Special Problems in the Special Forces
November 21, 2019
“Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking.” – H.L. Mencken
The Enemy Of My Enemy Still May Not Be A Great Guy
In July Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL, was tried and acquitted of murdering a teenage captive in Iraq, but found guilty of the lesser offense of posing with a corpse. Last week his sentence was reduced by President Trump, who simultaneously issued full pardons to two other servicemen, one convicted of murder and one awaiting trial on murder charges. The reprieves went against the advice of top defense officials and were viewed by many as showing disregard for the military justice system.
Gallagher’s punishment had been a drop in rank from chief petty officer to petty officer first class. Trump overturned the order and directed the sailor’s rank be restored. A Navy spokeswoman said Tuesday night: “We have implemented the president’s order to restore Chief Gallagher’s paygrade.”
Later a defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the commander of the Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Adm. Collin Green, would order a review board be convened to ascertain whether Gallagher and three of his supervising officers should be allowed to remain in the elite SEAL corps. The three officers, Lt. Cmdr Robert Breisch, Lt. Jacob Portier and Lt. Thomas MacNeil, had testified at Gallagher’s trial. A naval investigation found that troop commander Breisch was informed about the killings of the ISIS detainees and others multiple times, but that his response was to “let it go.”
Expulsion from the SEALS is not a demotion in rank. Green was quoted earlier this year as saying lack of discipline within the SEALS was “a problem.”
How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Pope
- Pope Francis is touring Asia this week. His journey begins Wednesday in Bangkok, Thailand, and is expected to include visits to atomic bomb sites in Nagasaki and Hiroshima, Japan on Saturday. The danger of nuclear weapons is of special concern to the pontiff; in 2017 he said their possession should be “firmly condemned” because of the risk of accidental detonation.
- Francis’s two predecessors, St. John XXIII and St. John Paul II, called for the abolition of nuclear weapons, yet taught that their possession could be justified to deter attacks from other powers.
- In a video message to Japan in advance of his visit Francis said the use of nuclear weapons is “immoral.” The mayors of both Nagasaki and Hiroshima have called for the country to sign and ratify the UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which supports a world-wide ban and eventual elimination. (WSJ)
Don’t Know What You Got Till It’s
- Beginning last Saturday, amid raging protests over rising fuel prices, the Iranian government imposed a near-total shutdown of the internet. The move blocks all access via fixed-line and mobile providers, leaving only state media and official government reports about the country-wide demonstrations obtainable.
- According to the executive director of NetBlocks, an NGO that monitors internet governance, the blackout is the most severe disconnection it has tracked in any country “in terms of its technical complexity and breadth.”
- NetBlocks’ data shows the switch off itself was so complex it took 24 hours to complete. More than 100 people have been killed in the protests and the subsequent government crackdown, but Amnesty International said Tuesday the actual death toll could be much higher. Iran’s government hasn’t released an official count of the number of people arrested, injured or killed since demonstrations began last Friday. (CNN)
Protest Or Pro-trade?
- The US Senate passed a bill this week that compels the government to support Hong Kong pro-democracy activists by requiring the imposition of sanctions on Chinese and Hong Kong officials responsible for human rights abuses in the territory.
- If President Trump signs the bill into law, the State Department would be required to annually review the special autonomous status it grants Hong Kong in trade considerations. That status is separate from the relationship with mainland China and if revoked, it would mean less favorable trade conditions between the US and Hong Kong. (NYT)
- In Warning to Hong Kong’s Courts, China Shows Who Is Boss (NYT, $)
- Former UK employee in Hong Kong ‘tortured in 15-day China ordeal’ (Guardian)
Additional World News
- Ouside the Wire: When the US entered Afghanistan, local DJs were hired to help with the war effort. And when the American military pulled out, they abandoned those voices, leaving many of them for dead. (Verge)
- Fossil fuel production on track for double the safe climate limit :‘We’re in a deep hole over the climate crisis and we need to stop digging,’ warn experts (Guardian)
- Philippines’ Duterte Says He Will Ban E-Cigarettes, Threatens To Arrest Vapers (NPR)
- China’s New $21 Billion High-Tech Manufacturing Fund Likely to Rankle U.S. (WSJ, $)
- ‘Zone Rouge’: An army of children toils in African mines: How mica mined by kids in Madagascar ends up in products used by millions of Americans. (NBC)
- In secular India, it’s getting tougher to be Muslim (CNN)
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Gordon Sondland’s Smoking Gun
- Up to this point in the House impeachment proceedings, a key Republican talking point was that no witness could directly tie President Trump to a demand that Ukraine publicly announce investigations into political rivals in exchange for a White House meeting and military aid. On Wednesday Gordon Sondland, Trump’s ambassador to the UN, changed that.
- In his opening statement Sondland recounted several conversations between himself and Trump about Ukraine opening two investigations: one into Burisma, a company where former Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, was on the board, and another into conspiracies that it was actually Ukraine that had meddled in the 2016 election.
- To answer the simple question: Was there a quid pro quo? Sondland said: “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and the White House meeting, the answer is yes.”
- Later Sondland said “Everyone was in the loop. It was no secret.” By “everyone” Sondland said he meant Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Vice President Mike Pence, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and others.
- Sondland insisted he hadn’t made the connection between Burisma and the Bidens, only saying Trump wanted the Ukrainians to investigate the energy company. But he did manage to undercut a key Trump defense when he said all Ukraine’s president had to do was “announce investigations,” not “actually have to do them.” Legal experts say this is a critical distinction. (CNN, WaPo)
Additional USA News
- Tens of thousands of deaths linked to weak US air pollution rules – study: Researchers linked nine causes of death with a certain type pollution when reviewing medical records of deceased veterans (Guardian)
- Nearly All Mass Shooters Since 1966 Have Had 4 Things in Common: The largest study of mass shooters ever funded by the U.S. government reveals stunning information about perpetrators. (VICE)
- A White House Now ‘Cannibalizing Itself’: Even for a president who rarely spares the rhetorical howitzer, this was something new. (NYT, $) & The Trump Presidency Is in Free Fall: A series of crises has again brought the administration below its baseline of chaos—but this time, can the president recover? (Atlantic, $)
- The Audacity of Pete Buttigieg: This time last year, you had no idea who Pete Buttigieg was. Now it’s clear that whether or not he wins in 2020, he’ll be shaping our politics for years. Jason Zengerle on the improbable arrival and urgent ambition of America’s most famous mayor. (GQ)
Today’s Meeting Agenda: Assuaging My Fragile Ego
- Work meetings — an ever increasing phenomenon in search of a purpose. Patrik Hall is a political scientist who has investigated an apparent contradiction in how people can have a low opinion of work meetings, yet their numbers keep increasing.
- This rise in meetings reflects changes in the workforce. Fewer people are doing and making things. More people are strategizing, advising, consulting and managing, and more managerial and “strategy” jobs are generating more meetings, which can turn out to merely be outlets for people at work to show off their status, or to express frustration, rather than being avenues for decision-making.
- Managerial roles are often not very well defined. “Many managers don’t know what to do,” Hall says, and when they are “unsure of their role,” they respond by generating more meetings. Others might “find this frustrating and question why they must endure [meetings].”
- Sometimes the point isn’t really about making decisions, but simply asserting the authority of an organization and reminding people that they’re a part. And it should be remembered that the “equality” of participants is important. When meetings are dominated by different levels of status, they become a “power struggle,” and can leave participants feeling marginalized and frustrated. (BBC)
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