Sunday, December 30, 2012

Military Injustice

 Commentary by Lieutenant Colonel John Lewis Cook, USA (ret.)

American military justice is highly regarded throughout the world due to the  safeguards against abuse built into the Uniform Code of Military Justice.  The military is justly proud of the fairness of this system, free from political influences that could determine the outcome of any court martial proceedings.   Everyone involved must swear a sacred oath to be impartial and be influenced only by the evidence presented against the accused.  All oaths are taken seriously in the military because the penalty for violating any oath is swift and usually severe. The accused is even allowed to bring in civilian attorneys to mount a defense.  As a result, the decisions rendered at a military count martial are rarely challenged in federal court. The key to the system is the fact that it is applied the same way, hence  uniformly, across all services and all ranks.   

However, two cases currently working their way to trial presents a cause for concern.  First is the Sergeant Robert Bales case.  Bales has been charged with sixteen counts of capital murder as the result of an alleged shooting spree he went on in southern Afghanistan on March 11th, 2012.  He is charged with murdering unarmed Afghan men, women and children. Bales was on his fourth combat tour at the time and had previously been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  However, he was cleared for his fourth and final tour in spite of that.  Last week, the Army announced it will seek the death penalty in the case and plans to move it quickly to trial.  The last time the military carried out an execution was on April 16th, 1961, when John A. Bennett was hanged at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. 

Now consider the case of Major Nidal Malik Husan.  Husan has been charged  with shooting forty-two Americans at Fort Hood, Texas on November 5th, 2009, killing thirteen.  This was over three years ago and the case has not yet proceeded to trail.  The government is not expected to seek the death penalty in this case. Husan, a devout Muslim,  has never served in combat and it is unlikely he can raise the PTSD defense.  We know now that he had ties to radical Muslims and that his colleagues and superiors at Walter Reed Army Medical Center were very concerned about his irrational behavior before he was assigned to Fort Hood.  Yet no one intervened. Why?  What were they afraid of?

So why are these cases being treated so differently?  We know that President Hamid Karzai has demanded that the shooter responsible for killing the sixteen Afghans in southern Afghanistan be “severely punished.”  In the Muslim world, that means the accused must be executed.  Is the administration putting undue pressure on the Army to dispose of the Bales case as quickly as possible, in the severest possible manner, in order to appease Karzai?  How else do we explain this unusual rush to judgment in such a serious case?  And how does the Army explain the unusually long delay in getting the Husan case before a court martial.  And why does the administration insist on calling the shooting at Fort Hood “work place violence” rather than a domestic act of terror committed in the center of the Army’s largest installation?  No one ever called the Afghan shooting “work place violence.” Is this a case of discrimination based on rank, where an enlisted man is more severely punished than an officer? Or is there a deeper, darker agenda at work here?  At this point, it appears that both cases are headed for a gross miscarriage of justice and the highly respected military justice system is about to be permanently stained.  If that is allowed to happen, we all lose. Was Karzai secretly assured that Bales would be “severely punished” in order to appease the Afghan president?  And if he was, who assured him?  Certainly not the Army.  Could it have been our President, who has shown unusual deference to the Muslim world since taking office? Was the Muslim world secretly told that Husan would escape the death penalty in order to appease Islam?  Right now, we don’t know.  The problem is the perception of unequal treatment that the Army has allowed to fester in both of these cases. That’s why professional journalists need to dig into both cases and get to ground truth.  As of now, no adequate explanation has been offered by the Army and it doesn’t appear one will be forthcoming willingly.  Why the difference? Is military justice about to be sacrificed at the alter of political correctness in order  not to offend Islam?  Both of these cases scream out for answers immediately  because neither case passes the smell test right now.  

