Thursday, July 23, 2009

Obama's Criticism of Police Sergeant Unfair

The recent controversy over the arrest of a prominent black Harvard scholar, Henry Louis Gates, Jr., by Cambridge (Mass.) Police Sgt. James Crowley who happens to be white, should be looked at with a little more common sense and for what it is, based on the police report prepared by Officer Carlos Figueroa, a Latino male.

At 12:44 p.m. on July 16, the Cambridge Police were dispatched to a house as a result of a 911 call that someone was breaking into the residence. The police arrived and found a black male in the house, who according to Figueroa was confrontational and refused to show the police his identification. Figueroa reported that he overheard who was later identified as Gates, yelling, “this is what happens to a black man in America,” and “you don’t know who you’re messing with.”
Based on Gates confrontational behavior, he was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct by Crowley, who appeared to be the supervisor on the scene.

The race card was played by Gates at the scene and then thrown into the national spotlight by the press and media when they asked President Barack Obama his opinion of the arrest.

Giving the president the same benefit of the doubt that I would give the cops, I think he was blindsided by the press. The president indicated that he didn’t know all the facts in the case, but then went on to say that anyone would have been angry if treated the way Gates claims the police treated him.

I’m sure the president didn’t have the police report in front of him, or had he, he may not have been so quick to say that the police acted “stupidly when there was already proof’’ that Gates was in his own home. But was there? Not according to Figueroa’s report, which indicates Gates was refusing to provide the responding officers with identification.

Any politician or police executive will tell you that there are two sides to every story and unless there is some substantial reason to believe otherwise, your public servants should get the benefit of the doubt.

I believe Crowley confronted Gates because he was dispatched to that residence when a neighbor reported it was being burglarized. He didn’t confront Gates because he was black — he did so because Gates was in the residence that the sergeant was told was being burglarized. If Gates was confrontational, refused to identify himself, and acted disorderly — the sergeant had the right to arrest him.

Racial profiling is wrong and the president was right in his remarks that it has happened in the past and may be happening today — but for anyone to relate this event to racial profiling, they could be equally wrong. If they were not there, I would suggest that you refer them to the neighbor who reported the burglary and to Figueroa, one of several witnesses to Gates’ behavior.

The one thing that concerns me more than anything above, is the echoing of Gates’ alleged statement, “you don’t know who you’re messing with,” and boy was he right! Crowley responded to that burglary, not knowing the dangers that could await him. One burglar or two, armed or not — he responded just like any other radio run he had been on in his 11-year career. But I am absolutely positive, that he never thought he and his performance and actions in the line of duty on that afternoon would be judged or criticized by the president of the United States.

Some will blame the president . . . some will blame some in the press and media.

Either way, a dedicated police sergeant who went to work that day doing the job he was sworn to do, will remain criticized forever.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Iraqi Policies Must Not Endanger U.S. Troops

The Iraqi government has recently moved to restrict the movement and activities of U.S. forces in what appears to me to be an amended version of their 6-month-old U.S.- Iraqi security agreement. Hopefully, there is something lost in translation because if there isn’t, commanders on the ground as well as the president’s cabinet should be deeply concerned.

Under no circumstances should we be agreeing to any condition that could jeopardize the safety and security of the men and women who are defending us here or abroad, be it Iraq or anywhere else.

Under the initial agreement that consisted of three milestones, June 30 was the deadline for moving U.S. troops out of Iraqi towns and cities, the intent being a reduction in troop size from 130,000 to 50,000 next year around this time.

U.S. commanders have began the pullout in accordance with the agreement, but have kept several combat battalions assigned to urban areas to remain engaged in training Iraqi security forces, meeting with paid informants, attending local council meetings, and supervising U.S.-funded civic and reconstruction projects.

In an order dated July 2, Iraq’s top military commanders told their U.S. counterparts to "stop all joint patrols" in Baghdad and advised them that the U.S. resupply convoys could travel only at night, almost like they intend for the Americans to become invisible.

Joint patrols benefit both the Iraqis and the Americans in the event that they must engage in combat or respond to threats, and adherence to the new order would strongly limit our supporting role and perhaps jeopardize our troops. Limiting the U.S. troop movement for resupply convoys to nighttime could also be extremely dangerous if we agreed to it.

Our troops are still in Iraq at this point to assist the Iraqis in securing and stabilizing their country, by means of collecting intelligence, responding to threats, or engaging in combat operations when necessary.

The strict application and adherence of this new agreement could limit our ability to do any of the above, not to mention could place our troops and commanders in serious jeopardy.

The radicals and extremists, who appear to have recently increased their attacks with the use of Iranian support, will quickly realize the new limitations on the U.S. troops and make every effort to use them to their advantage, placing our men and women in danger.

We cannot let that happen.

Iraq today is a free and democratic country, based strongly on the blood, sweat, and tears of U.S. forces and other coalition countries that have gotten them to where they are today.

If the Iraqis now feel that they can do it on their own, then so be it — get our people back home where they belong. But if the Iraqis still feel a need for the added security element or supplies that we provide or the use of the intelligence we collect, then they cannot restrict us in any way, shape or form that could jeopardize our people on the ground.

This isn’t a political issue and our political leaders have to do something they rarely do – listen to the commanders in theater. If they feel that the application of this new agreement hinders them in anyway from keeping our men and women safe, then it’s time to pack it up.

It’s just the right thing to do.