A Force With No Voice

I started this post back in February, but stopped because I wasn’t sure where to go with it.

I’m glad to see I’m not the only one wondering these things.

RADM Phil Wisecup just passed me the following passage from Tom Ricks’s best-seller THE GAMBLE: General Davis Patraeus and the American Military Adventure in Iraq, 2006 – 2008 (2009) (which I had not seen before):

“But Fallon prided himself on being a strategic thinker, a sense he may have developed because there was little competition in that arena in the Navy, which in recent years has tended to be weak, intellectually, aside from its elite counter-terror force in Special Operations, which is practically a separate service. It is difficult, for example, to think of a senior Navy officer who has played a prominent role in shaping American strategy since 9/11, or of an active-duty Navy officer who has written a book or essay as influential as those produced by the Army’s Col. H.R. McMaster, Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, and Lt. Col. John Nagl.”

My view: Ricks is flat wrong.

The above quote is from Peter Swartz, from CNA. He then goes on to list an impressive array of figures that he claims to have inserted some level of input into various levels of national strategy development.

I’m not saying he’s wrong, but like Galrahn, I’m not saying he’s right either.

The names he drops in defense of maritime strategic thought, while impressive, are almost expected.

“Admirals Clark (CSGs, ESGs, FRP), Cebrowski, Stavridis, Mullen, Morgan, Martoglio, CAPT Wayne Porter, & recent Navy retirees CAPTs Bill Luti, Ryan Henry, Jim Kelly, and Joe Benkert.”

Lots of high profile hitters, and I’m sure they all provided valuable input into the development of national strategy.

But that’s not the point.

Tom Ricks, in the original point, didn’t call out the Navy for not having any strategic thinkers, he called us out for not having a visible role in the development of post 9-11 strategy, and to a certain extent I think he’s right. Say what you will about Admirals providing input, no Naval officer has been the face of the Armed Forces except for Admiral Mullen. I guarantee that you can do a poll in a major city and ask if people recognize the name Petraeus or Stavridis or Mullen and the Army’s going to win every time.

And they should. Let’s be honest, these have been land-centric wars, so the land forces are on point. But that doesn’t mean the Navy should try to prove their worth to the nation by supporting the war through chucking bodies at IA’s and donning fatigues. We have our own role to play in defending the Nation, and it shouldn’t be pretending to do the Army’s.

But the other half of Rick’s point is that there isn’t anyone in the mid-grade levels of the Navy participating in their OWN strategic dialogue.

My wife once asked me if I wanted to be a Marine or something. Why? Because I keep getting books like “One Bullet Away” (Liked it, recommend it), or “The Unforgiving Minute” (On order) and reading blogs like Abu Muquwama. The reason I do these things, I told her, is not because I want to do what they do, it’s because there’s nothing comparable in the Navy.

Where’s the Small Wars Journal for the Navy? Where’s the rank and file of O-4’s standing up to discuss better tactics and strategies? Where’s the websites encouraging discourse? They simply aren’t there.

I’m not discounting the utility of Information Dissemination. Galrahn does a great job, but what does it say when the best naval strategy blog is run by someone who was never in the Navy? USNI Blog? It’s a start, but until it can get past things like crappy half-page book reviews, it’s not going to reach the same level of discourse that Army-centric blogs have. And I’m sorry, I love World War II as much as the next guy, but times have changed and I find little in those tales to be relevant to the types of conflict I may find myself in the middle of should Naval Warfare rise again.

That’s why I initially started this post in February, after my wife’s comment. Because I lament the amount of debate in the Navy, the accessibility of books like Fiasco, or Warrior King. But why is there such a void?

Many will argue that the Navy crushes dissention. Go along to get along as they say. To a certain extent, I agree. After all, I was advised to turn my thesis into a Proceedings article, but opted against it because I didn’t want to call undue attention to myself. So yes, I’m somewhat of a hypocrite in this argument.

But I’d also offer this. The reason there is no mid-level debate in the Navy is because of the nature of the Navy itself. In the Army, a platoon leader, company commander, whatever, is outside the wire and on the line, making things happen. The value of the strategic corporal is in their face. The natural by-product of being forced to execute poor tactics is to discuss ways to get better.

