Green Berets have grow­ing doubts of du­ties with skit­tish po­lit­i­cal lead­er­ship

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY ROWAN SCAR­BOR­OUGH

They were the first troops to hit the ground in Afghanistan while al Qaeda’s dirty work still smol­dered back in the United States.

On foot, he­li­copter and horse­back, Army Spe­cial Forces showed that if the U.S. was to win a long coun­terin­sur­gency war against Is­lamic ex­trem­ists, the spe­cial skills of Green Berets would be fun­da­men­tal.

Nearly 14 years later, these sol­diers, some of the mil­i­tary’s smartest and best trained, are still cre­at­ing lots of head­lines, but not nec­es­sar­ily for hero­ics.

In re­cent months, the Army has dis­ci­plined, ad­mon­ished and ended the ca­reers of a num­ber of Green Berets for ac­tions that the sol­diers them­selves be­lieve were part of com­bat­ing an evil en­emy. Pris­tine stan­dards for fight­ing the Tal­iban and al Qaeda are not achiev­able, some in the com­mu­nity say.

“There is cer­tainly a belief that up­per ech­e­lons of lead­er­ship have mor­phed into po­lit­i­cal po­si­tions, and lead­ers are a lot less will­ing to risk their own ca­reer to sup­port their sol­diers,” Danny Quinn, a for­mer Green Beret team leader and West Point grad­u­ate, told The Washington Times. Ex­am­ples abound:

Army Sec­re­tary John McHugh stripped a Green Beret of his Sil­ver Star for sum­mar­ily killing a Tal­iban bomb maker.

A mil­i­tary in­ves­ti­ga­tion blamed two Green Berets for the worst U.S. friendly-fire in­ci­dent in Afghanistan, when crit­i­cal er­rors were made by the Air Force crew that dropped the bombs onto their sol­diers.

The Army fired a Green Beret from his hostage res­cue post at the Pen­tagon and put him un­der crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion for whistling­blow­ing to Congress.

The Army is kick­ing out a Green Beret for push­ing an Afghan po­lice of­fi­cer ac­cused a rap­ing a boy.

Maj. Matt Gol­steyn, one of the Green Berets in the Army’s crosshairs, said the group’s motto, De Op­presso Liber (“To Free the Op­pressed”), presents a “moral im­per­a­tive for ac­tion against those who would use vi­o­lence and in­jus­tice as means for re­pres­sion.”

“It would seem the lives and ca­reers of Green Berets who would dare to see the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s motto re­al­ized on for­eign soil are sac­ri­ficed for pol­i­tics and ca­reerism,” the Afghanistan War vet­eran told The Times. “As we wit­ness con­tin­ual dis­plays of fail­ure af­ter fail­ure in mil­i­tary lead­er­ship, our col­lec­tive fail­ure to lib­er­ate the op­pressed in Iraq and Afghanistan should con­fuse no longer.”

No one says the mil­i­tary is specif­i­cally tar­get­ing Green Berets, but there has been a rash of pun­ish­ments for these sol­diers for ac­tions in war­fare that they be­lieved were jus­ti­fied.

Joe Kasper, chief of staff for Rep. Dun­can Hunter, Cal­i­for­nia Repub­li­can, said the dis­ci­pline is “caus­ing a high sense of dis­com­fort and con­cern with that small com­mu­nity.”

“What we hear con­sis­tently is what many of these sol­diers can’t say pub­licly, and that is Army lead­er­ship has cre­ated an en­vi­ron­ment that has sol­diers sec­ond-guess­ing them­selves and hes­i­tat­ing con­stantly, and one mis­step — whether in­tended or not — is a ca­reer killer,” Mr. Kasper said. “All of it has had an im­pact on morale and re­ten­tion, and it should sound alarm bells for the Army.” A snap­shot of re­cent cases:

Mr. McHugh, the Army sec­re­tary, stripped Maj. Gol­steyn of his Sil­ver Star, one of the mil­i­tary’s high­est awards for com­bat valor, af­ter he ac­knowl­edged in a CIA job in­ter­view that he killed a Tal­iban bomb maker sus­pected of killing U.S. troops. The Army never charged Maj. Gol­steyn af­ter a lengthy in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Mr. Hunter wants Congress to strip ser­vice sec­re­taries of such pow­ers.

The Army opened a crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion of Lt. Col. Jason Amer­ine, one of the first Green Berets to land in Afghanistan in 2001, af­ter he com­plained

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