Later On

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Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

Donald Trump Really Likes to Drop Military Secrets Into His Conversations

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Kevin Drum has a column well worth reading: another unnecessary military/intelligence secret revealed, thanks to Donald Trump.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 May 2017 at 11:18 am

Trump’s Next Task: Learning The Limits Of Military Power

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War on the Rocks notes about the writers:

Lt. Gen. David W. Barno, USA (Ret.) is a Distinguished Practitioner in Residence, and Dr. Nora Bensahel is a Distinguished Scholar in Residence, at the School of International Service at American University. Both also serve as Nonresident Senior Fellows at the Atlantic Council. Their column appears in War on the Rocks every third Tuesday.

David Barno and Nora Bensahel write at War on the Rocks:

During its first 100 days, the Trump administration has relied heavily on the U.S. military to address its first set of national security problems. This approach has clearly put adversaries on notice that the new president is willing to employ military power assertively around the world in defense of U.S. interests. Yet it is also very dangerous, because military force is being used absent a more comprehensive approach that integrates all elements of national power. Continuing to rely so heavily on military force risks escalating crises into unexpected, unpredictable, and ultimately more deadly conflicts.

Since Inauguration Day, the U.S. military has launched a cruise missile strike against Syria; intensified air strikes against the self-proclaimed Islamic State in Iraq; used the largest U.S. conventional bomb for the first time, against an Islamic State target in Afghanistan; launched a major raid and increased air strikes against al Qaeda in Yemen; deployed additional troops to Somalia; dispatched F-35 fighters to Estonia; and engaged in confusing saber-rattling with North Korea. Trump directly approved some of these missions, but he has also delegated substantial authority to the Pentagon and military field commanders to conduct operations around the world without prior White House approval.

Why has the Trump administration used the military so frequently? There seem to be at least four reasons. Left unchanged, they suggest that the Trump administration will continue to turn to the military as the first (and possibly only) choice rather than as a last resort — a penchant that could incur dangerous long-term consequences.

First, Trump is, by all indications, enamored with military power. This apparent fascination has taken many forms. It threatens to set the United States on a dramatically different and potentially far more dangerous trajectory in its foreign policy and national security endeavors than any strategy in our history. Candidate Trump pledged to build up and show off the U.S. military, and emphasized using unrestrained force against America’s adversaries. He argued for using torture against suspected terrorists (a position he later reversed), and pledged to “bomb the shit” out of the self-proclaimed Islamic State. His enthusiasm for using military force has not dimmed in office, since he characterized the missile strikes against Syria as “incredible. It’s brilliant. It’s genius.” Trump’s excitement in the trappings and use of military power is almost palpable, and comes across in ways that suggest he may fail to grasp the lethal and unpredictable second- and third-order consequences.

Second, the Trump administration is reducing its non-military options by systematically gutting the civilian elements of U.S. national power, especially diplomacy and development. Its recent budget proposal would slash the budgets of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) by a whopping 29 percent — a cut so deep that Senator Lindsey Graham, one of the most hawkish Republicans in Congress, pronounced it “dead on arrival” because it “shows a lack of understanding about what it takes to win the war.” Last week, Foreign Policy reported that the administration is considering abolishing USAID altogether and transferring its responsibilities to the State Department. Moreover, the forceful advocacy for diplomatic options so essential to a robust and balanced interagency discussion of looming policy choices is largely missing because the vast majority of senior positions at the State Department remain vacant. All of this is made worse by a secretary of state who has chosen to remain largely invisible at home and around the world in his first few months in office. As a result, the United States now has a hollow, unempowered, and demoralized diplomatic corps that cannot effectively make its voices heard in critical interagency debates or in discussions with foreign governments. When diplomats’ vital perspectives on both the alternatives to military power and the limitations of using force are missing from policy debates, military options will inevitably seem more attractive than patient statecraft.