The same level of officer in the Navy is trying to qualify a warfare specialty, run a division, perhaps even a Department. Of course, I’m being incredibly general here, and my argument doesn’t hold for folks like SEALs, EOD, or even pilots. But for the rest of the big, blue, open ocean Navy, the threat of imminent destruction for not finding a method that works simply does not exist. So what’s the impetus to sit back and think strategic level thought? There is none.

I would argue that it is the rare junior to mid-level officer that is actively thinking about ways to improve seagoing tactics. As such, the one who brings it up is often dismissed out of hand. Not saying it’s right, not even saying it happens all the time, I’m just saying.

After all, Command means different things to different people. “Company Command” is just not the same as “Command at Sea.” The burden of Command at Sea is awesome, and it’s not really until you get to that level (or perhaps XO) that you even worry about such things as over-arching tactics, so when a junior officer comes up with an idea, I can see why they would be dismissed. After all, what could they possibly know about the larger picture? (again…I’m just saying…).

I wish I could offer a solution, but I can’t. I think that the level of academic discourse within the ranks off the Navy is a by-product of how we do business. A) It’s not encouraged to study our history and tactics to learn from them at the level it is in the Army or Marine Corps. B) The time demands we place on our Officer corps allow even less time to pursue such studies. We have to get the ship to sea, war or no war. There is no such thing as “garrison” in the Navy.

In the meantime, I’ll continue to read the great Naval blogs out there:
Neptunus Lex
Information Dissemination
The Stupid Shall Be Punished
CDR Salamander
Chapomatic

and continue to wonder what will happen to our Navy, should the spectre of Naval Warfare truly raise its head once more. Will we be able to learn from our mistakes like the Army has? Will we even remember how to do so in a manner/timeline that makes it useful?

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52 Responses to A Force With No Voice

  1. anathema says:

    http://www.sailorbob.com. Lots of discussion…come and see.

  2. Big D says:

    Here’s a thought for you, that a number of those other thinkers have been promoting, that would both help with exactly this issue and fill one of our major force holes, as well.

    Bring back LT commands.

    Build small boys and staff them with eager young officers who need to learn to command a ship rather than a department. Place them in littorals where they can be the equivalent of the “strategic corporal”. Keep them away from large-power conflicts and centered in those small, squishy areas where they don’t face a constant threat from helos and trucks with ASCMs. Build squadrons around them, and give them multiple layers, such as OPVs, speedboats, and RIBs, so that not only are different niches handled by different designs (no 50kt “frigate” hulls), but there are different levels of command for officers to learn on.

    Then promote the snot out of the best of them. That’ll change your culture.

  3. smitty says:

    “I would argue that it is the rare junior to mid-level officer that is actively thinking about ways to improve seagoing tactics. As such, the one who brings it up is often dismissed out of hand. Not saying it’s right, not even saying it happens all the time, I’m just saying.”

    This is a good suggestion:
    “Bring back LT commands.”

    Consider US history: pre-1947, US tradition was to watch the Navy rot away at the pier after a war. Post-Cold War, have we not watched a graceful decay curve for the fleet? Graph the number of carrier battle groups over time. Note that, rather than real stick time for SWOs, officers die the death of a thousand SLJO paper cuts. Those that choose to stay, (i.e. not me) are those who are comfortable in a bureaucracy and groove on recreational paperwork. I submit that this is not fertile ground for “actively thinking about ways to improve seagoing tactics”.

  4. Curtis says:

    CWC,

    Good article.

    I think that one of the most important aspects to the lack of “modern” naval developments and innovation is the utter lack of anything modern in naval developments. The latest swirl of “navel gazing” surrounds operations in littoral seas (coastal waters). Nobody ever bothers to explain what the hell our purpose is in these waters but one and all hasten to assure us that we need some kind of small expendable ship with minimal crew to do something they deem worthwhile right offshore the coast of Africa or Europe or Asia. They never get around to explaining why this sudden need came about. They lightly brush over the details of crossing Oceans to get to these littoral waters where the USN is expected to operate the equivalent of Panays or Pueblos within reach of coastal missile batteries, enemy air dominance assets that have not been subjected to maximum attrition by our air superiority assets. These Littoral ships seem to have no purpose but to hang off the contested coasts of 3rd World countries doing God knows what for no discernible reason. Their advocates appear appallingly ignorant of strategy and the need to focus decisive efforts on reducing the enemy’s center of gravity. Navy theorists of today appear to want to putter around the fringe doing not very much at great expense and to little purpose.
    A navy, like an army, exists to close with and destroy an enemy. Those arguing for persistent presence in the fringe seem to have lost sight of that whole, “destroy the enemy” aspect to naval warfare and seem to think a navy is something that can hang around indefinitely for no purpose other than to hang around indefinitely.

