There is no such thing as being guilty of the premeditated murder of an Islamic terrorist. The deaths of all terrorists merit premeditation. In May, 2008, 1Lt. Michael Behenna found himself in Afghanistan interrogating a terrorist who had killed two of his soldiers. Suddenly, the terrorist lunged for Lt. Behenna’s gun. Fortunately, Behenna’s reflexes were faster than the terrorist’s and he was able to fire a bullet into his chest and head, killing him. By any measure it was good shooting.
The Army charged Lt. Behenna with premeditated murder and he was found guilty of doing what he had been trained to do – kill terrorists. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The seven men who sat on his court martial board and found him guilty were non-infantry officers. Their combat experience was limited and they hadn’t had the opportunity to regularly stare death in the face. They didn’t know what it’s like to live day in and day out where the fastest and most accurate shooter lives.
Lt. Behenna merits a presidential pardon but that won’t happen because , writing in his memoire, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates says that President Obama is so distrustful of America’s military officers that he is not inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. So In this case he would have no reason to believe that Lt. Behenna acted appropriately.
Similarly, Lt. Col. Matthew Dooley, a highly decorated combat commander, was reassigned from Afghanistan back to the United States to teach a course at the US Joint Forces Staff College entitled “Perspectives on Islam and Islamic Radicalism.” The curriculum Lt. Col. Dooley was assigned to teach had been approved many years before, but for some reason it did not come to the attention of Muslim special interest groups until Lt. Col. Dooley arrived. Fifty-Seven Muslim organizations signed a letter to the Department of Defense demanding that training materials offensive to them be purged from the curriculum and instructors teaching the course be disciplined.
Eventually the letter was passed up the chain of command to General Martin E. Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. This was followed shortly by a Defense Department press release condemning the course material being taught as not “simply objectionable” but “inflammable.” Later on, General Dempsey said that the course’s content was “totally objectionable” and “against our values.” Lt. Col. Dooley was relieved of his teaching assignment and his exemplary military career was effectively trashed.
What was most surprising was that no one came to the officers’ defense and spoke up for Lt. Behenna and Lt. Col. Dooley. But my experience was that Generals who worked at it could usually find a way to Satisfy their civilian masters and senior generals in the Department of Defense while at the same time standing up for and speaking up in defense of the troops they led in combat. Such generals are particularly important today when our Armed Forces are being gutted, hollowed out, and grossly misused by the White House and the Pentagon.
Each soldier, sailor, airman and marine needs to know, down to the bottom of their toes, that the Commander-in-Chief has their back, that the secretaries of “Defense and their services will not cavalierly send them off to fight and die on some irrelevant foreign battlefield for some abstract political cause that neither the President nor the nation believes in. Once our soldiers have been deployed to a foreign battlefield, the military’s rules of engagement should favor saving the lives of America’s Armed Forces, not Muslim Terrorists.
And our troops should be free to do whatever is necessary to protect and defend their own lives, to blow away any terrorist who even looks like he is about to fire at them. If an unfortunate mistake is made and an innocent life is taken, restitution should be made as best and as fast as possible. But there should be no second guessing of our soldiers’ life protecting actions.
Senior generals and admirals would do well to remember the words of German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoeller who, when speaking of the NAZIs once said, “First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out … Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”
No nation can survive for long if there is a breach of faith and trust between its Commander-in-Chief and its Armed Forces as there is now in our country. Most disturbing of all is the trend in today’s military to throw under the bus officers that are brave enough to stand up and tell it like it is or to make decisions which they know are right but of which the headquarters’ staffs disapprove.
BREACH OF FAITH AND TRUST
MAJ. GEN. JERRY RALPH CURRY, US ARMY RETIRED
Author: From Private to General and The Dream Continues