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Friday, September 15, 2006

former military and intelligence intelligence

in recent months, i’ve had a strange series of alice-in-wonderland experiences with people who, at one time or another served this country in one capacity or another. a few veterans and a few civilians, people from various economic backgrounds, and people from various political backgrounds. this morning, i’m compelled to put something in writing.

one thing that surprises me in conversations with several people who actually served in the united states intelligence apparatus at various times in their past, is that a good number of them support the bush administration.

i believe that the people working in these various agencies and offices are trying, very hard, to do very important work to preserve what i consider a valuable way of life. and i also believe that any government will use any capability it can use in pursuit of its goals. which is one reason i also believe in the wisdom of the constitution and the separation of powers. that was, for a large portion of american history, a conservative position.

so, i have to ask the question: given the bush administration’s track record of abusing and sacrificing the intelligence community and military for short-term political gain and personal agendas, how is it possible for anyone who has actually worked in the military or intelligence community to support this administration without reservation? how is it possible for these people who have dedicated entire careers and risked their own and others’ lives to preserve american values and liberties to accept that those values and liberties are now best perserved by locking them up in secure, undisclosed locations and never speaking of them again?

i think it’s fairly well established at this point that us intelligence and military personnel have gone above and beyond the call of duty on several occasions since 2000, and their advice and conclusions have been ignored or dismissed. worse, because these people work in sensitive circumstances, they aren’t really able to stand up and say “wait! that’s not what we said!” without compromising not only their careers, but also the lives of soldiers in the field and civilians at home.

time and time again, the military and the us intelligence apparatus has been left holding the bag for profound policy mistakes from the bush administration. i don’t want to turn this into a shopping list – pick your own policy misadventure from ignoring the “here’s a way to kill bin laden” advice from a previous administration to the current thousands of dead americans in iraq cascade of failures.

i still believe that the people in the military and the intelligence community are doing the best they can with the short straws they get dealt, and i respect that those still serving cannot express their frustrations. what confuses me is that people who once served in those capacities aren’t willing to stand up for their legacies more often. what confuses me is that veterans aren’t literally up-in-arms over sending soldiers into unnecessary wars. what confuses me is that former intelligence personnel aren’t making public statements about the futility of american counter-terrorism spending priorities under the bush administration. what confuses me is that people who dedicated their lives to preserving american principles and freedoms aren’t exercising them.

strange times indeed. while my personal experiences have been less than positive in this regard, it is not so everywhere. i’d like to take this space to thank some people who have served this country and continue to serve this country by offering their thoughts and concerns to the representatives that make the laws that govern us.

so, nod from me to general colin powell (ret.), who was personally left holding the bag in an an intelligence disaster in front of the united nations and who personally served in both korea and vietnam, and who has stepped up and opposed the bush administration position on torture because that position is a threat to american soldiers and civilians.

I just returned to town and learned about the debate taking place in Congress to redefine Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. I do not support such a step and believe it would be inconsistent with the McCain amendment on torture which I supported last year.

I have read the powerful and eloquent letter sent to you by one of my distinguished predecesssors as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Jack Vessey. I fully endorse in tone and tine his powerful argument. The world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. To redefine Common Article 3 would add to those doubts. Furthermore, it would put our own troops at risk.

I am as familiar with The Armed Forces Officer as is Jack Vessey. It was written after all the horrors of World War II and General George C. Marshall, then Secretary of Defense used it to tell the world and to remind our soliders of our moral obligations with respect to those in our custody

and a nod to general john “jack” vessey (ret.), who served in world war 2, korea and vietnam, and, as far as i can tell, spent more time in active service in the united states military than any other person in history.

Sometimes, the news is a little garbled by the time it reaches the forests of North-central Minnesota, but I call your attention to recent reports that the Congress is considering legislation which might relax the United States support for adherence to Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention. If that is true, it would seem to weaken the effect of the McCain Amendment on torture of last year. If such legislation is being considered, I fear that it may weaken America in two respects. First, it would undermine the moral basis which has generally guided or [sic] conduct in war throughout our history. Second, it could give opponents a legal argument for the mistreatment of Americans being helld prisoner in time of war.

