by Marti Hiken and Luke Hiken
Since the end of the draft, and the failure of VOLAR, to fill our bottomless need for more combat soldiers to participate in our permanent wars in Asia, the Middle East and wherever else the Pentagon can find an excuse to attack, the military has had to rely upon Stop-Loss principles to ensure the existence of adequate cannon fodder. Stop-Loss was the program by which the military could insist that GIs engage in multiple deployments, one term of service following upon the heels of another, until the GI had met his quota of re-enlistments, had been wounded in battle, gone crazy or AWOL, or otherwise convinced the Brass that (s)he was no longer a good investment for further war efforts.
The results of this policy have been predictable and constant: the highest incidents of suicide in the history of the military; PTSD manifestations that follow the soldiers throughout their lives, and a rash of murders, assassinations, and violence unlike anything we have witnessed since the debacle in Viet Nam.
The latest atrocity we have seen comes from an as-yet unnamed Sergeant, an E-6, in the Army, who left his post to enter the homes of numerous Afghan civilians, and shoot and burn nine children, several women and a few old men. He then went back to his base and went to sleep. This sort of “aberration,” as Secretary of Defense Panetta characterizes it, was as predictable as the sun rising the next day in Afghanistan. It was as predictable as the burning of the Quran, or the murder of hundreds of innocent civilians by unmanned drone bombs, or the desecration of dead soldiers by American GIs who could not resist the joy of urinating on their bodies.
Panetta made the profound announcements that “war is hell” and that “we will not tolerate such misbehavior!” Obama apologized to the Afghan people for this “inexplicable” crime perpetrated by Americans. What total hypocrisy!! Obama is responsible for the death of thousands of people in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, and Muslims anywhere in the Middle East who do not do the bidding of our imperial army. Why does he apologize for the deaths of these 16 people instead of the thousands he is slaughtering on purpose? Does anybody in the world, except for the U.S. citizenry, believe that he gives a damn about the casualties of his war? When the Commander-in-Chief provides no leadership, the troops are accountable to no one.
Lewis-McChord, an army base in the state of Washington was also the home to the high-profile court-martial of several of our war heroes who were members of a “kill team” in Afghanistan who were responsible for murdering civilians in Kandahar province for sport. The base has one of the highest suicide rates in the nation. It is the staging area for soldiers going to and from Iraq and Afghanistan, where the instances of domestic violence and murders outnumber the suicides.
Mr. Unnamed Sergeant had done three tours of duty in Iraq, had received a significant brain injury in an automobile accident in Iraq, and was then sent to Afghanistan to continue his “service” to our country. He was a trained sniper, i.e. an assassin.
While he was earning his stripes in Iraq and Afghanistan, here in the United States, one cannot watch a sporting event without listening to chants about “supporting our troops,” watching war planes fly above our heads, and witnessing the unfurling of American flags as large as an entire football field. Even Hitler could not match the majesty of our accolades for these “war heroes” who kill enemies at will who do not even have air forces or navies to protect them. The “support-our-troops” bandwagon was the Pentagon’s response to the treatment Viet Nam veterans had when they returned from that unpopular war. This time, the military decided that returning troops would be honored and respected, and the propaganda campaign has blinded the American people for too long.
Panetta and Obama talk about seeing to it that justice will be done in this case, and that the Sergeant could face the death penalty for his unforgivable actions. However, the Pentagon’s record is not one to be proud of concerning service members killing innocents and being prosecuted: On September 16, 2007, Blackwater military contractors killed 17 Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, Baghdad. On December 31, 2009, a U.S. District Court judge dismissed all the manslaughter charges because the case against the Blackwater guards had been improperly built on testimony given in exchange for immunity.
Army Specialist Michael Wagnon, stationed at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, had been charged with premeditated murder in the death of a villager in Afghanistan during a tour of duty in February 2010. He had been accused in what prosecutors described as a conspiracy to kill Afghan civilians for sport and then cover it up. The charges against Spec. Michael S. Wagnon ultimately were dismissed.
The Haditha massacre was an incident in which 24 unarmed Iraqi men, women and children were killed by a group of United States Marines on November 19, 2005, in Haditha. On October 3, 2007, the Article 32 hearing investigating officer recommended that former Staff Sgt. Frank Wuterich be tried for negligent homicide in the deaths of two women and five children, and that charges of murder be dropped. Further charges of assault and manslaughter were ultimately dropped, and Wuterich was convicted of a single count of negligent dereliction of duty on January 24, 2012. Wuterich received a rank reduction and pay cut, but avoided jail time. By June 17, 2008, the cases of the six defendants were dropped and a seventh found not guilty.
Mr. Unnamed Sergeant will probably be given a medal for his conduct, once the wheels of military justice grind out their version of the truth. After all, there is no assurance that the three and four year old girls that he shot would not have become terrorists, or at a minimum, sympathetic to the Taliban.
Rather than being “inexplicable” or an “aberration,” this soldier’s conduct was the very essence of what we are doing throughout the Middle East. When these “heroes” return from slaughtering defenseless people, they will come home to a nation that is cutting their benefits, having their homes foreclosed, and abandoning health care for the majority of their countrymen. Their employment options will be greatly limited, since killing women and children is not honorable employment here in the heartland, and the job market is worse than it has been at any time since the Great Depression.
It’s bad enough that we have become the monsters that we read about in the newspapers every day. We don’t kill Jews, gays, and Communists; we kill Muslims and “terrorists.” And then we act as if we are shocked at the violence perpetrated by our armed ambassadors abroad. Mr. Unnamed Sergeant: Welcome Home!
Marti Hiken is the director of Progressive Avenues. She is the former Associate Director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and former chair of the National Lawyers Guild Military Law Task Force.
Luke Hiken is an attorney who has engaged in the practice of criminal, military, immigration, and appellate law.
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