Commentary Magazine


Topic: US military

Military Needs Accountability at the Top

Military prosecutors have filed a battery of charges, including forcible sodomy and engaging in inappropriate relationships with subordinates, against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, the former deputy commander of the famed 82nd Airborne Division. The case is newsworthy primarily because it is so rare for a general officer to face court-martial proceedings. Usually when a general or admiral does something wrong he or she is quietly retired–not hauled into court.

One of the few recent precedents was the case of Maj. Gen. Dave R.E. Hale who was hauled out of retirement in 1998 so he could be court-martialed. Not surprisingly his case also involved sex charges–in his case accusations that he had slept with the wives of several subordinates. Hale’s punishment was a reduction in rank to colonel.

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Military prosecutors have filed a battery of charges, including forcible sodomy and engaging in inappropriate relationships with subordinates, against Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, the former deputy commander of the famed 82nd Airborne Division. The case is newsworthy primarily because it is so rare for a general officer to face court-martial proceedings. Usually when a general or admiral does something wrong he or she is quietly retired–not hauled into court.

One of the few recent precedents was the case of Maj. Gen. Dave R.E. Hale who was hauled out of retirement in 1998 so he could be court-martialed. Not surprisingly his case also involved sex charges–in his case accusations that he had slept with the wives of several subordinates. Hale’s punishment was a reduction in rank to colonel.

There is nothing wrong with these prosecutions even though such conduct would not be considered criminal in the civilian world; military personnel are proud to be held to a higher standard. But what is jarring is that generals are so seldom held to account for non-sexual misconduct–whether it is outright scandals such as those at Abu Ghraib or Walter Reed Army Center, or merely losing wars as in Iraq from 2003 to 2006. As then-Lt. Col. Paul Yingling wrote in 2007, “As matters stand now, a private who loses a rifle suffers far greater consequences than a general who loses a war.”

This is an issue that Tom Ricks discusses at greater length in his forthcoming book The Generals: American Military Command from World War II to Today–and it is an issue that the military leadership should be asking themselves about. Accountability is imperative if the military is to continue to perform at a high level, but there is a widespread perception that accountability is lacking for those who wear stars on their shoulders.

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Is the U.S. Preparing to Bomb Iran? Check the Source First

Mistrust the press — that is one important lesson from Max Boot’s post about Mark Perry’s sensationalist (and sensationally inaccurate) attribution of the U.S.-Israel fallout to General Petraeus.

Elsewhere in the news, be prepared for more instances of the mass media’s inability to distinguish between fact and fiction. Take the report that the U.S. is seemingly getting ready to bomb Iran. The Herald, the Scottish daily, notes that a shipment has left California with military supplies for Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean. This shipment includes huge quantities of bunker busters. Now all this may be true — but their news story is that these supplies are in preparation of a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The source of this analysis?

Professor Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

According to the Herald, Plesch said:

They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran … US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours … The preparations were being made by the US military, but it would be up to President Obama to make the final decision. He may decide that it would be better for the US to act instead of Israel … The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely …

How many times has Professor Plesch claimed this before?

OpenDemocracy, March, 21, 2005, “Iran, the coming war“:

So when might the attack on Iran occur? The Bush administration has, from its perspective, allowed the Europeans and the non-proliferation diplomats enough time to fail. They will certainly use the UN conference on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament from 2-27 May 2005 as an opportunity to grandstand.

For US domestic political purposes a “crisis” in spring 2006 when the EU and the UN can once more be confronted with their alleged failures, and challenged to support US leadership, would be timely for mid-term elections in which the ultra-conservative coalition will wish to consolidate its gains and eliminate any nascent moderate or realistic Republican candidate in good time for the 2008 presidential election.

