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Lawyers in Foxholes

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Some Army JAG out there is likely pissed.

In 2010 Maj Matt Goldstyn, a Special Forces officer killed an Afghani bomb-maker. He was stripped of his medals in 2011, retired, then after another investigation he was called back to active duty in 2018 just so he could be charged with premeditated murder.

Then President Trump jumped in in 2018 and ordered a review.

And the whole JAG Corps and political establishment are up in arms about it. The Democrats because they disapprove of any action out-of-the-routine President Trump takes, plus are absolute fiends about murders of people over the age of 2 days old that have been taken home with their mothers.

The JAG Corps is up in arms because of the venerable laws against “command influence” only no one is sure there is a real issue here, since the “command influence” rules in the UCMJ are designed to protect the accused from influence being placed on the military jury, all military officers. all of whom answer to the commanding general. I don’t think JAG has any history of a person above the general officer convening the court martial, in this case, the President of the United States, intervening on behalf of the accused. Trust me, if Harry Truman had called Gen Eisenhower and told him to hold off on executing Pvt Eddie Slovik, Ike would have.

Earlier this month, Feb, 2019 Maj Goldstyn’s lawyer demanded the case be dropped since a key Army CID investigator was wearing medals he had not earned, CIB and Purple Heart. Stolen Valor. He was offering the Army an easy way out

The inside-facts, the kind that show up at trial, are close to nine years old now, and no one really knows the inside story.

My guess is Lawyers in Foxholes.

When I was in Japan my boss, Col Hal, attended a JAG conference in Hawaii. I was in his office one day after he came back and he just blurted out, “They’re going to put lawyers in foxholes. Biggest mistake they’ll ever make.”

He just sighed. Then he slumped back in his chair.

And I was out of the Army in ’76. But what Col Hal had told me came back to me in ’95 when I watched one of the Waco congressional hearings on television. At the witness table were two Army JAG colonels testifying about the “Posse Comitatus Act”, which was a prohibition of using federal military personnel to enforce domestic policies. They told the committee that Army involvement wasn’t a violation of the Act at Waco. Probably it was, since Army lawyers were likely inside the “command center” as part of the play-by-play team overseeing that FBI massacre.

Fast forward to Iraq and Afghanistan. You’ve no doubt seen videos of nighttime calls by forward observers trying to get clearance to drop ordnance on enemy fighters. I recall one video where a troop relayed a nighttime visual of 5 Afghans, probably Taliban, laying IED’s under a road, sending the visual to some remote command center, while an aircraft stood by to blow them all to hell and back. I watched. The back and forth was exasperating, even my toe was tapping, as I saw first a group of 3 Taliban head off into the fields, then another. Finally, after about five minutes the GO-signal was given, and inside 30 seconds the one Taliban was blown up, plus all the ordnance they had buried.

I don’t know if that troop was talking to some local control center or CENTCOM back in Tampa, but I always believed there was some JAG slowing things down.

If you saw “American Sniper”, about Chris Kyle (the only time my wife every said “goddamned bastards” in her life, and she said it several times), you’ll recall he had to call in almost every shot. I had never really seen this before, although post-911 soldiers tell me it is common.

These were “rules of engagement” and as you know, our military had been begging for relaxing the rules just so our troops could untie their other hand and arm tied behind their backs. In Obama’s years we had slowed down okaying these shots to the pace of a Strauss waltz, and after seeing that video of the IED laying Taliban, I wondered how many men were without legs because of those Jag-off’s and their rules of engagement.

You can’t help but make that connection.

Bottom line, as Maj Goldstyn may have, if you said  “to hell with it” and took the shot anyway without the OK, you could brought be up on charges for murder if someone upstairs didn’t like you.

Or if you pissed off a lawyer. I’ve known enough new generation lawyersto know that’s what a lot are inclined to do.

All that said, I can’t say that this is what actually happened with Maj Goldstyn, or whether there was even a “GO” signal involved. But when they mentioned “rules of engagement” I’m inclined to think he killed a killer before an authorized person said it was OK.

And in Obama’s world, that person was always a lawyer.

 

 

 

 

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About the Author:

Vietnam era Army JAG, Asia, 17-yr Cold Warrior in Soviet-China Bloc green zone, Been shot at and hit, but in crime, not war; twice-broken nose for lying (same fellow) hence good law school candidate; Could have been Somebody in Corporate world and politics, but at every crossroad chose to be a man with a tawdry past instead. Gave up law and am now a redeemed American.
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