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.

Decatur_Boarding_the_Tripolitan_Gunboat

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.

TO DRONE OR NOT TO DRONE: DOES CITIZENSHIP MATTER?

Sun Tzu, the ancient Chinese military genius once said: “The military seeks not conquest but victory.”

Militarily, using drones to eliminate enemies is economical. It conforms to the “economy of force” tenant of battle, whereby one seeks to eliminate a threat with the minimum amount of force necessary, preserving heavier resources for heavier tasks. The military would rather subdue the enemy without battle, thereby achieving victory with the least possible cost to personnel, materiel, and collateral.

Politically however, the “cost” is measured in unhappy allies and American supporters.

We saw in Vietnam that militarily, after the Tet Offensive of Jan. 30, 1968, the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army over-committed themselves by attacking and then briefly taking all South Vietnamese provincial capitals, but at great cost. The U.S. counter attacked and within days or weeks successfully won back every single gain the North had realized, and then had the bad guys on the run.

FILE - In this Nov. 8, 2011 file photo, a Predator B unmanned aircraft taxis at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas. Two U.S. drone strikes killed a total of nine suspected al-Qaida militants Thursday, Aug. 8, 2013, a Yemeni military official said, the sixth and seventh such attacks in less than two weeks as the Arab nation is on high alert against terrorism. Credit: AP

In this Nov. 8, 2011 file photo, a Predator B unmanned aircraft taxis at the Naval Air Station in Corpus Christi, Texas. Credit: AP 

 

Unfortunately, Walter Cronkite, the undisputed media voice for the American people, decided otherwise and told audiences in February 1968, that the war was “mired in stalemate,” and called for “negotiations.” From then on the U.S. looked for ways out of the conflict, eventually pulling out all U.S. troops in August 1973.

Recently, the Defense Department has identified an American al Qaeda operative overseas, who is, in the words of an anonymous source within the department, “actively planning attacks against Americans overseas.

The problem is, after the last targeted killing of an American overseas (al Qaeda operative and Virginia resident Anwar al-Awlaki, killed by a U.S. CIA drone in Yemen in 2011) there was an international and domestic uproar, especially by supporters of the president. This struck a nerve that could not be ignored, so Barack Hussein Obama fashioned new policies that somewhat quieted the crowd, but also tied our hands when seeking to eliminate known threats.

FILE - This Oct. 2008 file photo shows Imam Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike. A public backlash is starting to grow in Yemen over civilians killed by American drones as the U.S. dramatically steps up its strikes against al-Qaida s branch here the past year. Relatives of those killed say the missile blasts hitting their towns only turn Yemenis against the U.S. campaign to crush militants. The drone strikes have taken out high-level targets in Yemen such as American-born cleric al-Awlaki, believed to have been a powerful tool for al-Qaida s recruiting in the West. Most, however, appear to target midlevel operatives. Credit: AP

This Oct. 2008 file photo shows Imam Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2011. Credit: AP 

 

The new drone policy preferred the Department of Defense, and not the CIA, using drones, and any American targeted needed to have substantial provable evidence against them, or proof of imminent danger before a mission could be green-lighted. Another complication, now part of the policy, is that we can no longer send a drone into airspace over a country that doesn’t want us conducting such an operation, unless that country is determined to be rogue.

Let’s go back to Sun Tzu for a moment. Remember that militarily, victory is the number one concern of any mission. That is the objective. If you want us to “win,” we need to be able to use every available asset to achieve victory.

If you want us to “win,” we need to be able to use every available asset to achieve victory.

Otherwise, you compromise your effectiveness and therefore your psychological advantage over your enemy. Once the enemy is emboldened by thinking you will not use your weapons effectively against him he becomes even more dangerous than when you were hunting him down like the rabid, running yellow dog he is.

The yin and yang of war is that whatever you fail to employ against your enemy’s weakness, becomes his strength. Whoever employs his weapons most effectively wins.

We were not defeated militarily in Vietnam, nor could we have been. Neither were we ever fully committed militarily. We limited our bombing of North Vietnam. We never effectively mined or blockaded Haiphong Harbor, the main route of shipping supplies to the North. And we never properly pursued the enemy after pushing him out of the cities and towns he took during Tet. We allowed Communist China to intimidate our commitment, let politicians limit our commitment, and then bent to public opinion and media sabotage of our military efforts.

