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Lt. Clint Lorance Could Be Any One of Us

OldSolduer

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It doesn't help when our own side tries to accuse our soldiers of war crimes.

Several years ago a captain who shall remain nameless made some noises about one of my peers - a fellow sgt- that he was going to have charged with a war crime. It went nowhere but it could have been nasty.
 

Tibbson

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Hamish Seggie said:
It doesn't help when our own side tries to accuse our soldiers of war crimes.

Several years ago a captain who shall remain nameless made some noises about one of my peers - a fellow sgt- that he was going to have charged with a war crime. It went nowhere but it could have been nasty.

Is this a sign that western militaries have lost that "warrior" mentality needed to be as effective as we could be?  I'm not saying we need to lose any sense of legality but at the same time are we (western societies) more concerned with imposing civilian standards of right and wrong to a situation where the lines are often blurred? 
 

OldSolduer

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The military has become more "civilianized" (if that is a word) over the last two decades. I agree that many changes were necessary, but some, IMO went too far.

Diversity training, SHARP training and the whole idea of having to teach people how to behave ethically - which should be a given - started us on the path to where we are now.
One can be a warrior and still remain ethical. We've seen that over the last 15 years.

We need the right people in the right spots to promote the warrior ethos.
 

Old Sweat

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Some of you may recall an incident in the nineties where the press got on a witch hunt about Canadian troops in the Balkans committing war crimes because someone had used a .50 cal MG to return fire. Apparently the logic the media ran with was that the .50 was designed to destroy material and its use against personnel was therefore excessive force.
 

Goose15

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[I am a civvie and have never been in theatre so I know I can never understand what combat is like.]

After reading both articles I can certainly see both sides of the coin. I believe 20 years sounds excessive based on what have read. However, after reading the soldiers' perspectives: no punishment does not necessarily seem proper either. In the end, I think a retrial would be the proper route if in fact the information that was so-called "kept from the defense" has been found to be real and available.
 

FJAG

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Hamish Seggie said:
It doesn't help when our own side tries to accuse our soldiers of war crimes.

Respectfully Hamish, that's exactly who should be doing it.

There is an obligation mandated by QR&O 4.02 (respecting officers) and 5.01 (respecting NCMs) to report infringements of the law etc to the appropriate authorities. QR&O 106.02 requires that: "Where a complaint is made or where there are other reasons to believe that a service offence may have been committed, an investigation shall be conducted as soon as practical to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to justify the laying of a charge."

I think that's both a clear cut and an absolutely necessary requirement.

Where people may honestly differ is the question of whether or not specific actions constitute a crime. I expect that few of us would argue about what  the extreme cases (for example Staff Sergeant Bales murder of 16 Afghan civilians in Panjwayi in 2012). Where the difficulty lies is in those grey area cases where one can't easily determine whether actions taken were appropriate or illegal in the circumstances. For example, from what I can parse of the evidence, Lorance, ordered fire on three civilians who were showing neither hostile acts nor hostile intent. He did this principally on his belief that Afghans on motorcycles were spotters for the Taliban. This was contrary to the ROE in effect and it was his own soldiers, the ones he said he was trying to protect, who reported the incident to the CoC.

Wouldn't you agree that this was their obligation under military law? And also that once the report was made that it was the duty of the CoC to direct an investigation and to subsequently lay charges?

:cheers:
 

OldSolduer

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Yes, I agree our own side should be. When it happens, not go off in some half a$$ed witch hunt because you want to make a name for yourself. Well, this captain did, and remains a captain ASFAIK.

That aside, false allegations and grey areas will crop up, no doubt.
 

Kat Stevens

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FJAG said:
Respectfully Hamish, that's exactly who should be doing it.

There is an obligation mandated by QR&O 4.02 (respecting officers) and 5.01 (respecting NCMs) to report infringements of the law etc to the appropriate authorities. QR&O 106.02 requires that: "Where a complaint is made or where there are other reasons to believe that a service offence may have been committed, an investigation shall be conducted as soon as practical to determine whether there are sufficient grounds to justify the laying of a charge."

