"...do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic..."

"For the good of the Air Force, for the good of the armed services and for the good of our country, I urge you to reject convention and careerism..."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Maxwell AFB, April 21, 2008

"You will need to challenge conventional wisdom and call things like you see them to subordinates and superiors alike."
- Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, United States Air Force Academy, March 4, 2011

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Drone Operators are Exhausted!

I was delighted to see that the Air Force conducted a study on the exhaustion level of its Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) operators, and that the USA Today reported on it. Of course if leadership was concerned enough to create such a study, why have they not been concerned enough to provide more manning to unmanned operations? This isn't even close to a new problem, and it's no state secret that there are not enough people doing those jobs.

Personally, I think there are many who were and are angered by Secretary Gates' grabbing the Air Force by the scruff of the neck and forcing them to give up their fun toys in exchange for supporting commanders on the ground. I think the Air Force never really took RPA seriously and these exhausted airman is just one symptom of that. Like pulling teeth, Secretary Gates said, and I don't think the tooth is yet dislodged.

At any rate, our remote operating men and women are tired and they give a great deal more than most in the air service. I hope leadership is listening to this study.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Da Dumpt...Da Dumpt...Sucks 2 B U

I'm only going to share this story, and my sincere hope that the investigation determines that the text on this photo was not sanctioned by the sixteen Air Force individuals who posed in this picture.

Air Force Disturbing Photo Concerning War Dead

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Senator Rand Paul on Terrorism & The Constitution

What I find exceptionally interesting about this video is how it ties "left" and "right" together. The Senator is viewed as conservative to my knowledge. Yet his primary theme in this video is exactly the theme of the ACLU's Call to Courage report about the state of American civil liberty ten years after the attacks of 911. The ACLU is by most accounts a liberal organization. In his video, the Senator also mentions the outstanding dissent by Justice Antonin Scalia in the Hamdi v. Rumsfeld case. What he doesn't mention is that Justice Scalia's dissent was joined by Justice John Paul Stevens. Justice Scalia is considered a very conservative justice, perhaps the most conservative. Justice Stevens, prior to his retirement from the High Court, was considered a very liberal Justice, perhaps the most liberal. Despite those labels, these two great guardians of America's Constitution, perhaps the last defense of America's soul, joined together hand in hand. I find such a union to be very patriotic, and very inspiring.

American Concentration Camps & Happy Turkeys

It's a crazy concept I know. What's more crazy is that concentration camps existed in America during the second world war. But I'm getting ahead of myself. First we really must talk about happy turkeys, or what has been called the parable of the happy turkey.
  1. In the morning, a nice man comes for a visit.
  2. He puts food in your bowl.
  3. The food is fresh and tasty.
  4. The food is always in plentiful supply.
  5. At night there's a warm place to sleep.
  6. The next day, the process is repeated. The nice man visits, he feeds you, and you sleep comfortably. It repeats day after day.
  7. You think: everything is right with the world. How could anything possibly go wrong? In fact, the only thing I really have to fear is getting hit by lightening when it rains or the rare chance a fox might get under the wire and into the coop (which very seldom happens). The Turkeys that worry about this are pessimists.
  8. One day, the nice man arrives.
  9. The nice man grabs you.
  10. He lays you across a stump, your neck exposed.
  11. He raises an axe and cuts off your head.
There is a valuable yet sad saying that those who do not know history, are doomed to repeat it. Valuable because it's true. Sad because it's typically only said after tragedy. I suspect the happy turkey's concept of history consisted only of his own limited experience, I doubt he knew anything about Bainbridge Island. But again I'm getting ahead of myself. First we must talk about a man named Gordon Hirabayashi.

In 1943, Mr. Hirabayashi was a young American student at the University of Washington. He was ordered to report to a concentration camp; an American concentration camp that operated in America during the war. He maintained that the order was a violation of his Fifth Amendment right to due process. That amendment informs us that life, liberty, and property cannot be taken without due process of law. He was sent to prison. Forty years later, after the court reviewed information that the executive branch had previously failed to hand over, it was ruled that the government had acted illegally. Mr. Hirabayashi stated:
There was a time when I felt that the Constitution failed me... But with the reversal in the courts and in public statements from the government, I feel that our country has proven that the Constitution is worth upholding. The U.S. government admitted it made a mistake. A country that can do that is a strong country. I have more faith and allegiance to the Constitution than I ever had before.
Mr. Hirabyashi was of course terribly wrong on one point. The Constitution did not fail him. Those who swore to defend that Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic failed him.

The military soldiers who rounded up American men, women, and children during that war to send to internment camps, no doubt took comfort in the idea that what they did had to be legal because the order came from the very President himself. That order was no doubt vetted by the President’s team of clever lawyers. But such lawyers do not make or decide the law. Those military servicemen should have known, and more than likely did, that the order they were following was patently illegal.

The first Americans forced into internment camps were taken from the Bainbridge Island, just west of Seattle and the University of Washington campus Mr. Hirabayashi attended. Recently I visited a memorial museum on the island and there I met an older man who gave me a tour of the displays and explained the camps in great detail. Hours later I discovered that he was born in one of those camps. I learned still later that after he grew up, he served in the United States Air Force and was stationed at Holloman AFB. He told me that his grandfather was also imprisoned in a camp, and that his grandfather had worked his entire life to buy a hotel in Seattle. Once ordered to an internment camp, he had to sell his hotel quickly as he had only three days to give himself up. He sold it to a man with the mutual understanding that he could buy it back if he made it out of the camps. The owner refused to sell when that day came. The livelihood he had sacrificed for his entire adult life was stolen from him. His hard earned career was sacrificed. Why? Because those who he paid to defend his freedom--the very same men who swore before God that they would do so--didn't have the character to do what they promised.

I remembered this story from the island when I learned that the Japanese American Citizens League a few days ago put out a warning concerning a law now before Congress; a law that would allow military forces to yet again arrest American citizens, here in America, without charge or trial and to hold them indefinitely. On the President's say so alone, you could be imprisoned for life and the government wouldn't have to charge you with anything, and you would have no right to confront your accuser, or to have evidence presented, or to be convicted by a jury of your peers. This new law, drafted by democratic Senator Carl Levin and republican Senator John McCain, includes the following language in section 1031:

“Congress affirms that the authority of the President to use all necessary and appropriate force … includes the authority for the Armed Forces of the United States to detain covered persons…. [including] [d]etention under the law of war without trial....”

The bill has already passed the House of Representatives with a vote of 322-96. It's now just waiting on the Senate to pass it. It's being looked at by the Senate right now, and may pass and become law at any moment.

UPDATE: Apparently the bill is being voted on right now in the Senate, and has a majority - three no votes are needed in order for there to be a filibuster.

UPDATE II: The bill passed both House and Senate. Text of the bill here.

There is quite the debate - some say the vague language of the bill does not extend to American citizens (which begs the question of why we need that portion of the bill), while others like U.S. Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) who voted against the bill in the House, think differently. Amash says the act would indeed “permit the federal government to indefinitely detain American citizens on American soil, without charge or trial, at the discretion of the President.” He notes that the language “does not preclude U.S. citizens from being detained indefinitely, without charge or trial, it simply makes such detention discretionary,” therefore it is misleading and outrageous.

As Mr. Hirabayashi, now a retired sociology professor, stated:
I would also say that if you believe in something, if you think the Constitution is a good one, and if you think the Constitution protects you, you better make sure that the Constitution is actively operating... and uh, in other words "constant vigilance". Otherwise, it's a scrap of paper. We had the Constitution to protect us in 1942. It didn't because the will of the people weren't behind it.
Below I have included video of a stage play titled, Dawn's Light: The Journey of Gordon Hirabayashi. The creators of the play describe their creation: "During WWII in Seattle, University of Washington student Gordon Hirabayashi agonizes over U.S. government orders to forcibly remove and imprison all people of Japanese ancestry on the West Coast. As he fights to reconcile his country's betrayal with his Constitutional beliefs, Gordon journeys toward a greater understanding of America's triumphs and failures." The key word in that description is betrayal.

