Warranted? I Think Not

Spanish Judge Santiago Pedraz issued warrants for the arrests of three US soldiers on Tuesday. SGT Shawn Gibson, CPT Philip Wolford and LTC Philip de Camp are under investigation for returning fire at an enemy combatant firing from the Hotel Palestine in Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Their response to this enemy action resulted in the death of two cameramen, Spaniard Jose Couso of Telecino and Ukranian Taras Protsyuk of Reuters.

So far, the soldiers have been cleared of any wrongdoing by two seperate Pentagon investigations, and one conducted by an organization called the Committee to Protect Jounalists. The Spanish National Court has claimed jurisdiction in the case despite the fact that the incident took place in Iraq during military operations conducted by an international coalition because one of those killed was a Spaniard.

The soldiers could be investigated for murder, which could carry a sentance of 15-20 years in prison. I have seen some reports that the three soldiers were members of the same tank crew, but I believe the reports that state that Gibson was the commander of the tank that actually fired the round, Wolford his company commander and de Camp their battalion commander. This seems more in line with normal manning procedures.

I have also seen reports that stated it is very highly unlikely that the soldiers would ever be extradited. The warrant could only be served in Spain, not the greater European Union.

The fact of the matter is that these were soldiers in battle. They got shot at by people in the Hotel Palestine, and they returned fire. It is the the policy of the United States and an integral part of its military operating procedures and training to do all that is possible to avoid harm to non-combatants, but sometimes that is not possible. Especially when the non-combatants purposely insinuate themselves into the battle. The fact that Jose Couso and Taras Protsyuk were killed is unfortunate, but it is a reality of war that civilians somtimes are are regretably victimized.

That does not make it criminal.

But pressure on the Spanish National Court by the family of Jose Couso have instigated the investigation, and kept pressure on the Pedraz, who is an investigative magistrate, to come up with something. In Europe, an investigative magistrate acts more like a a grand jury would in the U.S. than what we would envision when we use the word "judge." He said that he issued the warrants because of a lack of cooperation from authorities in the U.S.

It is my belief that there should be absolutely no cooperation from any agency of the U.S. government of any kind in this investigation. There are several reasons for this. The United States must protect its own sovereignty, and to subject its citizens to justice from other governments would violate that. We cannot consider ourselves an independant nation if we accede to the whims of foreign powers. We also should not encourage other countries to overstep their rightful powers. If a Spanish tourist gets mugged in New York City, are we to send his assailant to Barcelona for trial? No. It is also vital that we protect the soldiers who are fighting our wars. This does not mean that we are to ignore true malfeasance, but we do need to allow members of our military to do their job without worrying that every time they pull the trigger at a muzzle flash could result in rotting away in a foreign jail.

The State Department needs to make a strong statement of support for the United States by demanding that these baseless warrants be rescinded immediately.


Army Recruitment Down

The U.S. Army has fallen short on its recruitment goals for fiscal year 2005 by about 7,000 soldiers, attaining about 91% of its goal for the year. There are obviously many reasons for this, among them the healthy economy and concerns about going to war.

Contrast this with the re-enlistment levels of those who are already in the war. The army has been able to re-enlist a far greater number in the past year than they were expecting, with deployed units leading the way in re-enlistments. Why is this? Possible reasons include the fact that those who are already serving are more likely to be those with the sense of duty to country that one would expect to enlist. It could be that soldiers enjoy the comaradarie and sense of adventure. It could be the benefits. It makes sense that deployed units would have more re-ups for two simple reasons; one, these are the people who see what a great thing we are doing for the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, and two, any re-enlistment bonus they are entitled to is tax-free if received while deployed.

I have been in the army for over fifteen years now, though I must come out up front and say that I have never had a weapon fired at me or been in the vicinity of any explosive intended to take life, (accidents, however, are another matter.) I have been to places that most Americans couldn't find on a map, and have seen the aftermath of warfare, but have not so far been a participant. I mention this because it matters, in that my service might not have so far been typical, but I do want to say that being in the army has given me a great life. I have had opportunities to do things and go places that most people only dream about, even if some of those dreams are nightmares. I have met a wide variety of people, and been exposed to cultures that I would not even be aware of without my deployments.

I have had people tell me in broken English how much they appreciate what America has done for them. I have had my chest swell with pride at the recognition I received simply for being born in America. True, I have seen the reverse of that coin too, but the odds of this coin flip landing on the obverse are definitely greater than 50%.

If you know of anyone who is thinking about joining me in the Army, or one of my brothers in the Marines or Navy, or entering my father's Air Force, (yes, we have wonderful times at family gatherings) please do what you can to encourage them. The services are not government jobs programs for the unemployable. Most of those I work with would have no problem working in the civilian sector. (This is probably a good time to point out that both of my brothers are rocket scientists.) Most of them stay in the service because they enjoy what they do.

And they realize that it is a job well worth doing.


On the Dock

Saddam on Trial

Saddam Hussein is finally facing justice for the massacre of almost 150 people after a failed assasination attempt. Saddam and seven others have been charged with murder, torture and wrongful imprisonment charges resulting from the 1982 killing of 148 men, women and children in Dujail. After a reading of the charges all defendants entered pleas of not guilty.

This is the first of what could prove to be many trials involving Hussein for crimes against humanity while he was the dictator of Iraq. At the hearing, Saddam denied that legitimacy of the tribunal, and claimed that he was still legally president of Iraq, thus immune from any prosecution.

