Soldiers Say Order to Turn Military Bases into Concentration Camps 'Smacks of Totalitarianism'
July 28, 2018
Courage to Resist & The Daily Beast
In a policy that echoes the infamous detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II and the forcible separation of children of native nations after Wounded Knee, the Pentagon has been ordered to create concentration camps for immigrant detainees at military bases across the US. "It smacks of totalitarianism," said Steve Kleinman, a retired Air Force colonel and military intelligence officer.
US Military Ordered to Host
Massive Immigrant Concentration Camps
Courage to Resist
(July 23, 2018) -- Actual concentration camps are in the process of development at military bases across the Southern United States. Potential locations have been identified by military or Pentagon personnel as:
Tornillo Port of Entry, Texas - capacity 360 teenagers
Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas - capacity 45,000
Fort Bliss, Texas
Dyess Air Force Base, Texas
Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas - capacity 20,000
Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Air Station, California - capacity 47,000
Navy Outlying Field Wolf and Silverhill, Alabama - capacity 25,000
Yuma Marine Corps Air Station, Arizona
Concord Naval Weapons Station, California - capacity 47,000
This isn't the first time in US history that facilities are being constructed and used to imprison large numbers of a persecuted minority in a relatively small area with inadequate facilities (the definition of a concentration camp). Previous examples of this are now infamous, such as the so-called Japanese internment camps. We're now on the brink of adding a new chapter to this dark history.
Military officials, in response to pressured deadlines from the White House, have stated that these camps can begin to be operational by mid-August. Estimates are that capacity for another 10,000 people can be added each month. The White House's stated timeline of 45 days out from June 27th has local base commanders scrambling and caught unaware.
In addition to providing the land, military personnel will construct the camps while private agencies will manage the operations. While this simplified explanation of operations seeks to minimize the military's role, it omits the endless capacities in which the armed forces will surely be facilitating the functioning of these camps such as with water, electricity, sewage, trash, and all of the other services to go allow with sustaining tens of thousands of immigrant detainees.
Additional operational problems include the difficulty of housing persons in restricted access bases who legally need access to immigration and civil-liberties lawyers, secure areas to discuss their cases, as well as access for advocates, relatives, news media and political activists. Another issue is the lack of state licensing requirements, such as health and building codes, which military locations enable the government to avoid.
As of July 10th, two weeks after the Pentagon confirmed that it was indeed working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to construct these camps, there was still no Memorandum of Understanding with either DHS or Health and Human Services (HHS) nor could any timeline be stated for one. A memorandum would clearly delineate the roles and responsibilities of all parties. To move forward with construction plans without one, nor any clear legal guidance, certainly leads military personnel into dangerous waters for themselves.
The military is strictly prohibited from domestic policing as stated in the constitution yet military personnel are being drafted into doing just that with this rising domestic enforcement of immigration policy. Just because Trump/Sessions Co. declares a war on immigrants, doesn't make it an actual war. Being quite clearly an illegal order, the question is who will refuse to aid and abet?
The Trump administration's reckless leadership is currently putting military personnel in danger of running afoul of the law. While military personnel at all levels have a responsibility to refuse to participate in facilitating these camps, commanders in particular are at a particularly high risk in complying with these orders due to the precedent of the Nuremberg prosecution of those who aided and abetted Nazi leadership.
Already the construction of one camp has been abandoned due to people's refusal to look the other way. The proposed use of the Concord Naval Weapons Station experienced significant resistance and outcry from the community and local officials who opposed the plan once it was exposed via a leaked Navy memo recently published.
DHS soon thereafter announced they would no longer build a concentration camp at this location. To follow that up, on July 10th the Contra Costa Sheriff's Department announced it is cancelling its contract with ICE which facilitated the local county jails holding ICE-detained persons for a lucrative fee. These human rights victories have been happening in other communities as well including Sacramento County just last month.
Since the news coverage of the camp plans was broken, there has been heated debate within military communities as individuals seek to understand and define their reactions to this new era we find ourselves in. Meanwhile more than thirty lawmakers are pushing forward different amendments which would bar National Guard or other reserve components from enforcing immigration laws, and restrict the Pentagon from housing immigrants on military bases.
