Thursday, 4 December 2014

Obama Falsely Claims Human Rights Law Does Not Apply To Syrian Mercenary Training

Buried down in a report about Pentagon plans to train more "mercenaries" to fight against Syria we find this declaration of intend by the Obama administration to (again) break the law:
The military screening plan came together after the Obama administration determined that the training program for the Syrians would not be subject to what are known as the Leahy laws, which typically govern U.S. security assistance to foreign forces.Under those laws, a small office at the State Department works with U.S. embassies overseas to ensure that recipients of State or Defense Department security assistance aren’t linked to major human rights abuses.
Because the Syrian rebels will not be part of a state-sponsored force, the laws will not apply, U.S. officials said.
Wait a second. The U.S. congress has set aside $500 million to train, equip and pay these fighters. The U.S. military will do the training. And the Obama administration claims that these are not "state-sponsored forces"? Is the U.S. no longer a nation state?

Besides that the Leahy law as codified for the Pentagon in Section 8057 of the 2014 Omnibus bill does not say anything about "state-sponsored forces":
(1) None of the funds made available by this Act may be used for any training, equipment, or other assistance for the members of a unit of a foreign security force if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that the unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.(2) The Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, shall ensure that prior to a decision to provide any training, equipment, or other assistance to a unit of a foreign security force full consideration is given to any credible information available to the Department of State relating to human rights violations by such unit.
There is nothing about "state-sponsored" in the Pentagon relevant portion of the Leahy law. Will these trained be "foreign"? Yes. Will they be "security forces"? Arguably because they will likely bring more insecurity to Syria than security. But they will have weapons, will be organized in units and will fight. That seems to fit the expression "foreign security force".

Additionally the Pentagon Leahy law parts differ from the parts (Section 620M of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (as amended most recently in January 2014)) relevant to State Department sponsored training which explicitly refers to a "unit of the security forces of a foreign country".

When Congress codified the law it decided to limit the State Department version to "security forces of a foreign country". The Pentagon version was limited to "a foreign security force" which is a wider frame and does not necessitate those forces to be related to a foreign country.

The Obama administration obfuscation of Leahy relevance is faulty on two counts. If the Leahy restrictions were really to "state-sponsored forces" than the state sponsoring by the United States should count too. But the Leahy law as relevant is not restricted to "state-sponsored forces". It applies to "a foreign security force" which any Syrian group trained by the Pentagon will actually be. (Though again one might argue correctly that these forces will bring more insecurity to Syria and thereby are no "security forces" but the Obama administration does not make that claim.)

All the groups the CIA has trained and equipped to fight against Syria have committed major human rights violations. But the Leahy law does not apply to the CIA. Now as the Pentagon takes over the training of such groups the Leahy law becomes relevant. I dare anyone to find a group of Syrian insurgents fighting against the Syrian government that has not indiscriminately shelled civilians and not committed other major human rights abuses. There is none.
The Obama administration wants to avoid the applicability of the Leahy law because applying it would leave the Pentagon without any potential recruits to train as mercenaries against the Syrian government. It decided to break the law by using an interpretation that actually not covered by the laws wording. It has thus decided to break the law.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   
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