September 1, 2011

Cicilline Votes To Not Allow Soldiers to Defend Themselves

Patrick Laverty

We're going to send you to war in hostile territory. We're going to put you in the line of fire with your life on the line. Will we let you defend yourself when the enemy is shooting at you? No. Or at least so says Congressman David Cicilline. (h/t Helen Glover)

An amendment numbered 38 printed in House Report 112-88 to require that the rules of engagement allow any military service personnel assigned to duty in a designated hostile fire area to have rules of engagement that fully protects their right to proactively defend themselves from hostile actions.

What's the problem there? Just the language "proactively defend themselves"? Isn't that what a war is? You go find the people you're fighting against and you kill or capture them. We hear reports of the US military seeing the enemy planting roadside bombs or entering schools and mosques, but according to some rules of engagement, they are not allowed to engage and "proactively defend themselves".

Fortunately, this amendment passed, but 142 Democrats (Cicilline, Barney Frank and Jim McGovern to name a few) and 18 Republicans voted against it.

To his credit, Congressman Jim Langevin voted in favor of the bill to let our military fight.

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160 votes providing aid and comfort to the enemy. Sounds like treason.

Posted by: Phil Hirons, Jr. at September 1, 2011 2:57 PM

Title could read:
Cicilline, Ron Paul and Paul Ryan, join together in a bi-partisan effort
and vote NO

Posted by: Sammy at September 1, 2011 4:06 PM

I might be stepping in it with this comment but I think this amendment is a bad idea. Not that the military shouldn't have robust rules of engagement as a rule, but those considerations have to be addressed by the military command structure with due regard for the requirements of the mission.

Leaving aside the question of whether Congress is intruding on executive authority, the amendment is hopelessly vague. What does it mean for ROE to fully protect the soldiers' right to defend themselves from hostile actions? How does one even define a hostile action? If a U.S. unit is confronted with a stone-throwing crowd do they respond with a rifle volley? Or perhaps an artillery strike?

And if the secretary of defense asserts that the rules of engagement adequately protect the right of self-defense, who has the right to challenge that? Should a private first class have standing to sue the secretary and his entire chain of command over rules of engagement? Do we want to give courts even more reason to intrude on military decision-making?

The fact is that the demands of the mission sometimes require restraint, particularly when the mission is counter-insurgency. And there are times when restraint can be more effective than an aggressive response. I remember watching news footage from the early days of the Iraq war when an American patrol was confronted by a hostile mob barring its path. The young lieutenant leading the patrol ordered his men to take a knee, which they did, rifles pointed to the ground. He managed to assuage whatever concerns the crowd had and continued the patrol.

As Americans we want to fight the kind of war we're best at - the kind where the enemy presents us with large conventional forces that make perfect targets for American training and technology - as in the 1991 Gulf War. Unfortunately, our enemies know that they cannot hope to win that kind of war so they change the rules. We either adapt or we cede the battlefield to the enemy.

Posted by: David P. at September 1, 2011 4:11 PM

CEDE THIS !!!!!!!!!!!!

Posted by: Leprechaun at September 1, 2011 5:08 PM

I would need to know more about the legislative intent and the arguments presented for its passage. The problem of acceptable ROE's is something which should have been considered before deciding to engage "irregular forces" who do not wear uniforms. In conventional warfare, anyone in uniform not engaged in obvious surrender is susceptible to defensive fire. In WWII we accepted that Japanese would not surrender and made no bones about slaughter. In places like Berlin, Dresden and Hiroshima, we slaughtered civilians wholesale.

Now, we have decided to fight "good wars", we are ashamed of "collateral damage". We need much more than new Rules of Engagement.

In the past, it has been announced that certain areas were war zones and that civilians had some defined time to leave, all others would be considered enemy soldiers. Unfortunately, we regularly engage enemies who are not an "army" and do not have "strongholds". They seek safety by mingling with civilians.

Although Christianity seems to moved have away from "Kill them all, let God sort out his own", perhaps we must move away from St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas and their beliefs of a "Good War". We are fighting wars in a way designed to soothe the critics. We are imagining ourselves as a police force, and that the enemy has civil rights. Who ever heard of a GI who shot a Japanese soldier who "might have been attempting to surrender"? Where was the criticism of the soldiers who executed guards at German concentration camps? It is nice to say we have "high standards", but have we made ourselves "too good"? Have we destroyed the "will to win"?

When we kill Taliban, do we see rejoicing in the streets as when we freed France? As we said during the Cold War era, is it possible that the civilians are just "a little bit pink".

Posted by: Warrington Faust at September 1, 2011 7:46 PM

I'm not that interested in fighting a "good war," whatever that may mean, just a successful one. I certainly am not interested in extending civil rights to the enemy, particularly when they refuse to observe recognized laws of war (e.g. concealing themselves among the civilian population). But Afghanistan is not a war for territory. We want to withdraw our troops from there eventually and, when we do, we want to leave a non-Taliban government in place with sufficient popular support to resist those Taliban elements still carrying on the fight. That means we have to be judicious in the use of firepower. If not, the fight will go on until we tire of it and leave. At that point the Taliban will retake control of the country, put out the welcome mat for Al Qaeda and Afghanistan will be in essentially the same place it was on September 10, 2001. Only now the Taliban and Al Qaeda will be a lot bolder for having beaten the United States in a war.