The Guardian, “Are we going to war with Iran?” October, 21, 2005:

A new war may not be as politically disastrous in Washington as many believe … For an embattled President Bush, combating the mullahs of Tehran may be a useful means of diverting attention from Iraq and reestablishing control of the Republican party prior to next year’s congressional elections. From this perspective, even an escalating conflict would rally the nation behind a war president. As for the succession to President Bush, Bob Woodward has named Mr Cheney as a likely candidate, a step that would be easier in a wartime atmosphere. Mr Cheney would doubtless point out that US military spending, while huge compared to other nations, is at a far lower percentage of gross domestic product than during the Reagan years. With regard to Mr Blair’s position, it would be helpful to know whether he has committed Britain to preventing an Iranian bomb “come what may” as he did with Iraq.

New Statesman, February, 19, 2007, “Iran — ready to attack”:

American military operations for a major conventional war with Iran could be implemented any day. They extend far beyond targeting suspect WMD facilities and will enable President Bush to destroy Iran’s military, political and economic infrastructure overnight using conventional weapons.

Four predictions in five years — and no war so far.

Professor Plesch does not seem to have his fact-checking machine and his sources up to date, tuned in, and reliably informed. It may not matter to some media outlets, which will probably continue to publish on ideological rather than factual grounds.

Still, journalists should remember that a good news story cannot rely just on the sensation of the message but must also ensure the credibility of the messenger. With Professor Plesch, it seems, this is just not the case.

Mistrust the press — that is one important lesson from Max Boot’s post about Mark Perry’s sensationalist (and sensationally inaccurate) attribution of the U.S.-Israel fallout to General Petraeus.

Elsewhere in the news, be prepared for more instances of the mass media’s inability to distinguish between fact and fiction. Take the report that the U.S. is seemingly getting ready to bomb Iran. The Herald, the Scottish daily, notes that a shipment has left California with military supplies for Diego Garcia, in the Indian Ocean. This shipment includes huge quantities of bunker busters. Now all this may be true — but their news story is that these supplies are in preparation of a U.S. attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

The source of this analysis?

Professor Dan Plesch, director of the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London’s School of Oriental and African Studies.

According to the Herald, Plesch said:

They are gearing up totally for the destruction of Iran … US bombers are ready today to destroy 10,000 targets in Iran in a few hours … The preparations were being made by the US military, but it would be up to President Obama to make the final decision. He may decide that it would be better for the US to act instead of Israel … The US is not publicising the scale of these preparations to deter Iran, tending to make confrontation more likely …

How many times has Professor Plesch claimed this before?

OpenDemocracy, March, 21, 2005, “Iran, the coming war“:

So when might the attack on Iran occur? The Bush administration has, from its perspective, allowed the Europeans and the non-proliferation diplomats enough time to fail. They will certainly use the UN conference on nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament from 2-27 May 2005 as an opportunity to grandstand.

For US domestic political purposes a “crisis” in spring 2006 when the EU and the UN can once more be confronted with their alleged failures, and challenged to support US leadership, would be timely for mid-term elections in which the ultra-conservative coalition will wish to consolidate its gains and eliminate any nascent moderate or realistic Republican candidate in good time for the 2008 presidential election.

The Guardian, “Are we going to war with Iran?” October, 21, 2005:

A new war may not be as politically disastrous in Washington as many believe … For an embattled President Bush, combating the mullahs of Tehran may be a useful means of diverting attention from Iraq and reestablishing control of the Republican party prior to next year’s congressional elections. From this perspective, even an escalating conflict would rally the nation behind a war president. As for the succession to President Bush, Bob Woodward has named Mr Cheney as a likely candidate, a step that would be easier in a wartime atmosphere. Mr Cheney would doubtless point out that US military spending, while huge compared to other nations, is at a far lower percentage of gross domestic product than during the Reagan years. With regard to Mr Blair’s position, it would be helpful to know whether he has committed Britain to preventing an Iranian bomb “come what may” as he did with Iraq.

New Statesman, February, 19, 2007, “Iran — ready to attack”:

American military operations for a major conventional war with Iran could be implemented any day. They extend far beyond targeting suspect WMD facilities and will enable President Bush to destroy Iran’s military, political and economic infrastructure overnight using conventional weapons.

