Home » U.S. News, World

Double Standard? Taliban Prisoners go Free while American Troops Remain in Prison

14 October 2010 One Comment

There are disturbing double standards concerning the treatment of U.S. forces compared with enemy combatants in the war zone and at home that favors the terrorists, Taliban and insurgents.

First, remember when it took a Rolling Stone Magazine article, Runaway General, to awaken America to what military families already knew—how the restrictive rules of engagement imposed on U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan left some U.S. troops vulnerable to attack? As Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, later acknowledged, there are troops who feel “they’re being asked to fight with one hand tied behind their back.”

It gets worse. There is also what some troops in Afghanistan call “Taliban catch and release.” It’s when NATO forces capture Taliban members only to watch them walk away.
As Sara Carter of the Washington Examiner reported:

“It’s as if the Taliban have more rights than us or the people of Afghanistan,” said Specialist Charles Brooks, 26, a U.S. Army medic with 1st Battalion, 4th Infantry Regiment, in Zabul province.

“We have to let these guys go all the time no matter what they do, and then we find them trying to hit us again. But if they think I’ve screwed up once, then [the military will] have no problem throwing me to the wolves,” Brooks said.

See “catch and release” in Iraq under the Bush administration.

It’s hard to dismiss Specialist Brooks’ statement, especially because it is buttressed by yet another double standard that favors the treatment of the Taliban compared to U.S. troops. Imprisoned Taliban soldiers may also be set free if elders sign a “pledge” vouching for them. That’s not an option for American servicemen serving time for combat related convictions.

As the New York Times reported last May,

“The young Taliban prisoner was led blindfolded to a sweltering military tent, seated among 17 village elders and then, eyes uncovered, faced a chief accuser brandishing a document with the elders’ signatures or thumbprints.

Capt. Scott A. Cuomo, a United States Marine commander… told the prisoner: “This letter right here is a sworn pledge from all of your elders that they’re vouching for you and that you will never support the Taliban or fight for the Taliban ever again.” … the captain rendered the group’s judgment on the silent prisoner, Juma Khan, 23, whom the Marines had seized after finding a bomb trigger device, ammunition and opium buried in his yard… “So on behalf of peace, your family, your grandfather,” Captain Cuomo solemnly said, “we’re going to let you go.”

Let go – free.

What happens to U.S. troops in prison? Consider the story of the Leavenworth 10.
The Leavenworth 10 are soldiers and Marines incarcerated at Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, for
combat related crimes. Two of the original 10, have been paroled. The remaining eight are: 1LT Michael Behenna, SGT Evan Vela Carnahan; PFC Corey Clagett, MSG John Hatley, SPC William Hunsaker, SGT Michael Leahy, SFC Joseph Mayo, and SGT Michael Williams.

Click here to read their stories.

These American troops are serving sentences ranging from 10-40 years for crimes committed while serving in a war zone.

As Vicki Behenna, mother of 1st Lieutenant Michael Behenna convicted of killing a member of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, wrote to his supporters:

“There is a double standard in play here where enemy combatants are given mercy, but our soldiers/Marines are denied mercy….we have come to know the families of the other soldiers/Marines who have been charged and convicted of ‘murder’ of Al-Qaeda or insurgents … We have heard the hopelessness in [their] voices when they learn that their son or husband will not receive ANY reduction in their sentence. It is difficult for these military families to know that based on a ‘solemn’ pledge Taliban fighters are released by the SAME U.S. military leadership and allowed to return home to their families. What message does the U.S. military send when we punish our own soldiers more harshly then we punish the combatants who have killed our brave men and women on the front lines of this war on terrorism?

Many of the soldiers/Marines I am speaking of, including our son, would never find themselves involved in the criminal justice system but for their combat experience. These soldiers/Marines do not have previous criminal histories, and their military records are replete with honorable service including purple hearts, bronze stars, and multiple deployments in defense of our country…Even if they made mistakes in judgment during war, should they be sentenced to 10-40 years while the enemy is totally forgiven? Why shouldn’t the SAME military leadership afford our combat soldiers/Marines a second chance!

If the US military will release Taliban fighters simply on a pledge by their families that they will not rejoin the Taliban then we ask the same for our troops… We ask that you the American public stand with us. Our request is that each of you … demand that our military extend the same mercy to them as they did to the enemy combatants who are trying to kill our soldiers every day.

Read in its entirety here.

Beverly Perlson, founder of the Band of Mothers, whose son served 4 deployments, said in an interview with me, “This military and this government had better start worrying about appeasing the mothers of the Warriors of this country because if this double standard continues, they won’t have any future Warriors to fight their wars!”

Click here, via the Band of Mothers, to a read the petition requesting imprisoned American troops be afforded the same treatment as Taliban prisoners.

Watch: A CNN Special Investigations Unit documentary reveals what led to the murders of Iraqi detainees by U.S. Army sergeants.