"No-guns" zone at Afghanistan's Camp Leatherneck: U.S. Marines ordered to disarm before listening to secretary of defense speak

by Chad D. Baus

The New York Times is reporting that American Marines operating in war-time Afghanistan were ordered to disarm before being allowed to listen to a speech by President Obama's Secretary of Defense, Leon Panneta.

From the article:

In a sign of the nervousness surrounding the visit, Marines and other troops among the 200 people gathered in a tent at Camp Leatherneck to hear Mr. Panetta speak were abruptly asked by their commander to get up, place their weapons — M-16 and M-4 automatic rifles and 9-mm pistols — outside the tent and then return unarmed. The commander, Sgt. Maj. Brandon Hall, told reporters he was acting on orders from superiors.

"All I know is, I was told to get the weapons out," he said. Asked why, he replied, "Somebody got itchy, that's all I've got to say. Somebody got itchy; we just adjust."

Normally, American forces in Afghanistan keep their weapons with them when the defense secretary visits and speaks to them. The Afghans in the tent were not armed to begin with, as is typical.

According to the article, American officials later said that the top commander in Helmand, Maj. Gen. Mark Gurganus, had decided on Tuesday that no one would be armed while Mr. Panetta spoke to them, but the word did not reach those in charge in the tent until shortly before Mr. Panetta was due to arrive.

General Gurganus told reporters later that he had wanted a consistent policy for everyone in the tent, and that "I wanted to have the Marines look just like their Afghan partners." He insisted that his decision had nothing to do with the shooting on Sunday. he said.

The Times also quoted Gurganus as saying the first-ever incident of disarming troops for an address by their own secretary of defense "is not a big deal."

Got that? Imposing the same lack of trust they obviously have for the Afghans in the room on our U.S. servicemen and women is no "big deal."

American soldiers are already disarmed when they return from overseas duty. It was that policy which army psychiatrist Nidal Hasan exploited during a terrorist attack at Ft. Hood, Texas. Nidal knew his intended victims were unarmed, and used that fact to assure a high death toll.

As Buckeye Firearms Foundation Board of Directors member Gerard Valentino has pointed out, "When Nidal Hasan killed 13 Americans at one of the largest military bases in the United States, it should have served as a wake-up call. Instead, the military establishment based the safety of American soldiers on the false hope of gun free zones."

Indeed, and now we know that Obama's military commanders aren't just content with "no-guns" military bases here in the U.S. - for a short time on Wednesday, they implemented one in a theater of war.

Chad D. Baus is the Buckeye Firearms Association Vice Chairman.

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