Saturday, October 13, 2007

Boot Camps and Armies are National Responsibilities

I have long believed that local government and the free market system are the most effective and efficient means of delivering essential goods and services to citizens. As a conservative, I ascribe to the tenet that local government and the free market provide the most responsive and democratic service to citizens. The higher up the food chain provision of goods and services is aggregated, and citizens taxed therefore, the greater the opportunity for political misuse and inequality of distribution, despite socialists' claims that they are correcting inequalities. But, there are some things best left to the Feds. Boot camps and armies are federal government responsibilities.

Just before I left the Redneck Riviera, a young man died as the result of abuse at a local sheriff's department's boot camp for troubled teens. This past week the trial of the guards at that boot camp ended in acquittals. Turns out the abuse they heaped on the kid before he collapsed was approved procedure. Most of the defenders of the boot camp and the guards railed that the kid's parents failed to disclose that he had sickle cell trait, complications from which the original autopsy report credited as cause of death. Frankly, that was beside the point.

When I first moved to Panama City in 2003 and heard that they had a boot camp, I was skeptical at best about the wisdom of such a venture. My experience with boot camps is with the most effective boot camp ever run by any military organization in the history of man, with the life-long boot camp of the Spartans being the one exception. The boot camps run by the Marine Corps at Parris Island and San Diego are the most grueling, shocking, and inhumane (yes, I said "inhumane"--the goal is to teach people to kill) training syllabus in the world. They are run with the most disciplined attention to, and constant supervision of, a detailed set of rules and schedules for cramming a life-time of hardness into thousands of couch potatoes, in 13 weeks' time. Drill Instructors are carefully screened and then put through months of rigorous training (far surpassing what will be expected of their recruits) prior to allowing them to set foot in front of a platoon of recruits. Drill Instructors may not touch a recruit. No Drill Instructor is ever alone with recruits. A Drill Instructor who violates the training schedule or the rigid rules of conducting training risks ruining his or her career at best, Leavenworth at worst.

And yet, abuses at Parris Island and San Diego still occur.

Contrast the most professionally run boot camp in the world with the state-sanctioned boot camps run by local sheriff's departments. Many who would be a "drill instructor" at one of these play boot camps are not qualified, period. Some who strut around under the campaign cover, have no more experience at running a boot camp than having been through one dozens of years ago. One of the Panama City drill instructors was 60 years old! A boot camp run by amateurs is a ticking abuse time bomb, the timing mechanism for which has been set by foolish sheriffs or ignorant state legislators. The drill instructors at the boot camp in Panama City should not have been the ones on trial this past month--the sheriff and the state sanctioning officials should have been.

The same common sense needs to be applied to arrest the proliferation of American mercenary armies like Blackwater and Triple Canopy. Blackwater is equipping itself with its own ground attack air force, for crying out loud! The shame of this is, there are no effective American laws governing the conduct of such private armies, and Geneva Convention protections do not apply to their mercenary fighters. With no rules governing them, should anyone be surprised that they have no compunction against shooting up the local populace in Iraq in order to be able to proclaim that "no VIP, for which we have been contracted to protect, has been killed." Amazingly, Congress had the gall to drag the CEO of Blackwater before "investigatory hearings" as if this whole mess was his (or George Bush's) responsibility, when, in fact, Congress has shirked their responsibility to govern such activities with appropriate laws to begin with!

Leave boot camps and armies to the professionals.
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