To the thousands of Michael Behenna supporters:
The New York Times recently reported (see link below) that the US military has initiated a policy to “reintegrate” imprisoned Taliban fighters to their Afghan communities. These Taliban fighters were caught with evidence that they had killed our soldiers, but are released to their families in an active war zone with merely a ‘pledge’ that they will not return to the Taliban. This appears to be the latest attempt to win the hearts and minds of our enemies and taking the ‘catch and release policy’ to a whole new level.
This brings us to Michael’s case. Michael has been incarcerated by the Army for over a year now. We have asked at every level that Michael’s constitutional right to a fair trial be granted so that all the evidence is disclosed to the jury. Doesn’t seem too much to ask for an American citizen who fought for his country does it? Yet Michael’s request for a new trial has been stranded. The Army seems to be in no hurry to have Michael’s case in front of the Army Court of Appeals as they have yet to file their response to Michael’s brief which was filed back in December 2009.
There is a double standard in play here where enemy combatants are given mercy, but our soldiers/Marines are denied mercy. For example, Marine SGT Larry Hutchins whose conviction was overturned several weeks by the Navy Appellate Court is STILL IN CUSTODY while the Navy appeals the decision to the next appellate level.
During the past year 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 while in a combat zone. We have watched as these soldiers/Marines and their families prepare for clemency hearings before the military clemency boards. (The Armed Forces have a procedure, independent of the appellate process, where an incarcerated soldier/Marine can appear before a clemency board and ask for a reduction of his sentence, or if the individual has served at least 1/3 of his sentence they may request parole.) We have heard the hopelessness in the voices of the families 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 US military leadership and allowed to return home to their families. What message does the US 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. Some of these soldiers fell victim to the military’s ‘catch and release’ policy that returns enemy combatants to the battlefield where they return to fight our soldiers time and time again. Yet others were protecting themselves or their men in a combat zone. 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. These soldiers/Marines are not a threat to our society and deserve to be home with their families. We ask that you the American public stand with us. Our request is that each of you vouch for these soldiers/Marines and 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.
Please write a letter to your Senator, Congressman, and the Secretary of Defense and advise them that this double-standard will not be tolerated.
Bless you for your continued support,
Scott and Vicki Behenna
NY Times Article – http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/24/world/asia/24reconcile.html?src=mv
Diana West Article on releasing the Taliban – http://www.dianawest.net/Home/tabid/36/EntryId/1415/Clemency-for-Our-Troops.aspx
Please use this link to find you Congressional Delegates:
Secretary of Defense Robert Gates
1400 Defense Pentagon
Washington DC 20301-1400