Saturday, February 24, 2007

The dirty joke that is military "justice"

Undaunted by an initial mistrial, the Army on Friday refiled charges against 1st. Lt. Ehren Watada, a Fort Lewis officer who faces up to six years in prison for failing to deploy to Iraq and alleged misconduct.
"These are serious charges, and the next step will be to set a trial date," said Joe Piek, a spokesman at Fort Lewis, where Watada continues to serve as an active-duty officer.
Watada is the first Army officer to face court-martial for refusing to serve in Iraq, and his case has drawn international attention as the Hawaiian-born officer has allied himself with peace groups and repeatedly attacked the Bush administration's conduct of the war.
Watada's defense counsels are hoping to derail or at least delay a new trial, which they claim constitutes double jeopardy that violates Watada's constitutional rights to only be tried once for a set of crimes.
The defense counsels appeared caught by surprise by Friday's re-filing of charges. "They appear anxious to get him into jail as soon as possible," said Eric Seitz, Watada's civilian defense counsel.

The above is from Hal Bernton's "Army refiles Watada charges" (Seattle Times) and that's all that's worth reading unless you want to laugh at how Bernton summarizes the day that led Judge Toilet to declare a mistrial. He floated the idea repeatedly, he began suggesting it. The prosecution refused. Only after they finally caught on how strongly they were being urged to move for a mistrial did they. Somehow Bernton can't include that. Or that the mistrial was declared over the defense's objections.

Ehren Watada's service contract is either up (December) or about to be. But this is what passes for military "justice." Double-jeopardy can be ignored by the military. They want Ehren Watada to serve hard time. Now it's too bad he chose to take a stand against the war because if he'd done something the military considers insignificant like attempted rape, he wouldn't be facing any jail time. From yesterday's snapshot:

Remember how Mark Wilkerson was sentenced to seven months in military prison? Let's turn to the reality of the joke that is military justice. Sgt. 1st Class Daniel Edwards Franklin is now a "private" and somehow that's "justice" in the snicker-snicker, dirty joke world of the US military. In a press release, the US military tells you he was busted down to private as punishment determined in his court-martial today. Punishment for? "[I]ndecent acts upon a female Private 2nd Class in the junior Soldier's room and then lying about his involvment to CID personnel. On 20 Ocotber 2006 Sgt. 1st Class Franklin followed a female Private 2nd Class into her room on LSA Anaconda. He attempted to force intimate contact upon the solider." Let's be clear because the US military tends to gloss over rape -- as does the press. What Franklin was trying to do, "force intimate contact," is what's known as attempted rape. Back to the press release: "During a CID interview and on the witness stand at trial" denied touching the woman or being in her room for more than five minutes.
And here's where the US military proves what a sad joke is: "A panel of officers and enlisted personnel, sentenced Sgt. 1st Class Franklin to reduction in grade to E-1." Wow. Aren't we all just blown away. Wilkerson's spending seven-months in a military prison and Franklin gets no jail time for attempted rape. As noted in The Third Estate Sunday Review's "
Women and the military" one in every seven US service members serving in Iraq is a woman but there's no real safety guarantees for women. Crimes aren't punished and for any who doubt it, a superior attempts to rape a woman and his "punishment" doesn't include jail time. It's all a joke or a game to the military but not even a game that includes the instruction "Go immediately to jail, do not collect 200 dollars."

Daniel Franklin attempted to rape a female serving under him and all that happened was reduction in rank. He's not doing any time. That's military "justice." In the real world, attempted rape would land his ass behind bars (where it belongs). In the military which continues to disrespect women, it's no big deal. Contrast that with the man sentenced to hard time a few weeks ago -- I believe two -- who went into the rooms of other males while they were sleeping and groped them. He got hard time. Groping a male results in hard time. Attempting to rape a woman, you don't even spend ten days in jail.

The "justice" is a dirty little joke and the laughs on the American people who repeatedly put up with this crap. There will be another huge scandal this year or next that will have us all shocked as a people. The reality is that these scandals go on every damn day.

It's why Suzanne Swift is still in the military instead of being honorably discharged which is the minimum the military owed her after refusing to address the sexual assaults she was experiencing while serving in Iraq.

What does that say about this country? That Suzanne Swift can be sent to jail when she was assaulted. That she can be forced to return to service after the military refused to protect her?
What does it say when Daniel Franklin can attempt to rape a woman serving under him and end up with no jail time?

Or that we're all supposed to be torn apart for by the "pressure" those who have confessed to gang rape and standing by while murders took place (knowing full well the 14-year-old girl they were raping would be next) were under. "Pressure" allows for shooting someone by mistake, you're under pressure, you make a bad call and only learn after the fact that the person wasn't a 'hostile.' It happens. Pressure is you crack up. Pressure isn't you get together to discuss how to rape a little girl you've watched (and lusted after). Pressure isn't you come up with a plan. Pressure isn't you implement the plan. That wouldn't pass in a civilian court as a defense. The very fact that you were plotting would demonstrate pre-meditation. But Abeer was raped while her five-year-old sister was shot dead, while her parents were shot dead. She heard that while she was being raped. And still she fought back -- with one adult male holding her down while another took his turn. She was gang raped. Then when three men had a turn raping her, it was time to kill her. Then they left the house, burned their clothes, grilled chicken and got drunk reliving the "high" of their war crimes. And they want sympathy?