Remembering also that the main objective of politicians is to get re-elected and then preserve a legacy for themselves, military victory is easily explained away as unnecessary conquest. As long as the enemy does not invade the United States or incite insurrection, all is well.

Pakistani protesters gather beside a burning US flag during a demonstration in Multan on May 25, 2012 against the US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal belt. A US drone strike on May 24, killed eight militants in a Taliban stronghold of Pakistan's tribal belt, bringing the death toll from such strikes to 12 in two days, Pakistani officials said. Pakistani-US relations went into free fall last year, starting when a CIA contractor shot dead two Pakistanis, then over the American raid that killed bin Laden on May 2 and lastly over US air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November.Credit: AFP/Getty Images

Pakistani protesters gather beside a burning US flag during a demonstration in Multan on May 25, 2012 against the US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal belt. The US is allegedly considering a drone strike on an American terrorism suspect in Pakistan. Credit: AFP/Getty Images 

 

Sept. 11, 2001 changed all that. Or so we thought. My orders for activation after Sept. 11 stated that I was being ordered to military duty “in support of the Global War on Terror,” which sends our forces to more than 150 countries world wide today.

So, which is it, a War on Terror, or unfortunate little conquests we have no business perpetrating on others in the first place? Do we limit our engagement, thereby emboldening our enemy, or do we strike when necessary to save lives from potential (planned) attacks?

What we have now is legislated indecision. Advantage al Qaeda.

Prior to Awlaki’s demise, both the CIA and Department of Defense conducted drone operations. Now only the Department of Defense is authorized to do so, but actions by both houses of Congress have resisted making funds available for the transfer of CIA drones to the Army. Great hand wringing and gnashing of teeth is going on amongst our elected cowards, uh, I mean officials. They can’t see the War on Terror forest for the terrorist trees!

In the old days, prior to Awlaki’s killing, having the CIA and military  conduct targeted drone attacks kept the enemy unbalanced and unsure about where the threat was coming from. With only the military authorized to use drones we are “playing by the rules,” and tipping our intentions and take-off sites.

Advantage al Qaeda.

Does it matter if the enemy combatant is American or not? Should it?

In past conflicts Americans who were caught as traitors were summarily executed. Un-uniformed, or improperly uniformed spies can be lawfully shot on the battlefield in a hot war. Does it matter whether or not it’s from a field grade officer’s 9mm handgun or a drone?

Whether or not to use a drone may come down to whether or not you seek victory, with the only caveat being whether or not the target is more valuable dead or alive and at what cost you are willing to risk going and getting him.