More Big Blue Pink Slips for Officers?

The Air Force has taken some pretty interesting personnel measures as a result of the debt crisis. Those measures included an unpopular voluntary separation program, and denying continuation to majors twice passed over to the rank of lieutenant colonel (essentially booting officers out five years prior to retirement), and by numerous Reduction in Force boards for younger officers. The Air Force Chief of Staff, in the video above, mentions the challenges of reductions in force experienced after Vietnam.

In his book, Air Force Personnel Policy Development (1944-1974), Vance O. Michell describes the congressional budget defense cuts in 1969 and the effects they had on manpower. These effects included cutting the Air Force by four thousand officers by the middle of 1969. To accomplish this goal, captains twice passed over for major were not offered continuation, and early out options were offered. In 1970, budget constraints required another five thousand officers to be trimmed. This goal was sought by again allowing fewer officers to commission, and by offering early out programs. This wasn't enough. Mitchell writes:
Still short of its goal, the Air Force turned to the twice-deferrcd captains continued on active duty before that program ended, a group the service had carefully avoided. The officers selected for continuation during the first three years of the program (1963-1965) had received contracts sufficient to take most of them into the sanctuary zone (over eighteen years of service) that guaranteed retention until retirement at twenty years. Those selected in the last few years of the program (1966-1968) had no guaranteed contract beyond one year, but most accepting the offer probably believed that the war would last long enough for them to reach sanctuary. The announcement that all continued captains with less than eighteen years of service would be eliminated brought a hail of protests, as well as some lawsuits. Groups supportive of Reservists filed formal protests on their behalf. Nevertheless, James P. Goode, Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs, ruled in favor of the termination order, and about nine hundred continued officers were separated before the end of fiscal year 1970. Another three to four hundred in the sanctuary zone remained until retirement.
He continues to remark that for the next three years, voluntary programs allowed the program to reduce numbers without involuntary mechanisms. According to Mitchell, at the end of 1973 the Air Force was down to 114,000 officers, significantly less than the 138,000 officers it had in 1968.

Question for the peanut gallery: Do you think we're going to see the Air Force go even further beyond the personnel actions in 1970 by giving the boot to passed over majors who have been continued (offered and accepted continuation, with a corresponding date of separation)? Will the service kick out continued majors after fifteen, sixteen, or seventeen years of service?

I think it will.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Occupy Bagram

Just saw this today. Not exactly sure what to think of it, and I'm not talking about the protestors and their merits or lack thereof. I'm just wondering if something hasn't fundamentally changed with our military when those in uniform are making public statements to citizens like this, while in uniform and armed. Is it appropriate for government servants to be making such statements about their fellow citizens who employ them? Like the protestors or not, they employ you, and they are exercising the very rights they pay you to defend. Certainly those in the service have free speech rights too, but there are limits and I wonder if this doesn't approach one of them. With army soldiers rapping about using violence against a citizen, and officers discussing dropping bombs on protestors, to this picture of armed public servants telling their civilian bosses to quit bitchin', I have to wonder if there isn't a problem with military servants knowing their role in this thing we call democracy.

So does it seem odd to anybody else that employees are telling their bosses who pay their salaries to quit bitching, while their bosses' bitching consists of exercising a freedom that they actually pay these troops to support and defend? Or is it just me?

Friday, November 11, 2011

Reflecting on Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day. Many thanks will be passed to those who have served their nation in uniform, and offered to those who currently wear the uniform. Citizens who pay our bills and feed our families will be compelled to present their gratitude to us. Some will do so out of sincerity, and others out of a sense of obligation. Men will offer up reasons why they weren't able to serve, perhaps wrestling with some feeling of guilt, and still many others will tell us of a son or a daughter or a sibling who serves. Veterans Day is an emotional day for all involved.

Veterans Day provides an opportunity for those of us currently serving, to look to those who came before us, and to ask ourselves if we are meeting the standard of service they set. The old lady in the line at the local Wendy's doesn't thank us because she knows what we have done, or how we have conducted ourselves. She thanks us for the ideal we represent, and the character and conduct she pays for each and every year the tax bill rolls around. I would suggest that we need to make sure we spend today, not complaining about thanks we didn't receive, but reflecting upon whether or not we truly deserve it.

I look to the greater generations who served before us, and I am not sure I can honestly say I deserve such thanks. I didn't spend a cold winter under Washington fighting redcoats, I didn't participate in trench warfare in a World War, I didn't fly helicopters over the dangerous jungles of Vietnam. While war will always remain ugly, and while I did ensure I would be in the fight after September 11th, still I can't say that I have measured up with my contributions. The reality of our technology today is that most of us who currently serve - certainly not all but most - have not had to measure up to the standard of sacrifice set by those before us. We should remember that as we accept the thanks of a grateful nation today. We should be humbled.

But it's not just about logging time in a combat zone. It's about our conduct back home. We should ask ourselves if we have conducted ourselves for the good of the citizen who pays us, or for the good of our own finances and convenience. Do we serve because we truly love the principles of this nation, and because we want to defend the lamp on the hill, or did we sign up for a stable job and benefits? Are we willing to do the right thing for our country at our own personal expense, or do we labor to climb a ladder in order to satisfy our own pride through increased rank and power? Do we duck doing the right thing for the citizenry and rationalize our cowardice with the mantra of picking our battles, or do we take a stand for this country and let the chips fall where they may? Do we truly serve America, or do we really just serve ourselves?

The old lady in line doesn't thank us for serving ourselves. I hope others will join me this day, to reflect on the emotional thanks she offers up to us, and to ensure that from this day forward, we conduct ourselves so that we truly deserve it.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

To the SCOTUS and Back in Time!

Texas v White was argued before our nation's Supreme Court back in 1869. The case is being argued again tonight at the High Court, with Justice Antonin Scalia presiding. I'm fortunate to be able to attend this reenactment event sponsored by The Supreme Court Historical Society.

I'm interested in this case, because one of the key questions argued was whether or not individual States have a right to secede from the federal union. In the 1869 majority opinion, Chief Justice Chase referenced the question stating, "It is needless to discuss, at length, the question whether the right of a State to withdraw from the Union for any cause, regarded by herself as sufficient, is consistent with the Constitution of the United States." He then offered his answer to the question, stating:
The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and arbitrary relation. It began among the Colonies, and grew out of common origin, mutual sympathies, kindred principles, similar interests, and geographical relations. It was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war, and received definite form, and character, and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these the Union was solemnly declared to 'be perpetual.' And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained 'to form a more perfect Union.' It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?
Justice Chase then continued to conclude that, "The Constitution, in all its provisions, looks to an indestructible Union, composed of indestructible States.       When, therefore, Texas became one of the United States, she entered into an indissoluble relation."

What troubles me about his opinion is that it is exceptionally flimsy, as three letter phrased jurisprudence seems often to be (ie elaborate war powers unpacked from the mere title "commander in chief"). What's more, this flimsy phrase comes from the preamble to the Constitution, a preamble that briefly explains the purpose of the constitutional machinery that it later provides. The preamble, however, is not that machinery that it introduces. The law, the articles, and the amendments are the machinery and while the preamble explains motivations for creating those mechanisms, it is not itself a mechanism.

