Veterans Day Remembered: Forced Fun

(Presented as a message sermon at the First United Methodist Church of Port Jefferson, Long Island, New York, Sunday, November 11, 2018 by Montgomery J. Granger, Major, US Army, Retired. Video: https://www.facebook.com/pjfumc/videos/502873243555742/ Start at about 19:20)

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Good morning!

Happy Veterans Day!

Would all the Veterans here today please stand? Thank you for your service and Welcome Home!

Let’s please remember, Memorial Day is for remembering those who either gave their lives in battle or who have otherwise passed on. Veterans Day, today, started 100 years ago, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918, and known as Armistice Day at the end of World War I, is to show appreciation for those served and who are still with us.

I would also like to remember Army Veteran Shirley Leonard, and my good friend PFC Wayne F. Hurley.

I am a former US Army Medical Service Officer who started as a combat medic, and then after five years as an enlisted soldier went to Officer Candidate School and then served 17 more years as a Medical Service Officer, the last 9 of which were with a Military Police (Enemy Prisoner of War) Brigade Liaison Detachment, whose job it was to take care of bad guys, which we did with Christian spirit and professional acumen, contrary to what you may have heard from the mainstream media. After 9/11, from February to June, 2002, I served at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the ranking US Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, Joint Task Force 160, in charge of coordinating medical, preventive medical and environmental services for detainees and the guard force at Gitmo. I served again from February to June 2003, at Fort Dix, New Jersey, and then again for 14 months, from October 2004 to December 2005 for a tour to Iraq, where again I found myself coordinating services for detention operations there, in Baghdad, at Camp Victory, in Abu Ghraib (after the scandal there, my unit was sent to help clean it up), in Al Basra, at Camp Bucca, and in Ashraf, at Forward Operating Base Spartan.

In deference to my father-in-law, a Korean War veteran with the Air Force, and who is at home today dealing with COPD, among other things, he would want to know how long my message was going to be. 15 minutes Bob, and you can start timing me now!

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Fair warning, this is a participation message, and may have some repeat after me moments.

Forced Fun

Forced fun is when you are ordered to do something that if you weren’t ordered to do it you probably wouldn’t do it.

November, 2008, a month before I retired from the Army after 22 years of service, including nearly 2 ½ years of deployments since 9/11/2001, and I had never participated in a parade. This time there was no escape.

Like a Commander’s Ball, no one could get out of it. With a wink and a nod the command had made it abundantly clear that from the very top general in the region, “everyone” would participate in the annual Veterans Day parade in New York City.

The uniform of the day would be the battle dress uniform, at this time it was the pixeled pattern we called the Lego pattern of light green and tan. It would be cool, but according to the powers that be, not cold, so no field jackets or anything worn on the outside of the uniform. You could however put layers on underneath and wear gloves. But if one person wore gloves, everyone had to wear gloves. If one person forgot their gloves no one could wear gloves.

Head gear would be the black beret; in other words, cold ears.

With temperatures in the 40’s in the morning prior to the march we would be shivering a bit.

There’s a lot of “hurry up and wait” in the military. This was no exception. The parade would start at 11:15, at around 26th Street and 5th Avenue, and then conclude at 46th Street, a distance of a little over a mile.

Report time? Zero 8:30, or 8:30 a.m. for you civilians.

“Don’t complain,” I told a colleague, “we’re getting paid and we’re not getting shot at.”

“Hooah!” Came the answer. Hooah! Is Army speak for just about anything except “No.”

For example, “How are you?” Hooah! “How’s the chow?” Hooah! “Did you get the beans and bullets?” Hooah! “Good morning,” Hooah! Question: Hooah? Answer: Hooah!.

I know you want to, so go ahead and try it one time: Hooah? (Audience: Hooah!)

So, from now on, when you hear my question, Hooah? You may answer back, “Hooah!” It will let me know your still with me. Hooah?

That’s the Army for you, simple and direct, efficient and effective. No wasted words or energy.

“Conserve the Fighting Strength” was the Medical Service Corps motto, and we put that to work every day.

I remember at the parade that not everyone had brought their gloves. Bad news. Good news: we could wear our gloves if we brought ‘em BEFORE the parade started. We could also go, a few at a time, to local coffee shops or kiosks and get coffee. That helped.

When it was time to march a strange feeling of nervousness grew amongst us. Some had been in parades before and told those of us who hadn’t that it was no big deal. Just look straight ahead and march. We would be singing cadence, so the march will go by quickly, and before you know it it will be over.

We heard drums and a band, and we saw costumed high school students with batons and flags and instruments. Giggling girls and serious boys, scrambling to form up.

We had been standing in formation for over two hours. Army people can never just stand around in a blob, looks bad don’t you know? And when we stand in formation we always keep one foot anchored to the ground in line so that if need be, in an instant we can form up and look like perfect little soldiers.

The commands were given, “Group, at-TEN-SHUN! Right, FACE. Forward . . . MARCH!” And off we went, left foot first then right. “Left . . . Left . . . Left, Right, Left.”

