A military jury on Feb. 10 convicted an Army sniper of murder and sentenced him to 10 years in prison for killing an Iraqi civilian who wandered into the hiding place where six Soldiers were sleeping.
Sgt. Evan Vela, 24, was found guilty of murder without premeditation, of aiding and abetting in planting an AK-47 on the dead man’s body and of lying to military investigators about the shooting. He had faced a possible life sentence.
Without knowing much more about this than is presented in this article, I want to say that I fully support holding our troops to justice. I do believe that conditions and the nature of their job needs to be taken into consideration, and that we need to be careful that we don’t JAG our troops into not being able to perform their mission. But we also need to make sure that we remain the good guys.
War is an ugly business, and it requires the use of ugly methods. But there are lines that we should not cross, and if some of our troops cross them they should be punished accordingly.
It also sounds, from this story, that the unit was under intense pressure from higher up to get more kills and that this pressure may have contributed to the incident. It’s difficult for me to say, never having been in that sort of situation before, but I don’t think that that can be used as any kind of excuse. Though taking a look at those higher up may be in order.
By and large, I believe that the military legal system works. I have more faith in it than I do in the civilian courts.