Notably the machinery following the preamble does not mention secession, or a finality of union, or any of the conclusions that Justice Chase divines from his three lettered introductory phrase. What does follow, however, is the Tenth Amendment which states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." Secession is not a power discussed, and it is certainly not prohibited to the States, therefore the correct Constitutional result would be that individual States do in fact have a right to secede. Justice Chase for some odd reason felt that "It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by ["a more perfect union]." Certainly he was wrong, and the idea could have been better conveyed by an Article declaring that secession was prohibited to the States, and that union was final.

It also appears to me, that even if we accept the phrase "more perfect union" to be the machinery of the Constitution instead of an introductory phrase, forcing individuals to remain in a union no more perfects a union, than outlawing divorce for a battered spouse perfects a marriage. A more perfect union, in my view, is better achieved by voluntary action and freedom of choice and conscience. Justice Chase appears to have believed that the barrel of a gun makes for a more perfect relationship.

I'm looking forward to hearing this issue argued tonight, and I'm especially interested to hear how Justice Scalia rules on this issue raised nearly one hundred and fifty years ago.

Update: It was a wonderful evening and the event was enjoyable but, sadly, three days of actual argument turned into forty minutes of argument for the reenactment, meant that the secession question was mentioned but not actually argued.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Mikey's Award Ceremony on Capitol Hill

I have been a long time supporter of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, founded by Mikey Weinstein. While I've known him for years, I finally met the man today as he received an award from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. I've been a supporter of both organizations for many years now, and I was delighted to sit at a table with a retired two-star, one of my former wing commanders, who was also in attendance along with several other active duty and retired military professionals.

Mikey is a controversial figure and his aggressive style rubs some the wrong way. Be that as it may, keeping our military secular is an important endeavor in my view. What some might find interesting, however, is that I say that as somebody who does not agree that there is a wall of separation of church and state to be found in the First Amendment. I personally wish it was there, but I think it's important not to warp the text of our law to fit our wishes. The text has something to tell us, and it's not interested in what we might personally want. We must approach it with integrity. Of course reasonable people can disagree, and certainly do. Here is my take on it.

The First Amendment says that "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;" After studying the history of the colonies and the States during the time of the founding, and the First Amendment, I have come to the conclusion that the Founders intended "an establishment of religion" to mean declaring an official religion of the United States. It did not mean a wall of separation. Chaplains opened up congressional meetings with prayer and, even after the amendment was ratified, Thomas Jefferson's home state of Virginia still had an official state church. There were other examples of religiosity in government that did not cause outrage. It should be remembered that this amendment only applied to the federal government and did not bind the States. That changed after the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified which then bound the individual States. Further, the word "establishment" suggests to me something concrete as to say something has been "established" like establishing a church, or establishing a business. Making religious speeches or hiring chaplains are acts of religion, but they don't in and of themselves establish anything, just as coming up with a business plan does not establish a business. I believe the Framers meant to keep Congress from passing a law to establish the United States as a Christian, or Lutheran, or Islamic nation.

So why do I support the work of the MRFF if I don't agree with the interpretation of the establishment clause? There are two reasons.

First, the Constitution in Article VI states:
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to military service. When commanders and supervisors insert, or allow the insertion, of religious acts into the work environment, it becomes somewhat of a test. It may not be a multiple choice test, but supervisors and peers notice who is religious and who is not. People know this and will behave accordingly in order to not be seen as disrespectful or nonreligious. I have seen this behavior first hand and the fear is not unfounded. Some religious persuasions have a "with us or against us" ethic that can become damaging to the military institution. When mixed with the belief, held by some religious individuals, that American laws, to include our Constitution, are inferior to their perception of God's law, there then exists a potential for those in positions of authority to not follow the rules. In the extreme, this could threaten civilian control of our military. For that reason I agree with Mr. Weinstein's assessment that separation of church and military is a matter of national security. At the least, it is in my view, a matter of sound military policy.

While all military members enjoy the essential and bedrock American right to freely worship, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force recently reminded Air Force commanders that the government must maintain neutrality regarding religion. He sent out a memo several weeks ago stating as much, according to the Air Force Times. The Chief's memo can be read here.

The second reason I support the work of the MRFF is because mixing of the machinery of state with religion has an incredibly poor track record in human history, and the enemies we face and fight today have not very well learned that important lesson. They wish to establish theocracy, the antithesis to Article VI of our Constitution, and to destroy the liberty of conscience and the freedom of worship. It is dangerous to both government and religious institutions to mix the sacred and the profane. Just ask the American Baptist Roger Williams who founded the very first, First Baptist church in America, and who coined the phrase "wall of separation" in his correspondence with Thomas Jefferson.

I look forward to Mikey's continued fight to make our military stronger and more focused on winning our nation's wars.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

A Supreme Court Justice & A Military Officer

"The morality of military action became a lifelong preoccupation."
- Jeffrey Toobin describing Justice John Paul Stevens of the Supreme Court of the United States

I just finished reading Five Chiefs: A Supreme Court Memoir by Justice John Paul Stevens. The wife and I arrived in Washington DC last night to attend his book signing, so I figured I should read it before I humbly ask the Justice to sign a copy. What I discovered reading Five Chiefs was that it is as much the work of a military officer, as it is the work of a judicial legend.

In his book, the Justice never fails to draw the connection between those who served their country while wielding the law, and who also served in a military uniform wielding force. Early on he describes the nation's most revered Chief Justice of the Supreme Court with these words:
In 1775, before the Declaration of Independence was signed, nineteen-year-old John Marshall joined a group of Virginia militiamen that was called into action by Colonel Patrick Henry, commander of Virginia's provisional army, and engaged in combat with British troops. He served as an officer under George Washington at Valley Forge during the bitter winter of 1777-1778. His martial accomplishments were followed by distinguished work in the private practice of law, as a member of the Virginia convention that voted to ratify the Constitution, as a United States congressman from Virginia, and as a diplomat. While those credentials clearly qualified him to become our fourth chief justice, it was his work once in office that made him our Court's greatest leader.
In his book, Justice Stevens points out that Chief Justice Vinson had served in the Army in World War I, and that his good friend Art Seder (who clerked for Justice Vinson) was a B-17 pilot who had flown twenty-five missions over Germany. He mentions that Chief Justice Vinson had another law clerk, Byron White, who would himself later go on to become a justice of the High Court. We learn that Byron White had been a Naval intelligence officer who had braved kamikaze attacks in the Pacific. Still later, Justice Stevens opens his chapter on Chief Justice William Rehnquist with, "Bill Rehnquist was a meteorologist in the Air Force during World War II."

Justice Stevens' deep connection to the military is further revealed in his book when he introduces his two founding law partners from his law firm days. Justice Stevens relates that one saw combat as an Army officer in World War II. The other partner served on a ship that landed grounded forces during the war, and who later played football for Notre Dame. The Justice even mentions the service of the Fighting Irish's football coach. The coach saw action on the beaches of Normandy.

Justice Stevens is not just a judicial legend who served on our nation's Highest Court for the third longest period in American history, he's also a military officer who himself served during World War II.

He is also a pilot who lived during the early days of American aviation (he once received a dove as a gift from Charles Lindbergh). In his book he describes the congressional confirmation process before he took his place on the High Court. In one section he writes:
I particularly enjoyed my conversation with Senator Barry Goldwater, not just because he had been a candidate for the presidency in 1964 but also, and more important, because he was a pilot who enjoyed talking about the various military aircraft that he had flown. I received the impression that he decided to vote for me when he learned that I had my own plane.
His book provides not only a glance into his jurisprudence and his views of our beloved Constitution, but also frequently reminds the reader of his love of aviation and the undeniable impact his military service had upon his life and his approach to the law. One can agree with his particular legal views or not, but the fact that he deeply cared and sacrificed for America is undeniable.

