Bashing the military

U.S.-trained Congolese troops committed rapes and other atrocities, U.N. says
by Craig Whitlock
Washington Post, 2013-05-13

[First, a quick comment on that headline.
When have you ever seen a headline which says

Rabbi-trained financier committed biggest fraud in history,
U.S. says



But does not one’s religious upbringing and training
have a greater effect on one’s propensity to commit crimes
than one’s military training?
I think the answer to that question is certainly “Yes.”
So why is the past military training of those Congolese troops
relevant to their crimes,
while the religious upbringing of Bernard Madoff, Ivan Boesky and Hillel Nahmad
is not relevant to theirs?
Is the argument that
military training is a better character builder than religion?
Again, that argument seems totally specious to me.
So why does the Post go with this headline and not the others?
My answer:
The Post is currently running a campaign to smear the U.S. military,
just as they smeared the U.S. Secret Service,
with either directly committing or being somehow responsible for sexual misconduct,
with the ultimate goal of,
just as as happened at Harvard, the IMF, and the Secret Service,
bringing those crucial institutions under female control.]

A Congolese army battalion that received its formative training from the U.S. military went on to commit mass rapes and other atrocities last year, a U.N. investigation has found.

Members of the 391st Commando Battalion, a unit created in 2010 with extensive support from the U.S. government, joined with other Congolese soldiers to rape 97 women and 33 girls as they fled a rebel advance in eastern Congo in November, according to the United Nations.

U.S. Special Operations forces had spent eight months training the 750-member battalion in a bid to professionalize Congo’s ragtag military, which has a long history of rights abuses, including raping and killing civilians. The training program, dubbed Operation Olympic Chase, was led by the State Department and the U.S. Africa Command, which oversees military operations on the continent.

Two years later, members of the battalion joined other Congolese soldiers to rape and rob scores of civilians in Minova, a town in eastern Congo, according to an investigative report released last week by the U.N. Joint Human Rights Office. The attacks occurred as Congolese forces were chased out of Goma, a key provincial capital, by a rebel group known as M23.

On Monday, the State Department acknowledged that some U.S.-trained soldiers “may be implicated in these rapes,” according to an e-mailed statement from a spokeswoman, Hilary Renner. “We condemn these crimes unequivocally and call for a full and credible investigation” by the Congolese government, she added.

Officials with the Africa Command, which is headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, declined to comment.

The U.N. findings represent another setback in the U.S. military’s efforts to train and equip troops in Third World countries, many of which have poor human rights records.

In March 2012, a Malian army captain who had received extensive training in the United States led a coup that toppled his country’s democratically elected president. In the aftermath, France and neighboring African countries intervened militarily — with U.S. aid — to prevent Islamist fighters from taking over much of the country.

The Pentagon is ramping up its training in irregular warfare and counterterrorism with friendly countries as part of a broader strategy to combat extremist groups and stabilize war-torn regions. At any given time, U.S. Special Operations forces are deployed on training or liaison missions to as many as 80 countries.

U.S. law requires that individual foreign troops be vetted for human rights abuses before they can receive training. But some U.S. military leaders have said that those rules can be too restrictive and prevent Special Operations forces from training units that need the most help.

The U.N. report accused the Congolese military of “gross human rights violations” and documented 135 cases of sexual assault by Congolese soldiers in Minova. The report also accused M23 rebels of sexually assaulting 59 civilians in Minova.

The leadership of the Congolese armed forces is investigating the allegations. The commander and deputy commander of the 391st Battalion are among 12 officers who have been suspended, according to the United Nations.

While Operation Olympic Chase was underway in 2010, State Department and U.S. military officials said they were fully aware of the Congolese military’s troubled history. The training program, they said, emphasized respect for human rights and the need to protect civilians, particularly from sexual violence.

“You have enhanced your moral understanding of how a professional military operates effectively within a democratic society to provide security, to protect the civilian population and to contribute to greater stability,” Samuel Laeuchli, the ranking U.S. diplomat in the Congo at the time, said in a speech at the 391st Battalion’s graduation.

Thierry Vircoulon, Central Africa project director for the International Crisis Group, said the U.S. government underestimated what it would take to reform the Congolese armed forces.

“The state of the army in itself is a disaster, so you train people and you send them back to a dysfunctional army,” he said. “You are trained, but you still have a very low wage, no logistics, a very poor command system and no sense of belonging and cohesion because the Congolese army is still a patchwork of very different groups. Even if you’re trained, at the end of the day, you’re still an hungry and unpaid soldier.”

A senior U.S. official familiar with the training program said the Obama administration was aware of the risks but faced “tremendous political pressure to do something for Congo.”

“There were a lot of criticisms at the time that this would just make them [the troops] better able to oppress their own people,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media. “It’s one of those political judgment calls. . . . We bent over backwards to make this investment and to avoid the pitfalls and to really do it right.”

[Compare the following (but published in 2009) article.


U.N. urged to cease aid to Congo regime accused of horrific acts
By Stephanie McCrummen
Washington Post, 2009-12-15

NAIROBI -- The U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo is collaborating with known human rights abusers as it backs a brutal Congolese military operation that has led to the deliberate killing of at least 1,400 civilians and a massive surge in rapes, according to a report by Human Rights Watch.

The 183-page report, the fullest accounting so far of the operation, is a chronicle of horrors. It describes gang rapes, massacres, village burnings and civilians being tied together before their throats are slit -- many incidents carried out by a Congolese army being fed, transported and otherwise supported by the United Nations.

The report calls for the U.N. peacekeeping mission to “immediately cease all support” to the Congolese army until the army removes commanders with known records of human rights abuses and otherwise ensures the operation complies with international humanitarian laws.

“Continued killing and rape by all sides in eastern Congo shows that the U.N. Security Council needs a new approach to protect civilians,” said Anneke Van Woudenberg, a senior researcher with Human Rights Watch.

The Security Council is scheduled to meet this week to discuss the Congolese peacekeeping mission’s mandate, which is the United Nations’ largest and most expensive. A mission spokesman said officials are studying the report and declined to comment. The United States also has a small military team in Congo assisting the Congolese army.

The Congolese military operations, which began in January, were intended to root out abusive Rwandan rebels who have lived mostly by force among eastern Congolese villagers for years, fueling a long-running conflict that has become the deadliest since World War II.

The rebels -- known as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR -- include some leaders accused of participating in the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda. The initial phase of the military operations were backed by Rwandan troops.

But as the Rwandans departed in February, U.N. peacekeepers stepped in, supplying attack helicopters, trucks, food and other logistical support to a Congolese army known as one of the most abusive militaries in the world. At the time, the head of the U.N. mission, Alan Doss, said that the operations were necessary and that some civilian casualties were inevitable.

But the Human Rights Watch report does not document the story of civilians accidentally caught in the crossfire. Instead, it details a chilling pattern of deliberate civilian killings by Congolese and Rwandan soldiers and the rebels they are fighting. Both sides, the report says, have carried out a strategy of “punishing” villagers they accuse of supporting the wrong side.

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