The "Good Soldier" on Trial: A Sociological Study of Misconduct by the US Military Pertaining to Operation Iron Triangle, Iraq

By Stjepan G. Mestrovic | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 1.
INTRODUCTION

“[He] was guilty, of course, or he would have not been accused, and since
the only way to prove it was to find him guilty, it was their patriotic
duty to do so.”

— Joseph Heller, Catch-22, p. 83

My purpose in this book is to try to prevent the tragic story of Operation Iron Triangle from being swallowed up by the black hole of history. It is also my hope that the US government will review the convictions related to this mission and reform the military justice system to secure authentic justice. My contemporaries have already overlooked, forgotten or characterized it in shallow terms as an ordinary murder case that was handled by the military justice system. In fact, this is an intricate story of conspiracy, cover-up and intrigue — on the part of the government, not the soldiers. The prosecutor in this case went out of his way to call the soldiers “war criminals.” The open secret, the contradiction staring everyone in the face — yet largely unseen — is that a crime becomes a “war crime” when it involves the government, which is to say, when a crime is the result of unlawful social policies and plans. A soldier killing a prisoner or a fellow soldier for personal reasons would be committing a “gardenvariety” crime. A soldier who kills while following a lawful rule of engagement (ROE) is merely doing his or her job in war. Society does not label as murder the killing performed in the name of a lawful ROE during warfare — such killings are called casualties of war and are considered justified. But a soldier who kills while following an unlawful ROE becomes involved in a war crime. Traditionally, responsibility for war crimes is attributed to governments and commanders. The founding father of sociology, Emile Durkheim, wrote: “The immorality of war depends entirely on the leaders who willed it — the soldier and even those government officials who had

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