I think that's both a clear cut and an absolutely necessary requirement.

Where people may honestly differ is the question of whether or not specific actions constitute a crime. I expect that few of us would argue about what  the extreme cases (for example Staff Sergeant Bales murder of 16 Afghan civilians in Panjwayi in 2012). Where the difficulty lies is in those grey area cases where one can't easily determine whether actions taken were appropriate or illegal in the circumstances. For example, from what I can parse of the evidence, Lorance, ordered fire on three civilians who were showing neither hostile acts nor hostile intent. He did this principally on his belief that Afghans on motorcycles were spotters for the Taliban. This was contrary to the ROE in effect and it was his own soldiers, the ones he said he was trying to protect, who reported the incident to the CoC.

Wouldn't you agree that this was their obligation under military law? And also that once the report was made that it was the duty of the CoC to direct an investigation and to subsequently lay charges?


:cheers:

Wouldn't you also expect those troops to not obey a command they felt to be illegal/immoral?  Are the shooters on the hook, too?  It's easy for guys to sit back, well after the dust settles, and say " maybe we did something wrong".
 

Oldgateboatdriver

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No, KS, I would not expect that. Unless the shooters can figure out that the order is clearly and unequivocally illegal (for instance if they were asked to kill everyone in a school courtyard only occupied by 50 kids just coming out for recess and two female teachers overseeing them while they are playing soccer), they have to obey the order.

That doe not get the shooters off the hook. They can be charged with the same crime, but they have a different defense available to them: obeying an order that  they could not determine the legality of.

In the present case, it seems, if the first article quoted is to be believed, that the shooters were given immunity from prosecution in exchange for their testimony against Lt Lorance. The appropriateness (and ethical issues relating to it) of such conduct by the prosecution is for the US legal system to decide.
 

Kat Stevens

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So, it would never cross your mind to question the order to shoot two guys who appear to be guilty of possession of a motorcycle and phone?  If it's as cut and dried as the articles make it appear, I think I might at least raise some doubt.  Immunity for those who testified seems to be nothing more than a quest to seek a higher valued pelt, unlike us, who always try to jail the lowest rank in the incident.
 

Oldgateboatdriver

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Oh! It might cross my mind. And I may have my doubts, but equivocally know the officer ordering the shoot is wrong? I probably would not reach that conclusion. After all, a couple of guys near the outskirts of town, with a cell phone and a motorcycle, have been known to be bad guys in AFG, and the shooters are aware of that fact even if they don't see any apparent improper activity. So, maybe the officer has some other info not in their possession (a reported radio intercept, perhaps) or can see something in his field of view that the shooter cannot. In that sense, the order is not so unusual as to let the shooter make his own clear appreciation. That's all.

As for the immunity matter, I don't know what the standard is in the US. In Canada, the crown prosecutor would have to disclose in advance that he has offered immunity to some "participating" witnesses in order to secure their collaboration. To avoid this fact "colouring" their testimony, the usual practice would normally be to charge them anyway, get them to provide their testimony under oath in a sworn statement or before a court recorder and then, at the first appearance, to declare that you have no evidence to adduce - leading to the charge being dismissed against them. The defence is then provided with all these particulars and can cross examine accordingly.

I have seen cases where even after such precautions have been taken by the crown, either the witness recanted at the trial, leading to his being declared hostile and later charged with perjury, but still tainting his testimony  as unreliable, or they were shown to have had a personal beef against the person they elected to testify against and their testimony was discounted anyway.
 

Kat Stevens

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Don't get me wrong, I don't really care if every cell phone using motorcyclist over there gets a supersonic lobotomy.  But there are rules, loooots of rules, that would make me afraid to take that shot.
 

Tibbson

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Kat Stevens said:
Don't get me wrong, I don't really care if every cell phone using motorcyclist over there gets a supersonic lobotomy.  But there are rules, loooots of rules, that would make me afraid to take that shot.

And I bet if you were a peace loving Afghan national who owned a motorcycle and a cell phone I'm sure you would be glad those rules were there and would expect them to be followed.
 