The cadence caller warmed up and then began to sing. When you sing in the Army it’s more like military rap. Most guys can’t carry a tune, so the caller usually just sticks to monotone and simple words:

“One, two, three, four,” was the call, and the reply, from almost all veterans and folks who’d been in 10, 20 or 30 years, was “You can’t count to five!”

And you can imagine the echo amongst the tall buildings coming from hundreds of soldiers.

“One, two, three four,” “Can’t count to save your life!”

So you get the idea, when cadence is called, the caller sings and the group repeats. So, let’s try that.

“Here we go again (Audience Repeats), same old stuff again (AR), marchin’ down the avenue (AR), one more mile and we’ll be through (AR). I’ll be glad and so will you!” (AR) Excellent! Easy, isn’t it? You could all be soldiers! Hooah!

On we went, singing our souls out, loving the tremendous echo we were sure traveled all the way down to the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan.

We stopped and started with those ahead of us, never longer than a minute or two. It seemed that whenever we got into a rhythm we’d have to stop.

Police stood at intersections, intermittently allowing foot and vehicle traffic to sever the parade stream, and then as quickly let it flow again.

Between 26th and 34th streets there seemed to be a decent crowd of people watching with interest and clapping from the sidewalk. That gave us a warm good feeling inside, despite the chill. There they were, perfect strangers, standing, smiling, clapping and waving.

“It’s great to be an American,” I thought. Hooah?

As we moved further uptown, the crowds thinned and then got sparse, as the band up ahead moved off at the end of the route, by the time we reached the end, only passersby were left, walking and going about their business, not seeing a mass of hundreds of uniformed soldiers marching, and then dispersing.

My wife and family were waiting for me at the end, and we smiled and hugged.

We all came to see Daddy in the parade, and to attend a free showing of the Rockette’s Christmas Spectacular, at Radio City Music Hall, sponsored by the United Service Organization or USO.

Walking to the theater, my wife told me how shocked she was that when we, the soldiers got to the end no one but them and other families were clapping. In fact, she said, one woman passerby came up to her and asked what was going on. “It’s a parade,” she said to the woman. “It’s Veterans Day.” “Oh,” the woman said, and then moved along.

It’s Veterans Day.

In line for the show, which stretched around the block into Rockerfeller Center, there were many uniformed folks all around, from all branches of service.

I actually ran into an Army chaplain I had known from my service in Iraq. We were both very surprised to see each other, as the Chaplain was from Atlanta, Georgia, but had come north to visit family who had obtained tickets for the show.

The Chaplain and I had served together at Forward Operating Base (or “FOB”) Spartan – “Come home with your shield or on it!” Was the motto, a nod to the ancient warrior class of Greek Spartans. The metaphor was honor. Come back with your honor or don’t come back alive. Hooah?

These were serious dudes we served with. The FOB, a security and detention operation of Active Duty Military Police, had the reputation for being the most disciplined FOB of any American outpost in Iraq. And it was so.

Strict Army discipline was observed. Attention to detail was the order of the day. Paying attention to detail in a war zone saves lives. Hooah?

The FOB was so, well, Spartan, that we had to have daily LOG runs, or logistical convoys for supplies, such as beans, bullets and water. Twice a week we made two trips a day. The spring and summer of 2005 were perhaps the most deadly up to that point in Iraq.

Insurgents were pushing in places like Falluja, Baquba, and the Airport Road in Baghdad. IED’s, or Improvised Explosive Devices were common, sometimes hidden inside the dead carcasses of large animals left roadside, frequently stopping log convoys such as those to and from FOB Spartan.

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I was on convoys to and from our log base once or twice per week to coordinate medical, preventive medical and environmental services for FOB Spartan.

The log base was Camp Anaconda, about an hour from our FOB and over the Tigress river, in the land of the birthplace of civilization and the stories of Babylon, and the Garden of Eden.

Compared to FOB Spartan, Anaconda had civilization. Swimming pool, Movie Theater, mall, barber shop and fast food. It was an oasis.

I remember entering the MWR (Morale Welfare and Recreation hall) there for the first time.

Lots of board games, video games, ping-pong, magazines, TV, DVD check out, popcorn machine and Movie Theater.

There were no tickets, and no charge for anything.

Army soldiers and Marines wandered inside, dusty, sweaty and tired. And some with that look in their eyes, the look coined in WWII as the Thousand Yard Stare. The person was there, but not there.

When I entered the movie theater inside the MWR, a large room really, inside the airplane hanger-sized building, it was pitch black, between scenes in a movie. When the flicker of the film returned it lighted the faces of dozens of soiled, exhausted men, almost every one of them . . . fast asleep.

The convoys certainly took it out of you, whether an 18 hour schlep to Al Basra to inspect a detention facility at Camp Bucca, or an hour long ride to and from Anaconda the stress of not wanting to “Get blowed up,” took all of your energy. Hooah?

