Thursday, January 28, 2021

Special operations and war crimes

Perhaps war crimes that have been swept under the rug in the U.S. special operations arena (see here for an example of Army courage and integrity contrasted with Navy SEAL cowardice, cover-up and alleged criminality) will actually get some attention (and perhaps some legally-required accountability will be forthcoming) due to this just-reported DOD IG review of how law of armed conflict violations are handled by both U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command.  It's hard to predict if any good will come of this, as the folks doing the "review" are likely folks who spent time in those commands or their subordinate units, and cannot do what a truly independent review actually needs to do given their own cognitive biases (outside experts from the Department of Justice and NGOs should be included within a real review if folks truly want the best results).

Plus it's unclear whether this assessment will actually dig into the heart of the cover-ups, such as the one highlighted above, that seem to pepper the U.S. operations in the CENTCOM AOR during the almost 20-year war in Afghanistan in particular (particularly by units with ADCON to SOCOM), as many years have past, folks have left the service, and memories & evidence have faded. 

To be fair, the Navy did, although in a bungling, inept fashion, prosecute Navy SEAL Edward R. Gallagher for his alleged war crimes in Iraq; and before the dereliction of duty by the then-Commander in Chief to end the Army prosecution of Major Mathew L. Golsteyn for his alleged war crime murder, the Army was doing the right thing to bring Golsteyn's alleged battlefield criminality to trial. So perhaps this review will lead to better processes, and in the future, less impunity for serious violations of the law of armed conflict.

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