RANGER AGAINST WAR: December 2005 <

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Forgotten Heroes

(Originally printed in the Gadsden County Times, 1/24/02)

This is about Medal of Honor (MOH) recipients and public memory. I'm writing this after an article on Audie Murphy got me thinking about the subject. Unfortunately, the image of the MOH is affected by movies like Forrest Gump, in which a dolt wins the MOH through a minor infantry action. This is not the way it happens. Usually, five live witnesses must certify the action before a recommendation for the award is forward for consideration.

The MOH is approved at the National Command Authority level. Less than 10% of those nominated ever receive the award; historically, 6-% of all recipients are killed in action performing these military feats of exceptional valor.

All MOH recipients must display selfless valor. There have been 3401 MOH's awarded since 1863. The last two medals were awarded to special forces troopers in Mogadishu, Somalia. This action is depicted in the book, Black Hawk Down. This movie portrays actual events and is not fiction. My research indicates Florida provided 22 MOH recipients. Thirteen of those were killed in action. The campaigns resulting in MOH's are the Civil War, Interim 1865-70 Indian Wars, Korean Campaign 1871, Spanish-American, Somoa, Phillipine Insurrection, China Relief (Boxer Rebellion), Phillipines 1911, Mexican and Hatian, Dominican, WWI, Hatian Campaign 1919, 2nd Nicaraguan Campaign, WWII, Korean War 1951, Vietnam, and Somalia. No MOH's were awarded in the Panama or Granada invasions. The part I find most inspiring regards the representation of foreign-born recipients. They include members from Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bermuda, Canada, Chile, China, Cuba, Denmark, England, Finland, France, Germany and Prussia, Greece, Holland, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Malta, Mexico, Norway, Phillipine Islands, Poland, Puerto Rico, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Wales, West Indies, and Yugoslavia. This roster indicates a large percentage of foreign-born recipients, proving that America is without a doubt a melting pot during times of need, as well as comfort.

Seven persons have been awarded two MOH's.

With all this, how many people can name even one recipient from any major war? There are presently 149 living MOH recipients. Currently, MOH recipients must pay for their MOH license plates in Florida, and this state provides no tax breaks of any kind for recipients. Oddly, the federal government gives no tax breaks, either. In the introduction to the book, MOH Recipients, there is a statement: "Poor is the nation that has no heroes, but beleaguered is the nation that has and forgets them."

Recently a privately-funded MOH museum opened in Indianapolis, Indiana. I am brought to mind of the A. E. Housman poem, "To An Athlete Dying Young". In it, the townspeople laud the young athlete who has just won his laurels, but upon his death, there is no one to remember him. His worth lies in the rah rah good feelings he allows the people to feel vicariously via his victory. Are we not all guilty of this exploitive view of the hero, especially the actual ones?

Monday, December 12, 2005

Chum to Bloody the Waters: War and Terror

  • (Originally printed in the Gadsden County Times, 2/2003)

American citizens have succumbed to propoganda and psychological warfare orchestrated by our present administration. Half truths have become the truisms that are the basis of increasingly illogical, mean-spirited and undemocratic activities of our government. All of this is based in the concept "War on Terror". An examination of this idea is warranted.

War and terror. Two terrible words used as chum to bloody the waters and invite the sharks to attack. Terrorism is an overused word in the daily lexicon, but what is it? Ask anybody--everyone is an expert these days. So, what IS it? Terrorism is a legal concept based on US code and can be defined as the "use of violence to influence a target (audience) beyond the actual victim." Terrorism is always criminal activity that is punishable under existing US statutes. The Department of Justice is the lead agency, as the Department of Defense (DoD) does not enforce US legal code. Indeed, the 911 attacks were terrorism in its purist form, but that is not warfare, it is criminal activity. The legal definition of war is a "state of belligerency between two or more nations."

If the US is at war, then who or what is the declared enemy? The Congress has not seen fit to declare war, and no nation can be proven to sponsor terrorism as a national agenda. Even the Taliban was not guilty of exporting or using terrorism as a policy tool.

