I just read the following AP article about an atrocity committed by a squad of marines in
Just two days ago a buddy of mine was over at the house, an army combat vet from the
In my case, the marines who trained me seemed to think it imperative that we learn how to use derogatory language to express ourselves and that perversity and sadism were “normal.” At the time I had barely turned 18 years old and yet still I questioned the need for it. I suppose the idea is that young civilian kids need to be “hardened” into “killers,” but is this really the case? Can we not also train young men and women in the ways of combat without also brutalizing them and stripping away their moral values?
The wonder is that atrocities committed by US troops are still the exception and not the rule. The problem is that marines and soldiers are steeped in language and mindsets that promote brutality and indecent behavior and yet they are expected to act professionally in the field. Of course this causes confusion to young military minds. How could it not? When I read what happened to young private first class Jodka, its immediately obvious to me that this kid found himself conflicted and led astray by older brutally minded members of his unit.
An obvious problem is the fact that they murdered this guy in a roadside ditch irrespective to whether he was the enemy or not. That is against all the ROEs that I know of. Even if this guy was a throat slitting terrorist they did not have the right to kill him. Obviously we have a leadership problem here, but the problem begins long before the troops go into combat zones. It starts in basic training and the attitudes learned there are inculcated and continued from the top down and laterally among the troops themselves.
What’s missing is spirituality. For there is none of that taught or encouraged as part of most military training regimens. I’m not talking about teaching religion, but I do think that we should allow our young combat troops to keep a level of their basic humanity. Currently, training involves stripping away all the things we learned about right and wrong. I remember that it screwed me up and I’m not sure I ever recovered from it. It’s horrible to think that 18 years of Christian training learned in the home was so easily overturned in the course of three months, but I must admit that it happened. Is it still happening? Stories like the one below tell me that it is.
Marine Gets 18 Months in Iraqi's Death
By LINDA DEUTSCH, AP Special Correspondent
"You have a very fortuitous pretrial agreement," the judge, Lt. Col. David Jones, told Pfc. John J. Jodka III.
Jodka III was part of a squad of seven Marines and a Navy corpsman accused of kidnapping 52-year-old Hashim Ibrahim Awad in the town of
The military judge wanted to hand down a five-year punishment, but was bound by the terms of the plea deal. Prosecutors had sought 11 years.
As part of a plea deal, Jodka pleaded guilty Oct. 27 to charges of assault and conspiracy to obstruct justice, and prosecutors dropped other charges including murder and kidnapping. The deal required Jodka to testify. The judge said that if Jodka cooperates, he can receive a general discharge.
"I decided to plead guilty because in the end it was the right thing to do," Jodka said. "I had to weigh in myself the need for truth as opposed to the loyalty to the squad I had bonded with in Iraq.
The judge ruled after reviewing evidence including a video, made by the squad two days after the killing, in which the 20-year-old private participated in profane jokes about killing more people and car bombers.
The video showed Jodka and others atop a personnel carrier, possibly at dawn. It is not clear who is speaking at specific times.
A voice that appears to be the camera operator's says, "J.J., say what you know," and then, "You gonna kill some more (expletive) today?"
"Yeah," is the answer, apparently by Jodka.
Jodka earlier apologized to Awad's family, to his own family and to "my Marine Corps whose highest ideals I have failed to uphold."
Prosecutors say the troops intended to kidnap a known insurgent, but when they couldn't find him they seized Awad instead.
Under questioning by his civilian attorney, Jane Siegel, Jodka said he thought the man who was shot on the night of April 26 was a known insurgent. Asked if he would have fired had he known the man was not, Jodka replied: "Absolutely not."
Jodka described how, as the youngest and lowest ranking member of the squad, he looked up to fire team leader Cpl. Trent Thomas and squad leader Sgt. Lawrence Hutchins III for guidance and advice while in combat.
He said he had received little counterinsurgency training and said his squad's Arabic language interpreter had quit, leaving them unable to communicate with Iraqis.
Jodka was the first Marine in the case to get a plea deal. The Navy corpsman and two other Marines also have made plea agreements. The corpsman, Petty Officer 3rd Class Melson J. Bacos, was sentenced to 10 years in prison but will only serve one because of his plea agreement.
Jodka's mother, Carolyn Jodka, testified about the anguish of seeing her son brought to her in the brig in shackles, and asked the judge to consider her son's youth when sentencing him.
"I know this will shape his life," she said. "I hope it doesn't define his life."