Thursday, March 31, 2011
Belton – John Valdez is a 26-year-old combat medic who is accused of the murder-for-hire plot to kill a mechanized infantry sergeant for his GI life insurance benefits.
He sits in court stoically, staring at the papers piled on the defense table before him, one amid a cluster of 6 attorneys and 3 defendants who are being tried together for the murder of Sgt. Ryan Sullivan, a man of the same age who was a stand-out and a star in his battallion at the sprawling Ft. Hood military base.
A two-time Iraq war veteran, Mr. Valdez attained the rank of Staff Sergeant and served as the platoon leader for the medics who served Company A of the 1st Battallion of the 8th Armored Cavalry.
He became quick to anger following his second tour in Iraq, according to witnesses who have testified against him over the course of three days as he is tried along with his alleged girlfriend and mastermind of the plot, Katie Briggs, and fellow medic Kyle Moesch.
In fact, just days before the Columbus Day 4-day weekend when Sgt. Sullivan died, Mr. Valdez had an angry confrontation with the Company Commander, Capt. Justin Michel, in an equipment display exercise, known among troopers as “junk on the bunk” to determine if all necessary combat gear is available and in working order.
They reportedly nearly came to blows before cooling off, and then Mr. Valdez was A.W.O.L. For a full day when he failed to report for duty at the fort.
His attorney, Bucky Harris, obtained the agreement of fellow medic Cpl. Jeremy Jacobs, that Mr. Valdez displayed some of the classic symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder – an inability to get along with others, to hold his temper, a hypervigilantism, and a demeanor that impressed other soldiers he was a man to be feared.
He offered Cpl. Jacobs and his fellow medic Kyle Moesch $2,000 apiece to help dispose of Sgt. Sullivan's body once the planned hit had been carried out. They demurred.
Then, on a unit mission to Ft. Polk, Louisiana, he tried to obtain the kind of paralytic drugs used in surgical applications to immobilize patients, the kind of drugs used in executions by lethal injection. Later, he told Cpl. Jacobs he had studied a reference book and learned just which drugs he needed to obtain.
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
Belton – She brought him into the world, shared his first smile, his first words, nurtured him, taught him the rudiments of reading long before he ever saw a school.
When he was full-grown, a high school grad, he wanted the Army life, so she let him go there – gracefully, without complaint.
They shipped him home to Grand Rapids, buried him with full military honors, and then his on-again, off-again girlfriend showed up to watch a videotaped last will and testament because Sgt. Ryan Michael Sullivan told his mom and family from the grave they should not watch it alone.
Marked October 7, 2008, only a few days before an assailant literally cut him to pieces and stole his life in his own home, the document essentially leaves everything to Katherine “Katie” Briggs, a woman he met through an escort modeling service who gained 150 pounds and “lost 3 inches of her spine,” according to Sgt. Sullivan's mother, Denah, who testified in 264th State District Court for the prosecution.
The date marked on the video is just not right, she told the Court and jurors.
She knows heart of her hearts for several reasons that the tape had to have been made prior to his first deployment to Iraq with the First Armored Cavalry mechanized infantry outfit where he had gained a reputation as the best and toughest hand-to-hand fighter and the most squared-away non-com in the battallion.
First, he didn't have as many tattoos as he had just before he went to Iraq for the second time. By the time he left in 2007, his arms, shoulders and torso were covered with fancy scrollwork – the kind any self-respecting Roman Legionnaire or veteran of the Le Legion Etrange de Francais would have envied.
Second, his mom said, he was not as “bulked up” as he would be for the 2006 deployment. It was a requirement of the desert warfare, the need for stamina and strength to carry the heavy armor and weaponry, ammo and water it takes to survive the extreme temperatures. Ryan Sullivan had added many inches of muscle tissue to his upper body during the year's stand-down his unit spent in garrison following his first tour.
“I liked him better as his cross-country runner self,” she recalled of the 26-year-old Bronze Star winner's former physique. Ryan could run like the wind, run forever, when he was just a little boy. What's more, he liked to do it, to compete against other boys to see who could run furthest, fastest, with less loss of breath. There were little things, too. He apologized for not being able to help with his little sister's trip to Europe with her high school band class.
By the time October of 2008 had rolled around, the child had been there and returned, according to Mrs. Sullivan. Something was wrong and she and her two daughters knew it.
In fact, the whole family knew better. His half-sister, a woman in her late 30's who helped raise him, Bridget Dochod, and his brother Ben Sullivan came to Killeen soon after the family learned of his murder. Ms. Briggs, who is charged with masterminding the murder for Sgt. Ryan's $100,000 in Soldier's Group Life Insurance benefits along with two medics from his unit, John Valdez and Kyle Moesch.
They had a lot of trouble getting her to come up with two of his prized possessions. There was an almost new Chevrolet Impala he bought new and two Armani suits missing from the closet.
He was very proud of the suits. Ms. Briggs was driving the car and she readily agreed to return it so they could ship it to Grand Rapids, but the arrangements were very difficult to make, Ben recalled. Then there were the video games, the television, the DVD player, “The kind of things you would buy at Wal-Mart,” he testified. Ms. Briggs wanted it all and she was very upset that she might not be allowed to keep it. They finally got the car. He left it to his little sister. They never saw the Armani suits again.
They all gathered at Sgt. Ryan's apartment to separate his personal effects from combat gear that should be returned to the Army.
Someone, he testified he thinks it might have been John Valdez, went out and picked up a pizza. The two of them, Katie Briggs and John Valdez, “flirted with each other” out in the kitchen. After all, they had been living together in Austin. Ben Sullivan said he wasn't sure if he might just throw up, it disturbed him that badly. One of his sisters did throw up, especially when she became disgusted by Ms. Briggs' behavior at the dead soldier's funeral in Grand Rapids.
Sgt. Maxwell Davis, a 15-year-Army veteran and fellow squad leader of Sgt. Sullivan's, recalled that at his funeral, Ms. Briggs giggled while she texted on a cell phone as the casket was lowered into his grave. She never did release his dress uniform so the Army's Mortuary Service could make sure his attire was appropriately tailored and all the correct decorations were affixed to his tunic. She just wouldn't turn it over to the Army, according to his Company Commander, Capt. Justin Michel. Most peculiar, all agreed.
Ms. Briggs' defense co-counsel, Jack Holmes and David Fernandez, engaged in many sharp confrontations during the family's testimony over what was hearsay and what might call for speculation – both of which are precluded by the rules of evidence. It's hard for people not trained in the law to concentrate on their answers when it comes to fond memories and a grieving recollection. Jurors were seen frowning at the exchanges and the argumentation. They were equally disturbed by Sgt. Ryan's mother's testimony. When she broke down on the witness stand, several of the 7 women on the jury panel were visibly upset.
Most poignant were his remarks to the video camera, made in a low and monotonous tone of voice, that “I've always loved you,” as he spoke to Ms. Briggs in what would have been a message from the grave if he had died in combat.
