You do not deliberately kill civilians or prisoners!


"Lieutenant Lorance was convicted at trial in 2013 for ordering the shooting of a group of civilians in Afghanistan, an order he then tried to cover up. He was given a full pardon.

Chief Gallagher was charged with the murder of a captive in Iraq but was acquitted this summer of all charges except for the minor charge of posing for a photo with a corpse.

Major Golsteyn was awaiting trial on charges that he murdered an unarmed Afghan in 2010.  NY Times


Someone asked me today what I thought of these pardons.  This is a tough one because war is inherently violent and violence means killing people as well as the destruction of mere things.

Situations on an active battlefield are often ambiguous and peoples' blood is up in the heat of battle.  Are enemy wounded often killed in the midst of an ongoing action?  Yes they are and to think that will change is to betray ignorance of what it is to fight.  Soldiers are not policemen.  They exist to kill people and destroy things in pursuit of their country or movement's policy.  If you cannot cope with that reality, then you should campaign endlessly for universal disarmament and an end to nations. 

To take some of the edge off the savagery of war, the West developed  codes of rules, customs and laws that attempt to impose limits on the  conduct of war.  These have often been violated.  Winston Churchill wrote in "The River War"  of the way the completely victorious Anglo-Egyptian Army left the Mahdi Army's wounded to die on the battlefield at Omdurman.  There were thousands of them.  "Dead men don't bite" was the spirit of the day.  The crimes of the Imperial Japanese Army in WW2 were too numerous to need recounting.  This in spite of Japan having adhered to the various Geneva Conventions.  I have always been strongly opposed to the Strategic Air Power doctrines of various air forces.  These concepts were originated by Douhet, Trenchard, Curtis Lemay and many others  They can be summarized as advocating bombing civilian populations until they force their governments to surrender.

For the ground forces soldier the basic law of war both international and national is that you do not kill or injure prisoners in your possession so long as they accept their status and you do not deliberately harm civilians so long as they do not take up arms against you.  Do you shell towns that you have to attack even though the towns may contain civilians?  You do.  There seems to be no way to avoid that.

To that end UCMJ is very clear.  It is quite well established in US military law that this law will be applied, and I support that policy.  In addition to the immorality of of killing the helpless it is true that soldiers who are allowed to kill or maim unarmed people quickly become unmanageable as individuals or as a force.

Any officer with combat experience knows that.  pl

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39 Responses to You do not deliberately kill civilians or prisoners!

  1. Charlie Wilson says:

    I think those dastardly Mohammedans have been pretty clear about this for quite some time:

  2. turcopolier says:

    Charlie Wilson
    “the opinion of the Maliki, Shafi’i, Hanbali and Jafari madhabs is that adult male prisoners of war may be executed” wiki on Islamic treatment of prisoners of war. ISIS murder of prisoners of war is based in Hanbali sharia. IMO the concept of limitations in war is far more Western in origin than Islamic. They are still largely medieval in their more obscure parts. BTW the “mohammadans” thing is funny I used to laugh with my students that only idiots said that. Further BTW, Charlie Wilson of the 1st Congressional District of Texas was kind of a pal. I used to drink good Bourbon with him in his Capitol Hill Office whilst ogling the beautiful girls on his staff and talking about the Civil War. DIA would send me over there whenever he had a problem with us. One day he said to me “did Lennie Perroots send you over this?” I said he had. “You tell Lennie that he has to man up and come talk to me himself” I did that and Charlie ripped his tail unmercifully over an air attache complaining over Charlie using our airplanes to transport his mistresses (disguised as staff) around overseas. that was funny because Lennie was a noted and successful womanizer hisself.

  3. Hindsight Observer says:

    These “Senseless Killing” incidents only become Public. When the overall goal is to disparage the ruling administration. Beit at the Command Level or at the Presidential level. To, Close with and destroy an enemy, should never be conflated with, To Protect and Serve. We all understand that concept. However prisoners are not always equal. Nor does the Threat Posed always end with their capture.
    I agree with the statement of the POTUS. Paraphrasing, America builds these men into killing machines for their own safety and for that of our nation. What is truly senseless IMO is to somehow believe these killings can be halted. OR even, that they should be halted. They are as much a factor of war, as carpet bombing or landmines.

  4. turcopolier says:

    hindsight observer
    You sound like a civilian chickenhawk. What is the record of your combat service? How many have you killed, you silly savage?

  5. Voatboy says:
    My understanding is that chivalry was not invented by priests or lawyers. My understanding is that chivalry was invented by combat hardened knights telling the younger knights “shape up, we are better than that.”

