Wednesday, May 2, 2007

At Hearing in Iraq, U.S. Colonel Is Cast As Flouter of Rules -

At Hearing in Iraq, U.S. Colonel Is Cast As Flouter of Rules - "BAGHDAD, May 1 -- Witnesses testifying at a hearing here Tuesday said a senior U.S. Army officer accused of aiding the enemy kept top-secret papers at his base residence, allowed child detainees to make unmonitored calls on his cellphone and provided former president Saddam Hussein with Cuban cigars at taxpayer expense."

I'm really not sure where this is going. Lt. Colonel Steele is charged under Article 104 "Aiding the Enemy" of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Article 104 is a no-kidding death penalty offense. Whereas your typical murderer kills one person, someone guilty of Article 104 offenses could quite literally be responsible for the deaths of hundreds.

In light of that, I'm really confused at the carnival atmosphere of Lt Colonel Steele's Article 32 hearing (military analog of a Grand Jury). It sounds like he shtupped his interpreter; are we caring about that? He may have give Cuban cigars to Saddam Hussein; are we caring about that? He mishandled over 18,000 classified documents, possibly a new record, but unless we believe that led to compromise of the information contained in them the offense speaks more to character than criminality.

The meat of the charge, giving aid to the enemy seems to be centered around giving prisoners unsupervised/unmonitored access to a cellular phone. Camp Cropper is a complex place. Some of the prisoners there are very, very bad men. Some of the prisoners are MAMs, Military Aged Males, who got caught up in a roundup. All the MAMs want to do is go home. Problem is, now that we've caged them up with the bad guys, the bad guys have influence over them. So nobody, no matter how innocent they are, can be trusted. Lt Colonel Steele demonstrated horrifically bad judgment in allowing unsupervised/unmonitored communication out of his facility.

Additionally, the charge of fraternizing with the daughter of one of his prisoners is extremely serious. This is because of the enormous amount of power that Lt Colonel Steele wielded in his position as Camp Commander. Even if his intentions were totally innocent, there is just no way that an unprofessional relationship with the relative of one of his prisoners should have been allowed to develop.

So I'm confused. I don't see how giving cigars to a prisoner warrants discussion at an Article 32 hearing for a capital offense.
I do not know what Lt Colonel Steele thought he was doing during his tenure on Camp Cropper. If he takes the opportunity to explain his actions, I'd be interested to hear his side. In the mean time, it's a good thing that he's no longer in charge of anything or anyone.

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