  5. Mike says:

    As a different point of view to your post, allow me to point out the five blogs you linked to at the bottom of your post…two written by active duty navy officers, two retirees, and one really smart guy. I can think of at least two other blogs written by retired navy officers. How many AF focused blogs written by AF personnel are there?

    None that I have found so far. Mine used to occasionally delve into AF topics, but that’s stopped now that I got smacked down from on high for an admittedly somewhat unprofessional (albeit fairly hilarious) post. There are a few ones written by concerned and informed civilians (similar to ID) but no active duty other than official PA pubs which are good but not the same as the ones you link. I sympathize completely with your statements regarding the Navy, as I look at the AF and I see the exact same symptoms. I’ve wondered what would happen if the AF would be forced to engage in a serious air campaign (an admittedly unlikely possibility). I don’t think it would be pretty, given all the kool aid that the service seems to have drank regarding strategic thinking (none) and subsequent force structure planning (little and none of it underpinned with any sort of strategic thought).

    Bottom line…the Navy might be bad, but I think the AF is in far worse shape. Although you guys do have us “beat” in the diversity department.

    • fastnav says:

      Funny you should mention this, Mike. As I was typing this I thought about the Air Force. Even the Coast Guard has more going on than you guys.

      It almost seems as if the AF is content to serve as a CAS provider and that’s all.

    • Sahenk says:

      Hi I am just practicing with a first wtebise and have used this code (thanks) and it works great except I get the same code error as Eilia and Israel when one first goes into the Members page (when no filter is applied to the search). Did you resolve this? I don’t get the error anywhere else, and I don’t care about it on that filter, as such, but obviously as a novice I have no clue how to remove the error message. Hope you can spare 5 mins to help. thanks

  6. chief says:

    Interesting thoughts and observations, sir.

    Personally, I think that the traditional “enemy” in today’s Surface Navy world has shifted to the inspector du jour. Yes, inspections have been and always will be a part of naval operations (as they should be), but the scope and scale of ULTRA, INSURV, SMC, COSR, Command Climate, and other such inspections (and even assessments, which as we all know are just a less official inspection) rolling between deployments doesn’t give decision-makers the breathing room to focus on loftier, more “self-actualized” meditations. Instead, we coordinate how best to hide (or document) our hits, get the inspectors onboard, feed them, inbrief, run through the motions, outbrief, then establish a POA&M to correct whatever discrepancies were discovered, which we all know will soon fall by the wayside as we prepare for the next inspection.

    Sad but true, no?

    • fastnav says:

      A little sad…completely true.

      Reminds me of a discussion I had with some Army Majors who were complaining that by their 3rd tour in Iraq (God Bless ‘Em) they went to war and Garrison had broken out. By that they meant that gone was the emphasis on winning the war. As things had gotten safer, the pogues showed up and started placing emphasis on BS, like you must wear your safety reflective belt on the FOB, never mind that you’re in a war zone.
      I’d argue that the Navy is in a garrison mindset. Yes, we go to sea and deploy, but where our emphasis? Just like you said, Chief, it’s on the quantifiable results that will be used to judge the ship and the skipper.
      It seems that readiness for combat is not the goal, it is the by-product of successful performance in measured evaluations. Never mind that, in war, it may not be pretty, but it’ll get done.

  7. Dan Ford says:

    The Navy doesn’t need that stuff. The Navy has the US Marines to do its thinking. Note that the Marines were the first service to embrace John Boyd. Blue skies! — Dan Ford

  8. virgil xenophon says:

    Mike is on tgt about my service, the AF, which is MIA in the innovation area but certainly high on the “recreational paperwork” thing, if what little I can glean from afar holds true. AF blogs are not just “almost” non-existant, they ARE non-existant insofar as the equivalents to Lex, this place, etc.