Four predictions in five years — and no war so far.

Professor Plesch does not seem to have his fact-checking machine and his sources up to date, tuned in, and reliably informed. It may not matter to some media outlets, which will probably continue to publish on ideological rather than factual grounds.

Still, journalists should remember that a good news story cannot rely just on the sensation of the message but must also ensure the credibility of the messenger. With Professor Plesch, it seems, this is just not the case.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

It would be nice to think:  “Just as they are beginning to realize their engagement strategy with Iran, North Korea, and other rogue regimes has yielded little progress, hopefully the failed Christmas Day attack will cause the Obama administration to realize that their terrorist engagement strategy is fatally flawed as well.” Remember this is the gang that thinks the Cairo speech was one of the top three things Obama did to combat terrorism. Huh?? Jamie Fly observes: “It makes you wonder what other actions round out the top three.  Pledging to close Guantanamo Bay?  Banning enhanced interrogation procedures?” The KSM trial!

As for that trial, it is a very dangerous decision and a very expensive one: “Security for the federal trial of self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four accused cohorts will run $200 million a year, sources told the Daily News.” And no one thinks this will take only a year.

Michael Gerson writes that  “it is difficult to argue that the Obama administration has even attempted to create an atmosphere of urgency in the war on terror. The listless, coldblooded and clueless response of the Hawaii White House to the Christmas Day attack was only the most recent indication. Over the last year, nearly every rhetorical signal from the administration — from the use of war-on-terror euphemisms such as ‘overseas contingency operations’ and ‘man-caused disasters’ to its preference for immediately categorizing terrorism as the work of an ‘isolated extremist’ — has been designed to convey a return to normalcy, a contrast to the supposed fear-mongering of the past.”

Maybe it’s the terrorism or ObamaCare: “Republican candidates start the year by opening a nine-point lead over Democrats, the GOP’s biggest in several years, in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.”

Nancy Pelosi gets snippy: “Pelosi emerged from a meeting with her leadership team and committee chairs in the Capitol to face an aggressive throng of reporters who immediately hit her with C-SPAN’s request that she permit closed-door final talks on the bill to be televised. A reporter reminded the San Francisco Democrat that in 2008, then-candidate Obama opined that all such negotiations be open to C-SPAN cameras. ‘There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail,’ quipped Pelosi, who has no intention of making the deliberations public.”

But Obama was head of Harvard Law Review! We heard a lot of that during the campaign. It was supposed to be reassuring, I guess.  Wasilla’s most famous mayor isn’t impressed: “President Obama was right to change his policy and decide to send no more detainees to Yemen where they can be free to rejoin their war on America. Now he must back off his reckless plan to close Guantanamo, begin treating terrorists as wartime enemies not suspects alleged to have committed crimes, and recognize that the real nature of the terrorist threat requires a commander-in-chief, not a constitutional law professor.”

Tom Maquire wants to know if “terrorist-coddling liberal elites really believe that prisoners provide just as much (or as little) information whether we observe their rights under US criminal procedures or their rights as detainees of the US military?  Do terrorist-coddling liberal elites really believe that all these Miranda warnings and provision of access to lawyers really doesn’t [sic] encourage anyone to keep anyone quiet?” I imagine they think it’s all worth it because we’re impressing jihadists with the wonders of our constitutional system — which they want to replace with sharia. So it doesn’t really make much sense.

Uh-oh: “The number of people preparing to buy a home fell sharply in November, an unsettling new sign that the housing market may be headed for a “double-dip” downturn over the winter.The figures Tuesday came after a similarly discouraging report on new home sales, illustrating how heavily the housing market depends right now on government help.”

A helpful reminder here, “lest we forget just exactly with whom the Israelis are dealing.”

It would be nice to think:  “Just as they are beginning to realize their engagement strategy with Iran, North Korea, and other rogue regimes has yielded little progress, hopefully the failed Christmas Day attack will cause the Obama administration to realize that their terrorist engagement strategy is fatally flawed as well.” Remember this is the gang that thinks the Cairo speech was one of the top three things Obama did to combat terrorism. Huh?? Jamie Fly observes: “It makes you wonder what other actions round out the top three.  Pledging to close Guantanamo Bay?  Banning enhanced interrogation procedures?” The KSM trial!

