In the very best light, Leon Panetta, former CIA-director-turned-SecDef, was a dupe of Communism, an enabler and supporter of its agents and advocates. That he serves in the most sensitive positions in the US government is a real-life nightmare -- only the kind in which when you scream, no one hears you.
That said, how to interpret a memorandum Panetta issued on July 30 regarding "Military Justice in Combat Zones"?
In this memo to secretaries of the military departments, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, and a new, Panetta-created panel called the Defense Legal Policy Board, Panetta orders a review of "military justice in cases of U.S. Service members alleged to have caused death, injury or abuse of non-combatants in Iraq or Afghanistan" dating back to October 2001.
He goes on to exclude allegations of detainee abuse and instances of collateral damage and "friendly fire" incidents. He also excludes previously adjudicated cases and pending cases and investigations.
So what's left?
As I read it, what remains are incidents that never came to trial, maybe that never were investigated. Records of any such incidents would be found in a dozen years' worth of military files, which I imagine would include allegations against US troops made by Iraqis and Afghans. To say the veracity of such witnesses is unreliable is understatement of the century, but I'll just put it out there with this bonus: a commander with extensive battlefield experience in both Iraq and Afghanistan told me that lie detectors are considered useless in evaluating an Afghan's testimony.
What does Panetta hope to accomplish? Panetta writes:
The application of military justice to Service members alleged to have committed offenses against civilians in combat zones is of particular concern to me. We know that, over the last 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, bad things have happened involving combat excesses and innocent civilians in deployed areas. The abuses have been rare among our professional fighting force, but they became huge flash points that threatened to undermine our entire mission and the foundation of our relationship with the host government and its people. Thus, for offenses that take place in a country in which we operate alongside the civilian population, it is critical that our system of military justice be efficient. fair, dependable, and credible. For now and for the future, we must get this right.
Let's take that apart. 1) Abuses are rare. 2) But "rare" abuses are "huge flash points" that a) undermine the mission and b) undermine our relationship with the people. Given that the COIN mission is creating a relationship with the people -- winning hearts and minds -- these two points are one and the same.
So what's going on?
I've catalogued the consistently decreasing percentage of civilians casualties caused by US-led forces in Afghanistan since 2009 when the COINdinista brain trust of Mullen, Petraeus, McChrystal et al began to focus on lowering these numbers as the key to US success -- the key to winning Afghan "hearts and minds." US strategy was to lower these numbers at any cost because lowered numbers were supposed to secure the "human terrain," as Petraeus liked to call it. The cost was in fact astronomical. Restrictive ROEs, failures to support troops in the field with artillery or air support all contributed to untold American and NATO losses. It also froze the US military machine in a permanent crouch of reflex-apology and submission to Islamic sensibilities. But the strategy worked, at least by one measure. The share of civilian casualties caused by US-led, pro-government forces is down to a single digit -- 9 percent -- while anti-US, anti-government forces are responsible for a colossal 79 percent.
The" hearts and minds" awakening the COINdinistas expected, however, hasn't happened. From a recent Washington Post story comes an apt overall summation of the status of the quest for Afghan hearts and minds : “We talk to the local people a lot. But it’s like talking to a donkey. No matter what we say, they support the Taliban,” said a local Afghan Army commander.
Instead of going back to the drawing board to assess what it might be that connects "the people" we do everything to protect, as Gen. McChrystal would put it, to jihadists who wantonly destroy these same people -- such as maybe for instance the same exact anti-infidel religious doctrine? -- the blind bats in charge have a new dumb idea. They now seek this retroactive review of "offenses against civilians in combat zones," from death to injury to "abuse." I think their thinking is as follows: Since lowering civilian casualties to a single digit didn't make a dent, maybe coming down hard on "offenses against civilians" is the ticket. "Rare" though they be, such incidents must hold the key to Afghan "hearts and minds." Subtext: If we can just offer up a few juicy examples, really crucify (excuse the phrase, Abdullah), them, then, then, then the Iraqis and Afghans will finally realize we (heart) them, and they will (heart) us back!
This isn't about military justice. It's about Islamic brownie points.
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