In “Lone Survivor,” a chilling firsthand account of the loss of 11 members of the Navy’s elite Sea, Air, Land (SEAL) Team and eight Army aviators, Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell describes the fateful decision that led to disaster for him and death for his comrades. It came down to a judgment call about whether to risk prosecution and jail time for doing whatever it took to complete their mission, or to allow three Afghan goatherds to rat out his unit to the Taliban.
Petty Officer Luttrell cast the deciding vote to turn loose the farmers who had stumbled upon him and three other SEALs shortly after they had been dropped behind enemy lines to take down a particularly dangerous Taliban leader. He describes the thought process:
“If we kill these guys, we have to be straight about it. Report what we did. We can’t sneak around this. … Their bodies will be found, the Taliban will use it to the max. They’ll get it in the papers, and the U.S. liberal media will attack us without mercy. We’ll almost certainly be charged with murder.”
Such concerns prompted Petty Officer Luttrell to make the call to release the goatherds, setting in motion calamity for his buddies and 16 others dispatched to rescue them from the massive Taliban assault that ensued. It turns out those concerns were well-founded, as was demonstrated most recently in a case before the U.S. Military Court of Appeals. By a 3-2 vote, the judges outrageously determined that an Army Ranger, 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, had no right to self-defense when he killed an Iraqi prisoner he was interrogating after the man threw a concrete block at him and tried to seize his firearm. Unless he is pardoned, Lt. Behenna will remain incarcerated for the next 12 years.
Unfortunately, under President Obama, service members’ rising fears of being prosecuted for acting to protect themselves and their missions are among many ways in which the military is being “fundamentally transformed,” to use Mr. Obama’s now-infamous turn of phrase.
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