Pt. 12 in a series on the court martial of 1LT Clint Lorance
Links to all previous articles in the series and to Lorance supporters’ websites as well as the petition are at the end of this article.
A US soldier serving in Afghanistan made a judgment call in a war zone that landed him in prison for 20 years.
President Barack Obama made a judgment call about a US citizen in a foreign country outside the physical war zone the US is involved in. Although Obama faced international criticism after he authorized a drone strike in Yemen, killing US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, and later an unarmed teen, the president faced no legal charges.
Some will say I am stretching my analogy. I’m not.
Obama perceived al-Awlaki as a danger to US national security. First attempts to strike al-Awlaki failed, but ultimately, the US prevailed, killing al-Awlaki and at least one other person in Yemen in 2011. Weeks later al-Awlaki’s 16 year old son was killed in a drone strike in Yemen when the café he was sitting in was droned.
The Obama administration conceded the killing of the unarmed teen was a mistake. Yet Lawsuits filed by the families came to naught.
By the time 1LT Clint Lorance permitted his men to engage three (possibly Afghan) males of “military age” in July, 2012, our president was engaged with media and fundraising, campaigning for his second term. At that time, Lorance was in a very hostile war zone in Afghanistan. Although most media didn’t explain it, the type of motorcycle the three males were riding was customarily used by the Taliban. Villagers used a different type of bike.
Right before Lorance became platoon leader, some of the men including the previous leader had sustained severe injuries in the same area where those three men were approaching on the motorbike. Only two of the men were hit. The third man made his way to a Taliban-friendly village nearby and escaped from the back side of the village. Whether that man took weaponry or cell phones from the men who were hit is unknown. It remains unknown whether the men were Afghans, militants, spies, spotters, etc. What is known—they were in territory hostile to US troops. The men disregarded commands to stop approaching.
In a bizarre turn, the US government prohibited investigations to determine who the three men on the motorcycle were. Media routinely called them “civilians,” although that has not been verified to this day.
Lorance believed he acted within Rules of Engagement. Numerous legal faults were found in the trial proceedings, with the jury panel not even being told witnesses who testified against Lorance had received immunity. Evidence that might have helped Lorance was not disclosed to the Defense. I’ve written a series of columns about the trial proceedings, and I believe a serious miscarriage of justice occurred when a soldier with a long, honorable record was railroaded on murder charges among others.
Much of the initial media coverage read like the prosecution’s closing argument. Only with great effort by Lorance’s supporters have media begun to reconsider the substance of Lorance’s case.
In every sense of the word, Lorance is a political prisoner of the United States.
Our president perceived an enemy and he gave permission for assets to employ to remove the threat. Subsequently he admitted an innocent teen was killed. No charges had ever been filed against al-Awlaki. Intelligence indicated he was inciting al Qaeda recruits to wreak terror on US interests. But there was no document spelling out charges. President Obama made a judgment call and questions about it didn’t even come up during his second campaign.
Ironically, Obama had joined voices calling for hauling President George W. Bush up before an international court for enhanced interrogation techniques. Bush’s interrogations left the subjects alive. Obama’s drone strikes are harder to survive.
Most media lost interest in Obama’s drone strikes, with the president facing little of the criticism his predecessor did for lesser actions.
1LT Clint Lorance made a judgment call, believing he was complying with US Rules of Engagement. An overly zealous prosecutor and some definitely questionable circumstances surrounding the unit Lorance had commanded only for days suggest his case warrants a serious investigation by Congress as soon as the new majority far fairer to our military than the current majority, at least in the Senate, takes control.
Why was our president cleared and a young lieutenant’s life wrecked when both were trying to fulfill their duties to protect our nation?
Hopefully, Brig. Gen. Richard D. Clarke will grant Lorance the clemency he is due.
Meanwhile, Lorance’s supporters created a petition that now has topped 30,000 signatures. Read the articles linked below and hopefully add your name to the petition.
Just imagine the damper on enthusiasm by those who want to join the US military but realize if they end up making the wrong judgment call, even absent malice, they may lose their freedom.
(Analysis by Kay B. Day/Dec. 2, 2014)
Disclosure: My advocacy for Lorance is based on a quest for justice. I receive no compensation or benefits for attempting to raise interest in his case. I include this disclosure as a response to comments by some on social media. I learned about the case via a former US congressman.
PLEASE SIGN THE PETITION at Change.org!
Facebook page for Clint Lorance
Official website for Clint Lorance
Previous stories in Day on the Day series on Clint Lorance
New errors surface in Lorance trial: Evidence withheld
Doocy’s SEAL interview addresses issue in Lorance trial (Pt. 10)
Soldier’s mother and brother appeal for clemency (Pt. 9)
On Veterans Day, Lorance waits for justice… (Pt. 8)
After error-plagued court martial, soldier needs support (Pt. 7)
Criminal justice advocacy needed for veterans (Pt. 6)
After controversial trial, soldier’s fate rests… (Pt. 5)
Confusion at heart of Lorance case… (Pt. 4)
Government secret: Witnesses had immunity (Pt. 3)
Political prisoner Clint Lorance… (Pt. 2)
Dilemma facing boots on the ground (Pt. 1)