Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Army's Court-Martial Rules: No Camera No Foul

The US Army has made a clear statement:

"Bad Conduct by its soldiers will NOT be tolerated"--but only if its photographed. Otherwise have at it"

This is the only way to explain Its decision not to charge 17 soldiers involved in detainee deaths

Army officials have decided not to prosecute 17 soldiers involved in the deaths
of prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan, a military report says. Military
investigators recommended courts-martial for the soldiers in the cases of
three prisoner deaths for charges ranging from making false statements to
murder. Officers rejected those recommendations,

So lets review The Army's actions on a series of cases out of Iraq:

(1) Abusing prisoners and taking photographs- Court Martial

(2) Consensual Mud wrestling with other soldiers in your skivvies, while video camera is rolling? -Court-Martial

(3)Beating and torturing POWS in US Custody to death out of camera range? - no Charges

When the first news of these detention deaths broke, we were promised that "The army will thoroughly investigate these cases" and to their credit that's exactly what the investigators did.
Unfortunately, however, what they left off is that the investigation is complete waste of time, as the investigators will be overridden and the crimes they uncover will be swept under the rug:

In one case commanders decided not to file recommended criminal charges against
11 soldiers involved in the death of a former Iraqi Army lieutenant colonel. An
autopsy indicated the man died from blunt force injuries and asphyxia.{ Ed-thats
Police talk for "beaten to death"}
Investigators determined
there was enough evidence for negligent homicide charges against two soldiers
and for charges, ranging from making false statements to assault, against nine

Time to make some arrest and bring'em downtown? Nope. The soldiers' Commanding Officer ignored the investigators and nixed the prosecution:

The accused soldiers' commander however, decided that the soldiers were
justified in using force against the Iraqi because he was being aggressive and
misbehaving. The case is closed.

So never mind that the soldiers beat a man to death, and never mind that the lied to cover it up. No charges will be brought. Apparently the CO decided that the prisoner was bein' uppity and
deserved to be smacked around. Too bad about the whole beating him to death thing we 're awful sorry about that

Note also made this decision. Not a JAG officer, not a senior CIS officer but the soldiers own C.O.! Can you say "conflict of interest?" If the soldiers were court-martialed for their actions it would raise serious questions about their training and discipline, for which, surprise, their CO is ultimately responsible. Remember that Gen. Janis Karpinski was disciplined even though she didn't know about the abuse because she created the "command environment" where it was able to happen. Conveniently for this CO there will be no such questions, because, at this direction, nobody is charged with anything.

The reason given for another decision not to charge is even more amazing:

In another case, Army Special Forces commanders decided not to bring charges
against a soldier accused of shooting and killing a detainee in Afghanistan in
2002. The Special Forces commanders decided there wasn't enough evidence to
bring that soldier to trial, the New York Times reported Saturday.

Well sure, as any prosecutor will tell you, when all you have is a body, an Autopsy, the murder weapon, the prime suspect and dozens of eyewitness who can be forced to testify, you'd be a fool to try to bring that case

But this last one absolutely takes the cake :

The third case involved a soldier who killed an Iraqi detainee in September
2003. That soldier's commander decided the soldier was not well informed about
the rules for using force against prisoners.

One of the First maxims I learned in law school was "Ignorantia Juris Nemi Nem Excusat", or in the vulgar "ignorance of the law is no excuse. Apparently army CO's get a different handbook one in which it says a soldier can be excused of murder using The George Costanza defense:

"Oh I'm sorry should I not have done that?"

Precisely how "well informed" about the rules of engagement do you need to be before you realize its wrong to kill a human being under your care?

The message the army is sending on treatment of prisoners with these actions as compared the court-martials of Grainer and England is clear."no Camera, no foul". The only military actions that get prosecuted seem to be those captured by news crews or souvenir "look ma I'm a torturer!" photos. Abuse that causes Dapper Don Rumsfeld to have to answer uncomfortable questions on capital hill is wrong and will prosecuted swiftly and severely. Abuse that does not make it to the nightly news is fine, dandy, and even encouraged.

So, while the investigations into the treatment of POWS by our Army continues,:

We take each and every death very seriously and are committed and sworn to
investigating each case with the utmost professionalism and thoroughness," said
Chris Grey, a spokesman for the Criminal Investigation Command.
I can save you the trouble of reading the reports and skip straight to the outcome: ;The murders get away with it.


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