Law

Bringing the Law to Justice:

With regard to the evil treatment of civilians in the warzone by the media and academia -- we were talking about the HTTs, but also about any other contractors -- Joe remarked in a recent comment:

It may help that we actually have a working mechanism to hold civilians criminally liable when they step the wrong way - I remember from 2004-05 the nightmare of trying to do that, and being filled with the wish that whoever couldn't be punished, should go.
That's more or less the opinion of Deborah Colson on the upcoming Blackwater Worldwide case. She says, "Contractors perform necessary and often courageous service, but letting even a few act with impunity stains our reputation and undermines the credibility of our efforts."

That's fair enough. Discipline is the soul of the army, and that goes for those who carry "Geneva Conventions Accompanying Forces" IDs like I do, too.

There is a trend within American law, however, that I find absolutely disgusting. It arises from the concept that the process is meant to be adversarial, and the prosecutor should therefore attempt to bring the maximum penalty the law permits as their opening position. This means "the maximum penalty we can find any possible way to imagine the law considering."
Among the hurdles the government now faces:

_Whether U.S. law permits civilian contractors to be charged in the United States for crimes committed overseas. Prosecutors must convince a judge that the guards can be charged under a law targeting soldiers and military contractors — even though Blackwater works for the State Department.

Prosecutors are expected to argue that, if not for Blackwater, military personnel would provide diplomatic security. In that way, Blackwater could be seen as supporting the Defense Department's mission.

_Convincing a jury that a drug law intended to crack down on assault weapons should be used to pump up potential penalties against the guards. The five men are expected to be charged with assault or manslaughter under a provision in the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act that requires 30-year prison terms for using machine guns to commit violent crimes, whether drug-related or not.
I couldn't disagree with this kind of thing any more than I do. The state should advocate for justice: for a just application of the law. Attempting to find innovative ways to put people in jail far longer than is just should be a form of prosecutorial misconduct. In my opinion, it should be itself a crime.

Look at the position we're in here:

1) The prosecutors intend to claim that the law -- which specifically limited itself to DOD employees -- should apply to State Department employees because 'they are supporting the DOD mission' by performing a function that the military would otherwise have to perform.

OK. My job includes arranging meetings between US government employees and tribal figures in Iraq in order to address and avoid problems. That's obviously a diplomatic function: the military's only doing it because the State Department lacks the personnel and resources to devote FSOs to it. Therefore: if I'm arrested on any future charge under this law, I'll just claim that the law shouldn't apply to me because 'I'm really performing a service that supports the State Department's mission.' Right?

No, that's obviously not right. I work for DOD; the law was written for me. Blackwater's guys work for the diplomats; the law specifically doesn't apply to them. Furthermore, the State Department knows it could get military escorts and doesn't want them. It feels that would make it subordinate to the military, rather than equal and independent. Thus, if they weren't using contractors, they'd have to provide State Department GS-series guards. Blackwater isn't supporting 'the military mission,' but State's desire to remain independent of the military.

The law was written this way for exactly this reason. Now the government wants to put the law into force in a way precisely contrary to the reason the law was composed.

If the government won't play by its own rules -- and the law are its own rules -- why should anyone trust them with the power to enforce the law?

2) Does the prosecution seriously intend to argue that a law designed to punish the use of illegal machineguns inside America should apply to the use of formally licensed machineguns in a warzone, in the contracted service of our State Department?

If they do, do they understand that they have just raised the penalty for any crime involving those machineguns to a minimum 30 year sentence? Let's say you shoot someone you believed was an insurgent, but the jury decides (based on 'witness statements' from Iraqis who hate you, and who aren't available to be cross-examined in court) that you were wrong to believe that. So you've committed something like manslaughter (in a firefight, in a warzone). 30 years, minimum.

Both propositions are totally unreasonable. A law composed for illegal machineguns in a peaceful area shouldn't apply to lawfully-carried machineguns employed in the licensed service of the US government itself. Likewise, while mistakes should be prosecuted, 30 years is a massive sentence to set as the minimum for any possible 'violent crime' given the difficulties specific to prosecuting people based on unavailable witnesses, for actions taken during the confusion of a firefight, in a warzone.

I fully support the application of law to the battlefield. More than that, though, I want to see justice done. That should be the aim of the law. I know this is the system we have, but I don't like it one bit.
Soldiers' Archangel:

Apparently SA is looking for a new, full-time director. It's good to see them doing well and expanding their operations. Here's the posting, if any of you are interested.

