Dennis Loo

Sometimes asking for the impossible is the only realistic path

Dennis Loo

Dennis Loo
Los Angeles, California,
December 31
Professor of Sociology
Cal Poly Pomona
Author of Globalization and the Demolition of Society; Co-Editor/Author of Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, World Can't Wait Steering Committee Member, co-author of "Crimes Are Crimes, No Matter Who Does Them" statement, dog and fruit tree lover. Published poet. Winner of the Alfred R. Lindesmith Award, Project Censored Award and the Nation Magazine's Most Valuable Campaign Award. Punahou and Harvard Honor Graduate. Ph.D. in Sociology from UC Santa Cruz. An archive of close to 500 postings of mine can be found at my blogspot blog, Dennis Loo, link below. I publish regularly at, (link below) and also at OpEd News and sometimes at Counterpunch.

JUNE 14, 2009 7:35PM

DoD Training Manual: Protests are "Low-Level Terrorism"

Rate: 33 Flag

Update 2: See my follow-up article "DoD Deletes 'Protest = Terrorism,' Problems Remain." 

Update appended at the end:

The Department of Defense is training all of its personnel in its current Antiterrorism and Force Protection Annual Refresher Training Course that political protest is "low-level terrorism." 

The Training introduction reads as follows:

"Anti-terrorism (AT) and Force Protection (FP) are two facets of the Department of Defense (DoD) Mission Assurance Program. It is DoD policy, as found in DoDI 2000.16, that the DoD Components and the DoD elements and personnel shall be protected from terrorist acts through a high pirority, comprehensive, AT program. The DoD's AT program shall be all encompassing using an integrated systems approach."

The first question of the Terrorism Threat Factors, "Knowledge Check 1" section reads as follows:

Which of the following is an example of low-level terrorism activity?

Select the correct answer and then click Check Your Answer

O   Attacking the Pentagon

O   IEDs

O   Hate crimes against racial groups

O   Protests


The "correct" answer is Protests.

A copy of this can be found on the last two pages of this pdf.  

The ACLU learned of this training and on June 10, 2009 sent a letter to Gail McGinn, Acting Under-Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, objecting to their training all DoD personnel that the exercise of First Amendment rights constitutes "low-level terrorism."  

For those who have worried about a trend - evident, for example, in the USA PATRIOT Act, the universal and ongoing government surveillance of all of Americans' electronic communications that began in February of 2001 (seven months before 9/11), the global war on a tactic (terrorism), therefore making this war unending, the unprecedented pre-emptive arrests of protestors at the 2008 Republican National Convention with those protesters being charged as "domestic terrorists," the justifications for torture, pre-emptive wars of aggression, ongoing occupations, American gulags such as Bagram, suspension of habeas corpus, and "prolonged detention" for acts someone might commit, not what they have done, FBI et al infiltration of protest groups and the government's acknowledged use of undercover agents (agents provocateurs) in said infiltration, thus giving the government under the rubric of fighting domestic terrorism unrestrained and unsupervisable power to suppress legitimate political activities, the unleashing and justifications for Christian fascists to murder those they do not like (such as the assassination of Dr. George Tiller and the killing at the Holocaust Museum a few days ago) - this news adds further fuel to the fire. 

These are not items from some famously vilified, non-US dictatorial regime. These are items from the good ole USA, land of the free and home of the brave.

Just how brave are we now? How free are we still? Are we brave enough to be "winter soldiers" and stand up against these fascist moves? Or will we go down in history in infamy, the way the "Good Germans" of the 1930s and 1940s did?  


Update: A couple of the comments on this article at Reddit raise the question of whether this particular DoD test is merely an anomaly.

I have just learned of a scholarly conference paper presented earlier this year that underscores the fact that the DoD training's use of "low-level terrorism" is hardly an anomaly. "Low level terrorism" is a term being used by state security agencies:

Vinthagen, Stellan. "Labeling "Low Level Terrorism": The Out-Definition of Social Movements" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ISA's 50th ANNUAL CONVENTION "EXPLORING THE PAST, ANTICIPATING THE FUTURE", New York Marriott Marquis, NEW YORK CITY, NY, USA, Feb 15, 2009 . 2009-06-17
Publication Type: Conference Paper/Unpublished Manuscript
Abstract: This paper explores current state security tendency to label ordinary protests and opposition as "low level terrorism" or social movements as "terrorist environments" and the political and democratic consequences of such a politics of fear. The judic [the abstract cuts off here.]
(Follow-up article is here.) 


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Absolutely right Jane, especially about the four dead in Ohio being much less than what we are headed for.
A whole bunch of things were given to law enforcement nationwide. People who complain about the Federal Reserve. People who talk about the constitution. Anyone who could be pissed at the government. Supposedly people who get caught pissing on the side of the highway are now sex offenders. They just keep increasing the number of people they are justified in watching until everyone will be a target for spying.
"One of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in their struggle for independence." --Charles A. Beard
Any people anywhere being inclined and having the power, have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and force a new one that suits them better. - Abraham Lincoln

Have a nice day.
Jim: that list is amazing. Pissing = sex offender!

BBE: Thanks!

Bill: "Have a nice day!" LOL
I would not be surprised if the federal government hires the formerly named, " Blackwater Inc.", to carry out missions against protestors which are now classified as low-level terrorists.

You wrote aove:

"ongoing government surveillance of all of Americans' electronic communications that began in February of 2001 (seven months before 9/11)"

I think it means that they are spying foreign nationals, too besides American citizens. And they are spying all emails and Internet publications.

After some time even writings like ours are considered to be low-level terrorism?

What are the means to find out, how they are actually doing it?

What is the office doing it, which companies have they hired for it?
Blackwater is now calling itself Xe and yes, Closure, I would not be surprised in the least if they have already been hired for these purposes. We do know, relatedly, that Kellogg, Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, has built for the federal government, detention camps around the nation to hold those arrested in mass roundups. These camps can be seen in satellite photos, I will post one of them at the end of my post.

Hannu, yes, of course, you are correct that the massive surveillance has also been of non-Americans. I would refer you re: your questions to sources like Barbara Bowley's chapter in my book, Impeach the President, Chapter 9.

Cindy: Yes, the "getting the bad guys" is common talk in such company for these activities.
And does that mean anyone who protests can be wiretapped legally? Probable cause must be a lot easier when the very definition of what you're suspecting is “someone doing something similar once did something bad.” For example, if being a banker meant you could be wiretapped because you were a low-level embezzler, that would make it a lot easier on law enforcement trying to find high-level embezzlers. If playing baseball made you a low-level steroid user or low-level game thrower, that would make it easier to sniff out the high-level ones. Ick. So much for freedom of assembly.
Kent: The government's been wiretapping us since 2/01 and doing it blatantly illegally, but when this all came out when an AT&T employee discovered the NSA was doing it, Congress legitimated it after the fact, including in the well-known Telecom Amnesty Bill that Obama first promised to support a filibuster of and then ended up voting FOR the bill. Since taking office Obama has continued the surveillance of everyone and in fact, gone even further than Bush in claiming "sovereign immunity.' Glenn Greenwald has covered this story well.
but you only gotta worry if you're doing something wrong, right? right? :P

what a disaster.
It is a really dark night, you are traveling in a fast train full of friends and acquaintances. Everyone is laughing and having a good time. One guy stands up and calls for everyone’s attention. When everything falls silent, he tells them that he has evidence there is danger ahead. Not too far down the line, the train will go across a wide ravine. Hundreds of feet below, the river rages violently. Some of the track is missing and the train is doomed to plunge into the flood below with fatal consequences. Before the train reaches the river; however, it will make one final stop at a station where those who want to can get off. After that it will speed on to its final doom.

After the train pulled into the station, the speaker and a few who understood the risks stepped off. A majority remained, mocking them with impunity. The doors soon closed and the train shuffled off slowly from the station. The crowd inside the train laughed and joked amongst themselves about the “wiseman” and “his flock.” All but one young lady, just staring up at the route map. The train reached full speed. Then she turned anxiously to everyone and said, “I think we made a big mistake. We should have listened to that guy! There’s construction on the bridge ahead according to this route map!” Everyone looked out the right side windows in horror as the train continued around a bend speeding headlong towards the unfinished bridge ahead over the ravine.