She cried profusely as the 20-minute tape unwound before the court.
The most damning evidence of all – something it's impossible to ignore – is that following the three-day Columbus Day holiday, the unit was scheduled to go to the Soldier Readiness Center and make any administrative adjustments such as changing the beneficiaries to their wills, or their life insurance policy.
When Sgt. Sullivan failed to make second muster at 09:30, the Company Commander sent his soldiers to his home to check on him, then summoned the Killeen Police to get in the apartment and find out what was wrong.
They found his rapidly decomposing body inside, cut 35 times with many wounds that could have been fatal if they were the only ones inflicted.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
Belton – The blade is the most personal of all contact weapons.
Those who have been stabbed say that, at first, it feels as if you've been hit with a really hard fist.
People who have experienced slashing wounds – something the medical examiners call incised cuts – say it feels as if someone is unzipping a heavy duty zipper that spans your skin.
In both cases, they say, you are numbed by the sudden attack. You don't even know you've been cut until you see the blood dripping on the floor or splattering on the walls around you.
When death found Staff Sgt. Ryan Sullivan, he was cornered between a love seat, an end table and a couch in his cluttered apartment, a dwelling place that bore all the trappings of a man in long term service to the profession of arms. The First Armored Cavalry squad leader was home from his third tour in Iraq, due to deploy again in January of 2009 when his attacker hemmed him in and delivered at least 35 vicious knife wounds, more than half of them defensive in nature, cuts to his hands and arms, back and torso and the back of his neck as he tried to ward off the steely blows.
Jurors heard testimony of a medical examiner and crime scene investigators during the capital murder-for-hire trial of 3 alleged co-conspirators that described in chilling detail documented by color photos and a two-hour videotape of the crime scene the exact method of the killing and the scene of carnage left by the attack.
According to Dr. Readd Quentin, a forensic pathologist from Southwest Institute of Forensic Sciences, either or both of two deep stab wounds, one that penetrated the back of Sgt. Sullivan's neck and severed his jugular vein and the artery that supplies the head with fresh oxygen, and another that penetrated his thoral cavity from the front and penetrated the left ventricle of his heart, would have resulted in a loss of consciousness within 30 seconds, “even if he was injured in Parkland Hospital's emergency room.”
Photos chosen by the doctor to show jurors are so graphic that the entire panel of 6 defense attorneys representing the 3 defendants in the case objected under Texas Rule of Evidence No. 403 that the jurors would be unfairly prejudiced by the gory details of the wounds and the decomposition of the body, which he estimated had lain deceased in the chilled apartment for an estimated 24 to 48 hours before police obtained entry from the management company and found his body amid the strong odor of putrefaction.
State 264th District Judge Martha Trudo overruled the multiple and running evidentiary objections following a brief hearing out of the presence of jurors. The video camera's roving eye wanders in infinite detail from one item to the next – stacks of laundry quarters on a blood-spattered oak coffee table, broad wipe marks of blood on a once-clean beige wall, a large and spreading pool of blood under the right side and head of the dead soldier.
Photos show he died completely at bay, trying to crawl under the table and away from his attacker, a person whom he obviously knew and trusted because there is no sign of forced entry to the apartment.
A well-stocked gun cabinet complete with many rounds of ammunition, scope lights, upper and lower receivers for assault rifles and carbon fiber stocks for sniper rifles bears mute testimony to the deceased's profession, as well as the double-edged fighting knives, a box crammed full of ultra-modern Glock pistols, box upon box or .45 ACP rounds, bottle upon bottle of psychotropic drugs such as Zoloft, Trazadone and Celexa, the drugs of choice administered to troopers suffering from the strain of extended tours in urban combat zones.
Tunics for Class A uniforms hanging in the closet have 4 hash marks on the sleeves that signify multiple tours of duty outside the continental U.S. The first witness of the day, Specialist Jordan Howell, told jurors how the Sergeant failed to show up for morning formation on the first work day following a 4-day weekend.
The company first sergeant ordered him to go to his apartment and see if he was at home, but he could not find him there. He said he knew something was wrong when he did not see his web gear and camelback, .45 and helmet on the rear seat of his car.
He recounted how he and a medic, John Valdez, who is charged with the capital murder, used to accompany Sgt. Sullivan on all-night sniper patrols of the roads in Iraq, searching for insurgents planting IED's while dressed in Ghillie suits.
Prosecutor Murff Bledsoe said in his opening statement that the state will prove that Katie Briggs, a 26-year-old Austin woman who broke off a relationship with the sergeant and then took up a relationship with John Valdez, conspired to collect the $100,000 from Sgt. Sullivan's soldier's life insurance policy with the help of another soldier, Kyle Moesch, also from Sgt. Sullivan's unit.
Testimony about the Sergeant's fatal knife wounds will begin anew on Wednesday morning when Dr. Quentin again takes the witness stand.
Prosecutor Murff Bledsoe referred to her by her first name and told the venire that he prosecuted the killer of the lady's child, then explained the law of parties, a Texas legal doctrine that allows the conviction of any party to an offense of capital murder if commission of the crime led to the death of a victim because the evidence and testimony proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused intentionally and knowingly planned the act.
The questioning came during jury selection in the trial of a trio of alleged murder-for-hire conspirators who have been indicted for killing a Ft. Hood soldier to get his life insurance benefits of $100,000.
“Do you think you could be a fair juror if you were on the jury?” Mr. Bledsoe asked the woman. He explained that sometimes a person is not suited to be on a particular jury because of circumstances beyond their control.
“It doesn't make you a bad person,” he said. “It just means you aren't right for that particular jury.”
Her answer was inaudible in the crowded first-floor courtroom where she sat on the front row, one of a hundred prospective veniremen summoned for jury selection.
Later, defense attorney Jack Holmes confronted the woman about the matter.
A former Temple police officer, Mr. Holmes who is representing Katherine “Katie” Briggs, a 28-year-old Austin woman who is accused of quarterbacking the conspiracy with John Valdez and Kyle Moesch, both 26, both former members of the First Armored Cavalry, to murder Sgt. Ryan Michael Sullivan by stabbing him with an unknown sharp instrument.
“One time I came back and my car had been burglarized,” he recounted. “I don't think I could give you a fair and impartial verdict based solely on the evidence of the case in the burglary of a car.”
When he asked the mother about her attitudes regarding sitting in judgment of the three accused capital murderers, she remained stoic and her affect was neutral.
“I would do my best,” she told the court.
Attorneys did not pick her to serve on the jury, which was empaneled at 7 p.m. after a grueling day of examination of jurors by the two prosecutors and six defense attorneys who are working in the case.
Earlier, defense attorney Steve Blythe, who is representing Kyle Moesch, asked the panel at large if any are members of victims' rights groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD), or childrens' rights advocacy associations.
No one indicated that they are.
