In the past, we would not think of the United States as a country where a person can be put in prison for political reasons. The term ‘political prisoner’ seems more applicable to communist countries like Cuba or China.
However, having researched the case of former 1LT Clint Lorance (US Army), I have come to the disheartening conclusion this soldier is confined at Leavenworth, convicted of murder and other charges, for no other reason than politics.
Lorance is the US Government’s political prisoner.
How did I come to that conclusion?
A WINDOW OF 3 SECONDS FOR SELF DEFENSE
Lorance was leading a patrol in a rural area in Zhari. That area of Afghanistan is largely Pashtun, and we identify the Pashtun signature political movement there as Taliban.
On July 2, 2012, Lorance was leading his second patrol in that area. The day before, his patrol had taken small arms fire. It was a known fact enemy were active in the area, even intimidating local villagers who avoided routes controlled by Taliban.
Ultimately, on July 2, Lorance made a decision within a roughly 3-second time span that would change his life forever. After a private spotted and called out three Afghan military-aged men who were speeding towards both US forces and Afghan National Army forces on a motorcycle, the private alerted Lorance and then fired at the men. The Afghans on the motorcycle had ignored commands to stop.
LORANCE FOLLOWED ROE
The private and Lorance followed rules of engagement amid a situation that would have most of us running for the nearest hole. Bear in mind the ANA also had their own ROE, and the Afghan soldiers viewed motorcycles as threats.
Lorance, based on information he received in the field, determined there was hostile intent. Deciding whether to take action was a judgment call Lorance was required to make.
DANGER ALL AROUND
Ample evidence of the danger zone Lorance found himself and his men in exists in numerous stories and photos military and media sources published. At that time, the area was in turmoil, and members of the platoon Lorance ended up leading had been shot up in prior weeks. IEDs and shrapnel led to horrendous injuries such as loss of limbs, paralysis, and permanent disability. This was the arena Lorance led his men in as they traversed ground that could blow up beneath their feet at any moment.
Clint Lorance did not “murder” anyone—he did not fire a shot. He did okay engagement with people perceived as the enemy. The fact Taliban and al Qaeda don’t wear a country’s uniform at times makes it impossible to know who is enemy and who is not.
CHARGES WERE POLITICAL
Oddly, a colonel denied investigators permission to even talk to family members or associates of the men Lorance’s men fired at.
If anyone deserves attention from Congressional committees with oversight on military matters, that person would be former 1LT Clint Lorance.
His trial—the fact charges were even filed—is as outrageous a miscarriage of justice as I have seen. That the US government and our current commander in chief would permit this action is an insult to anyone serving in a combat zone.
Had Lorance not been able to choose self-defense as a tactic within applicable Rules of Engagement, he and/or some of his men might have come home in a body bag. It’s one thing to ask our military to place their lives on the line.
It is quite another to ask them to commit suicide to avoid a political noose around his or her neck.
POLITICS AND PRESIDENTS
Politics about the war were fiery at the time. President Obama was struggling with the politics of war and Afghanistan president Hamid Karzai’s concerns about immunity for US personnel in the war effort.
Obama was facing a tough reelection challenge, and he was determined to give Americans an impression the war was going well. By September, 2012, the president was announcing to Democrats convened in Charlotte that al Qaeda was “on the path to defeat.”
What did the president omit? Numerous casualties in late August, for one thing. Insider attacks and ongoing attacks by Taliban. In March, 2012, a US soldier had killed Afghan civilians in an apparent mental breakdown. The incident made relations with Karzai even more difficult, but that case has nothing whatsoever to do factually with Lorance’s case.
According to a website his family created, Lorance is awaiting word on his request for clemency. He’s been waiting for quite some time, subject to changes in command.
Fact is this soldier should never have been charged in the first place. That he was charged is a testament to the elevation of politics above justice and common sense.
Featured Photo: Soldiers, single file on patrol in Zhari, July 25, 2012. Weeks earlier Lorance had patrolled in Zhari with his men. [Snip from video at http://www.military.com/video/operations-and-strategy/afghanistan-conflict/1st-platoon-helmet-cam-afghanistan-2/1754135608001/]
Read Pt. 1: Dilemma facing boots on the ground
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/Oct. 29, 2014)