- The Washington Times - Friday, March 22, 2002

The recent debacle involving granting student visas to dead terrorists has been written off to an archaic Immigration and Naturalization Service bureaucracy that has not received adequate funding to computerize its files. Fortunately, the military does not suffer from this bureaucratic inertia and is reasonably well-funded. For example, let's take a look at a page from the files of the Central Command that is running the war in Afghanistan. This snapshot was taken last November.

"General, I have an urgent message from the operator of one of our Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) operators. He's spotted Mullah Omar and wants to take a shot at him."

"Good work Major Finster; write it up on a DD 1060 form and run it past the SJA" (The staff lawyer).

"With all due respect general, Omar is a moving target."

"Finster, Finster, Finster; how many times have I told you that we have procedures for this kind of thing. If we don't do this right, we could be sued."

"Who's going to sue us sir? The al Qaeda and Taliban wouldn't even be let near a court room for fear they'd blow it up."

"Human rights groups, Finster. It doesn't reflect well on your permanent record to be sued by them."

"Aye aye general. I'll take it to the ambulance chaser."

"Major Finster, you are bordering on insubordination. I'll remind you that Colonel Shyster is a fully qualified member of the Judge Advocate General Corps; he likes to be referred to as a Warfighting Legal Targeteer. Now get on with it."

After a short delay.

"What now, Finster?"

"Sir, the colonel wants to know if the target is threatening the UAV."

"Well, is it?"

"General, the target doesn't even know that the UAV is there. That's kind of the point."

"Well, we ought to give him a sporting chance. Tell the operator to have the UAV to buzz Omar. I want you to give me an up to the minute play-by-play. Get on the horn to the operator."

"Sir, the operator reports that the UAV just buzzed Omar's car."

"Good, what's Omar doing?"

"He appears to be laughing hysterically. Now he's giving us 'the finger.' "

"Good God! Has the man no respect for rank?"

"General, I wouldn't take it personally, he's a supporter of international terrorism and we've just toppled his regime. I suspect that he's not too happy with Americans in general at this juncture."

"You have a point, what's going on now?"

"We've lost contact with the Predator. It was flying so low and slow that the operator thinks the Taliban shot it down."

"Give that boy an Air Medal."

"The UAV operator?"

"No, the UAV; have the operator disciplined for incompetence."

"General, the chief of staff of the Air Force is on the line and he sounds really angry. He's yelling something about rear area military incompetence interfering with operations in the field."

"Finster my boy, remind him that the Goldwater-Nichols legislation mandated that we don't let one service go off and try to win a war by itself."

"General, aren't we trying to win this war?"

"Major, there are some things more important than winning or losing, such as self-esteem. Don't you have children in T-ball? I want to feel good about myself. If the Air Force makes me feel bad about myself, I'm going to make it feel bad about itself."

"Sir, if this incident ever gets back to Secretary Rumsfeld and the president, I think you are going to be in a great deal of trouble."

"That's your problem, Finster. We can't have the civilians thinking they actually control the military; that's a very slippery slope indeed."

Postscript: Major Finster's repeated requests for transfer to a Marine Force Reconnaissance unit were finally granted. The general's comment on his fitness report was, "This officer is a fine soldier but he does not understand the nuances of joint warfighting. He is definitely not general officer material."

The author wants it noted that no general officers were actually killed or injured in the writing of this column.

Gary Anderson is a retired Marine who occassionally contributes to the Commentary pages of The Washington Times.

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