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Profile: US Marine Corps
US Marine Corps was a participant or observer in the following events:
Sherwood F. Moran (right) interrogating a Japanese prisoner during the battle of Guadalcanal. [Source: Associated Press]Marine interrogator Major Sherwood F. Moran writes an informal memo for use by other interrogators. Moran is a legendary figure among Marines, renowned for his ability to coax information from the most reluctant or resistant Japanese captive, even during the height of battle, and often using his knowledge of, and respect for, Japanese culture to his advantage. His memo will remain relatively unknown outside the Marine Corps until the summer of 2003, when it will be included in the archives of the Marine Corps Interrogator Translator Teams Association. The memo, titled “Suggestions for Japanese Interpreters Based on Work in the Field,” is remarkable for its insistence that treating prisoners with humanity and respect works far better than “harsh” interrogation methods. Author Ulrich Straus, an expert on Japanese POWs held in US captivity during World War II, will later write that Moran “was a particularly effective interrogator because he treated each prisoner as another human rather than as the enemy.” In 2005, after the Abu Ghraib scandals become media fodder, military historian Stephen Budiansky will write: “Six months before the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison broke into public view, a small and fairly obscure private association of United States Marine Corps members posted on its Web site a document on how to get enemy POWs to talk. The document described a situation very similar to the one the United States faces in the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan: a fanatical and implacable enemy, intense pressure to achieve quick results, a brutal war in which the old rules no longer seem to apply.… Moran, the report’s author, noted that despite the complexities and difficulties of dealing with an enemy from such a hostile and alien culture, some American interrogators consistently managed to extract useful information from prisoners. The successful interrogators all had one thing in common in the way they approached their subjects. They were nice to them. Moran was writing in 1943, and he was describing his own, already legendary methods of interrogating Japanese prisoners of war. More than a half century later his report remains something of a cult classic for military interrogators.” [David R. Moran, 2005]
Human-to-Human Attitude - Moran writes that the best interrogators (whom he says should consider themselves “interviewers”) become “wooers” of their captives, coaxing information rather than attempting to force confessions. Most important, Moran writes, is the interrogator’s attitude towards his prisoner. “Many people, I suppose, would on first thought think ‘attitude’ had nothing to do with it; that all one needs is a knowledge of the language, then shoot out questions, and expect and demand a reply,” he writes. “Of course that is a very unthinking and naive point of view.” Just as important, Moran writes, is a sympathy and understanding of the captive’s culture. A superior or demeaning attitude breeds nothing but antagonism and resistance.
Speaking the Language of the Captive - Almost as important, Moran notes, is the interrogator’s ability to speak directly to the captive in his own language, without the need for translators. An interrogator should speak the language fluently and idiomatically, or, when that is not possible, to at least have some command over common phrases. “After all, the first and most important victory for the interviewer to try to achieve is to get into the mind and into the heart of the person being interviewed,” he writes.
Hidden System - Fellow feelings and warm sympathy towards the captive are necessary, but not the entire package. While the captive, or an outside observer, might believe that the interrogator is merely indulging in friendly chit-chat, the interrogator must have an agenda and a plan in place at all times. “[I]n the workings of your mind you must be a model of system,” Moran says. “You must know exactly what information you want, and come back to it repeatedly. Don’t let your warm human interest, your genuine interest in the prisoner, cause you to be sidetracked by him! You should be hard-boiled but not half-baked. Deep human sympathy can go with a business-like, systematic, and ruthlessly persistent approach.”
Short-Circuiting Patriotic Defensiveness - To emphasize that your side, your nation, or your culture is superior—in essence, the “conquerors” of the captive’s military or his nation—is counterproductive, Moran writes. “To emphasize that we are enemies, to emphasize that he is in the presence of his conqueror, etc., puts him psychologically in the position of being on the defensive, and that because he is talking to a most-patient enemy and conqueror he has no right and desire to tell anything,” he writes.
