Saturday, September 30, 2006

Military Madness

The recent brouhaha caused by the allegation that female members of the National Guard unit headquartered in Danville, Ky., had posed nude or seminude for pictures while handling military equipment remarks the detrimental effect that militant feminism and the idiotic obsession with unisex philosophy has had on the nation’s military. While it remains an imposing fighting force, it is beset with social-engineering problems that have unnecessarily weakened it.

As noted in the Heritage Foundation publication of November 6, 1997, “the Army's initial experiment with gender-integrated training lasted from 1977 to 1982. The experiment ended after it became apparent that male recruits were not being challenged sufficiently and women were suffering too many stress fractures.” Also noted in the article: “President Clinton's assistant secretary of the Navy, Barbara Pope, has averred that ‘We are in the process of weeding out the white male as the norm. We're about changing the culture.’”

Therein lies the problem. The notion that men and women are exactly alike and would therefore function with equal success – except in Pope’s view implying the superiority of the “female norm” – was totally discounted by 1982 in the gender-integrated boot camps, but the lesson was totally ignored during the Clinton administration, when they were again integrated sex-wise. According to the New York Times of March 17, 1998, “Defense Sec.William S. Cohen rejects recommendation of special panel that armed forces segregate men and women for much of basic training … .” Neither Clinton nor Cohen had served in the military, but that didn’t mean that they had to lack plain, common sense.

Also on the social side, Clinton’s first Defense Secretary, Les Aspin, had to deal with the thorny question of servicewomen in combat. In April 1993, he announced that the services were to allow women to compete for assignments in combat aircraft; the Navy was to open additional ships to women and draft a proposal for Congress to remove existing legislative barriers to the assignment of women to combat vessels; and the Army and Marine Corps were to look for opportunities for women to serve in such components as field artillery and air defense. This was social engineering at its wackiest. The Marines, in obvious disobedience to this day, have not even allowed gender-integrated boot camps, but the Army, Air Force, and Navy have hewed the line.

Social engineering was a Clinton specialty with regard to the military, which he famously admitted loathing. During the 1992 campaign, he promised that homosexuals would be acceptable in the military in his administration. When he exercised the executive order to implement this promise, among his first acts as president, he ran into an unyielding cadre of commanders, who said “Enough!” The order was rescinded and the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach was adopted, a relatively meaningless face-saving device. Military morale tanked during the 1990s.

This is not to say that there’s no place for women in the armed services. Indeed, whereas in 1973 the services were 2.5% distaff, women made up 15.2% in 2004, but the nude-picture fiasco, as well as the Abu Ghraib pictures involving women troops doing unseemly things along with their male partners in obscenity, might not have happened, obviously, if the sex-mixing had been foreclosed. The point: gender-integration in operating units practically screams for dysfunctional outcomes. Gender-segregation practically guarantees that this sort of morale-destructive lewdness will not occur.

The more serious matter has to do with the efficiency of the fighting force. The military is designed to break things and kill people, objectives that through millennia men have proven themselves to do quite sanguinarily, whether in the right or wrong. This is because they are emotionally equipped for the task and strong enough to carry it out. Assuming enough sense to function, if either the will or strength to win is absent the fight is lost. Collectively, women lack the strength, though not the intelligence, to be good fighters. They also lack the “killer instinct,” as chauvinistic as that sounds.

The seriousness is exponentially multiplied when the genders attempt to function together in combat, especially guerrilla warfare in which the enemy is all around – no front lines. Men, on whom the burden actually lies, instinctively protect their female colleagues at a time when their job is killing the enemy. Women, collectively lacking the strength and the will to be killers, become part of the burden.

War is not an exercise in social engineering, and no GI, male or female, should be used as a pawn in the damnable political-correctness game. In any case, men (vast majority in Congress, the military, and the administration) who will place women in a position to be abused in their own service and/or captured and face the brutality of torture, gang-rape, and merciless death by an enemy are flawed creatures, undeserving of their positions.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Torture Question

The big deal in Congress currently is how to treat detainees at Guantanamo, even though the Detainee Treatment Act was signed into law in December 2005 and stated as a general mandate that “No person in the custody or under the effective control of the Department of Defense or under detention in a Department of Defense facility shall be subject to any treatment or technique of interrogation not authorized by and listed in the United States Army Field Manual on Intelligence Interrogation.” There have been no complaints.

