The US military has decided not to prosecute 17 soldiers in charges related to 28 prisoner deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan, against the recommendations of military investigators. Now, some little gems from this:
In one case, an Iraqi LCOL was killed in custody at a US base in Al Asad, principally as a result of blunt trauma and asphyxia from being lifted to his feet by a baton held to his throat. Special Forces Command determined that this force was lawful “in response to repeated aggression and misconduct by the detainee.”
An Army Special Forces case that was dropped involved the shooting death of a prisoner in Afghanistan, dropped because “the soldier involved was not well-informed of the rules of engagement.” (I am certain there is some sort of confusion that might make a soldier believe that the shooting death of a prisoner, whom I presume was not armed, was within RoE. I’m not sure what this confusion might be, but I’m sure there’s a really good explanation here)
But apparently things are OK, according to Army spokesman Lt. Col. Jeremy Martin: Apparently the prisoners who died represent only a tiny fraction of the 70,000 detainees held by American forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Well, that makes me feel better.
So it looks like the unsurprising is happening: Rather than risk a blow to morale from actually prosecuting soldiers for criminal offenses ranging from dereliction of duty to murder, this one is going to get papered over, all the way down to the people on the ground. The officers responsible for these incidents, of course, aren’t even being mentioned – and, I’m suspecting, are in line for promotions.
Not good, guys; I appreciate the need to get information as much as anybody else, but this is a pervasive climate of torture and murder. The signal that this is OK so long as it’s for a good reason is not an acceptable one to be giving to our enlisted personnel and our officers – and even less so to our enemies, who are watching this case with great interest.