Kat Stevens

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Undoubtedly I would, but I'm not looking at this from a poor peace loving civilian, not my circus, not my clowns.  I'm looking at it from the viewpoint of a soldier looking through a scope at a guy sitting on his bike playing angry birds.  Would I question the order to shoot?  Due to the case in question, plus briefings I've had from legal officers over the years, I would think twice.  Clearly I'm not expressing my point very well here, so I'll tap out.
 

OldSolduer

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Schindler's Lift said:
And I bet if you were a peace loving Afghan national who owned a motorcycle and a cell phone I'm sure you would be glad those rules were there and would expect them to be followed.

From what I read of the incident no civilians lived there and the platoon was being shadowed by watchers.
 

FJAG

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Kat Stevens said:
So, it would never cross your mind to question the order to shoot two guys who appear to be guilty of possession of a motorcycle and phone?  If it's as cut and dried as the articles make it appear, I think I might at least raise some doubt.  Immunity for those who testified seems to be nothing more than a quest to seek a higher valued pelt, unlike us, who always try to jail the lowest rank in the incident.

I know this post is a bit further down the string but the answer (such as it is) to your question is found in the Supreme Court of Canada decision of R v Finta [1994] 1 SCR 701 where that issue is sumarized in the headnote as follows: 

"Essentially obedience to a superior order provides a valid defence unless the act is so outrageous as to be manifestly unlawful.  Further, an accused will not be convicted of an act committed pursuant to an order wherein he or she had no moral choice but to obey." (emphasis added)

The rank and position of the individual following the order in relation to the individual giving it is a relevant consideration. i.e. the further down the food chain of command that you are the less likely it is that one can exercise an independent choice.

:cheers:
 

Petard

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Hamish Seggie said:
From what I read of the incident no civilians lived there and the platoon was being shadowed by watchers.

A very different image is beginning to emerge of Lt Lorrance

The Army Times article implies the three on the motorcycle(s) were from the village that Lorance had ordered pot shots fired at, in order to encourage them to attend his shura. This seems to indicate the area had not been vacated of all locals as some of these pro Lorance narratives have alluded to.

According to soldiers from Lorance's Pl, who did not have immunity from charges, three locals had shown up before the patrol set out, on motorcycles, at the strong point gate to find out why the Americans had been shooting indiscriminately at the their village earlier. Lorance allegedly threatened them, and had tried to get an NCO to fabricate report of incoming fire to justify the earlier pot shots he'd ordered fired at the village.

It looks like the three he ordered shot on patrol, resembled the three that had come to the gate earlier. Whether or not they were also relaying their information to the Taliban is not proven, and there's no indication Lorance knew for sure they were either.

What is not in dispute is the three were not armed and were not showing hostile intent when Lorance ordered them to be shot.

 

daftandbarmy

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Sometimes troops shoot, or otherwise needlessly abuse, people they shouldn't because they feel they have no other option as they are not being adequately supported by their chain of command.

For example, a village that should be the target of a thorough cordon and search op to remove weapons and arrest bad guys and gals gets left alone because 'higher' doesn't want to ruffle feathers in the local community.

I have had the uncomfortable experience of seeing troops in situations like this (not mine!) behaving badly, usually during handovers. Needless to say, when we took over the AOR the rules changed... to the rule of law, and all the bad guys were arrested or found somewhere else to do their dirty work.

I'm not excusing bad decision making by junior leaders, but occasionally that is merely a symptom of bad/ cowardly leadership higher up the food chain.

 

tomahawk6

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If one or more Afghans had been wearing suicide vests the number of casualties would have been high.
 

Jarnhamar

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I had my chain of command unofficially tell us (our Pl) that they didn't want us taking warning shots anymore because they didn't want to risk ROE escalations and deal with collateral damage. We're in armored vehicles and "they can withstand VBIEDs".

Towards the end of our tour we were also given pen flares to use for warning shots (instead) and had investigations initiated every time we used a pen flare.  We lost faith and confidence in our chain of command to "have our back" when we were following our issued ROEs.

 
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