BY ALLEN WEST
I’m still sick to my stomach about the sentencing decision regarding Bowe Bergdahl. In my commentary from last Friday, I mentioned the immediate release of Army 1LT Clint Lorance. I do so because I know the faults and failures of our military justice system when it comes to the exuberance to punish our own troops. Let us not forget what was unjustly done to Army 2LT Michael Behenna, who was finally released.
Perhaps we need a reminder of what LT Clint Lorance did, which was to order the firing upon three men on a motorcycle that approached their patrol location back on July 2, 2012…two were killed, one survived.
There was gun residue found on their hands, yet, as with the trial of LT Behenna, that evidence was suppressed. Instead, what the Army prosecution did — and I know a bit about Army prosecution — was to use Lorance’s soldiers to testify against him and paint his character in a demeaning, disparaging and denigrating manner.
As reported by the Army Times back in 2015, “Lorance…is serving a 19-year prison sentence at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, but his case is far from over. Across the nation, thousands are rallying in hopes the baby-faced soldier can regain his freedom. They see him as a patriot, unfairly punished for actions taken to protect his fellow soldiers. His own soldiers, however, paint a much different picture: They claim their platoon leader was ignorant, overzealous and out of control. That he hated the Afghan people and that he had spent recent days tormenting the locals and issuing death threats.”
And here is the truth regarding the Soldiers who testified or spoke out against Clint:
“When asked to respond to accusations against Lorance, the lieutenant’s attorney John Maher, said the soldiers are ‘entitled to say anything they like,’ but said readers should be skeptical because the soldiers were granted immunity to testify. (While six soldiers did receive testimonial immunity, only four of them testified, according to trial transcripts. For this story, Army TImes interviewed three soldiers from the platoon who condemned Lorance’s actions but had received no immunity).”
But you know what’s amazing? There were no Soldiers lost, dead, or severely wounded because of LT Lorance’s actions; they’re all alive to condemn him as they wish. Their families are not testifying for them because they’re no longer here. And here’s the truth about what the Army did in order to secure a conviction of Clint Lorance for second degree murder in 2013. Notice it didn’t take three years for the Army to come to trial and take away Clint’s freedom, as it did with Bergdahl.
“In the end, this case will not be resolved by comments made on social media by immunized soldiers,” Maher said. “The real legal issue is that the government had and still has exculpatory and mitigating evidence that it was duty-bound to disclose. That the government did not disclose it means that the due process clause of the United States Constitution was violated. The Supreme Court has long held that the remedy for that violation is a new trial where due process is not violated.”
“The defense has now identified information linking five of seven Afghan military-aged males on the field that day with terror,” Maher said. “Because the government has always had that information and did not disclose it to the command or the trial defense counsel, examining 1st Lt. Lorance’s decision-making takes a back seat. We never get to that question.”
“Basically, the government is obligated to disclose evidence that could negate guilt, reduce the degree of guilt or reduce the punishment for the accused,” Maher said, citing the Rule for Courts-Martial. “The first day at the Army JAG school, we’re taught you turn over everything,” said Maher, who also is a lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve. “The government made a ‘serious legal error’ by not turning over exonerating and/or mitigating evidence contained in government computer databases,” Maher said. “Before the government can take away any soldier’s liberty, freedom, career, income, retirement, educational benefits, and full ability to get a job, the government must follow the rules,” he said. “Here, it did not.”
“If that information had been turned over, the defense might have taken a different approach, or the case may not even have made it to trial,” said Maher, who points out, “Lorance never fired his weapon that day.”
Therein lies my angst when one comparatively looks at the case of Clint Lorance, Bradley Manning, and Bowe Bergdahl. I don’t give a damn about whether or not the Soldiers liked or felt Lorance was a nice combat leader. He was given a mission to lead a combat platoon in the hot bed of Taliban operations in Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.
Imagine being Clint Lorance and watching Bradley Manning being released from Ft. Leavenworth prison just because he suffered from a mental condition called gender dysphoria. Manning took an action that placed American lives in danger by releasing over 700,000 pieces of classified information. Imagine being Clint Lorance and hearing that Bowe Bergdahl, who pleaded guilty to being a deserter and who placed the lives of Americans in danger, resulting in six of them losing their lives, getting a slap on the finger and not serving one day inside Ft. Leavenworth prison.
Imagine being Clint Lorance, love or hate him, I don’t care, but he sits in prison while a president can abandon Americans to die and lie about it…or another can do the same and run for president. Imagine being Clint Lorance and watching this current president pardon someone as a political favor, yet you sit in prison knowing there are thousands of signatures on a petition asking President Trump to pardon your sentence. Imagine being Clint Lorance, sitting in the same damn prison for killing the enemy, while there’s Nidal Hasan, who killed American Soldiers in the most heinous and traitorous manner.
What depraved level of character looks at this young man and continues to perpetuate this injustice? Damn, imagine if General George Patton existed today? He would be in Ft. Leavenworth for slapping that Soldier, and not be remembered as the most feared combat leader by the Germans.
Do not forget what happened with the US Navy SEAL Reconnaissance team — Lone Survivor — that released the Afghan herders after their mission was compromised because they more feared our media and serving time in prison…three lost their lives. What are we as a nation when we reward those who desert, commit acts of treason, and are traitors?
Perhaps if Clint Lorance would simply declare he wants to be a woman, he too would be released. But, the bottom line about the case of Clint Lorance is tell me how many American lives were put in danger? This whole angle by the prosecution painting him as a mean, bloodthirsty combat leader is irrelevant…we should want tough combat leaders. And those of us who’ve served on this current battlefield and have been in Afghanistan know that the Taliban, the Islamic jihadists, use unarmed scouts on motorcycles to probe and gather intel on our troops, patrols, and forward operating bases. We fire warning shots, but they know exactly what we will and will not do according to our absurd rules of engagement.
Bottom line, Bowe Bergdahl was responsible for Americans dying…Clint Lorance was not. What the hell does it say about my Army when one is set free, and the other is still in prison for second degree murder…of the enemy!
This is bovine excrement, and if SecDef James Mattis and President Donald Trump do not correct this…well, we might as well have kept Barack Obama.
Editor’s Note: This column previously appeared at AllenBWest.com Used with the permission of the author.
Lt. Col. Allen B. West is the former U.S. Congressman representing Florida’s 22nd District, a Fox News Contributor, a contributing columnist for Townhall.com, the former Executive Director of the National Center for Policy Analysis in Dallas Texas, and the author of Guardian of the Republic: An American Ronin’s Journey to Faith, Family and Freedom. Col. West is the third of four generations of military servicemen in his family. During his 22 year career in the United States Army, he was awarded the Bronze Star, 3 Meritorious Service Medals, 3 Army Commendation Medals (1 with Valor device), and a Valorous Unit Award. In 1993 he was named the US Army ROTC Instructor of the Year. Col. West believes it will be principled constitutional conservative policies, not politics, which will secure a sound economic future for Americans.