The stress was so intense that it was common for drivers and soldiers to fall asleep at the wheel once inside the wire and before parking the vehicles. Energy drinks such as Red Bull were encouraged.

***

The Chaplain and I hugged, and asked about family and introduced everybody to each other. It was really great to see her.

She was a staple at FOB Spartan, offering Bible study, prayer groups and two Protestant services on Sundays, one traditional and one contemporary.

I was more familiar with the traditional services, so I attended those at first, and then I got curious about the contemporary services, which ended up reminding me more of my mega church experiences as a young Christian teen growing up in Southern California.

I’ll never forget one Sunday when the Chaplain invited everyone to a baptism.

She had convinced a visiting group of combat engineers to dig a hole, about four feet, by four feet, by four feet, lined it with a tarp, and then filled it with water. She had ministered to some of the Pakistani cooks at the FOB dining facility, and several wanted to convert to Christianity! Now that’s doing God’s work! Hooah?

Did someone say “Crusade?”

No, we did not, but Christian soldiers were there to accomplish a mission, and even created one there in the arid land where God put the first of us.

Beside the door to the tent/chapel was a wooden sign with the 91st Psalm painted on it. Many of us there had the 91st Psalm, what we called the Psalm of protection, printed on camouflaged scarves we kept with us on convoys.

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That worked for me.

Prayer also worked. Hooah?

I’d like to thank the Worship Committee again for asking me to share my thoughts with you this Veterans Day Sunday.

If any of you know a veteran, ask them about their favorite Veterans Day, or their most memorable. If they can’t think of one, help make a memorable one for them.

It’s OK to ask us about our service. It shows interest and appreciation, and it makes us feel . . . normal. Many of us have some fond remembrances and some funny stories. Yes, there were some scary parts, but talking about it helps us make connections that are important, especially with family and loved ones.

I hope this was better than forced fun for you, and that through my stories you’re able to see veterans as normal people, and not just as a group of folks who are mysterious or scary.

We are just like you in most ways. And one thing many veterans have in common is the belief that every day is truly a blessing. That God’s gifts are sweeter and more vivid in the light of day after service.

What a blessing it is to be safe, secure and not worrying about getting “blowed up.” Hooah?

Thank you!

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(Major Granger is the author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior” http://sbprabooks.com/montgomeryjgranger/ )

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Now is the time for Trump’s Gitmo to flourish

Now that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy has announced his retirement from the bench, President Donald Trump can revisit the matter of Boumediene v. Bush, 553 U.S. 723 (2008), in which Kennedy cast the deciding 5-4 vote, and wrote the majority opinion, which gave unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us, housed at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the right to petition for habeas corpus, or due process rights.

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One of the main points of contention in Boumediene came down to whether or not the 45 square mile slice of extreme southeastern Cuba, is considered Cuban or US soil. The Court could not deny that geographically and politically, Guantanamo Bay is Cuban territory, but, playing fast and loose with the facts, nonetheless declared it “de facto US territory.”

Habeas corpus was denied unlawful combatants held at Gitmo via President George W. Bush’s 2006 Military Commission’s Act. Detainees and their attorney’s argued that since the US controlled the territory and were holding them “indefinitely,” that their clients should be afforded due process of the law and challenge their internment. This is way oversimplifying the decision, nonetheless . . . .

Geneva Conventions and the Law of Land Warfare dictate that only lawful combatants (POW’s) are entitled to extra legal privileges and certain treatment. Unlawful combatants may be shot on sight on the battlefield and have ZERO rights.

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In early 2002, after it was determined that unlawful combatants could not be safely and securely held in-country in Afghanistan (see The Battle of Qala-i-Jangi), the detention facilities at Gitmo previously used to isolate trouble makers among the early 1990’s Hatian and Cuban boat people, was available and could be used to house over 250 War on Terror detainees temporarily while a more suitable facility was constructed. Detainees were moved from the initial facility, called Camp X-Ray, to the new facility, Camp Delta, in April of 2002.

The initial Camp X-Ray was used for only 3 months, but was and still is the image the Left chooses to perpetuate when they cry abuse and torture of detainees at Gitmo.

What the Left will never tell you, and even hid at the time, is that the detainees were treated much better than even our own US troops who guarded the detainees and who served there.

Unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us who were and are housed at the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, are given FREE Qurans, prayer rugs and beads, directions to Mecca on guard towers and detention cell floors; halal and special holy holiday Muslim meals including lamb and baklava; services of US military Muslim chaplains, white robes, beards; world class health care including dental and vision services; special medical equipment not available to host country personnel was/is flown in for them; TV, DVD’s, books, games, sports, an artificial turf field and communication with relatives and loved ones.

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To those who would cry abuse at Gitmo, NONE of the 731 detainees who have ben released, nor the 40 currently interred have been beheaded, executed, blown up, hacked to death, dragged naked and lifeless through the streets, drowned or burned alive, all things our enemies have done to us and/or our allies.

There is no moral comparison between how detainees are treated at Gitmo and how our enemy treats captives.

