Clemency for terrorists but not our soldiers?
by Diana West
During the Thanksgiving season especially, Americans should give thanks to our brave men in uniform, and women, too, fighting in hostile lands under atrocious conditions.
But there’s another duty upon us as Americans with a debt of gratitude to our armed forces.
We must recognize and protest the travesties of military justice that have tried, convicted, jailed and denied clemency to all too many brave Americans, the same brave Americans who have fought our wars only to be unfairly charged with “murder” in the war zone.
Readers of this column will recall the crushing conviction of Sgt. Evan Vela, a young Ranger-trained sniper and father of two from Idaho, for executing his superior’s 2006 order to kill an Iraqi man who at the time has been compromising his squad’s hiding place in the pre-“surge” Sunni triangle…
Evan Vela now has all too many brothers-in-arms at Fort Leavenworth prison where they form what is increasingly known as The Leavenworth Ten: Vela (10 years), Corey Claggett (18 years), William Hunsaker (18 years), Raymond Girouard (10 years), Michael Williams (25 years), Larry Hutchins (11 years), Michael Behenna (20 years), John Hatley (40 years), Joseph Mayo (20 years), Michael Leahy (20 years). Google their names, read their cases…
You got it. John Hatley…*google*…
US Army sergeant convicted of murdering four Iraqi detainees
…Prosecutors told a court martial in Germany on Wednesday that Master Sgt John Hatley acted as “judge, jury and executioner” of the four men, captured in the Baghdad area in the spring of 2007.
After Hatley’s unit was engaged in an exchange of fire, the men were seen fleeing a building which was found to contain assault rifles, grenades and sniper rifles.
The court martial heard that the four were not going to be prosecuted due to lack of evidence and would normally have been set free.
Two other soldiers, who have already been found guilty of the killings, testified that the prisoners were instead taken to a deserted site near a canal in Baghdad’s West Rasheed neighbourhood.
There, they were shot point-blank in the back of the head with automatic pistols.
Captain Derrick Grace, prosecuting, said that evidence had pointed to “a complete breakdown of discipline and crimes that are among the worst of a soldier”…
Don’t know, Diana, how Hatley was “unfairly charged with ‘murder’ in the war zone.” Putting handguns to the heads of “prisoners [who] were ‘zip-tied, blindfolded and stationary'” and blowing their brains out doesn’t qualify? Then I suppose nothing does.
I’m frankly sick of the ‘patriots’ like you who throw tantrums over requiring our military people to know and obey the laws they’ve been ordered to know and obey. As far as I can recall, it’s never been legal or particularly American to execute unarmed prisoners. And I don’t understand how dictating to the military which of their own laws to mind constitutes ‘support’ when they themselves know the laws and regulations exist to strengthen their institutions.
Your being disappointed with the application of a ‘no prisoner execution’ law points out a traditional difference between us and you, the Conservatives: we believe the law should be vigorously applied to the most powerful people in society. Our laws should closely govern the powerful because of their potential to do harm. The President, giant corporations, and billionaires need restraints because they can do the most to trash or disturb a perfectly good society (witness the recession).
You guys, however, think that the powerless need far-reaching laws to govern them. The pot smoker sitting at home, the homeless guy pissing in the alley–these people need to be made to obey. You’ve got it dangerously backwards because, frankly, you’d prefer to ass-kiss the types of people you want to become. The result of your societal spinelessness is that the powerful literally get away with murder. Even though President Bush started a war in Iraq that slaughtered thousands of innocent women and children, I’m sure it was perfectly fine with you. I bet he meant well, heck, he was only doing the best he could.
So it goes with respect to soldiers. We arm them and train them to kill, and they become some of the most powerful people on the planet. Thus, in the article, as far as I can tell, you think there are no laws that should apply to them. Even though no one disputes that Sergeant Hatley ordered his men to execute these prisoners–he personally shot two of them–convicting him of the murders is ‘unfair’? Because, what, you feel the Iraqis maybe were bad guys? And in the off chance they weren’t…well, why should you care? If Americans are snuffing out innocent lives in foreign lands, I’m sure they were only doing the best they could.
The sad thing, in this case, is that it could be true. Exhausted and maybe PTSD’d, Hatley probably shouldn’t have been in combat. But what did you expect would occur when you put all these soldiers in the impossible position you did? Fighting an immoral war against people who wouldn’t be interested or capable of harming Americans if we hadn’t invaded their homeland? Did you think our soldiers would be able to sleep at night just because they’re soldiers? Believe me, these guys know right from wrong, and fighting a war that’s wrong becomes a war against themselves. You Conservatives refused to learn the lesson of Vietnam, and now, with the brains of prisoners all over the place, you want to change the rules to make it okay.
Well, you don’t get to. The military is not a plaything for you, their laws included. Did you even consider why they bother with rules and regulations, Diana? Why they teach any of that crap to their people? Why they have investigators and lawyers and the Uniform Code of Military Justice? To annoy right-wingers like you? It’s to get people to do their jobs correctly, professionally.
The military aren’t about to stop demanding that now, even though you can’t stand to see it. They define what a soldier’s job is and isn’t and promote, laud and defend their personnel when those standards are met. And those laws and legal institutions, and the relationship between soldiers and the law, have been tested and refined over two centuries. A military without mechanisms to define what a good soldier is, without strict rules and regulations and a willingness to apply them, isn’t a military at all.
But what you’d prefer, some institution that would sanction the execution of unarmed prisoners, Diana, is something wholly different. Diana West’s ‘military’ is a Death Squad, and they are much beloved by local Conservatives all over the world.