Saturday, September 29, 2007

3,000 mile Blue Falcon Lawfare

UPDATE: Charges dropped!
I know enough about investigations to know you don't know what you don't know - that being said, I have also seen a few investigations in my day, and this just doesn't make sense. The good folks are all over this at BLACKFIVE, here is the summary;
The cases of CPT Dave Staffel and MSG Troy Anderson seem very strange and the circumstances that led to their being charged with murder even stranger.

They are charged for the shooting of an Afghani male who had been identified and vetted by ODA 374 as a High Value Target and leader of a local terrorist cell. He was shot by MSG Anderson from approx. 100 yards on order from CPT Staffel. Both agreed they had positive identification (PID) of Nawab Buntangyar, and their Rules of Engagement (ROE) allowed them to use lethal force once they had PID of enemy forces or combatants. This standard was met and the hammer dropped.

The problem is the hammer was then dropped on these two gentlemen for this action seemingly in accordance with ROE. That is where the strangeness comes in. The ROE for detachments operating in the field is classified, but today I spoke with CPT Staffel's lawyer, Mr. Mike Waple. He has seen the ROE and was able to confirm that the standard in place was PID of a known enemy combatant. There is no argument about whether they got the right guy or whether they identified him properly. Mr. Waple states that it is "absolutely astonishing that charges were brought".

Some time after the event individuals either Afghani or American "raised red flags" about the incident and LTG Kearney ordered a 15-6 investigation to see if anything untoward had happened. This was conducted by an Air Force Colonel Pahana and he concluded that he saw no clear crime, and according to Mr. Waple, "That it was reasonable for ODA 374 to conclude that Nawab was a threat to the province and specifically an upcoming Medical Assistance mission they were going to conduct"

Because accusation had been made that possible violations of the Laws of Land Warfare had occurred, COL Pahana requested that Army CID conduct a criminal investigation to make a final determination. This investigation was conducted and the result was that CID concluded no violations of ROE or the Laws of Land Warfare were committed, they included a legal opinion from JAG concurring in this assessment. So then no problem for the two soldiers right?

Wrong, enter LTG Kearney. He was Commander of Special Ops Command- Central and he had final say on the disposition of this investigation and the lives of these two men. Against the judgment of two investigations he commissioned, he decided that murder charges were warranted.
We owe it to give our soldiers the benefit of the doubt - we have to. If not, people in combat will hesitate. You hesitate and then you die. It reminded me of a quote from Neil Prakash you can read on page 180 of The Blog of War coincidentally by BLACKFIVE actual,
"Sir, I don't know if this is such a good idea, SGT P said. "Remember what a stink they made about Baqubah." My gunner was doing his job of looking out for his lieutenant.

I was getting frustrated, I started worrying about getting in trouble and being solely responsible for destroying a mosque for no good reason.

"Dammit, but we saw those dudes just running across the road with AKs."

"Sir, I know what you're seeing. I see it too. I just don't want to see you fry, that's all." He felt my frustration. He had a good point. If I did nothing, then there was no way I couldn't in trouble. But if I called for indirect, I could either kill some bad guys, or destroy a mosque for some bad press.

Inside me, I felt like this was a bad idea now. I started thinking that I was going to hang. But there was a part of me that didn't want to buckle on my own convictions. I couldn't back down now. Maybe it was pride. That's a bad reason to ever make a decision, but I felt like it was worth frying. I knew what I saw."
They went ahead with the Fires .... and ...
"You haven't heard? They think they got Omar Hadid with that fire mission. The military intelligence and psychological operations guys went through there and think maybe 50 to 70 bad guys were killed in that indirect attack. And from the looks of the intelligence, it looks like there were a lot of key leaders in there."
Three times in my career I have made a decision that I thought would end my career - but I made it at a tactically precise moment in time where it was the right decision knowing what was known at the time - and it was a decision, career be damned, I knew I could live with. You know what, the men I worked for had my back. Good men, good leaders.

I did not fry because my leaders gave me the benefit of the doubt. In my turn, twice I have had junior personnel's decisions come to my level for a call like what I went through and, following the example of those who showed me, gave them the benefit of the doubt as well. They were as direct and honest with me about the reasons they made the split moment call that they did, as I hope I was when I was on the other side of the carpet a few years before.

Having a GOFO blow off the recommendation of two investigations to NOT give the man on the front line the benefit of the doubt is just strange.

Good people in tough situations that demand sudden action make calls that may not look perfect in hindsight or thorough, detailed deliberative study. Intentional stupidity or wrong doing is one thing - but that is not the case more often than not. I thought we knew that in the military - but perhaps I am wrong.

Col. Hunt put it, perhaps, in a better way,
Our generals are betraying our soldiers … again

Sorry, but I have to get your attention on this one. In both Afghanistan and Iraq, the United States Army — not the much maligned “LIBERAL PRESS” or BILL CLINTON or the LIBERALS IN CONGRESS — NO, the UNITED STATES MILITARY is prosecuting its soldiers for doing their jobs.
Our generals in both the Army and Marine Corps have cared more about their precious careers and reputations than their soldiers and Marines under them. The Marines have actually prosecuted a Marine for shooting a terrorist too many times and the Army — well, the Army has the Pat Tillman tragedy, the Abu Graib disaster and many more to answer for, and now these courts martial.
These poor excuse for officers do not deserve the soldiers they dare claim they lead. We as a nation had better go out and find us another Marshall, who at the beginning of World War II fired hundreds of senior officers because they were not cutting it. We need him today, as many of our senior officers are way overdue for a one-way trip to the woodshed.

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