Back to Mr. Trump and how he can take advantage of a retiring Justice Kennedy.

Mr. Trump can write a new Military Commissions Act (MCA). The current one, written in 2009 by then President Barack Hussein Obama and his head of the Department of Justice, Eric Holder, gave unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us virtually the SAME rights you or I would enjoy in a federal court of law.

The outrageous standards of the 2009 MCA completely ignore the written language in the Geneva Conventions and Law of War, which stipulate that if a Prisoner of War (POW), or detained person is accused of war crimes, they are to be tried with the same standards as US troops would be tried under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). That is fair, and legal.

What Bush and then Obama created was MCA Light and MCA Extra Light, respectively.

Bush did it so that the US would appear to be more fair than required, and Obama did it so that the legal process would be so arduous and complicated that people would just eventually throw up their hands and then let the bad guys go! Letting the bad guys go was Obama’s mantra during his eight, free-styling years in office, which saw him release the “worst of the worst” of our captured enemies, some of whom went directly back to their previous deadly deeds, including one who had a hand in the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, on September 11, 2012.

Trump has PROMISED to “fill up” Guantanamo with “some bad dudes.” That’s great, but how they are treated there and how those accused of war crimes are prosecuted matter.

In 1942, six of eight German saboteurs who were caught dry-foot on US soil, were denied habeas corpus, tried by military commission under the UCMJ, and then executed by electric chair, all within eight weeks of their capture. At the time, the US Supreme Court unanimously approved the denial of habeas and the establishment of a military commission, as per the Constitution and the Law of War.

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The system can and has worked, but not if everybody needs their fingerprints on a way to prevent justice from being done.

So, Mr. President, I implore you to take charge. Search for your new Supreme Court Justice and then ask the candidates whether they would overturn Boumediene v. Bush. If the answer is “yes,” then you have your man/woman.

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From there, craft your new Military Commissions Act, or revert to the original that took care of unlawful combatants during WWII. You could even use the law to deal with invaders (aka illegal immigrants) from other countries. It would be too easy to call them invaders, deny them habeas rights, and then prosecute them under the new MCA. After all, who’s to say whether or not these invaders are not also unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us? Besides, there is a war going on, the Global War on Terror, and it’s about time we started acting like it, and the timing just couldn’t be better.

 

 

What if NYC Terrorist was bin Laden?

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The question is asked because even though President Donald Trump initially said that the man who killed 8 and injured about twice as many in an Islamist rampage on the Lower West Side of Manhattan bike lane using a rental truck should be sent to Gitmo and tried as an enemy combatant, but then later changed his mind, saying it would take too much time compared to a Federal prosecution.

He had it right the first time.

If the NYC terrorist is an unlawful combatant in the Global War on Terror, then he belongs at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba (a.k.a. Gitmo).

The problem is Obama’s 2009 Military Commissions Act, which gives unlawful combatant detainees accused of war crimes virtually the SAME rights you or I would enjoy in a Federal court of law. That’s why it’s taken years for several accused detainees to come to trial.

The Law of Land Warfare (U.S. Army Field Manual 27-10) and the Geneva Conventions allow accused war criminals only the same rights as an accused U.S. soldier would have under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Giving accused terrorists (unlawful combatants) an opportunity in U.S. Federal Court to be read Miranda rights, go free on technicalities, go to a Federal prison where they can spread their rhetoric and recruit other inmates and then eventually be set free puts us all at risk. Expediency should never come before security.

Gitmo is legal, and it is a small but essential piece to the big puzzle of how we defend ourselves in the Global War on Terror.

Trump needs to get Gitmo right and use Gitmo as a tool in our efforts to defeat the Islamist threat. He is fence-sitting, and it doesn’t suit him or his objective of winning the Global War on Terror.

Imagine for a moment that Osama bin Laden had been captured instead of killed in a raid. Would the President believe he should be tried in Federal court or a Military Commission? Why?

If Osama bin Laden had been captured it would have been the ultimate test of legal and political wills.

We are either at war or we are not at war. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) provides the legal permission to wage war against terrorists. It allows us to capture, interrogate and retain detainees. Once captured, the Law of War and Geneva take over as guiding edicts on treatment and privileges for those detained and those accused of war crimes.

Would bin Laden have been tried in Federal court or a military tribunal?

His status as the leader of al Qaeda and the planner of the attacks of September 11, 2001, would make him the top commander for the opposing forces. Surely if anyone could be tried for war crimes it would have been him.

Why then is there even a debate about the status of those who followed his example and perpetuate the jihad against the infidels?

Lawfare and politics.

Using the liberal legal system of the United States against us is not a new tactic, and has been practiced vigorously by our enemies since the very beginning of the Global War on Terror, shortly after the attacks of 9/11/01.

An al Qaeda manual captured by British intelligence prior to 9/11 revealed our enemy’s protocols if captured. They should lie about their treatment, claim they were abused and tortured, disrupt detention operations, threaten and harass guards and demand a lawyer.