  6. Leith says:

    Killing the helpless should never be condoned. I think the President has watched too many hollywood movies. These pardons are going to hurt our military badly.

  7. turcopolier says:

    Turns out that HO was in SAC for four years either as a command pilot or a security policeman. He didn’t make it clear which and then was in law enforcement for 30 years rising to be either a traffic op or sherriff in East Bumfuck County Minnesota. Once again he di not say which. He tells me that he is a real hard ass and believes that enemies should be pursued to the end and despatched to Aalla. He loves Trump. Of coure. I will vote for Trump but do not love him.

  8. TonyL says:

    “I will vote for Trump but do not love him”
    And I greatly respect you for that choice you will make. I will not vote for him or Biden.

  9. Sbin says:

    Mr Wilson sounds like a gregarious man.
    Unfortunately he helped construct a wahhabist terror organization which is a plague on our world to this day.
    Dick Cheney moving Iraq weapons captured during gulf war 1 to Afganistan was arming Wahhabist fundamentalist.
    The Bengazi CIA ratline of captured Libyan weapons story has been presented as something completely different

  10. jd hawkins says:

    Love that reply!

  11. Kilo 4/11 says:

    Hot damn I love the sound of the Colonel ripping somebody a new one in the morning!

  12. srw says:

    Any idea why the three military men charged/convicted of war crimes noted above were higher rank than the average grunt?

  13. turcopolier says:

    They were in charge and/or did the deed themselves. These were not “war crimes” which are generally things like “planning waging aggressive war.” these were simple violations of UCMJ.

  14. turcopolier says:

    “Gregarious” would be a good way to describe him. A graduate of Annapolis, he was looking to be “one of the boys” and I wsa glad to treat him like any other subkect for recruitment. I don’t like to drink in the morning, but it was worth it. It was useless to try to tell him that the Afghan Mujahideen were dangerous. He saw them as the Robin Hoods and the Soviets as King John’s men.

  15. Barbara Ann says:

    Lorance appears to be a convicted murderer who happened to be a soldier. The 2015 NYT article says 9 members of his own platoon testified against him at the trial. One is quoted as saying that the incident in question could not be characterized as a ‘heat of the battle’ type situation and that it was instead “..straight murder”. Lorance’s case had however become a cause célèbre and pardoning him seems to be a straightforward populist attempt to garner votes. The collateral damage here is to the validity of military law. I doubt Trump is much bothered by that.

  16. Terence Gore says:

    I don’t know how I would behave in a situation far above my control. From my recent past with very minor insults I have reacted quite badly.
    I hope that we would avoid such situations where they are unneeded and at least unexpected.

  17. Barbara Ann says:

    The chivalric code of battle ensured that captured knights on both sides could be safely returned home after payment of the appropriate ransom sum. No such protocol applied to low-born men at arms. The English behavior at Agincourt was so reviled because commoners ‘murdered’ captured French knights rather than risk their escape.
    The French sometimes raised the Oriflamme standard in battle to indicate that no quarter would be given. It also happens to be the rather brilliantly chosen name for a cosmetics company.

  18. Adrestia says:

    For what its worth, when I read about Major Golsteyn in the past I could understand why he killed the Afghan. IMO, considering the context there are valid reasons why it was probably the right thing to do.
    The other cases are different and should have been acted upon. The message of the amnesty will be interpreted as:
    1. Killing innocents is acceptable for serving soldiers
    2. Our lives are worthless to non-Americans, thus they should be considered as enemies

  19. different clue says:

    Or even knows what that is.

  20. elaine says:

    1 Lt Clint Lorance’s cause has been championed for years by United American Patriots.
    A recent documentary on public tv titled “Leavenworth” featured his story & history.
    I wasn’t present, needless to say @ the alleged criminal act, however my understanding is he had no combat experience & ordered on coming guys on motor cyclists to halt
    & they refused to obey & were subsequently fired upon to protect himself & those under his command.
    Was it later proven the guys on the motor cycles were bomb makers? I’ll let you make
    your own decision. As for 1Lt Lorance not receiving the support testimony of his men:the skuttelbut on that is (a) he was disliked by his men for being too green & also gay (b) that perhaps there was pressure put on his troops implying if they testified in his defence they too would be court martialed.

  21. Leith says:

    Many decades ago a prof teaching World History 101 told us freshmen that ‘chivalry’ came to Europe via returning crusaders. Those re supposedly had many stories to tell of the gallantry, generosity, dignity, and justice of Saladin; which they sought to emulate. But didn’t the stories of Charlemagne’s paladins and Arthur’s knights predate Saladin by centuries? Or were those legends embellished over time?
    And I recall that Sir John Glubb, who trained and led Jordan’s Arab Legion, spoke of Bedouin poetry recited over desert campfires that retold chivalrous events, some of which preceded the founding of Islam.

