Among the only hard facts known is that the military took this incident seriously from the start by launching an investigation so thorough that even the hostile Iraqis in that village have given it respect. That’s more than media commentators give to our nation, its military, or the handful of Marines actually involved by trotting out inapplicable and inappropriate comparisons to My Lai, an exception itself, in order to bemoan and undermine our entire mission in Iraq. They can say all they want that they are trying to uncover facts, and they are, but the prominence and surrounding fluff is simply irresponsible.

There are four interrelated aspects to the outcome of the charges:

Did the Marines exceed the rules-of-engagement? The prosecutors chose charges of unpremeditated murder, excess force and lack of care for civilian casualties, or 2nd degree in civilian courts, and an additional charge of negligent homicide for one Marine, lack of care, equivalent to manslaughter in civilian courts. The accusation of premetitated revenge for the IED slaughter of one of their comrades was not supported by their investigation. For a discussion of rules-of engagement, see here.

As one military law expert says:

The prosecution must be able to conclusively state "what happened, why did they do what they did, why did they use force and did they believe they were being engaged," said Col. Dave Wallace, who teaches law of war at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y.

Here, I wrote about the Marines’ side of the story:

For two-weeks the newspapers and TV of the world have been filled with heart-rending but conflicting narratives by Iraqi “witnesses” to a Marine massacre at Haditha. Editorialists and columnists, even ones not hostile toward the Iraq war or Marines, have stampeded to fill their space with a little obligatory caution or caveat as they condemn the Marines for a massacre, for going off the handle, for overreacting to the stress of war.

Now, for the first time, one of the Marines directly involved has spoken up. The Washington Post, to its credit, carries his description of events on the front-page.Rules of engagement were followed, as the Marines chased terrorists through the houses where they’d purposely hidden among civilians. This is in an area known for hostile and harboring civilians. Civilians were killed.

With all regrets for that, at least no further Marines were killed by holding a cotillion that some armchair commentators imagine would be appropriate. (I’d like to see them dance in any dangerous circumstances like these.)It well may be possible that there’s more to be found out and to clear up.It’s well past time the media waited to find out before jumping to more conclusions, and harming the honor of our Marines, our country, and our ability to wage a war.

If they don’t, their purpose is very clear.

What is the evidence? The military says this was its most extensive investigation possible. There’s little reason to doubt that. However, in the absence of the families of the Iraqis allowing exhumation of the bodies, much reliance is upon after-the-fact examinations of photos and the scene, along with questioning of self-declared witnesses whose testimony has for some changed over time and is contradictory among others. Further, some had preknowledge of the attack upon the Marines and ties to the enemy. (A summary of the weaknesses of known evidence is here.)

I wrote about some of the witnesses self-contradictions, and reporting, here:

Sounds like a "cover-up" of a conspiracy to me, the cover-up by the MSM lynch mob and the conspiracy by the Iraqis culpable or seeking to undermine America's forces.

What is the trial risk? In any case, there are many trial risks, or litigation risks, which may tilt the judgment one way or the other. The prosecutors’ charges exceed what was expected by military law experts. Their aggressiveness may be a pre-trial ploy to scare the Marines and their attorneys into a plea deal. Another military law expert says he is surprised by the aggressiveness of the charges:

Gary Solis, a former staff judge advocate at Camp Pendleton who now teaches military law at Georgetown University, said the charges announced Thursday appear very aggressive.

"They say that the Marine Corps takes very seriously its obligation to conduct itself in accordance with the law," he said during a telephone interview….Solis said he expected the troops accused in the shooting deaths of the Iraqi civilians would face manslaughter and not murder charges.

"I was very surprised by the aggressive nature of that charge," he said, adding that that will be much harder to prove than manslaughter.

Lastly, to what extent has the evidence accumulated been tainted by the reporting of the events of that day and its aftermath? Here’s where the U.S. media may find itself on trial.

The next step in the case is for the prosecutors’ case to be reviewed by Lt. General James Mattis, Marine commander for Iraq. He will decide how the case will proceed:

Now that the charges have been filed, the clock is ticking on the judicial process. Barring any requests for delays by the defense, the government has 120 days to start court-martial proceedings against the men if Mattis deems a court-martial is the proper course to follow.
The public's first look at the government's case could come in pretrial court sessions [emphasis added] known as Article 32 hearings, which are the rough equivalent of a preliminary hearing in civilian courts.

After those hearings, Mattis will receive a recommendation on whether the cases should be sent to military trials, known as courts-martial, or to administrative hearings, which are less serious and do not result in jail time. He also will have the option at that point of dismissing or altering the charges.

As emphasized above, how good an evidentiary case the prosecutors actually have is still unknown.

Here’s a key point: Much of the proceeding and outcome of the case will be shaped by Lt. General James Mattis. The L.A. Times offers some useful insights.

