An Obama administration official responsible for overseeing the closure of the Guantánamo Bay detention facility told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Wednesday that released detainees have killed Americans.
Paul Lewis, the Defense Department’s special envoy for the closure of the detainee program at GITMO, said to Rep. Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA):
“What I can tell you is unfortunately there have been Americans that have died because of [Guantánamo] detainees.”
“When anybody dies it is tragedy. We don’t want anybody to die because we transfer detainees,” Lewis added.
And while Lewis did not elaborate on the exact circumstances of specific deaths, nor did he say under which administration the deaths occurred, he did note that “most of the detainees transferred from Guantánamo were transferred by the Bush Administration[.]”
Despite acknowledging transfers have resulted in the loss of American lives, Lewis said in his opening statement that closing GITMO’s detention facility is a “national security imperative,” adding:
“The President and the leadership of his national security team believe that the continued operation of the detention facility at Guantánamo weakens our national security by damaging our relationships with key allies and partners, draining resources, and providing violent extremists with a propaganda tool.”
Currently, 91 detainees sit in the detention facility, many of whom are part of the too dangerous to transfer list. One of those individuals is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who the 9/11 Commission report identified as the principal architect of September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
While the facility cannot be officially closed without Congress repealing several laws that prevent such action, the large number of transfers and released terrorists has displayed blowback.
Still, the administration persists that the facility must close. “We believe the issue is not whether to close the Guantánamo Bay detention facility; the issue is how to do it,” Lewis said.
On the surface, Mohammad Youssef Abdulazeez and Dylan Roof might seem to have little in common but the brutal nature of their crimes.
The former was a Muslim terrorist who killed five U.S. servicemen and wounded several others at a recruiting office in Chattanooga last week. The latter is the white supremacist who slaughtered nine innocent people at a historic black church in Charleston last month.
Given the somewhat opposed nature of their respective extremist beliefs, they might even have been expected to hate each other, at least privately.
And yet as the psychological profile of each killer begins to emerge, there are striking similarities.
Both men were young loners in their mid-twenties. Both were involved, to a greater or lesser extent, with drugs. Both may have struggled with mental illness. And both seemed to find some kind of solace in extremism. They imagined idealized civilizations that would place them in the midst of, or at the pinnacle of, an elite that wielded authority over masses of other people. They chose targets who were among the best, the exemplars, of the society they lived in.
It may ultimately prove difficult to link directly Abdulazeez to a global terrorist group, (though he apparently researched Anwar al-Awlaki online). But it may not have been necessary. The nature of social media allows anyone to discover radicalism, carry out a “lone wolf” attack, and achieve instant martyr-stardom.
Likewise, it was impossible to connect Roof to an actual white supremacist movement or group (though the media tried, mightily). He held the Confederate flag in photos, but he named himself “the last Rhodesian.” And how many ex-Rhodesians can he possibly have met?
Perhaps there are clues in these two cases that might point toward a generic profile of the “lone wolf” terrorist in the new social media age. What is more certain, however, is that our society has reacted to each case differently.
With Roof, the community felt the need to purge itself of the symbol with which he had associated–namely, the Confederate flag. With Abdulazeez, the green of Islam illuminated the Empire State Building the next day (and the president, for unknown reasons, declined to lower the U.S. flag to half-mast in mourning for the fallen men).
True, Islam is recognized as a great monotheistic religion, a civilization that has made immense positive contributions to the world. And while support for extremism is more widespread in the Islamic world than Western liberals would like to believe, a very tiny minority of Muslims are terrorists. Yet there is more evil perpetrated today in the name of Islam, including slavery, than is done today under the Confederate flag.
That is not to say we should ban the banners of Islam. We should, though, be more sensitive about indulging them.
Former CIA Director and retired General David Petraeus, who has commanded U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, spoke with Charlie Rose on the “CBS Evening News” about the challenges the coalition faces in the fight against ISIS.
The situation on the ground in Iraq and Syria is “worrisome,” Petraeus said, calling the loss of Ramadi to ISIS “both an operational and a strategic setback, a significant one.”
