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29 July 2008

hard times, dark cloud descends on America and its military

The kid tape-recorded his phone call from the Army recruiter.

Smart kid.

Compared to how many military personnel we need to fight two very nasty long wars in Asia, and despite the sickening of the US economy, there's a very weak turnout of new recruits for the Army and the Marines. There's no draft (but draft registration, at age 18 for all U.S. males, is still mandatory), and young men (with a parent's permission, you can join the military at 17) just aren't turning up in sufficient numbers.

Mitt Romney's five sons would certainly help the wars, but they're not volunteering. (Neither did Mitt. Neither did Mitt's dad.)

The second story -- what does one make of this? With 174 days left as president and commander-in-chief, Bush takes care of this detail, signing a soldier's death warrant.

46 years ago, the Navy survived President John Kennedy's NOT signing a death warrant for a condemned sailor, thus commuting his sentence to life in prison.

It's the weather. These times, and the leadership that steers us through them, push Americans toward lying, cheating, torturing, hanging, violence. What else can we do? We have to trick kids into joining the military. We have to hang the condemned soldier. There can't possibly be any other way. No more Mr. Nice Guy.


CBS News (US commercial television network)
Monday 28 July 2008

Army Recruiter Caught
Using Scare Tactics

Teen Who Signed Non-Binding Contract
Told He'd Be Jailed If He Didn't Join Army

by David Martin, CBS News national security correspondent

From NASCAR to bull riding, Army recruiters are pulling out all the stops and have had remarkable success meeting their quotas despite two wars. But one recruiter was caught in a tape-recorded phone call doing it with threats.

As CBS affiliate KHOU in Houston, Texas first reported, Irving Gonzalez signed a non-binding contract that left him free to change his mind about joining the Army up to the moment he reported for basic training -- which is exactly what he did.

"I'd rather just stay here," he said. "Go to college."

But listen to what his recruiter, Sgt. Glenn Marquette, told him would happen.

"Then guess what, you're AWOL. Absent without leave," Marquette said.

"As soon as you get pulled over for a speeding ticket, they're gonna see you're a deserter. They're gonna apprehend you, take you to jail. So guess what, all that lovey-dovey 'I wanna go to college' and all that? Guess what? You just threw it out the window 'cause you just screwed your life," Marquette said on tape.

Not only is none of that true, but it also violates regulations that prohibit the threatening of potential recruits.

Seventeen-year-old Eric Martinez says he was told the same thing when he changed his mind.

"You can go to jail, put out a warrant for you and spend your time in jail instead of in the Army," he said they told him.

Marquette has been suspended from recruiting pending an investigation and both young men have been told they are free to get on with their lives. But this is not the first time this particular recruiting station has been caught using unethical tactics.

Three years ago, KHOU overheard Sgt. Thomas Kelt leaving a threatening voice mail for a young man who wanted to cancel an appointment he'd made to meet with him.

It said: "you fail to appear and we'll have a warrant."

Kelt did receive a reprimand, but he has since been promoted and put in charge of another Army recruiting station.

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© MMVIII, CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved


The Associated Press (US newswire)
Monday 28 July 2008

Bush signs
Army cook's
execution warrant

by Deb Riechmann

WASHINGTON (AP) -— President Bush could have commuted the death sentence of Ronald A. Gray, a former Army cook convicted of multiple rapes and murders.

But Bush decided Monday that Gray's crimes were so repugnant that execution was the only just punishment.

Bush's decision marked the first time in 51 years that a president has affirmed a death sentence for a member of the U.S. military. It was the first time in 46 years that such a decision has even been weighed in the Oval Office.

Gray, 42, was convicted in connection with a spree of four murders and eight rapes in the Fayetteville, N.C., area between April 1986 and January 1987 while he was stationed at Fort Bragg. He has been on death row at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., since April 1988.

"While approving a sentence of death for a member of our armed services is a serious and difficult decision for a commander in chief, the president believes the facts of this case leave no doubt that the sentence is just and warranted," White House press secretary Dana Perino said.