He took the oath to defend the Constitution against enemies foreign and domestic, first as an executive intelligence officer in the Navy. As a Naval officer, Lieutenant Stevens was awarded the bronze star for cracking the code that led to the targeted assassination of Admiral Yamamoto. In an article for The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin writes:
In April, 1943, a coded message came across Stevens’s desk—“one eagle and two sparrows, or something like that,” he said. Stevens knew the transmission meant that an operation based on intelligence from his station had been a success. American aviators had tracked and shot down the airplane of Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who was the architect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the leader of Axis forces in Midway. Stevens was a twenty-three-year-old lieutenant, and the mission, essentially a targeted assassination, troubled him. “Even at the time, it seemed to me kind of strange that you had a mission that was intended to kill a particular individual,” he told me. “And it was an individual who was a friend of some of the Navy officers.” (Before the war, Yamamoto had trained with the U.S. Navy and studied at Harvard.) Ultimately, Stevens concluded that the operation, which was approved by President Roosevelt, was justified, but the moral complexity of such a killing, even in wartime, stayed with him. “It is a little different than your statistics about so many thousands of highway deaths—that doesn’t mean all that much,” he said. “But if somebody you know is killed, you have an entirely different reaction.” The morality of military action became a lifelong preoccupation.
One of Justice Stevens' former clerks, Diane Amman, also discusses how the Justice as a young officer was troubled to discover that planners were not deliberate in their decision to go along with the plan to target Yamamoto. The Justice touches on an important theme. As officers of the executive or of the judiciary, who both wield the lethal machinery of the state, it is imperative that we not blindly take action without deeply deliberating on those actions. We are members of a profession that requires a level of education, and is bound by law and has an ethical dimension. Expedience can not be allowed to excuse sacrificing the rule of law. Our law is far too important.

The Justice provides an excellent illustration of just why the rule of law is more important than expediency, even when breaking or bending the law might seem the appropriate thing to do given the circumstances. In his book he discusses the snail darter, a tiny fish that was on the endangered species list, and which was the cause for asking the High Court to stop the construction of a dam that threatened it. The building project had already cost millions of dollars, and the question before the court was whether or not it made sense to stop the project for this insignificant little fish. Justice Stevens recalls that Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote an "excellent opinion" that "explained why the investment in the dam was less important than obeying a congressional command to protect the snail darter." The Justice includes a quotation from that opinion, quoting Sir Thomas More on the importance of the rule of law:
The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal, not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal....I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain-sailing, I can't navigate, I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of the law, oh there I'm a forester... What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil?... And when the last law was down, and the Devil was turned round on you - where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat?... This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast - Man's laws, not God's - and if you cut them down... d'you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then?... Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake.
Justice Stevens' concern for the rule of law is evident in other sections of his book, where it combines with what Toobin deemed his preoccupation with the morality of military action. In a critique of opinions by Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone, Stevens writes that:
...his two most significant wartime opinions - Ex parte Quirin, rejecting challenges to their death sentences by putative German saboteurs who had voluntarily surrendered to the FBI, and In re Yamashita, upholding a military tribunal's death sentence imposed on a Japanese general because of atrocities committed by soldiers under his command - may have bent the rule of law in response to perceived military necessity. As Justice Antonin Scalia correctly observed of Ex parte Quirin in his fine dissenting opinion in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld (2004), "The [Quirin] case was not this Court's finest hour."
It is my opinion that in our modern world, with our great many security challenges, that Justice Stevens stands as a gigantic role model to all military officers. His example reminds us of the need to be deliberate as we exercise the enormous responsibilities entrusted to us. He writes in his book, "In our democracy, issues of policy are determined by majority vote; it is the business of legislators and executives to be popular. But in litigation, judges have an overriding duty to be impartial and to be indifferent to popularity." In my opinion, his example applies to military officers as much as it does to federal judges. Both are required by the Constitution to take an equally binding oath to that same document, and both command the violent machinery of the state. Personal popularity, advancement, and personal convenience must not be allowed to interfere with that solemn burden. Those of us serving should strive to emulate Justice John Paul Stevens' example; legend of the judiciary, and faithful military officer.

Update: just got back from the Justice's talk with Judge Tatel. It was excellent. To tie into the theme of this blog post, the Justice did mention tonight that he thought diversity of background in Supreme Court justices was a good thing for the Court, instead of just Ivy League educations, and specifically mentioned military service, which the High Court no longer has since his retirement.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Flying Cheap

I just watched the documentary, PBS FrontLine: Flying Cheap, which is available on Netflix streaming. It outlines the corporate and cultural problems with regional carriers that led to the crash of Colgan Air Flight 3407. What I found not surprising was that those who saw the problems, who warned of those problems, were punished and silenced. One FAA regulator mentioned the red flags concerning a "corporate culture that needed to be looked at." There were signs, as there always are.

All passengers and crew on that flight died due to pilot error. Americans paid for a service, and they expected competence rather than a blurb from a public affairs staff. But they died, not just from an excusable pilot error, but from gross pilot error from two pilots who induced a problem from nothing, and then should have easily corrected the problem once recognized. Instead of correcting the problem, they continued to apply the exact wrong response. The enormity of the mistake appears to be on the same level as a driver who sees he is heading towards an obstruction because he let the car drift to the left, and then recognizes the problem, and fails to turn right to avoid it.

Reminds me of a warning I gave to an Air Force commander about flying operations. A commander who was part of a similar corporate culture in the Air Force, who then presided over a Class A mishap for pure pilot error weeks later.

The Air Force has its own corporate culture without a doubt. It is characterized by the ladder that marks any corporation, and which fogs the minds of those who are more interested in climbing it for themselves, than meeting the business mandate of the shareholders and customers. Somehow they confuse their progression up that ladder with the progression of those who pay their salaries to deliver a product.

Cost cutting at the expense of safety. This lesson doesn't bode well for the Air Force as it kicks out its experienced pilots to meet projections on a slide, while already being severely undermanned. What will be the Flight 3407 of the United States Air Force? I shudder to imagine it.

Assassinating the Constitution

Excellent video. The words of Justice Scalia quoted in it are outstanding, and extremely relevant in this "new" era of warfare some say we are in. This short video is worth your time.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