At the beginning of the conflict precipitated by 9/11, the president, having no precedent to follow with respect to captured combatants not part of an organized, uniformed, national army, ordered that Al Qaeda prisoners be tried in military tribunals, such commissions authorized by the Constitution (Articles I and II). Last June, the Supreme Court overturned the process, particularly citing Common Article 3 of the 1949 Geneva Conventions. This is the appropriate section concerning prohibitions as placed in force in October 1950:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture; (b) Taking of hostages; (c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment; (d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

The SCOTUS decision was by a 5-3 vote, but Chief Justice Roberts didn’t participate since he had joined in the opinion affirming the president’s action in the Appeals Court opinion preceding the High Court’s decision. The sticking point, however, lies in the fact that Al Qaeda – not even a government – has never been and could never be a party to the Geneva Conventions and has no standing in the world community. Indeed, its proclivity for beheading people flies in the face of Article 3, even if it had standing. The Court’s action is indicative of the need for strict constructionists, not warm-fuzzies interpreting the law.

In a recent speech, the president indicated that 14 detainees involved in Al Qaeda had been transported to Guantanamo from other countries, where they had undergone interrogation by the CIA. He asserted that they had experienced “stressful questioning” that had produced results saving thousands of lives but had not been tortured. No one has furnished any proof otherwise. On the basis of the Court’s decision, the president/court has placed the ball in Congress’s court, with the CIA interrogating procedures also a matter to be handled, since the prisoners are in a U.S. facility.

The lawmakers despise the situation, since the president is demanding that they be specific regarding acceptable interrogation procedures, lest the CIA operatives run afoul of what anyone can say the law is. Some lawmakers insist that the prisoners not be hassled, lest Americans in some future conflict face retribution, notwithstanding what happened to prisoners in Vietnam or those in the Balkans or those Americans captured by Saddam during the Gulf War under the Geneva protections.

The keyword has been “water-boarding,” an interrogation-activity said by some senators to be inhumane, though no one is injured by it, either temporarily or permanently. Water-boarding – without the board – was the treatment for non-swimmer recruits in naval boot camp in the 40s. They were simply made to jump from a small tower into the water until they either figured out how to swim a prescribed distance or were near drowning, at which time they would be pulled out so they could get their breath and repeat the activity.

The irony lay in the fact that it didn’t matter if they never learned to swim…and some didn’t. Thankfully, the activity helped me to a case of pneumonia and 18 blessed days in the hospital, skipping KP, swimming classes (not supposed to go in water because of ear problems, in the first place), and ten days of the camp. So much for the “torture” of water-boarding.

Defining torture, dignity, humiliation, etc., is in the mind of the definer, and folks don’t agree, but when considering the extraction of information people usually don’t say much about procedure because they still see 9/11, with all the flames and the bodies hurtling down from 80 stories. Being made to listen to the Red-Hot Chili-Peppers or losing some sleep in a cold room – and even water-boarding – seen in that light is like a stroll in the park.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Fein & the Power-balance

There’s been great conflict lately over the “balance of power” protections built into the Constitution by the founding fathers, understanding, as enunciated by Lord Acton, that “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” The recent brouhaha in Washington regarding this matter has accrued to presidential “signing statements” in general, President Bush’s use of them in particular, and the tension between him and the Congress concerning alleged torture of prisoners.

A highly respected Constitutional interpreter in Washington is Bruce Fein, who said in the “signing statement” hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee in June and regarding the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, “President Bush’s signing statement was tantamount to a constitutionally impermissible line item veto.” In a column in the Lexington Herald-Leader of Sept. 17, he said, “The Supreme Court gives life to the Constitution not because it is infallible, but because it has no partisan political agenda that distorts judgment and systematically subordinates fair process to instant political results.”

Fein said in the District of Columbia Bar of February 2005,President George W. Bush should pack the United States Supreme Court with philosophical clones of Justices Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas and defeated nominee Robert H. Bork. … Senate Republicans should vote the Senate filibuster rule as applied to thwart a floor vote for judicial nominees unconstitutional and unenforceable.”

In these statements is seen the confliction of one who eloquently articulates the “balance of powers” concept juxtaposed with the reality of politics. Regarding the presidency and notwithstanding the acknowledged Constitutional powers of the “signing statement” all the way back to Andrew Jackson, for all practical purposes Fein condemns the “signing statements.”

Fein insisted that the Supreme Court has no political agenda, yet strongly advanced the notion that the president should appoint justices who obviously conform to his concept of Constitution-interpretation arbiters – a not-so-thinly veiled recognition of a type of partisanship. He didn’t forget the Senate and thoroughly thumped it for engaging the “filibuster rule,” something nowhere mentioned in the Constitution. Indeed, it was only through the action of the “gang of 14” senators who screamed “Enough!” that Justices Roberts and Alito made it to the SCOTUS.