Lt. Gen. Mattis is well known for upholding the Marine tradition of fire discipline. In 2003, as commander of the 1st Marine Division, he led troops into Iraq. To each Marine and sailor he provided a one-page order telling them to destroy Iraqi forces but to show compassion for civilians and prisoners: "Engage your brain before you engage your weapon."

Recently, Lt. Gen. Mattis (“nicknamed ‘Mad Dog’ by his troops, prefers speed and a relentless attack style”) reminded his Marines their mission is threefold, to train Iraqi forces, win over civilians, and to kill the enemy, an especially difficult combination, as he admits:” In an e-mail to The Times this week, he referred to the ‘morally bruising conditions of Iraq’ where it is often difficult to distinguish friend from foe.”

In a recent trip to Marine outposts in the expansive Al Anbar province, Mattis talked to Marines about training the Iraqi army and winning support from civilians. But he also mentioned the insurgent threat in the province.

"This is not sectarian violence," he told them. "This is Al Qaeda in Iraq. We expect you to kill them."

Lt. Gen. Mattis is also known for allowing the military justice system to unfold, and tempering justice with battlefield realities.

Lt. Gen. James N. Mattis, who brought the criminal charges in the Haditha case, has shown no reluctance to take hard-nosed actions against Marines.

Mattis, commander of the Marine Corps Forces Central Command, in 2003 initiated an investigation of the treatment of Iraqi prisoners by Marines. The investigation, which came before the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, led to the court-martial convictions of a sergeant and a major in the death of a prisoner and to a revision of Marine procedures for handling prisoners.
He also ordered the investigation that led to murder charges against Lt. Ilario G. Pantano in the 2004 killings of two Iraqis, probably the most high-profile case of alleged misconduct by Marines until the November 2005 deaths of 24 Iraqis in the town of Haditha. Pantano was acquitted.

But Mattis' handling of a case involving the town of Hamandiya, in which seven Marines and a Navy corpsman were charged with dragging an Iraqi from his home in April and killing him, suggests that he is willing to show leniency for junior enlisted Marines who admit wrongdoing. In an e-mail to The Times this week, he referred to the "morally bruising conditions of Iraq" where it is often difficult to distinguish friend from foe.

The Hamandiya case also suggests that he may be less willing to be lenient with more senior enlisted personnel for not showing leadership. All eight defendants in Hamandiya were charged with capital murder, which could have brought the death penalty.

Mattis allowed four of the eight to plead guilty to reduced charges and receive sentences of 12 to 21 months in the brig. He vetoed the military judge's recommendation that the four be given dishonorable discharges.

The four defendants with greater seniority and allegedly more culpability in the killing are to stand trial next year.

Lt. General Mattis has also displayed his awareness of another critical battlefield in Iraq: the information war, which in this pre-Christmas interview he says the U.S. media has abdicated to the enemy.

Mattis: I was talking to a lieutenant in Haditha, he told me that because they are now all connected nowadays in their FOBs, he could read stories about Haditha. He said, 'I guarantee you there has not been a reporter in Haditha in my last two and a half months here.'

We're seeing, I think, an unwitting passing of the enemy's message, uncritical, unwitting passing of the enemy's message because the enemy has successfully denied the Western media access to the battlefields.

I'm not sure what Lloyds of London is charging now, I think it's over $5,000 a month insurance for a reporter or photographer to go in. But the murder, the kidnapping, the intimidation means that, in many cases, we have media folks who are relying on stringers who are Iraqi.

Now you can have any kind of (complaint) about the American media or Western media you want, but there is at least a nod, an effort toward objectivity. The stringers who are being brought in, who are bringing in these stories, are not bringing that same degree of objectivity.

So on the one hand, our enemy is denying our media access to the battlefield, where anything perhaps that I say as a general is subject to any number of interpretations, challenges, questions, but the enemy's story basically gets there without that because our media is unable to challenge them. It's unwitting, but at the same time, it can promote the enemy's agenda, simply because there is an apparent attempt at objectivity.

Reporter: Would you like to see more Western media there then?

Mattis: Oh, we would be happy to have more Western media out there. We've had Al-Jazeera out with our troops.

To the extent that the prosecutors’ case relies upon the reports of the events by U.S. media, instead of hard forensic evidence, the U.S. media will be on trial.

I’ve written repeatedly about the problems of reliability presented by the U.S. media’s reliance upon stringers and of veracity presented by reliance upon unqualified sources.

For example, here:

So, why hasn’t the U.S. media been investing the resources needed to adequately cover the whole story in Iraq? Cheapness. It costs upwards of $30-thousand a month, above wages, to keep an American reporter in the field in Iraq.As a recent analysis of media economics points out:"[N]ewspapers remain a surprisingly robust business and generate tremendous amounts of cash every year….[N]ewspaper chains have become relentless in their pursuit of cost-cutting. Although much of this has been bad for the art of journalism, it has been very good for the bottom line."Turning responsibility for what the American people hear to inexpensive Iraqi stringers is simply grossly irresponsible. Galloway [Joe Galloway, recently retired military correspondent for Knight Ridder] tells me that many aspire to be good journalists, and many are undoubtedly brave. However, we just don’t know their loyalties in too many cases.