That last part has proved most advantageous. The result? 730 Gitmo detainees have been released. None have been executed, beheaded, blown up, hacked to death, dragged naked and lifeless through the streets, drowned or burned alive, all things our enemies have done to us and/or our allies.

Never mind that at least 30 percent of released detainees are either confirmed or suspected to have returned to the fight. My concern is more about the 70 percent of released detainees we don’t know about. Where are they, your neighborhood, trying to rent a truck?

Even in a game of Capture the Flag the jailer knows not to release captured members of the other team until the game is over. Why then has our strategy been to release unlawful combatants before the end of hostilities? That’s not a winning formula, and it sends a message to the enemy that we are inferior and weak.

Some released detainees have been paid off by their governments of origin and profited from published book proceeds. So, if you survive the jihad and get captured by the Americans, you’ve hit the jackpot!

Former Gitmo detainees were allowed to claim habeas corpus, even though precedent dictated that even lawful combatant POW’s could not challenge their wartime status in civilian court. How then did we get from there to here, where an obvious and confirmed case of jihad has been turned almost matter-of-factly into a civilian crime? Expediency?  Convenience?

My patience with the POTUS on this one is running thin.

If your gut tells you that the NYC terrorist should be held and tried at Gitmo then so let it be done.

If bin Laden would have been taken and then tried at Gitmo, then so too, should the lowest member of the group.

If not, then we are not at war with unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us; we  are victims of random, disconnected violence, and should study the childhood of every terrorist and attempt to empathize with their disadvantaged upbringing and feel sorry for them and others like them, and then bear our throats for beheading.

Gitmo Trials and Unending Wars: PC Myths Prevail

In a recent article in the Gloucester Times, that covered a trip to the U.S. Military Detention Facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, by Essex County District Attorney Jon Blodgett, he discussed the place and the current trial procedures against accused war criminals there. This is my reaction to the story.

Don’t fall into the trap of saying “We are now in a series of unending wars.” That ends the conversation.

The “war” is the point after all, the Global War on Terror, the “thing” over which all the PC talking heads cringe. They won’t say it, you won’t say it, and until we all say it and then talk about, it won’t go away.

Generals NEVER discuss a battle or war without also discussing an end state. Be it cyclical or linear, an objective is the goal. So here’s one for you: Until all Islamists are dead or no longer have the means or will to kill us we must defend ourselves. From that you can build courses of action, choose one and then close on the objective.

The problem is politics and PC rangers. Unless one’s political and military goals are the same, one CANNOT be successful in war. And, like anything else in life, if you can’t be honest about the problem you cannot possibly hope to solve it.

Winning the Global War on Terror will be measured in part by the lack of seeming random acts of terror. If the world does not come together to defend itself against the radical Islamists, perhaps like many countries did against Barbary Pirates several hundred years ago, then the war will seem endless due to it’s prolonged persistence over generations.

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One question I have is, why are so few Arab countries actively involved in the battle against ISIS, the Taliban and radical Islam? So it will take a group effort. And those closest to it must be reminded, “You are either with us or with the terrorists.”

Regarding the Gitmo trials you neglect to discuss the major difference between what’s going on there and what occurred at Nuremberg or even Washington, D.C. in 1942, when 6 of 8 dry-foot German saboteurs were executed for nothing more than breaking the Law of Land Warfare and the Geneva Conventions. Gitmo holds murderers and terrorists. The German saboteurs hurt no one and destroyed no property, yet, less than eight weeks after their capture six of them were dead. How in God’s name did that happen?

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We followed the law. Military Commissions were established – with the unanimous consent of the Supreme Court. Habeas corpus was denied. The trial took place according to the Geneva Conventions and Law of Land Warfare, giving the accused the SAME rights a U.S. soldier would enjoy in a courts martial.

Now, instead of going by the established law, we go by former President Obama’s 2009 Military Commissions Act, which gives unlawful combatants accused of war crimes virtually the SAME rights you or I would enjoy in a federal court of law. See the difference?

Lawfare is one of the techniques Islamists are taught in training if they are captured. We know this from training documents obtained from them, such as the “Al Qaeda Manual.“. They are trained to lie about their treatment in captivity, lie about their past, lie about who they are, where they are from and what they were doing when apprehended.

They are trained to demand better conditions and to demand a lawyer. And they are trained to disrupt detention operations and to threaten, befriend and wage psychological warfare on guards and others who are responsible for their fair treatment and care.

Now, sadly, we have the legal debacle on stage at the Gitmo trials.

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It’s too bad we don’t have the fortitude or courage to simply do what’s right and follow the Law of War or Geneva. It worked at Nuremberg and it worked in D.C. with the German saboteurs, and it would work at Gitmo.

Maybe President Trump will get wind of this and then erase the 2009 Military Commissions Act, simply follow the Law of War and Geneva, and then move these trials along. Maybe.

Montgomery Granger is a retired, three-times mobilized U.S. Army Reserve Major, and author of “Saving Grace at Guantanamo Bay: A Memoir of a Citizen Warrior.” He has made many appearances on Fox News programs discussing Gitmo and detainees.