How about some sympathy for Abeer and her family? Or for the American service members who were killed in retaliation for the war crimes?

Oh the weeping rapists, crying as they confess. Never expressing any real regret for their actions (Paul Cortez told the judge he couldn't say why it all happened). Never expressing remorse for anything other than letting their buddies down.

Let's drop back to Gregg Zoroya's "Soldier describes anguish in revealing murder allegations" (USA Today) from September:

Three months after the Iraqi family was found slaughtered, the 1st Platoon suffered a devastating attack. Insurgents overran a checkpoint in Youssifiyah on June 16, killing Spc. David Babineau, 25, of Springfield, Mass., and capturing Pfc. Kristian Menchaca, 23, of Houston, and Pfc. Thomas Tucker, 25, of Madras, Ore. Watt was close friends with Tucker and Menchaca, who were later found tortured and killed.

Can the weeping Cortez apoligize to the families of David Babineau, Kristian Menchaca and Thomas Tucker? Their deaths were said to be retaliation for the rape and murder of Abeer and the murder of her parents and sister. For those who've forgotten, Justin Watt came forward. If it wasn't for him, the deaths of Abeer's family would still be penned (by the US military) on 'insurgents.' From the USA Today article:

Watt says he could barely sleep after the kidnappings. When he did, he had nightmares about dead Iraqi children or slain comrades, talking to or staring at him. The bodies of Tucker and Menchaca were discovered June 19.
Shortly after the kidnappings, Watt spoke with another Bravo Company friend, Sgt. Anthony Yribe, 22. According to testimony Watt later gave in court, reported by a small group of journalists allowed inside the hearing, Yribe disclosed a terrible secret: He suspected that 1st Platoon soldiers had attacked the Iraqi family March 12.
Shaken, Watt later approached another soldier in 1st Platoon, Pfc. Bryan Howard, 19. Howard, Watt testified, told him a gruesome story. The details emerged during a so-called Article 32 hearing held in Baghdad last month. In such hearings, an investigator listens to evidence and decides whether to recommend a court-martial.
The Article 32 hearing considered charges of rape and murder against the four soldiers: Howard, Spc. James Barker, 23, Sgt. Paul Cortez, 23, and Pfc. Jesse Spielman, 21. A fifth, Yribe, is not alleged to have taken part in the attack and is charged with dereliction of duty for failing to report the crimes.
The official transcript of the hearing has not been released. According to the testimony reported by a pool of journalists and made available to news outlets, the rape victim and her family lived about 220 yards from a traffic-control point in Mahmoudiya. For several days before the killings, Howard, Barker, Cortez, Spielman and then-Army Pvt. Steven Green staffed the checkpoint.

When the military gives an attempted rapist no jail time they send a message to everyone serving. When the military 'addresses' the concerns that female service members may be raped by males serving in the US military by saying "buddy up" at shower time, they demonstrate that they don't give a damn about what happens. It is not a woman serving in the military's job to find a buddy to go with her to the showers. But that's how the military "addresses" rape. They turn it into the responsibility of the victims because heaven forbid they get serious about a crime. They have shirked their responsibilities, not just with Swift, but with regards to every woman in uniform by refusing to address the issue and instead offering sop like "buddy up." They could have sent a message yesterday when they court-martialed the attempted rapist. They could have given him hard time. They didn't. They busted him down in rank to private. "So, hey fellows, want to rape? Well if you can risk being busted down in rank, go for it!" That's the message the US military sent. The same one they continue to send. But by all means, focus on Watada, obsess over him, while you let attempted rapists walk. That's supposed to pass for "justice."

On the topic of the new trial for Watada, Joan notes Peter Boylan's "It's 'back to square one' for Watada" (Honolulu Star-Bulletin):

Eric Seitz, Watada's attorney, said he was "surprised" the Army refiled the exact same charges and said he would try to have the charges thrown out as a violation of the Constitution's protection against double jeopardy.
Throughout the proceedings leading up to the mistrial, Army prosecutors made so many mistakes that "the military appellate courts would not let a conviction stand."
"I think the Army has made so many bad mistakes in this case that the chances of them having a successful outcome are very slim," said Seitz, speaking from his Honolulu office yesterday.

And note that, unlike Bernton, Boylan can recap:

Army prosecutors reluctantly requested the mistrial after Head threw out the basis for the Army's case.

Note, the same Congress that begs off their responsibilities regarding Watada hasn't done a damn thing to protect the women serving in the military.

There will be another entry by me this morning. In addition, Ruth's doing a report today and Kat has a review ready to go up.

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