Tuesday, May 04, 2004


I received email in response to yesterday's post about the prisoner abuse by our Military Policemen.

Like me, you feel betrayed by individuals who should have done better.

You are reading or hearing in the news that Letters of Reprimand have been issued to six commissioned or non-commissioned officers. I can assure you those who have received the letters have just had their careers ended. They have gone as far as they are going. No more promotionS will happen for those individuals. Just one such letter in one's official file and that is it.

I don't know who those are who received the letters. But knowing how these things work my guess is they each had some duty to influence events at that prison...some level of "supervisory" responsibility that, in the view of the General handing out those letters of reprimand, they failed to exercise.

I don't know for certain but my guess is if we knew who these folks are and what their positions were at the time, we might be surprised at just how far these letters go - meaning that I believe we might actually feel that some of these folks were just too far removed from the events to be taken down by them.

But it is well established in the Army that leaders "are responsible for everything their subordinates do or fail to do." And now, by my guess even well up the chain of command, that responsibility is coming home to roost.

And now we are left with the courts martial of the others more directly related. My guess is we will hear from those who want to put cameras in the courts for those. I seriously doubt it will happen.

The defendants can be represented by military defense counsel or, if they so choose, and wish to pay for, by civilian counsel of their choosing. As I alluded to yesterday, the jury will be comprised of officers and enlisted members of the Army. If the defendant in a particular trial is enlisted then he or she can ask that at least one third of the jury (or Panel, as it is known) is made up of enlisted servicemembers.

The defense has already tipped its hand to a degree...we are supposed to cry for the bastards because they lacked training in how to guard prisoners.

Well, I've never been trained to guard a prisoner either. Moreover, it would never occur to me to do what these folks are accused of doing. And frankly, my guess is that is exactly how the members of the court martial panel will see it. Every one of us who has ever worn the uniform has been asked to perform duties for which we have not been trained...it just happens in the Army...it is the nature of the beast. And the astonishingly large majority of us manage to do those duties to the best of our God given abilities without bringing discredit upon ourselves, our profession and our nation.

I'm guessing thoughts like that will go through the minds of the members of the Panel...and such will be discussed in the deliberations room...just before the verdict of guilty is agreed to and brought by the men and women of honor who serve with pride and distinction.

We've all heard that President Bush is angry about these actions at the prison and has instructed the Pentagon to be certain these soldiers are punished. Problem with that is he has potentially set the stage for appeals ad-nauseum by these slugs, since there is a strict prohibition from any leader exercising undo command influence on the outcome of the military process of disposing of cases through the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

It won't be a big problem, but it will be an unnecessary distraction...one that is probably worth it to the President to be seen as being resolute about this sort of thing.

Now...finally, a word about us here. In my view we will see and hear more about this than we could ever hope to absorb simply by watching the news and reading the papers.

And it has been my purpose to seek out the better news, the stories that are not covered so well, that highlight the remarkably selfless service and accomplishments of 99% of Soldiers.

So...you will forgive me if I leave this story in the hands of those whose job it is to sell newspapers and TV advertising - doubtless they will hype this until we all want to retch.

Meanwhile, we will head off in search of the good news that should, but doesn't draw similar enthusiastic coverage by the media.

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