Thursday, January 7, 2010

Act Two: al-Qaeda, TRANSCOM, The Geneva Conventions & The Worst Case

When I first read the above Dec 4, 2009 article (Transportation officials confident in Afghan deployment), I felt like my U.S. patriotism had been raped. I could only read it as if I were an al-Qaeda strategist, and it horrified me that the U.S. military was so lax and so incompetent that thoughts of what the enemy might think seemingly never entered anyone’s mind throughout the entire chain of command. Either that or no one is reading the paper trail that has become the public record of past events and future plans.

Ask yourself: If you were an al-Qaeda strategist, how would you respond to this information: "On passenger movements, 95 percent of the troops that go into Afghanistan go by commercial air," General Lally said. “We move equipment by surface. It arrives in Karachi, Pakistan, we off-load it and truck it up to whatever base, and fly the units in.”?

Any ten-year-old boy who has ever spent an afternoon playing war with his friends knows exactly what an al-Qaeda strategist would think if given that information. Plainly, an al-Qaeda strategist would decide to go all-out in a concerted effort to attack any and all “commercial air” flights that could possibly be carrying U.S. troops either to or from Afghanistan, especially any flights either to or from Karachi, Pakistan.

When the Christmas Day in-air suicide attack by the Nigerian al-Qaeda terrorist failed, I was sickened by the prospect that al-Qaeda was doing precisely what I thought they might do, and I expected that news reports would link the attack to the regrettable news article I had read about U.S. troop deployment plans. No such link has been made, so I am now making it here.

But where do President Obama and the U.S. military go from here? ABSOLUTELY, both President Obama and the Pentagon Joint Chiefs of Staff MUST go on a worldwide television broadcast to state with undeniable clarity just what exactly is meant by Army Brig. Gen. Michael Lally’s statement: "On passenger movements, 95 percent of the troops that go into Afghanistan go by commercial air."

Furthermore, the following excerpt from the same article also needs to be explained:
The commercial partners have "stepped up to the plate" for this movement and for flights into CENTCOM in general, TRANSCOM officials said. There has been no need to call up the Civil Reserve Air Fleet to handle the flow to the region, and officials do not expect to use this option.

"Our commercial partners have been outstanding," an official said.

“TRANSCOM officials” — plural! “Our commercial partners” — plural!

Who are the “commercial partners” that have agreed to deploy U.S. troops to Afghanistan? For the safety of all worldwide commercial air passengers, those “commercial partners” MUST be identified. Also, those “commercial partners” MUST describe precisely how the U.S. troop deployments are being made: by route, including points of origin, stopovers, and points of destination; by whether the commercial air flights are entirely dedicated to U.S. troops and military supplies, or whether any of the flights at any time also carry civilian passengers; by whether the planes being flown for U.S. troop deployments have standard commercial air exterior markings, or whether those planes have repainted exteriors so they are only identifiable as U.S. military planes; and by whether any commercial air flights that carry both U.S. troops and civilian passengers are receiving appropriate extra protections, and what those protections are.

Unfortunately, my guess is this: Because the U.S. Army is now regularly deploying State National Guard troops to overseas combat zones, and deploys those troops in entire Companies of local soldiers who gather together in their hometowns for farewell ceremonies instead of each individual soldier traveling alone to an Army base to report for duty and deployment, it seems likely that commercial air flights all over the Nation are transporting U.S. troops from local airports to airports in the vicinity of U.S. military bases where the flown-in troops are then met by U.S. military transport trucks and buses for the final leg of their journey to their base staging areas. In the past, civilians became troops after they arrived at U.S. military bases. Now, the National Guard civilians don their uniforms and pack their gear at home or at their local Armory and become soldiers before kissing their loved ones goodbye. The consequence of this ill-fated reality is that any and all commercial air flights in the U.S. are potentially carrying military personnel.

Maybe this reality has always been an “of course” reality, but now it has become a “certainty” reality in 95% of the cases according to U.S. Army Brig. Gen. Michael Lally.

Though it seems ludicrous to cite the Geneva Conventions in light of U.S. military behaviors at Abu Ghraib and at Guantanamo Bay, consider Protocol 1, Section II, Article 44, paragraph 3, which reads:

3. In order to promote the protection of the civilian population from the effects of hostilities, combatants are obliged to distinguish themselves from the civilian population while they are engaged in an attack or in a military operation preparatory to an attack. Recognizing, however, that there are situations in armed conflicts where, owing to the nature of the hostilities an armed combatant cannot so distinguish himself, he shall retain his status as a combatant, provided that, in such situations, he carries his arms openly:

(a) during each military engagement, and
(b) during such time as he is visible to the adversary while he is engaged in a military deployment preceding the launching of an attack in which he is to participate.

Acts which comply with the requirements of this paragraph shall not be considered as perfidious within the meaning of Article 37, paragraph 1 (c).

Or Part IV, Section I, Chapter II, Article 51, paragraphs 7 and 8, which reads:

7. The presence or movements of the civilian population or individual civilians shall not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations, in particular in attempts to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield, favour or impede military operations. The Parties to the conflict shall not direct the movement of the civilian population or individual civilians in order to attempt to shield military objectives from attacks or to shield military operations.

8. Any violation of these prohibitions shall not release the Parties to the conflict from their legal obligations with respect to the civilian population and civilians, including the obligation to take the precautionary measures provided for in Article 57.

In light of all the intended niceties and the playing-by-the-rules sentiments of the Geneva Conventions, one need only remember the events of September 11, 2001. Certainly, our enemies — al-Qaeda —do not trouble themselves with The Rules of War, or the need to remain agreeably civilized when engaged in hostilities. Indeed, al-Qaeda has openly demonstrated its willingness to target civilians with malicious and deadly intent.

In my opinion, the supreme arrogance, reckless foolishness, and taunting defiance of TRANSCOM in announcing publicly that “95 percent of the troops that go into Afghanistan go by commercial air" demands the harshest public censure possible from the Obama Administration. Can action on this matter wait? Brig. Gen. Lally was quoted above as saying: "The units that have to be there in January obviously must fly, and we've already started working that.”

To get very sober very fast about worse case scenarios, one unspeakable observation needs to be stated plainly: the worst case is not on-board suicide bombers blowing up in-flight commercial airliners, the worst case is surface-to-air missile attacks. Read:

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