Fein is a lawyer and as such perhaps views the judicial arm as the most important in government, not least because its members are tenured for life and therefore less apt to bow to the same sort of corruption so easily seen in the elective process and subsequent actions by the elected that are designed to protect their incumbencies and in many cases enhance their fortunes.

In his DCBar commentary Fein said, “A decent respect for government by the consent of the governed does not foreclose the Supreme Court from voiding acts of Congress, the president, or the states. The whole purpose of a written Constitution is to deny absolute power to the political branches.” But in the same article and regarding Roe v. Wade, Fein said, “But Roe required an hallucinogenic flight. Blackmun [writer of the opinion] relied on penumbras and emanations of the Constitution.”

So, Fein recognizes the possibility of either an agenda on the Court or a quintessential ignorance, or both. He explained that the Court’s action effectively removed from the public and its deliberative bodies even the possibility of debate on what is probably the thorniest social issue ever to face the nation, the ramification of which has meant the depriving of life from some 47 million potential American citizens.

The “torture problem” is now front and center. The president must protect the country, though he’s not interested particularly in being told by Congress how to do it as long as he does it legally. The Congress doesn’t want to tell him how to handle torture with any specificity because its members see their votes as stingers with respect to incumbency. They’re determined to scream about “Geneva Convention protocols” and let the president stand or fall on how he interprets them; however, the Court has said that he must have authorization from Congress.

The bottom line: A vague law to which the president will add a “signing statement.” The whole thing may go to the Court…some day. In the meantime, the nation will continue on its messy way, proving that in the foibles attendant upon any human exercise the system can work, though perhaps in spite of its glaring inefficiencies rather than because of the goodness – or even the intelligence – of people.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

John Kerry - 2006 Chamberlain?

As reported by the Boston Herald-Reporter, in a speech in Boston Sept. 9 Senator John Kerry said, regarding the Bush administration, “It is immoral to treat 9/11 as a political pawn (to) excuse the invasion of Iraq. They [9/11 victims] were attacked and killed not by Saddam Hussein but by Osama bin Laden.” Cynicism – especially regarding morality – of this magnitude does not speak well for the senator. Al Qaeda was not mentioned as a reason for invading Iraq in 2003, but to wipe out what the intelligence agencies of a number of nations insisted was Saddam’s WMD threat. No one has proven yet that he did not move those weapons to another country before March 2003.

Quoting the Boston Globe of March 25, 2004, “In a question-and-answer session before a Senate committee in 1971, John F. Kerry, who was a leading antiwar activist at the time, asserted that 200,000 Vietnamese per year were being ‘murdered by the United States of America’ and said he had gone to Paris and ‘talked with both delegations at the peace talks’ and met with communist representatives.” At the time, Kerry was a reserve naval officer committing an act of treason (defined as “the betrayal of a trust: TREACHERY”) with the enemy while Senator McCain and others were caged like dogs and tortured in the Hanoi Hilton.

This means that by the time he made that statement (his exact words, “So what I am saying is that yes, there will be some recrimination but far, far less than the 200,000 a year who are murdered by the United States of America …”), Kerry’s comrades/nation had murdered [his word] 1.6 million Vietnamese 1964-71 (or almost 4 percent of the population for 1970), mostly civilians – women, children, and old men. He’s never offered a scintilla of proof for that wacky accusation. Regarding morality, he betrayed his country in 1970 in France, lied to Congress in 1971, and spewed hatred on Sept. 9, using a monumental tragedy in a blatantly political act of disingenuousness.

Civilian as well as military deaths inevitably accrue to any war, but Kerry would not have made his statement Sept. 9 if at the end of fighting in May 2003 the Iraqis had behaved as most civilized people do. No sane person could have predicted that Iraqis would actually MURDER their own people – civilians, Muslims against Muslims – and that they would do so in the name of their god – Allah. Americans killed each other during the Civil War, but as soldier upon soldier, not as brutal thugs terrorizing and dismembering women and children and not for any religious reason.

In a recent Op-Ed piece for the New Hampshire Union Leader, Kerry said, “Iraq has made America less safe. The terrorists are not on the run. Terrorist acts tripled between 2004 and 2005. Al-Qaida has spawned a decentralized network operating in 65 countries, most of them joining since 9/11.” According to Kerry, terrorists in significant numbers apparently have just started crawling out from under the rocks in the last three years, but they’ve been crawling all over the world for decades, especially during the 1990s, when his democratic administration seemed totally unable or unwilling, or both, to even significantly try to stay their hand. Witness the WTC, 1993; Somalia, 1993; Riyadh, 1995; Dhahran Khobar Towers, 1996; U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (at least 257 dead), 1998; USS Cole, 2000, and, finally, 9/11. Does Kerry believe the Girl Scouts were at work in those catastrophes?

