Sunday, October 15, 2006

CSI: Ramadi

My current job in the Marine Corps is to write standards for actions that Marines perform in the course of their duties. I then help the schools where we train Marines take those standards and create learning objectives for training. The standards that I have been working on most recently are for something called tactical questioning and evidence collection. This would be a pretty mundane exercise for military police or judge advocates who are involved in capturing and questioning the criminal element. However, the standards I am writing are not for MPs or JAGs but instead are for regular straight leg infantry. Because of the way this war has devolved, commanders now must train their grunts to question terrorists they capture and collect evidence in such a way that the evidence and answers hold up in court lest these murderers be sprung by Iraqi magistrates to kill again.

We are training Marines to establish and maintain chain of custody for explosives and weapons found on the scene of a raid. Marines must meticulously file forms with every block complete about the terrorist they capture or the arrests get kicked out of court. Marines who capture prisoners must recreate their interrogations after the raid, and be prepared to testify in court about the circumstances of capture. I do this because I have been ordered to, but my disgust with what we expect of Marines on the frontline is manifest.

My problem is not that Marines are being tasked to do something they can’t do. Marines are completing these tasks admirably. My outrage is in regards to the fact that this is the way commanders in the theater expect our Marines to comport themselves. Collecting and documenting evidence is done with the presumption that terrorism is a law enforcement problem and that the people encountered in the course of raids are presumed innocent. I am in favor of that presumption if law enforcement is pursuing terrorists inside the US. But we are training Marines in Iraq who are chasing al Qeada, not deputy sheriffs in mid-America. When Marines encounter men in a building full of explosives and weapons, these men are either terrorists or collaborators. Either way, these men’s proximity to weaponry is prima facie evidence that those men are unlawful combatants. Why we turn these terrorists over to the Iraq civilian court system with its ridiculous rules of evidence baffles me. The best we should offer these terrorists is a tent city inside concertina wire someplace in Kurdistan until hostilities cease. Instead, we inculcate passivity into Marines who should be aggressive hunters and killers of terrorists, and we waste money and resources training Marines to be adjuncts to a foreign courts system. It is an outrage, and our Generals and civilian leadership should be forced to answer why.