“This is a moment, I think, when you sit back and say, ‘What do we need to do in the military arena? What also do we need to do in the political arena?'”
ISIS is “clearly a threat to the United States, to our allies and partners around the world, and of course, very much in the region, where it’s fomenting instability, violence and so forth — and indeed, far beyond Iraq and Syria,” Petraeus said. “It’s also into North Africa. It’s even trying to recruit in Afghanistan and Pakistan.”
As far as the strategy to fight ISIS, Petraeus said the U.S. military needs to reevaluate its strategy.
“I don’t know that you need a whole new strategy. What you need to do is look at what you have, figure out where you need to augment,” Petraeus said.
Among the possible changes he outlined would be adding advisers at the brigade or battalion level, rather than the current division level, and deploying joint tactical air control teams on the ground — despite the risk of losing American lives.
“There is risk, but there is also risk of losing this fight,” he said.
Petraeus said allowing the participation of Iraqi Shiite militias with ties to Iran would be “a very last resort.”
“What we need to do is focus not just on the military,” Petraeus said. You can’t kill or capture your way out of an industrial strength insurgency like this, Charlie — really, an industrial strength conventional force, because that’s what ISIL has actually come to be. You need to have the political component, and without that, without that, you’re not going to solve the problem.”
Asked if the U.S.-led coalition is winning or losing against ISIS right now, Petraeus responded, “These are fights where if you’re not winning, you’re probably losing, because time is not on your side.”
He went on to say it’s “arguable now in Iraq, we’ll turn it around. We will win again in Iraq, I do think that Iraq can definitely be handled. I think that it can be kept intact.
However, “We’ve got to do a lot more in Syria,” according to Petraeus.
“This is already a long war, it’s become longer because of the advent of the Islamic State, and we have to recognize that. And we have to be in it.”
During last year’s Gaza conflict, which took place in July and August, Hamas used the chaos to settle scores and carry out “horrific abuses . . . some of which amount to war crimes” against fellow Palestinians, said Philip Luther, director of the Middle East and North Africa program at Amnesty International.
The report alleges that Hamas forces waged “a brutal campaign of abductions, torture and unlawful killings” against Palestinians it accused of collaborating with Israel. But some of the victims were supporters of Fatah, Hamas’ political rival.
Hamas is a Palestinian Islamic organization that operates in the Palestinian territories and elsewhere in the Middle East. It controls Gaza, while Fatah, a secular party, controls the West Bank.
The U.S. State Department has included Hamas on its official list of foreign terrorist organizations since 1997.
Amnesty: Killings in public, with children watching
Among the allegations made in the Amnesty report:
• Hamas forces carried out “the extrajudicial execution of at least 23 Palestinians” and the arrest of dozens of others.
• Six men were killed by Hamas forces outside al-Omari mosque in Gaza’s Old City “in front of hundreds of spectators including children.”
• Palestinians abducted by Hamas “were subjected to torture, including severe beatings with truncheons, gun butts, hoses and wire or held in stress positions.”
“It is absolutely appalling that, while Israeli forces were inflicting massive death and destruction upon the people of Gaza, Hamas took the opportunity to ruthlessly settle scores, carrying out a series of unlawful killings and other grave abuses,” Luther said.
No action has been taken against the perpetrators, the report said.
“Not a single person has been held accountable for the crimes committed by Hamas forces against Palestinians during the 2014 conflict, indicating that these crimes were either ordered or condoned by the authorities,” Amnesty said.
Hamas’ military wing, Izzedine al Qassam, was responsible for many abuses, according to the report.
‘His arms and legs were broken’
It cited the case of Atta Najjar, a former Palestinian police officer who had a mental disability. Najjar was serving a 15-year prison term after having been convicted of collaborating with Israel, Amnesty reported.
On August 22, Najjar was taken from prison and killed, according to Amnesty.
His brother retrieved the body.
“There were marks of torture and bullet shots on his body,” the report quoted the brother as saying. “His arms and legs were broken … His body was as if you’d put it in a bag and smashed it. … And from behind the head — there was no brain. Empty.”