“Fair” Trials for Terrorists Threaten Americans

Abu Anas al-Libi, suspected Al-Qaeda leader, was grabbed in a military raid in Libya on Oct. 5. He’s due to stand trial as an accused civilian criminal in a Manhattan Federal Court, where he has been under indictment for more than a decade on charges he helped plan and conduct surveillance for the bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, in which 212 people were killed and over 4,000 wounded, including 12 Americans KIA.
When, as an Army Reservist I was activated for duty in 2002, 2003 and 2004, my military orders included the phrase “in support of the Global War on Terror,” and mentioned the atrocities on 9/11/01. Our history of prosecuting war criminals from our first war, through the Civil War and WWII, have been clear and simple, and for over 100 years supported by international law (Geneva Conventions) and our operative version of Geneva, called The Law of Land Warfare, or the modern Army Field Manual 27-10 (http://armypubs.army.mil/doctrine/DR_pubs/dr_a/pdf/fm27_10.pdf). These documents give guidance and regulation to how we treat enemy Prisoners of War (lawful combatants and protected persons), and are clear about not giving legal privileges and protections to those who do not follow the law (unlawful combatants). These documents inform repeatedly that those found in violation of the law can be “prosecuted” and then “executed.”
The Geneva Conventions were written in part to protect innocent civilians in time of war, not to protect those who PRETEND to be civilians in order to MURDER them. It’s not that the Taliban and al Qaeda can’t afford uniforms of their own, one of the requirements in lawful conflict, it’s that they don’t want you to see them coming, and want us to believe they are merely innocent goat herders. It’s as if they want to be able to run onto the ball field from the stands at any time, murder an opposing player, and then disappear back into the crowd. And when security comes to take them away they say “it wasn’t me!” They lawyer up, play the system, and then go back to killing Americans.
Human Rights First (http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/wp-content/uploads/pdf/USLS-Fact-Sheet-Courts.pdf) brags that “Federal civilian criminal courts have convicted nearly 500 individuals on terrorism-related charges since 9/11.” And that “Federal prisons hold more than 300 individuals convicted of terrorism-related offenses.” But they don’t mention what happened to the other nearly 200 convicted terrorists! Can we assume they are free on American soil? If prosecuted and then convicted, could al-Libi be set free someday on Main Street U.S.A.?
At least the over 600 Gitmo detainees who’ve been released so far are not suspected of being on our shores, but the over 28% combined recidivism rate amongst these released Gitmo detainees (http://www.lawfareblog.com/2013/09/september-2013-guantanamo-recidivism-report-from-dni/) is no comfort, especially to the loved ones of those killed in the Benghazi attack (led by former Guantanamo Bay detainee Sufian bin Qumu), which left four Americans dead, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.
When I was deployed to Guantanamo Bay in early February 2002, just months after 9/11/01, my Army Reserve enemy prisoner of war liaison detachment was prepared to participate in military tribunals to determine the status of Gitmo detainees fresh off of planes from Afghanistan, where most of the first detainees had participated in a deadly but failed prison uprising which claimed the first American life in our retaliation for 9/11, CIA operative Johnny Michael Spann. Instead, the principle of “lawfare,” or the exploitation of the American justice system by detainees, their lawyers, sympathizers and apologists in order to manipulate American political will (which also caused disruption of U.S. military detention operations), took hold.
Today, the Military Commissions Act of 2009, the current legal policies governing the prosecution of accused war criminals in the Global War on Terror, affords unlawful combatant Islamist detainees virtually the SAME RIGHTS as you or I would enjoy were we in a Federal Court of Law (http://www.mc.mil/ABOUTUS/LegalSystemComparison.aspx). Even though the Geneva Conventions and Law of Land Warfare, created to protect innocent civilians during war, offer NO extra-legal privileges for those who break the law.
The Obama administration has taken the disposition of Global War on Terror suspected war criminals to an absurd level, not only allowing them to remain in the stadium, but giving them luxury boxes and rain-check tickets for a repeat performance, and are continuing to put American lives at risk by bringing the latest and greatest al Qaeda suspect to U.S. shores, when he should be at Gitmo receiving a professional interrogation from our best and brightest.
Urban myths about the treatment of Gitmo detainees are now vernacular, especially amongst the “low information” crowd who rarely dig deeper than their news feed sound bites provide, but the truth is that although over 600+ Guantanamo Bay detainees have been released, none have been executed, beheaded, hacked to death, blown up or dragged naked and lifeless through the streets. In contrast, the only U.S. prisoner held by Taliban or al Qaeda believed not to have had his head slowly removed from his body by a long jihadi knife, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, missing since June, 2009, remains a mystery. Where are Amnesty International, the ACLU and other so-called “human rights” organizations on Sgt. Bergdahl? Why won’t the mainstream media or Barack Hussein Obama even show his face or demand his release?
I know from my 22 years as a military member and over 9 years of service as an Army officer with an enemy prisoner of war liaison detachment, the best way to obtain valuable information from enemy suspects is to convince them that unless they cooperate they will remain in detention. Which, according to the Geneva Conventions is legal. Even lawful combatant POWs may be held, without charge, “until the end of hostilities.” This is not “indefinite detention,” as some would complain; no more indefinite than a baseball game in extra innings. In theory, the game could go on endlessly, but it never does, and neither would unlawful combatant detainees be held “forever.” We need to redouble our efforts to take away our enemy’s means and will to fight and kill us. Until then, the finest military detention facility in the world is ready, willing and able to take care of and provide opportunities for unlawful combatants to help end the Global War on Terror.

Releasing The Enemy Won’t Help Win Our Struggle Against Islamists

There has been criticism of the military medical staff at the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, over the ordered release earlier this month of Ibrahim Idris, a native of Sudan who has been held as an unlawful combatant at Gitmo for over 11 years.

Idris was captured with al Qaeda fighters in 2001. Shortly after arriving at Guantanamo in 2002, he was diagnosed by a U.S. Army psychiatrist as being schizophrenic. Islamist apologists are seizing on this gesture of humanitarian compassion and practical military efficiency by saying Idris should have been medically released soon after his diagnosis.