Third, the Trump administration has too many generals influencing its thinking on national security. As we noted in a previous article, the Pentagon is deeply in the midst of what we called the oversight gap. While hundreds of Defense Department political appointee slots remain vacant, senior generals are effectively in charge of many of the day-to-day operations in the Pentagon. Furthermore, two of the most important civilian positions in the national security realm (other than the president) are held by military men with battlefield experience in recent wars. Army Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster is the national security advisor, who sees the president daily and dispenses advice on dealing with every international security crisis. (His chief of staff at the National Security Council is Keith Kellogg, a retired Army three-star general.) And James Mattis retired so recently as a Marine four-star general that he could not be confirmed as secretary of defense until Congress had waived the legal requirement for the person filling that position to have been out of uniform for at least seven years. Both of these posts are purposefully designed to be filled by civilians in order to exert effective civilian control over the military, and to help ensure civilian viewpoints are considered in national security debates. No matter how smart and qualified these two men are, the fact that they have spent their entire careers in the military inevitably shifts the policy debate toward military options and away from diplomatic, political, and economic alternatives.

Fourth, . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

4 May 2017 at 9:22 am

Afternoon idiocy watch

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That’s what Kevin Drum calls it, and when you read his post, you’ll know there’s really nothing else to call it.

Written by LeisureGuy

18 April 2017 at 8:13 pm

UN child sex ring left victims but no arrests

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Words fail me. Paisley Dodds writes for AP:

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti (AP) — In the ruins of a tropical hideaway where jetsetters once sipped rum under the Caribbean sun, the abandoned children tried to make a life for themselves. They begged and scavenged for food, but they never could scrape together enough to beat back the hunger, until the U.N. peacekeepers moved in a few blocks away.

The men who came from a far-away place and spoke a strange language offered the Haitian children cookies and other snacks. Sometimes they gave them a few dollars. But the price was high: The Sri Lankan peacekeepers wanted sex from girls and boys as young as 12.

“I did not even have breasts,” said a girl, known as V01 — Victim No. 1. She told U.N. investigators that over the next three years, from ages 12 to 15, she had sex with nearly 50 peacekeepers, including a “Commandant” who gave her 75 cents. Sometimes she slept in U.N. trucks on the base next to the decaying resort, whose once-glamorous buildings were being overtaken by jungle.

Justice for victims like V01 is rare. An Associated Press investigation of U.N. missions during the past 12 years found nearly 2,000 allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation by peacekeepers and other personnel around the world — signaling the crisis is much larger than previously known. More than 300 of the allegations involved children, the AP found, but only a fraction of the alleged perpetrators served jail time.

Legally, the U.N. is in a bind. It has no jurisdiction over peacekeepers, leaving punishment to the countries that contribute the troops.

The AP interviewed alleged victims, current and former U.N. officials and investigators and sought answers from 23 countries on the number of peacekeepers who faced such allegations and, what if anything, was done to investigate. With rare exceptions, few nations responded to repeated requests, while the names of those found guilty are kept confidential, making accountability impossible to determine.

Without agreement for widespread reform and accountability from the U.N.’s member states, solutions remain elusive.

Here in Haiti, at least 134 Sri Lankan peacekeepers exploited nine children in a sex ring from 2004 to 2007, according to an internal U.N. report obtained by the AP. In the wake of the report, 114 peacekeepers were sent home. None was ever imprisoned.

In March, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced new measures to tackle sexual abuse and exploitation by U.N. peacekeepers and other personnel. But the proclamation had a depressingly familiar ring: More than a decade ago, the United Nations commissioned a report that promised to do much the same thing, yet most of the reforms never materialized.

For a full two years after those promises were made, the children in Haiti were passed around from soldier to soldier. And in the years since, peacekeepers have been accused of sexual abuse the world over.

In response to the AP’s investigation, the U.N.’s head of field support said Wednesday the international body was aware of shortcomings in the system. . .

Continue reading.

So they know about it and they do nothing about it.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 April 2017 at 2:33 pm

What’s the cost of 19 fighter jets?