Breaking Recalcitrant Prisoners - Sometimes even the best interrogators come up against recalcitrant prisoners who flatly refuse, for patriotic reasons or what Moran calls “conscientious scruples,” to give any information. In these cases, Moran writes, harsh or physical techniques of intelligence extraction are counterproductive. Instead, he writes, with his Japanese captives he is often able to shame the prisoner into cooperating. Reminding the captive that he has been treated humanely, has been treated with kindness and courtesy, implies a quid pro quo—not the threat of having this treatment withdrawn if cooperation is not forthcoming, but a matter of the captive returning the interrogator’s courtesy with information. [Moran, 7/17/1943 ]
The Department of Defense updates its civil disturbance response plan, codenamed Operation Garden Plot. The program was originally established in the 1960s (see Winter 1967-1968). The Pentagon utilizes lessons learned from the recent deployment of Marines and Army infantry troops in Los Angeles (see May 1-May 6, 1992). Marines called into Los Angeles had not been trained for domestic disturbances. An Army official reportedly says the military will now “provide standard riot duty training for all combat forces that could be called into the nation’s cities.” National Guard troops will also get “refresher training on riot control as part of their regular weekend training and two weeks of active duty.” [San Antonio Express-News, 5/17/1992]
After two days of widespread rioting in the city of Los Angeles, Mayor Tom Bradley and Governor Pete Wilson ask the White House for military assistance to supplement the California National Guard. President George H. W. Bush deploys 2,500 soldiers of the Army’s 7th Infantry Division from Fort Ord and 1,500 Marines from Camp Pendleton. Bush also federalizes approximately 8,000 National Guard troops. All three groups are placed under the command of Major General Marvin L. Covault as part of a decades-old Pentagon program codenamed Operation Garden Plot (see Winter 1967-1968). Combat troops, equipped with M-16 rifles, flak jackets, helmets, and riot batons, are the first to enter a US city since 1972. Marines take up positions in Compton and Long Beach; Army troops are sent to patrol the streets of Watts; and National Guard soldiers are deployed throughout the area. In a television address, Bush says the military will “use whatever force is necessary to restore order.” Bush announces he is sending into Los Angeles an additional 1,000 federal law enforcement officials, “including FBI SWAT teams and riot control units of the US Marshals Service, the Border Patrol, and other agencies.” According to the Washington Post, a Marine unit is on standby at Camp Pendleton “with light armored vehicles, eight-wheeled, 14-ton armored personnel carriers armed with 25mm cannon.” The troops in Los Angeles are ordered to return fire only when fired upon. Although few conflicts arise between soldiers and rioters, members of the National Guard shoot and kill a motorist that allegedly tries to run them down. Bush’s decision to activate the military will later be criticized for being unnecessary and coming after the majority of the violence had already ended. The riots will lead the military to increase military training for Operation Garden Plot in the coming months (see Spring 1992). [Washington Post, 5/2/1992; New York Times, 5/3/1992; Los Angeles Times, 5/10/1992; Reuters, 5/11/1992; San Antonio Express-News, 5/17/1992]
Members of the Chemical Biological Incident Response Force. [Source: Daniel Wetzel / US Marine Corps]Members of the US Marine Corps’ Chemical Biological Incident Response Force (CBIRF) participate in a major training exercise with the New York Fire Department (FDNY) sometime this month. During the exercise, the FDNY’s response to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993) is discussed, according to Colonel Thomas Hammes, commanding officer of the CBIRF. Further details of the exercise are unstated. The CBIRF was established by the Marine Corps in 1996 in order to support first responders during attacks involving chemical or biological weapons. [Lerner and Lerner, 2003, pp. 176; Hammes, 2004, pp. xii] It has around 370 members and is capable of deploying rapidly to anywhere in the world if there is an attack involving weapons of mass destruction or if a chemical, biological, or nuclear agent is released. [Washington Post, 1/8/2000; US Marine Corps, 7/21/2000] The unit has a history with the FDNY going back to when it was founded in 1996. FDNY Deputy Chief Ray Downey in fact helped develop its original training. [US Marine Corps, 4/23/2010] It moved from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Indian Head, Maryland, in the summer of 2000. [US Department of Defense, 7/2001, pp. 125 ] The move, it was reported at the time, would “place CBIRF closer to Washington, DC, and New York City,” thereby “reducing response time to crucial national locations.” [US Marine Corps, 7/21/2000] On September 11, the CBIRF’s immediate response force will prepare to respond to the attacks in New York and at the Pentagon, if needed. The unit will not be deployed, though, and will instead be held in reserve in case there is a weapons of mass destruction attack in the Washington area. [Hammes, 2004, pp. xii-xiii]