Alabama Rep. Byrne recently stated "Housing anyone in tents on the Gulf Coast during the heat of summer and the heart of hurricane season would be inhumane and a major mistake. I am committed to working with our local officials to fight back against this misguided idea."
There are discussions and calls right now for counties to cease partnering with ICE, for communities surrounding military bases to refuse to work on the bases which will hold tens of thousands of people for the "crime" of seeking refuge.
Courage to Resist believes that all military personnel have a moral and legal obligation to refuse to comply with any order that involves collaboration with these immigrant concentration camps.
Share this article and discuss with others these facts as you ask yourself, what will I do? Now is the time to make a decision. The White House has requested that the first of these large-scale camps be ready by mid-August. We are in the midst of a pivotal moment in history, one way or another.
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Detention Camps on Military Bases
'Smacks of Totalitarianism,' Troops Say
James LaPorta and Spencer Ackerman / The Daily Beast
It's not the military's job to house immigrants in detention facilities."
-- Brandon Neely, retired Army specialist.
DOD would be participating in hostage taking.
-- Paul Yingling, retired Army colonel and Iraq War veteran.
America's military once liberated people from concentration camps. It beggars the mind and our morality that it might be used to secure them.
-- Raf Noboa, Iraq War veteran and former Army sergeant.
WASHINGTON (June 25, 2018) -- Active-duty and retired US military officers and enlisted personnel are expressing a sense of moral emergency over the Defense Department setting up detention camps for undocumented immigrants on military bases.
"It smacks of totalitarianism," said Steve Kleinman, a retired Air Force colonel and military intelligence officer.
Raf Noboa, an Iraq War veteran and former Army sergeant, said he was astounded by the "enormous moral offense" the camps represent and which the military will be ordered to support.
"America's military once liberated people from concentration camps," Noboa told The Daily Beast. "It beggars the mind and our morality that it might be used to secure them."
"I knew something bad was going to happen. I have always taken [President Trump]'s rhetoric at face value and right now, I'm not banking on the president having good will towards people of my nationality," said an active-duty military officer of Mexican descent currently stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso, one of the sites under consideration for the detention camps.
Following site visits to four military installations, mostly in Texas, by Department of Health and Human Services officials, Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Monday that the Department of Homeland Security had formally requested the Pentagon establish the camps at two bases, which Mattis called "temporary."
A Defense Department source told The Daily Beast that one of camps will be Goodfellow Air Force Base in Texas, a major technical intelligence hub for the service. Both NPR and the Associated Press reported Goodfellow, as well as the Army's Fort Bliss, are the selected installations. One will detain unaccompanied or administration-separated children and the other will detain families together. Pentagon representatives did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
A US Air Force intelligence officer, who was formerly stationed at Goodfellow, told The Daily Beast that customs and immigration should not involve US military installations unless there is a real threat to national security.
"The infrastructure of these bases aren't all that great and it ensures almost complete anonymity for the program safely tucked behind gate and guard," the intelligence officer said on condition of anonymity.
"Not anyone in particular, but commanders can barely handle sexual assault, retirement ceremonies gone wrong, command overreach, and operational tempos. Are they going to be in charge of this? Goodfellow in particular was kicking students off base due to space concerns. [Goodfellow Air Force Base] also has water issues where everyone carries around jugs of water because the faucet tastes like you are drinking a spoon."
The officer continued: "In short, having Manzanar [one of the sites of America's World War II-era internment camps] 2018 on Goodfellow, or any other base, is a disaster that stands against everything the military value system is supposed to be. Seems to me the president and his administration are trying to use [Thank You For Your Service] equity here to cover up the black eye they got from bungling this."
As The Daily Beast reported last week, the Trump administration is taking steps to militarize its detention of undocumented immigrants amid substantial criticism of the morality of his "zero tolerance" policy.
President Trump tweeted on Sunday and Monday against providing accused undocumented immigrants with a legal process to adjudicate their claims, while Attorney General Jeff Sessions has requested military attorneys aid with immigration cases.
