February 7, 2012
No Sex, Many Lies, One Videotape, and a Soldier's Unnecessary DeathBy James Simpson
It is not a movie. It could be labeled a comedy, a farce, even a Greek tragedy, except that people really are dying. It is, in fact, an absolutely abhorrent, disgraceful, and unacceptable demonstration of the hidebound, self-serving attitude, omnipresent throughout the federal bureaucracy and among many in our political establishment, that my agency, my mission, my job is more important than anyone or anything else.
It is called protecting turf, and the ugly fact, as any government analyst can tell you, is that the federal government spends more time doing it than practically anything else. (And Obama wants to give our medical care over to them, no less!) It is bad enough that these petty turf battles squander agency time and resources, but when they dictate policies regulating combat operations, they can become deadly.
Last month, we brought you the story about Specialist Chazray Clark, the soldier wounded in Afghanistan by an IED who died due to delays because an unarmed medevac helicopter but a few miles away could not launch without armed escort. This story first came to light through the intrepid front-line reporting of Michael Yon. And yes, he did provide a videotape. No sex, though -- only the agonizing moments waiting for the helicopter to arrive, while Chazray's life slipped away.
Army policy claims, incomprehensibly, that medevac helicopters must be unarmed and must be marked with the Red Cross logo to satisfy the Geneva Conventions. However, the Conventions specifically allow for an exclusion when the enemy does not abide by it -- not even a joke question with al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
But even if the enemy abides by the Conventions, no signatory is obligated to wear the red cross. Doing so affords protection only when the wearer also follows specific guidelines such as not flying over the enemy, or getting permission to do so beforehand. Imagine what the Taliban would say to that! We fly over the enemy in Red Cross-marked helicopters all the time, in clear violation of these Geneva Conventions guidelines, making a mockery of the Army's claim that they are abiding by anything at all.
Those red crosses are irrelevant at best and a nice target at worst. None of the other services use them, and all their rescue choppers are armed. But the Army foolishly persists in a policy that requires the ubiquitous Red Cross markings on medevacs, and demands they go unarmed, in supposed adherence to a set of conventions that assume that the enemy will play by Queensbury rules. But then they plainly ignore the spirit of the convention by requiring that unarmed medevacs be escorted by helicopter gunships. At least they have that much sense!
Following a devastating piece in Soldier of Fortune by Dalton Fury, former Delta Force officer and author of Killing Bin Laden; our column in the Washington Times; unrelenting pressure from Yon -- even CBS weighed in -- and finally, a letter from Congressman Todd Akin (R-MO) demanding some answers, the joint chiefs of staff produced a response.
That is, they sent a response to Akin disputing our assertions, but they said the response wasn't from them, and though they didn't disagree with the conclusions in the response, they really couldn't say who wrote it or where it came from, even though Akin's staff said it originated with the JCS...
Michael Yon produced a devastating point-counterpoint analysis of DoD's assertions. And as DoD dithers, more and more military helicopter pilots, both active-duty and retired, are weighing in. All agree: the policy is wrong.
Yet, as the policy looks more inane by the moment, the Army becomes, if anything, more obstinate. Why? Why so much obfuscation? Why so many lies? Are they so petty that they can't admit to being wrong over something so simple? Or is there something we've overlooked?
When people persist in irrational behavior to the point of absurdity, when they stubbornly continue to demand their way, however ridiculous, then there is almost certainly something else at work. Their behavior may not be irrational at all.
In fact, the Geneva Conventions make for a straw-man argument. It purposely poses as an inanely PC policy that everyone can complain about but in fact provides cover for the real truth, which is much more embarrassing. The real reason why we have unarmed, red cross-marked helicopters plying the dangerous skies of Afghanistan is due to an Army internal bureaucratic turf battle about who controls those helicopters! Those helos require maintenance and manpower, and lots of tax dollars to go with all that. There is also lots of prestige in having your own fleet -- plenty of exclusive transportation for the top brass, too.
If they arm helos and strip off the red crosses, then presto, they are just regular Army helos -- no special gig, though they can easily still be reserved for medevac. American troops are dying just so one Army bureaucracy can have its own designated fleet! We have suspected as much for a while, but our worst fears were confirmed when we received the following message. For obvious reasons we cannot disclose a name, but this active-duty Army officer is very close to the action:
Shortly after that, we received another message:
So there you have it. The Red Cross has nothing to do with the Geneva Conventions, but rather provides a convenient way for certain members of the top brass to remain relevant. Taxpayer dollars; scarce Army resources; and, most importantly, the precious lives of our front line forces are being crucified on a Red Cross -- a cross which in this case symbolizes not the Geneva Conventions, not stoic dedication to the Hippocratic Oath, but rather a blood sacrifice to the self-serving priorities of the high command. And in house, away from prying eyes, they're even admitting it.
One can never underestimate the determination of some bureaucrats to get their way, so if even this revelation won't shame them, perhaps a plea from Chazray Clark's mother will (edited due to space constraints):
If Chazray's own mother can't convince them, I simply don't know what to say.
Businessman, media consultant, and freelance writer James Simpson is a former White House budget office staff analyst. His writings have been published at American Thinker, Accuracy in Media, Big Government, Big Peace, Daily Caller, Washington Times, WorldNetDaily, and others. His regular column is DC Independent Examiner.
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