I'm infuriated and disgusted to hear of the treatment being meted out to a US Marine officer over an incident in Afghanistan. Admittedly, I only have one report from which to judge: but if the incident occurred as described, senior heads need to roll!
On Nov. 1, Waddell, a 25-year-old executive officer with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Corps Regiment, was monitoring a surveillance camera in Sangin, Afghanistan, when he spotted a man who had been identified as a bomb maker working with area insurgents. Two days earlier, a sergeant from India Company had lost both legs and a hand when a bomb detonated in their area of operation. The man spotted on the camera was believed to be responsible.
After receiving permission from his battalion commanders, Waddell ordered Marine snipers to open fire on the man, and he was hit. A group of Afghans rushed to the man, put him on a tractor and attempted to flee. Waddell ordered the snipers to hit the engine block of the tractor, disabling it so the man believed to be a bomb maker would not escape. The tractor was hit but no civilians were injured.
Then, about three weeks later, the civilians who helped remove the wounded man from the area were found to be teenagers.
As a result, Waddell was demoted from executive officer, and the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Seth Folsom, determined he had violated rules of engagement that governed when Marines could fire, and at whom. Folsom said Wadell "is not recommended for promotion" and "in violation of [combat rules] during an engagement." The report stated that "noncombatant local nationals" were in the area of direct fire and that "the engagement resulted in a damaged local national vehicle."
A Marine brigadier general who reviewed the case was sympathetic to Waddell, whom he described as a "superb and heroic combat leader. But the general said the decision on whether Waddell should be promoted was "the commander's prerogative," noting that the battalion commander on the scene had lost "confidence in [Waddell's] abilities."
Marine Maj. Shawn Haney, spokesman for Marine Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said Waddell's fitness report will go before a review board at the time of any promotion "and everything is under scrutiny, so Waddell will have a chance to defend himself against the accusations." Still, Haney conceded, Waddell's fitness reports play a "significant role in future promotions."
The upshot is that Waddell's career has been effectively blunted, his chance for promotion blocked.
There's more at the link.
Let me take a few deep breaths to try to slow down my pounding heart, and allow the blood-red outrage to recede from my eyes.
Listen up, Marines. I've never worn your uniform, but I've served alongside some of you, and I can - and do - speak to you as a combat veteran.
If you allow this to stand, you will disgrace your entire history as a combat service, and earn the contempt of all those Marines who served before you.
Did that get your attention? I hope so. If it didn't, you don't deserve the name 'Marine'.
You don't hamstring your leaders in combat by burdening them with regulations that cannot be adhered to without getting their own men needlessly (I emphasize needlessly) hurt or killed. Some risks are necessary - that goes with the territory. However, others are not. You do what needs to be done to deal with the enemy, while keeping your own people as safe as possible. If unidentified persons attempt to help your enemies in the midst of a combat operation, those persons have to deal with the consequences. That's the way it is. I've been there and done that on more than one occasion - and I'd do it again if necessary. That's war.
If Lt. Waddell is made to suffer because of this catastrophically ass-covering regulation propagated by desk-bound, politically-subservient senior officers, the entire US Marine Corps will be shamed and dishonored. If you doubt that, ask yourself one simple question:
I think we all know the answer. This cannot be allowed to stand.
As for the senior officers responsible for this regulation - both the generals in the USA who put political correctness over the lives and safety of their troops in propagating it, and local commanders in Afghanistan who were gutless enough to enforce it - I have a simple solution. Break the whole damn lot of them to temporary privates, issue them with a private's uniform, weapon and war load, and send them to patrol the front lines in Afghanistan until they've re-learned what war's all about. Let them experience for themselves the conditions under which their Marines are fighting and dying, so they can learn at first hand the stupidity of regulations such as this one. Those who can't or won't learn can die there, for all I care. The rest should come back considerably improved!
Some senior Marines might argue that they had no choice but to implement such a policy, because it was ordered by the national command authority. I can only respond with the famous dictum of Napoleon Bonaparte:
A commander is not protected by an order from a minister or prince who is absent from the theater of operations and has little or no knowledge of the most recent turn of events. Every commander responsible for executing a plan that he considers bad or disastrous is criminal. He must point out the flaws, insist that it be changed and at last resort resign rather than be the instrument of the destruction of his own men.
If this incident occurred as described, it will demonstrate all too clearly that the senior commanders of the US Marine Corps have forgotten that - or chosen to ignore it.