Maybe Afghanistan is nut we can't crack. If so, better to leave sooner than later. But if we intend to achieve some kind of victory, that means winning hearts and minds and too much firepower can be counterproductive.

Posted by: David P at September 1, 2011 8:23 PM

BTW I looked up the debate on this amendment in the Congressional Record before I commented. There wasn't much discussion. One or two Republicans objected on the grounds that it interfered with commanders in the field. Ron Paul voted no. I would presume he had separation of powers objections. A lot of the Democrats voting no seem to be from the far left of the party so this was probably a knee-jerk anti-military vote for them.

Posted by: David P at September 1, 2011 8:29 PM

1983 Ronnie Reagan disarmed the Marines while ordering them into Beirut Lebanon , as he forbid them to load their guns with bullets. This was a first for a Commander In Chief: Disarming the men of his own armed forces. When 241 Marines died when unable to defend themselves , and the news media began to broadcast footage of the horrible disaster that included the US troops who were guarding the barracks saying "they couldn't have bullets in their guns". Reagan went on TV to mislead America about the circumstances­ of the Marine's barracks bombing, declaring the Marines fired their guns at their attackers (not true): Having been the very commander who ordered Marines into Beirut with unloaded weapons, he knew better,

Let's not forget that the coward Reagan used his money and political connections to dodge the draft during WWII

Posted by: Sammy at September 1, 2011 9:14 PM

Patrick, thank you for posting on this. This vote had me beyond angry and into mute with disbelief.

Posted by: Monique at September 1, 2011 9:32 PM

Reagan didn't "dodge the draft." He was a reserve second lieuntenant in the cavalry at the start of the war. His nearsightedness disqualified him from overseas service and he spent the war in the Air Corps making PR and training films.

That said, leaving the Marines in Beirut with unloaded rifles was a major blunder. I don't imagine U.S. forces have been deployed since then with such restrictive ROE's and I expect the Beirut attack is a major reason why.

Posted by: David P at September 1, 2011 9:48 PM

Anyone notice that we haven't used napalm since Vietnam?
Our enemies sinc then haven't been particular about what they have used to kill our troops.
The only reason Saddam Hussain didn't use nerve gas in Desert Storm is because he knew we'd nuke him into oblivion if he did.He had no problem using it on Shiites and Kurds who had no WMD's.
Napalm is effective as hell,period.
I guess it's easier to kill Vietnamese than Jihadis because the Jihadis hold a grudge longer.
I say we just get the f**k out of the Middle East with our ground forces-and that includes Afghanistan-a country divided between Jihadi maniacs,tribal chieftains,and drug traffickers.
I'm not sure what effect the amendment will have,but I think Langevin did the right thing-Cicilline never does the right thing.

Posted by: joe bernstein at September 1, 2011 10:38 PM

No napalm but that could be because fuel-air explosives and other thermobaric weapons are more effective, particularly when it comes to digging Taliban out of caves.

Posted by: David P at September 1, 2011 10:53 PM

This should not even be given consideration. The military should have complete freedom to make the necessary response fit the situation. Politicians have no place involved in the decision. If you trust the youth of America to protect freedom you must allow them to do it as they deem necessary at any moment in any combat situation.

Posted by: Jim at September 2, 2011 1:53 AM

Late to this, but didn't want ol' Sammy to have the last word on Reagan. Even wikipedia (probably grudgingly) has a short section on Reagan's military service. He enlisted in '37, went OCS, but was later classed for stateside duty due to extreme nearsightedness. He was nobody special before WW2 - a journeyman actor. While he didn't see the service of Jimmy Stewart or Ted Williams, he was no draft dodger. And incidentally, for each fighting man at the tip of the spear, there were many who were typically well away from the fighting in support and logistics, etc. Men like my uncle, a fighter plane crew chief. And then there were men like my business partner's uncle, who was a Grumman aircraft engineer, or like my father, who was a petrochemical refinery engineer. They might have been able to move to another job, but it had to have the same relevance to the war effort as the one they had.

Not that this means anything to Sammy.

Posted by: chuckR at September 2, 2011 11:30 AM

Reagan's extreme nearsightedness, was miraculously cured with his election in 1980 ?

Posted by: Sammy at September 2, 2011 3:46 PM


Are you suggesting Reagan's vision was 20/20 in 1980? And I'm not sure what "money and political connections" you think he had in 1942. Reagan was a B-movie actor in the time of the studio system when actors were basically factory workers. If he had any political connections they would have been with his fellow liberal democrats as Reagan was an FDR man.

Posted by: David P at September 2, 2011 6:15 PM

Sammy - google is your friend


Ronald Reagan eyesight

Posted by: chuckr at September 3, 2011 11:29 PM
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