About the Author
Lieutenant Colonel John Lewis Cook, United States Army (Retired), “served as the Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Interior in Kabul, Afghanistan, with responsibility for developing the force structure for the entire Afghan National Police.  As of 2012, this force totals 157,000.  From March 2008 until August 2012, his access and intimate associations with all levels of the Afghan government and coalition forces have provided him with an unprecedented insight into the policies which will determine the outcome of the war.  It is this insight, coupled with his contacts and associations throughout Afghanistan that form the basis of Afghanistan: The Perfect Failure

Click to read more about Lt. Colonel John Lewis Cook

Academy falls to Rice in Armed Forces Bowl

by John Van Winkle
Air Force Academy Public Affairs

12/30/2012 - FORT WORTH, Texas (AFNS) -- The Air Force Academy fell 33-14 to Rice University in the 2012 Armed Forces Bowl today.

Rice University used a combination of size, speed and better execution to dominate the second half and end the Falcons season with a loss.

After a few initial three-and-outs, Rice mounted its first sustained drive to score when quarterback Taylor McHargue connected with receiver Jordan Taylor from 16-yards out in the corner of the end zone to go up 7-0.

McHargue would later go with a concussion and not return. Air Force also switched out under center, pulling senior quarterback Connor Dietz in the second quarter in favor of sophomore Kale Pearson, hoping to spark a offense that can stay on the field for more than three consecutive plays.

"We came into the game expecting both guys to play for us at quarterback," said Falcons head coach Troy Calhoun. "Kale played well for us in the second quarter."

Pearson commanded the Falcons' first sustained drive of the game and ended the series with a 9-yard run around the right to tie the game at 7-all. The Falcons took the lead a few series later when senior running back Wes Cobb dove in from a yard out for the Falcons' second touchdown. Kicker Parker Herrington added the extra point, giving the Falcons a 14-7 lead. The Owls evened the score before the half, and took control of the game from that point on, keeping the Falcons out of the end zone and on their heels for the remainder of the game. Rice would score four times in the second half to mount and sustain a 33-14 lead until time ran out.

"At every single spot, we didn't play well enough in the second half to win a game," said Calhoun.

On offense, the Falcons would end the day converting only four of 14 third downs, and one of two on fourth down. Two critical turnovers in the fourth quarter also killed any chance the Falcons had of mounting a comeback.

"We put an awful lot of strain on our defense," said Calhoun. "Sometimes it was in field position, and sometimes it wasn't getting enough first downs. Sometimes it was in third downs for the other team. When your opponent has 20 third downs, you aren't stopping them enough to give your offense a shot."

Defensively, the Falcons allowed 503 yards of offense to sustain several long drives and win time of possession battle by over 15 minutes.

"It just came down to execution," said senior linebacker Austin Niklas, Air Force's move valuable player for the game.

Size was also an advantage that Rice monopolized. It is an advantage that most opponents have over service academy football teams. Service academy teams compensate for this up front with their triple-option offenses, and utilize technique, strength and mobility to overcome the opponents' mass advantage. But against Rice's offense and their three wide-receiver set, the Falcons smaller secondary spent the game in their opponent's shadows. Between Rice's two quarterbacks, the Falcons gave up 295 yards in passing offense and had zero interceptions.

"It was a combo of our secondary, our defensive backs, getting beat up, and our pass rush. Rice has a lot better size on the ends and our pass rush just didn't bring it home," said senior linebacker Alex Means.

Rice receiver Jordan Taylor used his 6'5" frame to tower over Falcon defenders and score all three of Rice's touchdowns.

"I wish we had won," said Niklas. "We fought hard the whole game. Rice has a good football team, and we were unable to stop them consistently in the second half. The Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl people were great, and we appeciated our time here."

For the Falcons, this concludes their 2012 college football season. After a few more days of holiday leave, next up for the players will be off-season workouts in the weight room in January for the underclassmen. For most of the 22 seniors, it's the last game of their collegiate careers, so they have just one more semester and graduation awaiting them. For the coaches, recruiting trips and recruiting visits will take the forefront of the days to come, as well as preparations for spring football in early 2013.