The jackboots are on, polished, and ready to march. Watch out.
Yep, when regular legally protected political protest is becoming classified by the powers-that-be, we know we have turned another corner into darkness. Perhaps this is the era the Great UN-enlightenment
uh ..., my above should read "... classified by the powers-that-be as terrorism..."

Oh, yeah,
Dennis, you missed my point. I know about the ongoing wiretapping, but I was just wondering if antics like this are an attempt to render such deeds legal by reclassifying the subjects as terrorists and thus somehow validating things. Once we're all terrorists, we can all be listened to.
I hope, I hope, I hope that this classification of protests as "low level terrorism" is a poorly enacted euphemism brought on by vestiges of the paranoia which became institutional post-9/11 and that it does NOT indicate a mind-set or any insidious intent on the part of the government or DOD. And I also hope that even if DOD personnel continue to undergo this training that it is "targeted" towards a legitimate effort to reduce damage and disturbance during a riot or that it is training which might keep competing ideologues from confrontation by placing miliatry personnel between parties. (None of that is unprecedented by the way).

Although, some of us remember the White House Enemies list and how paranoid many of us who had any level of campus activism at all were of the Nixon administration in the early 70's.

I doubt there is any other motivation behind this. It is the coming home of the Bush/Cheney "enemy combatant" labeling of people to attempt getting around the clearly drawn legal lines and protections they should have. Obama must shoulder some blame for this, too, because he is not making the stands necessary to dissuade this kind of thing.
:thud: There is a file as big as my head on me if protesting in terrorism. help.

Do you really think classifying “protests” as “terrorism” can encompass anything good? I ask this respectfully, no disrespect intended. What would the good be? What is the point of using this terminology?

I just think it is way past time for “hoping” these bad things are not happening as they happen.
okay, i'm done :thudding: i'm still brave. I don't want to be a good German....this is legacy for Jewish blood rises up at the very mention of fascism.
Kent: Actually, I did understand your point originally. I perhaps could have made my initial response clearer as a take-off from your point rather than an "answer" to your query, which was really a rhetorical point.

Wayne: As Rick said.

Forgiven: Powerful metaphor!

Montcalm: Yep.

Robin: Your blood, as it should!
The other thing about the DoD's Training Manual test in the featured question is that it is an obviously leading question.

The other answer choices are clearly, dramatically wrong so the "right" answer reminds me of the dumbed down kind of questions/answers that have become all too common in American classrooms.

We don't want DoD personnel to be thinking, after all. We will lead them to the answer we want them to give so that even if they're a little slow, they can still do what we want them to do.

Which of the following is an example of low-level terrorism activity?

Select the correct answer and then click Check Your Answer.

O Attacking the Pentagon


O Hate crimes against racial groups

O Protests
So where are the courts? Despite the convoluted interperatations of the fourth amendment the language is plain as was the intention of the writers. The entire patriot act and the subsequent suspension of Habeus Corpus is a clear violation of the rights granted the people by the constitution. The Supreme Court is bound by its charter to act in reference to constitutional law. When faced with the desire of the executive branch to breach the bounderies of any article or amendment the courts duty lies with the people and was not intended to be a rubber stamp to find in favor of those desires. Congress was never granted the power to circumvent the rights of the people. Any law or act that is intended to do so is by it's nature not a legal act. A court that deliberately allows the rights of the people to be altered without proper amendment of those rights in the frame of the constitution is not a legal decision and stands in violation of the document that was and is the ultimate law of the nation. The Executive, Legislative, and/or the Judicial branch of government may not enatct, suggest or support any act or law tht is designed to either by implication or interperatation violate any article or amendment to the legally ratified Constitution of the United States.
The DoD is a very scary organization that will eventually make the CIA look like amateur sleuth camp. A friend of mine invented something a few years back and has been followed by the DoD ever since. It's not pretty, I can assure you. Apologies for my late arrival. I had to take the back roads back from lunch with my friend. .....;)
Note: In its original version I appended a photograph of a KBR detention camp to the story that I discovered earlier today is not a photograph of a KBR detention camp.

I have, therefore, removed the photo. It, unlike the rest of the story, was inauthentic. The building of detention facilities by KBR in the US, nonetheless, is all too real; that particular photo was not.
Bobbot: Yes, the Constitution expressly prohibits what the DoD, and all too much of what Bush and now Obama have been doing. The people in charge do not care about this for the most part. The Courts have, because they are a separate branch of the tripart government and can't sensibly consider themselves a separate branch if they were to undermine entirely the foundation upon which they derive their existence - the law and the Constitution - have at times been ruling against what the executive and legislative branches have been doing. But, as most famously, the 2000 election results demonstrated, the protections of the Court are a shaky reed to anchor your justifiable concerns upon. The Warren Court ruled as it did when it did primarily because of the powerful social movements of the times. The same will be true today, if said social movements show up on the scene again...

Cartouche: Always good to have you at the party. Your friend's story is all too familiar...
This is frightening. I have been to plenty of protests.
D: It is the aim of the government to frighten us. They want to confine us to corrals in which we do only that which is entirely safe for the PTB and the status quo: for example, elections in which we get to "choose" which segment of the PTB will rule over us.

They can tell us that they are "us" (the people) when they run and that their candidacy = a social movement of the people, but this is a cruel deception. The retention and further extension in key areas of the Bush policies under Obama shows this more clearly by the day.
Dissent has always been treated as something evil to be put down. If it's not considered "low level terrorism" then it's communism or socialism or conspiracy theory or paranoia.

Welcome to the age of thoughtcrime. I can hear the goosesteps getting closer.
bobbot wrote:

"The entire patriot act and the subsequent suspension of Habeus Corpus is a clear violation of the rights granted the people by the constitution. The Supreme Court is bound by its charter to act in reference to constitutional law."

But do the people have any means to get the Supreme Court to act, to do something to protect the constitution?

Are the high judges of the supreme court being wiretapped, too?

If they would start asking questions about the president office's violations of the rights of the people, would they be wired? Or would that act be 'low-level terrorism'?
I meant to write: "would they be fired?"

Isn't it the case that in the states even the high judges of the supreme court are appointed by the president?
Hannu: You raise an important issue - the actions of any branch of the government are subject not just to what the laws on the books say, including what the Constitution states, but to their own political and ideological stances and the presence or absence of contending pressures upon them. In the absence of public pressure on the Supreme Court, for example, they are not going to rule and haven't been ruling four square against the express violations of the law by the past and present administration. They have on certain matters and in certain instances ruled against what the White House and/or the Congress wants. But they can't be relied upon to be the bulwark against an unfettered executive merely because the law says that they are supposed to be.

The people must rise up and demand justice with their feet and hands and hearts or it will not be done. The situation is exceptionally perilous now...
This is from Philip Zelikow's blog at Foreign Policy Magazine: "The OLC 'torture memos:' thoughts from a dissenter." April 21, 2009.

"I first gained access to the OLC memos and learned details about CIA's program for high-value detainees shortly after the set of opinions were issued in May 2005. I did so as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's policy representative to the NSC Deputies Committee on these and other intelligence/terrorism issues. In the State Department, Secretary Rice and her Legal Adviser, John Bellinger, were then the only other individuals briefed on these details. In compliance with the security agreements I have signed, I have never discussed or disclosed any substantive details about the program until the classified information has been released.

"Having been the executive director of the 9/11 Commission, I'm aware of what some of these captives did. The Commission wondered how captives were questioned (for details on that, see this previously disclosed report), and the matter is now the subject of a federal criminal investigation by special prosecutor John Durham. Nonetheless, the evidence against most -- if not all -- of the high-value detainees remains damning. But the issue is not about who or what they are. It is about who or what we are.


"The underlying absurdity of the [Bush] administration's position can be summarized this way. Once you get to a substantive compliance analysis for 'cruel, inhuman, and degrading' you get the position that the substantive standard is the same as it is in analogous U.S. constitutional law. So the OLC must argue, in effect, that the methods and the conditions of confinement in the CIA program could constitutionally be inflicted on American citizens in a county jail.

