Handcuffing Our Troops

We have way too many lawyers, desk jockeys, and bureaucrats making decisions about whether our troops in the field get to pull the trigger and it has undoubtedly gotten a lot of our troops killed and has kept a lot of high value enemy targets alive.

Stories like the one you are about to read are an absolute outrage and it is shameful that George Bush has allowed this to go on,

The frustrations of the snake eaters are well illustrated by the recollections of Adam Rice, the operations sergeant of a Special Forces A-Team working out of a safe house near Kandahar in 2002. With his close-cropped orange hair and beard, wearing a yellow Hawaiian shirt around the safe house, Rice was not the sort to shine at inspections at boot camp. But he had lived in Kabul as a child (his father had been a USAID worker) and he had been a Special Forces operator for more than two decades. In July 2002, a CIA case officer told Rice that a figure believed to be Mullah Omar, the one-eyed chief of the Taliban, had been tracked by aerial drone to a location in the Shahikot Valley, a short flight to the north. The Taliban chief and his entourage would be vulnerable to a helicopter assault, but the Americans had to move quickly.

Rice was not optimistic about getting timely permission. Whenever he and his men moved within five kilometers of the safe house, he says, they had to file a request form known as a 5-W, spelling out the who, what, when, where and why of the mission. Permission from headquarters took hours, and if shooting might be involved, it was often denied. To go beyond five kilometers required a CONOP (for “concept of operations”) that was much more elaborate and required approval from two layers in the field, and finally the Joint Special Operations Task Force at Baghram air base near Kabul. To get into a fire fight, the permission of a three-star general was necessary. “That process could take days,” Rice recalled to NEWSWEEK. He often typed forms while sitting on a 55-gallon drum his men had cut in half to make a toilet seat. “We’d be typing in 130-degree heat while we’re crapping away with bacillary dysentery and sometimes the brass at Kandahar or Baghram would kick back and tell you the spelling was incorrect, that you weren’t using the tab to delimit the form correctly.”

But Rice made his request anyway. Days passed with no word. The window closed; the target–whether Mullah Omar or not–moved on. Rice blames risk aversion in career officers, whose promotions require spotless (“zero defect”) records–no mistakes, no bad luck, no “flaps.” The cautious mind-set changed for a time after 9/11, but quickly settled back in. High-tech communication serves to clog, rather than speed the process. With worldwide satellite communications, high-level commanders back at the base or in Washington can second-guess even minor decisions.

“Rice blames risk aversion in career officers, whose promotions require spotless (“zero defect”) records–no mistakes, no bad luck, no “flaps.”

The ultimate blame should probably go to the mainstream media, which attempts to publicly crucify our own troops at every opportunity while practically giving a free pass to our enemies. The military has obviously gotten so gunshy about being burned by press reports about bombed weddings and murdered “civilians” who may or may not exist in the first place or may be insurgents, that they’re putting a much higher value on avoiding bad press than killing the enemy. That’s a mistake and it’s one that George W. Bush, as Commander-In-Chief, is personally responsible for rectifying. It should have been done long ago…

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