According to 246th District Judge Martha Trudo, the way a jury is picked in a criminal trial, the attorneys may strike for cause an unlimited number of veniremen whose answers show they will be unable to serve, either because of their attitudes, their experience, or their circumstances of having to provide care for a child or an elderly person, a lack of transportation, or a medical condition or appointment.
Each attorney receives the opportunity to make 21 peremptory challenges to prospective jurors, based only on their personal feeling that they would not make a suitable juror to determine the guilt or innocence of an accused offender.
The first 12 persons who are left following the process of winnowing the prospective panelists are chosen as the jurors, along with the next two, who will serve as alternate jurors.
Monday, March 28, 2011
Judge Martha Trudo of Bell County's 264th State District Court told the panel she expects the attorneys will give them the case to decide guilt or innocence of the accused some time late Friday and explained that they will have to decide the case based on three separate jury charges for the three accused.
The State is not seeking the death penalty, Prosecutor Murff Bledsoe told the special venire of 100 summoned to court on the agreement of the six defense attorneys and two prosecutors.
The only possible sentence for the defendants if they are found guilty will be life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Therein lies the defense strategy laid out by the attorney for the former girlfriend of the victim, Katherine “Nellie” Briggs, a 28-year-old Austin woman who allegedly recruited two fellow soldiers to kill her former boyfriend, Sgt. Michael Ryan Sullivan, for a share of the $100,000 in life insurance benefits she was named to receive in his policy.
In his examination of the veniremen, Jack Holmes let prospective jurors know that he intends to introduce evidence through cross examination of witnesses that will lead to a reasonable doubt as to his client's guilt.
“The state does not have the case,” he explained when questioned by a journalist.
He has introduced a motion challenging the constitutionality of the “sentencing scheme” for the offense of capital murder as laid out in the Texas Penal Code.
“That could go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court,' he said during a corridor interview. “We're not allowed to present any mitigating evidence...For instance, my client has never been arrested before.”
Judge Trudo assured prospective jurors several times during her introductory remarks to the venire that should evidence of a lesser offense be introduced during the trial, the jurors could be charged with finding the defendant guilty of another offense besides capital murder.
The issue came up during voir dire examination of the prospective jurors by attorneys for Ms. Briggs' co-defendants.
Bucky Harris, who represents John Valdez, who is accused of stabbing Mr. Sullivan to death with an unknown sharp instrument, and Mr. Steve Blythe, who represents his co-defendant, Kyle Moesch, both questioned veniremen closely about their understanding of the Texas law of parties, which holds that if a defendant assisted in any way with the commission of an act that led to the death of a victim, they are just as guilty of the crime as the one who actually did the killing.
It is the prosecution's strategy to prove that the three defendants conspired for the prospect of renumeration to cause the death of Sgt. Sullivan, according to remarks made by Mr. Bledsoe in his examination of the venire.
One man and one woman have been chosen to serve as alternate jurors during the evidence portion of the guilt or innocence phase of the trial. Some 83 witnesses will be examined and evidence in the form of witness statements, crime scene reports and technical data gleaned from 40 full CD's – about 5,000 pages of material – will be presented over the next 4 days.
The judge will allow the jurors to take notes during the trial, but “only sparingly,” because she wishes they should be attentive to the testimony and not their note taking. They will not be allowed to take the notes home with them at night, nor will they be allowed to take them into the jury room with them during deliberations.
The federal government has taken advantage of Supreme Court rulings to dramatically expand the scope of its intrusions into Tenth Amendment rights. In recent years, the federal government has been particularly aggressive in this regard, pushing the scope of federal regulation to the limits of what courts are likely to uphold, apparently accepting the risk of judicial invalidation in some cases on the logic that some or most federal actions will survive judicial scrutiny. These actions tend to set precedents, and the precedents become the basis for future expansions, thereby continuing the steady erosion of the Constitution’s constraints on federal power. Two areas of public policy stand out, in particular—Health Care and Environmental Regulations.
In the area of Health Care, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 (“Obamacare”) is a dramatic expansion of the federal government’s reach into our daily lives, on an unprecedented scale. It has already begun to unleash a cascade of unintended consequences, including the fact that employers will be increasingly incentivized to stop providing health insurance for their employees. The legislation fixes few of the problems we face in health care, and in fact makes several of them markedly worse. It takes us further away from what should be the goal of health care reform, namely patient-driven, market-based, affordable and accessible health care in which health insurance is primarily a means of spreading the risk of catastrophic illness, rather than the cost of routine care.
Obamacare is an unconstitutional federal overreach and violation of Tenth Amendment rights, in at least two ways: first the Individual Mandate; and second, the Mandatory State Medicaid Expansion/Health Insurance Exchange. The mandate that individuals purchase health insurance would be the first time that the federal government has required citizens to purchase a good or service as an exercise of the commerce power. Under Lopez, health insurance is neither a channel nor an instrumentality of interstate commerce, so the mandate would have to rest on the argument that health insurance is an activity that substantially affects interstate commerce. The mandate, tied to a penalty, may also violate the Due Process Clause of the Constitution.
Obamacare also requires that States dramatically expand their Medicaid programs, and establish new health insurance markets to be regulated as utilities for the socialization of health care costs. As such, under Printz, Obamacare may well constitute a “commandeering” of state agencies and budgets, because it turns them into instrumentalities of the federal government.
In terms of Environmental Regulations since their rise in the 1960s and 1970s, environmental standards adopted by the federal government and implemented chiefly by States have achieved enormous improvements in environmental quality. But over time, the main federal regulatory agencies in the environmental field have grown increasingly heavy handed. With today’s clean energy and environmental agenda, the field of environmental regulations has become a central front in the battle to preserve the Constitution’s balance of federalism.
Today, the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Interior are using regulatory power to invalidate highly successful state programs that are entirely within the law; to accomplish climate-change policies that have been rejected by Congress; to create stifling regulatory uncertainty in those sectors of industry that compete with the goals of radical environmentalists; and to punish States that pursue a free-market, limited-government regulatory model. By expanding the scope of environmental regulation to the very limits of what courts will allow, and often overstepping the boundary, the federal government’s energy and environmental agenda threatens the very foundations of our federal system.
Here in Texas, it is also increasingly viewed as a threat to the state’s economic future. The new regulations target state programs that have been highly successful in improving air quality. From 2000 to 2008, Texas lowered ozone emissions by 22 percent while the Nation as a whole achieved only an eight percent reduction. This progress in air quality occurred while the Texas economy was growing a third faster than the Nation as a whole.
The Environmental Protection Agency’s decision to regulate COs as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act is another attempt to accomplish through regulation the very climate change bills that Congress has repeatedly rejected. By fiat, EPA declared that States must now regulate greenhouse gases as pollutants beginning January 2, 2010 or EPA will do it for them. Announcing their intention to sue the government in federal court, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and chief environmental regulator Bryan Shaw wrote, in a letter to EPA “we write to inform you that Texas has neither the authority nor the intention of violating, ignoring, or amending its laws to require the regulation of greenhouse gases.”
