iOS app Android app More

Michael Carmichael

Michael Carmichael

Posted February 1, 2009 | 10:08 PM (EST)

Craddock Scandal Rocks NATO


In the wake of an international scandal mushrooming around the career of US General Bantz John Craddock, American credibility has collapsed inside the top echelons of NATO. General Craddock is the Supreme Allied Commander for Europe (SACEUR) and simultaneously the Commander of the US European Command.

Described as a hard-line partisan deeply committed to the neoconservative ideology of former US President George W. Bush, General Craddock is a controversial commanding officer whose command authority extends to that rather euphemistically termed, "peace-keeping force," operating in Afghanistan known as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). The political dimensions of the Craddock scandal are slowly emerging, and it now seems likely that European centers of military and political power will succeed in toppling American domination of the aging security organization.

The Craddock scandal erupted upon the public release of his ill-conceived letter ordering the mass execution of thousands of civilians involved in the Afghan trade in illicit drugs. According to European reports, Craddock's order targeted "tens of thousands" Afghani civilians. When NATO officers operating under Craddock's command rejected his order to launch the mass execution of drug-linked civilians (many are poppy farmers), Craddock became incensed at what he deemed a mutinous conspiracy of treacherous insubordination that threatened his command authority.

US General David D. McKiernan is currently in charge of NATO forces in Afghanistan. German General Egon Ramms is the head of the NATO Command Center in Kabul. Both Generals have written letters stating that they do not wish to follow General Craddock's order. To do so would be a violation of international law and would result in a blood bath on a massive scale in Afghanistan. From any perspective, it is difficult to see how western interests could be served by Craddock's macabre order.

In his letter ordering the military to exterminate multitudes of Afghanis from rural poppy farmers to chemists working in clandestine labs to mules to dealers on the unpaved streets of Afghanistan, Craddock defined his startling policy in surprisingly reckless and sweeping terms stating that it is, "no longer necessary to produce intelligence or other evidence that each particular drug trafficker or narcotics facility in Afghanistan meets the criteria of being a military objective." In effect, this declaration of shoot-to-kill orders targeting the illicit drug industry explicitly deleted the military objective of his role as the SACEUR and projected military power directly into the civilian sphere.

The Craddock Order literally granted a license to kill civilians to every NATO soldier under his command and required the soldiers to perpetrate a massacre of Afghani civilians who were merely 'suspected' of involvement in the drug trade. Authorities in international law decry Craddock's Order as a clear violation of a multitude of well-established legal principles. For instance, the International Criminal Court is empowered to prosecute war criminals that order direct attacks against civilians and summary executions.

Following the reports of the Craddock scandal in the popular magazine, Der Spiegel, Germany is the epicenter of the anti-American political outrage. Popular German politicians are now calling for the immediate removal of General Craddock from his post as SACEUR. A conservative, pro-business German politician, Elke Hoff, described her reaction to the Craddock scandal, "What we need is a plan to fight drug cultivation, not a license to kill suspects without any evidence."

There can be little serious doubt that the Craddock scandal will rock the Pentagon and spill over into the political cauldron of Washington, DC. Current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has made what now seem to be problematic statements about military doctrine vis a vis the global drug trade. Last month, Gates stated, "If we have evidence that the drug labs and drug lords are supporting the Taliban, then they're fair game." The legal distinction between Gates' position and Craddock's order might seem tenuous, but it is simply that Gates did not preclude the need for evidence to assassinate civilians in the drug trade, and Craddock granted carte blanche to commit masses of summary executions of the usual suspects sans, "intelligence or other evidence."

In either case, the policy of expanding NATO and the US military doctrine to involve sweeping targeted assassinations and mass executions of foreign civilians allegedly involved in the drug trade clearly represents mission creep of global proportions. Ironically, this expansion of the US War on Drugs comes in the first week of the term of a new president who promised drug reform in a high-profile speech that was reported on the pages of The Huffington Post by the Dean of the Howard University School of Law, Dr. Kurt Schmoke.

There can be little serious doubt that if Craddock's Order were to become US policy it would trigger a new wave of anti-American protests from Afghanistan and Iraq to Colombia, where Plan Colombia is a controversial counter-narcotics operation that the UN, Noam Chomsky and others have criticized as US support for right-wing "death squads."

In the first days of the Obama administration, Afghanistan and Pakistan have already become the scenes of tragedies caused by US drones that killed pockets of civilians. It is interesting to note that in December, 2008 US military doctrine was modified to permit the bombing of drug labs if intelligence suggested that no more than ten civilians would be killed. The timing of these alterations to US military doctrine and rules of engagement raises questions about the expanding role of the US military in a period when a new president has promised troop withdrawals from Iraq and the final phase of US operations in Afghanistan as well as military reform.

During the last phase of the presidential campaign, both Joe Biden and Barack Obama promised - to cool responses - that the US would surge troops in Afghanistan in pursuit of a what President Barack Obama described in his inaugural address as, "a hard-earned peace."

Ten days into the Obama administration, it is already apparent that Afghanistan is morphing into a quagmire strikingly reminiscent of Vietnam. At the same time, the role of the US military is shifting, perhaps, ominously for the hopes of reconstructing the global image of the United States of America in the post-Bush Era.

General Craddock is now said to be contemplating his future while preparing to write his memoires in preparation for his emergence as a neoconservative political candidate following in the footsteps of some of his predecessors as SACEUR: Dwight D. Eisenhower; Alexander Haig, Jr. and Wesley Clark.

Perhaps, General Craddock's campaign strap line will echo Shakespeare: Kill all the Drug Dealers!