Torture and cruel treatment of detainees in an armed conflict is a war crime, Luther said.
Amnesty called on the Palestinian authorities, including the Hamas administration in Gaza, to cooperate with independent investigations, among them one conducted by the Commission of Inquiry set up by the U.N. Human Rights Council in July.
abuse, extremism, foreign affairs, islam, military, oppression, terrorism, tragedy, war
Future commencement speech invitations for Beltway media eminence grise Bob Woodward effectively evaporated, at least in the Northeast, after his appearance yesterday on Fox News Sunday.
Woodward, who’ll be known in perpetuity as the stable half of the reporting duo who brought down Richard Nixon for a scandal that now appears paltry compared to the vast money-laundering scheme dignified under lofty title of Clinton Global Foundation, admirably did his part to puncture a sacred liberal myth — that Bush lied and people died. As Woodward sees it, only the latter half of that equation is correct.
No matter, liberals will keep muttering it, usually when they’re awake, since clinging to their delusions is essential for maintaining what passes for sanity among them —
HOST CHRIS WALLACE: I want to turn to a different subject in the time we have left and that is the politics of Iraq which has gotten a lot of attention in the last couple of weeks with Jeb Bush, with Marco Rubio and with a bunch of other people and these questions of was it was a mistake to go in in 2003, was it a mistake to get out in 2011, and what impact this could have both in the Republican race and also the Democratic race. …
WOODWARD: Iraq is a symbol and you certainly can make a persuasive argument it was a mistake but there’s a kind of line going along that Bush and the other people lied about this. I spent 18 months looking at how Bush decided to invade Iraq and lots of mistakes, but it was Bush telling George Tenet, the CIA director, don’t let anyone stretch the case on WMD and he (Bush) was the one who was skeptical. And if you tried to summarize why we went into Iraq, it was momentum. The war plan kept getting better and easier and finally at that end people were saying, hey look, it’ll only take a week or two and early on it looked like it was going to take a year or 18 months and so Bush pulled the trigger.
A mistake, certainly, can be argued and there’s an abundance of evidence but there was no lie in this that I could find.
WALLACE: And what about 2011 and Obama’s decision to pull all the troops out? There had been a status of forces agreement between Bush and the Iraqi government that provided for a follow-on force. The Pentagon was talking about somewhere between 10- and 20,000 (troops) and a lot of people think, although Obama says, well we tried to negotiate and we didn’t, a lot of people think he really didn’t want to keep any troops there.
WOODWARD: Well, I think he didn’t. Look, Obama does not like war, but as you look back on this the argument from the military was, let’s keep 10-, 15,000 troops there as an insurance policy and we all know insurance policies make sense. We have 30,000 troops or more in South Korea still 65 years or so after the war. When you’re superpower, you have to buy these insurance policies and he didn’t in this case. I don’t think you can say everything is because of that decision but clearly a factor.
Obama will never admit it, but he knows he was wrong to abandon Iraq in 2011 for the sole purpose of potentially embarrassing Bush by saddling him with its loss. He’s tacitly acknowledged this by delaying the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan, which Obama in 2008 deemed the good war to Bush’s doomed misadventure in Iraq.
What should haunt Obama now as a result of his callow folly is the specter of Baghdad going the way of Saigon in the spring of 1975, as vividly depicted in Rory Kennedy’s most recent documentary, Last Days in Vietnam. Should this come to pass and the death toll rises to the point where genocide and not mass killings is invoked to describe the scale of slaughter, fellow Democrats will agree with Obama that this too is Bush’s fault. But which is preferable — Iraq as it is ripped asunder after six years of Obama’s quixotic foreign policy, or its stability and prospects when Bush left office in 2009?
An Air Force general who recently spoke about how God has guided his career should be court-martialed, a civil liberties group is saying.
In a speech at a National Day of Prayer Task Force event on May 7, Maj. Gen. Craig Olson credits God for his accomplishments in the military, and refers to himself as a “redeemed believer in Christ.”
