US war policy has changed drastically since the last war our country won definitively. As a result of the global anti-war movement and domestic politics, more restrictions are placed on our troops than at any time in our history.
If we were fighting Nazi Germany present day, a soldier would not be able to shoot a Nazi even in a combat zone without “evidence of hostile action or direct hostile intent.”
Executive policy contributed to more US casualties in Afghanistan under the Obama administration than the Bush administration. That policy also landed a promising young lieutenant in Ft. Leavenworth, serving a 20-year sentence for murder, for “ordering a sniper rifle discharge into an [abandoned] village, and for other “generic article 134 charges.” Among the 134s: “using harsh language toward Afghans.”
How did 1LT Clint Lorance end up with a shattered life after he had worked hard for 10 years to build a successful career, including being the first in his family to earn a college degree? Lorance became ensnared in the politics of war. It is quite likely that decisions he made that ultimately sent him to Leavenworth could have sent him to an early grave had he not made them.
OVERVIEW OF LORANCE’S CASE
Lorance and his platoon were on patrol in an isolated area in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, in July 2012. The account of Lorance’s actions that day is detailed at a website his family created for him. In this article, where quote marks appear, the text is taken from Freeclintlorance.com*. The website account is based on evidence given at Lorance’s trial.
At that time, casualties continued at high levels.
Political discourse was heated in the United States, with the president publicly emphasizing his intent to get the US out of the country. Rules of Engagement limited actions a soldier could take even if he thought someone might kill him or his men. There had to be “evidence.” There had to be “direct hostile intent.” Suicide bombers know this still, and take advantage.
Obama and the government of Afghanistan were discussing a “status of forces” agreement. In March, a sergeant had killed 16 Afghan civilians, including children. I believe the soldier had a mental breakdown that led to this tragic event.
As 2012 elections drew near, analysts and experts in the US were calling attention to troop deaths. Former head of the bin Laden unit at the CIA, Michael Schueur, said soldiers should not trust their Afghan allies. One military analyst, author Kerry Patton, said the ROE were “binding our warriors,” and causing many to be killed unnecessarily. Time proved both experts right.
Ironically the US was also fighting a war on drugs in that war torn country. A freelancer for Time magazine cited an International Security Assistance Force news release, Tweeting, “Jan1 NATO’s burnt 86741lbs pot, 13600lbs hash, 990lbs pot seeds & (shocker) only 15lbs opium in Panjwai alone.”
To say the least, the climate in the war zone was most definitely blinking red. A US soldier had recently been shot in the neck in the village where Lorance, 16 US infantrymen, 5 Afghan Army soldiers, and their US interpreter were patrolling.
As Lorance and his men made their way on foot through an area known to contain many mines—one reason the military chose not to use vehicles there—they were using handheld mine detectors and dogs trained to detect explosives.
Suddenly “a two wheeled motorcycle” carrying three men described as “military-aged” approached at a “higher-than-normal rate of speed.” The men on the motorcycle pointed at the soldiers. “Radio signals were being intercepted by US intelligence soldiers” confirming “someone was pointing out via radio the positions of the US troops on the ground.” That information was transmitted to Lorance by radio.
It looked like an ambush.
One soldier asked Lorance for permission to fire because the motorcycle was coming at them so fast. The men on the bike ignored “the Afghan soldiers’ verbal and visual warnings to stop.” Lorance told the soldier he could fire, but he missed the target.
At that point, most people would have fled a US soldier firing at him. Not these Tali. They “broke through Lorance’s formation and began to circle back around.”
Then the men parked the bike beneath a tree about 300 yards from the soldiers. The Taliban then “began walking aggressively toward the patrol.”
Afghan soldiers prepared to fire, and yelled at the men to stop. They just kept coming.
At that point Lorance told his soldiers to fire. Two of the men were killed and one escaped.
MURKY POLICY, CASUALTIES HIKE
Although Lorance appeared to have done his job to protect his men and himself, the military eventually wouldn’t see it that way.
A brief glance at casualties in Afghanistan, including numerous deaths in Kandahar, suggests many soldiers wouldn’t come home to their families. The government lists hostile fire, IEDs, and small arms fire as major causes during that time period.
As a matter of fact, the man who escaped Lorance’s soldiers that day was captured. The Tali tested positive for explosives residue, but that shouldn’t surprise anyone. The residents of the village had moved out when the area was assaulted and taken by the Taliban.
What the government would do to Lorance for his actions that day mirrors actions the administration had taken before with other troops, purely for what appeared to be political reasons. That behavior on the part of America’s leaders suggests President Obama should put boots on no ground. To do so would be like asking our troops to commit suicide.
It’s way past time for a discussion of Rules of Engagement and protocol for troops in combat zones.
Coming: Pt. II of our analysis of Lorance’s story
Featured Photo: From Facebook page for Clint Lorance; www.facebook.com/freeclintlorance
Freeclintlorance.com (Family website)*
Milblogger’s post a backgrounder for Captain’s case (The US Report)
Article 32 for Capt. Carl Bjork in Iraq… (The US Report)
Capt. Carl Bjork’s verdict–a study in trickle down policy…(The US Report)
Army 1LT Lorance sentenced… (The Blacksphere: Tami Jackson)
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Sept. 18, 2014)
Please help us continue to keep our site online by donating a small amount via the PayPal link in the right column. We don’t run ads from major search engines on this site. Follow us on Twitter@DayontheDay. Please ‘like’ our Facebook page at: www.facebook.com/DayontheDay.