SIMPSON: Bureaucracy killing U.S. troops in Afghanistan

Political correctness keeps Army medevac helicopters grounded

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The U.S. military has developed the best system in the world for dealing with combat casualties. As medical technology has advanced, new methods of treatment have been developed, and the speed and efficiency of transport from the battlefield to essential medical services has greatly increased chances for combat wounded to survive. So it is particularly galling that with all these improvements, the U.S. Army has not similarly adjusted its regulations regarding deployment of medical evacuation (medevac) helicopters in combat zones to reflect the realities of modern warfare. It is bad enough that the Obama administration has imposed deadly rules of engagement to hobble the military. The U.S. Army has been racking up its own body count.

A new article in Soldier of Fortune magazine by Dalton Fury, former Delta Force commander and best-selling author of “Kill Bin Laden,” has explained the problem. Army regulations require that medevac helicopters follow the Geneva Convention, which specifies that they must be unarmed and display prominent red cross markings.

Our popular press has instilled in us the view that, as a signatory nation, we must follow the Geneva Convention in all situations, but this is utterly false. The convention only applies when all parties to the conflict are either signatories, or if not signatories, have nonetheless agreed to follow its tenets.

Given that very specific precondition, the convention requires warring parties to agree regarding aircraft markings, flight routes, altitudes and schedules and that “medical personnel and equipment shall not be attacked, but shall be respected by the belligerents. …” It goes so far as to require medical helicopters to land when the enemy orders them to and even evacuate enemy wounded.

Plainly, the convention speaks to engagements between military powers that respect the rule of law - with the exception of the United States and some of her allies, not a common occurrence over the past 100 years, if ever. But to think that al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah or any other terrorist group would ever respect the convention is the pinnacle of absurdity. Their military strategy is founded on terrorism, the deliberate flouting of any and all standards of human conduct.

Today we are fighting enemies who mass-murder schoolchildren, behead people with medieval lust, engage in real torture and every imaginable form of barbarity, while camouflaged as civilians to capitalize on rules of engagement that prohibit firing on civilians. While many of these groups are proxy armies for recognized states - some of whom may even have signed the convention - none of those states would ever admit it.

So while bowing to the letter of this ridiculous idea, Army regulations at the same time make a mockery of it. They recognize the true nature of our enemies by forbidding medevac choppers to enter a combat zone without Army gunship escort. If armed escort is not available, medevac helicopters remain grounded, regardless of the emergency.

A recent tragedy in Afghanistan highlights the high cost of these restrictions. As reported by veteran combat journalist Michael Yon, Army Spc. Chazray Clark was severely wounded on a night mission after stepping on an improved explosive device. Though grievously injured, he was conscious and talking. Spc. Clark’s fellow soldiers carried him back to the landing zone and waited … and waited.

The medevac helicopter was a mere 25 miles away, but could not leave the ground until escorted by an Army Apache helicopter gunship, and since none were immediately available, it sat on the tarmac while Spc. Chazray’s condition deteriorated.

There were armed Air Force helicopters at the airbase that could have come immediately, but Army regulations forbid their use. Field commanders have been complaining about this for years, to no effect.

This story prompted Sen. Charles Grassley, Iowa Republican, to write to Army Secretary John McHugh, questioning the policy.

A perfect dupe for Mr. Obama, Mr. McHugh is a RINO former congressman from New York with no military experience. His Republican stamp brings the illusion of moderation to the job, but he showed his true stripes by voting for the 2009 cap-and-trade bill - one of only seven Republicans to do so - mere weeks after being nominated by Mr. Obama. Mr. McHugh justified the helicopter policy in the following manner: “In accordance with Army doctrine, and to meet the spirit and intent of the Geneva Conventions, these aircraft are marked with a red cross for easy identification … and are not armed with crew-served weapons.”

The Army manual states: “The rights and duties set forth in the conventions are part of the supreme Law of the Land. The U.S. is obligated to adhere to these obligations even when an opponent does not.”

No we’re not.

As articulated above, there is no requirement for a signatory nation to follow the convention when opposing forces do not respect it. Here we see the consequences of mindless politically correct philosophies worked out to deadly effect in the real world where stupidity kills people.

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