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Robert's rules

By Mark Alexander
web posted June 29, 2009

Anyone familiar with the procedures for deliberative assemblies will recognize "Robert's Rules of Order," a manual authored by a 19th-century Army officer and adopted as the standard for official proceedings. Of course, a discussion of parliamentary procedure would be an unwelcome and out-of-order topic for us , but there are some rules we should consider amid the endless bantering about how to treat jihadi detainees.

To that end, I ask that you consider another "Robert's Rules," those of Robert Rogers, an 18th-century military officer who authored "The True Plan of Discipline" for his Rangers in 1759.

Rogers is considered the Father of the U.S. Army Rangers, and the 75th Ranger Regiment can trace its heritage of unconventional tactics and ethos to Rogers' standing orders for his Rangers.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

It is worth revisiting Rogers' unconventional tactics in order to better understand all the controversy over the CIA's unconventional methods for coercing actionable intelligence from three terrorist Jihadis at Gitmo: 9/11 architect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and his friends Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

In 2007, The New York Times published a report about jihadi captives being subject to "torture." In a New York second, a little known presidential aspirant, Barack Hussein Obama, made this issue a centerpiece of his campaign and a rallying point for his vocal base of Socialist peaceniks. Obama declared he would put an end to the "torture" and close the Guantanamo holding facility.

Obama is now trying to make good on that promise, but not without compromising U.S. national security, emboldening our enemies by way of his timidity and lack of resolve, and sustaining substantial casualties among his political ranks. (See Nancy Pelosi's tortured efforts to run for cover: "We were not -- I repeat -- were not told that waterboarding or any other of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used.")

In 2002, the U.S. Office of Legal Counsel issued a secret memorandum approving what former CIA director Porter Goss called "a professional interrogation technique," waterboarding. The technique was described as follows: "A cloth is placed over the forehead and eyes. Water is then applied to the cloth in a controlled manner. Once the cloth is saturated and completely covers the mouth and nose, air flow is slightly restricted for 20 to 40 seconds due to the presence of the cloth ... During those 20 to 40 seconds, water is continuously applied (from a canteen cup or small watering can). The cloth is lifted, and the individual is allowed to breathe unimpeded for three or four full breaths ... The procedure may then be repeated [but] would not last more than 20 minutes in any one application."

For many years, waterboarding has been used in the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training course for U.S. military special operators including Navy SEALs, Marine Force Recon and Army Delta Force. Everyone survives it, but only after revealing whatever information they were told previously to withhold. In other words, waterboarding is not deadly, but it is effective.

The Eighth Amendment to our Constitution stipulates, "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted."

Obama has argued that waterboarding constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment."

I beg to differ.

First, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri have no constitutional rights. As non-U.S. citizens, they may have some rights under international conventions to which the U.S. is a signatory, but no constitutional rights.

Second, using a dull blade to saw the head off of a non-combatant captive as Khalid did to American journalist Daniel Pearl, and proudly videotaping Pearl's execution for the world to see, constitutes torture by any civilized standards -- which is to say that "cruel and unusual punishment" is, and necessarily should be, relative to cultural practice.

In any context other than the warped alternate universe that exists inside the Beltway, it is absurd to suggest that waterboarding, sleep and spatial deprivation, face-slapping, and loop-playing objectionable music constitute "torture." But for those in the political class who begin their day with mochaccinos, cappuccinos or frappuccinos, spend their day receiving constituent kowtows, and end it with expensive Chardonnays -- missing a tennis match or golf game is torture.

Robert Rogers and his Rangers, however, understood that defeating one's enemy, particularly in unconventional asymmetric warfare v. conventional or symmetric warfare, requires unconventional methods.

Rogers was born the son of Scots-Irish immigrants to the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1731, and grew up in New Hampshire. He learned his skills of stealth, perseverance, tenacity and adaptability in the forests and mountain frontiers of New England, where terror reigned upon settlers in the form of attacks by barbaric native peoples.

Rogers' unconventional ambush and survival tactics were adapted from these dangerous adversaries. His skills led to a leadership position among a group of men of similar ability and temperament that he chose to combat the French and Indians on the frontier from 1754 to 1763.

King George II's Crown regiments could not contend with unconventional warfare in the wilderness, but Rogers' Rangers could. So effective were the Rangers that they became the Crown's primary scouting unit by 1755.

In a new biography on Rogers, War on the Run by John Ross, the author details how effective Rogers' Rangers were with their unconventional tactics, and their ability to fight fire with fire.

Ross notes that Rogers understood psychological warfare was as important as firepower or numerical superiority in order to defeat an enemy. For example, Rogers once scalped a French captive in plain view of his fort's French garrison. The French surrendered shortly thereafter.

Native tribes aligned with the French against the British also came to fear Rogers' Rangers, who had not only adapted many of their tactics, but had perfected them.

A decade after the end of the French and Indian war, men from the ranks of the Rangers were among the militiamen at the Battle of Concord Bridge.

The lesson for Obama, which every combat-seasoned special operator already fully understands, is this: To defeat a vicious enemy -- especially the kind that hijacks civilian airliners and flies them into civilian buildings, the kind that saws the heads off civilians and posts the videos on the Internet -- that enemy must be confronted without restraints like Obama's moratorium against pouring water in a terrorist's face to get information about which American citizens will be murdered next.

Earlier this month, Obama told Islamic masses in Cairo, "The fear and anger that [9/11] provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our traditions and our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course." Clearly, the "cases" he was referring to are those of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

Obama also told his Muslim brethren, "Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance."

I guess from his vantage point -- sipping a frappuccino between cigarettes over The New York Times every morning, prior to issuing daily marching orders to his Leftist cadres -- waterboarding must seem barbaric and Shariah Law tolerant.

It is a tragic reality that Obama and his acolytes might only "see the light" when some "tolerant" cell of jihadis detonates a nuclear device in a U.S. urban center. Perhaps the source of their fissile core will be an Islamic nuclear power Obama coddled for conversation like, say, Iran, which has certainly been demonstrating its penchant of late for Muslim tolerance of Iranian dissenters. ESR

Mark Alexander is the executive editor of the Patriot Post.

 

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