    I know in the AF in my day (Vietnam) the first onset of the “garrison mindset” was marked when we began to have Stan-Eval tng flights in the combat zone. The troops in the field–be they Army, Navy, AF or Marines–pick up the signs real quick when political priorities have changed and where the true emphasis of the “big kids” lies. The onset of jaded cynicism and self-preservation–as opposed to mission accomplishment–as the highest priority quickly follows. Blogs are a way to let the “big kids” know what is happening on the factory floor if only they’re smart enough to partake. The AF is totally clueless. As for AF dialogue about “strategic thinking” –well my God!

  9. Chap says:

    ‘They Rode On’ is a good blog from an Air Force officer, but usually more personal than Air Force, and its proprietor retired.

    But back to your main point. Dr. Swartz is a retired Navy captain who’s been writing analysis for a long time. I’m in town and will see if I can poke him about this tomorrow. I’ll start by pointing out the latest O-6 board results: who on that list has published? Who has taken risks outside the norm? Who’s the thinker in the group?

    I don’t know those answers.

    • fastnav says:

      Problem is, Chap, I don’t think anyone does. I personally think Admiral Stavridis may be our Petreaus, but he is the exception.

  10. Chap says:

    I guess the counter to my own argument would be “if you all are so good at strategy, you’d be shoo-ins at strategizing the promotion list”–but that doesn’t hold water. It’s going to take more than one guy to do this. I argued last year as a rant that we have lost the bubble, but I don’t see the revolutionary network to regain it.

    I also think USNI, which originally was a handful of countercultural officers, is in the way on this, hindering rather than helping. Guys like Stav are pushing hard to help USNI regain its voice, but whether that’s the right action I’m not so sure.

    • fastnav says:

      You could argue that they should go through USNI because it was the established counter-culture voice of the Navy, but I think you’re right, there needs to be a new voice established somewhere.

      We need our own version of Small Wars Journal or something of that nature. But again, I think the problem goes back to the idea that you could set it up, but who would really participate in the discussions?

  11. Curtis says:

    I worked with two of the CAPT (Sel) on the latest list. I think they are both outstanding officers and both took a chance and accepted command of Mobile Security Squadrons in the newly formed MARFPCOM. I was delighted to see their names on the list.
    I see that some readers subscribe to the idea that strategic thinking and writing is the province of full ADM and decry the lack of such “vision” committed to paper by anybody else in the navy. That doesn’t surprise me. I would like to invite your attention to the witch hunt that the current administration is launching into finding and punishing (not hard since their names are all over the memos they wrote and signed), those in the DOJ and DoD who wrote and signed strategic documents which the current administration finds hateful and therefore unlawful. Many of you USNI types are eager to deny that there is any possibility of harm to a navy career by writing enlightening documents that challenge the orthodoxy. Have you opened your eyes and smelled the coffee yet? If what is going on with the GWOT memos under the glaring full light of day can happen without anybody standing up and crying foul why in the world would you think that a quiet blackball come promotion or command screening time dropped by one anonymous officer who holds a philosophic difference of opinion with an author is outside the bounds of reason and possibility?
    We will see articles that challenge the orthodoxy but they will be written by those who have reached their terminal rank or those who, having decided to leave the service, wish to do so by pointing to flaws that made continued service impossible.
    The only answer is to allow fully anonymous articles for publication but those who hate the contrarian also have the skills, time and subordinates to suss out most anonymous authors based on the facts presented in the article.
    Look at the last USA BGEN board and who made time to be there and what the precepts were. It aint like that in the Navy.

  12. Niall says:

    Are you seriously equating expressing an opinion about military organization and strategy with memos which encourage and justify the practice of torture? A practice that our own country has never ceased to condemn, even when were openly practicing it?

    And how exactly is it a “witch hunt” to go after the people who did this?

    Please advise.

  13. Chap says:

    @Niall: First, the “witch hunt”. If a guy is doing what he’s supposed to be doing, something that’s legal and approved, then putting at risk his career or life due to changing political views isn’t far from that phrase. And that’s where it was: guy was doing what he thought was right, with legal approval, and saved real lives. The actual effect of this political work on operators will be to chill their efforts beyond what is permissible and not such that they become ineffective no matter what standard they’ve been changed to meet. The Church Commission is the history parallel, but this one’s worse because it’s going against individuals.

