Originally posted on July 4, 2020
Somehow I completely missed this story when it first came out, learning of it only when the Washington Post did a story on it – “The Cursed Platoon“. The story came out in both printed and podcast formats, and if you have an hour to listen to both podcasts you should do so. Links:
The particulars of the story aren’t in much doubt. Clint Lorance was an Army lieutenant who had just been assigned to lead a platoon in Afghanistan. He had never been in combat before. After lying to his platoon about their rules of engagement, he ordered them to open fire on three unarmed (unless you count cucumbers) civilians. Two of them were killed. This was no doubt a war crime, and Lorance was sentenced to 19 years.
People who fashion themselves as patriots thought locking up a good American boy merely for killing Afghans was unfair, so they started working on alternative facts. Their main contention was that the deep state military chain of command was responsible, never mind that it was his platoon members – all enlisted men – who reported it and then testified under oath. And those enlisted men have suffered greatly for their honesty. At some point Hannity got involved, and then Trump heard about it.
So Trump pardons Lowance, mostly as a political sop to his base. Just think of what message that sends to (1) our troops, and (2) our adversaries and most importantly (3) people we are trying to convince of our democratic values. Recall that our main goal in Afghanistan is to convince the population that our system of governance is better than theirs and that we are able to keep them safe from the Taliban. At least for this village that goal is now unattainable.
However negligible our chances ever were of converting Afghanistan to the modern world; our continued screw-ups there have made our position there now just a waste of men, materiel and money. This particular incident not only did a great deal of harm to our mission in Afghanistan, it also damaged our own military and the lives of soldiers who deserved much better from us.