War Is Hell — Not Litigation
WASHINGTON — The editor of the venerable conservative weekly Human Events is causing an admirable ruckus. Jed Babbin, once deputy undersecretary of defense in the administration of George H.W. Bush and now the editor of the oldest conservative periodical in the land, is petitioning Secretary of Defense Robert Gates to dismiss charges against three SEALs for allegedly causing discomfort to one of the most-wanted terrorists in Iraq during his capture last September. Babbin now has over 90,000 petitioners. Count me in.
The SEALs, Julio Huertas, Jonathan Keefe, and Matthew McCabe, are members of SEAL Team Ten. Their platoon captured one Ahmed Hashim Abed during a nocturnal raid on or about September 1 in Iraq. Abed is suspected of being the mastermind of the March 2004 ambush in Fallujah of four Blackwater security guards, which by hindsight was not such a good idea on Abed’s part. In a wild firefight his brutes killed the Blackwater contractors, all retired commandos, when they drove into an ambush. Then they desecrated the bodies, dragging them through the streets and hanging two from a bridge for the world to see. That ostentatious display of barbarism caught the attention of the U.S. military, making it, of a sudden, aware that Iraq was becoming dangerously unstable, with violence potentially spiraling out of control. The atrocity was, as the military commentator Rowan Scarborough has observed, a wakeup call that did not turn out well for the brutes.
Precisely what happened to Abed that September night is unclear. But he claims one of the SEALs, McCabe, punched him in the stomach causing him to bleed from the lip — odd symptoms, no? Presumably we shall get all the details during the SEALs’ court-martial trials that are scheduled to begin next month. Yet are these trials really necessary? The other two SEALs are charged with participating in a cover-up. I think it is by now pretty well established that terrorists do not always tell the truth, and they can be unruly when fallen upon in the dark of night in what they had thitherto considered secure hiding places.
Moreover, al Qaeda provides them with a training manual. According to Chapter 18 of a manual released by the Justice Department, al Qaeda’s finest are encouraged to complain of torture and lesser acts of mistreatment at the hands of their captors. Possibly they even hire publicists. Thus we have come to the point where members of one of our most elite special ops forces are going to be court-martialed for causing Abed a bloody lip during his capture.
The travesty could have been averted had the SEALs settled for a lesser charge. That seems to be what the commanding general in charge, Major General Charles T. Cleveland, expected after conferring with Army lawyers. Yes, Army lawyers are almost as influential in the execution of this war on terror as our finest special ops forces. Yet these SEALs entered military service with the highest ambitions. They want, according to Babbin, to become members of the SEALs’ most elite team. If they settled for the “non-judicial punishment” under Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that was dangled before them, their chances of serving our country at a higher level of combat would be ended.
So now these warriors, who regularly faced a barbaric foe to defend our country, will face courts-martial and possible ruin. General Cleveland had it in his power to tell lower-level commanders simply to lecture these soldiers on avoiding bloody lips in the future, but he set a process in motion that is destructive to these men and to the morale of our finest fighters in the war on terror. Secretary Gates can end this abuse of power by simply doing what Cleveland failed to do. Send these men back to their officers for a chewing out.
I hope Gates will follow this course. He is an honorable and intelligent man. I have known him since his boss at CIA, then-CIA Director Bill Casey, introduce him to me over two decades ago and told me that with Gates’ talent and good sense he was destined to do great good for our country. These SEALs have done great good too. Let us get them back to work and get these courts-martial canceled. The guy that should be appearing in the dock is Ahmed Hashim Abed, whose lip has doubtless healed.
The Politically Correct and Altercationists Anonymous
WASHINGTON — I am rather sorry that Myles Brand has passed on to his reward. Brand is the fellow who as president of Indiana University gained enormous respect among Liberals for ruining the basketball program of that basketball-loving university in that basketball-loving state. He fired basketball coach Bob Knight, one of the sport’s greatest coaches, for a minor altercation that was an obvious setup. Knight had donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to the institution and overseen an athletic program that insisted on academic seriousness from its players as well as competitiveness. Under Knight IU won three National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championships and 11 conference championships. The basketball program has yet to recover, and I very much doubt that its players match the academic records of Knight’s teams.
Admittedly the hot-tempered Knight was controversial. He got into rows with coaches, journalists, players, referees, spectators — actually anyone who was available. Yet, by the time Brand fired him, Knight had taken heed of those who admonished him to manage his temper better and was a much more irenic citizen. Call him a recovering altercationist. Perhaps Knight had enrolled in Altercationists Anonymous (AA). His forced departure ignited angry student-body demonstrations, disrupting the university and causing Brand to seek police protection.
A couple of years later Brand became president of the NCAA, where he created still more feuding. Under his leadership, the NCAA attempted to ban the use of American Indian names as school nicknames or mascots. The ensuing wrangling continues to this day. By edict of the NCAA Executive Committee, NCAA-sanctioned championships were not to be held on campuses whose mascots or nicknames derived from some aspect of American Indian heritage. Thus William and Mary should not be known as the Indians and settled for the nickname the Tribe. Arkansas State should not be known as the Indians and changed its nickname to Red Wolves — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals be damned. The University of Illinois’ logo until recently showed the stern countenance of an Indian chieftain in full headdress, representing its nickname, the Fighting Illini — the Illini being a local Indian tribe. Somehow the university was allowed to keep the nickname but had to cashier the handsome logo for a large orange “I” that looks like an industrial caution sign.
Now American Indians in the great state of North Dakota have stood up for good sense and respect for their tradition. Since the NCAA’s fussiness, members of the Spirit Lake Tribe of the Sioux Nation have resisted attempts at the University of North Dakota to expurgate its nickname, the Fighting Sioux. I wish the argumentative Brand were around to observe the spectacle and possibly to contemplate the nonsensical debate his meddling has caused, not only at the University of North Dakota but at the aforementioned universities and at a dozen other colleges.
“When you hear them announce the name at the start of a hockey game [UND has an enthusiasm for hockey not unlike IU’s for basketball], it gives you goose bumps,” Frank Black Cloud — not surprisingly a Sioux — told the New York Times. “They are putting us on a pinnacle.” Well, of course they are. Why would a university, or for that matter a sports team, adopt as a nickname or a mascot something that was not inspiring? The politically correct fussbudgets and various malcontents insist that these Indian remembrances are hostile references or somehow insulting to Indians. Actually, as anyone with any sense knows, they are acknowledgments of the tribes’ dignity and original inhabitancy of the land. Extirpate their names and it is just another extirpation of their history. Doing so is what one might expect from Americans who hated the Indians, and there was a time when many Americans did. Adopting references to them is a way to honor them. Black Cloud is right.
There are many underappreciated motivations in history. As mentioned in this column some months ago, one is boredom. Certainly another is quarrelsomeness. Brand and many like him claim to high-mindedness, but au fond they simply are quarrelsome and enjoy stirring things up. Brand from time to time explained his actions as motivated by a love of learning, but I have reviewed his record and though he lived much of his life in academe there is no evidence he loved learning or was in any way learned. The two controversies I have discussed here are not even very intelligent.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?