So the U.S. Army has rejected an appeal from Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland, a Green Beret in his 11th year of service, and is still intent on involuntarily discharging this soldier for an incident in 2011 in which he courageously stood up for an Afghan boy who had been raped, and his mother who had been beaten for confronting her son’s rapist. In short, a Green Beret hero is being kicked out of the Army for shoving an Afghan rapist.
If you’re not familiar with the story yet, Abdul Rahman, an Afghan police commander that our American tax dollars were spent training and propping up over there, had tied up and raped a 12-year-old Afghan boy. When that boy’s mother confronted this police commander, he beat her. Not knowing where else to turn, the mother pleaded for help at the local Special Forces base. That’s when SFC Martland stepped in. Along with his team leader, Martland confronted the police commander, who Martland himself had personally helped train.
Far from remorseful, the police commander admitted he had done the deed but laughed about it, insisting it was not a big deal. Trying to remain calm as they explained to Rahman how unacceptable this was, the police commander just kept laughing. And so, outraged, SFC Martland shoved the police commander to the ground and told him in no uncertain terms that this behavior wasn’t going to be tolerated.
What followed is disgraceful. The day following the confrontation of this rapist by our Green Berets, both Martland and his team leader were removed from their mission in Kunduz Province. According to Allen West, “Pending the outcome of the investigation, both men were relieved from their positions and sent home. Their war was over.”
In February 2015 a “Qualitative Management Program” review board decided that Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland should be involuntarily discharged from the U.S. Army after 11 years because of the “relief for cause” in his record.
What are we doing over there?
Now I understand that we didn’t go into Afghanistan to change the culture or put a stop to a commonly accepted practice of grown men using young boys for sex. The argument against intervention by our soldiers is not lost on me. Some will say that actions like those taken by SFC Martland endanger his fellow soldiers as well as the overall mission in Afghanistan by causing unnecessary strife with the indigenous persons. But ultimately we civilians in America were told that part of the mission in Iraq and Afghanistan was to “win the hearts and minds” of the indigenous Afghanis and Iraqis. How better to win the hearts and minds of the indigenous then to stick up for those within the population who are being oppressed? Furthermore, is there a worse way to win hearts and minds then to train and empower those who are going to victimize their fellow Afghanis and Iraqis?
This Afghan police commander, Abdul Rahman, was not intent on winning hearts and minds. In America we would have no problem whatsoever calling him a monster, thug, lowlife, and a pedophile. Does the nature of his actions against this 12-year-old boy and that boy’s mother change because he wasn’t raping an American boy, but rather an Afghani?
As an American civilian I can’t with full confidence question the actions of military service members who served in times of war. I could get up on a soapbox and talk as though I would’ve done this or that, or I would never have done this or that, but at the end of the day the one being shot at deserves a bit of deference from those who aren’t and never have been.
That said, it seems like an impossible position to put our brave men in to send them into a country and culture that has little to no regard for human life, give them a mission to bring stability to that region, expect them to uphold perfectly the highest American ideals of virtue, courage, strength, and honor in their own personal conduct, but then also to tell them to look the other way when they see helpless innocent people being oppressed.
SFC Martland shouldn’t have been put in a position where he had to side with the police commander who rapes young boys and beats their mothers or else kiss his hard-won military career goodbye. If SFC Martland or one of his fellow soldiers as Americans had been the ones raping this Afghan boy, would we accept the decision of the U.S. Army to defend our soldier? God have mercy on us if we would.
We have a proud tradition to uphold.
Both of my grandfathers served in World War II.
My Grandpa Mullet served in the Merchant Marines, running a boiler room on a ship that transported troops and supplies to the Pacific theater where we fought the Japanese. I’ve read that the Merchant Marines had the highest casualty rate of any branch during World War II.
My Grandpa Ranew served in the Navy as a nurse in the European campaign, where we fought against Nazi Germany. In a nutshell, he patched up soldiers returning from the beaches of Normandy with gunshot wounds and shrapnel and limbs missing. He saw horrors you and I probably can’t even imagine.
I am so very proud of the service both of my grandfathers rendered to this nation and to humanity during World War II. Someone will say we didn’t enter into that conflict to liberate the oppressed, rather we fought against primarily two hostile powers bent on world domination because it served her vital national security interests and we were trying to avoid becoming oppressed ourselves. Yet I know in the case of my Grandpa Ranew at least that part of his reason for enlisting was he knew what was going on in Europe under the Nazis. He knew about the oppression of the Jews. Quite frankly, I am proud of my grandfathers and America for having put a stop to the Nazi concentration camps.
What if when we had defeated Nazi Germany, rather than removing and prosecuting and executing those responsible for the mass genocide of the Jews and other minorities and political opponents, we had left in place or even propped up persons who we knew full well were going to continue policies of murder, rape, and oppression? What if we had said that it wasn’t our mission to change the culture in Germany? What if we had settled for something less than total victory, and looked the other way when it came to wide-spread atrocities?
What kind of legacy will our generation leave behind?
I learned an interesting thing about U.S. Army Special Forces this morning from Franklin Graham, who posted the tidbit on Facebook. Do you know what the Green Beret motto is? It is “to liberate the oppressed.” As an American I’m proud of that being part of the mission of our military. But I have to ask: When exactly did we give up that part of the mission?
Perhaps I’m comparing apples to oranges when I draw equivalence between World War II and our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know full well these were very different conflicts, are very different cultures, and that both American culture and the cultures of our allies have changed in the past century. And yet the principal should remain true that we stand up for those who are downtrodden and defenseless. I personally don’t want the motto of the U.S. Army Special Forces to be changed from “liberate the oppressed.”
America’s wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been highly controversial. Now many Americans question openly whether we should ever have gone into Afghanistan in the first place, and nearly everyone is certain we should never have gone into Iraq because toppling Saddam Hussein supposedly led directly to the rise of the Islamic State. My intention in writing this post was not to outline all the ways in which those conflicts and the nation-building attempts after them were bungled. Though a very interesting topic, that doesn’t need to be our focus here.
My point in bringing up the complicated nature of these conflicts is that the jury still being out, as it were, on whether America made mistakes in those conflicts doesn’t mean we should throw our hands up in surrender on what to do about the issue of Afghan boys being routinely and systematically raped. We shouldn’t lose all sense and hope of doing a good thing now simply because so many other facets of the war in Afghanistan and what followed may have been mismanaged.
What’s at stake here, what’s at stake in so many controversial disputes regarding American society and culture these days, is the character of our nation. What sort of people will we be?
Quite frankly, I can’t be proud of an America that systematically looks the other way when it sees a 12-year-old boy being raped and his mother beaten by someone we trained, pay the salary for, and put in authority; I can’t be proud of an America that, instead of dealing with the low-life rapist, instead shames and dishonors a military hero standing up for the defenseless and oppressed who plead with him for help.
God tells us what we should be about.
For now, my fellow Americans, I’ll leave you to consider what the Scriptures say. Take these words to heart.
Open your mouth for the mute,
for the rights of all who are destitute.
Open your mouth, judge righteously,
defend the rights of the poor and needy.
God has taken his place in the divine council;
in the midst of the gods he holds judgment:
“How long will you judge unjustly
and show partiality to the wicked? Selah
Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”