The Air Force Times reports that the Military Religious Freedom Foundation has taken issue with Olson’s remarks, is calling for the two-star general to be court-martialed and “aggressively and very visibly brought to justice for his unforgivable crimes and transgressions.”
The group authored a letter to Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Walsh, arguing that Olson’s speech violates rules within the Air Force, which prohibits airmen from endorsing a particular faith or belief.
The letter, posted on the group’s website, begins, “This demand letter is sent to you on behalf of countless members of the United States Air Force who are utterly disgusted and shocked by the brazenly illicit and wholly unconstitutional, fundamentalist Christian proselytizing recently perpetrated, on international television (“GOD TV”), and streaming all over the Internet and in full military uniform, by USAF Major General Craig S. Olson on Thursday, May 7, 2015 during a VERY public speech for a private Christian organization (The “National Day of Prayer Task Force”: NDPTF) headed up by Focus on the Family founder, Dr. James Dobson’s, wife Shirley Dobson. “
“. . . disgusted and shocked by the brazenly illicit and wholly unconstitutional, fundamentalist Christian proselytizing . . .”
– letter from Military Religious Freedom Foundation
The group, which believes that the American flag and the U.S. Constitution are the only religious symbol and scripture, respectively, for those who serve in the military, also wants other service members who helped Olson to be investigated and punished “to the full extent of military law.”
During Olson’s 23-minute talk, the Air Force Times reports, Olson spoke of “flying complex aircraft; doing complex nuclear missions — I have no ability to do that. God enabled me to do that.”
“He put me in charge of failing programs worth billions of dollars,” Olson said. “I have no ability to do that, no training to do that. God did that. He sent me to Iraq to negotiate foreign military sales deals through an Arabic interpreter. I have no ability to do that. I was not trained to do that. God did all of that.”
At the end of his speech, Olson asked those in attendance to pray for Defense Department leaders and troops preparing to be deployed.
Olson is the program executive officer at Hanscom Air Force Base in Massachusetts, where he is responsible for more than 2,200 personnel, according to the U.S. Air Force website. He was commissioned in 1982 following graduation from the U.S. Air Force Academy and has extensive operational, flight test and acquisition experience.
abuse, anti-religion, bias, bigotry, bullies, censorship, discrimination, extremism, first amendment, free speech, government, ideology, intolerance, military, oppression, philosophy, political correctness, progressive, relativism, religion, separation, video
A refugee fleeing for his life in Syria reports he saw ISIS terrorists beheading civilians and playing soccer with their heads, according to WND.com.
“I saw severed heads,” Abdel Fatah said. “They killed children in front of their parents. We were terrorized. We had heard of their cruelty from the television, but when we saw it ourselves…I can tell you, their reputation is well-deserved.”
Sixteen-year-old Amjad Yaaqub said, “In Palestine Street, I saw two members of Daesh (the Arabic name for ISIS) playing with a severed head as if it was a football.”
Meanwhile, in the good old U.S. of A., the most fearsome military force in the world is being trained on…wait for it…wait for it…when it’s okay to kiss a girl.
As The Free Beacon puts it, “an issue that could “dramatically affect” the mission of the United States Armed Forces is telling soldiers when it is okay to kiss a girl.”
The Free Beacon says the Air Force said the course will educate Airmen “about the serious cultural and societal issues that could dramatically affect our mission.”
“The Air Force is the latest branch to employ the services of Mike Domitrz, a speaker and author known for his “May I Kiss You?” training session, to teach servicemembers about consent and sexual assault prevention.”
“On Thursday the Air Force awarded Domitrz’s company, the Date Safe Project, $10,000 for three training sessions.”
“Domitrz’s 60 to 90 minute sessions offer a “unique combination of humor and dramatic story telling,” the Air Force said in an attachment detailing the contract terms.”
Speaking of “dramatically affecting the mission,” the Air Force is consideringscrapping the A-10 Warthog, one of the most potent aircraft in our arsenal, but nah, we can get along without that.
