Allen West and the Leavenworth 10

Representative Allen West (R-FL) has long been an advocate for the “Leavenworth 10,” American troops imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth for actions taken during the heat of battle in the War on Terror. 

For example, while serving in Iraq, 1st Lieutenant Michael Behenna of the Army Rangers was escorting a known al-Qaeda terror operative named Ali Mansur home, following an Army Intelligence order to release him from custody.  Lt. Behenna, who believed Mansur had been involved in an attack that killed two members of his platoon, decided to interrogate the al-Qaeda man during this journey.  During the interrogation, Behenna threatened Mansur with a pistol.  Mansur made a play for the gun, and Behenna shot him. 

The American soldier was convicted of unpremeditated murder in a combat zone, and sentenced to 25 years in prison, later reduced to 15 years by a judicial order and a military clemency board.  The sentence was based, in part, on the notion that since Behenna’s interrogation of Mansur was unauthorized, his right to employ deadly force in self-defense was suspended.  Some experts in the complex art of “battlefield forensics” questioned Behenna’s account of the shooting, although others have spoken in support of him.  Several appeals have been filed, with the most recent appeal still under consideration. 

Friday, May 18 is Michael Behenna’s 29th birthday.  It is the fourth birthday he has spent in prison.

Rep. West himself was discharged from the Army, where he held the rank of lieutenant colonel, for discharging his firearm near a prisoner, during an interrogation that West credits with helping to shut down deadly sniper attacks from Saddam Hussein loyalists against his unit.  For this, he is routinely described as a “war criminal” by left-wing extremists.

As the reader might have noticed, America’s enemies in the War On Terror are considerably less fastidious when it comes to the treatment of prisoners, women, children, or anyone else who gets in their way.  For example, consider an operation led by Ali Musa Daqduq in Karbala, Iraq on January 20, 2007.  I first wrote about this incident at great length in 2010 in a piece called “Love the Warriors” – a quote from Private Johnathan Millican, one of the American soldiers who died.  I invite you to click the link to get up to speed.  It’s a bad story… and it just got worse.

A week ago, an Iraqi court cleared Ali Musa Daqduq, a Lebanese-born member of Hezbollah, of all crimes and ordered his release.  He’s been in Iraqi hands since American forces withdrew in December 2011.  There was no need for the United States to hand him over to the Iraqis, since he’s a Lebanese citizen, and not covered by the agreements requiring Iraqi citizens held by U.S. forces to be remanded into Iraqi government custody. 

On May 16, Rep. West wrote, in a furious letter to President Obama: “Mr. President, you had options when dealing with this terrorist.  Daqduq could have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay where he could have been tried in front of a military commission.  At the very least, he could have been brought to another American military installation other than Guantanamo Bay for a military commission.”

West put this into context with the Leavenworth 10:

“When you were elected President, the American people expected you to provide leadership – leadership to protect our men and women in uniform and to accept criticism from foreign nation governments when doing what is right in the name of American justice.  As someone who served 22 years in the United States Army and served in both Operation Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom, I learned that true leadership means making responsible decisions, not necessarily popular ones.  The best commanders – many of whom I had the honor to serve under – are those who have put their own lives and careers on the line to protect the men and women under their command.

“Your Administration, instead of standing up for the Soldiers who perished at the hands of this terrorist, handed a senior Hezbollah operative responsible for the gruesome murder of at least five Americans over to a “so-called” justice system that, with the facts so clearly showing him guilty, set him free.

“While the families of these brave Soldiers gather around their dinner tables with an empty seat, Ali Musa Daqduq will return home to Lebanon to a hero’s welcome.

“Meanwhile, here in the United States, American soldiers like Michael Behenna, William Hunsaker, and Joseph Mayo remain imprisoned at Fort Leavenworth for questionable incidents that occurred during the heat of battle.  Men who were sent to a distant battlefield to defend our freedom are now imprisoned with little chance of freedom anytime soon.”

Does any of this really seem right to anyone?  Is this how civilian America honors and supports the people we send into battle, against a vicious enemy that revels in slaughter and merciless cruelty?  We are better than them… not weaker.  There is nothing “civilized” about treating our own soldiers like criminals, while allowing terrorist murderers to walk free.  No one is saying that soldiers should be free from all responsibility for their actions, but they aren’t cops, and battlefields are not courtrooms.

Our government seems to think a number of U.S. soldiers belong in jail more than Ali Musa Daqduq.  Nothing can erase the insult done to the memory of those who were murdered in Karbala, but I have no doubt they would appreciate a little leniency… a little justice… being granted in their names.  That’s what they were fighting for.