We Send Them to Die But They Can’t Defend Themselves?

Try to enter a military base here in the US. Any American citizen who is wandering aimlessly in a military base and can’t explain why he is there, would be in trouble. If he says he is a repairman, he will be expected at least to have some tools; if he is a contractor, he will have to have some papers, or at least a person in a uniform to accompany him. Otherwise his presence there would be suspicious and may lead to actions against him. If he tries to attack the soldier who is questioning him, he’ll be in even greater trouble, and may be even shot. The soldier who does that will be considered to have done his duty, and even if there is some investigation, it is very unlikely that there would be court-martial or any verdict. And here in the US we are not even at war, and no one normally expects groups of terrorists to attack a military base here.

These rules of common sense for the protection of a military base obviously change when we are talking about military bases in war areas, like Afghanistan. Our soldiers there are not allowed to defend themselves or their bases or their comrades. If a civilian is on the base, without tools, without papers, and without any explanation as to why he is there, and if that civilian tries to take the soldier’s rifle, the soldier is not allowed to shoot him. You don’t believe it? Think again.

Sgt. Derrick Miller has been sentenced by a military court to life in prison for the premeditated murder of an Afghani civilian who was roaming aimlessly on the territory of Miller’s base. Miller questioned the man with the help of a translator. The man gave insufficient explanation for the reason he was there; later he was identified as a truck driver for terrorists. In the course of questioning the man tried to grab Sgt. Miller’s weapon. In the struggle that followed, Sgt. Miller prevailed and shot the man. The testimony of the translator confirmed Sgt. Miller’s story. Miller believed that the man was there on reconnaissance for an insurgent group. A later attack against the base confirmed his assessment.

It is strange, with such a story, why the court would sentence Sgt. Miller to life in prison. After all, aren’t our soldiers supposed to protect their own life and the life of their comrades when attacked by the enemy?

From a re-make of the story in the Guardian we have some explanation: The court based its decision on the sole testimony of another soldier, who claims to have heard Sgt. Miller say words that allegedly incriminate him. One witness. And nothing about the rest of the story. So now Sgt. Miller is facing a life in prison.

Now, Sgt. Miller may be guilty; or may be not. He may need to be prosecuted; or may be not. But one witness? For killing an intruder on the territory of a military base? And no other information was examined? Not even the name of the victim was mentioned in court? We send our soldiers to fight for our freedom but we won’t even allow them to defend themselves in enemy’s territory?

It’s even worse than that. Our soldiers are placed in an awkward situation: they are not on a battlefield anymore, and they are not required to fight. They are charged with policing a whole nation, and in fact, with nation-building. Our politicians placed them in that awkward situation, and then judge them by standards that can’t even apply to that situation. Even if we accept that taking out a dictator was a worthy goal to pursue, what can justify ten years of remaining on foreign soil, policing civilian population? Is this what we have a military for?

It is the establishment in Washington DC that must be brought to court and sentenced. That same establishment that looks at our military men as dumb animals that can be sacrificed for any political goal the establishment finds expedient. Sgt. Miller must be freed, and a fair trial given him. If we keep sending our soldiers to die for no cause, and then even forbid them to defend themselves, very soon we will have no one to defend our liberties.