Pt. 2 of 2
The bestseller Dog Company: A True Story of American Soldiers Abandoned by Their High Command is another in a long string of reminders it’s time for President Donald Trump to correct mistakes.
Those mistakes date to the administrations of presidents George W. Bush, a Republican, and Barack Obama, a Democrat.
The book makes mistakes by both administrations obvious.
As US troops were sent into Afghanistan and Iraq in a war politicians inside and outside the military hamstrung, a number of good soldiers were court-martialed and penalized. As I mentioned in Pt. 1 of my review of Dog Company, some of these soldiers—in part because of grassroots support—saw justice done although it was in many cases imperfect.
Others like former 1LT Clint Lorance remain behind bars in a military prison, their careers and lives sacrificed to appease politicians in the countries where the wars are conducted.
One example of what the authors of Dog Company called this “lawyered war” involved a soldier attempting to move a detainee within a base. The detainee sunk his teeth into the soldier’s hand and wouldn’t let go. The soldier hit him. As an aside, ask any physician how dangerous a human bite can be.
After the US soldier hit the detainee in an attempt to get the suspect to unlock the bite, the soldier faced a summary court martial. The court not only reduced the soldier to the status of private. The military reduced his pay by two-thirds, and he was ultimately kicked out of the Army. [pg. 395]
The enemy knows our weakness and the enemy knows how to wield the system to win the war.
The authors ask a question that raises questions about our overall policy:
“How the hell can you win a war…without killing or capturing the enemy?” [pg. 185]
Dog Company pinpoints a major problem with the way the US government and NATO conducted the war in Afghanistan. Terrorist suspects were often captured, and solid evidence was provided. Decision makers in the military routinely released the suspects. In the case of Clint Lorance, the government had data on individuals shot by Lorance’s men. The military prosecutor did not disclose that evidence to the defense—the prosecutor didn’t even name the suspected terrorists. Now we know why.
In some cases, soldiers were offered immunity to testify against their fellow soldiers. Threats, spoken and implied, were used in order to support the narrative the military prosecutor adopted. For instance, if you spoke negatively about Afghans you suspected of supporting the enemy, you were branded someone who “hates Afghans.” [Pg. 335] The truth didn’t matter.
Dog Company authors, citing an article by an expert, learned the consequences of “toxic leadership.” [pg. 371]
President Donald Trump should call a commission, and he should include civilians, to review every questionable military case related to alleged misdeeds by soldiers in Afghanistan and Iraq. Our troops were understaffed, under-resourced, and often placed in the ridiculous position of risking unwilling suicide or firing at a perceived enemy while knowing prison might be ahead if the decision was wrong.
Roger Hill, the co-author of Dog Company, named for the unit led by him, put the dilemma in context based on his own military service in Afghanistan:
“Soon after Dog Company was disbanded, an infantry unit of nearly 1,200 men took over FOB Airborne and Wardak, the violent province held by Hill’s eighty-nine man unit. During the Army’s investigation and prosecution of Dog Company soldiers, the spies who conspired to kill LT Donnie Carwile and SPC Paul Conlon were released.” [pg. 402]
Digest those numbers for a second.
The United States still has thousands of soldiers in Afghanistan. US media give them short shrift despite the fact lives are still being lost. The website Military.com featured a story today about the most recent casualties:
“Currently, the U.S. has about 8,500 troops in Afghanistan, backed by about 5,000 troops from NATO members.”
As former president Barack Obama approached the 2012 elections, he made a political decision to draw down troops. Ultimately, he realized what he’d done and reversed his decision. By then, thousands of soldiers were dead and others like Lorance were in military prison simply for doing the jobs they were commanded to do.
Lorance should be one of the first cases reviewed. No soldier should be forced to make a snap judgment between suicide and self-defense.
Dog Company is a must-read for policy makers, those who serve in our military (and their families), and those who write about foreign policy.
Afghanistan was a winnable war. Only our politicians, leftist groups controlling the party in power from 2008 until 2016, and biased media stood in the way of victory in a war that even Obama called “just.” NATO was part of the problem as well.
See Pt. 1 of ‘Dog Company’ at Day on the Day.
(Commentary by Kay B. Day/April 27, 2017)
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