    Secondly, an articulated issue above is defining what torture is. Fastnav says he thinks that is there is an action we voluntarily do to our junior enlisted and to officers, then this action shouldn’t fit in the category of torture. This is arguable–it’s a powerful point in the military, but I can see that others can have a valid difference of opinion–but it’s not what you’re accusing him of saying. What torture is and is not is being defined down after a different definition, and the operators are caught in the middle.

    Lastly, there is the issue of the ticking bomb scenario. It’s a hard ethical problem and not academic like we thought it might have been a long time ago. Mark Bowden had a great article describing the conflict over this that’s pretty balanced.

    I personally think that this is a very hard question that should not be solved by forcing a junior guy at the bottom with risking everything to make the ethical decisions. This is what I think is sometimes implied by some folks working through public policy implications. But emotion is fun, too…

  14. Niall says:

    Well, first let’s talk about what makes something an actual witch hunt. A *real* witch hunt occurs when paranoia/panic afflicts a society/organization, causing them to project all their own fear and insecurities onto a group that is scapegoated for characteristics that have nothing to do with anything. The persecution of Jews in Europe is a good example of this. The treatment of gays in the military is another.

    Bringing up a government official for contravening the law is nothing like a witch hunt, and has nothing in common with it.

    As for you statement, “If a guy is doing what he is supposed to be doing…” etc. First, they weren’t doing what “they were supposed to be doing”. They were violating US and international law by giving legal opinions that condoned torture. That’s just illegal. That they were doing it to kiss their bosses asses hardly makes them martyrs. They could easily have resigned instead and gotten higher paying jobs in the public sector. But they didn’t.

    “The actual effect of this political work on operators will be to chill their efforts beyond what is permissible”

    Well, let’s hope so! Isn’t it the purpose of criminal prosecution to “put a chill” on the efforts of criminals? Unless you’re saying the US will suffer in some indescribable way in the future if flunkies and toadies will be too scared to ramp up the torture machine again? If that’s how you feel, you should move to North Korea, where the political climate seems more in accord with your values.

    The “ticking time bomb” scenario can prove *anything*, and therefore really proves nothing. Case in point:

    There’s a nuclear weapon hidden somewhere in New York City, timed to go off in four days. You have the perpetrator in custody, and you must find out where the bomb is. Yet the only way you can find out, is if you murder every newborn baby in New York City.

    Therfore, murdering newborn babies must be an indispensable tool in our investigative tool kits.

    LOL. You guys kill me.

  15. Curtis says:

    Niall,
    You such a pig-ignorant little shit that you just prove my point about a witch hunt every time your fingers touch the keyboard. You wrote: “They were violating US and international law by giving legal opinions that condoned torture. That’s just illegal.” I say, CITE THE LAW THAT THESE MEN BROKE BY WRITING AN OPINION ON THE LAW. Was it a federal law? Who cares, you just cite it back to me where it is illegal to write an opinion. Moron.

    Let’s go back a little further and quote you again being a fatheaded idiot: “Are you seriously equating expressing an opinion about military organization and strategy with memos which encourage and justify the practice of torture?”
    YOU IDIOT! By your own ignorant statements it is OK to retroactively persecute and send to jail men who wrote opinions that you think are illegal even though there is no law in the USA against writing opinions. OK, try this one on you jackass: What crime have Somali pirates committed against the United States Federal code? They committed their acts of piracy outside federal jurisdiction so under what LEGAL fiction do we have the right to stop them and kill them in the act? Are we unilaterally declaring war against innocent Somalis? Should we get a UN resolution? You tell me you simpleton under just what legal fiction/jurisdiction we are allowed to act to prevent piracy in international waters?

    Maybe you’d like to comment on proportional response next? You know you want to.

    You twit.

  16. Curtis says:

    Niall,

    When you write your simpleminded response consider that you’re writing an opinion and by your rules you could held criminally liable for the consequences. Just saying.