Trump needs to get Gitmo right

President Donald J. Trump has said “We are fighting sneaky rats right now that are sick and demented,” “We’re going to win,” and it would be “fine” if US terror suspects were sent to the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for trial.

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One of the President’s first actions then should be to shred the 2009 Military Commissions Act and then proceed using the military commissions’ guidelines from Army Field Manual (FM) 27-10 (a.k.a. The Law of Land Warfare), which is the U.S. adaptation of the Geneva Conventions. By that law, those accused of committing war crimes would receive the SAME rights as U.S. soldiers covered by the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). This would be fair, just and speedy.

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Currently, the Military Commissions Act of 2009, hastily written by then President Barack Hussein Obama and Department of Justice head Eric Holder, and then passed by a Democrat majority Congress, gives detainees accused of war crimes virtually the SAME rights as you or I would enjoy in a Federal court of law. Outrageous!

According to FM 27-10 and Geneva, by NOT following the rules for lawful combatants, unlawful combatant detainees actually earn ZERO extra legal privileges. That’s why these detainees are not considered Prisoners of War, they didn’t EARN the status, which carries many privileges.

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In 2009, Congress provided these Islamists-who-want-to-kill-us with the full blessing of the “lawfare” they were seeking. Captured al Qaeda training manuals we read at Gitmo back in 2002, identified strategies the “Brothers” should use if captured. “Lie about your treatment.” “Claim you were abused and tortured.” “Demand a lawyer.” The bad guys know that once allowed into the American justice system they could use lawfare to their advantage and either delay punishment, or get early release. Both have come to pass for virtually all detainees.

In WWII six of eight German saboteurs caught dry foot on U.S. soil were executed within eight weeks of their capture. They had hurt no one, nor had they destroyed any property. However, they were not wearing uniforms, did not carry their weapons openly, and had the means, motivation and intent to kill Americans and to destroy U.S. property. Two of the eight captured saboteurs flipped on the others and were spared the electric chair.

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Remember, those six German saboteurs who were executed had not hurt a fly nor blown anything up. They were deemed spies and in violation of the Geneva Conventions. After being denied habeas corpus, they were tried by military commission unanimously approved by the U.S. Supreme Court. Spies caught on the WWII battlefield could expect summary executions ordered by field grade officers and above. Every detainee brought to Gitmo could have been lawfully shot dead on the battlefield.

Instead, they were taken to Gitmo for interrogation to “obtain valuable information” that would “save many lives,” according to President George W. Bush, in his memoir, “Decision Points.”

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What’s different now? Why did we release at least 730 known/suspected terrorists? Why are we allowing foot dragging in the court room? Why are we allowing religious garb, prayer time, Qurans, prayer rugs/beads, directions to Mecca on guard towers, use of U.S. military chaplains, halal and special holy holiday meals to known enemies?

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The moniker “Club Gitmo” certainly applies. In the early days, when I was the ranking U.S. Army Medical Department officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group, Joint Task Force 160, tasked with overall monitoring of bad guy and good guy care, I was appalled at the difference between how we treated the detainees medically and how we treated our own soldiers. The detainees had immediate and full medical attention and care. Daily visits from an Army medical Non-Commissioned Officer, who collected medical intelligence that I would scrub and then utilize for reports to the Army incarceration command and Navy medical command, provided insight into how the enemy was trying to take advantage of the system.

In the end, each detainee received the highest quality medical care available in the U.S. military. If a specialist or special equipment were needed, they would be flow in from the States. If U.S. personnel required specialized treatment, they were sent home, a medical re-tread.

Sick-call for detainees was 24/7/365. All they had to do was cry and complain about this thing or that and then ZIP! Into the internal medical facility. Signs and symptoms of an illness or disease and BINGO! Off to the JTF detention medical facility. All air conditioned, and doting-over by Navy medical personnel who did not leave their bedside manner at the door.

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If U.S. military personnel needed medical attention they could NOT be taken to the Naval Station GTMO medical facility (Navy Hospital), which was reserved for permanent party military and civilian residents. JTF personnel had to first see their organic unit medical personnel (medics), then wait to see someone with more medical expertise if necessary and available. Most U.S. personnel could not find adequate transportation to take them to an authorized medical facility, as most Army units guarding the detainees had to leave their organic vehicles behind in the continental U.S. Many walked or had to take the base shuttle bus, sometimes waiting hours between buses.

This doting behavior towards detainees must stop. Detainees should never receive better care than our own troops. The goal was of course to keep them alive, but the pandering and doting was difficult to witness.

Now, the detainees are allowed to wear white robes and long beards. In the beginning, for hygiene reasons, all detainees were clean shaven and had shaved heads. I think we need to go back to orange jumpsuits and no beards or head hair. It’s cooler in the hot climate of the Caribbean and more fitting for unlawful combatant Islamists who want to kill us.

President Trump, who said he would fill Gitmo up “with some bad dudes,” could turn all of this around. He now has the chance to get it right. Let’s hope and pray that he does.

