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[Thread] On a non-atrocity.

So, after my piece in the @newrepublic, I've gotten some interesting pushback from people saying I wasn't a SEAL so therefore I don't have the experience to base my analysis on.'s talk about this.…
True, I was not a Navy SEAL, but I have at least once been in a combat situation where I had to quickly decide whether to shoot or not.

(Note: Gallagher, Behenna, and Golsteyn were NOT even in these situations given that their actions were premeditated.)

Here's the story...
In April 2003, I was a Scout Platoon Leader in the 1st Squadron, 10th U.S. Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers!) which was leading the 4th Infantry Division north of Baghdad. I had 6 Bradley Cavalry Fighting Vehicles (think mini tank or heavily-armed RV).
Our task was to take the Taji military complex where we told we could find resistance. We got our orders on the hood of the troop commander's humvee and set out. This was our FIRST combat mission and I remember the adrenaline and how keyed up I was.…
With our Kiowa scout helicopters overhead looking out for us, my platoon crashed through the base fence (literally- and it was pretty cool). My tracks got on line to assault through the objective and search some massive bunkers; an infantry battalion attacked on our left.
As we neared the northern end of the base, I saw a compact car acreening toward us. We had been warned of possible VBIEDs and my gunner, SGT Hayes, immediately began tracking target with our 25mm chain gun.
The mood in the turret was anxious as the car kept coming right at us. SGT Hayes kept asking permission to fire. But I felt that we had a BIT of time. After a few seconds, probably seeing the turret seemlessly tracking them, the car came to a screeching halt quite a bit away.
Five men of varying ages poured out of the car with their hands up. My dismounted scouts jumped up, restrained them, and sent them to the rear. Turned out they were a father and his sons with the absolute worst timing on the planet, trying to take a shortcut through the base.
I COULD have shot. The rules of engagement at that time were fairly permissive in the event we felt threatened. (Warning shots were even authorized). I'm no hero or battlefield genius. I just felt I had more time to decide. And, I don't have to carry those deaths with me.
I've never shared this story on social media because I know that most of us would have made the same call. There are two points here: 1) It absolutely IS possible to be aggressive without being indiscriminate, 2) This is NOT the position the war criminals were in.
This last point is the most important. Supporters of Gallagher et. al. (many civilians) seem to think that they were prosecuted for split-second decisions or reasonable judgment calls. They made their decisions calmly with plenty of time to think about it.
Lorance wasn't in that position either. He was not under threat from the motorcycle: his men testified to that.…
Here are some important (and overlooked) elements of THAT story:
So, Lorance, the only one of the four who committed the crimes he was CONVICTED of in at least some kind of action, but did so against the advice of his own men and when objectively not in danger.
I recognize combat is messy. There are lots of tough calls and gray areas and a good degree of latitude is given to leaders doing their best.

BUT...with these men that Trump is elevating, this is NOT the case.

The narrative that the law of war is handcuffing soldiers is false.
It plays well to the toxic patriotism of the far right, but ask any reasonable veteran if the cases in question were tough calls.

They weren't.

They were leadership FAILURES.
Leaders get paid to make the tough calls, to take the extra second to think it through, and to manage violence rather than rashly blundering into it.

It's something most of our military folks do right every day.
Thank you for reading this and thank you to all the veterans who routinely perform ethically in the unforgiving minute.
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