Unfit to serve

You try to solve problems at the lowest level possible. You try to avoid bringing it up the chain if you can avoid it. You try to keep platoon business within the platoon, company business in the company, and battalion business as far away as humanly possible. We've got a mission to do, and we don't have the time or the energy for drama.

Thus, you don't talk about your problem children outside of the unit. Sure, everybody knows that this chief is incompetent, or that lieutenant is stupid, or this guy is just not screwed together right, but you deal with it and hope they ETS soon. There's a lot of bitching that I don't do here because it's just not the appropriate place, and out of courtesy to people with whom I serve, even if I don't respect them.

However, if you get your BS sob story published in the Toronto Star, you are fair game.

U.S. deserter feared torture orders
Arabic-speaking soldier may prompt Canada to wade into legal debate

Peter Jemley is unique among the growing ranks of war resisters who have sought refuge in Canada.

For one thing, he's old by military standards. The only reason the army considered the 38-year-old recruit three years ago was because the age cap had been raised to fill the U.S. military's growing void.

The Tacoma, Wash., father of two young children also bucks the soldier stereotype. Jemley is a college history major, both quiet and fervently independent. If describing a bad situation he's likely to say it "sucked," then apologize for his profanity.

Now Jemley's reasons for deserting set him apart too, and make his case a historic first.

He wants Canada to accept him as a refugee because he's opposed to torture.

Jemley argues that as one of only a small number of Arabic linguists with top security clearance, he could be forced to violate international law by participating in the interrogations of terrorism suspects. It was something he hadn't considered when he enlisted in 2005 and was handpicked to undergo two years of intense training due to his adeptness with languages.

SPC Jemley, you are a lying sack of crap.

I don't even know where to start with this.

For those too lazy to click and read, the basic summary is that he joined in 2005 after they raised the age limit for enlistment, went through training to include the Arabic course at DLI, and only after finishing training "discovered" through media accounts that he could be coerced into doing illegal things like torturing poor prisoners of war, so he fled to Canada to escape being forced to participate in war crimes.

Well, let's start with the basics. First, SPC Jemley is in signals intelligence; despite the fact that he knows Arabic, he will never ever be required by the Army to interrogate anyone. Indeed, without obtaining the Human Intelligence Collector MOS and then certifying, he would be breaking the law were he to try to do so.

The contractor job at Guantanamo that he complains about had nothing to do with his military career. He used his training and security clearance, paid for by the US Army, to get a highly paid civilian contractor job, and then supposedly balked at the requirements. No one in the Army ever required him to go to Guantanamo. No one in the Army could order him to work as an interrogator at Guantanamo. If you are afraid that "coercive techniques" might possibly constitute torture, you probably shouldn't apply for jobs where you might use them--never mind the fact that the worst you might face is getting fired when you refuse to do so.

Calls to Jemley's commander at the 341st Military Intelligence Battalion at Camp Murray, Tacoma, were not returned this week. But a letter of "unexcused absence" emailed to Jemley from Maj. Brian Bodenman outlined what penalties he could face if he failed to show up to training by yesterday's deadline.

Punishment includes a court martial with possibility of jail time or a discharge and transfer to "inactive ready reserve." The latter means Jemley could still be called to duty for a period of five years.

"To me it's like being an indentured servant. You can't leave, and you can't give your skills back," Jemley said.

The commander probably didn't return phone calls since we were at the Yakima Training Center, training and being trained to do our job, which most assuredly did not involve talking to "bad guys" at all, let alone torturing them.

Unmentioned is what would happen if Jemley came back--he'd be re-classed into some other non-Intelligence job and could finish out his enlistment and earn an honorable discharge. Even after deserting, MAJ B was willing to give him a chance. No dice. Unmentioned also is the fact that he will never again be trusted with my nation's secrets either way--he'll never be in danger of being called to interrogate anyone. Ever.

All of his supposed concerns revolve around contract work that he himself sought out. Our unit isn't even slated to deploy again; it could easily happen, but it's not predicted for the next few years. He was in no imminent danger of deploying.