"In other words, Americans in any town of this country could constitutionally be hung from the ceiling naked, sleep deprived, water-boarded, and all the rest -- if the alleged national security justification was compelling. I did not believe our federal courts could reasonably be expected to agree with such a reading of the Constitution."

Or, as I put it in a 9/13/08 essay, "Shock and Awe Comes Home to Roost."
Aaroncynic: Thanks for your comment. I agree with you overall, but I would like to parse your statement a bit. While it's true that dissent is invariably greeted as upsetting, and sometimes as dangerous, and while it's true that there is a continuum of the kind you list between the anti-communist crusades and so on and the present moment of "anti-terrorism" in which the "Other" is named as the implacable enemy in order to scare people, there is a distinctiveness to this moment that should not escape us.

And that's where in your last line you say this: we can hear the footfalls in the distance of jackboots getting louder. The logic underlying the war of terror, which Obama has embraced entirely, means the continued demolition of civil liberties and the tightening grip of the hands of the national security state around our collective throats to throttle us.
Professor Loo, there is no way I am the only person who reads Bank Bail Outs as Bank Control in 1930's Germany, am I?
Robin: You should elaborate on your point and lay out the parallels that you see.
I'm working on it, Professor Loo! Next post....
I accuse myself of the following crimes...

I have seduced Party members of both sexes...

I've been to the proletarian areas...

I deliberately contracted syphilis in order to spread the disease...

to my wife and other Party members.

Together with other agents, I have counterfeited banknotes...

wrecked industrial machinery, polluted the water supply...

guided Eurasian rocket bombs to targets on Airstrip One...

by means of coded radio signals.

I stand here, a victim of the influence of Emmanuel Goldstein.

Guilty on all counts.

I'm glad I was caught. I was mentally deranged.

Now I am cured.

I ask only for you to accept my love of our leader.

I ask only to be shot while my mind is still clean.
This is from Austin Indymedia, Mar. 11, 2006:

"In a guest lecture at the University of Texas School of Law on Wednesday, FBI Supervisory Senior Resident Agent G. Charles Rasner listed Indymedia, Food Not Bombs, and the Communist Party of Texas as 'Terrorist Watch' cause groups in Austin.

"Rasner gave a presentation entitled 'Counter-Terrorism Efforts in Texas' to a U.S. Law and National Security class at the Law School. He used PowerPoint slides to illustrate the nature of the terrorist threat in Central Texas. The word 'Unclassified' appeared prominently in bold red letters on the opening PowerPoint slide.


"Rasner then placed the FBI’s Central Texas 'Terrorist Watch List' on the screen. On a list of approximately ten groups, Food Not Bombs was listed seventh. Indymedia was listed tenth, with a reference specifically to IndyConference 2005. The Communist Party of Texas also made the list. Rasner explained that these groups could have links to terrorist activity. He noted that peaceful-sounding group names could cover more violent extremist tactics.

"Food Not Bombs is an all-volunteer organization that recovers food that would otherwise be thrown out and serves vegetarian meals to the public at no cost. Austin Indymedia is an open newswire in which readers may publish news, events, and commentary.

"In response to a questioner, Rasner stated that the FBI will attend activist group meetings whenever it suspects that the group might engage in illegal activity. He said that he saw no problem with an agent failing to represent himself as a representative of the FBI and implied that the practice was common."
I'm not that shocked about this revelation, actually. The world-view of the U.S. military has been on a course divergent from more traditional conceptions of freedom and liberty since the end of WWII.

My opinion: A good place to familiarize oneself with the evolution of the current military culture is in the study of nuclear policy since 1945. I think an argument can be made that one is able to generalize the mindsets and rationales encountered in that area.

Since the beginning of the Cold War, the highest levels of the military have inculcated the following doctrines into their personnel:
-- It's us versus them.
-- We know what needs to be done to keep the world free; no one else does.
-- If you're not with us, you're against us.

Over the years, the identity of "us" -- the military -- has remained consistent. The identity of "them", on the other hand, has changed, slowly encompassing more and more of the disparate non-military modes of thought in this country. By the end of the Viet Nam war, the "us versus them" mentality had widened to incorporate the view that even legal and peaceful expressions of dissenting thought proved the presence of an enemy within the national borders.

The first Gulf War and the present conflict (its very name -- The War on Terror -- is a masterpiece of Orwellian misdirection) have added nothing new to the Cold War mindset. At this stage, the cultural foundation is complete. Now, military training and indoctrination exist in a fully evolved, logical-to-its-proponents universe, wherein the three doctrines are simple, true, and immutable.

I fear we can expect similar revelations in the future.
brt: In addition to what you've said here - well put, by the way - is the addition of a Christian overlay within the US military at the highest levels that preaches hell and damnation for the "Other" (whose names change) and that what our forces are doing they do as "lambs of God."

Witness, for example, the materials by Major General Glen Shaffer, a director for intelligence serving both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the secretary of defense, provided via Don Rumsfeld to Bush framing the Iraq invasion in Biblical terms.
And they thought Bush was bad?
Dennis: Of course, you're right. This is a bit more distinctive. To clarify, I think what I mean is that there's been a very slow and long progression of not only quelling dissent, but equating any and all dissent with treason, terrorism, communisim - whatever the concept of "enemy" is called in any particular era. They've been tightening their grip for decades, but in a very slow and clever fashion so that by the time the real boots hit the ground, most people will embrace them. It's a mad mad frightening world, indeed.
To add another update to this conversation, there's an interesting quote in a recent WSJ article titled "FBI Seeks To Target Lone Extremists." An agent says "How do you get into the mind of a terrorist? The FBI does not have the capability to know when a person gets up in middle America and decides: 'I'm taking my protest poster to Washington or I'm taking my gun.' "

Does anyone else find it more than slightly frightening that protest poster and gun are equal in this sentence?
Dian: Bush was bad. But, as I think you're saying, Obama ain't the change that so many mistakenly believed he would be.

Aaroncynic: I have to repeat the end of the quote you just cited for emphasis here to underscore your excellent point -

"The FBI does not have the capability to know when a person gets up in middle America and decides: 'I'm taking my protest poster to Washington or I'm taking my gun.'"

The FBI can't tell the difference between a poster and a gun.

"'Sorry,', the FBI agent was reported to say to investigators, 'I shot him because I couldn't tell if that was a gun he was holding or a poster signboard.'"
Interesting--- I followed a link here from ""- a fairly "Right wing " site if there ever was one. Funny how "Right" and "Left" sometimes curve around the back and meet on the "Far Side". WND is understandably concerned about the FED's reaction to the upcoming TEA party protests this July 4th. ("Teabaggers" to you Liberals out there) Somehow they just don't think of themselves as "Terrorists " when they exercise their 1st amendment right to protest.
Over the years since my first encounters with "Liberal" protesters, (Back at Ohio State the same Spring when the protesters at Kent State were shot)-It gradually dawned on me that liberals think their right to protest is covered by the 1st amendment as well.
If you’ll put up with an old fart reminiscing a bit, I would like to make an observation.
I’ve always been a big fan of self defense. My father came back from WWII with the conviction that the US of A must never again be caught unprepared to defend itself. So, having 6 sons, he became a Boy Scout Master when I was 6 years old.
Back in the ‘50s ,there wasn’t any question about Boy Scouts being a “Paramilitary” organization. It was recognized as preparation for when (Not if) we had to go fight the commies. M y God, My Honor, My Duty, My Country? You Betcha. And in that order.
So, what do you do when “Your Country” begins to conflict with “Your God”, “Your Honor”And “Your Duty”? Well, you use your 1st amendment Right to Protest. And you also realize first and foremost that it isn’t “Your Country” that’s bothering you, it’s “The Government”
And when exercising your 1st amendment rights gets you classified as a “Terrorist?” by your Government?
Well, then you get a whole new perspective on why the 2nd amendment is there. And please note, none of the “Bill of Rights” amendments is a “right” granted by government. To the men who wrote those amendments, these were not “Rights” granted by government- they were a warning to Government that these , if you will, human traits, were granted by God- ( or evolved by nature- though of course they didn’t see it that way)- and the suppression of any of these “Traits” would result in violent resistance.
So, past a certain point, you don’t argue your “Case” with government lawyers, you join with other people who agree that the Government needs a bit of readjustment, and if you still have the power to change the government by the power of protest, you do – and everybody is happy. (well not really, but at least no one gets hurt. )
If , when you protest, the government classifies you as “Terrorists”?-
Then you begin to think about what it means to be a “Terrorist”-(Remember when the government bans guns, only the government will have guns)- ( Or if you prefer, when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns) –
All this to say that some of my best friends are "Hippies" left over from the '60's- and even though they voted for Obama, we still get along okay. And we're ALL (still) worried about 'The Government"

Yes, I have noticed that my article is getting play on some conservative websites.

