Pt. 1 of 2
Advocacy for members of the US military has long been part of my activism, and after reading the best-seller Dog Company: A True Story of American Soldiers Abandoned by Their High Command, I am as appalled at injustice dealt our troops as I have ever been.
The book written by former US Army captain Roger Hill and bestselling author Lynn Vincent is a page turner that will ultimately lead many to question how long politicians inside and outside the military will continue to inflict policies that kill, wound, and maim our soldiers. Ms. Vincent is also a veteran, having served in the US Navy.
Dog Company relates the story of America’s war in Afghanistan through the eyes of soldiers who place their lives on the line but sometimes end up in the grip of politically greedy insiders in the military who are focused on politics and self-reward instead of seeing to it our troops carry out their missions and return home to their families.
The book will outrage many who read the authors’ accounts of ill-advised missions and ill-equipped troops who are sent in harm’s way and held to a standard the enemy scoffs at. Since the incidents detailed in the book, the I-506th Battalion commander painted by the authors as self-serving has retired from the Army, as a lieutenant colonel. That particular commander, in my opinion, should have never been given the authority he received. The authors wrote of that commander being the “subject of a Department of the Army Inspector General (IG) investigation in connection with the Afghanistan deployment”:
“He did not respond to requests for a copy of the IG findings, which the authors were unable to obtain through the Freedom of Information Act.” [pg. 402]
Why were the authors not able to obtain that IG report? Presumably it is by now old news.
At the heart of the book is a familiar tale. I have written about this same scenario many times. Soldiers who committed to mission and to bringing their men home safely ended up facing a barrage of, in my opinion, trumped up charges borne of politics. A private attorney hired by Hill—the attorney had actually served in the military as a JAG and a military judge—was aware of how the military justice system had become impossibly politicized. The justice model didn’t benefit our troops. It has benefited our enemy:
“…[T]his enemy engaged exclusively in irregular warfare, which does not follow any of the Geneva Conventions or international rules of armed conflict. On the contrary, this enemy blended in with the civilian population, knowing that collateral damage inflicted by Americans is as useful as dead Americans themselves. Every civilian death was a propaganda victory, a chance to weaken popular and governmental support of the Coalition—as well as the battlefield boldness of Coalition commanders.” [pg. 325]
It is as though our government sent soldiers into harm’s way with their arms tied behind their backs.
Media have, unwittingly perhaps, colluded with the enemy by doing what military leaders answerable to a succession of commanders-in-chief from both political parties have done—shifted policy and coverage “toward placating host nations’ concern with American war crimes.” The author wrote:
“A legitimate concern on its face—except that the hyperfocus had drastically altered the definition of ‘war crime’ and the pendulum had swung wildly toward the mere perception of war crimes, and overprosecution as a form of ass covering.” [pg. 326]
There is a perfect example of this mindset in the cases of three US Navy SEALs who were railroaded by their government because of what amounted to a scratch on a terrorist’s lip.
Because of activism at the grassroots level in the US, unaided by major media who in my opinion are most often hostile to the military anyway, the SEALs’ case had a good outcome.
There was the young US Army captain I advocated for. Again, his support came from grassroots America and media independent of huge corporate conglomerates often dependent on foreign money themselves. That young captain’s case had a positive outcome.
Still in motion is the case of former lLT Clint Lorance. His case is one of the worst I have encountered, with the US government withholding evidence that more than likely would have stopped a court martial in its tracks. Lorance is serving a long sentence at Leavenworth. What did he actually do? He permitted his men to fire on men Lorance and others in his platoon perceived as enemy. What did the government do? It covered up evidence linking the men who were fired at to the enemy.
If a soldier facing charges can, he hires a private attorney. Consider the pay scale for our military and then consider what a single trip to the court cost Hill for his private attorney to appear–$7,000. [pg. 317]
The story behind Hill and one of his men facing charges is riveting, infuriating, off-putting. It is not only their story—it is the story of every man or woman who did not return home to their families. It is the story of our country so mired in leaders’ self-serving politics, we cannot fight a war to win it.
Hill recounts how outlying posts even ran out of water at times. He recounts how our government knew about insider threats on bases but actually sent suspects on their merry way and even paid them out.
Afghanistan was a righteous war that could have been avoided had our government in pre-2001 days acted aggressively to insist Osama bin Laden be turned over to the US government. Bin Laden had publicly declared war on the US in 1996, three years after the bombing of the World Trade Center.
The US had every right to level the country. Instead we attempted to “win hearts and minds.” That alone suggests if the leadership prior to and following the war on Afghanistan had been in charge during World War II, Europe would never have stopped saluting the fuehrer.
Dog Company is a book deserving a film. Americans are owed the truth about how the business of military politics has prolonged a costly war.
See Pt. 2 of Military Injustice as we look at the actual story and solutions to our failing policies as well as to justice for so many still confined at Leavenworth.
Related: See archived stories on the Navy SEAL cases at The US Report.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/April 24, 2017)
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