Wesley Allen Riddle is a retired military officer with degrees and honors from West Point and Oxford. Widely published in the academic and opinion press, he ran for U.S. Congress (TX-District 31) in the 2004 Republican Primary and is currently Chairman of the Central Texas Tea Party. Article condensed from an essay by Ted Cruz and Mario Loyola (Texas Public Policy Foundation, Nov 2010). Email: Wes@wesriddle.com.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
War Powers Act of 1973 likely headed to U.S. Supreme Court
Washington – Crude prices are up 16% over the past month; gasoline prices are 15% higher, and costs for the goods needed to produce consumer items such as cotton, copper, plastic, fertilizer and diesel are surging in price. Analysts are looking for the bubble in stocks to burst as a result.
Predictably, the Libyan dictator Colonel Moammar Qadaffi picked just such a time to apply pressure to western states in the resulting fiscal crises all this has caused in such nations as Portugal, Spain, and Italy.
Just as predictably, rebels in the radical Muslim state arose against Qadaffi's regime. He responded in brutal fashion, bombing, strafing and otherwise mowing down the pitifully organized and equipped resistance.
The UN and President Obama elected to open a third war front in Libya by directing air strikes of cruise missiles and fighter-bomber attacks from war ships cruising offshore.
After all, what's another few billion in fiat currency when you've got a chance to complicate matters in such dramatic ways?
Authority for U.S. participation comes from the War Powers Act of 1973, a measure rejected by no less conservative a pragmatist than President Richard M. Nixon, whose veto Congress slapped down by a huge margin over and above the 2/3 needed to override.
The only surprising factor is the vehement resistance from both sides of the Congressional aisles by both extremely liberal lawmakers, as well as staunch conservatives.
Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) said the President's commission of ships and planes, missiles and bombs without seeking Congressional approval “would appear on its face to be an impeachable offense.” He followed the remark by telling an interviewer with “The Raw Story” weblog that he doubted Congressmen and Senators have the nerve to follow through.
U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) supported the no-fly zone, but added “Before any further military commitments are made, the administration must do a better job of communicating to the American people and to Congress about our mission,” according to remarks reported in “The Huffington Post.”
Mr. Obama's justification, aside from the UN resolution calling on members to take “all necessary measures to protect civilians,” goes this way. “Left unaddressed, the growing instability in Libya could ignite wider instability in the Middle East, with dangerous consequences to the national security interests of the United States.”
What kind of instability is Mr. Obama talking about?
The collapse of Euro currencies in oil-thirsty and unstable economies such as the southern tier states of Italy, France, Spain and Portugal comes to mind immediately.
After all, it was Saddam Hussein's reckless talk about demanding payment of Iraqi oil in Euros rather than the world's reserve currency, U.S. Dollars, that led to American invasion of that nation.
“The United States has not deployed ground forces into Libya,” Mr. Obama said. “United States forces are conducting a limited and well-defined mission in support international efforts to protect civilians and prevent a humanitarian disaster.”
That came from Mr. Obama's congressional report, issued just late last week.
Once such a report is issued, Congress must approve use of war materiel and personnel within 60 days. A president may ask for one 30-day extension on his time, but federal courts have the power to intervene if necessary.
It doesn't look good.
When President Bill Clinton exceeded the 60-day period back in 1999 during the “ethnic cleansing” emergency in the former Soviet Republic of Yugoslavia, he encountered a court challenge led by 18 Congressmen led by Tom Campbell of Texas by saying that the War Powers resolution is constitutionally defective. The matter ended in somewhat of a stalemate.
Matters might not fizzle out that way this time. Money, marbles and chalk are on the line. Congressional leadership in the House and Senate are both thumping on the tables, saying the nation is broke, and they're right.
It's agreed. We're broke.
Said Rep. Jason Chaffetz, (R-UT), “I think (Obama) has a duty and an obligation to come to Congress. I see no clear and present danger to the United states of Amerca. I just don't We're in a bit of the fog at the mooment as to what the president is trying to ultimately do.”
Wiser heads are predicting the matter might wind up in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
Catch his act way down yonder in New Orleans at the Mercury Theater where he debuts on his first album, "Let Them Talk."
- The Legendary
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Belton – The afternoon sunlight out of the north floods the glassed-in corridors of the Bell County Criminal Justice Complex, a modern split block veneer building – long, low, lean, and drawn out across the cedar and scrub oak studded prairie which backs up to the County Jail.
Inside the courtrooms, all is air conditioned comfort in brightly lit chambers painted a cool shade of relaxing light green.
To the west, the world's largest military installation sprawls across two central Texas counties. Ft. Hood, named for a Confederate cavalry general, was chosen in 1942 as a tank destroyer gunnery range where the Army trained the armored divisions who would face Hitler's blitzkrieg Panzer outfits on the plains of Europe.
Today, the Fort houses about 52,000 soldiers within its 158,706-acre boundaries and has ultra-long heavily reinforced concrete runways capable of landing and launching massive cargo aircraft for rapid deployment of troopers and armor anywhere in the world on a few days' notice.
On Monday morning, a venire of 100 prospective jurors will assemble in the building's largest first floor courtroom, where prosecutors and defense counsel will choose a single jury to hear the cases against 3 persons charged with capital murder who allegedly plotted the brutal October 2008 stabbing death of a sleeping non-commissioned officer for $100,000 in life insurance benefits.
A former girlfriend of Sgt. Ryan Michael Sullivan, Nellie Briggs was the beneficiary to his life insurance policy. She allegedly promised a share of the benefit money to John Anthony Valdez, a 26-year-old fellow soldier, and an associate, Kyle Moesch, both members of an armored cavalry unit at Ft. Hood.
Mr. Moesch told a homicide investigator that when he awoke at Sgt. Sullivan's Killeen townhouse, he saw the victim lying in a pool of his own blood, brutally stabbed to death.
Mr. Valdez, he said, was standing over Sgt. Sullivan's body wearing a ski mask. A grand jury originally indicted Mr. Moesch for tampering with evidence in the case, but he, too, has since been charged with capital murder, punishable by death or life imprisonment.
Seven months later, investigators charged Ms. Briggs with conspiring in the murder-for-hire plot after apprehending her remarks on tapes of her discussing with Mr. Valdez the amount of money left from the insurance settlement during two visits to him at the jail.
The three defendants will be tried together by 264th State District Judge Martha Trudo, prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Murff Bledsoe, and defended by three separate lawyers with differing agendas and strategies in the representation of their clients.
Mr. Bledsoe said the long delay in the trial has been caused by waiting for DNA analysis and other tests of physical evidence collected in the investigation of the murder.
Much conflict has arisen between the defense counselors. For instance, the attorney representing Ms. Briggs mentioned there is no physical evidence linking her to the killing.
That remark angered the attorney representing Mr. Valdez. At a hearing in which the three attorneys requested severance of the cases for separate trials, Robert “Bucky” Harris interrupted the testimony and told Judge Trudo that not only will the defense counsel be arguing against the state's attorney, they will be arguing the case against each other.