And you are right, of course, that the Bill of Rights wasn't granted but had to be fought for.
Dennis; Having read through the comments, I felt compelled to write. Full disclosure: I am a retired Navy Captain that has had the privilege of Command at Sea. I am a current federal civil servant working within an acquisition command responsible for acquiring and maintaining electronics systems for the Navy and other government organizations.

I'm disturbed by some of your characterizations. Statements such as "We don't want DoD personnel to be thinking, after all" and the assertion that DoD is doing things that the "constitution prohibits" seem a bit over the top. While I'm sure some of your writings are designed to elicit a response, the tone seems to be one of disparagement. Your characterizations of the military mindset as being based in "us versus them; we know, no one else does; and if you're not with us, you're against us" are simplistic and inaccurate.

As a Naval Officer, I was repeatedly instructed in ethical behavoir and my responsibilities to the Constitution of the United States - it was part of my oath of office. Te assuage Cindy's concerns - ethics continues to be taught in government service. I have often found that the "whatever it takes" dog-eat-dog approach to ethics characterized by shady car salesmen in ill-fitting suits is considered almost a societal norm. I can't speak to the college training her son was taking, but most reputable programs require ethics training, as do we both on the military and civil service side.

After all - it was military members that testified in the "Winter Soldier" hearings of 1971 and again in the 2008 event held just outside of Washington DC. We are taught the differentiation between legal and illegal orders, the insufficiency of the Nuremberg defense, and our moral obligation to what are known in the literature as "Just War" tenets.

I agree with Walter's comments that the training characterizing protests as low level terrorism were poor euphemisms rather than a deliberate intent to bring the black helicopters to the United States. The Marine Corps has a concept called "the Strategic Corporal" - that training (and Marines, please correct me if I get this wrong) holds that many strategic decisions are made by a 19-year-old American in charge of a Rifle Squad in a foreign country. When that young American faces a protest involving, say, a Shiite crowd approaching a Sunni Mosque in an area where Americans are trying to keep the peace - there may be some elements of low level terrorism involved. I've had many training courses where material is presented poorly, but the intent is to train to concepts - be watchful, protect your team, conduct your mission. Blithly strolling into protests in foreign nations while there for a mission is not a safe thing to do. To get back to an earlier point - we certainly DO want that young corporal to be thinking!

Within the DoD, our missions are focused outside of US borders. When involved in the United States, we are most often conducting humanitarian work. Robots developed by my organization searched the rubble of the World Trade Center searching for survivors. Ships with Commanders I know went to New Orleans and established hospital facilities, communications equipment (including cellular towers) and participated in rescue efforts. We're well aware of the limits of military use under the Posse Comitatus act.

For "Cartouche" - I'm sorry for what you've described. I know my organization prizes inventors and inventions - we have many folks in the government that hold patents, and we encourage and award innovation.

Finally, I'd say that those in charge, particularly in the Executive branch, do care. Jack Goldsmith - in OLC - was seminal in uncovering and dissallowing the "Torture Memo's". Individuals within the organization - DoD or others - are most often the ones that bring wrong practices to light. It is not only our training; it is our moral obligation and in keeping with our oath of office.
Craig: Thank you for your extensive, serious, and thoughtful comments.

I’m going to try to respond to it all, but I probably will miss some aspects as a first go through, so please pardon me in advance if I miss something important.

Regarding the most important issue I see you raising here, I would point out that this DoD training – particularly as to Knowledge Question #1 - is that it is not designed principally for situations abroad in which there are active hostilities. “Attack on the Pentagon,” the first answer choice, makes this obvious. Thus your commentary that in certain situations there exists the possibility of a protest involving terrorism, thereby making the question/answers apropos, isn’t germane.

You state that the characterization of the military mindset as being one of “us vs. them” is simplistic and inaccurate. (This actually was brt’s comment, not mine, but I did agree with his whole comment). While you are absolutely right that the training you describe that you and other members of the service receive doesn’t look like this, that you and others were taught the meaning of the Nuremberg verdicts, the difference between unjust and just wars, and between legal and illegal orders, we need to consider this from two perspectives. First, brt’s comment was a global assessment of the overall direction that the DoD and the US government more generally have been moving in. That is, it’s on the macro-level. He’s talking about the general mindset and the overall trajectory. The most telling expression of this mindset is the “war on terror” itself: we are being told as Americans, service people and civilians alike, that unprecedented measures must be undertaken to stem this threat from a … tactic. Terrorism isn’t a country and it’s not a set of individuals. It’s a tactic and so the war on terror is a war that can never end because you can’t wipe out a tactic.

I would illustrate this this way: the fact that you and others have been exposed to the training that you mention doesn’t gainsay brt’s macro level assessment. The wars launched against Iraq and Pakistan (in the latter case not, as far as we know, with ground troops yet, but with drone attacks) are not “just wars.” They are unjust wars. According to the UN Charter and Nuremberg, the supreme war crime is launching an attack on a country that has not first attacked you. None of these countries’ governments attacked us. The US’s illegal invasions and occupations have been carried out and continued to be carried out under the rationale of the “war on terror,” which is being used to justify not prosecuting admitted torturers (Cheney and Bush, to begin with) and to permit any number of illegal acts prohibited by the Constitution such as violating the Fourth and Eighth Amendments.

Obama knows that Nuremberg said that “following orders” is no excuse, and yet he and Leon Panetta have stated for the record that they will “not investigate, let alone prosecute” CIA officers who tortured detainees on the grounds that they were following “legal” orders from the White House.

As I note in my update/afterword to the original posting, the term “low-level terrorism” is apparently not some euphemism, contrary to Walter’s admittedly wishful thinking, but an increasingly common term being used by security agencies. Moreover, there have been extremely disturbing steps (including new laws and executive orders) that match that non-euphemism. I would refer you to the links in my article about these matters. The Warner Act would be one of these. The Posse Comitatus Act that you mention, incidentally, has been overridden to a disturbing degree by said Warner Act and by EO’s regarding “continuity of government” and the stationing of US troops within the continental US for the first time for purposes that Naomi Wolf talks about in one of my links.

You write: “I'd say that those in charge, particularly in the Executive branch, do care. Jack Goldsmith - in OLC - was seminal in uncovering and disallowing the ‘Torture Memo's. Individuals within the organization - DoD or others - are most often the ones that bring wrong practices to light. It is not only our training; it is our moral obligation and in keeping with our oath of office.”

I applaud whistleblowers and thank them for their brave and necessary service. The ones in the Executive Branch who we can say this about, unfortunately, are few and far between. Colin Powell, for example, knew about the torture and did not stop it. The fact is that the Bush White House orchestrated torture and committed crimes against humanity and war crimes as policy. The present White House is refusing to prosecute them for this and is carrying forward many of these egregious practices, violating international law and the UN Charter in the process.

