I have been intentionally avoiding commenting on the charges brought against three Navy SEALS, simply because I believe that the full facts of the situation have not been adequately documented or exposed, and are not likely to be so until after those SEALS’ courts martial. However, this has got to be one of the better ass-handings I have seen in a while:
Let me explain something to you amigo. That wrist slap would be a career-ender in Spec Ops for these men. You understand? We take three guys who accomplish more in a lazy afternoon than you have in your entire anonymous, snarking-from-the-sideline, existence and we put them out of work making dead tangos. And that sounds like what should have happened to this ass clown. If he dies during the take down we have no problems.
I know you have no earthly clue just how god-awful complicated it is to actually perform a raid and scarf up a bad guy, let’s just say it rates up there with trying to conduct a Beethoven Symphony with your orchestra in free fall, screaming towards Earth like a phalanx of freaking lawn darts. That is why we like to send a f**king Hellfire down on them and last time I checked that leaves a little more than a god damn bloody lip. And yes I am saying I don’t care if he got it once he got to base. What if the guy who clocked his murderous ass knew Scott Helverson, who this bastard helped kill, burn and then defile his corpse? Do you really want to be on record saying he should be made an example of? Do you remember what Kos said about the four men this scumbag killed you dumbass? I’ll remind you “F**k them”. You are sure in illustrious company.
I realize you get paid to say controversial shite all day long. Every once in a while you ought to take a gander at who gives you the freedom to flap your freakin’ gums and think twice before you decide that zero-tolerance demands that your betters suffer for some bullshit like this. Don’t offer the PC losers cover, ever. They will use it against my friends.
As a veteran and military brat, I am constantly annoyed at how so many civilians seem to treat our armed forces as something of a “black box” – enigmatic, un-understandable, and mysterious. Yeah, a lot of the stuff the military does cannot be released to the public. Yeah, a lot of the culture of the military is distilled from centuries of tradition and history, and not something easily understood by outsiders. But the United States Military is also a government entity, and, guess what? As such, a lot of its defining, driving, and delimiting documents are freely available, to the American public, as you sit there on your arses.
The two you will want to pay attention to in this case are the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Manual for Courts Martial – both freely and publicly available in their unabridged, mind-bogglingly-boring forms (my hardcopy of the former was about two inches thick, and the latter about three). Yeah, these are big documents, so let me help you out: you are looking for Section 815 Article 15 of the UCMJ, which covers something called “non-judicial punishment“.
NJP/Captain’s Mast/office hours/Article 15 proceedings are the military’s way of “slapping wrists”, though some slaps are worse than others – punishments can include 45 days’ restriction to ship/base, forfeiture of pay, reduction of rank, and even short-term stints in an honest-to-God military brig. What is important to note, however, is the name – these proceedings are distinctly not judicial. The commanding/ranking officer convening the NJP has full authority over the entire proceedings, and while there are a few details he has to address in the course of the event, it is pretty much a case of “what he says, goes” (as long as he stays within the rules). However, NJP proceedings do not bear the same legal or judicial weight that courts martial do – the result of the NJP is recorded internally to the military, and could impact future fitreps and promotions, but might never be exposed to civilian authorities in the future (unlike courts martial, wherein a conviction is equivalent to a civilian felony conviction, and must be disclosed as such).
NJPs are, however, refusable… but if a servicemember refuses an NJP, a court martial is automatic, and courts martial are full-blown, honest-to-God, lawyers-and-everything military trials, with all the rules, regulations, and restrictions to go along with them – not exactly a “slap on the wrist”. So why did these SEALS refuse admiral’s mast? Jay Tea has a theory that I mostly agree with:
Our Special Forces are inculcated with values and beliefs that represent the very best of America. And chief among them is a fierce integrity. These SEALS honestly, sincerely, and deeply believe that they did absolutely nothing wrong when they captured that terrorist. They refused the Mast because that would have been an admission of wrongdoing, and they will not lie about it.
Rather, they’ll take their chances with their brethren in a full Court Martial, with all the facts in evidence. They believe that they are innocent, and will be found innocent. And that is the gamble they are facing.
Because a court martial conviction is an automatic “felony” conviction. It’s a career-killer — at the very least. They could also be stripped of rank, dishonorably discharged, or even imprisoned.
They’re willing to take that chance, because they believe in their innocence and their system. There will be no “slap on the wrist” for them, simply because the stakes have gotten too high. That option is off the table.
I say “mostly” because accepting an Article 15/NJP is not equivalent to an admission of guilt – in fact, there were a few occasions on my ships wherein the sailor who was brought before a captain’s mast was let go with a stern talking-to for not doing something in the future that might appear to be a UCMJ violation, but was not really. Additionally, NJPs can pretty much kill someone’s carreer – being busted a rank is one hell of a black spot, though people frequently overcome it.
However, apart from that, though, I largely agree with Jay Tea, especially over one important distiction between courts martial and NJPs – the rules of evidence apply in the former, but not the latter. If the SEALS in question are convinced the evidence will acquit them, and the only way they can ensure that evidence comes to ligth is by way of a court martial, then they hopefully made the right choice.
I guess we will see how this all plays out after the courts martial, which I believe are scheduled to start on December 7. However, until then, folks, please use Google. The military is not some humongous, blank monolith, devoid of any explanations or instruction manuals. A lot of the way it works, and the reasoning behind it, is available online – do some looking around, and save yourself the heartache of embarassment, or at least look like you might have a clue.
And do not even get me started on how television shows and movies screw up military uniforms/insignia…