Friday, September 30, 2005

Truth About Body Armor !

There’s more controversy brewing over the body armor issue. Stirring the pot as usual is Operation Truth’s Paul Reikhoff. Paul has some great qualities and no one can mistake his sincerity on this issue. He deeply cares about soldiers lives. He sure served his time in Iraq, I’ll give him that. And we all want to see our troops equipped with the best possible body armor and other protective equipment available. I know if I ever return to Iraq, I want the best possible equipment, again. Including the latest body armor. I wore an issued Interceptor with SAPI plate throughout my 2004 tour. Today the DOD is rapidly replacing the plates with a thinner lighter version, they too want to save as many soldiers as possible.

To listen to Reikhoff, you would think that somewhere deep in the Pentagon’s bowels, Rumsfeld’s gnome-accountants have factored everything and decided that a few more funerals are cheaper than some new body armor. But Paul’s still angry that he and his men rode to Baghdad with older generation flak jackets. And yeah, that has probably cost somebody their life. And yeah that plain sucks! No way around that. But it’s not like the DOD is trying to screw soldiers out of gear. Overall we field the best trained and best equipped force on the planet. American technology is a force multiplier. There is no dark conspiracy to keep gear away from soldiers.

Sometimes bureaucracy and accounting do get in the way. Maybe I’m used to it because of where I’ve done my time. I spent four years of active duty in the Marines. The Shoestring Service. Back in the 90s we lived on Army and Navy hand me downs. We got issued new technologies only after the Army was fully upgraded not before. Lately it seems things have gotten better for the Corps. But my time in the National Guard seemed much the same, always last to get the gear. It’s a fact of life. Someone has to get gear last. As an enhanced brigade we did better than other Guard units, but not as good as the active Army. Right up until we were going to Iraq anyway.

The four plus months of pre-deployment were like Army Christmas. We upgraded from M16 rifles to M4 carbines. We got the new Interceptor vests. We went through a rapid fielding iniative RFI issue, where we got off the shelf technologies, including a new helmet and microfiber underwear. The bonanaza continued in Iraq where we upgrade our paq-4 laser sights to paq-2s, and where we constantly received armor improvements for our vehicles. We went from about 40 percent up-armored humvees, to about 90 percent.

Sure there are problems, but from what I could see the system was working hard to upgrade our equipment. Should we have waited until every soldier had an Interceptor with SAPI plates before invading? Should we have waited until every vehicle in the Army is up-Armored. According to Paul Reikhoff we should have. I really would have like to have gone to combat with a hand held death ray. Should we hold off on the next war until we have phasers? Rumsfeld received scorn for his statement: “You go to war with Army you have, not the Army you want.” But the scorn was undeserved. That’s how it works. And credit where credit is due, it’s Don Rumsfeld who has pursued the transformation of the military to maintain technological superiority, to include personal defense. Just remember Paul, those Vietnam era vests, were all they had in Vietnam. And that enemy was far tougher.

What brings this all up is the debate between congress and the DOD over implementing a plan to reimburse soldiers and Marines who bought there own armor “and equipment.” On September 29, The AP ran a story. It seems that a year after Reikhoff talked Senator Dodd of Connecticut into sponsoring a bill ordering reimbursement, the Pentagon has failed to go forward, Dodd and Reikhoffare furious.
Is DOD shirking the law? Maybe but I doubt it. The bill noble sounding as it may be in the ideal, was a bad idea. And implementing it has been tough. Rumsfeld and Defense, are trying to find a way for unit commanders to decide who gets reimbursed and who doesn’t. That’s a sound idea, making the best out of a bad situation. The idea that I can just order protective gear and send it a bill to the Pentagon is truly problematic. Sure some soldiers or their families ordered Interceptors with plates. But one Marine’s father, quoted in the article, wants $1000 for body armor he bought for his son’s legs. Now as an Infantryman I moved around a lot, mounted and dismounted. The gear we had was pretty cumbersome, I’m not sure Kevlar coated legs would have been anything but burdensome.