As for that trial, it is a very dangerous decision and a very expensive one: “Security for the federal trial of self-proclaimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and four accused cohorts will run $200 million a year, sources told the Daily News.” And no one thinks this will take only a year.

Michael Gerson writes that  “it is difficult to argue that the Obama administration has even attempted to create an atmosphere of urgency in the war on terror. The listless, coldblooded and clueless response of the Hawaii White House to the Christmas Day attack was only the most recent indication. Over the last year, nearly every rhetorical signal from the administration — from the use of war-on-terror euphemisms such as ‘overseas contingency operations’ and ‘man-caused disasters’ to its preference for immediately categorizing terrorism as the work of an ‘isolated extremist’ — has been designed to convey a return to normalcy, a contrast to the supposed fear-mongering of the past.”

Maybe it’s the terrorism or ObamaCare: “Republican candidates start the year by opening a nine-point lead over Democrats, the GOP’s biggest in several years, in the latest edition of the Generic Congressional Ballot.”

Nancy Pelosi gets snippy: “Pelosi emerged from a meeting with her leadership team and committee chairs in the Capitol to face an aggressive throng of reporters who immediately hit her with C-SPAN’s request that she permit closed-door final talks on the bill to be televised. A reporter reminded the San Francisco Democrat that in 2008, then-candidate Obama opined that all such negotiations be open to C-SPAN cameras. ‘There are a number of things he was for on the campaign trail,’ quipped Pelosi, who has no intention of making the deliberations public.”

But Obama was head of Harvard Law Review! We heard a lot of that during the campaign. It was supposed to be reassuring, I guess.  Wasilla’s most famous mayor isn’t impressed: “President Obama was right to change his policy and decide to send no more detainees to Yemen where they can be free to rejoin their war on America. Now he must back off his reckless plan to close Guantanamo, begin treating terrorists as wartime enemies not suspects alleged to have committed crimes, and recognize that the real nature of the terrorist threat requires a commander-in-chief, not a constitutional law professor.”

Tom Maquire wants to know if “terrorist-coddling liberal elites really believe that prisoners provide just as much (or as little) information whether we observe their rights under US criminal procedures or their rights as detainees of the US military?  Do terrorist-coddling liberal elites really believe that all these Miranda warnings and provision of access to lawyers really doesn’t [sic] encourage anyone to keep anyone quiet?” I imagine they think it’s all worth it because we’re impressing jihadists with the wonders of our constitutional system — which they want to replace with sharia. So it doesn’t really make much sense.

Uh-oh: “The number of people preparing to buy a home fell sharply in November, an unsettling new sign that the housing market may be headed for a “double-dip” downturn over the winter.The figures Tuesday came after a similarly discouraging report on new home sales, illustrating how heavily the housing market depends right now on government help.”

A helpful reminder here, “lest we forget just exactly with whom the Israelis are dealing.”

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No Conceivable Justification for This One

Bill Roggio reports on the release of members of a  key Iranian-backed terror group:

The US military has freed Qais Qazali, the leader of the Asaib al Haq, or League of the Righteous, as well as his brother Laith, several Qods Force officers, and more than 100 members of the terror group, in exchange for [British hostage Peter] Moore. And that isn’t all. The British also received the corpses of three security contractors who were working to protect Moore when he was kidnapped at the Finance Ministry in Baghdad in May 2007. The three contractors were executed by the Asaib al Haq; another is also thought to have been killed. Qais Qazli wasn’t just some run of the mill Shia thug; his group is backed by Iran. Qazali’s men were trained by Iranian Qods Force to infiltrate and assault the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala in January 2007. Five US soldiers were killed during the kidnapping attempt. The US soldiers were executed after US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team.