In his speech to Congress on Sept. 20, 2001, President Bush said, “Americans should not expect one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen.” In a speech in Atlanta on Sept. 7, 2006, he said, “In the early days after 9/11, I told the American people that this would be a long war, a war that would look different from others we have fought, with difficulties and setbacks along the way. The past five years have proven that to be true.”

Kerry and his ilk complain constantly about the fact that the conflict should be over, never stopping to realize (or being too ignorant to know) that this country’s revolution began in 1775 but that Washington did not take office until 1789, after 14 years of bitter war and argument.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Iran - First Shot?

In an appearance September 01 on NPR’s All Things Considered, Director of National Intelligence John Negroponte indicated that Iran is 5-10 years away from manufacturing the bomb, but carefully hedged his assertion since intelligence-gathering in Iran is difficult. Other experts consider the time-frame much shorter.

In any case, the UN Security Council will be hamstrung by China and Russia with regard to enacting sanctions against Iran. China imports much of its oil from Iran and signed a contract in 2004 to develop an Iranian oil field, while Russia is currently working with Iran on a billion-dollar nuclear-development contract signed in 1992. The UN is not a player in the current picture. UN Secretary General Annan’s recent trip to Tehran was a meaningless gesture.

With the Iranian refusal on the August 31 deadline – set by the UN – to foreclose its nuclear operations, the ultimate goal of which is development of a bomb, notwithstanding claims to the contrary by President Ahmadinejad, the United States and other nations, either individually or collectively, are forced to consider action since Ahmadinejad has made it clear that both Israel and the United States (by extension, all other infidels) are in Iran’s crosshairs, to be erased from the Earth.

According to Radio Free Europe/Liberty in an article last December, “Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last month expressed support for Ahmadinejad and said criticism of the president must stop.” Ahmadinejad says nothing without the permission of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, spiritual ruler in Iran, commander-in-chief of the armed forces, and actual head of government. Last December, Khamenei also said, “Achievements of the Palestinian nation [Hamas-controlled] over recent years, particularly expulsion of the Zionists from Gaza Strip, are owing to their resistance and Jihad against the Zionist regime."

Combined with Iran’s and Syria’s recent use of Hezbollah as their proxy force in attempting to destroy Israel just weeks ago, Khamenei’s acknowledged acceptance of the militant Hamas organization as conducting a Jihad, defined as “a holy war waged on behalf of Islam as a religious duty,” further expands the proxy and tightens the noose around Israel on its west side.

The greater proxy-expansion, however, is seen now in Iran’s flagrant use of the Iraqi Shiites to expel the United States from Iraq and guarantee that the Iraqi government will be controlled by fellow Shiites. As noted August 31 in Iran Focus, a non-profit news-service provider that focuses on events in Iran, Iraq and the Middle East, “In a meeting with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Barham Saleh on Sunday, Iran's national security adviser, Hassan Rowhani, said the Iranian presence in Iraq was a sign of ‘strong bonds’ between the two Shiite neighbours, adding that Iran wanted to be involved in ‘bringing security’ to Iraq because the two countries’ security interests were ‘tied to each other.’”

According to a January 2005 account in Iran Focus, sources within the Iranian opposition confirmed that Iran's intelligence and security apparatus was connected to insurgents carrying out attacks in Iraq, and its personnel reported to a senior commander in Iran. There can be no doubt that Iran, equal in land area to Alaska and sharing a porous 500-mile border with Iraq, is supplying the Iraqi Shiites with war materiel and physical help in their fight with the Sunnis over control of the Iraqi government.

To the extent that the combination of Shiites of both countries impacts the Coalition, Iraq acts as Iran’s proxy in dealing with the U.S. and the West, thus in effect declaring Jihad regarding the infidels. An attack by North Korea on South Korea would be an attack on the United States, since nearly 33,000 American troops are stationed there. The similarity with the Korean circumstance is obvious.

The most ominous element has to do with Iranian motivation for mischief, i.e., as a religious undertaking authenticated by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and well documented. The only thing worse than a fanatic is a religious fanatic. A fanatic believes the ends always justify the means. To an Islamic fanatic, destruction of an infidel (9/11, for instance) is a means to an end, the announced Islamic reconfiguration of the world. For this reason, the West is on notice by a nation – not just a terrorist outfit such as Al Quaeda – that no holds will be barred by Iran and other Islamic nations in attempting its downfall. Iran has fired the first shot.