Thus the congress has dropped a hot ball of crap in Rumsfeld’s lap. And he has to find a way to deal with it. Who should be allowed to buy gear? For how much money. What’s reasonable? And for whom? A Turret gunner may need more or different armor then a dismount, but gunners can become dismounts if their vehicle goes down. War is fluid, What if I want a riot face shield? What if the cook who never leaves his safe comfy base decides he needs a bomb suit to get by? And what if I fake the receipt, send it back, or sell it to the new guy replacing me at a 50% discount but get a 100% reimbursement. These are the reasons that Defense fought the bill. And they are the reasons that unit commanders must be the ones to decide what’s reimbursed. Only they are in a position to know what is reasonable for a soldier to consider a deficiency worth paying out of pocket for. If we’re going to do this it’s worth doing right. And if they’re getting reimbursed a little more time won’t hurt. Hooah!!!

Side Note: If you read yesterday's post and are intersted in fighting the ACLU, click here!

Thursday, September 29, 2005

ACLU Assails Army

The NYCLU is continuing its campaign against military recruiting. But it’s hard to figure out what they’re objecting to. Last week they announced a campaign to “monitor” recruiters in New York City public schools. On Wednesday night’s O’Reilly Factor, mouthpiece Michael Gross continued to assert that recruiter needs to be scrutinized for potential abuses. He and the NYCLU specifically deny that this is in any way an anti-war effort. But that is hard to sustain in view of the facts.

Even Nat Hentoff former ACLU board member and a Village Voice columnist, could not rationalize the groups stance. "This is a political, not a civil liberties, issue for them," he said. "Unless they can show any kind of constitutional danger, what I see is a free exchange of speech.” Hentoff is not exactly a military supporter, but realizes that interference with the military’s mission and with student’s rights to hear their pitches amounts to a real free speech violation.

The Civil Liberties Union has made political hay out of the “Opt Out” clause in the No Child Left Behind Act. The act ensures that schools receiving federal aid, virtually every public school in the nation, provide student contact information to recruiters. The Opt Out clause ensures that students and their parents can notify their school that they wish to “opt out” of this information sharing. This sounds like an amazingly well crafted piece of legislation for Washington. It provides a balance between the needs and prerogatives of the Federal government and the rights of individuals.

That’s not enough for our liberal watchdogs. According to their webpage on this subject: “Unfortunately, little noticed provisions of No Child Left Behind have given the military unprecedented access to students in school and an aggressive military has turned some of our schools into a recruiting ground.” Schools have always been a recruiting ground. High Schools, Colleges, Trade Schools, that’s where young people plan their futures, and where prospective employers and educators pitch to them.

Somehow the ACLU/NYCLU fears that it is all being abused. Guard against abuses, monitor abuses. What abuses?

The New York City Department of Education cannot document any abuses. Margie Feinberg, of the department’s public affairs office said the department has "not heard of any specific instances" of complaints from students. Individual schools would handle complaints about recruiters.” None of these has been turned up.
Interviewed by the New York Sun, NYCLU spokeswomen Donna Lieberman provided much invective and few facts.

“Ms. Lieberman accused military recruiters of using strong-arm tactics in schools in what she called an attempt ‘to meet the demands for more soldiers to fight an increasingly unpopular war. Students shouldn't have to subject themselves to aggressive military recruitment efforts students face intimidation, harassment, and abuse’ Ms. Lieberman told Sun.”

Her words do not appear to support the group’s assertion that this is not about the war. When she was asked to name a case of recruiting abuse, all Ms. Lieberman came up with was one case upstate. A student there claimed to have been threatened with criminal charges after taking a batch of brochures from a military recruiter's table. That hardly sounds like recruiter abuse. An overreaction perhaps, but one by a law abiding and very overworked sergeant, harassed by a disrespectful adolescent.