"The president's thoughts and prayers are with the victims of these heinous crimes and their families and all others affected," she said.

Bush's decision, however, is not likely the end of Gray's legal battle. Further litigation is expected and these types of death sentence appeals often take years to resolve. It also remains unclear where Gray would be executed. Military executions are handled by the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Members of the U.S. military have been executed throughout history, but just 10 have been executed by presidential approval since 1951, when the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the military's modern-day legal system, was enacted into law.

President John F. Kennedy was the last president to stare down this life-or-death decision. On Feb. 12, 1962, Kennedy commuted the death sentence of Jimmie Henderson, a Navy seaman, to confinement for life.

President Eisenhower was the last president to approve a military execution. In 1957, he approved the execution of John Bennett, an Army private convicted of raping and attempting to kill an 11-year-old Austrian girl. He was hanged in 1961.

Gray was held responsible for the crimes he committed in both the civilian and military justice systems.

Silas DeRoma, who left active duty in 1999, was one of several military attorneys who represented Gray on appeal.

"It's disappointing news, as you can imagine," said DeRoma, who now works as a regulatory attorney in Honolulu for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He said the basis for some of Gray's appeals focused on the prisoner's mental competency and his representation at trial.

In civilian courts in North Carolina, Gray pleaded guilty to two murders and five rapes and was sentenced to three consecutive and five concurrent life terms. He then was tried by general court-martial at the Army's Fort Bragg. There he was convicted in April 1988 and unanimously sentenced to death.

The court-martial panel convicted Gray of:

* Raping and killing Army Pvt. Laura Lee Vickery-Clay of Fayetteville on Dec. 15, 1986. She was shot four times with a .22-caliber pistol that Gray confessed to stealing. She suffered blunt force trauma over much of her body.

* Raping and killing Kimberly Ann Ruggles, a civilian cab driver in Fayetteville. She was bound, gagged and stabbed repeatedly, and had bruises and lacerations on her face. Her body was found on the base.

* Raping, robbing and attempting to kill Army Pvt. Mary Ann Lang Nameth in her barracks at Fort Bragg on Jan. 3, 1987. She testified against Gray during the court-martial and identified him as her assailant. Gray raped her and stabbed her several times in the neck and side. Nameth suffered a laceration of the trachea and a collapsed or punctured lung.

Gray has appealed his case through the Army Court of Criminal Appeals (then known as the U.S. Army Court of Military Review) and the Court of Appeals for the Armed Services. In 2001, the Supreme Court declined to hear the case.

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Associated Press writer Martha Waggoner in Raleigh, N.C., contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

1 comment:

Jim Olson said...

In a civilised society, there is simply no room for the death penalty. This mans crimes are heinous, no doubt. But retributive justice simply is beneath us.

As is pre-emptive military action.

As is torture.

As is unlawful detainment.

As is ignoring the Geneva Conventions.

As are an entire list of crimes, lies and other evil things this Repupblican President and his administration have committed in our name.

For a person and a party so concerned with upholding and protecting America, they sure have done an excellent job of destroying the real things that made us once great.

I think our next President should hold a National Day of Apology. Where we, as a nation, publicly name the things we have done to wrong the world, and ask for forgiveness.

And then internally, there be a house-cleaning like we've never seen. No more Halliburton contracts. No more billions spent on war machines while people go hungry and homeless and uneducated because there is no money. No more lies to the American people or the world.

And then, when the people responsible for these things are brought to justice, up to and including the former President of the United States, perhaps then the America that we should be will reemerge.

Barack Obama should set a new precedent. "There will be no pardons" should be his mantra. Not only will this call George Bush to justice, but it will create a new level of responsibility for himself, but for any future office holder. No pardons, means that even the President is responsible to uphold all the laws of our nation.

We have perhaps one last moment to reclaim our moral center, and to stave off the twilight of being a declining nation, our American experiment in democracy a chapter in some future book, that ends with failure and is cast on 'the dust bin of history', as other great civilizations have been.