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Jordan Libowitz posts at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW):

Last week, the Trump administration dropped an Obama administration condition that Bahrain must improve its human rights record before being allowed to buy American arms. Bahrain, ranked in the bottom 20 countries in the world in Freedom House’s 2017 Freedom in the World report, continues to have a government full of what the president would call “bad hombres.”

So, why would President Trump bless the sale of 19 F-16 fighter jets to the freedom-challenged nation without any sign of improvement? Could it be…Bahrain’s moving of an event from the Ritz Carlton to the Trump International Hotel in DC just days after his election as president?

Now, we don’t know if the Bahraini event was a factor in the president’s judgment—there’s no way to know if there was a quid pro quo relationship. But the connection is clearly there, so it’s a question we have to ask. This is the situation President Trump created by refusing to sell his businesses and put his assets in a blind trust, and the reason we felt it necessary to sue him: the foreign emoluments clause of the Constitution was written so Americans would never have to worry whether their government officials were making decisions with their best interests in mind or because a foreign government paid them.

For decades, presidents have placed their assets in blind trusts or widely held mutual funds and Treasury bills to let America know they truly were acting in the interest of “America first.” Former President Jimmy Carter even gave an independent trustee the power to sell his warehouse and rent out his farm without the president’s knowledge or approval. But it’s not like President Carter’s peanut farm ever had much of an effect outside the then-230 or so residents of Plains, GA. There’s so much more at stake here.

President Trump has raised the specter of exchanging thousands of dollars in payments to his company for the right to buy billions of dollars in weapons despite a horrid human rights record. Here’s what the State Department’s latest human rights report had to say about Bahrain:

“Human rights groups reported prisoner accounts alleging security officials beat them, placed them in stress positions, humiliated them in front of other prisoners, deprived them of sleep and prayers, insulted them based on their religious beliefs, and subjected them to sexual harassment, including removal of clothing and threat of rape.”

And here’s the status of women in Bahrain:

“No government policies or laws explicitly address domestic violence. Human rights organizations alleged spousal abuse of women was widespread. According to the BCHR, 30 percent of women had experienced some form of domestic abuse. Women rarely sought legal redress for violence due to fear of social reprisal or stigma. Authorities devoted little public attention to the problem…Women faced discrimination under the law.” . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

7 April 2017 at 4:49 pm

The Spoils of War: Trump Lavished With Media and Bipartisan Praise For Bombing Syria

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Glenn Greenwald in The Intercept has a somewhat cynical take (albeit accurate in the effects) on the Tomahawk missile strike on the Syrian airfield (from which planes took off on new missions within the same day).

IN EVERY TYPE of government, nothing unites people behind the leader more quickly, reflexively or reliably than war. Donald Trump now sees how true that is, as the same establishment leaders in U.S. politics and media who have spent months denouncing him as a mentally unstable and inept authoritarian and unprecedented threat to democracy are standing and applauding him as he launches bombs at Syrian government targets.

Trump, on Thursday night, ordered an attack that the Pentagon said included the launching of 59 Tomahawk missiles which “targeted aircraft, hardened aircraft shelters, petroleum and logistical storage, ammunition supply bunkers, air defense systems, and radars.” The governor of Homs, the Syrian province where the attack occurred, said early this morning that the bombs killed seven civilians and wounded nine.

The Pentagon’s statement said the attack was “in retaliation for the regime of Bashar Assad using nerve agents to attack his own people.” Both Syria and Russia vehemently deny that the Syrian military used chemical weapons.

When asked about this yesterday by the Globe and Mail’s Joanna Slater, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau urged an investigation to determine what actually happened before any action was contemplated, citing what he called “continuing questions about who is responsible”:

But U.S. war fever waits for nothing. Once the tidal wave of American war frenzy is unleashed, questioning the casus belli is impermissible. Wanting conclusive evidence before bombing commences is vilified as sympathy with and support for the foreign villain (the same way that asking for evidence of claims against Russia instantly converts one into a “Kremlin agent” or “stooge”).