So Where’s the Beef? Recruiters will always be in our schools. We will always need soldiers. Sure a few recruiters may cross the line. But the military has a criminal justice system that parallels the civilian one to deal with abuses. One that is substantially more effective at rooting out and dealing with offenders than its civilian equivalent. Could this be in part because its boundaries have not been stretched by the likes of the ACLU?

Help Fight the ACLU Here.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

So Called Freedom Center Quashed

Kudos to New York's Govenor Pataki, for finally seeing the light. Today he finally put the kabosh on the International Freedom Center at ground zero. Saying that there was "too much opposition, too much controversy!" Pataki used his authority as executive of the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation to put this bad idea to bed.

"We must move forward with our first priority, the creation of an inspiring memorial to pay tribute to our lost loved ones and tell their stories to the world," Pataki said in a statement.

This was overdue. The so called Freedom Center was opposed by families of victims, the Patrolman's Benevolence Association, the Unifromed Firefighters Association, and thousands of decent people in New York and throughout the nation. But Overdue or not it is a welcome step.

Race Baiting the President

They’re at it again. Playing the race card where no racism was even remotely to be found. Liberals are using prominent black voices to whip anti-Bush frenzy over the race issue. It’s unfair, silly and downright irresponsible, not to mention just plain dishonest. It’s not just Rangel’s calling Bush a modern Bull Connor. It’s not just Farrakhan’s nutty ideas that Bush had Navy Seals blow up the levees. The stigma of racism is again being picked up by every liberal who wishes Bush wasn’t president. Chris Matthews has taken to making offhand remarks on Hardball, about how the administration has shown its racism in the disaster response.

These charges range from the silly to the slimy. Farrakhan has long existed on the fringes of fringe. Nobody takes his assertion seriously, it only made the news because it was good for a laugh. But the charges by Rangel, and other “mainstream” black leaders have had more resonance. With liberals willing to believe the worst about president Bush at every turn such rhetoric resonates with media and “mainstream” liberals like Matthews. Now half the nation believes the president is a racist. In politics charges need not be true, to stick.

Fortunately in time the facts usually win out. President Bush is no racist. Aside from the fact that the first two black Secretaries of State have been Powell and Rice, there is ample evidence. Even regarding the hurricane itself, Bush is not factually vulnerable.

Bush called the governor on Sunday before the storm hit, urging evacuation. While it was certainly easier for the middle class to evacuate than for urban blacks, this is not evidence of presidential racism. The president didn’t strand all those buses. While elements of the federal response were slow and uncoordinated, military ships and helicopters were conducting rescue missions as soon as flooding began.

Bush has since promised 200 Billion dollars for reconstruction in New Orleans. Much of this largesse is slated to reconstruct black urban neighborhoods. Not exactly a racist effort. Reconstruction will require the hiring of thousands of workers, offering employment to the local working class. In fact, President Bushes spending habits, are so far from racist that they are profligate enough to be under attack from the right.

Under President Bush anti-poverty programs have increased there spending by 42%. One of the largest increases in history. And Bush has been brave enough to call for an end to corporate welfare for rich whites. He has fought to decrease spending on farm subsidies, and technology subsidies for corporations. He spends more on poverty then any President in history. Is that racist? Figures are available at The Heritage Foundation.

Bushes spending policies on poverty, the war, and now disaster relief are leading him into hot water with fiscal pragmatists and conservatives. His promise to halve the deficit by 2008, is now up in the smoke of war and natural disaster. Like many on the right I think that the president needs to take a good hard look at the budget, and then make some hard choices. But one area he is not vulnerable, at least not in fact, is on racism.

So why are the liberals engaged in this race baiting? Well the president’s approval rating is significantly low. So dishonorable attacks are more likely to find open ears. But I think there may be a concerted effort here. Men like Sharpton and Jackson are experts at extortion, political and economic. It seems that this is an effort to extort a minority candidate, or at least an acceptable one, to replace Justice O’Connor. Having watched the President’s last pick breeze through his inquisition to imminent approval, the left is frustrated. They are distraught that a President with an approval rating hovering at 40 percent may be shrewd enough to secure a conservative court for the next few decades. So they are desperate to further weaken him. In the end their lack of honor only weakens themselves.