Obviously, there was no linkage between Saddam's Iraq and 911. So, where is the cause for war? If it is war, then it stands that the prisoners captured are legitimate prisoners of war. Why has there been no surrender documents or armistices after defeating Iraq? Can the Al Quaida sign a peace treaty with the US? And what is the end game? All wars should have a clearly stated goal other than feel-good ideas such as spreading liberty and democracy.

Terrorists are criminals, pure and simple. When captured they should be arrested, charged and tried in legal proceedings. They are not to be conflated with POWs. If terrorists are found guilty, then execute them in accordance with the rule of law. But if a Taliban rifleman is captured on the field of battle, then the rights of warfare should be accorded to him. It is a national disgrace to treat anybody as abysmally as the prisoners of Camp X-Ray are treated.

Yet, the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Camp X-Ray is not even the key question concerning this issue. The point is this: what law, international code or convention grants jurisdiction to the US military to imprison citizens of a sovereign nation without the benefits of legal proceedings? The US military can legally only hold POWs. By all admissions, the prisoners of Abu Ghraib were low-level criminals, and now it turns out that some were clerics. If they were convicted criminals, then the legitimate Iraqi government should be responsible for their incarcerations.

The US military is not authorized to imprison civilians of the US or any other government. Military tribunals do not have jurisdiction over US nationals or citizens of other nations, and the basis of all law is jurisdiction. Military tribunals have jurisdiction only over military personnel.

The concept of insurgency in Iraq is another emotive concept that daily barrages the public through news and administrative proclamations. There is no insurgency in Iraq. the reason for this is, there is no legitimate government against whom to uprise. However, there is clearly a resistance movement, locally led by "radical" cleric Muktad al-Sadr.

Everybody accepts these facts, but upon examination, neither holds true. Insurgency is the armed attempt to overthrow the legitimate authority in a country. Insurgencies always have an agenda of change and social reconfiguration. The resistance movement in Iraq does not want a new social order, nor is there a legitimate government. If the US accepts the myth that all legitimacy emanates from the people, then the people are voting with their bullets to remove a foreign-backed government from their country. If this is what makes Sadr a radical cleric, then George Washington was also a radical.

The present governments of Iraq and Afghanistan wouldn't last a day without the combat power of the US legions. Where is the legitimacy or democracy here? Democracy and legitimacy is not spread via preemptive invasions.

If the US wants democratic principles in the Middle East, then let's leave those principles in our own foreign policy. Let's spread democracy to our allies such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Quatar, Jordan, and Oman. If we can't start with our allies, at the very least, let's begin with the results of the next presidential plebescite in Florida.

Presently we have statements of pride that we are exporting democracy and freedom to repressive regimes through the force of our arms. But the question should be, on what Constitutional basis does a US President stand to do this? The US President is elected to uphold the US Constitution and defend the national strategic interests of America. The legal requirement of the President is to support freedom and democracy in America. The US President does not possess any legal mandate to spread democracy to all corners of the earth. The primary concern of any president should be the reign of democracy and freedom for America.

Terrorism: Is it War?