In 1950, three years after the creation of the Department of Defense, the then Secretary of Defense, General George C. Marshall, issued a small book, titled The Armed Forces Officer. The book summarized the laws and traditions that governed our Armed Forces through the years. As the Senate deals with the issue it might consider a short quote from the last chapter of that book which General Marshall sent to every American Officer. The last chapter is titled “Americans in Combat” and it lists 29 general propositions which govern the conduct of Americans in war. Number XXV, which I long ago underlined in my copy, reads as follows:

The United States abides by the laws of war. Its Armed Forces, in their dealing with all other peoples, are expected to comply with the laws of war, in the spirit and the letter. In waging war, we do not terrorize helpless non-combatants, if it is within our power to avoid so doing. Wanton killing, torture, cruelty or the working of unusual hardship on enemy prisoners or populations is not justified in any circumstance. Likewise, respect for the reign of law, as that term is understood in the United States, is expected to follow the flag whereever it goes ….”

For the long term interest of the United States as a nation and for the safety of our own forces in battle, we should continue to maintain those principles. I continue to read and hear that we are facing a “different enemy” in the war on terror; no matter how true that may be, inhumanity and cruelty are not new to warfare nor to enemies we have faced in the past. In my short 46 years in the Armed Forces, Americans confronted the horrors of the prison camps of the Japanese in World War II, the North Koreans in 1950-53, and the North Vietnamese in the long years of the Vietnam War, as well as knowledge of the Nazi’s holocaust deprediations in World War II. Through those years, we held to our own values. We should continue to do so.

Thank you for your own personal courage in maintaining those values, both in war and on the floor of the Senate. I hope that my information about weakening American support for Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention is in error, and if not, that the Senate will reject any such proposal.

and finally, a nod to the officers that signed this letter [pdf]:

General Joseph Hoar, USMC (Ret.), General John Shalikashvili, USA (Ret.), Admiral Stansfield Turner, USN (Ret.), Lieutenant General Robert G. Gard, Jr., USA (Ret.), Vice Admiral Lee F. Gunn, USN (Ret.), Lieutenant General Claudia J. Kennedy, USA (Ret.), Vice Admiral Albert H. Konetzni, Jr., USN (Ret.), Lieutenant General Charles Otstott, USA (Ret.), Vice Admiral Jack Shanahan, USN (Ret.), Major General John Batiste, USA (Ret.), Major General Eugene Fox, USA (Ret.), Major General John L. Fugh, USA (Ret.), Rear Admiral Don Guter, USN (Ret.), Major General Fred E. Haynes, USMC (Ret.), Rear Admiral John D. Hutson, USN (Ret.), Major General Melvyn Montano, ANG (Ret.), Major General Gerald T. Sajer, USA (Ret.), Brigadier General David M. Brahms, USMC (Ret.), Brigadier General James P. Cullen, USA (Ret.), Brigadier General Evelyn P. Foote, USA (Ret.), Brigadier General David R. Irvine, USA (Ret.), Brigadier General John H. Johns, USA (Ret.), Brigadier General Richard O’Meara, USA (Ret.), Brigadier General Murray G. Sagsveen, USA (Ret.), Brigadier General Anthony Verrengia, USAF (Ret.), Brigadier General Stephen N. Xenakis, USA (Ret.), Ambassador Pete Peterson, USAF (Ret.), Colonel Lawrence B. Wilkerson, USA (Ret.), Honorable William H. Taft IV.

For anyone that would care to take the time, the The Armed Forces Officer is available here [pdf], and from the department of defense as DOD GEN–36A, Army Pamphlet 600-2, Naval Education and Training 46905–A, Air Force Pamphlet 190–13, and Navy Marine Corps Document 2563.

posted by roj at 6:36 am  

Friday, September 15, 2006

tsa almost saves us from harry potter 7

Airport Almost Thwarts Rowling [ 2006.09.15]

“The heightened security restrictions on the airlines made the journey back from New York interesting, as I refused to be parted from the manuscript of book seven, ” Rowling wrote. “A large part of it is handwritten, and there was no copy of anything I had done while in the U.S.” Eventually, she added, “They let me take it on, thankfully, bound up in elastic bands.”

i guess in this case, the tsa security measures ultimately failed, and we will ultimately have to deal with harry potter 7 exploding all over the world. at least we tried.

posted by roj at 6:13 am  

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

lysistrata, colombia

othing says personal politics like sex.

Gun-weary wives call sex strike [reuters, via the australian, 2006.09.14]

Fretting over crime and violence, girlfriends and wives of gang members in the Colombian city of Pereira have called a ban on sex to persuade their menfolk to give up the gun.