Betsy Newmark has been following the Democrats' efforts to secure a Dem-friendly candidate.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Justice for Saddam.

The New York Times today featured two Op-Ed pieces, written by law professors, on the upcoming trial of Saddam Hussein for the 1982 Dujail murders. The Times claims that its Op-Ed page is designed to allow for the publication of views that differ substantially from the papers own editorial position. Why then put two pieces together that are essentially critical of the upcoming trial?

Eric Posner a professor of Law at the University of Chicago proposes to instruct the Iraqi Tribunal on how to mete out justice. He does so based on his perceptions of International Law, and in the name of political stability in Iraq. He argues a case that the court should frame Hussein’s conviction in very narrow terms, that would be inapplicable to lower level participants. This is a privileged American Law Professor, who has never spent a day in the town of Ad Dujail, or anywhere in Iraq to my knowledge, calling on the Iraqi justice system to go easy on conspirators in a mass murder. Because he thinks it’s what’s best for them.

As I wrote directly to Mr. Posner, it is unfortunate that many of the co-conspirators have escaped justice on this matter, and will never be charged in spite of considerable evidence against them. The so called low level Baathists who are vulnerable to prosecution have mostly decided to forcibly oppose the new Iraqi government. Like liberal theorists from other disciplines, Posner proposes rewarding the murderous behavior of Saddamists and the insurgents, on the hopes that they will accede to the new administration. This is a man who calls himself a lawyer.

The reason that Saddam Hussein is being tried for this particular case, is that the soldiers who were responsible for Ad Dujail in 2004, were horrified by accounts of the mass murder that they collected witness statements in the hopes of bringing justice to these citizens. At the time some of the perpetrators walked free in the city, still intimidating the local Shiite majority. Today because of thinking like Posner’s many of are free again.

If Iraq chooses to heed the advice of Mr. Posner’s ilk they should at least look to the model of South Africa. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission there allowed for amnesty for crimes in the name of the state. But the forgiveness required a full and public accounting and an admission of guilt and regret. This process allowed for participation and rebuilding and for public accountability. So far most of Iraq’s oppressive clique has denied guilt and continued to resist a democratic future. Mr. Posner would reward their obstructionism.

Gary J. Bass, law professor at Princeton argues against sentencing Saddam to death for these murders. He acknowledges all the reasons that this is desirable up front, protecting the lives of the Iraqi court officers, and minimizing the spectacle. But he argues that without a series of trials that fully accounts for all Saddam’s crimes justice cannot be served.

This is not the case. If Saddam Hussein is sentenced to death on the 150 counts of murder stemming from the Dujail incident, justice will certainly be served. Should the Iraqi court choose to execute that sentence without pursuing other counts that will be their sovereign decision. And no one in America or in Iraq will be under the impression that Hussein is being put to death for those crimes alone. Iraqis like Americans understand the concept of a symbol. In a very real way the Dujail murders serve as a symbol for all Hussein’s crimes against humanity.

As for a full accounting, if Hussein is tried and executed for the Dujail murders it may enable the courts to pursue his co-conspirators on the hundreds of other counts. With Saddam truly gone, resistance to the Iraqi government may diminish. Sunnis and Shiites alike will see that the current regime is empowered as the legitimate embodiment of coercive force.

Finally both Lawyers seem to either mistake or intentionally conflate the concepts of sovereign and international law. Make no mistake. This case is about Iraqi law and Iraqi justice. Saddam’s crimes may be genocidal. They can be classified as crimes against humanity. But he is being tried for 150 counts of statutory murder in a domestic Iraqi court. This is not about International law. This is about Iraqi law and Justice for Saddam’s victims.