That the Syrian government deliberately used chemical weapons to bomb civilians became absolute truth in U.S. discourse within less than 24 hours – even though Trudeau urged an investigation, even though it was denied in multiple capitals around the world, and even though Susan Rice just two months ago boasted to NPR: “We were able to get the Syrian government to voluntarily and verifiably give up its chemical weapons stockpile.”

Whatever happened with this event, the Syrian government has killed hundreds of thousands of people over the past five years in what began as a citizen uprising in the spirit of the Arab Spring, and then morphed into a complex proxy war involving foreign fighters, multiple regional powers, ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Russia.

The CIA has spent more than a billion dollars a year to arm anti-Assad rebels for years, and the U.S. began bombing Syria in 2014 – the 7th predominantly Muslim country bombed by Obama – and never stopped. Trump had already escalated that bombing campaign, culminating in a strike last month that Syrians say destroyed a mosque and killed dozens. What makes this latest attack new is that rather than allegedly targeting terrorist sites of ISIS and Al Qaeda, it targets the Syrian government – something Obama threatened to do in 2013 but never did.

Leading Congressional Democrats – including Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi – quickly praised Trump’s bombing while raising concerns about process. Hours before the bombing commenced, as it was known Trump was planning it, Hillary Clinton – who has been critical of Obama for years for not attacking Assad – appeared at an event and offered her categorical support for what Trump was planning: . . .

Continue reading. There’s a lot more, and Greenwald spells out the takeaway in ten numbered sections, titled as follows:

  1. New wars will always strengthen Trump: as they do for every leader.

  2. Democrats’ jingoistic rhetoric has left them no ability – or desire – to oppose Trump’s wars.

  3. In wartime, US television instantly converts into state media.

  4. Trump’s bombing is illegal, but presidents are now omnipotent.

  5. How can those who view Trump as an Inept Fascist now trust him to wage war?

  6. Like all good conspiracy theories, no evidence can kill the Kremlin-controls-Trump tale.

  7. The fraud of humanitarianism works every time for (and on) American elites.

  8. Support for Trump’s Bombing Shows Two Toxic U.S. Conceits: “Do Something” and “Look Strong”

  9. Obama’s refusal to bomb Assad hovers over everything.

  10. None of this disproves, obviously, that Hillary Clinton was also a dangerous hawk.

 

Written by LeisureGuy

7 April 2017 at 3:27 pm

Force-Feeding Videos Remain Sealed

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It’s very much as though the military does not want people to see how they treat people, isn’t it? (And the CIA made sure to destroy all the videos of the torture they inflicted on their prisoners. Same reason, I would say.)

David Kimball-Stanley writes at Lawfare:

On Friday, a three-judge panel in the D.C. Court of Appeals rejected a request to release recordings of military personnel in Guantanamo Bay force-feeding a detainee who was on a hunger strike. The detainee in question is Abu Wa’el (Jihad) Dhiab, whose habeas corpus proceedings have previously been covered by Lawfare.  Dhiab has since been released to Uruguay, but media organizations continue to press for the public release of the military’s force-feeding recordings. Friday’s ruling came with three separate opinions, each agreeing with the result but offering different takes on the law supporting the panel’s decision. This post will examine the three opinions and consider their implications.

Background

Abu Wa’el (Jihad) Dhiab, a citizen of Syria, was detained at Guantanamo Bay starting at least in 2002. In 2005, Dhiab filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging his detention. In 2009, the Guantánamo Review Task Force cleared Dhiab for release. Dhiab was not actually released from Guantanamo until December of 2014, and in the interim period he went on a hunger strike to protest his continued indefinite detention.  On April 9th, 2013, the government notified Dhiab’s counsel that it had begun force-feeding him through his nose. In May of 2014, the government disclosed that it had recordings of Dhiab being removed from his cell, brought to a medical facility, and fed against his will. The recordings were made in order to help the train military personnel on how to handle detainees in such situations. The recordings are classified as “SECRET,” a designation reserved for information “the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security.”