After meeting representatives of the mayor’s office to discuss a disarmament program, a group of women decided to deny their partners their conjugal rights and recorded a song for local radio to urge others to follow their example.

posted by roj at 11:38 pm  

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

dc voting rights bill gets a hearing

the dc fair and equal house voting rights act of 2006 (h.r. 5388) gets a hearing in the house judiciary subcommittee on the constitution on September 14, 2006.

just as a reminder, the residents of the district of columbia don’t have the same voting rights as other american citizens – they have only partial representation in congress. it’s important to fix that situation, and this is one step in that direction.

the members of the house judiciary subcommittee on the constitution are:

Chabot, Chairman, (R) Ohio, 1st
Nadler, Ranking Member, (D) New York, 8th

Bachus, (R) Alabama, 6th
Conyers Jr., (D) Michigan, 14th
Feeney, (R) Florida, 24th
Franks, (R) Arizona, 2nd
Green, (R) Wisconsin, 8th
Hostettler, (R) Indiana, 8th
Jenkins, (R) Tennessee, 1st
King, (R) Iowa, 5th
Scott, (D) Virginia, 3rd
Van Hollen, (D) Maryland, 8th
Watt, (D) North Carolina, 12th

particularly if you’ve got a representative on the subcommittee, i encourage you to ask them to find a way to give dc residents full representation in their federal government. even if your representative isn’t on the subcommittee, it can’t hurt to drop your rep a note…

posted by roj at 11:52 am  

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

iraq parity day comes early – civilians count too

someone else has been watching the numbers, and with a slightly different methodology, has determined that we have already had iraq parity day.

by their count, 3015 dead americans in iraq as of september 9, 2006 (2,666 military and 349 civilians), compared to 2,973 on september 11, 2001. congratulations! we won! oh wait. that’s not a good thing…

as usual, reporting the dead iraqi bodies, now at least 41860.

and this gives me an opportunity to link to this news as well…

Iraq justifications faulted [detroit free press, september 9, 2006]

U.S. officials, seeking a way to measure results of a program aimed at decreasing violence in Baghdad, Iraq, aren’t counting scores of dead killed in car bombings and mortar attacks as victims of sectarian violence.

In a distinction previously undisclosed, U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Barry Johnson said Friday that the United States is including in its tabulations of sectarian violence only deaths of individuals killed in drive-by shootings or by torture and execution.

U.S. officials said the number of deaths from sectarian violence fell by more than 52% in August over July. A morgue official said Friday that violent deaths for August totaled 1,526, down 17.7% from July.

more on iraq parity day here, here and here.

posted by roj at 7:05 pm  

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

defending the flag, occasionally

from the white house website, a photo essay, entitled “standing for the flag” includes this quote for the first image:

One day after terrorists used commercial airplanes to destroy the World Trade Center Towers and attack the Pentagon, firefighters take a moment to unfurl the flag over the scarred stone as inspiration for fellow rescue workers searching through the debris Sept. 12.

five years later in a ceremony commemorating 9/11, president george w. bush takes a moment to step on the american flag on september 11, 2006:


[via reuters

Statement on Flag Desecration Vote [white house, 2006.06.27

Today a bipartisan majority of United States Senators voted to protect our Nation’s most important symbol through a Constitutional amendment to authorize Congress to prohibit the desecration of the American Flag. Unfortunately, the final count fell short of the votes needed to send this important proposed amendment to the states for ratification.

By showing respect for our flag, we show reverence for the ideals that guide our Nation. And we show appreciation for the men and women who have served in defense of those ideals.

I commend the Senators from both parties who voted to allow the amendment ratification process to protect our flag to go forward, and continue to believe that the American people deserve the opportunity to express their views on this important issue.

a few others got here too.

posted by roj at 4:45 am  

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

welcome to the democracy security association

inspired by this post, talking about that post, and maybe even a little of this one, too… a flash of inspiration overtook me….

the tsa (that’s transportation security administration) has a logo! who watches the watchers? well… we do. you’ve been drafted into the new democracy security association. that’s the dsa, because government agencies MUST have acronyms.


welcome aboard, blogger. (you can click the logo to buy dsa crap…)

posted by roj at 12:47 am  

Monday, September 11, 2006

blog that

every threat or disparaging comment made under color of authority, every humiliation, and every stupid, irrational procedure you are forced to endure can be documented…

blog that.

this is just here to help.

for now, anyway, you still have the right to share your experiences with the world…

posted by roj at 9:15 pm  

Monday, September 11, 2006

refuse to be terorrized


posted by roj at 12:01 am  

Thursday, September 7, 2006


i’ve been meaning to ask – did the tsa officially ban stingrays on planes yet?

posted by roj at 3:46 am  
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