Trump vs Obama: The Gitmo Challenge

As sure as Casey Jones perished in a pile of smoke and broken steel amid the flame and fury of a head on collision between two burly and brave locomotives, President Barack Obama and President Elect Donald Trump are bearing down for a modern version of that fateful clash.

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“There should be no further releases from Gitmo,” Started the determined Tweet. “These are extremely dangerous people and should not be allowed back onto the battlefield.”

With this pure and logical Tweet, almost as if on cue, the President Elect seemed to be responding to an editorial by the Washington Post earlier in the day, calling for him to close Gitmo.

His response? In your face.

Even more, it is finally a direct challenge to the President regarding his failed policy of releasing unlawful combatant Islamists back into the Global War on Terror.

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According to the Director of National Intelligence, 30 percent of released detainees have returned or are suspected to have returned to the fight. And what about the other 70 percent we don’t know about, where are they?

Everyone except the President and his floundering administration knows that releasing dangerous terrorists into a world plagued by terrorism is not in the best interests of the American People, or anyone for that matter.

For a President Elect who ran on and has repeated his top priority of “America First,” his Tweet about not releasing more detainees is consistent and shows the courage of his convictions.

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The President Elect has now done more than any other person, in government or out, in the last eight years to challenge and put the President on notice over his catch and release policy with regard to emptying Gitmo, most recently of the “worst of the worst,” as labeled by Donald Rumsfeld back in 2002, when Gitmo opened. These men are dyed-in-the-wool terrorists, highly trained, skilled and committed to killing innocent people of any race, age, gender or nationality.

Recently, President Obama announced the probable release of up to 22 more detainees from the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This prompted a few outcries from this law maker or that, but nothing seemed to get the President’s attention regarding the fact that we are still at war, and that releasing our enemies while that war is hot is at worst treasonous, and at best pretty damn stupid.

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The gloves are off, the face slapped and the challenge laid bare. The President can run, but he cannot hide from this test of manhood made in a simple Tweet. He must face the issue or move along quietly into private life and then leave the Big Boy issues to the Big Boys.

Sending Josh Earnest to deal with this one would be inadequate, even for Barack Obama. He has got to respond, and respond in a positive way or risk any shred of rationality left in his now fast crumbling presidency.

When the President responds, he must do so without the tired and false narrative regurgitated one more time in the Washington Post article. There is no “international outcry” to close Gitmo. Gitmo has never been used by our enemies as a recruiting tool, and the Administration has never once provided evidence of this claim. There is not nor has there ever been systemic torture or abuse at Gitmo, and calling the approved and legal enhanced interrogation technique “waterboarding” torture is a lame liberal after-the-fact label that just won’t stick. The fact is that there is no moral comparison between Gitmo and how our enemies treat captives.

Waterboarding works, and maybe it saved your life. Just ask Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks, whether or not it is effective, and whether or not he is none-the-worse for the wear.

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No, Barack Hussein Obama must for once stand up, look Donald J. Trump in the eye, and then respond to this challenge of character. The same-old, same-old responses didn’t work eight years ago when he promised to shut Gitmo down, and they are not going to work now. He must capitulate.

Unfortunately for us, the President’s modus operandi related to challenges of his failed policies are either to ignore them, lie about them, or double down and make the whole damn thing worse.

Like Barack Obama’s apology tour, red line in the sand, Benghazi lie, trading terrorist leaders for an Army deserter, calling terrorism in the US “workplace violence,” “no boots on the ground,” “overseas contingencies,” “the Global War on Terror is over,” Gitmo is his failed crucible. He will die on this hill as sure as you’re reading these words.

The political world of Barack Hussein Obama is falling down, has run its course, is absent of any credibility.

Unlike Casey Jones, who piloted his locomotive to the bitter end in order to save lives, knowing it would kill him, President Obama will almost certainly jump from the train in an effort to save his own skin and fight another day.

Rumors of the President working to establish a “shadow government” upon his exit from the Presidency in just several days is both typical of his personality and fateful for his legacy. One last temper tantrum from the man who could never get out of his own way because of failed liberal beliefs, he will disappear into the twisted wreckage of his tenure as our Chief Executive, and it appears that President Elect Donald Trump is going to make sure of it, Tweet by blessed Tweet.

Cuba: 51st US State

I don’t believe in dancing on graves, but if I did, I would dance on Fidel Castro’s. The dictator, 90 years old, recently died, and now vast memories of oppression and brutality rush to the surface.

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The death of Fidel Castro is a tremor before the quake – Raul is next, and then (peaceful) revolution to make Cuba the 51st US state.

Go ahead and laugh, scoff and make fun, but Cuba was once a US possession. The 1898 Treaty of Paris, which officially ended the Spanish American War, awarded Cuba, Guam, the Philippines and Puerto Rico to the United States from Spain.

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Guam is still a US possession, and Puerto Rico is a US commonwealth, the residents of which are all US citizens. The Philippines were granted independence in 1946, after being liberated by the US from the Imperial Japanese at the end of WWII.