When I joined the Marines, I met a man who had survived a helicopter crash during a training exercise. The first time I saw him his head and face were covered in burn scars. A balloon filled with saline, that looked like a dinosaur’s crest, was implanted in his scalp to stretch the skin so hair could grow. Something that looked exactly like the checkered buttstock of an M16A2 was imprinted on one side of his head. He greeted me when I checked in to my unit, and totally ignored the shocked expression I must have had when he approached. He shook my hand, asked a few questions, then left with a friendly “See you later, PFC.” His demeanor left me with the absurd thought, Maybe he doesn’t know how strange he looks.
He had been assigned to my reserve unit while undergoing treatment at a nearby military burn unit…
The Central Intelligence Agency, working with American troops during the occupation of Iraq, repeatedly purchased nerve-agent rockets from a secretive Iraqi seller, part of a previously undisclosed effort to ensure that old chemical weapons remaining in Iraq did not fall into the hands of terrorists or militant groups, according to current and former American officials.
The extraordinary arms purchase plan, known as Operation Avarice, began in 2005 and continued into 2006, and the American military deemed it a nonproliferation success. It led to the United States’ acquiring and destroying at least 400 Borak rockets, one of the internationally condemned chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein’s Baathist government manufactured in the 1980s but that were not accounted for by United Nations inspections mandated after the 1991 Persian Gulf war.
The effort was run out of the C.I.A. station in Baghdad in collaboration with the Army’s 203rd Military Intelligence Battalion and teams of chemical-defense and explosive ordnance disposal troops, officials and veterans of the units said. Many rockets were in poor condition and some were empty or held a nonlethal liquid, the officials said. But others contained the nerve agent sarin, which analysis showed to be purer than the intelligence community had expected given the age of the stock.
A New York Times investigation published in October found that the military had recovered thousands of old chemical warheads and shells inIraq and that Americans and Iraqis had been wounded by them, but the government kept much of this information secret, from the public and troops alike.
These munitions were remnants of an Iraqi special weapons program that was abandoned long before the 2003 invasion, and they turned up sporadically during the American occupation in buried caches, as part of improvised bombs or on black markets.
The potency of sarin samples from the purchases, as well as tightly held assessments about risks the munitions posed, buttresses veterans’ claims that during the war the military did not share important intelligence about battlefield perils with those at risk or maintain an adequate medical system for treating victims of chemical exposure.
The purchases were made from a sole Iraqi source who was eager to sell his stock, officials said. The amount of money that the United States paid for the rockets is not publicly known, and neither are the affiliations of the seller.
Most of the officials and veterans who spoke about the program did so anonymously because, they said, the details remain classified. The C.I.A. declined to comment. The Pentagon, citing continuing secrecy about the effort, did not answer written questions and acknowledged its role only obliquely.
“Without speaking to any specific programs, it is fair to say that together with our coalition partners in Iraq, the U.S. military worked diligently to find and remove weapons that could be used against our troops and the Iraqi people,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a written statement.
Retired Army Lt. Gen. Richard P. Zahner, the top American military intelligence officer in Iraq in 2005 and 2006, said he did not know of any other intelligence program as successful in reducing the chemical weapons that remained in Iraq after the American-led invasion.
Through the C.I.A.’s purchases, General Zahner said, hundreds of weapons with potential use for terrorists were quietly taken off the market. “This was a timely and effective initiative by our national intelligence partners that negated the use of these unique munitions,” he said.
Not long after Operation Avarice had secured its 400th rocket, in 2006, American troops were exposed several times to other chemical weapons. Many of these veterans said that they had not been warned by their units about the risks posed by the chemical weapons and that their medical care and follow-up were substandard, in part because military doctors seemed unaware that chemical munitions remained in Iraq.
Aaron Stein, an associate fellow at the Royal United Services Institute, said the belated acknowledgment of a chemical-rocket purchases, as well as the potentially worrisome laboratory analysis of the related sarin samples, raised questions about the military’s commitment to the well-being of those it sent to war.
