Just a follow up to my earlier post.
Another provision of the UCMJ actually could be interpreted by a potential prosecutor would be that if a person follows an order that he or she knows to be unlawful and in contravention of the UCMJ and the Geneva Accords, that person could be a war criminal also and prosecuted.
In most cases that does not happen, even when something that is clearly a war crime happens. There have been several instances that have been made public, and heaven knows how many took p[lace and never saw the light of day and or the media and public. I am only thinking of three at the moment.
The first is the My Lai Massacre.
I must admit I do not recall the entire story, but to the best of my recollection, at least some soldiers did not actually participate. Many did but were granted immunity to testify. Only one individual was found guilty. And I do recall that many people that I knew thought he had been railroaded. He being First Lieutenant Calley.
Long story short. He hand his company had been sent out on a search and destroy mission, looking for a battalion of VC. They did not find them. Following up on the Search and destroy idea, they started burning the village, then dragging civilians into ditches and shooting the, Lt Calley is alleged to have done so personally, shooting women, children and the elderly. No VC was there and no shots were fired at the americans. It is estimated about 500 civilians were killed. A soldier of the 11th infantry brigade heard of this and wrote to the President, officials at the Pentagon and to members of Congress. Eventually, getting no response, he got the story to Seymour Hersh. His reporting got the story out, 2 years after the incident.
The only person to try to prevent or stop it was a helicopter pilot (a Warrant Officer) who landed between the victims in waiting and the soldiers and threatened to open fire on the U.S. Troops if they did not stop. He and two crew members were give Soldiers Medals for this actions, but not until more than 20 years had passed.
That was an illegal order by the Lieutenant. Why didn’t the NCOs stop it? They should have. Then why didn’t the superior officers punish the Lieutenant instead of covering it up? They should have, and their failure to do so should have earned them Courts Martial also, but fourteen officers, though charged were never punished. They should have been. and so should every soldier who willingly participated. ( give some slack to the green newbies, but the veterans should have known better, especially NCO’s.
Abu Ghraib. Stupidity prevailed there. “Poor Training” was no excuse. Just common sense should have told everyone involved that it was not just wrong, but illegal. The worst part though was that the General officer in charge was not prosecuted. She should have been on the command principal of The Buck Stops Here.
That actually exists by the way, though under heaven knows what military principal with a snazzy sounding name. But yes, the commanding officer is ultimately responsible for the actions of the Sad Sacks under his or her command. If you are unaware of who Sad Sack Is, Google it. I am sure you can find an illustration “Sad Sack”, created by Sergeant Major George Baker. It is a civilianized prettification of the phrase “sad sack of shit” and refers to the lowliest form of inept life to be found anywhere, but especially in the military or naval forces.
Back to war crimes. Then there was the group of marines who took a video image of themselves urinating on the corpses of some Taliban: War Crime and crime of severe stupidity. Do not desecrate the dead-
even tyhe non-military fighters. And for heavens sake don’t stand there grinning like loons and post the resulting photograph on the internet. If stupidity is both grounds for a bad conduct discharge, it should be and this would qualify. That’s a group of Sad Sacks if there ever was one. Every large command has some unit for the foul ups to go and spend their days picking up trash. Why these guys weren’t there to begin with is a mystery.
The whole point is this: If it sounds like it should be illegal. or at least questionable, then likely it is a crime or should be considered a crime until proven otherwise. So do not do it.
I guess they don’t Have Sad Sacks in expensive “military type” prep schools. But if they did I know who would qualify.
(Don’t write and tell me to stop, or cuss me out. Most of you have ben no closer to the Army than a G.I Joe, whereas I have been in, as were my father, my brother and two uncles, and aother in the WW II Merchant Marine In fact I am from a long line of veterans going all the way back to the Revolution. So no nasty self satisfied or Holier than Thou e-mails or comments!)