True Transformation Needed to Avoid a Big Blue Enron

I recently read an outstanding article by Gregory D. Foster, "True Transformation: America's Military is Overdue for a Dramatic Overhaul," printed in the Armed Forces Journal in December 2009. I believe in just the first two of his several points, he has accurately identified the most important challenge in our military, the one entrenched flaw that stands to bring our nation to its knees and invite our enemies to trample us, as Enron executives invited bankruptcy. I've reproduced Mr. Foster's first two points below:
1. From dutiful followership to assertive leadership. The future, considering its expected complexity, ambiguity and turbulence, will demand extraordinary leadership — especially strategic leadership — throughout the military. This wouldn’t be an issue if the prevailing mythology that the military is in the business of producing leaders coincided with reality. But the reality is that what the military actually nurtures and rewards is dutiful followership. Those who succeed in the military, who make it to higher rank, are those who show themselves to be the most dutiful — silent, compliant, unquestioning, can-do — followers. Mavericks, iconoclasts and renegades who challenge established orthodoxy and authority, or impede stoic execution, need not apply. The generals and admirals who, by virtue of rank and position, command a measure of public attention are typically assumed by the public to be leaders, even when, as is often the case, they actually aren’t. The problem is that those who are thoroughly socialized over time to follow dutifully, to invariably seek direction (and approval) from higher authority before acting, eventually lose the capacity and the inclination for boldness, vision, initiative and moral courage — the stuff of true leadership. Moreover, those who are inculcated only with the transactional, superior-subordinate, tactical leadership the military emphasizes, similarly lose the capacity to exercise the transformative, predominantly intellectual, strategic leadership required at senior levels, where the name of the game is motivating equals with minds of their own, not directing submissive subordinates.
2. From blind obedience to responsible dissent. Inherent in the leadership the future will demand of the military will be the concomitant need for responsible dissent from those in uniform. This imperative for dissent of course flies in the face of the military’s deeply ingrained ethos of obedience to authority. The ethos of obedience underlies and reflects the enlistment oath and the officer’s commissioning oath — both of which bind those in uniform to support and defend the Constitution, and, either explicitly (in the case of the enlistment oath) or implicitly (in the case of the commissioning oath), to obey the lawful orders of their superiors in the chain of command. From this constitutional commitment come the implicit requirements for civilian control of the military — the expectation that uniformed personnel must necessarily defer to properly constituted civilian authority — and political neutrality — the associated principle that the military must eschew involvement in partisan political affairs (even to the extent, many think, of desisting from openly opposing policy, though not, paradoxically, from openly supporting policy). These conjoined imperatives, almost universally internalized and embraced, frequently serve as justification (or rationalization) and moral cover for those in uniform not to speak out, even when circumstances demand that they do so. They also suppress the equally important, but constitutionally unspecified, responsibility of the military to act as an institutional check and balance against the strategic illiteracy and ineptitude, militaristic impetuosity and arrogance, and ulterior partisan political motives of civilian authorities who display such traits.

The ethos of obedience also is born of the primacy of command in military culture and the military’s largely unquestioning and unquestioned conflation of command and leadership. Though the two should be essentially synonymous, they often aren’t — command frequently taking the form of unilateral, authoritarian edicts from commanders who expect their orders to be obeyed unquestioningly. Just as the military conflates command and leadership, so too does it correspondingly conflate dissent and disobedience. Few in uniform, if they are to avoid sanction and thereby succeed, can (or care to) resist the slippery slope from obedience to unquestioning obedience to blind obedience. The result of perpetual obedience, like the crippling effect of perpetual followership, is that those who bear responsibility for speaking up to those in authority and when necessary speaking out in public, are robbed of their ability and willingness to do so.

What an outstanding article, and he has a great deal more to say beyond these two points. I suggest every service member read this article, and every civilian who pays them.

His diagnosis explains, in my opinion, why the Air Force recently botched its VSP program, and followed it up a few days ago with an amazing Reduction in Force (RIF) - ie booting out highly qualified officers who sacrificed a decade or more during war time. It is really the only way to explain such behavior by leadership, to cut the people who get the mission done during a time when the mission suffers and the force is severely undermanned. But anything to lower the number on a Power Point slide, I suppose. I literally would not be shocked to see Air Force airplanes being sold to the highest bidder on Ebay next week. The insanity has no end, and I truly fear the United States Air Force will go the way of Enron, and for essentially the same reasons.

Monday, October 24, 2011

An Answer to Patrick Henry

Patrick Henry asked during the Constitutional Convention debates, "Whither is the spirit of America gone? Whither is the genius of America fled? It was but yesterday, when our enemies marched in triumph through our country. Yet the people of this country could not be appalled by their pompous armaments: they stopped their carer, and victoriously captured them."

It appears we may have found that American spirit. Anonymous, a force behind the Occupy Wall Street protests, is calling on people to move their money from banks, to their local non-profit credit unions this Fifth of November. Such a run on the banks could leave those entities barren, and expose the problems with fractional reserve banking. While such a move would not end fractional reserve banking itself, it would send a clear message to the banks that should have failed before governments stepped in to save them.

This is the American spirit. Legal and creative strategy to combat the forces that make government unaccountable.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Rain-Covered-Man A-10

Colonel Frank Fitts (ret) - A Rain Covered Man

Today, I have been accused of being a sleeping Major Nidal Hasan, a traitor, just waiting to take violent action against those I serve with in uniform. My accuser? A retired Air Force Lt Colonel. It's not surprising, as this same man months ago went on an online crusade to convince others that I was a psychopath who would turn my weapons on my own troops, and that I was plotting violence against my government, and that I was certain to have a mental breakdown that would result in collateral damage against those around me. He said he hoped that my commander was made aware of my mental issues, and that I was taken off the flying schedule.

This was several months ago. So why his tirade today? Because he discovered my blog post that took him to task for his comments on using Air Force munitions against American protestors. So, of course, he decided that he must illuminate what a threat that makes me to America.

It makes sense, just ask him.

He levies serious charges against me. Awhile back I blogged about the Active Shooter program and how its academically lacking precepts could be used to punish legitimate reformers in the Air Force. Now this former weapons officer and A-10 pilot, continues his diatribe against me online and in front of those I know and work with. How did Dr. "Rainman A-10" reach his diagnosis? That's a great question, and I'll get to it, but I'd like to first provide the credentials of Dr. Rainman. Picture him in his white coat, with his medical degree on the wall, and consider some of his works published in the most reputable medical journals.

Actually disregard my last, he doesn't have any of those credentials. But he does publish quite a bit, and he knows the Air Force and what is right and wrong with it, and he goes out of his way to mentor as only he knows how. For example, he once provided some mentoring to a female Air Force cadet from MIT, who tried very hard to measure up in his eyes, in her apparent hopes to one day be a military pilot like him. She should consider herself lucky to have a retired colonel, a former commander, make himself so accessible to her. In a thread regarding a young female officer trying to fit in with her male counterparts while attending Air Force pilot training, Dr. Rainman opened up his overflowing font of wisdom by stating that, "Pussification of the USAF started with reactions to shit like this. This is exactly what happened to the USAF I joined as an Iron Ass Reagan Baby as soon as we let girls into fighter squadrons." The MIT cadet responded that the "pussification" of the Air Force was not just the result of women serving, but also of the men who ran the Air Force. Dr. Rainman responded to her:
STFU, bitch. You have absolutely no idea what you're talking about and even less credibility to to [sic] make such comments. Get a decade of experience in a fighter squadron and I'll talk to you about this. Until then, shut your manpleaser.
The cadet followed up with a witty response, stating "Fair enough, but by the time I have a decade of experience, you will be back in diapers." All thought this a funny and appropriate response, well played. Except for the good Colonel, who had what some might call a psychotic break in response:
The odd thing is you're a fucking cunt cadet who has not served your country for one fucking day, let alone ever flown a military aircraft, and you're talking shit like you have an actual point of view that is anything near valid. In the real world that's how bitches get slapped. Know your role and get on your knees, bitch.
The young cadet spars back and forth in her attempt to show that she can fit in, and that she's just playing the game, by the rough and tumble thick-skin rules that have been stated for the Squadron Bar. It's easy to see the disillusion in her posts, and her participation on the board drops significantly. The lesson is clear, submit to the sacred cows of the group who do not practice the rules they preach, or be gone. She hadn't yet submitted (though she ultimately did and thanked Dr. Rainman for his advice), so the good Colonel gave her a nice parting shot, saying "OK, I've given fair warning...have at her boys. I don't think this is going to last long...they never look all that great once the mascara and lipstick start to smear after five or ten ATM face shots." The crowd obliges, and the "advice" is reinforced by several others who demonstrate how well they fit in with their own contributions, following the lead of The Old Man.

Dr. Rainman raises one thing that is worthy of discussion. Points of view that are nowhere near valid. That brings us to his assertions that I am the next Maj Nidal Hasan, and that the Air Force should take notice.