The Court ruled nevertheless that the defendants will be tried together, and she has denied bail reduction for all three.
Brussels – On the first day of an economic summit, authorities are bracing for large protests by unions unhappy with new limitations on wage increases and a rising retirement age throughout Europe.
Oil prices topped $105 a barrel yesterday, the Portuguese Prime Minister resigned when he was unable to introduce austerity measures in an effort to close a budget deficit gap, and conservative Republicans pressed President Barack Obama to answer questions about a UN offensive against Libyan government troops fighting rebels to retain ownership of that country's oil fields.
Nervous Italian and Spanish government officials are watching the situation closely, fearing an economic collapse similar to that in Portugal.
Amid all these developments, analysts are calling the bond markets “distinctly pessimistic.”
This is because the European Stability Mechanism, the bailout fund, will be paid first before any privately underwritten debt, which makes those investments much riskier.
On that news, Portuguese ten year bonds closed up 0.10 of a percentage point at 7.63%, just short of record highs in the euro market, and Ireland's yield was 0.35 perentage point higher at 10.05%.
The consensus is that Portugal will be the third country to be bailed out, following Greece and Ireland.
Congress signaled disapproval of yet another mideast war front without prior approval.
House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) met President Obama at the foot of the accomodation ladder as he deplaned at Andrews Air Force Base on his return from South and Central America with a list of these questions amid growing criticism of the attacks on Libyan government forces in cooperation with UK and other European nations responding to a UN Security Council resolution to enforce a no-fly zone that will keep Libyan aircraft from attacking rebels attempting to overthrow the government and take the oil fields and refineries of the nation.
"It is regrettable that no opportunity was afforded to consult with Congressional leaders, as was the custom of your predecessors, before your decision as Commander-in-Chief to deploy into combat the men and women of our Armed Forces.”
- A United Nations Security Council resolution does not substitute for a U.S. political and military strategy. You have stated that Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi must go, consistent with U.S. policy goals. But the U.N. resolution the U.S. helped develop and signed onto makes clear that regime change is not part of this mission.
- In light of this contradiction, is it an acceptable outcome for Qadhafi to remain in power after the military effort concludes in Libya? If not, how will he be removed from power? Why would the U.S. commit American resources to enforcing a U.N. resolution that is inconsistent with our stated policy goals and national interests?
-In announcing that our Armed Forces would lead the preliminary strikes in Libya, you said it was necessary to “enable the enforcement of a no-fly zone that will be led by our international partners.” Do we know which partners will be taking the lead?
- Are there clear lines of authority and responsibility and a chain of command? Operationally, does enforcement of a no-fly zone require U.S. forces to attack non-air or command and control operations for land-based battlefield activities, such as armored vehicles, tanks, and combatants?
- You have said that the support of the international community was critical to your decision to strike Libya. But, like many Americans, it appears many of our coalition partners are themselves unclear on the policy goals of this mission. If the coalition dissolves or partners continue to disengage, will the American military take on an increased role? Will we disengage?
- Since the stated U.S. policy goal is removing Qadhafi from power, do you have an engagement strategy for the opposition forces? If the strife in Libya becomes a protracted conflict, what are your Administration's objectives for engaging with opposition forces, and what standards must a new regime meet to be recognized by our government?
- Your Administration has repeatedly said our engagement in this military action will be a matter of “days, not weeks.” After four days of U.S. military action, how soon do you expect to hand control to these other nations? After the transition to coalition forces is completed, how long will American military forces remain engaged in this action? If Qadhafi remains in power, how long will a no-fly zone will be enforced?
- We are currently in the process of setting priorities for the coming year in the budget. Has the Department of Defense estimated the total cost, direct and indirect, associated with this mission? While you said yesterday that the cost of this mission could be paid for out of already-appropriated funds, do you anticipate requesting any supplemental funds from Congress to pay for ongoing operations in Libya?
- Because of the conflicting messages from the Administration and our coalition partners, there is a lack of clarity over the objectives of this mission, what our national security interests are, and how it fits into our overarching policy for the Middle East. The American people deserve answers to these questions. And all of these concerns point to a fundamental question: what is your benchmark for success in Libya?
This report compiled from wire reports and blogosphere notations in the rotation - The Legendary
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
Specialization is for insects.
Robert A. Heinlein
According to reliable sources, Lewis T. Pace, Jr., died on March 9 at his home in Queretaro, in the mountains near Mexico City.
Though our readers do not know the good doctor by name (BacSi is Vietnamese for doctor), you know his work well if you read these columns.
BacSi, also known as Cargo Drop among his colleagues in the Special Forces Association, was a Green Beret medic, cross-trained in weapons and explosives.
He ran the rip and read features of The Legendary, guiding our progress through coverage of the insurgency among drug cartels in Mexico and other global points, from behind the scenes.
He was well qualified for the task because he was a 1968 graduate of the MA program in mass communications at the University of Georgia.
In later years, after his retirement on full disability benefits, BacSi served his colleagues as an employee of the Special Forces Association.
His background in media was in radio and television production and it showed in his writing, which was tight, concise and to the point.
He was a classroom teacher for 44 years and leaves six kids and his wife of four decades, Mina, a natural born citizen of Mexico.
A close friend, Bert Hernandez of Waco, who is also a Green Beret, said his family has been out of touch and unavailable for comment. He will keep us posted.
Last August, BacSi wrote a personal memoir about the Mexican culture's fascination with death and the influence of that fatalistic set of ideas on the mind set of such former Special Forces gangs as Los Zetas, an enforcement wing of the Gulf Cartel which has recently gained independent status in vying for the rights to lucrative drug smuggling routes and money laundering territories. Their psy-war signature is to leave a detached head nearby the headless corpse.
In the piece, BacSi explored the fascination with the cult of Santa Muerte, the skinny one, also known as “Catrina,” and the fascination of youthful recruits to Los Zetas with her legendary status in the mythical land of Aztlan, the north, with its fabled seven cities of Cibola, which we know as the American southwestern states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
It was the only by-lined article by BacSi that has appeared in these columns. Nevertheless, The Legendary is proud to have been given the opportunity to publish the journalistic work of “BacSi” Lewis T. Pace, Jr. He got tagged as “Cargo Drop” because of a training adventure in his salad days as an Airborne Ranger when he was unable to fasten his harness on a jump and the cadre made him strip his blouse, only to find that he had concealed several pounds of candy and other gee-dunk in his field jacket. Hence, he was known among the idiots who jump out of perfectly good airplanes screaming for their mentor, Geronimo, as the “Cargo Drop.”
In consultation with our native guide, an Arapaho from the plains state known as The Panhandle, Geronimo is Apache for “Who pushed me?”
Adios, amigo. When you reach those streets paved with gold, please, sir, stake a claim out for me. You would be a good neighbor anywhere you may be headed.
