Saturday, November 07, 2009

A wolf in sheepdog's clothing

Lately, we've been studying Task Force Smith, the ill-fated first response to the Korean War in 1950.  Untrained solders with WWII surplus equipment were sent to stop the North Korean Army, with the very misguided belief that the NorKs wouldn't dare mix it up with the US, because we were the victors in WWII.

Thousands of US soldiers died, because of two things:  Hubris and Ill-preparedness.  The Hubris was on the shoulders of their higher-echelon leaders who thought that their being Americans would give the the North Korans pause.  What ended up happening was US troops faced North Korean Tanks with their rifles and pistols, and no anti-tank weapons at all.  The ill-preparedness was also on the shoulders of the chain of command.  These troops were a constabulary force from Japan.  They were not trained for warfighting, other than their basic training.  Most were not even WWII veterans.  They were in the midst of reconstructing Japan, and just happened to be the closest thing MacArthur had to throw at the North Koreans.  (You could write a book, and many have, about MacArthur's hubris.)

Unlike Ralph Peters, I am not going to redirect the blame for the mass murder at Fort Hood onto political leaders, senior Army leaders, chains of command, or anyone but Nadal Malik Hasan, who I will refer to henceforth as That Murdering Sack of Shit* (TMSOS).  What we have is a man who chose to murder American soldiers, a man who equated suicide bombers (premeditated murderers) with a soldier who throws himself on a grenade to save his comrades (instinctual gallantry.)

TMSOS MADE A CLEAR, PREMEDITATED DECISION TO MURDER SOLDIERS.  TMSOS DID NOT GO TEMPORARILY INSANE.  TMSOS brought two pistols to work that day, and extra magazines as well.  This was a planned attack against American Soldiers, based around political and religious beliefs.  It is an act of terror in the same vein as Timothy McVeigh, who murdered because of his political beliefs, and The 19 Saudis who murdered 2974 on 11 September 2001 for their (the hijackers) religious beliefs.  TMSOS is a terrorist.  Having said and believing that, I am glad that isn't the charge he's currently facing.

You see, if He's charged with 13 murders and 31 attempts, a military court can have a quick decision to make on his guilt.  ALL of his appeals in the military system are based on whether or not the trail was functionally correct--i.e. was the process correct. The process of the trial is what matters, and only if the proceedings are at fault is another trial granted.  If it is adjudged an act of terror, he could be sent to GITMO, and find himself retiring in Fiji.  If the military keeps his criminal trail within the UCMJ, his 12 peers will all be military officers.  Men and women who've dedicated their lives to leading and protecting soldiers are not likely to lose any sleep at night by giving him the death penalty.  From the time he's convicted until he eventually is put to death, he'll spend every last minute of his life in solitary confinement at the US Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth.  He'll have to be in solitary because all of the convicts at the DB are former solders, many of them are officers who've committed a crime, but even then, they still have some sense of duty and honor.  TMSOS would find himself beaten to death,  quick fast and in a hurry, by fellow inmates if left in general population.

But enough about TMSOS--as a leader charged with protecting troops, I must look at this incident with an intent to prevent it from ever happening again.  How can we (as leaders) ensure that no soldier will ever be able to murder or seriously wound 44 fellow soldiers?  We know that banning concealed weapons didn't work, or this wouldn't have happened.  Registering weapons (which is required for all weapons on post) simply didn't work.  No other "prevention or control" method worked.  A wolf in sheepdog's clothing violated several orders and regulations that day, before he murdered. 

There is only one clear option if we want to prevent, or at least limit the severity of these types of attacks in the future:  allow soldiers (who trust each other implicitly, with their lives in combat) to carry concealed privately owned weapons.  If a soldier is A)  Allowed by statue to own a pistol, and B)  Allowed by the state to carry a concealed weapon in states which allow it or, in states that don't, the provost martial can authorize CCWs for on-post carry, then he should be allowed to do so.  Keeping us unarmed makes us just as ripe a target for terrorists as schools.  If only 5% of the 39 people killed or wounded had a weapon to defend themselves, two people would have had the means to stop TMSOS.  How many would be alive and uninjured if our policies for "force protection" actually allowed the force to protect itself.  Remember, I'm not suggesting issuing weapons for carry, just allowing soldiers to carry a concealed, privately owned weapon, on base, in and out of uniform.  We trust these soldiers in combat.  We trust them on ranges and in training.  We trust them with all manner of deadly and dangerous weapons and explosives.  Yet for some reason, we don't trust them to carry a concealed weapon.
Every soldier and civilian in that gym was at the mercy of  TMSOS, and he wasn't showing any mercy that day.  Only when a civilian contacted police officer arrived (minutes later, when lifespans were measured in seconds) was TMSOS stopped.  Sadly, until this policy is changed, we will continue to be sheepdogs when deployed but sheep at the mercy of wolves, or wolves in sheepdog's clothing, when we are at home, because we are forced by our superiors' policies to be defenseless.  All I ask for is the answer to just one question:
Can you demonstrate one time or place, throughout all history, where the average person was made safer by restricting access to handheld weapons?
And since safety and comprehensive risk management is at the cornerstone of what we believe and how we plan, shouldn't we focus on how we can best protect the force from future incidents of mass murdering terrorists attacking us or our families or children on post?  We can't hire an MP to put on every street corner and in every building (because they would soon just spend all their time setting up speed traps for driving 22 in a 20--which is my perception of how MPs spend 99% of their "out in public" duty time.)  We can't catch everyone coming on post with a weapon.  We can't take all the privately owned weapons on post and store them in unit Arms rooms.  Because in the end, it'll be someone who doesn't follow the regulation to secure their weapons who then goes and murders unarmed soldiers, or worse, their family members.

I can only see one clear answer to protecting the force from future occurrences of mass-murder.  Maybe that shows a lack of imagination or understanding on my part, but at least, unlike J. Edgar Hoover and FDR, I'm not advocating rounding up every person of a certain ethnicity or religion and putting them in concentration camps.  I'm just suggesting allowing soldiers the ability to defend themselves, and each other, from this ever happening again.  I'd even bet (if we are so afraid of concealed weapons,) that many would opt to carry openly, if that were allowed in uniform.  Being that we ARE a stratified society, the Army policy doesn't have to even be fair.  If it's a trust issue, the commander can limit the regulation to include only Officers and NCO's,  or just officers. (Which has historical precedent.)

We trust each other with our lives.  Let us protect each other as well.


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