  22. Christian J Chuba says:

    The guys on the motor cycles were not bomb makers, it was Golsteyn who killed the alleged bomb maker. A town elder identified the man, Golsteyn took him into custody but when the alleged bomb maker found out the name of the guy who identified him, Golsteyn killed him rather than risk reprisal against the elder. IMO the long deployment overseas is making our soldiers worse for the wear.
    The dramatic moment in Gallagher’s trial was when a medic testified that he suffocated the prisoner before Gallagher’s knife wounds proved fatal. Pete Hegseth calls this full vindication. I’m not interested in punishing our serviceman but this idea of reinstating someone like Gallagher to full rank and saying good job, train some more guys, bothers me. I probably would wet my pants the first time I heard a loud explosion but that’s how I see it.

  23. Terence Gore says:
    Sjursen in a longer article gives a harrowing passage of what it was like in Iraq fighting the insurgency.
    How would anyone deal with that kind of situation?

  24. Poul says:

    Let’s not forget all justice is based on power. It’s human nature to always punish those we hate harshly while those we like get off lightly.
    A war criminal who has fallen into the hands of the enemy is punished very differently than a war criminal on the victorious side. If you lose but don’t fall into the enemy’s hands nothing will most likely happen. Read Barbara W. Tuchman’s “Guns of August” for various German atrocities in Belgium, 1914. Her sources include diaries of German officers.
    Example from WW2.
    Compare with General Dostler:

  25. turcopolier says:

    You don’t get this whole thing about the Geneva Conventions and UCMJ do you? Too bad. If you had served under me and acted as your “inner savage” dictated you would have been damned sorry.

  26. turcopolier says:

    Terence Gore
    Ah! Another one with a compelling “inner savage.” It is because of people like you and Poul that we have laws to restrain weaklings who want to murder.

  27. I can’t stand by and let my friend fight this one alone. The essence of being a soldier is the discipline and self-discipline inherent in the calling. You do not deliberately kill civilians or prisoners! There is no Talmudic quibbling about this. Just because Trump felt it necessary, for God knows what reason, to excuse this kind of behavior should not compel even his most ardent supporters to follow his lead on this. Think, people. Your willingness to excuse a little self-indulgent murder among the troops is insulting to the profession of arms.
    A note. I haven’t been commenting lately because I am fully engaged in a one man house renovation project. I can’t afford to be drawn into debates and discussions if I want to complete these projects by the Holidays. There have been some compelling discussions here lately and I’ve been sorely tempted, but I must keep my eye on the prize.

  28. Terence Gore says:

    I’m not sure it is an inner savage. “weakling” is probably appropriate as it applies to me.

  29. Leith says:

    The top Navy Seal, Rear Admiral Green, is going to throw Gallagher out of the Seals. Will they send him to McMurdo Station or some other remote post? Or maybe sea duty on a destroyer where his medical training can be used to screen crewmates for gonorrhea?
    Or probably he’ll get out and become a poster boy for wannabee war criminals.

  30. Mark Arnest says:

    It seems that few of the people commenting on this post have read to the final two sentences, in particular, “soldiers who are allowed to kill or maim unarmed people quickly become unmanageable as individuals or as a force.” Whatever our views are of the behavior in question, however widespread it may be in warfare, however unscrupulously our enemies may encourage it, and whatever doubts we have about how we as individuals would react in the same circumstances, the fact remains that pardoning this behavior can only be detrimental to OUR military.
    Nor should we neglect the propaganda value that these pardons have.

  31. elaine says:

    I haven’t really followed Gallagher’s case. Today via snail mail I received
    this message from the “Uniformed Services League”, whoever they are, stating
    in conjunction with the Lt Clint Lorance case: ” Nine soldiers in his platoon who were originally being prosecuted for murder along with Lt Lorance, had the charges against them dropped, in return for them testifying
    against their own Lieutenant. Is that fair?” Also bear in mind Lorance had
    only been assigned to this combat group for a very short amount of time.

  32. turcopolier says:

    Wimpy, wet League of Women Voters and PTA crap. When you are in command, you are responsible. Period.