“If we were aware of these compounds, and as it became clear over the course of the war that our troops had been exposed to them, why wasn’t more done to protect the guys on the ground?” he said. “It speaks to the broader failure.”
The first purchase under Operation Avarice, according to veterans and officials familiar with the effort, occurred in early September 2005, when an Iraqi man provided a single Borak. The warhead presented intelligence analysts with fresh insight into a longstanding mystery.
During its war against Iran in the 1980s, Iraq had fielded multiple variants of 122-millimeter rockets designed to disperse nerve agents.
The Borak warheads, which are roughly 40 inches long and attach to a motor compatible with the common Grad multiple rocket launcher system, were domestically produced. But no clear picture ever emerged of how many Iraq manufactured or how many it fired during the Iran-Iraq war.
No clear evidence ever surfaced to support Iraq’s claim, which meant that questions about whether Boraks remained were “carried forward as one of the big uncertainties,” said Charles A. Duelfer, a senior United Nationsinspector at the time who later led the C.I.A.’s Iraq Survey Group. There was “a big gap in the information,” he said.
The mystery deepened in 2004 and early 2005, when the United States recovered 17 Boraks. The circumstances of those recoveries are not publicly known. Then came Operation Avarice and its promise of a larger haul. It began when the Iraqi seller delivered his first Borak, which the military secretly flew to the United States for examination.
The Iraqi seller would then periodically notify the C.I.A. in Baghdad that he had more for sale, officials said.
The agency worked with the Army intelligence battalion and chemical weapons specialists, who would fly by helicopter to Iraq’s southeast and meet the man for exchanges.
The handoffs varied in size, including one of more than 150 warheads. American ordnance disposal technicians promptly destroyed most of them by detonation, the officials said, but some were taken to Camp Slayer, by Baghdad’s airport, for further testing.
One veteran familiar with the program said warheads were tested by putting them in “an old cast-iron bathtub” and drilling through their metal exteriors to extract the liquid sarin within.
The analysis of sarin samples from 2005 found that the purity level reached 13 percent — higher than expected given the relatively low quality and instability of Iraq’s sarin production in the 1980s, officials said. Samples from Boraks recovered in 2004 had contained concentrations no higher than 4 percent.
The new data became grounds for concern. “Borak rockets will be more hazardous than previously assessed,” one internal report noted. It added a warning: the use of a Borak in an improvised bomb “could effectively disperse the sarin nerve agent.”
An internal record from 2006 referred to “agent purity of up to 25 percent for recovered unitary sarin weapons.”
Cheryl Rofer, a retired chemist for the Los Alamos National Laboratory, said such purity levels were plausible, because Iraq’s sarin batches varied in quality and the contents of warheads may have achieved an equilibrium as the contents degraded.
Military officials said that because the seller was a C.I.A. source they did not know his name or whether he was a smuggler, a former or current Iraqi official, a front for Iraq’s government, or something else. But as he continued to provide rockets, his activities drew more interest.
The Americans believed the weapons came from near Amarah, a city not far from Iran. It was not clear, however, if rockets had been retrieved from a former forward firing point used by Iraq’s military during the Iran-Iraq War, or from one of the ammunition depots around the city.
Neither the C.I.A. nor the soldiers persuaded the man to reveal his source of supply, the officials said. “They were pushing to see where did it originate from, was there a mother lode?” General Zahner said.
Eventually, a veteran familiar with the purchases said, “the guy was getting a little cocky.”
At least once he scammed his handlers, selling rockets filled with something other than sarin.
Then in 2006, the veteran said, the Iraqi drove a truckload of warheads to Baghdad and “called the intel guys to tell them he was going to turn them over to the insurgents unless they picked them up.”
Not long after that, the veteran said, the relationship appeared to dry up, ending purchases that had ensured “a lot of chemical weapons were destroyed.”
An Army chaplain was punished for discussing matters of faith and quoting from the Bible during a suicide prevention training session with the 5th Ranger Training Battalion — leading to outrage from religious liberty groups and a Georgia congressman.