- The Legendary Jim Parks.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011
by Michael Boldin
With military action taking place in Libya right now, the essential question must be asked: Is it even Constitutional? For those of you who don’t want to read more than a sentence or two, here’s the short answer. Absolutely not.
The ninth and tenth amendments, while they didn’t add anything new, defined the Constitution. In short, they tell us that the federal government is only authorized to exercise those powers delegated to it in the Constitution…and nothing more. Everything else is either prohibited or retained by the states or people themselves.
What does this have to do with Libya? Well, whenever the federal government does anything, the first question should always be, “where in the Constitution is the authority to do this?” What follows here is an answer regarding American bombs being dropped on Libya.
Ever since the Korean War, Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution has been regularly cited as justification for the President to act with a seemingly free reign in the realm of foreign policy – including the initiation of foreign wars. But, it is Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution that lists the power to declare war, and this power is placed solely in the hands of Congress.
Article II, Section 2, on the other hand, refers to the President as the “commander-in-chief of the army and navy of the United States.” What the founders meant by this clause was that once war was declared, it would then be the responsibility of the President, as the commander-in-chief, to direct the war.
Alexander Hamilton clarified this when he said that the President, while lacking the power to declare war, would have “the direction of war when authorized.”
Thomas Jefferson reaffirmed this quite eloquently when, in 1801, he said that, as President, he was “unauthorized by the Constitution, without the sanction of Congress, to go beyond the line of defense.”
In Federalist #69, Alexander Hamilton explained that the President’s authority:
“would be nominally the same with that of the King of Great Britain, but in substance much inferior to it. It would amount to nothing more than the supreme command and direction of the military and naval forces, as first general and admiral of the confederacy; while that of the British king extends to the declaring of war, and to the raising and regulating of fleets and armies; all which by the constitution under consideration would appertain to the legislature.”
James Madison warned us that the power of declaring war must be kept away from the executive branch when he wrote to Thomas Jefferson:
“The constitution supposes, what the history of all governments demonstrates, that the executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the legislature.”
WORDS HAVE MEANING
If, like any legal document, the words of the Constitution mean today just what they meant the moment it was signed, we must first look for the 18th Century meaning of the words used. Here’s a few common 18th-century definitions of the important words:
War: The exercise of violence against withstanders under a foreign command.
Declare: Expressing something before it is promised, decreed, or acted upon.
Invade: To attack a country; to make a hostile entrance
What does this all mean? Unless the country is being invaded, if congress does not declare war against another country, the president is constitutionally barred from waging it, no matter how much he desires to do so. Pre-emptive strikes and undeclared offensive military expeditions are not powers delegated to the federal government in the Constitution, and are, therefore, unlawful.
HOW IT APPLIES TODAY
Here’s the quick overview of how this all plays out:
In Constitutional terms, the United States is currently at war with Libya.
Libya is not invading the United States, nor has it threatened to do so.
Congress has not declared war. Barack Obama did.
Some would claim, and news articles are already reporting on it, that the 1973 war powers resolution authorizes the President to start a war as long as it’s reported to Congress within 48 hours. Then, Congress would have 60 days to authorize the action, or extend it.
The only question you should have to ask for this would be – “where in the Constitution is congress given the authority to change the constitution by resolution?”
It doesn’t. And that resolution, in and of itself, is a Constitutional violation. More on that in a future article, of course.
James Madison had something to say about such a plan when he wrote:
“The executive has no right, in any case, to decide the question, whether there is or is not cause for declaring war.” [emphasis added]
War Powers resolution or no war powers resolution – without a Congressional declaration, the president is not authorized to start an offensive military campaign. Period.
The bottom line? By using US Military to begin hostilities with a foreign nation without a Congressional declaration of war, Barack Obama has committed a serious violation of the Constitution. While he certainly is not the first to do so in regards to war powers, it’s high time that he becomes the last.
Michael Boldin [send him email] is the founder of the Tenth Amendment Center. He was raised in Milwaukee, WI, and currently resides in Los Angeles, CA. Follow him on twitter - @michaelboldin - and visit his personal blog - www.michaelboldin.com
PUBLISHED WITH THE PERMISSION OF THE TENTH AMENDMENT CENTER
– The Legendary
Waco - Benjamin Morrison changed his plea to guilty to 8 counts of aggravated sexual assault after prosecutors agreed to drop a count of continuing sexual abuse of a female child younger than 14.
That charge could have netted him a sentence of 25 years to life without the possibility of parole.
Mr. Morrison, who is 39, had been previously arrested in 1996 for the charge of injury to a child for shaking an infant, but the District Attorney's office decided not to pursue the charge.
Prosecutor Hilary LaBorde had filed a notice of the intention to use hearsay evidence in testimony about the offenses, which took place over a five year period, in order to spare the victims from having to face the accused rapist in court.
Aggravated sexual assault involves the penetration of any body cavity with the penis against the will of the victim. A child has not the legal ability to consent to such a thing.
Mr. Morrison will either be in prison or registered as a sex offender for the rest of his life.
Monday, March 21, 2011
That's right. Chess.
They were going to send teachers on a Carnival Cruise to Cozumel to learn the game in a congenial atmosphere, but had to cancel the trip.
Why? Because of the deficit school districts and the Legislature are facing in the current budgetary process.
What happened? A funny thing happened when House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst instructed their numbers crunchers to write a budget that could be done solely with existing funds.
The result? A state budget that appears to be billions of dollars in deficit, but really isn't.
It's all in how you interpret the numbers, and William Lutz, managing editor of “The Lone Star Report,” has made quite a study of that. You can read about the $9 billion in proposed budget cuts in .pdf format at www.lonestarreport.org
Don't believe it? Just listen to him rattle off the facts before you make up your mind.
Where is the education system's budget crisis? For starters, “I would think they have chess boards at the five and dimes in Houston.”
The problem is not in the revenue stream, he told members of the Bell County Republican Party Executive Committee meeting last night.
Sales taxes make up about 60% of the projected revenue, and it's just about the same as it was the last time the Legislature passed a budget.
Mr. Lutz blames the economic stimulus money the Obama Administration sent down Texas way - $5 billion worth – which the Legislature spent like water.
What with the fact that for every 100 teaching positions in the state, you have 64 non-teaching positions, “What you wind up with is a pretty nasty budget situation.”
If you cut the ratio of teaching positions to non-teaching positions by 10%, you would save $1.7 billion. If you cut it by 20%, you would save twice as much.
By the way, what is the Rainy Day Fund? That's simple enough, he told his listeners.
Back in 1986, oil revenues tanked and left the state in a bind. The Legislature created the fund as a cushion against any such disaster in the future. It takes a super majority to spend the money. Three-fifths on both houses have to vote to unlock the coffers.
You don't listen to William Lutz for long before you realize what
you're hearing is the smart money talking about the inside track on the current legislative session in Austin. This guy is good.
He has a sheepskin from University of Texas and another from the University of Washington, specializes in global trade, transportation, and logistics studies
Wait, there's more.