    • Lyka says:

      It’s not at all silly to reference the first Gulf War, since that war was foguht with the Carter (sorry I slipped up and mentioned CLinton my bad. But apparently the Carter military was even worse, so my point still stands) military. The one that was supposedly gutted and left a useless skeleton by those evil Democrats.Maybe not so much after all? Eh?I fully agree with your point about the Iraq war. Except that failure to plan adequately for an insurgency was the fault of a (wait for it!) Republican administration. Right?ANd it’s a contradiction to hold particular presidents accountable for the state of the military under their tenure, and then say that you can’t give credit to presidents when the military they budget and are responsible for does well.Doesn’t check with chart.Rumsfeld’s military policies were a complete disaster for the US project in Iraq. Yet he is a Republican and creature of a Republican administration. So this business of the Republicans always being good for the military just doesn’t scan with reality.

  17. Niall says:

    Wow! I see I’ve struck a nerve. I’m sorry you have to be so insulting. But then, when you have no arguments, I guess you have to fall back on profanity. It is, however, a great example of reverse peristalsis.

    Anyway, here’s a nice summary of laws against torture to which the US is party:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torture

    Recall as well that the US Army has classified waterboarding as torture for about a century.

    So this is certainly not a case of things being “retroactively” deemed illegal that were legal at the time. They were illegal before, during and after.

    And, just to be a stickler for logic, all crime is prosecuted “retroactively”. Like, duh.

    Providing legal cover for breaking the law is an obvious crime in itself. If these men had written opinons saying the pedophilia was perfectly OK, and people acted on those opinions, then no one would object to the authors being prosecuted.

  18. Niall says:

    By the way, I don’t know how many of you are film buffs, but there’s an awesome British movie from 1950 that deals precisely with the “hidden nuke” scenario. It’s called “Seven Days to Noon”:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0042949/

    This movie was waaaayyy ahead of its time, and anticipates Hollywood films on the same subject by decades. Well worth a look if it ever plays on your cable system.

    It also quite intelligently deals with some of the issues we are discussing on this thread.

  19. fastnav says:

    For the record, Wikipedia is not considered a legitimate source in any form of academia.

    just saying…

  20. Jeff Lee says:

    We may not do any strategic thinking, but we can audit the shit out of a training binder.

    Naval Reactors probably thinks this is a good thing.

  21. Chap says:

    Niall can go argue over here instead. I don’t see a coherent argument worth addressing in Niall’s response, and that link has someone who is more patient than me writing it.

    “Struck a nerve”. Gosh, I’ve heard that phrase somewhere recently online…

    • Dawn says:

      Lets hope the Indian justice stesym still has some BALLS !!!It’d be pointless having a Royal Navy ship capture them. They’d end up with a council house and masses of benefits paid for by us as we’d not be allowed to deport them because that would be against their human f****** rights..They should be left in the middle of the ocean with no propulsion, comms, or water. Maybe give them a few bacon butties and a crate of Stella (wife beater) to keep them going and let Allah save them if he wills it !!!.grrrrrrrr

  22. Curtis says:

    Niall,

    The US Army writes laws? Who knew?

    I asked you to cite the law but you failed to do so.

    Hold onto yourself because I’m going to quote you again: “So this is certainly not a case of things being “retroactively” deemed illegal that were legal at the time. They were illegal before, during and after.”

    Excuse me but where exactly is the law that says that writing an opinion is unlawful? I realize that there are countless laws on the books in dictatorships that forbid this act but I need you to restrict yourself to US law in your response.

    You confuse persecuting people after the fact with prosecuting lawbreakers after the act. That’s OK. I accept that you are easily confused.

    Let’s quote that idiot Niall again, “Providing legal cover for breaking the law is an obvious crime in itself. If these men had written opinons saying the pedophilia was perfectly OK, and people acted on those opinions, then no one would object to the authors being prosecuted.”

    You moron! Providing “legal cover” is what the practice of law is all about! It’s lawyers writing opinions and since nobody can agree on anything, more lawyers get hired to write more opinions but only a complete idiot like you would equate the practice of law with active criminal intent……ooops. Wait! Hold on a second…..OK, I agree. Let’s shoot all the lawyers! The bastards have it coming! How dare they have opinions on the law!

    How dare you say that men who write opinions that approve of pedophilia be prosecuted! You Muslim hater! There’s a whole Quran chock full of God’s approval of raping 9 year old girls! How dare you question that? You racist bastard! Go ahead you pathetic idiot and give me one example of a LAWYER who went to jail or was prosecuted for defending NAMBLA or a single CATHOLIC PRIEST PEDOPHILE.