What the al Qaeda fighter’s apologists and sympathizers don’t realize is that two entities must recommend release of a detainee who may be suffering from a medical condition which may render him less of a threat to repeat his aggression against the United States, one is the medical command (not just at Gitmo, but at the highest levels of the U.S. Army Medical Department (AMEDD)), and the other is the intelligence command.

Back in 2002, when I was serving at Guantanamo Bay as the ranking AMEDD officer with the Joint Detainee Operations Group (JDOG), Joint Task Force (JTF) 160, I was selected to participate in the very first repatriation of a Gitmo detainee, an Uzbek Afghani national named Abdul Razeq.

We nicknamed Razeq “Wild Bill,” due to his bizarre behavior in Camp X-Ray, where he would take bites out of his flip-flops, hang objects from his genitals, and generally cause frequent verbal disruptions. Eventually, the military medical staff diagnosed Razeq as schizophrenic, but, by his own admission to me, during a long break in his release journey to the Leeward airport at Guantanamo, Razeq offered another source for his symptoms.

Razeq admitted to being a heroin addict who had picked up an AK-47 in the fall of 2001 for the Taliban in order to sustain his habit. Some of the bizarre behavior, as it turned out, was due to his violent withdrawal from his heroin addiction.

But this behavior and diagnosis alone were not sufficient to get him a trip back to Afghanistan. He had to be declared not only a low risk of returning to the enemy, but also had to be determined not to be of any further intelligence value. Lastly, even if these two criteria are established, the country from which the detainee originated, or his national country of origin, must be able and willing to take him back.

The Sudan, in Idris’ case, was not a stable enough place in the past for him to be returned to, and still may not be. The Geneva Conventions stipulate that even lawful combatant Prisoners of War (POWs) may be held without charge, “until the end of hostilities.” During WWII the U.S. held over 400,000 German and Italian lawful combatant POWs without one call for extra legal privileges for them, or for medical releases back to their countries of origin. Even now, with a combined 28.9% recidivism rate (reported by the Director of National Intelligence, September 2013 http://www.lawfareblog.com/2013/09/september-2013-guantanamo-recidivism-report-from-dni/) of confirmed and suspected recidivists amongst released Gitmo detainees, it may not be wise to release any of the Gitmo detainees who aren’t facing war crimes charges in the Military Commissions there.

How much more blood on his hands will it take before the domestic threat of Islamist terror hits home for Barack Hussein Obama (Boston, Ft. Hood, 13 defeated terror plots on Manhattan alone)? How many more recidivists (Abu Sufian bin Qumu, alleged mastermind of the Benghazi jihadi attack, and former Gitmo detainee) will it take before he realizes we are in a war with Islamists who want us all dead and not in a game of “Capture the Flag?”

Idris may be harmless now, and I appreciate why he was released, but why take that chance while the Global War on Terror (GWOT) still rages? This fantasy that Islamist terrorists should be treated like common criminals and then arbitrarily released is literally killing us, and feeding the flames of Arab uprisings and civil wars (Egypt, Syria, et. al.).

Giving up the high ground in the GWOT by abandoning Iraq, in the face of overwhelming success of keeping the peace by keeping troops in the countries we liberated and defeated in WWII, was perhaps the President’s most myopic and deadly foreign policy blunder to date, which has grown from ripples of internal Middle East strife, into a tsunami of destabilization in the region today.

Today, we have troops in over 70 countries in our struggle with Islamists who want to kill us, including Germany, Japan and Italy, countries we defeated in WWII and who are now world economic leaders, peaceful, and prosperous because we stayed, economically and militarily. Leaving Afghanistan would seal the fate of that region to the Iranians, Taliban and al Qaeda, just like throwing Iraq to those wolves has done.

When will we learn from our past in a way that teaches every new generation that the only way to truly defeat an enemy is to take away the means and will for them to fight? Sun Tzu, author of “The Art of War,” said, “100 victories in 100 battles is not the most skillful, subduing the enemy’s military without battle is the most skillful.” We cannot hope to influence the enemy “without battle” if we are not willing to remain close enough to him to do so. And we certainly can’t hope to do that by releasing more than 600 from our military detention facility, only to meet them again on the battlefield and on our streets. “Until the end of hostilities,” is soon enough for me.