Short position description for
Soldiers’ Angels Executive Director
Soldiers’ Angels, one of the nation’s largest military support groups, is seeking
nominations and applications for the position of Executive Director. The ideal candidate
will be an entrepreneurial leader who has the vision, creativity, energy and experience to
continue the work of the founder and to place the organization on footing to serve the
future needs of our military and their families. Reporting to the Board of Trustees, the
Executive Director will provide strategic leadership, empower and motivate the senior
volunteers and oversee all day-to-day operations. The Executive Director will also be
responsible for hiring support staff and other key employees. Areas of responsibility
include: financial management, volunteer development, program oversight,
internal/external communications, and fund raising.
The successful candidate will have:
Prior significant leadership experience in a multi-faceted non-profit organization
Demonstrated ability to work effectively with volunteers, staff and donors
Knowledge of and appreciation for the military and their families, preferably through
prior military experience, active duty or civilian
Strong communications skills
Experience in financial planning and management
This position also requires the candidate to demonstrate:
In-depth knowledge of fund raising program development and administration, including
direct mail and major giving functions
Experience in marketing, public relations, and media relations.
Cover letter and Resume should be mailed, before January 15, 2009, to:
Soldiers’ Angels
Attn: Executive Director Search Committee
1792 East Washington Blvd.
Pasadena, California 91104
Or emailed to:
executivedirector@soldiersangels.org
If you email the documents please use the Return Receipt function to ensure that the send
was successful.
I nominate Cassandra.
Georgia On My Mind:

Well done, folks. Jim Martin's not a bad guy or anything, but -- in spite of my relative pleasure at Obama's early appointments -- I'm glad to see that there is a filibuster option to restrain the worst impulses of the incoming Congress. It'll be good for all of us: for liberals by keeping them from overreaching and angering the centrist majority, and for conservatives by offering some protection for at least their deepest convictions. The millions of members of the NRA, for example, should breathe a little easier today.

Some have said that the race was a test for Obama. I'd say that was not true in any broad sense of the word, but it is worth noticing just how strong the shift was in Sen. Chambliss' direction. He went from 49% in the general to 58% in the runoff.

What's interesting isn't really the magnitude of the spread or the shift, but the fact that the spread is almost precisely what it would have been in a normal election year. It shows none of the wave-strength that the Democrats had in the general election. These numbers are normally what we expect to see in a Georgia race -- 58/42 R/D is usual for a statewide race.

That may suggest that the general election was a spasm of anti-Bush/anti-incumbent feeling that has now been expiated. Well, that's what elections are for: letting you throw the bums out once in a while. This could be a warning that the population hasn't shifted left in any significant way, but was just in a really foul mood towards the Republican party. Once the anti-incumbent fever was spent, things snapped right back to normal.

You could also argue that this was a runoff in which Republicans were more motivated in Georgia, as they were the last chance to prevent a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. In that case, the general population may have shifted left, but they are feeling good now after the general election and didn't think it mattered much to get out again so soon. In that case, apathy rather than -- well, "change" -- is the problem for Obama and his new coalition.

We'll need more data to know which is closer to correct. As we've know since the Greeks -- and as Shakespeare also believed -- 'the mob' is full of passion, but quick to turn. It's also quick to disperse, and just wander away.

Monty McFate

Monty McFate and the Human Terrain:

She's been invited to speak at the Southwestern Anthropological Association meeting (h/t InstaPundit. She's the one who came up with the concept of the Human Terrain System. This led to the rise of the Human Terrain Team (HTTs, which operate at the Brigade level) and Human Terrain Analysis Team (HTAT, a Division-level asset).

Honestly, it's one of the most positive developments to come out of what we call the war on terror. The HTT helps the Army understand the culture it is operating with, in order to limit misunderstandings, reduce friction, and therefore act as a cooling factor on insurgency growth. That means fewer insurgencies, shorter insurgencies, and therefore fewer dead and wounded noncombatants where we come to be involved.

The core objection seems to be that HTTs "enable" targeting, which is somehow a violation of ethics for an anthropologist. It's been my experience, however, that the Army was already pretty good at targeting. What the HTT does is make targeting less necessary.

I have been working with ours quite closely, expect to be working with them even more closely going forward, and I am glad they are here. Of course (as you will recall) I also hold a Master's degree in History, and value the very skills they offer: an ability to harmonize the military culture with academic rigor, and to help men trained in military honor to understand the workings of tribal honor.

I do think the academy should want to help, for patriotic reasons but also for humane ones. As I've written on occasion, the best education for a Westerner seeking to deal with this set of problems is to read the heroic epics, such as the Iliad and the Heimskringla. If you understand our own roots in very similar cultures, you can start to see how warriors can make a peace when no one else can -- as well as what kinds of things break such peace.

For more, here is Dr. McFate at SWJ.