  • (1st published in Military Police, PB 19-88-3, 1988.)
Is terrorism warfare? To the U.S. Army Military Police Corps this is a critical question. Since the Military Police School at Fort McClellean, Alabama has proponancy for the Department of Defense (DoD) terrorism counteraction (TC/A) training, there needs to be a firm consensus of what constitutes terrorism.
The MP mission in TC/A should be appropriately defined as countering a level I threat nontransition to war. In peacetime military police are primarily concerned with security of installations and personnel from low-level terrorist threats.
Terrorism and warfare are frequently discussed by students and instructors in the TC/A training, often with the comment, "terrorism is war". At first this is attractive and stimulating, but it is misleading and may reflect a faulty interpretation of the actual threat posed by terrorism. Unfortunately national leaders have a tendency to make statements such as, "The U.S. has declared war on terrorists;" but words cannot substitute for the reality that terrorism is not war.
Officially both DOD and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) define terrorism as criminal activity, and the national response is based upon this basic legal approach.
Terrorism is a criminal act, and the Department of Justice is lead agency in CONUS (continental US). In CONUS the State Department is the lead agency for terrorism. This should signify that terrorism is not warfare; if it were, DOD would be the appropriate lead agency.
Defining terrorism as warfare implies that terrorism is boundless violence. Warfare may seem to equate to extreme violence; however, warfare is not limitless and unreasoned violence. It has restrictions and limits. The military has the laws of land warfare, the Geneva Conventions, Hague Convention, et al. The military does not target civilian, religious, humanitarian, or diplomatic targets, both military and civilian, with impunity and does not accept the rules of warfare. Warfare, unlike terrorism, is not unbridled violence.
When terrorists are arrested either CONUS or OCONUS, they are not enemy prisoners of war (EPW). They are arrested (not captured) and tried through the legal system of the United States or through the host-nation laws involved. If terrorism were warfare, the rights of EPWs would apply. EPWs are not criminals; terrorists are. EPWs result from legitimate conflict and wartime servic. When a war is over, EPWs are repatriated.
In contrast, where would terrorists be repatroated to? Terrorist organizations want their members to be treated as prisoners of war, which would lend legitimacy to the terrorists. The policy of the free world is to treat them as criminals. Terrorists may often use military tactics, but that does not make their activities legitimate acts of war.
When people become hostages in a terrorist hijacking, are they considered prisoners of war? Chapter 5 of AR 250-30, Code of Conduct, does not clearly define the legal status of service member hostages. Paragraph 5-5 states, "capture by terrorists is generally the least predictable and structured form of peacetime activity." The captor qualifies as an international criminal. The wartime code of conduct does not apply; if it did, AR 350-30 would clearly state this.
This inconcise treatment leads to false conclusions, one of which is that the wartime code should be applied to hostages. If this were true, the regulations would so state. Survival in a terrorist environment could be severely jeopardized by taking a hard-line wartime-code stance. When an individual is taken hostage, briefcase contents and personal items will divulge more than name, rank and SSN. In a combat EPW scenario such incriminating evidence would not be carried.
AR 350-30 also causes confusion because it uses the words "capture by terrorists". Capture is not the correct word; hostages are held, skyjacked, kidnapped, taken, etc; but the use of the word capture lends legitimacy to the terrorists. The persons detained in the Tehran Embassy takeover were hostages; they were not captives or POWs.
When individuals are held by terrorists in peacetime, they must realize that macho and boldness are not in the best interests of survival. Soldiers in wartime are required to atempt escape and evasion; however, in contrast, peacetime hostages may not violate the laws of the country in which they are hostage. If they break the law by employing violence when escaping, they could jeopardize the survival of fellow hostages and could be legally imprisoned--where they had been legally detained previously.
Wars are won or lost, or a peace plan or cease fire is initiated. Terrorism cannot be won or lost--how could winning be guaged? Whom do you deal with to negotiate a cease fire? Terrorism can be eliminated; but that does not mean that it can be defeated--it merely means that a temporary tactical success has been achieved. Historically, terrorists rejuvenate the organization even after continued police successes. There are no historical examples of terrorist groups being defeated by military action alone.
In a wartime scenario combat troops who spotted naked, unarmed enemy soldiers at a shower point can legitimately call an air strike and kill them even though the enemy soldiers were not arrayed for combat. This would be legitimate because a state of belligerency existed prior to engagement. However, MP on guard in peacetime in the Federal Republic of Germany cannot apply deadly force to apprehend a terrorist unless protection of life is involved. Terrorists are criminals and, as such, have rights not afforded to combatants. Legal process must be used to apprehend, and this requires minimum application of force when arresting the suspect.
In areas overseas where U.S. installations are located a terrorist who is apprehended will be dealt with by the host nation. In CONUS a terrorist who is apprehended conducting criminal activity on post will be tried in a civil court; the military cannot perform tis function. If terrorism were warfare, the terrorist, as a POW, would be processed and placed in a POW camp. This is not done because terrorism is criminal activity and not warfare.
The Geneva Convention recognizes the concept of legitimate wars of national liberation that came into vogue after WWII. It is legally proper for a legitimate insurgent to kill a military or government target in a military operation if the following guidelines are met: (1) a military chain of command exists, (2) the rules of land warfare are observed, (3) weapons are carried openly, and (4) identifiable uniforms are worn.
Insurgency can be a form of legitimate undeclared war. Insurgents could be captured and should be afforded the status of POW. The disconnect is that insurgencies normally use terror tactics at their lowest levels of organization, which is not legitimate. It is criminal because the elements of legitimate insurgency are not present, and the rules of land warfare are not observed. These perpetrators are criminals, and if apprehended, are tried in host-nation courts. After the movement transitions to legitimate insurgency status, such movements are wise to abandon terror tactics and thereby gain legitimacy.
Terrorism is not the greatest threat to the U.S. military. A greater threat could be the increasing tendency of the military to believe that civilian authorities understand the problem less than the war fighters do. Applying the war fighter mentality to terrorism oversimplifies a complex concept.
Confusion arises, for example, when we used military reactions against Libya for alleged criminal activity in the Federal Republic of Germany. Simplistic answers are attractive but, under scrutiny, do not usually stand the test of time. For a democracy, legal reason responses normally prove to be the best response.
  • Mr Hruska was an instructor in the terrorism Counteraction Branch, Department of Advanced MP Training, U.S. Army Military Police School, Fort McClellan, AL, when this article was written.