It is jaw-dropping, really. The mullahs are slaughtering people in the streets. They are pressing ahead with their nuclear program. The Obami, it is reported, are eschewing “crippling” sanctions in exchange for pinpricks targeted at discrete groups within Iran like the Revolutionary Guard. But instead, we release the very individuals who have conspired to slaughter American troops. What possible explanation is there for this? We are merely restocking the supply of terrorists, just as we have done by releasing Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen. Andy McCarthy observes:

In violation of the long-standing, commonsense policy against capitulating to kidnappers and terrorists because it just encourages more hostage-taking and murder, the terrorists were released in exchange for a British hostage and the remains of his three contract guards (whom the terrorists had murdered).  So, as the mullahs, America’s incorrigible enemies, struggle to hang on, we’re giving them accommodations and legitimacy. And the messages we send? Terrorize us and we’ll negotiate with you. Kill American troops or kidnap civilians and win valuable concessions — including the release of an army of jihadists, and its leaders, who can now go back to targeting American troops.

One struggles to understand this mindset. While the Obami prepare to rearrange the checkers on the TSA board and perhaps toss a player or two overboard, we get the sinking sensation that there is some bizarre set of priorities and some very cock-eyed worldview in operation here. Who are we assisting, and how does any of this make us safer?

When Congress returns next week, we will see if anyone on the Democratic side of the aisle in the House or Senate has the moxie and determination to call foul on the entire Obama approach to terror. It is long past the time for some serious Congressional oversight. Perhaps a post-11/5 (Fort Hood) or a post-12/25 (Flight 253) independent commission is in order.

Bill Roggio reports on the release of members of a  key Iranian-backed terror group:

The US military has freed Qais Qazali, the leader of the Asaib al Haq, or League of the Righteous, as well as his brother Laith, several Qods Force officers, and more than 100 members of the terror group, in exchange for [British hostage Peter] Moore. And that isn’t all. The British also received the corpses of three security contractors who were working to protect Moore when he was kidnapped at the Finance Ministry in Baghdad in May 2007. The three contractors were executed by the Asaib al Haq; another is also thought to have been killed. Qais Qazli wasn’t just some run of the mill Shia thug; his group is backed by Iran. Qazali’s men were trained by Iranian Qods Force to infiltrate and assault the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala in January 2007. Five US soldiers were killed during the kidnapping attempt. The US soldiers were executed after US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team.

It is jaw-dropping, really. The mullahs are slaughtering people in the streets. They are pressing ahead with their nuclear program. The Obami, it is reported, are eschewing “crippling” sanctions in exchange for pinpricks targeted at discrete groups within Iran like the Revolutionary Guard. But instead, we release the very individuals who have conspired to slaughter American troops. What possible explanation is there for this? We are merely restocking the supply of terrorists, just as we have done by releasing Guantanamo detainees back to Yemen. Andy McCarthy observes:

In violation of the long-standing, commonsense policy against capitulating to kidnappers and terrorists because it just encourages more hostage-taking and murder, the terrorists were released in exchange for a British hostage and the remains of his three contract guards (whom the terrorists had murdered).  So, as the mullahs, America’s incorrigible enemies, struggle to hang on, we’re giving them accommodations and legitimacy. And the messages we send? Terrorize us and we’ll negotiate with you. Kill American troops or kidnap civilians and win valuable concessions — including the release of an army of jihadists, and its leaders, who can now go back to targeting American troops.

One struggles to understand this mindset. While the Obami prepare to rearrange the checkers on the TSA board and perhaps toss a player or two overboard, we get the sinking sensation that there is some bizarre set of priorities and some very cock-eyed worldview in operation here. Who are we assisting, and how does any of this make us safer?

When Congress returns next week, we will see if anyone on the Democratic side of the aisle in the House or Senate has the moxie and determination to call foul on the entire Obama approach to terror. It is long past the time for some serious Congressional oversight. Perhaps a post-11/5 (Fort Hood) or a post-12/25 (Flight 253) independent commission is in order.

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