Now this is an American hero. We need more men like this who won't let those near them who are guilty of monstrous acts remain unaccountable or excuse their actions in an attempt to put supporting their buddies above fulfilling their sworn duty.
A United States Army private close to four soldiers charged with killing an Iraqi family and raping a 14-year-old girl in March described today how he became the whistleblower in the case and how, once he spoke to military investigators, he feared for his life.
Pfc. Justin Watt, who was in the same platoon as the four soldiers and another former soldier accused of the crimes, said he came forward after piecing together evidence from soldiers whom he suspected were involved in the rape and killings. He felt obligated to say something, he told a military prosecutor Monday at a hearing for the four accused soldiers, out of a sense of loyalty to the friends who had fought in Iraq and died. "WeÂd come through hell with each other, and there were a lot of good men who died," Private Watt testified.
"And this happened -- for what? WeÂre just trying to do a little good over here," he said, describing his decision to alert his superiors about his suspicions that members of his own platoon were involved, "and it had to be done."
Contrast that with this:
Reuters: Military court hears of combat stress in Iraq rape case
Private First Class Justic Cross described how conditions "pretty much crushed the platoon," which lived in constant fear of being killed in the Mahmudiya area south of Baghdad where the rape and murders took place in March. "It drives you nuts. You feel like every step you might get blown up. You just hit a point where you're like, 'If I die today, I die'. You're just walking a death walk," he said.Like many people I've thought about what I'd do if I was certain I was about to die. Committing murder has never been on my list. Often situations like this come about because of bad planning, but those who make those bad plans are usually far out of harms way while people who have the bad luck of being near a soldier who has lost control or is about to lose control pay the price.
CNN: Soldier: 'Death walk' drives troops 'nuts'
If we buy the excuses given by rapists and murderers who happen to be in the military, we dishonor those soldiers who behave ethically in even the most horrific of conditions. The reports of crimes coming out of Iraq can't be viewed as totally unexpected from members of an occupying force so there is no excuse for the military not to anticipate that some soldiers will decide they have the right to do as they please and to kill who they please. The military needs to have a prevention strategy in place so it becomes harder for soldiers to cross the line.
"Murder, not war. Rape, not war. That's what we're here talking about today. Not all that business about cold food, checkpoints, personnel assignments," Capt. Alex Pickands said as he began his closing argument. "Cold food didn't kill that family. Personnel assignments didn't rape and murder that 14-year-old little girl."
The Article 32 hearing, which began Sunday, concluded Tuesday. The investigating officer, Col. Dwight Warren, will now decide whether there is enough evidence to move ahead with court-martial proceedings and on what charges.
AP: Report: Files Show War Crimes in Vietnam
What we don't need to communicate to soldiers is that the only crime is getting caught and prosecuted. But I believe that's exactly the message that would get sent if portions of the war crimes act of 1996 were repealed.
Among the incidents documented in the files:
-Seven civilian massacres from 1967 to 1971 that left at least 137 dead.
-Seventy-eight additional attacks on unarmed civilians that left at least 57 dead, 56 wounded and 15 sexually assaulted.
-141 incidents in which U.S. soldiers tortured civilian detainees and prisoners of war.
Retired Brig. Gen. John H. Johns, who was part of the task force that gathered the files, said he no longer thought the atrocities should remain in the dark. "We can't change current practices unless we acknowledge the past," said Johns, 78.
How we react to actions taken against people we have the least sympathy for exposes us. If we only value lives like our own, we reveal the monster within ourselves that is just waiting for the right opportunity to come out and play a very mean game.
Technorati tags: rape Murder politics Iraq war war crime