Thursday, May 05, 2005
Threatening good soldiers with prosecution encourages the Kerry strategy for defeating America
Such politically motivated investigations actually transmit a very different message. They declare loud and clear that America will knuckle under to perceptions, which is the one hope that fuels the Sunni/Baathist/Islamist resistance in Iraq. If they can just get us to doubt our cause and its prospects, maybe we will fold up and leave, as we did in Vietnam. Call it the John Kerry strategy for defeating America. It worked once. We defeated the Viet Cong on the battlefield, but when anti-American zealots like John Kerry treasonously lied that American soldiers were routinely committing war crimes, the military stayed on the defensive. By failing to prosecute Kerry's lies as treason, the military let them stand as credible, and America lost its will to fight.
In a battle for hearts and minds, the military needs not just to be willing to punish bad behavior within the ranks, but also to stand behind good soldiering. We did not need this investigation of an obviously appropriate shoot. Any commander on the scene could have vouched for the necessity of immediately dispatching any possum-playing enemy fighter. The calculation that supererogatory self-criticism advances our cause is simply wrong. It plays right into the enemy's hands, making their claims of wrongdoing seem credible, when a forthright defense could explain directly why their claims of wrongdoing are NOT credible. Now, five months later, we now get a vindication that the mainstream media will run in three paragraphs on page 22. That is better than answering the accusations when they were made in the first place?
Another case that seems to fall into the same category is that of Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano, who is facing murder charges, and the death penalty, for shooting two Iraqi prisoners that he says refused repeated orders to stop communicating with each other, then turned in a sudden coordinated movement. On the other side, military prosecutors are charging that the shooting was completely gratuitous, for which they seem to be relying completely on the testimony of a subordinate of Pantano’s who Pantano had demoted for incompetence days before the incident, a man who is alleged to have declared his hatred for Pantano, and who apparently stated in this week's preliminary hearing that he did not see what happened.
The case bears all the earmarks of a politically motivated prosecution. Pantano's accuser is quite obviously a lot less credible than Pantano, but Pantano was "politically incorrect." After shooting the aggressive prisoners, Pantano labeled them with the motto of General James Mattis: "No better friend, no worse enemy." He also shot two full clips into his attackers, instead of minimal bursts, in order, he said, to send General Mattis's message. But the military is not charging Pantano with desecration of a corpse. They are charging him with murder. Now our soldiers are supposed to worry about how many times they can shoot someone they need to shoot?
These were terrorists, caught with a weapons stash. Pantano had them ripping apart their SUV to show there was no bomb inside when they became disobedient and he shot them. Nobody is actually so stupid as to think that a Marine should not shoot prisoners who are initiating a coordinated attack, but clearly a lot of people in the military ARE stupid enough to think that attacking our own soldiers helps rather than hurts the battle for public opinion. They already managed to lose one war by failing to stand up for their soldiers. Are they going for two?
It is time for the military to start attending to the other half of the hearts and minds equation. It is not enough to punish bad behavior. It is just as important to defend sound, aggressive soldiering. Since when is obliterating an enemy who is still in the fight NOT a message we want to send? That is how wars are won, and stating clearly our intention to win is an important part of the battle. Punishing a soldier specifically because his aggressive soldiering sends a fierce message is insane. It feeds the enemy’s “Kerry strategy” by de-legitimizing legitimate behavior, and it makes our soldiers second-guess necessary action.
It is hard to imagine that Pantano's judges will proceed with charges. Clinton's pink-panty brigade cannot have taken over the entire military justice system. But tremendous damage is still being done, and if Pantano is charged, there had better be a damned good explanation, completely devoid of the P.C. hand-wringing put forward by prosecutors.
My earlier posts on the possum shooter here and here.