Jemley's been gone for months. His wife claimed that she didn't know where he was and that he wasn't supporting her. Neither have a history designed to inspire loyalty in this unit, she being given to fits of vulgar screaming at his chain of command and he given to extreme arrogance and jumping the chain of command to get what he thinks he's entitled to. I won't claim to know him; I've met him half a dozen times at most, and came away thoroughly unimpressed each time. As a side note, when SIGINT people think you are standoffish and weird, you probably should seek professional assistance.

Several things about this piss me off. First, there's the standard Guantanamo-torture narrative. Second, the gross mischaracterization of what is is that we do--which has NOTHING to do with interrogation, but Jemley was counting on people not knowing any better. Third, he strongly implies that MAJ B tried to threaten him, and that's an insulting lie about someone I respect very highly and would follow anywhere the Army sends me. Fourth, the outright distortion published as "news" when the only thing Jemley was obligated to do was show up for his one-weekend-a-month.

It's a series of lies, and it was entirely unnecessary. If he really believed that garbage, or thought that he had a legitimate complaint, he could have taken his concerns to JAG or a chaplain--he's done so before. Hell, if he just wanted out of the Army, he could have just claimed conscientious objector status, or eaten his way out of regs, or just flat said he wanted out. He wouldn't be getting his benefits, perhaps, but he would be free and clear. It happens. Instead, he comes up with a BS story designed to make his own unit look bad and give some noble veneer to his own actions.

It's puzzling to me. Either he honestly believes this stuff, in which case he is both stupid and foolish (and yes, we have those in MI), or he is just cynically assuming everyone else is too dumb to see through his lies, in which case he is stupid and foolish.

The unit has bent over backwards to accommodate this clown--far beyond what we should have, in retrospect. It pains me that we were ever associated with him, and I hope the wheels grind quicker than usual to get him out of my uniform for good.

UPDATE: [10Sep08 0646] It's disturbing, though unsurprising, at how quickly some people are holding this man up as an example of integrity.

A Profile in Courage, Honor, and Integrity by GreyHawk:

Peter Jemley appears to be a soldier who is fully aware of his duties, and willing to flee to Canada to find refuge rather than be put into a situation guaranteed to challenge both his honor and integrity and that of the nation itself. . . This is what I'd call courage in the face of adversity...and a fine example of Patriotism in action, in the style of those who originally founded our nation.

United for Peace of Pierce County simply reprints a few of the stories, which are themselves just edited versions of the original--or everyone uses remarkably similar phrasing.

Another Kind of Hero by Dennis Parkinson of Pennsylvania:

Peter Jemley, on the other hand, has made a conscious choice to refrain from doing what he believes is not right. Except for the physical torture, Jemley’s path will be every bit as life altering as was John McCain’s. Many in the United States will call Jemley a “coward” or “traitor,” but his bold decision demands that all of us reflect on the actions of our government. . . He won’t receive public accolades, but in my book, Peter Jemley’s exercise of conscience makes him every bit as much a hero as John McCain.

This stuff just kills me. I cannot let Jemley's lies go unaddressed. They slander our military directly and my commander by implication. I give the benefit of the doubt to well-meaning people who are attracted to this story because it gives credence to their world view, but they need to pick a different shining example of integrity and courage, because Jemley exemplifies neither.

Again, Jemley is being painted as a hero for refusing to obey orders that he never received, could never receive, and was in no imminent danger of receiving. He fled his commitment to show up one weekend a month. He has no honor, no integrity, no personal courage. He has nothing except troubles that he has brought down upon himself.

I wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt when he disappeared. We all have personal issues that crop up sometimes, and the Guard--particularly my unit--is generally pretty flexible and understanding. But you have to let people know what's going on, and you have to be willing to meet us halfway. Jemley is far from the first soldier to just start skipping drills; several of the others are still around. The fact that this drill weekend he appeared in the Toronto Star instead of Camp Murray speaks volumes for his calculated intentions.