Several blogging soldiers have pointed out how egregiously bad was Donald Rumsfeld’s inability to cite the chain of command leading from the “six morons” to the top. A non-military person would be likely to miss this:
I saw Don Rumsfeld’s testimony today, and there is no honor. Certainly, the other men present at the witness table did not acquit themselves well, but in the end, it comes down to Rumsfeld and the President. And there is no honor.
“Who was in charge? What was the chain of command?” Simple questions, these. Asked by John McCain, an honorable man. Simple questions, deserving of a simple answer. But the simple answer never made it past the lips of the Secretary. There were evasions and dodges, a dance of deceit, if you will.
No one was in charge, it seems–because that way, the only people who suffer punishment are the sergeants and privates in the photographs and videos. And as for the chain of command, well…uh…well, that was left behind somewhere in the recesses of the Pentagon. And there is no honor in that.
Sen. John McCain’s audition for a job in the U.S. Attorney’s office went quite well, in my opinion. He asked simple, direct questions like “What is the chain of command from the guards to you, Sec. Rumsfeld?” and “What were the guards’ orders?” These questions are critical. Anyone who’s been through basic training can tell you that one of the first things you learn is your chain of command, from you to the President. Moreover, every recruit learns the general orders of a sentry, and learns that knowing one’s orders is critical to mission success. Yet, Secretary Rumsfeld could not answer either simple question. He tapdanced around the question, but ultimately, never gave Sen. McCain an answer as to the line of command from PV2 Joe Snuffy up to the Secretary of Defense. PV2 Snuffy has to know that; shouldn’t the SecDef? That’s bad.
In many of the articles on this emerging Iraqi prisoners story, it has been claimed that some of the key instigators or enablers of bad acts were military intelligence officers.
Now, who’s the head of military intelligence? ‘Head’ is too vague. There’s no such post per se. But what comes pretty close is the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence.
And who’s that? Lt. Gen. William G. “Jerry” Boykin.
Remember him? He’s the one who got in trouble last year for describing his battle with a Muslim Somali warlord by saying “I knew that my God was bigger than his God. I knew that my God was a real God and his was an idol”, saying President Bush was chosen by God, and generally that the war on terror is an apocalyptic struggle between Christianity and Satan.
Last fall, after Boykin’s efforts to channel Charlemagne or perhaps Urban II became known, he asked Don Rumsfeld to initiate an ‘investigation’ into whether his comments “violated any Pentagon rules or procedures” whatever that might mean. Just this week it was reported that the ‘investigation’ still continues; and Boykin has not been disciplined in any way.
In any case, I doubt very much that all this mess we’ve gotten ourselves into is attributable to this one man. But at what point in this scandal does someone ask whether some of this might have some connection to the fact that the guy running military intelligence believes the war on terror is a literal holy war pitting Christian America against Satan and his Muslim minions?
Here’s a story from the Guardian, reported in December of 2003, which you will recall is a date when the torture at US military prisons in Iraq was still in full swing:
Israeli advisers are helping train US special forces in aggressive counter-insurgency operations in Iraq, including the use of assassination squads against guerrilla leaders, US intelligence and military sources said yesterday.
The Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has sent urban warfare specialists to Fort Bragg in North Carolina, the home of US special forces, and according to two sources, Israeli military “consultants” have also visited Iraq.
US forces in Iraq’s Sunni triangle have already begun to use tactics that echo Israeli operations in the occupied territories, sealing off centres of resistance with razor wire and razing buildings from where attacks have been launched against US troops.
But the secret war in Iraq is about to get much tougher, in the hope of suppressing the Ba’athist-led insurgency ahead of next November’s presidential elections.
Colonel Ralph Peters, a former army intelligence officer and a critic of Pentagon policy in Iraq, said yesterday there was nothing wrong with learning lessons wherever possible.
“When we turn to anyone for insights, it doesn’t mean we blindly accept it,” Col Peters said. “But I think what you’re seeing is a new realism. The American tendency is to try to win all the hearts and minds. In Iraq, there are just some hearts and minds you can’t win. Within the bounds of human rights, if you do make an example of certain villages it gets the attention of the others, and attacks have gone down in the area.”
The new counter-insurgency unit made up of elite troops being put together in the Pentagon is called Task Force 121, New Yorker magazine reported in yesterday’s edition.
One of the planners behind the offensive is a highly controversial figure, whose role is likely to inflame Muslim opinion: Lieutenant General William “Jerry” Boykin.
In October, there were calls for his resignation after he told a church congregation in Oregon that the US was at war with Satan, who “wants to destroy us as a Christian army”.
“He’s been promoted a rank above his abilities,” he said. “Some generals are pretty good on battlefield but are disastrous nearer the source of power.”
I think we can speculate from this information that it is possible that Rumsfeld didn’t want to describe the chain of command responsible for abusing prisoners in Iraq because it might just remind people that the issue of Jerry Boykin is not only unresolved, but rather than removing him from influence, he was instead setting up assassination teams in Iraq under the guidance of the IDF. And we surely don’t want to discuss the IDF in relation to the Iraqi torture scandal, do we?
This summer, Boykin was promoted to deputy undersecretary of defense, with a new mission for which many say he is uniquely qualified: to aggressively combine intelligence with special operations and hunt down so-called high-value terrorist targets including bin Laden and Saddam.
But that new assignment may be complicated by controversial views Boykin — an evangelical Christian — has expressed in dozens of speeches at churches and prayer breakfasts around the country. In a half-dozen video and audiotapes obtained by NBC News, Boykin says America’s true enemy is not bin Laden.
“Well, is he [bin Laden] the enemy? Next slide. Or is this man [Saddam] the enemy? The enemy is none of these people I have showed you here. The enemy is a spiritual enemy. He’s called the principality of darkness. The enemy is a guy called Satan.”
Why are terrorists out to destroy the United States? Boykin said: “They’re after us because we’re a Christian nation.”
Yeah, Don – best not get into that chain of command question. The less people know about Boykin, the less likely they are to ask you to undergo an emergency mental evaluation to see if you put this guy in Iraq because you’re criminally insane.