Today I have a guest post from the author of America, our Military, and the Roman Empire. Our guest author served as a US Marine in the Vietnam War, and later as a soldier in the Rhodesian Army during the Bush War, which makes him uniquely qualified to comment on the recent case of an American fighting in Syria being charged for the use of “WMD’s” while abroad.  Here, our guest author will go by his callsign from his days in Rhodesia, Yankee Papa. -Jack

There was a recent story about an American who is being prosecuted for “terrorism…”  The short version of this story is that he served in the U.S. Army in the U.S. for some years and was discharged for damage to his head requiring a metal plate.

He wanted to fight against Syria. He went to Turkey and met up with an anti-Assad group.  He claims to have fought with them against Assad military forces. He did not serve in Al Qaeda forces… though (as is normal in that part of the world) sometimes his group in the same actions against the Assad military.

He doesn’t seem to be particularly nice or smart. He is reputed to be extremely anti-Israeli and posted his alleged doings on Facebook.

The U.S. government could not charge him for being a member of Al Qaeda… so they are prosecuting him for “terrorism” as follows:

“Eric Harroun, 30, of Phoenix, was charged in U.S. District Court in Alexandria with ‘conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction’ – specifically, a rocket propelled grenade launcher – outside the U.S.”

In short, he is being charged with “terrorism” because he used an RPG… a normal weapon for soldiers in any military force anywhere in the world. Like being charged with “conspiring to wear a backpack…” An RPG might be considered a WMD in the lobby of a Nordstrom store… but hardly on a battlefield.

US Code (military purposes) defines a weapon of mass destruction as:

  • any weapon or device that is intended, or has the capability, to cause death or serious bodily injury to a significant number of people through the release, dissemination, or impact of:
    • toxic or poisonous chemicals or their precursors
    • a disease organism
    • radiation or radioactivity
  • But anti-terrorism statutes have a vastly wider definition….
  • any destructive device defined as any explosive, incendiary, or poison gas bomb, grenade, rocket having a propellant charge of more than four ounces, missile having an explosive or incendiary charge of more than one-quarter ounce, mine, or device similar to any of the devices described in the preceding clauses

The above clause gives the government the right to (in effect) prosecute any American citizen in any foreign force (even though allied) with “terrorism” since in basic training alone they would have “conspired” to use WMDs…

The U.S. government has attempted to intimidate American nationals who serve in foreign forces… even when those forces are not opposed to the U.S. and have often been allies.

Americans who volunteered for the Allied Armies in WWI and WWII before the U.S. entered were threatened by the government.

Most notable volunteer groups included the Lafayette Escadrille in WWI, the Abraham Lincoln Battalion in Spain, the American volunteer group for Finland in 1939 (the English volunteers included a 17 year old Christopher Lee), the RAF Eagle Squadron in WWII and the American volunteers in Rhodesia in the 1970s (Rhodesia did not use mercenaries).

All of the above were threatened with loss of their American citizenship…though in WWI and WWII, once the U.S. entered the war they begged the allies to transfer combat experienced flyers to U.S. forces.

The Supreme Court has pretty much come down against the government being able to strip citizenship from native born Americans. As a practical matter one would have to not only join a foreign force but actively declare a desire to renounce his citizenship or willingly engage in combat against U.S. forces. The threat was empty but has now been replaced by new and convenient definitions of “terrorism”.

Many Canadians served in the U.S. military during the Vietnam war.  For decades their government harassed them in many ways. These days they could just use the American anti-terrorist statute and charge them with “conspiring to use WMD’s…”

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American history lauds Baron von Steuben and others from Europe who aided us in our Revolution. Since the Baron fired cannon at the British, perhaps the Prussian government should have charged him with “terrorism.”

In the early summer of 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt was doing all that he could (without antagonizing Congress) to aid the British. He thought that if he sent American forces to replace the British troops on Iceland that it would be safer from a possible German invasion… and that the British would have troops freed up for use elsewhere.

He decided to send an Army regiment. His political advisors told him that U.S. law prohibited the Army from deploying troops “outside the Western Hemisphere” (except for the Philippines) without specific Congressional approval.

FDR said that he would simply declare that Iceland was “really” in the Western Hemisphere. His advisors had to beat it into his head that such a “definition” would cause a revolt in Congress. He was like a dog with a bone and insisted.

At last someone pointed out that Marines were not covered by the law and on June 16, 1941 the (provisional) First Marine Brigade landed in Iceland.

FDR seemed to have the right idea. If you can’t get what you want, just change the “definition…” Unfortunately for him, he was a few generations ahead of his time…

-Yankee Papa