In Editor & Publisher, I wrote:

If truth is journalism’s goal, cheapness within journalism undermines it. Embedded reporter Paul McLeary wrote in Columbia Journalism Review not long ago, “In Iraq, the untold stories pile up, one by one by one,” because “there just aren’t enough of them [journalists] to give the conflict its due.”I turned to Joe Galloway’s 41years of experience in military reporting to see what can improve military-press relations. Some 692 journalists embedded during the invasion of Iraq. Interviews by the Institute for Defense Analysis reported, “The participants’ overall assessment was that it was successful and that it benefited the military, the media, the public, and the military families.”

Yet, the program has withered to several dozen embeds today.Why? Galloway [who is opposed to the U.S. engagement in Iraq] says there’s “growing resistance from the military to [those] embeds” it considers negative. Meanwhile, the $30,000 or more per month (above wages) cost of supporting reporters in Iraq is more than most media organizations want to spend, even though this is a major war and more important than many other beats.Media bureaus in Baghdad now operate largely through inexpensive Iraqi stringers. I asked Galloway how such Iraqis are vetted for reliability. Galloway said that in the case of Knight Ridder, the bureau chief is fluent in Arabic as her primary check.

Hardly sufficient cause for confidence!

Here’s three posts (here, here and here) about Iraqi sources relied upon in the reporting from Haditha, who hardly offer confidence in their charges against the Marines. Read them.
Surely, the defense attorneys are reading them. If the Haditha charges go to trial, this may be quite a trial – and the U.S. media’s failure to take proper care in a war zone be exposed, moreso than among the Marines.

Bruce Kesler

Friday, December 15, 2006

Carter Lies About 'Prayer Meeting' That Wasn't

In an article yesterday on aging bigot Jimmy Carter, the New York Times began a report by telling how Carter was engaged in a peaceful, touchy-feely "discussion" with some rabbis in Phoenix. The chitchat ended with a warm-hearted Jew-hug, according to Carter.

"'We ended up holding hands and circled in prayer,' Mr. Carter said in a telephone interview from Phoenix, adding that the rabbis requested the meeting to discuss his book," said the Times.

In fact, that was a lie. The Phoenix board of rabbis had called the meeting to rake Carter over the coals for his "Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid" swill. One of the rabbis involved wrote a letter saying:

The executive committee of the Board of Rabbis of Greater Phoenix met with Jimmy Carter for more than an hour, not to “discuss” his book, as you report he said, but to speak on behalf of the greater Phoenix Jewish community and share with him the very serious concerns we have regarding his book.

Mr. Carter referred to our praying together. In essence, it was a closing invocation for peace in the world but was not intended and should not be construed as representing any agreement or conciliation by us with Mr. Carter’s position.

In fact, the opposite is true.

His use of the word “colonization” to describe Israel’s policies in the West Bank, without any consideration for the security concerns of the Israeli government, shows his bias on the issue.

This warranted a correction or an editor's note, not a letter. It is typical of the softball media coverage of Carter's screed.

Monday, December 04, 2006

A Day of Joy in Moonbatland

John Bolton, arguably the best UN envoy in recent history, announced today that he is stepping down. The National Review Online has a good analysis.

This is a happy day in Moonbatland. Let the rejoicing commence!


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The Latest Islamist Outrage in the U.S.

Muslim taxi drivers at Minneapolis/St. Paul airport are refusing to "transport alchohol." Read this excellent commentary in the Conservative Voice.

There's also a great discussion of the "flying imams." Check it out.


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Saturday, December 02, 2006

Still More on the Imams

The blogs are all over the "flying imams" story. Look at this roundup here.

When will the mainstream media acknowledge that their previous coverage of this story was wrong?

Why does Pajamas Media break this story and not the establishment press?


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Friday, December 01, 2006

More on the Flying Imams

One story I've neglected in my hiatus is the "flying imams," in which six Muslim clerics were removed from a US Airways Minneapolis-Phoenix flight a couple of weeks ago for "praying." Discrimination!

Michele Malkin tonight has the latest, quoting Pajamas Media:

Pauline revealed to the Pajamas Media that the six imams were doing things far more suspicious than praying - an Arabic-speaking passenger heard them repeatedly invoke “bin Laden,” and “terrorism,” a gate attendant told the captain that she did not want to fly with them, and that bomb-sniffing dogs were brought aboard. Other Muslim passengers were left undisturbed and later joined in a round of applause for the U.S. Airways crew. “It wasn’t that they were Muslim. It was all of the suspicious things they did,” Pauline said.

Let's see if the media picks this up. Don't count on it.


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