U.S. Soldiers Could Face the Death Penalty — Unfortunately
According to the Associated Press, a U.S. Army officer investgating the murder of three Iraq men near Samarra has recommended that the four accused soldiers should receive the death penalty if convicted.
To be sure, the crime is a horrible one:
Staff Sgt. Raymond L. Girouard, Spc. William B. Hunsaker, Pfc. Corey R. Clagett and Spc. Juston R. Graber have claimed they were ordered to “kill all military age males” during the raid on the island. According to statements from some of the soldiers, they were told the target was an al-Qaida training camp.
Hunsaker told investigators that he and Clagett were attacked by the three men, who were being handcuffed, and shot them in self-defense. Clagett said he was hit in the face, and Hunsaker claimed he was stabbed during the attack.
Prosecutors argue the soldiers conspired to kill the men and then altered the scene to fit their story. They contend Girouard stabbed Hunsaker as part of the killing plot.
Clagett, Girouard and Hunsaker also are accused of threatening to kill another soldier who witnessed the slayings. Girouard, the most senior soldier charged, faces several additional charges, including sexual harassment and carrying a personal weapon on duty.
It is also encouraging to see the military finally taking seriously war crimes committed by U.S. soldiers in Iraq — according to a recent study by the Washington post, “[t]he majority of U.S. service members charged in the unlawful deaths of Iraqi civilians have been acquitted, found guilty of relatively minor offenses or given administrative punishments without trials…. [and charges against some of the troops were dropped completely.”
That said, the army investigator’s recommendation is deeply regrettable. If the soldiers are guilty, they deserve to be punished severely. But they would not deserve to die: the death penalty is immoral, barbaric, and wrong no matter how reprehensible the crime. And that’s true whether the perpetrator is a terrorist, a serial killer, a soldier, or anyone else.