  33. upstater says:

    Colonel, you said “Soldiers are not policemen. They exist to kill people and destroy things in pursuit of their country or movement’s policy. If you cannot cope with that reality, then you should campaign endlessly for universal disarmament and an end to nations.”
    Criminals should be vigoursly prosecuted!
    That says it all about the past 70 years, doesn’t it? How do we campaign for peace in the Facebook ™ period? How much does it cost us? Time to quit, isn’t it?
    My roads are potholed, my disabled son will outlive my support, my daughter’s killer is on community leave after killing 2 people 6 years ago, the economy benefits the 0.01%, the wounded are left unhealed and the dead unhonored.

  34. Ulenspiegel says:

    “My understanding is that chivalry was not invented by priests or lawyers. My understanding is that chivalry was invented by combat hardened knights telling the younger knights “shape up, we are better than that.”
    But this only applied for enemy knights. Non noble fighters were often killed or maimed.
    The Swiss peasants were IMHO the first who told their enemies on a regular base that there would be no POWs, they lost money but avoided issues of soldiers leaving their units with captured noble men.

  35. Christian J Chuba says:

    I find Chief Gallagher’s case interesting because it involves the handling of a prisoner and it was so heavily championed by FOX. My account of the medic’s testimony was wrong, here is the excerpt from the article below. If Gallagher went from giving medical aid to a prisoner, to then stabbing him and then later posing with his corpse, he is a broken man. His active service days should be over.

    “He [the medic] plugged the detainee’s breathing tube with his thumb so that he wouldn’t fall into the hands of the Iraqi security forces lingering nearby. … shortly before … he and Gallagher and other SEALs had toiled for nearly 20 minutes stabilizing the sedated detainee, to the point that he seemed to be breathing normally through a tube inserted to clear his airway.
    Gallagher inexplicably stabbed the prisoner below his collarbone before stomping off, Scott said, but the boy would’ve survived that.”

  36. elaine says:

    Colonel, Are you saying the quote I referenced from a group called “Uniformed Services League” stating that 9 members of Lt Lorance’s platoon were all originally also charged with murder & their charges were dropped in return for them testifying against Clint Lorance is “Wimpy, League of Woman Voters & PTA crap”?
    I respectfully disagree. It sounds like an Obama era railroad job to me. BTW, this advocacy group states it’s headed by LTC Dennis Gillem & lists it’s address as Freedom Center, PO Box 820, Stuarts Draft, VA 24477-0820
    They also say, “Retired military officers are invited to join their advisory board.” I’m not filling out their survey or sending them any $
    as I make small contributions to United American Patriots to help raise
    $$$ for legal defence of military members in need of advocacy. I try to
    be discerning & not wimpy. I’ve noted most of the causes are for Sgts not
    officers. I despise the Lt Calley types who wantonly take civilian life.
    I’m assuming your “Wimpy, wet, etc” analysis was directed to my 1st comment & not my second, however it’s cool with me & take it as a refreshing change as most ppl accuse me of being too conservative & hard core. Thank you for allowing me to comment.

  37. turcopolier says:

    That is exactly what I mean. I will tell you again that a commander (including unpopular infantry platoon leaders) are absolutely responsible for what their command and the soldiers in it do or do not do. It does not seem to be contested that like Lt Calley he ordered the killing of unarmend civilians and participated in that activity. The fact that some of his men may also be guilty and were not prosecuted is irrelevant. You want to be “nice” about this? If so, you want an army of murderers.

  38. turcopolier says:

    I get calls from people who want to talk about CPO Gallegher. some of them get down to his acquittal on murder and attempted murder charges.
    “A general court-martial is the highest court level. It consists of a military judge, trial counsel (prosecutor), defense counsel, and a minimum of five officers sitting as a panel of court-martial members. An enlisted accused may request a court composed of at least one-third enlisted personnel. An accused may also request trial by judge alone.
    In a general court-martial, the maximum punishment is that set for each offense under the Manual for Courts-Martial (MCM), and may include death for certain offenses, confinement, a dishonorable or bad conduct discharge for enlisted personnel, a dismissal for officers, or a number of other forms of punishment. A general court-martial is the only forum that may adjudge a sentence to death.
    Before a case goes to a general court-martial, a pretrial investigation under Article 32 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice must be conducted, unless waived by the accused; this is the equivalent to a civilian grand jury process. An accused before a general court-martial is entitled to free legal representation by military defense counsel, and can also retain civilian counsel at his or her expense.”
    A third of the jurors were other Navy enlisted men. IMO that is probably why Gallegher was acquitted on the murder and attempted murder charges. That composition exists to keep officers from scapegoating or railroading enlisted people. The nasty truth is that most senior officers and senior DoD civilians do not care much about enlisted people and never did. That has nothing to do with Obama. He has a lot on his his conscience but not that.

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