LTG Thomas McInerney (US Air Force, Ret)
MG Paul Vallely (US Army, Ret)
Men have fought wars throughout the annals of history. Americans have known wars since the birth of the nation with aspirations that set our people apart from all others. These lofty aspirations have tested our people in wars to preserve our freedom with decades of domestic strife to make good our claims to the cause of human freedom. Within the brief span of two centuries, Americans have fought wars to fulfill a destiny defined by our Founding Fathers. Each conflict has tested our courage while shaping our identity which stands apart from the Western Civilization that is our heritage. The struggle to endure and preserve our ideals – the love of freedom and the dedication to self-government – has made us unique and has made America an example that inspires mankind.
Today, we find ourselves in a difficult and new kind of war. It is a war that we did not start nor can we end without destroying those who have declared war upon us. Unique to our experience, we find ourselves attacked by assailants who wear no uniform and claim allegiance to no sovereign state and follow a barbaric ideology that takes no prisoners. Our assailants aspire to world domination and wage war to destroy the very aspirations of freedom and democracy. The terrorists conceal themselves within civil populations that provide human shields to these radical zealots that follow a barbaric ideology that takes no prisoners. Their mode of conflict strikes at the values we hold sacred, while they use our aspirations and self-restraint to conceal and protect their assassins. It is a war that tests our men and women in combat more severely than any conflict we have waged before. We have attempted to keep the faith and honor our traditions as well as our noble culture of freedom. In this time of bitter war, the Armed Forces impose strict rules of engagement upon our soldiers as they confront the barbarism of the radical Islamists who exercise absolutely no restraint. No crime is too heinous and no act of treachery too despicable to deter their quest of victory and ultimately world conquest.
In former times, our soldiers have fought on even terms against foes who in many ways shared our commitment to international law and the Geneva Conventions. Such conflict recognized basic human rights and sought to punish those who violated the “Law of Land Warfare”. Such conflicts saw humane treatment of prisoners as the rule and atrocities were the exception. Yet in the bitterest struggles of World War II, the “greatest generation” resorted to retaliation for unprovoked air attacks upon British civilians that resulted in massive bombing attacks of civilian targets in the Third Reich.
Were we to use such tactics today to obliterate the sanctuaries of the enemies, as we did in World War II, the cry of the international media and the United Nations would be filled with outrage at the American combatants? And the United Nations, which we formed at the end of World War II to preserve peace, would side with our enemies openly declaring the American combatants as war criminals. It is fair to say that we live with double standards today that are ignored by the international media and nation-states that support international terrorism. Americans are trained and expected to conduct themselves with the utmost restraint complying with the most humane rules of engagement, standards of conduct that are simply ignored by our enemies. We are asking a lot of our people. They must fight the enemy with great restraint and even the appearances of transgression of the rules of engagement by Americans are punished most severely by our own military courts.
A recent case of apparent transgression of the rules of engagement occurred in Afghanistan that has resulted in the courts martial of one of our finest young warriors who discovered that their Afghan comrades were enemy agents providing valuable intelligence to the enemy. The results of the enemy agents sequestered in the base of an American company resulted in a series of ambushes that killed and wounded numerous soldiers of the 101st Air Assault Division.
The Company Commander, Captain Roger Hill, detained the suspected agents and requested they be evacuated by his higher headquarters which request was denied. Given the limited time detainees are allowed to be held without charges and the lack of support from his superiors, Captain Hill and his subordinates interrogated the detainees. While no detainee was physically injured during the interrogations, Captain Hill was charged with violation of the rules of engagement for making verbal threats during his interrogations. He was called before the equivalent of a grand jury and criminal charges were pressed against him, which could have resulted in the loss of his commission, a dishonorable discharge and a prison sentence. His defense attorney was advised that if he pleaded guilty to the charges that no courts martial would be conducted and Captain Hill agreed to accept the plea bargain.
He was fined by his commander and ordered to be “discharged” from the Army under other than honorable conditions – a harsh sentence for a fine professional officer operating under duress in a harsh environment the enemy had successfully infiltrated. Our hope is that the Secretary of the Army will authorize an honorable discharge for Captain Roger Hill or keep his career in tack as a professional Army Officer. This is not too much to ask since they decided to downgrade everything to an Article 15 and allowed him to resign his commission (a way to subtly oust him from the Army). He deserves all Veteran benefits after 4 years at West Point and nine years of honorable service, including two wars. His highest personal decoration is the Bronze Star.
Given the uneven playing field upon which our combatants are waging war and the barbaric attacks our soldiers are subjected to, it is time for a public debate regarding the double standards that bind our hands in battle, but impose absolutely no restraint upon the enemy.
The bottom line is we must support our valiant American fighting men and women. They are fighting under the most difficult conditions and they are being second guessed by military lawyers (JAGs) and bureaucrats holding down desk jobs secure in the rear areas. Our generation will never succeed in protecting our sacred freedoms unless we are prepared to back our men and women on the battlefield. Stand behind our men in battle or kiss our democracy and freedoms goodbye. We must do all we can as to restore the honorable status of Captain Hill and others like him. Our Armed Forces deserve better.