As for my comment about “We don’t want DoD personnel to be thinking, after all,” I said that largely in jest and within the context of the point that the DoD personnel answering these questions are being led to the “correct” answer. It wasn’t meant to be taken entirely seriously but I do understand how you could find it upsetting.
I don’t mean at all to imply that you missed my point in my last comment about the significance of the Bill of Rights, I just feel that maybe my point needs a bit of clarification in light of some of our (probable) differing points of view on any other issues. It may be on the order of an attempt to recognize that at some levels “The Enemy of My Enemy Is My Friend”
Back at the time of “Ruby Ridge” and “Waco” my “Leftist Hippie Friends” (Ok, my cousin and my roommate from college who married each other after I introduced them during the riots at Ohio State in 1970) (Riots of which I disapproved, but did feel were the fault of the Columbus Ohio Police Dept.) ( To a “Frat Rat”, the SDS and the war protestors were kind of an amusing little group on the oval that no one paid a lot of attention to, Until the “Pigs” (Yep- I used to go shooting with a bunch of Columbus cops at that time- and they were) drove up and down fraternity row tossing tear gas into the Frat Houses- THAT is what started all the real fun at OSU- the Cops were too stupid or too arrogant to know who their friends were – they viewed it as Blue Collar Working Stiffs Who’s Sons Are Dying in Vietnam vs Snotty College Kids with Draft Deferments- and that’s what it turned into.)(Kent State was Snotty College Kids with Draft Deferments vs Blue Collar Kids Who Are Getting Out of BEING Soldiers by PLAYING Soldier) ( I was a Snotty College Kid with a Draft Deferment, but only because the Air Force told me they didn’t let blind people(20/200) fly airplanes- but maybe the nice man in green down there might let me play soldier as a 2nd Looie with his own squad of grunts. One thing my extensive training by Boy Scout Leaders, who had been Grunts during WWII, taught me was: DO NOT, under any circumstances, volunteer to be a Grunt. So I didn’t. –thus passed my possible military career)
At any rate, at the time of “Ruby Ridge”( which Clinton gets the blame for, but actually occurred under Bush Senior- Clinton just decided that in the interest of maintaining (?) “governmental immunity”(?) (God may know what he was thinking- I sure don’t pretend to) Clinton’s BATF/Justice Department/FBI certainly wasn’t going to let it to have been THEIR misconduct)- and “Waco” when I mentioned to my Clinton loving “Hippie” friends that maybe the BATF and the FBI had been guilty of just a tad bit of “overkill”—Their response was that now I understood what they had to put up with under Johnson and Nixon. ( Which was a little beside the point, because I lived through Johnson and Nixon , too- My point about Nixon and Johnson had always been that they both appeared to me to be not so much “EVIL” as merely incompetent egomaniacs in charge of things they don’t understand (as was Bill Clinton)(as were both George Bushes)( In my old age” incompetent egomaniacs in charge of things they don’t understand” seems more and more like a good synonym for “EVIL”)( or President, or Congress )(or how about let’s just say “too much government that begins to take itself too seriously”?)
It gives me little satisfaction as someone who has been aware of the abuses of authority committed against our nation and its Constitution by such agencies as the FBI, (since the days of J.Edgar Hoover) and the abuses by the BATF and the DEA (since their creation), to say “ See, that’s what we put up with under Clinton- and oh yeah, it really didn’t get any better under Bush.”
The only reason Bush was elected was that ANYBODY at all HAD to be better than continuing the policies of Clinton (under Gore). Don’t kid yourselves, the only reason Obama was elected was that ANYBODY at all HAD to be better than continuing the policies of Bush (under McCain) The more things change, the more things stay the same. What policy is common to both Clinton and Bush –and now Obama? The policy of centralizing power under the Federal Government at the expense of the People.
The enemy of the American form of Government has NEVER been the Military. It has always been those IN Government who want a little more power and a little more control. The last person who wants a fight to the death is someone who has been in one. There may or may not be members of our Military who enjoy “Killing People”. I‘ve known members of our armed forces who killed men in wars from WWI to WWII to Korea to Vietnam to the Gulf War to the War with Iraq . I have never met one who was proud of having killed. I’ve never met one who was anything but a little bit sick about having had to kill in order to protect his people back home. Whether you think that’s why they fight or not is really not relevant. It is why they think they fight.
The job description of the Military is to “Break Things and Kill People” overseas so that the forces of those Governments or Peoples who want to “Break Things and Kill People” In OUR nation never get the chance to. The Military, as a whole, has never, to my knowledge, decided on its own to just go off and kill some people for the fun of it. They go into battle on the orders of the civilian government. The Military does not determine who to fight or when to fight.
Here’s where the Posse Commitas comes in. You don’t turn loose people whose job description is “Break Things and Kill People” on your own people. Or at least you aren’t supposed to.
That’s why we have the Police, whose job description started out as “Maintain the Peace” No, really, at one time Police were actually known as “Peace Officers . Think Andy Taylor. I know, we’re all more familiar with the Barney Fifes who mostly style themselves “Law Enforcement Officers”. Trust me, there once was a time when “To Serve and Protect” was something other than a cynical code for “To Service (in an Agricultural sense- i.e we’re taking Bossy over to the Bull to have her Serviced) and Protect ( My Rosy Red Behind)” Who does the Government’s bidding in the Good Old US of A? it isn’t the Military (Yet) It’s the (increasingly militarized) police.
Please don’t make the mistake of thinking the Military wants to have anything to do with policing their fellow citizens. It’s quite possible that some political drones in the DOD look at that as a way of a expanding their own political power, but when push comes to shove, the politicians still realize that it would be a very “iffy” thing to tell American fighting men and women that in order to save the United states it has somehow become necessary to destroy it. Our soldiers are not that stupid, they do absolutely have training about lawful orders, but more to the point they have political awareness and at least a percentage of commanders who would say “kill my fellow Americans ”is not in my Job Description. Kill you for ordering me to do so? That’s more like it.”
You won’t see civilian Government ordering Military troops into combat in America. That’s why we have increasingly militarized “Federal Law Enforcement” who by and large just love to go heavy on the “Force” part. You know, the usual gang of Jack Booted thugs of the BATF, the DEA and the ever popular FBI (Though they are far less “domestic terrorists” than the other agencies, I will state that Lon Horiuchi of the FBI comes as close to being the Archetype of the cold blooded murdering thug as any others I can name- but that’s only because we are not allowed to know their names) Indeed, units of the U S Military could wind up being our best defense against these agencies, in the (as yet) unlikely event that they would be ordered to do something about us “Domestic Terrorists” who think we are guaranteed a “Right “ to protest. How silly of us.
So back to my point about the Enemy of My Enemy as My Friend. And my point about the Bill of Rights. It isn’t that the bill of Rights was fought for. It is that the Bill of Rights needs to be continually asserted and enforced, not on a pick and choose basis, but in its entirety . The “Rights” enumerated was not a “Granting of Rights” by a beaten ruler. It was a cautionary set of rules for good government on the order of the Ten Commandments. It was the all powerful Creators of our central government handing down the laws by which they consented to be governed. The first of these commandments is : Thou shalt not seek to limit my speech, most especially when I am taxing you with your shortcomings, ( Else I shall take up arms and make an end to you) The Second of these commandments is: Thou shalt not seek to limit my ability to punish you for your transgressions – that means of punishment being a well disciplined Militia composed of free citizens who shall have with them always the means by which you may be destroyed, should you prove unmanageable by the other means provided for in the body of this constitution.----- the rest is pretty much along the same lines. They all list things the doing of which will anger Us the People yeh even unto the point that we destroy you rightfully and justly .
You will note that the right to talk things over is the first resort. It gets so hard to hear anything once the shooting starts.
Anyway, can we agree that it isn’t so much the military we need fear as it is those who would enlarge their power by the use of their OWN military-( that is the Federal Police)- It isn’t the Military people at DOD we need fear, it’s the politicians ( Granted an increasing number of these politicians wear uniforms) Don’t blame the Wermacht . the Luftwaffe and the Kreigsmarine for the actions of the SS and the Gestapo- the Wermacht doesn’t like them either and would rather shoot them all than see them rule.
I agree with the points as given by Dennis Loo.

I would add that the war in Afghanistan was started criminal ways, too. For the same reasons as the wars in Pakistan and in Iraq are against the international laws and against the laws of the Unisted states of America.