Chaplain Joseph Lawhorn was issued a Letter of Concern that accused him of advocating for Christianity and “using Christian scripture and solutions” during a Nov. 20th training session held at the University of North Georgia.
“You provided a two-sided handout that listed Army resources on one side and a biblical approach to handling depression on the other side,” Col. David Fivecoat, the commander of the Airborne and Ranger Training Brigade at Ft. Benning, Georgia, wrote in the letter to the chaplain. “This made it impossible for those in attendance to receive the resource information without also receiving the biblical information.”
The Christian chaplain was warned to be “careful to avoid any perception you are advocating one system of beliefs over another.”
The Christian chaplain was warned to be “careful to avoid any perception you are advocating one system of beliefs over another.”
However, attorneys for the chaplain, along with religious advocacy groups, say his comments are covered by the “right of conscience clause” that was passed in last year’s National Defense Authorization Act, section 533.
Chaplain Lawhorn was ordered to appear in the colonel’s office on Thanksgiving Day where he was personally handed the Letter of Concern.
Based on Col. Fivecoat’s version of events — you would’ve thought Chaplain Lawhorn had turned the suicide prevention workshop into a Billy Graham Crusade. However, that’s not what happened.
During the course of conducting the training session, Ron Crews, the endorsing agent for military chaplains for Grace Churches International, explained, the chaplain discussed his own struggles with depression and the methods and techniques he personally used to combat depression. He said the chaplain did provide a handout with religious resources — but he also provided a handout with non-religious resources.
“The chaplain did nothing wrong,” said Crews. “At no time did he say his was the only or even the preferred way of dealing with depression. And at no time did he deny the validity of any other method.”
Lawhorn is one of the few Army chaplains to wear the Ranger Tab and Crews said it was through that identification that he shared his story about depression.
“His story involves his faith journey,” Crews said. “He was simply being a great Army chaplain – in ministering to his troops and providing first hand how he has dealt with depression in the past. That’s what chaplains do. They bare their souls for their soldiers in order to help them with crises they may be going through.”
However, someone in the training session complained to the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers. That complaint led to a story on the Huffington Post.
Michael Berry, an attorney with Liberty Institute, a law firm that handles religious liberty cases, is representing the chaplain. He said the person who filed the complained “exploited” the chaplain’s “vulnerability.”
“It took a great amount of courage for Chaplain Lawhorn to discuss his own personal battle with depression,” Berry said. “At no time did he consider himself to be in a ‘preacher’ role.”
Berry called on the Army to rescind the Letter of Concern — calling it a violation of the chaplain’s constitutional rights.
“Not only is it lawful for a chaplain to talk about matters of faith and spirituality and religion in a suicide prevention training class – but the Army policy encourages discussion of matters of faith and spiritual wellness,” Berry told me. “The fact that one person in the class was offended changes nothing.”
Congressman Doug Collins, a Republican lawmaker from Georgia, whose district includes the area where the training session took place, fired off a letter to Col. Fivecoat expressing his concerns in the matter.
“I find it counterintuitive to have someone lead a suicide prevention course but prohibit them from providing their personal testimony,” Collins wrote.
“I fear Chaplain Lawhorn’s freedom of expression was improperly singled out,” he wrote.
Liberty Institute tells me the Army will allow me to speak with the chaplain — but not right now. And Col. Fivecoat sent me an email telling me that he would not be able to comment at this point.
If I’m reading between the lines — that Letter of Concern comes pretty close to accusing the chaplain of proselytizing. Crews agrees with my assessment.
“The bottom line is — that is exactly what they are trying to accuse him of — when nothing could be further from the truth,” Crews told me. “The military leadership needs to commend Chaplain Lawhorn, not condemn him.”
Berry said Americans should be shocked and outraged over Chaplain Lawhorn’s punishment.
“His job is to save lives — and he’s being punished for trying to do his job,” Berry said. “He’s doing everything he can to save them – and yet now they’re trying to say – the way you’re doing it offends me.”
I find it both repulsive and heartbreaking to know that we have a military that frowns upon a chaplain using a Bible to save a soldier’s life.