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Welcome to Ranger Against War

I've created this site as a realistic opposition to the present Iraq occupation and attendant policies. I'm not a political partisan, just a former military man and thinker (no, they need not be mutually exclusive) who is vastly disappointed with our country's war on terror--a rhetorical impossibility, as you cannot fight a technique, which is what terrorism is.

So much has been written on the topic that I am humbled by the weight of intelligent criticisms to the present conflict. Suffice it to say that I am not opposed to any war, ONLY those that do not address the threat in a realistic manner. Unfortunately, good people on both sides are being killed in this conflict, and the threat to America is not alleviated, only exacerbated.

The threat against the US military in-theatre is generally perceived to be an unprovoked invasion, and miltary engagement can be seen as an appropriate response to invasion. Bear in mind that US OSS assets in WWII France and British SOE experts used tactics such as bombs, assassinations, kidnappings, etc., as tactics against the Nazi occupation. Bear in mind also that the term "terror bombing" was originated by the US Army Air Corps. (Remember Dresden...Tokyo?!) Terror and terror tactics are not new to the US militarily, either offensively or defensively. Remember that Project Phoenix in Vietnam actually used assassination as a tool of US policy.

In addition, American military personnel are not protecting the liberty and freedom of American citizens in this effort. Does anybody believe that Iraq presents a realistic threat to the national existence of America? Americans are dying to introduce democracy into a country that cannot produce a consensus on realistic compromise on the most basic issues. The US military is designed to protect America against enemy armies. Since war was not declared, our military might is being expended to suppress indigenous oppostion to US occupation and dominance in a society that never requested assistance.

Another bottom-line oppostion to the war concern the policies of the Bush administration that are hostile to veteran's issues. An example was this year's budget shortfall in funding the Disabled American Veterans (DAV). Another example is the issue of disability compensation for returning veterans.

Unfortunately, the DAV, Military Order of the Purple Heart (MOPH), Veterans of Foreign War (VFW) and the American Legion offer no criticism to the war, even though their monthly publications routinely and depressingly discuss budget shortfalls and DAV medical and funding deficiencies. Despite their recognition of a domestic failure in "supporting the troops" upon their return, there is reasoned response to a knee-jerk national policy that has no basis in rational thought.

In addition, if Social security has problems, then why is five billion dollars a month being spent to kill people in Iraq? Let's use this money to bnefit US citizens here in America. If America continues a $200 billion a year trade deficit with China and continues to borrow money China to finance US purchases of cheap Chinese goods, then things are totally out of control. The US is borrowing to pay for a war that will never have any positive effect upon the welfare of the average American citizen, economic or otherwise. Why do we need this debt, and who will repay it?!

It's average Americans that are getting killed in Iraq and this must stop immediately, for the stated purpose of making America safe from terror is not being addressed by by our enagement in the morass of Iraq's internecine rivalries. The waste of life on both sides must stop. The world will not stop if the US withdraws from Iraq. If this war is so important to Mr. Bush, then let his children enlist in the noble cause.

contact me at "jim@rangeragainstwar.com"