My viewpoint on these issues is maybe a bit different because of my different background. I was born in a country, where it is mandatory for all the male citizens to enter the military service. With the exception, if you have got an opinion against doing such things. You can nowadays easily avoid military service by just signing a paper that you want to do civil service instead. If you don't want to do even the civil service you need to be in jail for about one year's time. However, only about 7%-8% of the young males yearly select the civil service. I was one of them in my time. (The reasons for the high numbers of the people going to the military service are mainly in the militaristic cultural history of the country and nowadays the support for he national army is the highest among the industrial countries. During the hundreds of years of the Swedish rule the longest peace time was about 25 years, during the second World War Finland was fighting on the side of Hitler's Germany.)


I think that the problem in US is nowadays that the common citizens have got little and selected knowledge about the things, what the army of the United States of America is doing.

The army is practically every day killing civilians in the wars as started criminal ways. The army is torturing innocent people jails. Many people have been arrested and are kept in jails indefinitely without any trials, against the international laws and against the laws of the United States of America. The army is acting against the laws every day.

Now the present administration of the United states of America is protecting the torturers. Obama has by all the means tried to prevent any investigations inside the jails, where he knows that people have been tortured and are still being tortured.

Those crimes during the wars went much worse when 'the infamous war on terrorism' was invented.

The military structure people are trained to think that 'protesters are low-level terrorists'.

The present administration protects itself by laws against any charges of illegally wiretapping American citizens and foreign nationals.

I think that if people don't protest against the military structures' behavior at once, it would be more difficult later.
Noah: I didn't acknowledge your excerpting 1984 before, but thanks for that!

Token: Wow. You said a whole lot in a kind of stream of consciousness style, but actually quite readily understood despite its length. I want to focus on two points that I think are central to your comments. The first has to do with the centralization of power in the Federal government. The second has to do with the military.

To quote you:

"What policy is common to both Clinton and Bush –and now Obama? The policy of centralizing power under the Federal Government at the expense of the People."

I must confess at the outset here that I do not feel qualified yet to sort through the different strands of the differences between the left and the right over this particular matter of the centralization of power in the government. You are raising a very interesting point about the convergence potentially of concerns about this from both ends of the political spectrum.

Are we both upset about incidents like WACO where the ATF and FBI plotted and eventually executed the cold-blooded murder of the Branch Davidians, including their children? Yep. Damn right.

Does this direction of the federal government of criminalizing dissent alarm us both? Clearly yes. The response to my article from conservative websites is testimony to this.

I do not see the Bill of Rights exactly the way you describe them, but on the other hand, I take your clarification of my interpretation of your position and stand corrected.

An imperialist superpower, which is what the US is now, and indeed the greatest superpower since Rome, must have a highly centralized and ramified federal bureaucracy to administer its far-flung empire. That is why the US maintains over 700 overseas military bases. That is why federal power continues to become more onerous.

In the wake of the collapse of its chief rival, the socialist camp, the US stands alone and has been behaving without regard to even glancing obedience to international law in attempting to secure and advance its hegemony and the suppression of even the possibility of any rivals emerging that might challenge it. Thus, the pre-emptive wars doctrine and the open and widespread use of torture that was first advanced under Bush II and that Obama has carried forward even further (most notably with respect to Pakistan). (I mean "open" in the sense that they are doing it with a wink and a nod even while they hypocritically and deceitfully claim that it's not torture).

These foreign policies are intertwined with domestic policies and considerations and the foreign actions cannot help but be brought home, which is what we are seeing. The GWOT had come home and this DoD training course is an example, but only one of many, of the logic of GWOT brought home.

This brings me to your other major point, the nature of the US military.

As you say:

"The enemy of the American form of Government has NEVER been the Military. It has always been those IN Government who want a little more power and a little more control. The last person who wants a fight to the death is someone who has been in one. There may or may not be members of our Military who enjoy 'Killing People.' I‘ve known members of our armed forces who killed men in wars from WWI to WWII to Korea to Vietnam to the Gulf War to the War with Iraq. I have never met one who was proud of having killed. I’ve never met one who was anything but a little bit sick about having had to kill in order to protect his people back home."

You are almost entirely right here as to the majority of military people, but not entirely right. There are the soldiers like Oliver North who actually got into the killing and who took/take perverse pleasure in it. They are a minority, it is true. The heart of the problem here might be stated this way: what are you going to rely on, the basic sentiments of the rank and file soldiers, or the orders they're being given from above? Both of these factors need to be taken into account and radical/revolutionary changes in the society will have to rely on the fundamental interests of the rank and file soldiers and the successful turning of their role from on behalf of the rulers to that of the people.

But in the immediate circumstances of what we face today and will face in the future, what determines what the military will do? The ones in command. The brass and their civilian leadership.

The many atrocities that US troops have carried out abroad (not everyone of the individual soldiers everyday, but overall in the military's mission, strategy and tactics, as ordered by their commanders and by civilian authorities) are a fact and they are being carried out as we speak because they are being ordered to do these things and unless they are prepared to resist and face the consequences of their resistance (which a few brave ones are), then they will do and do do what they are ordered to do.

Our view of the situation we face has to rest not upon what we think or know the individual mentality of individual members of the DoD is. There are many honorable individuals in the DoD. The situation, however, is overall determined by a) the overall logic of the policies being implemented (the GWOT), and b) the orders from the top of the bureaucracy.
I would not be surprised if the federal government hires the formerly named, " Blackwater Inc.", to carry out missions against protestors which are now classified as low-level terrorists.

June 15, 2009 02:22 AM

Protestors? Terrorists? Someone REALLY needs to read the constitution.
Dennis: I agree in general with the following sentence

"The situation, however, is overall determined by the overall logic of the policies being implemented and the orders from the top of the bureaucracy."


But who are 'the top of the bureaucracy'? What are the fundamental principles of their work?

I think that there are some military fundamentals, which are quite clear from international standpoints, but which maybe aren't as clear from general American viewpoints.

The first thing is that it is quite impossible for American militarists to get any conventional military hegemony in the world.

It is true that American spending for weapons and for military in general is by far bigger than that by any other nation. But that doesn't make the United States of America superior in force in the conventional military sense compared to many other nations.

Already the war in Vietnam proved that with a bigger amount of conventional military technologies only you cannot beat a smaller determined army, if you don't either try to occupy the whole country or destroy the whole infrastructure of the country. The long and unsuccessful war in Afghanistan is another proof of the same thing.

Furthermore nowadays concerning the conventional military technology some nations notably Russia, China and India have got technologies, which are at least as powerful as those of America.

Even if America has got about 700 overseas military bases, they have got no way to get military hegemony in the conventional sense, because exactly those overseas bases make them very vulnerable.

The second thing is that in America they have already got such a law system, which gives to the military commander of the declared war the right to use any existing or later developed weapons, which they think are needed

There is no need to ask any permissions from the president to use for example nuclear weapons during the already started war.

The second thing means in my opinion that after 'the war on terrorism' has been started the military leaders can use any kinds of weapons they want. And they can use those weapons against anybody. Because they can declare anybody to be 'a terrorist'.

The first thing means that the military commanders of 'the war on terror' are bound to use all kinds of indirect methods like spying technologies, arresting, torturing and in general terrorizing the people ' to win the war'.

Because they know that by the conventional means they probably cannot win.


I wrote earlier a poem describing the situation:

Those who are still alive

today never
need to reflect
the tortured and killed of yesterday
tomorrow is
here always
for our armies to kill
those who are alive and free


But who are 'the top of the bureaucracy'?

I think it is we. It is all of us. We have to stop that madness.
Blackflon: Thank you.

Hannu: You are right that US military supremacy is an unattainable goal. The Iraq war is a good example of this (as was Vietnam as you point out): US forces won very quickly (in part because the Iraqi forces were headed up by utterly incompetent and cowardly leaders beginning with Hussein) but then have not been able and will not be able to secure this victory on the ground because they are widely despised by the Iraqi people who want them gone. The US spends not just more on military expenditures than any other nation but more than all of the other nations combined.

