War, Murder, and Justice

Capt. Robert Semrau wore faded Canadian desert combat fatigues that looked very much as if he had worn them when he served in Kandahar two years ago as his trial on a charge that he murdered an unarmed Taliban fighter resumed Wednesday, about 100 kilometres away from where the alleged crime took place…  Semrau is the only Canadian soldier of the more than 20,000 who have rotated through Afghanistan to have been charged with illegally killing an insurgent.”  It certainly seems that Canada is attempting to show the nation they are attempting to help what justice looks like by trying one of their own on foreign soil, near where the alleged crime took place.

Five soldiers have been charged with murder in the slaying of three Afghan civilians earlier this year, according to the US Army…  All five soldiers are assigned to B Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st Infantry Regiment, 5th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 2nd Infantry Division…  Parker said Gibbs was charged June 8 in Kuwait and is in transit to Lewis-McChord. Morlock was charged June 4. He and the other three soldiers are being confined at the base, as will Gibbs when he arrives.”  All 5 will apparently be tried at Fort Lewis, south of Tacoma, Washington.

I now have a son in the Army Reserves so I had to think about this for a minute.  I firmly believe in the presumption of innocence.  Still, if we are going to nation build, if we are going to be killing on foreign soil, it seems most appropriate to me for the trials to take place there rather than here; for the families of the victims to see justice done for their family members.  Whether the killings are justified or not, the families are still victims to the extent that they lost family members to death and have the right to know what happened.  What exactly are we telling others when we bring our accused back here to be tried in a more comfortable and protected setting; where the families of the victims will not be seen or heard?  If there's a conviction, will the families be afforded the opportunity to make victim impact statements as has become our custom in the US?  If so, how and where?

Perhaps you have seen the “video that shows a group of men walking down the street before being repeatedly shot by the Apache helicopters. The American gunners can be heard laughing and referring to the men as "dead bastards."…  The classified video was taken from the cockpit during a 2007 fire fight…  Among those believed to have been killed in the attack were a Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his driver Saeed Chmagh, 40. Two children were wounded.”  The soldier who is suspected of leaking the video (or so says the tipster, a convicted hacker who still owes restitution money) has been arrested.  The soldiers in the Apache helicopters may still be out there killing more people in similar manner today.

The stories of atrocities committed by soldiers just seem to go on and on.  We see the news of how many of our soldiers have been injured or killed but we are oblivious to the vastly larger numbers of civilians dying and being killed.

Why are we there still?  Are foreign wars just an excuse to give our soldiers a place to kill and abuse indiscriminately?  Then be brought home to be exonerated, slapped on the wrist; or their atrocities ignored completely?  Do we believe in justice anymore at all?

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