While he was being held, Dhiab filed motions to enjoin his force-feedings. The district court ordered the government to provide Dhiab’s counsel, who had been given security clearance, access to the tapes. Dhiab’s counsel then entered those recordings into the court’s record under seal. Sixteen press organizations intervened in the proceedings and moved for those recordings to be unsealed. Though Dhiab has been released and is no longer a party to this case, he previously made clear that he wanted the tapes released:

I want Americans to see what is going on at the prison today, so they will understand why we are hunger-striking, and why the prison should be closed. If the American people stand for freedom, they should watch these tapes. If they truly believe in human rights, they need to see these tapes.

The district court judge, Gladys Kessler, granted the request to unseal the recordings, but on the condition that there be several redactions and edits. Both sides appealed the decision, with the government contending the recordings should remain sealed and the news organizations arguing the mandated redactions were too broad.

The Opinions

The district court came to its holding by analyzing the public right of access to the recordings under the Supreme Court’s tests established in Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court I and II. Under Press-Enterprise II, the court determines if there is any right to public access using the so-called “experience and logic” test.  The first prong (experience) looks to whether or not there is a history of public access to the proceeding. The second prong (logic) looks to whether public access “plays a significant positive role in the functioning of the particular process in question.” If the proceeding fails either part of this test, there is no right of public access. If it does pass both parts, then the right is a qualified one, analyzed under another test, expressed in the Press-Enterprise I. Under that test, the qualified right to public access can only be overridden if it is shown that closure is essential to serving “higher values.”

Senior Circuit Judge A. Raymond Randolph’s opinion for the court argues that “Press-Enterprise II is not comparable to this case.” First, Judge Randolph notes that Press-Enterprise II was a criminal case that arose from California state court. The record “consisted of testimony and exhibits relating to murder charges, not classified material.” Moreover, Judge Randolph sees an important distinction between criminal proceedings and Dhiab’s civil habeas corpus proceeding, pointing out that the Classified Information Procedures Act governs the use of classified information in criminal cases. Under CIPA, the court may look at the admissibility of confidential evidence a defendant wants to use in private. If it is admissible, the government can suggest substitute information, declassify the information in question, or simply dismiss the charges. Judge Randolph notes that none of these procedures are available in a civil proceeding in which the government is the defendant.

Even if Press-Enterprise II were applicable, Judge Randolph disagrees with its application by the district court. Under the “experience” prong, Judge Randolph writes that there exists no history of public access to habeas corpus proceedings comparable to criminal cases. While early English courts were only in session a few months a year, they nonetheless heard habeas petitions out of session, meaning that “between 1500 and 1800, about one-fifth of the writs the judges of England issued” were heard without public access. While Judge Randolph concedes that there might be more open court hearings today, there remain plenty of exceptions (such as CIPA). Further, he points out that specifically in the case of the Guantanamo Bay habeas corpus cases, courts have litigated under orders to protect classified information.  Judge Randolph disposes of the second prong of the “experience and logic” test by asserting that logic must be dictated by “first principles,” and that one such principle is that “there is no higher value than the security of the nation.”

Under similar logic, Judge Randolph writes that even had the intervenors succeeded in the establishing a qualified right of public access, such a right not be sufficient to unseal these recordings. The government fears that the recordings, if public, could assist outside militants in training to combat cell-extraction and force-feeding, and has argued that the release of the recordings could serve propaganda purposes and even encourage other detainees to disobey guards in the hopes that more recordings might be made and made public. Judge Randolph writes that, “The district court had no basis for ruling that publicly releasing the recordings could not be expected to cause such harm.”

The other judges’ opinions arrive at the same result, but expose some ambiguity in the law. Judge Judith Rogers disagrees with . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 April 2017 at 5:08 pm

Posted in Law, Military

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