The Military Criminal Revealed.
Michael St. Jacques
On Feb. 28, 2004, in al-Hawijah, a city southeast of Kirkuk , Pfc. Edward L. Richmond Jr and Sgt. Jeffrey Waruch were part of a raid, in which they received radio orders to detain all males in the village. One of those men detained was Muhamad Husain Kadir. According to Waruch's testimony, when he attempted to flex-cuff Kdir, he resisted. Waruch was able to restrain Kadir and he began to lead him away, when Kadir stumbled. Futher testimony by Waruch, reveals that Richmond then shot the handcuffed cow herder in the back of the head from six feet away. Richmond 's defense is predictable. A quote from a telephone interview conducted with The Honolulu Advertiser, explains in his own words, his justification; "It was a reaction. I fired in self-defense of another soldier, in which deadly force is authorized." Richmond obviously means in defense of Waruch and not in self-defense of him. He adds the classic Nuremberg defense as well during the same telephone interview, "They told us, 'If anybody tries to run today, shoot them' That was put out before we even left. As an E3, (private first class) it's not my place to question." So, Richmond believed he was authorized to kill Kadir through his actions of defense of a fellow solider and through orders received.
He was initially charged with unpremeditated murder, which carries a maximum sentence of life. On August 5, 2004, an army court-martial panel in Tikrit reduced the charge to voluntary manslaughter and sentenced him to three years in prison. The sentence also dishonorably discharges him from the Army and calls for forfeiture of all pay and allowances.
Richmond claims that he never saw Kadir handcuffed and the stumble appeared to him as a lunge at his partner. He admits that he never saw Kadir with a weapon. The essentially damning testimony came from two unidentified witnesses. The first testified to hearing Richmond request to shoot Kadir even before they received the order to detain the men of the village via radio. The second witness claimed he had heard Richmond say he wanted to kill an Iraqi. The Army reported that Richmond admitted to both instances. This information would lead one to agree that the initial charge of unpremeditated murder was in fact incorrect. He should have been charged with premeditated murder.
It comes as no surprised that a court martial would result in a sentence that is little more than a slap on the wrist. Richmond 's comments to his mother provide insight into his mentality concerning the events. After his conviction he told her, "I was going to be in the Army for three more years anyway". Do these words reveal a complete lack of remorse or an attempt to reassure a devastated mother?
His mother's words do have a ring of devastation to them and rightfully so. However, her devastation doesn't appear to be resulting from the death of an innocent civilian at the hands of her own son, but more so about her son's record. In a telephone interview with Darce Richmond, it was reported that "she is saddened by the fact that when he gets out, he will be a convicted felon with a dishonorable discharge on his record." Her support for her own son is understandable but who is thinking of Kadir?
The three year sentence imposed upon Edward L. Richmond Jr is absurd. It should be noted that an appeals process is currently underway in the hopes of having his sentence further reduced. This conviction speaks to a couple much larger issues. First is responsibility. We have all been horrified by the prison abuse photos in Iraq and the debate over responsibility continues to wage on. The individual soldiers tell stories of following orders. Again, we hear the Nuremberg defense. The responsibility for their own actions are their own. The occurrence of the exact same torture methods in Guantanamo Bay , Afghanistan and Iraq , undoubtedly point to an imposed system from likely as high up as the Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld. In the case of Kadir's murder, the responsibility rests on the shoulders of young Edward Richmond for his own conduct. The Army's court martial holds the responsibility for just sentencing to ensure Richmond is in fact held responsible. The U.S. is failing their responsibilities as a whole in Iraq and this case servers as a microcosm, which aptly displays that.
The amount of deplorable conduct by US service men and women is unknown. It can safely be asserted that there are more cases than the public is currently aware of and that more will occur. Where should one look in order to determine why this is happening? Well, what about with the actual military members themselves and where the US military finds them? That's right, recruitment procedures.
Ken Silverstein, an LA Times staff writer, wrote a piece that should have received a lot more attention than it did. His article, entitled, Pentagon Alerted to Trouble in Ranks, written on July 1, 2004, begins, "The Pentagon was warned repeatedly going back a decade that it was accepting military recruits with criminal histories and was too lenient with those already in uniform who exhibited violent or other troubling behavior."
Silverstein goes on to explain the findings of several studies;" Six studies prepared over 10 years by an outside expert at the Pentagon's request found that too little was being done to discipline lawbreakers in uniform or even identify problem recruits."
The most recent study in September 2003, entitled, "Reducing the Threat of Destructive Behavior by Military Personnel" examined "recruiting of active-duty troops and misconduct by uniformed personnel once they entered the armed forces. Military reservists undergo the same screening process as active-duty troops", according to Eli S. Flyer, a former senior analyst at the Defense Department and a longtime Pentagon consultant who wrote the report.
The Pentagon did apparently introduce new procedures but they
remain inadequate, Flyer reported. He cited that crucial steps need to
be taken in order to reduce " steps needed to be
"wide range of destructive acts committed by military
personnel," including sabotage, serial murder and rape."
All of these destructive acts mentioned have occurred in
Why would the military be hesitant to completely revamp their procedures? Quite simply, it would reduce their amount of applicants. Without the kind of element described in the 2003 report, the military would have difficulty meeting their recruitment goals.
The US military is knowingly recruiting and accepting men and women to serve, who possess criminal tendencies. This does not absolve soldiers like Richmond and Pfc. Lynndie England , who is well known for her disturbing presence in numerous abuse photos, however it does offer a potential solution to future conduct. The US military may have not only inadequately prepared their service men and women for the combat conditions of Iraq, but also very likely sent soldiers that possessed criminal mentalities even before their were recruited. Instead of searching for solutions to prevent future incidents, the current Administration, military command, and the accused individuals simply continue to pass the buck. All of the above, need to be held accountable.