Cuba was granted independence by the US in 1902. The U.S. Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, has been in existence since 1903, when Teddy Roosevelt signed a lease agreement with the new Cuban government, by mutual consent. US Marines had landed there in June of 1898 in order to defeat the Spanish during the Spanish-American War.

In 1934, President Franklin Roosevelt signed a new lease agreement with Cuban leader Fulgencio Batista. The agreement states:

“Until the two Contracting Parties agree to the modification or abrogation of the stipulations of the agreement in regard to the lease to the United States of America of lands in Cuba for coaling and naval stations… the stipulations of that Agreement with regard to the naval station of Guantánamo shall continue in effect.”

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In 1959, revolution, led by Communist Fidel Castro, deposed Batista. This also ended an era of technological and social advancement for the people of Cuba, who enjoyed prosperity and achievement via investments and tourism, chiefly by U.S. companies and by Americans.  Today, the country looks as though it was stopped in time at that point.

Because of Castro’s belligerence and close relationship with Communist Soviet Union during the peak of the Cold War, President John F. Kennedy imposed an embargo on Cuba in 1961. Castro had allowed the construction and placement of Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) bases by the Soviets, which posed an in-your-face-threat.

Our enemy/neighbor to the south is now howling about the return of the naval base at Guantanamo Bay  as a first step toward normal relations.

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There is no right to freedom and liberty for citizens in Cuba. The vast majority of unprivileged Cubanos live a meager existence, struggling with dead-end government jobs that pay only in non-convertible Cuban pesos, a devalued currency reserved for the masses.

There is a second economy in Cuba, one reserved for the ruling elite and foreigners. Western goods can only be purchased with a convertible peso tied to the value of the US dollar. International tourists are forbidden from using the non-convertible Cuban peso, and can only purchase the higher priced items reserved for them with the convertible peso or with foreign currency.

This economic repression will not change due to new diplomatic relations between the US and Cuba. This is the big secret not discussed even by investigative reporters of the US media [sic]. Lifting an embargo will only enrich those Cubans Raul Castro decides should be enriched, and the masses will be left with nothing new, including the absence of hope.

In fact, the public relations behind the apparent thaw in relations say that the Cuban people “have suffered enough,” and that the old policy of isolation “hasn’t worked.”  This has become the Liberal politically correct mantra on Cuba.

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Even a liberal arts public school in Sag Harbor, NY, announced it was planning a school trip to the island nation to help students develop “a global vision.” Will they tour the gulags, ogle the poorest of the poor; observe struggling Cubanos in their wretched second economy, working meager nowhere lifetime jobs? Now THAT’S a trip worth taking in order to develop a “global vision” . . . of communism. Be sure to get lots of photos to show the folks back home, kids!

All this unmerited attention has emboldened the Cuban government, namely younger brother to Fidel, Raul Castro, to demand the return of the US Naval Station at Guantanamo Bay, affectionately called Gitmo.

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The path to relinquishing Gitmo is clear. No matter how the White House wants to spin it, we are on a collision course with full diplomatic relations with Cuba, despite the lack of even ONE required change or concession on Castro’s part.

This recalls the free give back of the Panama Canal to Panama; a geopolitical blunder of global proportions made by liberal President Jimmy Carter. We built it, they keep it. Oh, and we’re supposed to feel good about it, too.

American blood was spilled to build a town and a military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on 45 square miles of hard won territory fighting against the Spanish. We helped establish stability for the native Cubanos, and our investors and tourists helped establish a jewel in the Caribbean before Castro’s revolution.

It is estimated that billions of dollars of investments, property and economic interests were confiscated by Castro when he seized them during the Cuban Revolution. There has not been a peep out of either the White House or Castro about reparations.

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And now, with President Elect Donald Trump soon to assume the role of Commander-in-Chief, he can realize economic and social freedom for millions of Cubanos by taking back Cuba. The Castro’s stole it from the people of Cuba, and Trump can give it back to them, and restore stolen assets to American companies and individuals.

Sun Tsu once said, “One hundred victories in one hundred battles is not the most skillful, subduing the enemy without battle is the most skillful.” It is important to make this change peacefully, but it’s not essential. We did not bluff on threats to invade Grenada or Panama, nor would Trump back away from Cuba once ultimatums were laid down.

Without battle, Cuba can become the 51st US state, if not at least a protectorate or commonwealth. We can clandestinely destabilize Cuba easily and without force.  Now is the time once again to “Walk softly and carry a big stick.” A few carrier groups and lots of free nationalist dissidents could go a long way to freeing the people of Cuba, and showing them that they, too can enjoy liberty and justice for all.

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The big stick part should not be necessary, but it needs to be on full display, both for Cuban defense forces and any foreign government who might want to interfere.

As President Ronald Reagan told Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev to “Tear down this wall,” separating East and West Germany, so too, should Donald Trump insist on Raul Castro or his successor, to “Let the Cuban people go!”