Mattis on Monday appeared to draw some distance from the policy by saying the military would be in a "logistics support response mode," rather than an active jailor.
But to several active and retired servicemembers interviewed by The Daily Beast, establishing the detention camps on base wraps an unethical and questionably legal policy in the honor of military service. They considered the military to be placed in an agonizing situation that pincers soldiers and airmen between the need for military discipline and a policy harking back to the infamous detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II or the forcible separation of children of native nations after Wounded Knee.
"Even if military people aren't directly participating in that practice, if they're housing the children held hostage as part of this process, they're part of an unjust and potentially unlawful enterprise," said Paul Yingling, a retired Army colonel.
Yingling, an Iraq veteran, won widespread acclaim over a decade ago by penning a scathing criticism of Iraq-era generalship as complicit in a debacle. He was the deputy commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, a celebrated unit performing a counterinsurgency proof of concept in the town of Tal Afar. The unit's commander was H.R. McMaster, Trump's second national security adviser. (Yingling said he has not recently talked to McMaster.)
Yingling said that the dilemma facing servicemembers is that what he called a policy of "hostage-taking" -- effectively, families seeking reunification of their children will have to renounce any asylum claims that brought them to the United States -- was not unambiguously illegal.
Without straightforward illegality, a soldier on Bliss or airman on Goodfellow cannot refuse to execute an order to aid with the detention, and Yingling expected that any noncompliance would promptly result in military discipline, if not prosecution. He predicted that "not a single flag officer would resign or otherwise raise a syllable of protest" if lower-ranking servicemembers face discipline for failing to support the camps.
"The Department of Defense is participating in a scheme that appropriates the concept of military honor to perpetrate a human rights abuse. DOD's specific task might not be illegal, at least not unambiguously illegal. But DOD would be participating in hostage taking," Yingling said. At the Pentagon, Yingling added, senior officials "have to decide, right now, if they're going to participate in a clearly unethical and possibly illegal hostage scheme."
The Bliss-stationed officer said it was "extremely stupid of the administration to consider Fort Bliss for a detention camp," warning it would harm the base's relationship with nearby El Paso, Texas.
"El Paso is literally right outside the gate. The El Paso community is heavily, overwhelmingly Mexican. Most commercial businesses won't hire people that can't navigate both English and Spanish. The border here is a formality. People go between El Paso and Juarez like New Yorkers go between neighborhoods," said the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to Pentagon restrictions on military personnel speaking to journalists.
"The community will not take this well, no matter how soldiers feel about it."
A former guard at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, retired Army specialist Brandon Neely, told The Daily Beast that sending undocumented children and families for on-base detention was "like Gitmo."
"On base, there's no access for reporters, and it'll be even harder to get there than it is now. But the military should have no place in this," said Neely. "It's like [Trump] uses the military for whatever he wants. It's not the military's job to house immigrants in detention facilities."
Kleinman, a former military intelligence officer and torture opponent, said on-base life would be substantially complicated, even if the military won't be actively executing detention operations.
Protests are likely outside the installations, straining guard resources and affecting commutes. As well, he said, it'll be a "morale issue," as servicemembers will not have signed up to detain adults and children who will at most have committed a civil misdemeanor by crossing the border illegally.
"Every person on Goodfellow Air Force Base in the military who'll be helping manage, to secure, feed, to transport these immigrants have all, without except, taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution, but they will be abdicating their responsibilities," Kleinman said.
"Is this truly a national security issue, of the type typically delegated to DOD? I don't find myself worried at night that these little children are coming to steal our freedom."
Noboa called the intended camps concentration camps, "regardless of what euphemisms we use to salve our souls," and said they were an "excruciating dilemma" for the military, "for it corrodes our notions of moral courage, and places them in conflict with the necessity of maintaining discipline."
Yingling said there was "no honorable way to serve in this administration," and Mattis ought to have already resigned.
"Mattis is already lending his honor to perpetrate and further any number of not only unwise but unethical and potentially illegal activities," Yingling said. "It's never too late to stop perpetrating a crime. If Mattis wants to rescue what's left of his honor, he can act today. Every day he chooses not to makes him more complicit."