Saturday, October 20, 2007

Former prison commander gets 2 years

BBC NEWS | Middle East | US ex-commander sentenced in Iraq: "A US officer in Iraq has been acquitted of aiding the enemy by lending a mobile phone to a prisoner, but sentenced to two years in prison on lesser charges."

That's a slap on the wrist.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Potemkin would be proud

Tough Punishment Expected for Warhead Errors - "The Air Force has decided to relieve at least five of its officers of command and is considering filing criminal charges in connection with the Aug. 29 'Bent Spear' incident in which nuclear-armed cruise missiles were mistakenly flown from North Dakota to Louisiana, two senior Air Force officials said yesterday."

The legend of Potemkin villages is that one of Catherine the Great's ministers, Grigory Potemkin had mock villages constructed along the Dnieper river in order to impress his boss. The story is very probably false but it gives us a great label for sham enterprises.

It's been over sixty years since the United States actually used a nuclear weapon in war. I'm not complaining mind you, but this has allowed the nuclear arm of the Department of Defense to evolve into its own reality. The nuclear DoD is a veritable Disney Land of hypothetical questions and their accompanying hypothetical solutions.

In the kill-people-break-things branch of the DoD you periodically have to saddle up and go shoot somebody. Combat is a harsh teacher and units learn hard, invaluable lessons. The nuclear DoD has no such crucible. Officers who give great hypothetical answers to hypothetical questions get promoted. Some of these officers are good officers who have never been tested under pressure and some are officers who lack the character to persevere. To all but the most discerning observer, one who has actually seen a good man crack under pressure, both categories of officer look exactly the same.

And that, gentle reader, is how we got into our current situation. Supervisors at all levels found false comfort in their loose-leaf binders full of unread regulations and meaningless inspection results. This is not just a Minot AFB problem or even a USAF problem. The nuclear DoD is the single greatest collection of rear-echelon Formica-blind never-beens to ever wield a coffee mug.

In defense of Grigory Potemkin, at least he knew the villages weren't real.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

With Tight Grip on Ballot, Putin Is Forcing Foes Out - New York Times

With Tight Grip on Ballot, Putin Is Forcing Foes Out - New York Times: "Nearly eight years after Mr. Putin took office and began tightening his control over all aspects of the Russian government, he will almost certainly with this election succeed in extinguishing the last embers of opposition in Parliament.

Strict new election rules adopted under Mr. Putin, combined with the Kremlin’s dominance over the news media and government agencies, are expected to propel the party that he created, United Russia, to a parliamentary majority even more overwhelming than its current one."

So while the state of affairs in the US is pretty poor, at least we can say we're not as bad as Russia. At least not yet.

Former Iraq prison commander to be court-martialed

The Associated Press: Ex-US Commander at Iraq Jail Faces Trial: "BAGHDAD (AP) — A former U.S. commander at the jail that held Saddam Hussein will face trial next week on charges of aiding the enemy by providing a cell phone to detainees and acting inappropriately with an interpreter, the military said Saturday.

Army Lt. Col. William H. Steele, a reservist from Prince George, Va., pleaded guilty on Oct. 7 to three of seven charges, which carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison, forfeiture of pay and dismissal from the Army, according to the military."

I've blogged on this guy before.

Even though the aiding the enemy charge could be a death penalty offense, it is now a non-capital trial.

I can't imagine what it must have been like for the men and women who had to obey this ambulatory turd's orders. During his Article 32 hearing (pretrial hearing similar to a grand jury) there was testimony about him menacing his tower guards with a pistol. Worse still, imagine being a prisoner, with all your means of self defense taken away from you, in a prison commanded by a madman.

On a side note, LTC Steele is looking at long sentence in a military prison. My bet is that his sentence will be ten years or more. During that time, at least some of the military policemen that suffered under his command will have the opportunity to serve as guards in the facility where prisoner Steele will be serving out his sentence.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Me and the phoney

So apropos of nothing, a gentleman came up to me and said "I just got back from Afghanistan." I retired from the military this year. I've got a pretty good sense of who has been and done and who has not. This guy did not have the vibe of a GI. He had the vibe of a pudgy dweeb who watched a war movie once and played make believe.

I asked him a few questions about his service in Afghanistan and he couldn't give respectable answers. So I started to turn away from him before I got annoyed. He then told some ridiculous story about putting a dismembered head into his lieutenant's helmet while the lieutenant slept.

I turned back around and he had this stupid smirk on his face. I said words to the effect that he had committed a war crime (depends on the source of the head, but it's not like he knew the difference). I was annoyed and it showed.

Pudgy dweeb changed the subject very quickly and soon left me lock jawed and trying to stare a hole in his back.

I see the guy fairly regularly. We don't talk.

He was pretending to be a National Guardsman. I have considered learning his name and reporting him to the NGB. For the time being I have decided not to hunt him and humiliate him. This is the new mature me.

But schmucko is hanging by a thread.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Tax-evading couple arrested at their N.H. compound - Los Angeles Times

Tax-evading couple arrested at their N.H. compound - Los Angeles Times: "Federal marshals posing as supporters peacefully arrested a couple convicted of tax evasion who had been holed up in their New Hampshire mountaintop home for months, vowing to die fighting rather than surrender."

Smart cops. Who knew we had them?

If you weather the registration scheme and read the article, you'll find that the Brown family was preparing for their own little Waco.

Full points to the US marshals.

I'm not a lawyer, I don't even play one on TV

U.S. Issues New Rules for Iraq Security Firms - New York Times: "With Blackwater and other private contractors in Iraq facing tighter scrutiny, the House of Representatives on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a bill that would bring all United States government contractors in the Iraq war zone under the jurisdiction of American criminal law. The measure would require the F.B.I. to investigate any allegations of wrongdoing."

I can see how this might work if all of the PMC employees are US citizens. But all of the employees aren't US citizens. How would it be possible to extend US law to non-US citizens for crimes committed in a third country against that third country's citizens?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Ex-Paratrooper Is Suspect in a Blackwater Killing - New York Times

Ex-Paratrooper Is Suspect in a Blackwater Killing - New York Times: "WASHINGTON, Oct. 3 — The former Blackwater USA employee who is the sole suspect in the killing last Christmas Eve of a bodyguard for an Iraqi vice president is a 27-year-old former Army paratrooper from Montana who now lives in Seattle, where he spends much of his time renovating his small home.

The former employee, Andrew J. Moonen, is identified in numerous government and company documents and is known to scores of Blackwater and government officials, but Congress, the State Department and the company have been keeping his identity confidential."

They outed him. I wonder which "they" did it? Blackwater has good reasons for keeping their mouths shut. Congressional Republicans need Blackwater to succeed. I'm betting an aid to a Democrat forwarded an e-mail.

I'm all about Mr. Moonen facing justice for what he did. I don't think throwing him to the dogs was the right thing to do. Crazies all over the world will be buying plane tickets to Seattle.