  23. Niall says:

    Curtis –

    I never said the Army made a law. I simply pointed out that the US Army has classified waterboarding as torture for about a century. In fact the US Army courtmartialled a certain Edwin Glenn for administering waterboarding to a Phillippino during the guerilla war there in 1898. More than a century ago.

    As for legal opinions: Incitement to break the law is itself a breaking of the law, as any judge will tell you.

  24. Niall says:

    “For the record, Wikipedia is not considered a legitimate source in any form of academia.”

    So? Neither is a blog…

  25. fastnav says:

    Niall –
    I think the Army’s definition of banned waterboarding (the one where the pump salt water into your stomach until it’s swollen, then step on your abdomen to get it out) is different from the the current definition in question.

    that’s the cruz of the whole argument here. How do you define “torture”.

    oh, and true, a blog isn’t a source either, but I didn’t quote a blog as a reference.

  26. Niall says:

    From an eyewitness account of waterboarding in the 1850s:

    “Perhaps it would be well to state more fully the true character of this ‘hydropathic torture.’ The stream of water is about one inch in diameter, and falls from a hight [sic] of seven or eight feet. The head of the patient is retained in its place by means of a board clasping the neck; the effect of which is, that the water, striking upon the board, rebounds into the mouth and nostrils of the victim, almost producing strangulation. Congestion, sometimes of the heart or lungs, sometimes of the brain, not unfrequently [sic] ensues; and death, in due season, has released some sufferers from the further ordeal of the water cure. ”

    From the (then) secret 2002 CIA memo authorizing the use of waterboarding:

    “In this procedure, the individual is bound securely to an inclined bench, which is approximately four feet by seven feet. The individual’s feet are generally elevated. A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner. As this is done, the cloth is lowered until it covers both the nose and mouth. Once the cloth is saturated and completely covers the mouth and nose, air flow is slightly restricted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence of the cloth… During those 20 to 40 seconds, water is continuously applied from a height of twelve to twenty-four inches.”

    I’m not seeing much difference – do you?

    As for my “definition” of torture – I don’t need a personal definition. Torture is very well-defined in the anti-torture agreements that the US has signed and still pretends to adhere to. To wit:

    ” Any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.”

    – UN Convention Against Torture, Article 1.1

    It’s really not a controversial subject – except on this blog.

  27. Curtis says:

    Gee Niall,

    Isn’t it against the law to shoot people and blow them up? What does that make soldiers who follow orders? Lawbreakers one and all? You really need to get a grip.

  28. Niall says:

    No it’s not against the law in time of war, when carried out by properly designated combattants. I suggest you go read the Geneva COnventions.

    You’re so lame.

    • Emmanuel says:

      that the show i saw with her last week was at the same standard as it was with Idina and Kristen!Rachel, Louise and Lee plyead their characters phenomenally each song was sung so well, it was like i was just listening to the soundtrack but with their own twists on it!I would happily see this musical again and again!!

  29. Curtis says:

    Oh, I get it Niall, in time of war it is OK to kill but against the law to pen a legal argument. Got it.

    You’re such an idiot.

  30. Niall says:

    Are you denying that in time of war legally constituted armed forces have the right to kill in well-defined circumstances?

    And creating the legal basis for defying/overturning well-defined and well-accepted human rights laws is in fact a crime.

    As I have already demonstrated, waterboarding has been classified as torture by the US government and US military for about a century. Therefore it is demonstrably false (and stupid) to claim that the Obama administration only just now decided it was a form of torture.

    Do you read at all? Ever?

    • Curtis says:

      It escaped you that legally constituted armed forces are bound by no law when dealing with terrorists and other illegal combatants. None at all.

  31. Brick says:

    Cool dude. I was thinking the same thing. I saw something like that in something forgot-the-name Washington blog. Keep it up!

  32. Lamparina says:

    I don’t quite know what to make of it yet. @Biz added an addendum to it snaiyg more changes are coming that will make things better, maybe this is just the first of it. Maybe they’re adding threaded @replies or something. I don’t know. I can’t quite get my head around what the fuss is yet but I’m sure the fuss is justified I’m just not quite understanding how I’m affected yet.

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