As Managing editor of “The Lone Star Report” and a frequent guest on WFAA's “Inside Texas Politics,” he's covered numerous legislative sessions and knows his way around the budgeting process.
When it comes to this session, “There's really only one issue; there's the budget, then there's everything else.”
The truth is simple enough, from where he stands. In numerous sessions of the Legislature, he has never seen the wrecking crew walk away from the pink granite without increasing the spending per-pupil significantly.
In any case, the school districts will wind up suing the Legislature no matter what happens. It's inevitable, according to Mr. Lutz.
“The real question is, do we stand for Texas values?” The jury's still out on that one.
But here's a hint. The gambling lobby is here to stay, according to Mr. Lutz.
"There are some in the Legislature who want to sell you a train wreck of a budget and send you gambling as the white knight."
At present, there are only 10 votes in the House separating the issue from a Constitutional Amendment.
Here's another one.
Did you have any idea that the State of Texas is in the insurance business? There is such a thing as a subsidized insurance policy on coastal dwelling places.
“If they run out of money, they assess other homeowners on their policies to make up the difference...There are a lot of people who own beach houses in Galveston County who are very grateful to you.”
He says it deadpan. More laughter.
The punch line? Dozens upon dozens of state agencies are up for Sunset Review legislation in this session, including the State Board of Insurance and the DOT. This means the Trans Texas Corridor and a lot of proposed toll roads are toast.
Tort reform? There's this thing called “loser pays” and it's found in various forms in many different proposed bills, but it all works out the same. If the plaintiff loses, he pays the defendant's legal fees. If a suit is dismissed because of lack of merit, there is the same thing. Remember, Mr. Lutz said, a Sunset Review Bill is not limited to the subject of the review. The members of both houses can amend it any way they want. So.
Back to the insurance slush fund for owners of beach side dwellings. Instead of calculating the legal fees attorneys rack up in litigation over what part of the damage was done by flooding and what was done by winds by hours billed, the attorneys get a contingency fund of 40% of the settlement, according to insurance regulations.
When a Legislator from Friendswood in Galveston County, insurance broker Lester Taylor, challenged the practice in a proposed bill, the District Judge hearing the cases sealed the records.
They got that one turned around, to everyone's relief. Court records are open records, period. Paragraph. The judge finally saw it their way, that she had no jurisdiction over the rule making process in Austin when her Court is situated in Galveston County.
Then there is the arcana of the legislative rules. Monday's failure of the Voter ID law is really just a delaying tactic. The Legislative Analysis department mistakenly wrote in a delay of 6 calendar days when it should have been worded 6 business days. That's just “the nit-picky way you stall legislation in Austin...They will pass it eventually. Don't worry about that.”
What else is coming up in this session? Where will the most heat and light be generated besides the budget?
There are five emergency laws declared as such by Governor Rick Perry.
1. Voter ID
2. Eminent domain
3. Sonograms to be offered to abortion patients
4. Constitutional convention to propose an amendment for a balanced federal budget
5. A ban of sanctuary cities for illegal immigrants where police are not allowed to inquire about citizenship
That's another whole ball of wax. You can read all the news on that at "The Lone Star Report" blog site.
Imagine making the Sony sign say what the soothsayer want the Sony sign to say. It's kind of like making the Sphinx tell riddles that cause the tail to wag the dog, the saw to roll the log, the pump to drain the bog - all at the touch of a fingertip. - The Legendary
General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar announced his support for the “peaceful revolution of the youth” on Al Jazeera television news today.
Tanks deployed across the streets of the capital at Sana'a after the general's announcement.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon deplored the use of live ammunition by security forces and said the government has an obligation to protect its citizens.
The president has fired the entire cabinet, according to reports.
The unrest comes in the wake of the killing of 52 people shot dead Friday by government troops while protesting for the immediate ouster of the president. Thousands upon thousands of people marched in funeral processions through the city streets.
Yemeni diplomats to the nation's UN mission resigned in protest over the weekend, including Abdullah Alsaidi, ambassador.
The problem is not with Google, according to the American internet company, which provides webhosting, e-mail addressing and transmission services from its massive server farm at its San Francisco bay area headquarters in Mountain View, California.
“There is no technical issue on our side; we have checked extensively. This is a government blockage carefully designed to look like the problem is with Gmail,” according to a statement generated by the company. It is one in a series of highly publicized run-ins Google has experienced with the Chinese government.
Chinese government officials refused to comment.
With some of the world's strictest internet controls, China has reacted swiftly and with great prejudice following mideast unrest that began in Tunisia, spread to Egypt, and now engulfs the Arab world in massive protests and social networking revolution that is making government controls very shaky.
Chinese government hackers have been accused of interfering with human rights activists' e-mail, websites and other computer functions.
When e-mails began to circulate in China mentioning a “Jasmine Revolution,” the crackdown became very severe, halting most of the social networking capability in the world's most populous nation.
Google immediately moved its Chinese-language search engine to the former British island colony of Hong Kong. The metropolitan financial and banking hub operates under completely different rules from those in place in mainland China.
Sunday, March 20, 2011
In an official cable he wrote his Department of State superiors at Foggy Bottom, Mr. Pascual stated that Mexican security forces are too busy fighting each other over their turf to be bothered with the violence visited by the likes of violent gangs of drug smugglers such as Los Zetas, La Familia Michoacan, the Gulf Cartel, or MS-13.
It was the first such public resignation in the history of the Obama Administration, softened only by the commiserative tone of an official statement by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who said Mr. Pascual made his decision “based upon his personal desire to ensure the strong relationship between our two countries and to avert issues.”
On a state visit to Paris at this time, Mrs. Clinton alluded to “issues” raised by Mexican President Felipe Calderon in a visit to the White House less than two weeks ago.
The U.S. government has poured billions of dollars in military aid, arms, munitions, training and equipment into the fight against violent drug traffickers, only to see the problem exacerbated by defections from Mexican Army Special Forces troopers who joined the other side and then formed their own cartel, Los Zetas.
About 40,000 people have lost their lives during the Calderon Administration due to the extreme violence of the drug cartels' internecine warfare over the rights to lucrative drug smuggling routes, money laundering privileges on return duffel bags stuffed with 20's and 100's in U.S. currency, and head taxes collected on illegal aliens who stream across the U.S. border. They also export sex slaves, underage prostitutes who are sold into bondage to American pimps and perverts.
A signature terroristic sign left as a calling card amongst the former special forces types who enforce the rules for the drug cartel kingpins is to leave decapitated bodies and deposit the severed heads nearby in startling displays meand to be found by early morning passersby.
Click here to link to a transcript of an address Mr. Pascual made to the American Chamber of Commerce in Mexico City on March 15.
You might want to get a note from your doctor first.
Now, it's up to one man to save the world from itself. Working alone, under cover of darkness and under conditions of extreme danger and secrecy, this hero, this selfless paragon of truth, justice and the American - what, it's been before. Hey, I'm just reading the script, here...