Before continuing to point out the diagnosis offered, the reader might very well ask why I would blemish my blog by responding to somebody who is quite clearly an idiot of epic proportion, and who appears to be incredibly insecure. After all, this is the internet, and there are many insecure idiots who populate it. The answer is two part. First, the charges he continues to make against me are deadly serious. Second, he has a prominent voice online, and his voice and views have a sizable role in shaping the culture and expectations of the officers we recruit. He is considered "the godfather" of the BaseOps.Net forums, something of a mascot. He enjoys a special place on those forums due to his real world relationship with the men who own and run the forum, and for better or for worse, the forum has actual significance to the Air Force aviation community. Particularly concerning cadets who hope to understand what the Air Force requires of newly minted pilots, who look to current pilots to mirror, so that they can fit in and join the fraternity one day. His voice is therefore significant.

It is a training ground for the next generation of Air Force officers, and Dr. Rainman is the star of the faculty. He successfully taught the young female MIT cadet what was required to fit in and succeed. If you want to be a part of us, you will swallow your pride even when you are right, never pass up the opportunity to remain silent when told to do so, and most importantly, regardless of right or wrong, you will submit.

Put another way, as Dr. Rainman instructs in a thread on leadership, "You've got to pick your battles and you need to maintain your self-preservation instinct."

If self preservation is the priority, then it makes sense to pick no battles at all. That is the lesson many on the board learn and imitate, resulting in de-fanged pretend warriors, who play a part as if in a musical. Bit by bit they are trained to be submissive, to not display courage, or to stand for principle. Like the MIT cadet who learned to take a beating, and then tuck tail in submission, and then to praise her instructor for the lesson. Dr. Rainman's lesson is not without value. Being submissive certainly does help maintain self preservation. The American citizen, however, is not paying for submissive military officers who preserve themselves at the expense of the nation. Such public servants are recognized as cowards at best, and frauds at worst. So rationalizations like "pick your battles" are taught to them to help them justify their value choices to themselves, while a false bravado is taught in order to disguise the truth of their character to others. America's sword is dulled by this subtle training, and the cleverly wrapped lessons from a Colonel who presents an unauthentic replica of the swagger of Robin Olds, but fails to model his substance. Without the substance, the swagger is just fantasy and role playing.

The good Colonel tried to teach me his wisdom. Months ago, after that forum found my blog and posted it with praise, I was prompted to join and get into the discussion, and did so to try to prevent the pitchforks that were inevitable once they found my master's thesis. I took it upon myself to bring the Constitution, and our need to defend it, into the discussion. It's an important topic. I was hoping it would be warmly received. After all, there are many self proclaimed conservatives on the board, and conservative or not, we all should take our oaths seriously.

It began well enough, in threads that have now been deleted, but that I preserved, and many thought I made good points and my board reputation steadily climbed. Several mentioned that the threads I was engaged in formed the best discussion BaseOps.Net had seen in awhile. Several others private messaged me and said they were glad I was posting on the board. But Dr. Rainman found my thesis, and thought I had no business critiquing the fighter pilot or corporate cultures (he was part of both cultures, he said). The fact that I had done so meant I had no credibility in any discussion. After his off topic objection, the discussion continued on the importance of refusing an unconstitutional order if given one. I mentioned my membership in Oath Keepers after a moderator posted a link to the organization. Somebody brought up the illegal email that was sent throughout the fighter pilot community regarding my critique of fighter pilot culture. Then the accusations of being crazy began.

The pitchforks were grabbed and the torches lit, and the young and impressionable began to jump into the insulting foray hoping to score some quick social points with the old heads, including the MIT cadet previously referenced. Still, the discussion turned to the legality of Libya, and also to a healthy debate on military troops disarming citizens after Katrina. While several admitted that they would have refused to disarm American citizens, many were of the opinion that we should always follow orders. I asked Dr. Rainman if he would have disarmed Americans but he refused to answer the question. He did, however, make it clear that he believed officers should never question orders. I was asked what I would have done if the others around me thought it was acceptable to disarm the citizens, and started doing so. Would I turn my weapon on them? I responded that I would not, that my job was simply to disobey unlawful orders. Dr. Rainman then responded:
Bullshit. There is a scenario known only to you and you fellow fringemates. It may be planned or it may happen as several of you are put into a scenario where you look each other in the eye and all hell breaks loose...You do not trust the police or your fellow officers. You will not have to act alone. you are part (and recruit for, even on these message boards) of a shadow organization within the military who will also be clicking their safety off in unison.
The good Colonel followed this up by claiming I was infecting others with my dangerous ideas, and claimed I was responsible for the "unfortunate consequence of entangling the spouse of someone in [my] chain." The spouse he referred to had contacted me on that forum to thank me for raising the discussion, and her husband was not, and is not, in my chain of command. The spouse messaged Dr. Rainman to inform him of this fact, but he continued to make the assertion knowing that it was untrue. Honesty is far less appealing than the narrative of a crazy man infecting the troops in his charge with seditious ideas. Integrity first, indeed. But Dr. Rainman is right that my ideas have reach. They are American ideas, and there are still Americans in this country who recognize them. The spouse, her husband, and my wife and I later discussed those ideas at lunch. The spouse had contacted me precisely because she shares the idea that liberty and the rule of law in America are threatened. She didn't need me to instruct her or convince her to value America. She reached out to me because, like me, she is very worried that those she pays to defend America, may not be able or willing to deliver.

Dr. Rainman is also concerned with ideas. Toxic ideas and dangerous speech that must be controlled, and cannot be allowed to spread. We must not allow these crazy, plotting, devious people to share their crazy viewpoints. As Dr. Rainman stated when he provided more of his diagnosis of me on the forum:
Like all lunatics his mental health issues will result in a major psychotic break unless they are professionally treated. He will eventually self destruct in a major flameout. Hopefully no one gets hurt but there is no guarantee. There will likely be collateral damage and one of the effects will be this site going down the shitter. Clear enough?
He later added dementia and sadism to his diagnosis, and claimed I was responsible for "dangerous speech" that "incites insubordination" and that would destroy their web forum. He then appealed to the moderators. The Constitution thread was locked. A moderator made it clear in the now deleted Libya thread that "politics" would not be discussed, and the discussion slowed almost to a halt. Then my posts began to get deleted, including a poll I started, to see who had displayed courage outside of combat and to share what they had risked to do the right thing for their country. Courage outside combat was apparently an unacceptable topic. When it became clear that I could not post or participate without having my contributions censored, I told the several moderators who had banded together, to get it over with, to ban me if I would not be allowed to stand on the merit of my ideas. After all, the forum is private property and when in a man's house I abide by his rules or I leave. I was banned.

Months later, after several requested the unlocking of the Constitution Debate thread (a thread now renamed, with posters renamed to falsely imply various accounts are the same person), the thread was deleted, then altered, then "restored." Some ideas are just too crazy and must be stopped. As Dr. Rainman has taught us, those ideas and a dedication to defending them in accordance with an oath before God, is clear proof of somebody who is psychotic, and crazy, and secretly plotting against his government. Passionately advocating the defense of America and its rule of law, is evidence of intent to attack America and subvert its rule of law.

At least in the mind of the good Colonel, who knows women ruined the military, and who can spot a traitor on sight. The good Colonel knows what's what, and our next generation of young aviators are eager for his wisdom, and ready to measure up to his example. Especially since his example is appealing, in that it focuses on self preservation, instead of risking self to strengthen America.

This good Colonel walks into view, dripping from the rain, his white t-shirt drenched. A loud talking, macho, patriotic, heroic defender of freedom. A real American patriot in the eyes of the neighbors. But he has a secret.

He's not who the neighbors think he is.

