Friday, July 15, 2005

The CIA is not amused

The outrageous act of Karl Rove’s exposure of a CIA officer has the blogosphere in a spin; the left, while abhorring the childishness of Rove’s underhandedness, is still confused about the legality of the situation, which is actually quite straightforward: it is illegal to identify an undercover CIA operative, period. This would include alleging a certain someone is a spy while chatting over cocktails with Drudge or giving up your case officer while your nails are being torn out by sweaty North Korean interrogators: same difference. But liberals generally will go out of their way to try and see the other guy’s side; it’s part of the philosophy of inclusiveness. It also makes them slow to anger.

The right, on the other hand, likes to start howling “Get the rope!” at the merest mention of unAmericanism. In the case of Rove, however, because he is one of them, it is suddenly OK to get all mushy and liberal-like and start making excuses: extenuating circumstances, situational ethics, relative morality, whatever. In other words, the conservatives are sounding just like liberals in their momma-like excuses for the step-child’s bad behavior. Hmm.

Speaking as a born-again liberal, I personally would like to see the guy slowly roasted over low heat. I say this as a person who has held a rather high security clearance in the service of my country. Imagine how I would feel if somebody that I worked for (i.e., was in my chain of command) started babbling over cocktails at the Russian embassy that a certain blogger was 1) a spy, 2) was holding the nuclear code books, 3) ran a spy ring, 4) is actually Martin Boorman under the Witness Protection Program?

What I’m getting at here is that this shit has no point. It’s ineffectual in terms of politics: all it did for Wilson was to make him hopping mad and to piss off the whole intelligence community. You think that blowing the cover of an active intelligence office is making friends in the community? “You want us to confirm what?” Har and fat chance. And forget about anybody telling Rove anything of value in the future, except maybe under duress and the threat of red-hot pokers.

And probably not even then. The CIA runs a pretty good anti-interrogation course at Langley, including getting laughed at while wearing a bra.

Larry Johnson, former CIA officer and associate of Valerie Plame explains "cover" and Joe Wilson's Niger fact-finding trip here .

Back to the torture question vs. military discipline

Speaking of bras, how about those clowns down in Gitmo forcing the fuzzy-wuzzies to parade around in women’s frillies? Is this torture or just more examples of “hijinks”?To this writer, it brings back memories of the time that I was a drill instructor at San Diego charged with the brainwashing of several hundred of America’s finest.

When I reported to recruit command, I was instructed that recruits were under the new regime of Admiral Zumwaldt, Secretary of the Navy, and could no longer be “maltreated,” and I signed a document swearing in effect that I would not mistreat those under my command. In other words, as a DI, I was not allowed to use biased words like “worm,” “douche-bag,” etc., and under no circumstances was I allowed to touch (“assault”) recruits without their permission (!), under threat of court-martial and brig time (I swear to God this is true).

This makes for some awkward moments, as much of your time is spent trying to control your temper as your recruits fuck up repeatedly in their inability to understand plain English or to differentiate between left and right. It makes it especially challenging in attempting to discipline the troops. This is where the fine line between discipline and torture comes in. One is forced to become very creative. No longer can we verbally abuse the lads, no longer can we march them into swamps with hundred-pound deadweights or use other time-tested disciplinary activities like cleaning the urinals with their tongues; no, we have to be very careful to not hurt their sensitivities and no physical abuse absolutely! Fortunately for everyone involved, I soon learned to sort out what comprised effective disciplinary action and plain vindictiveness without resorting to torture or even extraordinary embarassment (some measure of shame is instructive and too much is counterproductive).

Now, at that time (Vietnam) and to this day (Iraq), I was and remain very respectful of properly-constituted authority, but simultaneously remain properly aware (and wary) of the abuses of authority. Now, I volunteered to subject myself to military authority, in the full knowledge that in so doing I was relinquishing certain of my civil liberties, but none of my obligations. This includes not torturing persons under my control, be they recruits or prisoners of war, however one defines “war.” I am no expert on military codes for other military services, and for all I know the American UCMJ may be unique in its call for an objection to illegal orders, but American military authority under the UCMJ does provide for objection to illegal orders. In fact, it (the UCMJ) makes it obligatory to object to illegal orders.

(In an aside: in a slightly different context, some noted bloggers have referred to Department of Defense directives as the operative legal codes, but the fact of the matter is that the legal code for the military is embodied in the Uniform Code of Military Justice and is not a set of “directives;” it is the set of laws for America’s military and is absolute for the armed services under the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8, Paragraphs fourteenth and sixteenth).

Furthermore and for obvious reasons, the Uniform Code of Military Justice is written in English plain enough to be understood by even a high school dropout. It is crammed with phrases such as “shall not” and “punishable by death”, etc. Plain English and mostly common sense.

UCMJ 809.Article (20) makes it illegal to torture prisoners. I can see that in the heat of battle, it might temporarily be difficult to find the line between torture and hijinks, but after only a little experience, a soldier settles down and the line becomes pretty obvious. The goings-on at Gitmo and Abu Gharib and other places should have ended a long time ago, as Americans became familiar with their prisoners and in their positions as custodians of same. That this has not happened means several very serious things: the UCMJ is being violated and ignored, authority has broken down and the chain of command is being abused, both up and down the chain, and illegal orders are being given and not questioned, with the end result a cluster fuck of irresponsibility and anarchy, and military discipline getting tossed out the window. command has not taken responsibility and lesser ranks are being scapegoated as the occasional “bad seed.”

This throwing the enlisted ranks to the wolves has got to stop, as the breakdown in morale is going to have a terrible effect on all the military, not just the folks running the gulags. The relevant services’ Inspectors General need to get busy and clean this mess up, before more careers are short-circuited and more prisoners abused unnessarily.

PS: A pretty good discussion on the the issue of illegal orders can be found here.

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