As for who is at the top of the bureaucracy, here is where I differ with you. It's not the people on the top. It's bureaucrats who answer to the bureaucracy and to the PTB.
"It's not the people on the top."

I agree, in practice people are not on the top. Because they don't want.

But in theory people are still on the top. They have given their rights. But they can take their rights back. People can still walk out of the army. They can stop serving for the militarists. But in practice they don't want to do it. Because they are afraid.
Dennis; Thank you for your reply. I agree with many of your points - particularly that a "War against Terrorism" is a war against a tactic - which is unwinnable. The current administrations move away from that phrase is welcome from many military professionals. I do not, however, agree with your characterization that our current operations are "unjust". Having served in ommand, I "dug deep" into my personal belief that there are in fact valid reasons to go to war. Searching for a means to express my thoughts in a more understandable fashion, I turned to books like "The Just War (Paul Ramsey)" and "Just War Against Terror (Jean Bethke Elshtain)", both of which draw from St. Augustine's fourth century "The City of God" [ a theoretical underpinning that served in part as a basis for Neurenberg and the UN Charter - at least among those trying to derive principles upon which one could build a legal foundation]. I firmly believe there are opportunities where war is in fact needed. I further believe that there is a right way and a wrong way to conduct war. I've personally been extremely careful with rules of engagement and the training of my men and women as such events became probable while I was deployed.

With respect to "Jus ad bellum", I agree with your portrayal of the UN Charter as a nation v nation use of force go/no go criterion in most cases. The exception is, even as Marjorie Cohn and Kathleen Gilberd note in their book "Rules of Disengagement" [certainly NOT a right-wing bit of writing], self defense. Arguments can (and have) been made as to the justification for a self defense exception.

"Just War" concepts apply criteria satisfying Jus ad Bellum requirements simply as protecting the innocent from certain harm. The four moral criteria that must be satisfied are (1) Openly declared by a legitimate authority; (2) In response to a specific instance of unjust aggression against one's own people or an innocent third party (a just cause); (3) Begun with the right intentions; and (4) As a last resort after other possibilities for redress and defense of the values at stake have been explored. A fifth criterion that should be applied is a reasonable chance of success.

Under "Just War" tenets, the protection of the Iraqi population from the predations of the Saddam Hussein regime, the protection of the Afghani population from the harsh and limiting rule of the Taliban, or even the rescue of the suffering population of Darfur may be approached as opportunities calling for use of military force.

With respect to "Jus in bello", I do believe that our military organization(s) attempt to conduct war in a just manner. Our responses are both proportional (although not designed to produce a "fair fight" - our goal is to make it not even close, we want to win convincingly at minimum risk to our own forces) and discriminatory - in that we take care to discriminate between combatants and non-combatants, although the latter is often not seen published in the popular press. I have viewed and complied with rules of engagement that increased risk for my own men and women to ensure we were avoiding non-combatant involvement in wartime operations. The USS Stark suffering a missile hit in the Arabian Gulf (I had been on a similar deployment just months before on the same class of ship) with many casualties is often attributed to the rules we operated under to ensure safety. These tragically went wrong in what is often attributed to the "fog of war" in the civilian airline shoot down by the USS Vincennes (I later worked with that Commanding Officer and have a deeper insight to the flaws that caused that incident). In sum, I believe the majority of our military forces "fight justly".

As kind of a personal question: Do you believe there can be justification for war? If so, do you believe that our United States military can in fact "fight justly"? If not, what should be changed to make the latter so?

Finally - for Token - I too had been in Boy Scouts and knew that I didn't enjoy camping anywhere near enough to join the Army or Marine Corps. Given that the Air Force had places like Minot, North Dakota (which seemed remote and forbidding to me - a kid raised near the beach) - I figured my best choice for service would be the Navy. I counted on being near the beach, and that has proved true.

Thanks for your further comments. It's a good conversation to be having, especially with someone with your background.

You write: "Under 'Just War' tenets, the protection of the Iraqi population from the predations of the Saddam Hussein regime, the protection of the Afghani population from the harsh and limiting rule of the Taliban, or even the rescue of the suffering population of Darfur may be approached as opportunities calling for use of military force."

I’m going to take the first two individually.

1) “the protection of the Iraqi population from the predations of the Saddam Hussein regime”: a) the Iraqi invasion was carried out under the lying pretense of WMD. This was a lie for two major reasons. One, Bush et al knew that there was no WMD. As the Downing Street Memos state: “Bush wanted to remove Saddam through military action justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” (Downing Street Memo, reproduced in its entirety in Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney, p. 196.) The decision had already been made to invade, the question was how best to justify it. Two, even if Hussein HAD HAD WMD, a pre-emptive attack on Iraq by the US constitutes the supreme war crime, per the UN Charter. Even if we ignore these two unignorable facts, if the US had really wanted to simply protect the Iraqi population from Hussein it would have long ago left Iraq rather than continued to occupy it into the indefinite future.
2) “the protection of the Afghani population from the harsh and limiting rule of the Taliban:” I’m tempted to say ditto here, but I will further say that if it were the case as you describe it that the invasion and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan were justified under Just War precepts, then any nation’s leader could claim that he or she had to invade because the people in that country were being mistreated by the existing government. There would be no bar from invasions happening all of the time by territorial hungry governments. That is why international law classifies pre-emptive invasions as the supreme war crime. Sure the Taliban is bad. But our invasion is making it worse, not only for the Afghani people (who want us out, just as they wanted and got the Russians out and other colonial powers before them for generation after generation), but also because our actions there are making the Taliban more popular. Take a look at this video, for example.

You also ask if I would support any wars. Yes, I would. I am not a pacifist. But there is no doubt that these wars are wars of choice and each and every one of them, the Iraq, the Afghan and the Pakistan wars, are unjust and unjustifiable.
Dennis - I too am enjoying the dialog.

Let me start by saying that I am not in a position to know the actions of the Executive Branch with regard to the specific justification used, having not been privy to the inner workings of the top leaders of our government. While there has been much made of WMD and other pronouncements in the popular press and even in some of the documentation released to date, I will leave it to the historians (or those with current levels of full access) to sort out the specifics.

It's difficult for me to frame this without sounding duplicitious. I recall a discussion (probably in some novel) about how people have three faces - one that they show to the world; one that they show to their intimates (wife, other family, maybe close friends), and one that they keep to themselves. I know that in my own personal experience there are both "public/published positions" and one's innermost thoughts - the latter much richer in detail and generally unsuitable for publication. While I'm sure the public account of going to war in Iraq captures the public/published positions, I'm very much less certain of the full picture and rationale.

I DO know that, in the execution of the order to go to war, I as a military member compared what I knew at a micro level to my moral underpinnings to ensure I was in fact executing legal orders. In comparing what I saw against the 5 criteria, here's how I came out:

(1) Openly declared - very true. Had the President take it to Congress; we all knew we were going to do this - it was very open in the declaration.

(2) In response to a specific unjust act - with respect to WMD, they WERE used against his own population, both in the north and south of Iraq - we have clear examples of poison gas being used against villages. There were multiple reports of other predations against the Iraqi population, although post-invasion uncovering of "rape rooms" and the like doesn't count in the run-up to war. Evidence of such items ahead of time remains (I expect) in the classified realm.

(3) Begun with the right intentions. Given (2), the stated goal of regieme change certainly seems to be the right intent.

(4) As a last resort, with opportunity for redress and a discussion of exactly what values are at stake - while this could be argued, there certainly seemed to be an extensive dialog and escalating sanctions exacted by the UN with no real effect. This is probably the weakest point. As a military member subject to civilian control by the Executive, I will tend to defer to the Executive in this area.

(5) With a reasonable chance of success - I certainly held this to be true.

With those criteria satisfied for me, I believe the orders were in fact legal and suitable for the actions the Military embarked upon.

To be clear about what may now appear to be a willingness to invade other countries - you write "if it were the case as you describe it that the invasion and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan were justified under Just War precepts, then any nation’s leader could claim that he or she had to invade because the people in that country were being mistreated by the existing government. There would be no bar from invasions happening all of the time by territorial hungry governments."