So get back to discussing how to drop munitions on American protestors, Colonel. That's real American Beauty. But make sure you dry yourself off, Rainman. You're soaked. And, of course, don't forget to remind the youngsters about dangerous speech. In the real world, you know, "that's how bitches get slapped."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Of Pigs and Priests

There is somewhat of an interesting debate in the comments section of Tom Ricks' recent blog post where Ricks states that he thinks it's sometimes necessary for the U.S. government to assassinate Americans citizens, ostensibly without charging them for a crime, and without putting them on trial, and without concern for their location or whether or not they provide an imminent threat to anybody.

In the comments on that blog, one military Judge Advocate lawyer provides his Priestly legal perspective, along with his Pigish command for non-lawyers to "stay in their lane" when considering the law. You see, we cannot understand the law ourselves as military officers, let alone American citizens. We require a Priest to tell us what the law means and what actions we can and cannot do, just as the Priests of old advised their Kings, and translated the Word of God to the masses unable to read it for themselves. We are just everyday Americans, so we cannot be trusted to think for ourselves and to determine the rightful actions of our government. We are not qualified to understand America or its laws, just as we require the Banker or his representative to tell us about derivatives.

They are educated in their technical crafts, and as George Orwell tells us of the Pigs on the "Animal Farm:"
The pigs now revealed that during the past three months they had taught themselves to read and write from an old spelling book which had belonged to Mr. Jones's children and which had been thrown on the rubbish heap.
With this knowledge, after the animals had risen up to rule themselves, they created Seven Commandments and painted them on the side of a barn. They created law. Orwell tells us that when it came time to run the farm, "the pigs were so clever that they could think of a way around every difficulty."

One difficulty was that many of the animals did not have the mental capacity to learn the Seven Commandments, so the pigs broke it down into something they could understand. "Four legs good, two legs bad!" Orwell tells us the sheep would bleat this simple maxim repeatedly, never tiring of it.

On the topic of food, it was decided the pigs would eat the apples and milk, since they were "brainworkers" who ran the Farm. The pigs made it clear they did not want to eat these desired foods, and many did not like them, but stated to the other animals, "It is for your sake that we drink that milk and eat those apples." Like a bailout to the banks, it was done for the sake of the many.

The issue of electricity on the farm came up, and one pig, named Snowball, favored building a windmill to provide it, while another did not. The advocate of the windmill was a hero who had been awarded a medal for his bravery in defending the Farm against a human advance. In the debate, the pro-science Snowball articulated a vision that swayed the other animals, but before he could finish, another pig, Napoleon, had "nine enormous dogs wearing brass-studded collars" chase him off the farm. Many of the animals were troubled, but the brightest among them who began to speak met growls from the dogs. Another pig then spoke of a new arrangement:
"Comrades...I trust that every animal here appreciates the sacrifices that Comrade Napoleon has made... Do not imagine, comrades, that leadership is a pleasure! On the contrary, it is a deep and heavy responsibility. No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would be only too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong decisions, comrades, and then where would we be? Suppose you had decided to follow Snowball, with his moonshine of windmills--Snowball, who, as we now know, was no better than a criminal?"
One animal spoke up and mentioned that Snowball had fought bravely in battle for the defense of the Farm. The pig replied:
Bravery is not enough... Loyalty and obedience are more important. And as to the Battle of the Cowshed, I believe the time will come when we shall find that Snowball's part in it was much exaggerated.
The story continues to show that the Pigs who ruled began to break the rules set about for the good of the whole farm. Rule by rule of the Seven Commandments was changed or interpreted to mean something other than its original intent. The rule that "No animal shall sleep in a bed" became "No animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets," once the pigs had moved into the once verboten farm house.

The story tells us that Snowball, who had escaped the farm, was declared a traitor and the death sentence was pronounced upon him. Not all animals believed him to be a traitor, and one stated so, remembering his bravery in defending the Farm and his wounds in battle. This was met with one Pig's response that they had "secret documents" that showed this not to be the case, and that "Our Leader, Comrade Napoleon...has stated categorically, comrade--that Snowball was Jones's agent from the very beginning--yes, and from long before the Rebellion was ever thought of." The animal was convinced, "If Comrade Napoleon says it, it must be right."

Several days later, Napoleon called a gathering and had the dogs suddenly seize four animals who had previously protested one of his decisions. They confessed to treason and admitted they had been inspired by Snowball. They were slaughtered on the spot, and several other animals were also put to death in succession. The animals who lived were "shaken and miserable." According to Orwell:
A few days later, when the terror caused by the executions had died down, some of the animals remembered-or thought they remembered-that the Sixth Commandment decreed "No animal shall kill any other animal." And though no one cared to mention it in the hearing of the pigs or the dogs, it was felt that killings which had taken place did not square with this...Muriel read the Commandment for her. It ran: "No animal shall kill any other animal without cause." Somehow or other, the last two words had slipped out of the animals' memory. But they saw now that the Commandment had not been violated; for clearly there was good reason for killing the traitors who had leagued themselves with Snowball.
The rule of law is important, and in America we have many Pigs and Priests who are only concerned with themselves, and their ambitions for power and money. We also have a great many Sheep and collared-Dogs, many who delude themselves into thinking they are Pigs to justify their cowardice. It's time to treat these Pigs and Priests as their characters deserve. That starts by recognizing them for what they are. George Orwell's, "Animal Farm" should be considered required reading in that endeavor. Then we can see Priests like the JAG on Ricks' blog, for what they are...Pigs holding a paint can, debasing our Constitution and rule of law.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Angry Father of the Air Force

In this footage we see the great, though imperfect, General Billy Mitchell stating that there have been, and are in the United States, those who should be court martialed for their deliberate suppression of air power. The footage above provides the proof the General offered against Naval critics when he sunk a ship from above.

General Mitchell was himself convicted in a court martial when he took on the establishment.

But he was right, and the establishment recognized that fact when it was in their selfish interest to do so.

An Understanding Required to Defeat Terrorism

I think we could learn a lot about how to defeat our enemies by listening to Ron Paul. Respect is so much more powerful than fear.

Begging for More Than Kent State

The Occupy X City protests have drawn, in my opinion, deserved criticism for widely divergent stated aims and goals, and for contradictory complaints and poorly offered solutions from various protestors. What appears to be fairly consistent in these American protests, however, is the violence they face from armed agents of the government. The clip above shows some of that. While I'm certainly concerned with the epidemic of unlawful police action, with their ever increasingly militarized armaments, I am much more concerned with the military using force against citizens. Like Kent State, and much more recent events.

Americans have the Constitutional right to protest. That right does not require them to be lucid or philosophically coherent and it certainly doesn't require them to be correct in their anger and their proposals. They have the right to protest, imperfect as their reasons for protesting might be, and as shoddy as their solutions might be articulated.

The police are not the only government agents sworn to defend the rights of Americans, however, to exercise "freedom of speech" and "of the press" and to "peaceably assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances" in accordance with the First Amendment to the Constitution. The United States military has taken that same oath.

Military officers and enlisted personnel are sworn to defend these rights of Americans, whether or not they agree with their American countryman who exercise them. Unfortunately, many in the military demonstrate a desire to use violence against American citizens with whom they disagree, as I blogged about previously, and as clearly demonstrated recently by one online message board predominately dominated by United States Air Force officers and aviators, which I have also blogged about previously. In this thread, "America's Tahir Square-happening NOW!" one military officer and pilot mentions that "hippies getting pepper sprayed is a unique pleasure that just can't be beat." Others mention hydra rockets, flachettes, and an active duty Air Force Colonel even feels compelled to mention his preference for napalm. Another retired Air Force Colonel, and previous A-10 pilot (who goes by the handle Rainmain-A10), responds to the comment on flachettes by offering some weaponeering instruction:
These things are super parameter senstive. The issue is getting the slant range right at release (9k or 13k, I can't remember anymore) for fuze function and the desired effect to be achieved...along with all the other pilot induced issues that come with a rocket delivery.
Another Air Force officer, and F-16 pilot, offers that "CBU 87 is my favorite choice." The previously mentioned active duty Air Force O-6 later offers a video of napalm being dropped in Vietnam (because apparently the North Vietnamese and American protestors go hand in hand).