And so it goes.

Jim Clark

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

"Pavlov's Dogs" and Race

Perhaps she was a bit overdue on her racism-as-punditry-excellence project, so Merlene Davis, Lexington Herald-Leader columnist, weighed in on September 03 to remind everyone that racism is alive and well and that something must be done about it. She even explained the method: “There has to be an open and honest dialogue in this country about race, and it must be soon.” Dialogue is defined as “a conversation between two or more persons” (Merriam-Webster Collegiate, 11th edition). Ms. Davis didn’t mention who the persons are who should be having that dialogue, but perhaps that information will come later.

Ms. Davis was driven to her claim by the recent statements of a drunk, a politician, and a former ambassador to the United Nations, all of whom said racist things – she said – about Jews, Indians, Koreans, and Arabs. She reasserted her position that this country is a salad rather than a melting pot, but probably did not see the irony of that statement with regard to race. A salad, of course, is a hopelessly non-integrated, divided piece of menu marked by the tension each part exerts upon the other parts, the resolution of which is achieved when the whole mess is destroyed in somebody’s alimentary canal and winds up as…well, never mind. A melting pot, however, holds its amalgamated contents forever, in spite of their diversities.

Ms. Davis, of course, rises above the dialogue level. That’s why she can pontificate about the need for it, having already arrived at non-racism Nirvana. In a column of July 25, she had this to say about President Bush upon the occasion of his speechifying date at the annual NAACP clambake: “Instead of the strutting cowboy, sidearms shiny with notched handles, Bush portrayed a man sincerely seeking to make amends. And he needed to.” Some folk might consider a statement like that a bit racist, but it can’t be because Ms. Davis would never make a racist statement – even if she “needed to.” She merely pointed out that the prez sought to make amends but was kind enough not to mention his sins that called for amends. She rose above the fray by not accusing him of being a strutting cowboy who has wasted many a good man. One can only guess at the miracles she could wreak if she were to join the “dialogue,” favoring it with her noticeable gravitas.

She elaborated some more about the prexy in that article: “It was Bush's first appearance as president before the civil rights group. He had turned down five other invitations, letting it be known he didn't really like how the group's leadership portrayed him.” Notice how Ms. Davis didn’t accuse Bush of being “uppity” because he was a no-show for five years or how she didn’t accuse him of being “snobbish” because he didn’t like what NAACP Chairman Julian Bond said in July 2001: "[Bush] has selected nominees from the Taliban wing of American politics, appeased the wretched appetites of the extreme right wing, and chosen Cabinet officials whose devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection." Folk might accuse Bond of being racist, but not Ms. Davis. She didn’t even call Bush a cowboy or gunslinger.

Ms. Davis further complimented the prez on July 25: “We've heard promises before that disappear off political radar right after votes are counted.” Well…okay, that was a sort of backhanded compliment, since she actually did sound a bit racist in suggesting that the non-strutting, non-gunslinging non-cowboy had been a liar up to that point. Cut her some slack, though, and just mark that slip-up to a bit of unexpectedly ripe rutabega in the potato salad.

There was a puzzlement, however, in that July 25 column. Concerning the voting habits of African Americans, she said, “It's a Pavlovian reaction, a learned thing, a conditioned response, a reason a majority of black folks -- who are by and large conservative -- don't vote Republican.” Her reason for that statement accrued to the actions of a handful of republicans who didn’t vote to suit her on the recent Civil-Rights renewal bill that passed both houses of a republican-managed Congress. The Senate vote was 98-0 and the House vote came in at 390-33, so the Pavlovian reaction naturally beset the black community on such a close vote as that, actually a combined 480-33.

Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, Russian physiologist/psychologist/physician (1849-1936), performed experiments on dogs, causing them to salivate under certain programmed circumstances. The phrase "Pavlov's dog" is often used to describe someone who merely reacts to a situation rather than uses critical thinking. So…Ms. Davis seemed to say that blacks are “Pavlov’s Dogs,” too dumb to recognize the scope of a super-landslide plurality like that. That would have been a racist remark, except that Ms. Davis is African-American and has every right in the world to talk about her own folk in any way she pleases. That makes the salad all lettuce! But…what if some white Anglo-Saxon Protestant male had said that? Whew…back to the old “melting pot,” and soon!

And so it goes.

Jim Clark