About a dozen US soldiers witness looters stealing high explosives from the Al Qaqaa ammunition site in northern Babil Province over a span of several days. The Al Qaqaa facility is where hundreds of tons of some of Iraq’s most powerful conventional explosives have been stored since 1991 (see May 2003); at least nine of its bunkers were unsealed by US troops days before (see April 18, 2003). In October 2004 the International Atomic Energy Agency will inform the US that around 380 tons of high explosives from Qaqaa are missing (see October 10, 2004 and October 25, 2004). The US soldiers, Army reservists and National Guardsmen, will say in November 2004 that they are unable to prevent the looting because they are drastically outnumbered. Some of the soldiers call their commanders to request help in securing the site, but receive no reply. The soldiers later describe watching Iraqis heave explosives from unsecured bunkers into Toyota pickup trucks. They try, with little success, to deter the looters; one noncommissioned officer will recall: “We were running from one side of the compound to the other side, trying to kick people out.… On our last day there, there were at least 100 vehicles waiting at the site for us to leave so looters could come in and take munitions.” Another officer will recall: “It was complete chaos. It was looting like [Los Angeles] during the Rodney King riots.” The soldiers who recall the events for the Los Angeles Times ask not to be identified, fearing reprisals from the Pentagon. When US search teams visit the facility on May 8, they find it “had been looted and stripped and vandalized.” No IAEA-monitored materials are found. No US forces were specifically delegated to guard the Al Qaqaa facility, codenamed “Objective Elm” by US strategists. Marine units are later delegated to guard the facility; one senior Marine officer will say in November 2004: “That site was just abandoned by the 101st Airborne, and there was never a physical handoff by the 101st to the Marines. They just left. We knew these sites were being looted, but there was nothing we could do about it.… There was no plan to prevent these weapons from being used against us a year later.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/4/2004]
President Obama greets Marines at Camp Lejeune. [Source: White House]President Obama says that the target date for a substantial withdrawal of US troops from Iraq is August 31, 2010. “Let me say this as plainly as I can,” he tells the gathered Marines: “by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end.” Around 100,000 troops will be withdrawn by that date. However, major withdrawals will not begin until after December 2009, to ensure that national elections go smoothly. Obama promised that US troops would be out of Iraq 16 months after he took office in January; the new deadline extends the withdrawal by some three months. Obama tells the Marines: “I want to be very clear. We sent our troops to Iraq to do away with Saddam Hussein’s regime—and you got the job done. We kept our troops in Iraq to help establish a sovereign government—and you got the job done. And we will leave the Iraqi people with a hard-earned opportunity to live a better life—that is your achievement; that is the prospect that you have made possible.” Some 35,000 to 50,000 troops will remain in Iraq under a new mission of training, civilian protection, and counterterrorism operations. According to the latest Status of Forces (SOF) agreement between Iraq and the US, all US troops must withdraw from Iraq by December 31, 2011. White House officials say that Obama has no interest in keeping troops in Iraq after that date. The August 2010 date was decided after input from all the key principals, including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Admiral Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The date was chosen to best manage security risks without jeopardizing the gains of recent months. Obama has refused to set specific withdrawal schedules, preferring to give his commanders in Iraq some flexibility. One White House official says, “They’ll either speed it up or slow it down, depending on what they need.” [Associated Press, 2/27/2009; White House, 2/27/2009]
Positive Response - Many Iraqi citizens and lawmakers hail the decision to pull out (see February 27, 2009). And so do many of the Marines at Camp Lejeune. Petty Officer Ryan Junkin says he has an “all around pretty good feeling. It’s good that he gave some direction.” Sergeant Aldwin Del Rosario says, “My biggest take away is that he had dates, and he plans to meet those goals and those dates.” And Lance Corporal Codell Campbell says: “Iraq got all our full attention for the past years. A lot of fellow Marines have died trying to make the country better.… Afghanistan is where the real fight is.” [Think Progress, 2/17/2009]
Republicans Credit Bush Strategy - Senator John McCain (R-AZ), Obama’s challenger in the 2008 presidential race, says he is “cautiously optimistic” that the withdrawal will work. Both McCain and former Bush national security spokesman Gordon Johndroe credit the 2007 “surge” (see January 2007 and January 10, 2007) for making the withdrawal possible. [New York Times, 2/27/2009]
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