I believe criteria 3 and 4 specifically address this point. Hunger for territory is CERTAINLY NOT beginning "with the right intentions". The intent must be to resolve the unjust circumstance - not in answer to mineral rights, resource control, territorial ambition or any of the other myriad justifications used for war. To point 4 - doing this only as a "last resort" after allowing both the issue to be properly addressed by both sides, and having a thorough discussion of the values at stake amongst the global community at large are prerequisites. For example, current (reportedly) repressive actions by the Iranian leadership are in no way approaching "just war" criteria - we're still at the stage of sorting out what acts are happening, and discussing the values at stake. Not to mention the "reasonable chance of success" criteria [btw, the latter is most troublesome about Afganistan - I have high hopes for the new leadership].

We may remain on different ends of the political spectrum and even come to different judgements as to the validity of our positions. One of the great things about our country is the ability for us to have this discussion openly, and take actions via the ballot box or legal system to resolve our disputes.

There are problems with all of the Just War criteria in these wars. I will mention a few here, but first, re: your first paragraph:

"I am not in a position to know the actions of the Executive Branch with regard to the specific justification used, having not been privy to the inner workings of the top leaders of our government. While there has been much made of WMD and other pronouncements in the popular press and even in some of the documentation released to date, I will leave it to the historians (or those with current levels of full access) to sort out the specifics."

As a citizen in a so-called democracy stating that you aren't privy to critical information and therefore can't pass judgment and have to rely on the top leadership's good will means that you aren't really acting as if this was "by, for and of the people." Bureaucracies by their very nature lie and conceal. Max Weber observed this a long time ago. As a military officer I can see how you would be predisposed not to question very deeply (it comes with the job to a significant extent), but your stance on this question means that the people are prey to government lying and manipulation.

Secondly, the evidence is there to be seen. It doesn't require historians to sort out after the fact. It was available before the invasion (I was one of the people trying to get that info out to people then) and it is even more available now.

(This typing is hard as I just had surgery on my hand and it's all bandaged up. I'm going to have to postpone responding to the rest of this to later.)
Dennis - sorry about the hand! Must make it tough to keep at it - perhaps some good voice recognition software?

While I agree that government is of/for/by the people, I also believe we participate in a "representative" democracy vice a direct democracy. I do not expect to be privy to every element of decision making - I elect people to represent my interests, and "vote the bums out" if they don't. I personally keep abreast of events, and count on the the checks and balances of the system to assist me in my judgements (hence my micro-level "check" referenced above). These checks range from the three-branch construct we enjoy with the legislative, executive and judicial branches to the freedoms constitutionally guaranteed allowing a fully functioning "fourth estate".

I expect my representatives (with whom I hav met - as a constituent) to fulfil their functions equally as much as I expect the executive branch to do their sworn duty. And I keep involved in forums from the free-flowing Blog world to structured media in daily/weekly/monthly formats.

Rather than being "predisposed not to question very deeply", I believe that, as a military leader, I have an obligation to understand at a fairly deep level both the issues at stake and their relative merit.

For example, the actions reportedly taken by National Guard troops in confiscating personal firearms from New Orleans citizens falls outside of the bounds of correct and appropriate action - amounting to illegal orders. I would not be able to lead people in such work. I've personally had a few "bet your bars" moments in my career (where I drew lines that I would not cross and made public my position to those with greater levels of authority), and have fortunately been able to keep both my integrity and my career. I realize that is not always the case, and I sympthazize with your previous observations about whistle-blowers.
Craig: I don't have a voice recognition program. Maybe one day. I'm going to make this quick because typing is hard right now. Ordinarily I would respond in greater detail to your comments.

Appreciate the fact that you believe it's your duty to know what the government is ordering you to do. Not the typical stance of someone in military uniform. Speaks well of you.

However, your comments indicate that there is a very large gap between what you believe to be going on and what has in fact been going on. I don't say that as a criticism. Much of the public is similarly situated as you are right now in that respect.

I would urge you to do some more reading and would actually recommend, sorry for the personal plug, but I think it would be very germane, my own book to you. Impeach the President: the Case Against Bush and Cheney.
Craig: I am going to try to respond to some more of your points on Just War.

As for #1 legitimate authority, see my No Paper Trail Left Behind: the Theft of the 2004 Presidential Election (which also covers 2000 in part). As is well-known, the 2000 election was given to Bush by the Supreme Court, not by the voters in Florida. What is less well known is that by any criteria of counting at all, Bush lost in Florida in 2000.

As for the Congress: they were systematically lied to about the reasons for the war. Their "authorization" is based on lies.

Recall the sequence of lies told about why this war should happen: first it was a false linking of 9/11 to Iraq (we now have learned that they tortured individuals to get them to try to link Iraq to al-Qaeda) and WMD, then after the invasion it was getting rid of Hussein to "liberate" the people. The gassing of the Kurds by Hussein happened during the time that Don Rumsfeld and the US government were backing Hussein in his war against Iran. It would be the height of hypocrisy for the US government to cite this as a basis to later on invade Iraq.

More later...
Struggle against terrorism is a world war. It needs to be conducted all methods which were invented by mankind: both political, and economic, and military men, and by cooperation of special services of the different countries. The only thing, that I exclude, is a necessity of the so-called economic help to the countries which lag behind and thanks to it generate terrorism because these countries, as a rule, cannot apprehend the economic help. To help it is necessary strong, what already leave a backwardness condition. To the countries which "fail", and their majority to help it is not necessary. Probably, to them it is necessary to apply any other methods of influence, to be fenced off from them or to revive the imperialism theory in a new appearance.
my link:webguide
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I consider, that as the biggest error which have made the USA after an attack on September, 11th, 2001, there was a purpose and threat exaggeration. After all then in the world was, at the best, two or three ten the people, capable to organise and carry out such terrorist attacks against the USA. Something like a prophecy became result of our bad management, which in itself was realised. At present comparison with cold war seems to me doubtful. Islam cannot be compared to communism, and Islamic radicalism in itself is more difficult as it is more difficult cultural phenomenon in comparison with ideological threat. Such speech is way of mobilisation of public opinion round the president, but at the same time such manner undermines possibility of understanding of a problem.
Jess: I would disagree with your overall assessment of the war on terror. The measures being used by our government to fight this so-called war are viciously counter-productive - torture and pre-emptive wars and occupations are creating more anti-state terrorists rather than fewer. The people principally responsible for doing this actually know this but are continuing to do it because their real aims aren't to stem terrorism. If it were, they wouldn't be involved in using state terrorism themselves.

Lara: I agree that the 9/11 attacks were and are being used as a justification for terrible policies. The jihadists are, as you say, different from socialism/communism. They represent the opposite pole of the same stupidity: imperialism and reactionary theocracy v. reactionary theocratic opponents.
Give what a rest Walter?
From my viewpoint is is quite clear that '9/11' was used to start unjust wars. And the same pretext can still be used to start unjust wars anywhere and to arrest anybody.

They never gave out any proof about, who made 9/11 attack. It seems to be most plausible that it was arranged by the American military complex to be able to start the war in Afghanistan and related areas to continue building the imperialist empire.

I never believed 'the official stories' about 9/11. They were much too far-fetched for outsiders, only Americans could really believe them, and they believed, because many of them had almost no choice.

You might understand my viewpoint by reading this:

"Naturally the common people don't want war: Neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, IT IS THE LEADERS of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is TELL THEM THEY ARE BEING ATTACKED, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. IT WORKS THE SAME IN ANY COUNTRY."

Hermann Goering, President of the Reichstag,
Nazi Party, and Luftwaffe Commander in Chief,
from Gilbert, G.M. (1947). Nurenberg Diary, New York: Signet

The above quote by Hermann Goering was take from the website:
Military Dictatorship USA. By Dr. Norman D. Livergood

Many Americans opened their eyes only after understanding the lies to start the war in Iraq. The war in Afghanistan was started so quickly that most of the people were still shocked after '9/11'. In my eyes the war in Afghanistan is as criminal as the war in Iraq.

Thanks for the informative post. I'm a little late to seeing it but still enjoyed it.
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