Stop me before I hurt myself, but know well that the floggings will continue until morale improves, dear hearts. That much I vow in the name of all that is decent, holy, just and worth saving from, from -
All that is classified. Like I said, stop me before I hurt myself, dear hearts.
- The Legendary
This provocative book and movie about ideas developed by Naomi Wolf, author of such books as "The Beauty Myth," is summarized in a brief YouTube presentation.
By George Friedman, CEO and Editor, Stratfor
Austin - The Libyan war has now begun. It pits a coalition of European powers plus the United States, a handful of Arab states and rebels in Libya against the Libyan government. The long-term goal, unspoken but well understood, is regime change — displacing the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and replacing it with a new regime built around the rebels.
The mission is clearer than the strategy, and that strategy can’t be figured out from the first moves. The strategy might be the imposition of a no-fly zone, the imposition of a no-fly zone and attacks against Libya’s command-and-control centers, or these two plus direct ground attacks on Gadhafi’s forces. These could also be combined with an invasion and occupation of Libya.
The question, therefore, is not the mission but the strategy to be pursued. How far is the coalition, or at least some of its members, prepared to go to effect regime change and manage the consequences following regime change? How many resources are they prepared to provide and how long are they prepared to fight? It should be remembered that in Iraq and Afghanistan the occupation became the heart of the war, and regime change was merely the opening act. It is possible that the coalition partners haven’t decided on the strategy yet, or may not be in agreement. Let’s therefore consider the first phases of the war, regardless of how far they are prepared to go in pursuit of the mission.
Like previous wars since 1991, this war began with a very public buildup in which the coalition partners negotiated the basic framework, sought international support and authorization from multinational organizations and mobilized forces. This was done quite publicly because the cost of secrecy (time and possible failure) was not worth what was to be gained: surprise. Surprise matters when the enemy can mobilize resistance. Gadhafi was trapped and has limited military capabilities, so secrecy was unnecessary.
While all this was going on and before final decisions were made, special operations forces were inserted in Libya on two missions. First, to make contact with insurgent forces to prepare them for coming events, create channels of communications and logistics and create a post-war political framework. The second purpose was to identify targets for attack and conduct reconnaissance of those targets that provided as up-to-date information as possible. This, combined with air and space reconnaissance, served as the foundations of the war. We know British SAS operators were in Libya and suspect other countries’ special operations forces and intelligence services were also operating there.
War commences with two sets of attacks. The first attacks are decapitation attacks designed to destroy or isolate the national command structure. These may also include strikes designed to kill leaders such as Gadhafi and his sons or other senior leaders. These attacks depend on specific intelligence on facilities, including communications, planning and so on along with detailed information on the location of the leadership. Attacks on buildings are carried out from the air but not particularly with cruise missile because they are especially accurate if the targets are slow, and buildings aren’t going anywhere. At the same time, aircraft are orbiting out of range of air defenses awaiting information on more mobile targets and if such is forthcoming, they come into range and fire appropriate munitions at the target. The type of aircraft used depends on the robustness of the air defenses, the time available prior to attack and the munitions needed. They can range from conventional fighters or stealth strategic aircraft like the U.S. B-2 bomber (if the United States authorized its use). Special operations forces might be on the ground painting the target for laser-guided munitions, which are highly accurate but require illumination.
At the same time these attacks are under way, attacks on airfields, fuel storage depots and the like are being targeted to ground the Libyan air force. Air or cruise missile attacks are also being carried out on radars of large and immobile surface-to-air (SAM) missile sites. Simultaneously, “wild weasel” aircraft — aircraft configured for the suppression of enemy air defenses — will be on patrol for more mobile SAM systems to locate and destroy. This becomes a critical part of the conflict. Being mobile, detecting these weapons systems on the ground is complex. They engage when they want to, depending on visual perception of opportunities. Therefore the total elimination of anti-missile systems is in part up to the Libyans. Between mobile systems and man-portable air-defense missiles, the threat to allied aircraft can persist for quite a while even if Gadhafi’s forces might have difficulty shooting anything down.
This is the part that the United States in particular and the West in general is extremely good at. But it is the beginning of the war. Gadhafi’s primary capabilities are conventional armor and particularly artillery. Destroying his air force and isolating his forces will not by itself win the war. The war is on the ground. The question is the motivation of his troops: If they perceive that surrender is unacceptable or personally catastrophic, they may continue to fight. At that point the coalition must decide if it intends to engage and destroy Gadhafi’s ground forces from the air. This can be done, but it is never a foregone conclusion that it will work. Moreover, this is the phase at which civilian casualties begin to mount. It is a paradox of warfare instigated to end human suffering that the means of achieving this can sometimes impose substantial human suffering itself. This is not merely a theoretical statement. It is at this point at which supporters of the war who want to end suffering may turn on the political leaders for not ending suffering without cost. It should be remembered that Saddam Hussein was loathed universally but those who loathed him were frequently not willing to impose the price of overthrowing him. The Europeans in particular are sensitive to this issue.
The question then becomes the extent to which this remains an air operation, as Kosovo was, or becomes a ground operation. Kosovo is the ideal, but Gadhafi is not Slobodan Milosevic and he may not feel he has anywhere to go if he surrenders. For him the fight may be existential, whereas for Milosevic it was not. He and his followers may resist. This is the great unknown. The choice here is to maintain air operations for an extended period of time without clear results, or invade. This raises the question of whose troops would invade. Egypt appears ready but there is long animosity between the two countries, and its actions might not be viewed as liberation. The Europeans could do so. It is difficult to imagine Obama adopting a third war in Muslim world as his own. This is where the coalition is really tested.
If there is an invasion, it is likely to succeed. The question then becomes whether Gadhafi’s forces move into opposition and insurgency. This again depends on morale but also on behavior. The Americans forced an insurgency in Iraq by putting the Baathists into an untenable position. In Afghanistan the Taliban gave up formal power without having been decisively defeated. They regrouped, reformed and returned. It is not known to us what Gadhafi can do or not do. It is clear that it is the major unknown.
The problem in Iraq was not the special operations forces. It was not in the decapitation strikes or suppression of enemy air defenses. It was not in the defeat of the Iraqi army on the ground. It was in the occupation, when the enemy reformed and imposed an insurgency on the United States that it found extraordinarily difficult to deal with.
Therefore the successes of the coming day will tell us nothing. Even if Gadhafi surrenders or is killed, even if no invasion is necessary save a small occupation force to aid the insurgents, the possibility of an insurgency is there. We will not know if there will be an insurgency until after it begins. Therefore, the only thing that would be surprising about this phase of the operation is if it failed.
The decision has been made that the mission is regime change in Libya. The strategic sequence is the routine buildup to war since 1991, this time with a heavier European component. The early days will go extremely well but will not define whether or not the war is successful. The test will come if a war designed to stop human suffering begins to inflict human suffering. That is when the difficult political decisions have to be made and when we will find out whether the strategy, the mission and the political will fully match up.
Published with permission of Stratfor - www.stratfor.com