Some people, many of whom are even considered to be "human rights activists", have stated that this trial is a sham and should not go on. They doubt the ability of the new Iraqi government to give a fair trial and have suggested that any trial should be held by an international tribunal at the world court. This thinking is wrong.

First of all, crimes against humanity trials in the Hague tend to become circuses that have much more to do with appearances of fairness than justice. They also go on too long and give the defendants too much of a podium to filibuster and run out on tangents. (Can you say "Milosovic"?)

More importantly, this trial is an important step in returning Iraq to the world community. They need to show that the rule of law will be followed, and there is no better way to accomplish this than to have a high-profile trial in which justice is the main goal. This does mean that the judges have to ensure that the trial is fair- Saddam and his henchmen need to be able to defend themselves by bringing forth witnesses and having their arguments considered. There cannot be any manufactured evidence allowed at the trial, and the trail must remain focused on the events surrounding the Dujail events and not run off into Saddam's other evil doings.

It is also vital that the Iraqi people see what type of a court system they can expect under the new constitution. The people of the greater middle east also need to see what the rule of law in a democracy can mean, and they need to see that it is Arab people that sit in judgement of the Arab accused, and not some made-up tribunal in a foreign land.

I fully expect to see Saddam convicted, and receive the full measure of justice. I also fully expect that there will be many who bemoan the fact that he is swinging from the end of a rope, but it is undeniable that he will be fairly judged, which is a hell of a lot better than the people of Dujail were treated.


Ink It Approved

This is premature, but all early indications lead me to be optimistic about the Iraqi referendum. It appears that the Constitution has gotten enough "Yes" votes to carry it and make it binding. Next up is the campaigning for the new government and the vote in December. I am truly excited by these events, but not without some trepidation. Being that the document will not affect me personally, I have not taken the time to read it through, but I have seen enough Supreme Court decisions in the US to realize that what a Constitution says and how it is interpreted are not always the same thing.

Some of the articles I have heard about are encouraging, but how stridently do we really expect the Iraqi people to enforce provisions for the free exercise of religion? An approved Constitution is a giant step for democracy in Iraq, but it is far from the end of the struggle to achieve a true Constitutional rule. Just as the storming of the Bastille and the calls for "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite" led to a sawed off Corsican rampaging across Europe, this expiriment in the Middle East could lead to greater strife later, if it is not properly nurtured by Iraqis who believe in the rule of law and armed forces (American, coalition and Iraqi) that will protect the people by continuing the fight against the terrorist thugs that are trying to sabotage the new government.

This is a good start, but the finish line is still a great distance away. We need to continue our support for the democracy movement, which means that we cannot abandon the people of Iraq by pulling our forces out yet. It might sound trite and simplistic, but for Iraq to be considered a success, we really must "Stay the course."

Bring on the World

The World Series, that is. What an amazing performance the White Sox pitchers put on this week. I know for most, that will probably get lost in some of the controversies over the umpiring (which was well below par) but the White Sox starting pitchers were just incredible. Congratulations to the team (none of whom, I am quite sure, will ever read this) and good luck in the next series.


Caveat Emptor

Last month, my wife convinced me that it would not be such a bad idea to get our son a hamster for his birthday, and after a little bit of convincing, I agreed. A few days before his birthday, my wife went to the pet store to check them out, and saw one available that seemed to be a bit more active than the others. She came home to tell me about it, so and went back to get it the day before the big day.

Needless to say, my son was overjoyed by the gift, (the Good Puppy and the Fur-Covered Demon were a bit disappointed to find out it was another pet and not a snack) and we set up a terrarium in his room.

Now we come to the real point of this story. If any of you ever find yourself in a position in which you are going to buy a hamster, you might want to ensure that said hamster is not pregnant at time of purchase. It was six days later that the population of the terrarium jumped from 1 to 8. The hamsterlings are all healthy and doing well, but are growing quickly and we will need to take measures to relocate some of them soon.

What Will You Remember?

Millons More Upstaged by 15

Yesterday, the Nation of Islam, Louis Farrakhan's organization, held a rally in DC to help launch the millions more movement, with speakers attending from Cornell West to Al Sharpton, Russell Simmons and Congressional Black Caucus leader Rep. Mel Watts. Have you heard anything about this? No?

Maybe it's because the only news footage you've seen of a large group of African-Americans was that of the rioters in Toledo. There was looting, vandalism and random violence, all because a group of 15 clowns wanted to dress up and chant stupid slogans. Right now there are rumors that the violence was spurred on by anarchists and gang members in the counter-protest crowd, but it is still a sad state of affairs that an American city because people don't know how to handle themselves.

So a bunch of morons want to feel good about themselves by speaking bad about other groups, in the long run it doesn't really matter that much. There were only 15 of them, it wasn't exactly a threatening group. Counter-protests seemed like a reasonable idea, especially since they far outnumbered the idiots sporting swastikas, but once things turned violent and out of control, the Nazis' protest had more than acheived its aims. What should have been a local display that was denounced by community leaders and the local media suddenly became fodder for the national media, with the added bonus of showing African-Americans in a particularly dim light.

The most recognizable leaders of the African-American community were on the Mall in Washington demonstrating peacefully and trying to effect change in the political process as it should be done, (even if some of what they were saying was as full of hate and racism as anything the Nazis in Toledo were spouting), and thousands attended to show their support for the movement. It seems that they wasted their time. The people they most need to convince didn't see it. They were too busy looking at video of a riot in Toledo and wondering "What is wrong with these people?"