I know several of these officers personally.

In the four page online thread, nowhere is the Constitution they are sworn to defend ever mentioned. My experience on that forum demonstrates that the Constitution is verboten, the rule of law is a distant second to following orders, and the majority consider their oaths to support and defend the Supreme Law of the Land a joke. In fact, nowhere in this thread is a single opinion that it is improper, dishonorable, or un-American to discuss various ways of employing taxpayer funded weapons against the American taxpayer ever mentioned. More so, there is not a single hint that perhaps these protestors have a point worth listening to, or that they have a right to voice it without violence from the government.

With Kent State in recent memory, with the assassination of an American in very recent memory, and given my personal experiences it appears to me that our United States Air Force (and perhaps our military in total) is no longer capable of carrying out the primary requirement given it by the citizens of America.

That primary requirement is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

Update: the thread mentioned above does display the picture below, with the comment "Pretty sure he should not be doing this..."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Comparing the OBL and Awlaki Killings

The New York Times recently reported on the secret memo justifying the assassination of an American citizen. It stated:

The memorandum is said to declare that in the case of a citizen, it is legally required to capture the militant if feasible — raising a question: was capturing Mr. Awlaki in fact feasible?

It is possible that officials decided last month that it was not feasible to attempt to capture him because of factors like the risk it could pose to American commandos and the diplomatic problems that could arise from putting ground forces on Yemeni soil. Still, the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan demonstrates that officials have deemed such operations feasible at times.

Charlie Savage makes a good point, referencing the action against OBL in Pakistan. If officials deemed the operation against a non-American citizen in Pakistan feasible, why did they not deem a capture attempt in Yemen feasible, especially if it is true that the the secret memo legally required it? The American military has certainly captured many "enemy combatants" and, in years past, it even launched a major military campaign against a country to capture Manuel Noriega and place him on trial. Charlie Savage's question is a good one. If the U.S. was willing to insert commandos to capture/kill OBL, why was it not willing to do the same to capture an American?

Was it feasible? Did we have the capability? Taking a look at the Wikipedia page's map, we see that Pakistan allowed the use of military facilities to American forces. It's reported that only a few hundred American troops were allowed inside the country. The Wiki map also shows that more than a thousand American troops are located in neighboring Afghanistan, and more than a thousand more across the water in Bahrain.

Yemen, according to the map, has no American troops and does not allow the use of its military facilities. Like Pakistan, however, there are more than a thousand troops reportedly in neighboring Oman and more than a thousand more across the water in Africa. Additionally, Yemen has a great deal of coastal area, and American naval vessels have reportedly been operating in the area for anti-piracy actions.

American naval vessels can launch helicopters and other aircraft.

The strike carried out against the American in Yemen, was done a few hundred miles from the Gulf of Aden. The capture/kill operation in Pakistan was done a few hundred miles from Kabul.

The United States was partnered with Pakistan against OBL, though the fidelity of that partnership has been consistently questioned. The Pakistani military did not itself capture OBL. The U.S. was also partnered with Yemen against the American. The Yemenis had previously captured and released him.

The Pakistanis were not pleased with the United States following the OBL raid. The Yemenis, however, did not apparently voice any concern following the killing. Pakistan has nuclear weapons. Yemen does not.

The New York Times reported that the strike against the American was delayed until he was "on a road away from populated areas." The capture/kill raid on OBL was conducted near a Pakistani military facility in a populated city, and one Pakistani tweeted the presence of a helicopter during the operation. OBL's body was reportedly transported to a naval vessel.

It will be interesting to see how this debate continues.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Bipartisan Voices Want Legal Reasoning from POTUS on American Assassinations

It appears a Washington Post article details a growing bipartisan urging of the administration to release its declassified memo citing the legal justifications for assassinating an American citizen without charge or trial. Certainly the legal reasoning can't itself be classified. I hope our government provides this reasoning for public examination.

UPDATE: apparently some are discussing the secret legal memo and giving clues to its reasoning. Interestingly, the memo reportedly claims that Awlaki would have had to be captured if feasible. The recent New York Times story, Secret U.S. Memo Made Legal Case to Kill a Citizen, states:

The memorandum is said to declare that in the case of a citizen, it is legally required to capture the militant if feasible — raising a question: was capturing Mr. Awlaki in fact feasible?

It is possible that officials decided last month that it was not feasible to attempt to capture him because of factors like the risk it could pose to American commandos and the diplomatic problems that could arise from putting ground forces on Yemeni soil. Still, the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan demonstrates that officials have deemed such operations feasible at times.

UPDATE 2: Bruce Ackerman has a good article over on his Foreign Policy blog.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Citizens Claim America is Dead - Our Freedom Assassinated

Dr. Paul Craig Roberts, former assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury under Reagan, economist and co-founder of Reaganomics, and former editor/writer for The Wall Street Journal, wrote in an article yesterday entitled The Day America Died, which begins with, "September 30, 2011 was the day America was assassinated."

His article ends with:

Readers ask me what they can do. Americans not only feel powerless, they are powerless. They cannot do anything. The highly concentrated, corporate-owned, government-subservient print and TV media are useless and no longer capable of performing the historic role of protecting our rights and holding government accountable. Even many antiwar Internet sites shield the government from 9/11 skepticism, and most defend the government’s "righteous intent" in its war on terror. Acceptable criticism has to be couched in words such as "it doesn’t serve our interests."

Voting has no effect. President "Change" is worse than Bush/Cheney. As Jonathan Turley suggests, Obama is "the most disastrous president in our history." Ron Paul is the only presidential candidate who stands up for the Constitution, but the majority of Americans are too unconcerned with the Constitution to appreciate him. To expect salvation from an election is delusional. All you can do, if you are young enough, is to leave the country. The only future for Americans is a nightmare.

Justin Rainmondo, author and one internet anti-war activist, recently wrote in an article Assassins of Liberty, with this similarly dreadful conclusion:

The assassination of Anwar al-Awlaki sets an important precedent, one that will go down in our history as a shameful moment, a turning point, when the policy of endless war empowered the President to kill his own countrymen without benefit of trial. Any American, whose “preaching” purportedly “inspires” a terrorist act is now fair game for our Praetorians. The first time we take out an American citizen on American soil, on the mere suspicion that he may be a “terrorist,” our legal eagles will point to the al-Awlaki case as justification. That a citizen of this country may be put on a list that marks him for death, without public trial, seals the doom of our old republic. Obama’s partisans hail his great “victory,” while their neoconservative rivals do the same – and there is no one left to wonder what has happened to the Constitution.

As America enters a period of travail, when the prospect of economic and civil turmoil becomes all too real, this precedent is terrifying. That the President may order the death of an American without due process of law means that the concept of law is no longer operative: it signals the end of the America we knew, and loved, and the beginning of … something else.

As public servants, our oaths to the Constitution are essential for defending America. I hope those of us who serve will re-dedicate ourselves to the promises we made before God and the American people. When we in government obey the rule of law, even when inconvenient, perhaps we can change the minds of these two writers and others who feel that America is dead and gone. While I am very worried about my country, unlike the authors above I believe it's not too late for the greatness of America to be restored. It will just take the best among us forsaking our comfortable distractions, remembering what it means to be an American, and then rescuing the nation we the People created.