Interview with Senator Lindsey Graham

I would not normally link to a war-cheerleader site like the National Review, but Senator Graham is about the most high-profile AF JAG out there, so it’s interesting to see some of the things he says. I have to say I’m a little intrigued and a little disturbed by what I read. I admit I don’t have first hand info on some of things he says, but I do have a little insight I’d like to share.

First, the interviewer points out

His time spent in-country is hardly “the dog and pony show” suggested by Democrat Sen. (and former Marine officer) James Webb on Meet the Press. Graham has worked in Iraq’s backcountry, and he’s been heavily involved in that country’s fledgling judiciary and penal/reconciliation systems

The interviewer also notes that he met the “uniformed and armed Graham last month while having lunch at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.”

First off, Graham was in Iraq, as I understand, on his 2 week reserve tour. A far cry from the 15 months that soldiers and marines pull over there and not even comparable to the 4 or 6 months that Airmen do. Second, even a regular JAG over there is actually in very little actual danger. Of course it’s a war zone, but JAGs are almost always in a support or HQ position which is relatively safe. It ain’t convoy duty. Furthermore, we’re talking about a senior JAG who also happens to be a U.S. Senator. C’mon dude.

Next take this exchange:

W. THOMAS SMITH JR: How many prisoners do we currently hold in Iraq? SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM: We’ve got 21,000 prisoners at Camp Bucca [the detainee facility in southern Iraq near the Kuwaiti border], the theater internment facility. We’ve got another few thousand at Camp Cropper near Baghdad. Three or four years ago, we were projecting to have fewer than 2,000 prisoners. At this rate, we’ll have 30,000 easily by the end of the year.

Two things here: First, holy crap are we holding a lot of prisoners. I’m very disturbed by the numbers we’re holding. Second, look at how he projects the numbers to grow. I just don’t know a lot about this issue, but I’m going to endeavor to find out.

I’m also very interested in the reasons for the detentions. Senator Graham talks about this a little:

One of my concerns has been — and I’ve been working on this since April — is what kind of process is required to hold someone indefinitely? We’ve got people who have been there for three-and-a-half years. Until recently, they’d never seen a panel. Never had a hearing. It was all done by paper file reviews. They were security detainees, and under the U.N. and article 78 of the Geneva Convention, an occupying force can detain people either in their homes or in an internment facility to protect the population as a whole. A couple years ago, however, we changed our status from being occupiers to allies. Occupation has ended, but we were holding these people as if we were still occupiers.So we needed a process that the U.N. couldn’t undercut — a bilateral process between us and the Iraqis — if we were going to hold these people for years, and some of them we may have to.

Where do I start? So Senator Graham is working on a process to hold someone indefinitely? How exactly is that working to instill the rule of law in a country we’re supposedly trying to democratize? And he says that we’ve been holding people for 42 months as security detainees as an occupying force, but then he also says we stopped being an occupying force about 24 months ago. He makes it sound like we changed something to adjust, but doesn’t say exactly what. From reading his remarks, I suspect we did some sort of paperwork transfer to “Iraqi control,” but that it’s still U.S. soldiers doing the holding. Oh yeah and we only needed to make this change because otherwise the evil U.N. would “undercut” us.

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