One day, we may look back on the criminal charges the Army has brought against SFC Walter Taylor as the very worst abuse of prosecutorial discretion of the wars that began 11 years ago. The highly regarded and seasoned non-commissioned officer has been charged with negligent homicide, which the US Army claims was committed during an enveloping attack in Afghanistan somewhere along the so-called Highway of Death between Kabul and Kandahar. In an eternity of four seconds, SFC Walter Taylor decided to fire upon what turned out to be civilians in a car, killing a woman and two young people, her son and her niece.
The basic facts from the must-read account in the LA Times:
His convoy was reeling from a roadside bomb, his fellow soldiers were engaged in combat with insurgents — and a mysterious black car had just screeched to a stop in the middle of the firefight. Some nine minutes later, a black door opens.
Second 1: A figure dressed in dark, bulky clothing emerges.
Second 2: The figure begins walking toward the trunk.
Second 3: Taylor, with five wounded comrades behind him, sees a thin trigger wire seeming to snake directly toward the black car. Could there be a second bomb in the trunk?
Second 4: Taylor squeezes the trigger on his M-4 carbine. The figure crumples to the dirt.
The figure was not an insurgent, but Dr. Aqilah Hikmat, a 49-year-old mother of four who headed the obstetrics department at the nearby Ghazni provincial hospital. Also dead inside the car were Hikmat's 18-year-old son and her 16-year-old niece. Hikmat's husband, in the front seat, was wounded.
Army prosecutors say Hikmat's killing in July 2011 was not just a casualty of combat, but a crime. Charged with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty, Taylor will face a hearing June 19 before a U.S. military judge in Germany to determine whether the case goes to a full court-martial, with the possibility of three years in prison.
Contributions to the Walter Taylor Legal Defense Fund can be made by sending a check or money order payable to “FBO Walter Taylor” to:
Wells Fargo Bank
271 University Oaks, Blvd.
Round Rock, TX 78665
A check or money order made payable to “FBO Walter Taylor” can be mailed or presented to any Wells Fargo Bank location in the United States
Funds or contributions can be wired to Wells Fargo Bank for the Walter Taylor Defense Fund by using the following account and routing numbers:
Bank: Wells Fargo
Account Name: Walter Taylor Legal Defense Fund
Routing Number: 111900659
Of course, there was more in store for SFC Taylor:
Ten days after the explosion and firefight, Taylor got what he is convinced was a dose of Afghan street justice: His vehicle was struck by a rocket-propelled grenade, which blew off his nose, shattered his cheeks, ripped open his lips, drove his teeth back toward his throat, blinded him in one eye — in short, left him without a face as he had known it.
The 30-year-old sergeant, who had served three previous combat deployments, accepted a Purple Heart in August 2011 and a criminal charge sheet shortly thereafter. ...
Taylor has had 10 surgeries and has half a dozen more ahead over the next 18 months to try to repair his face. Once the Article 32 hearing is over this month, he will probably be flown to Texas, where doctors will remove the makeshift nose they've put in place, take out the plastic tubes he's been breathing through and attach a new, permanent nose fashioned from bone from his rib and skin from his forehead.
There are fewer hopes for restoring his eyesight in more than one eye, and he still has problems with his back and ankles.
For Taylor, the combination of the injuries and the court case has been like a double blow. "I got out of the hospital, and they called me into the office, and told me about this legal thing," he said. "And I was just distraught — I can't put it in any other words. I felt like I got stabbed."
That's exactly what happened. Having failed to secure Afghan "trust" by fighting the Taliban, reducing civilian casualties to a small fraction, and mass-bribing the populace with money and infrastructure, the US-led COINdinistas and their civilian counterparts in Washington have become not wiser but more desperate. It's not their premise of COIN-driven nation-building that is flawed, they think; it is our soldiers' execution. Soldiers like Walter Taylor and Derrick Miller and, in Iraq where COIN-driven nation-building was a similar disaster, the rest of the Leavenworth Ten. They must be punished to prove to kleptocrats such as Karzai (who called for an investigation into the Taylor incident) and strongmen such as Maliki our worthiness, our fealty, our dhimmitude. Thus, winning Islamic hearts and minds becomes a matter of running a stake through our own men's hearts -- Sgt. Taylor's, for instance.
But maybe, just maybe, this whole terrible case will be dismissed.
I caught up with Taylor's defense attorney James Culp via text en route to Germany where he will be defending Taylor in his Article 32 hearing on June 19.
Culp wrote me:
I am very disappointed in the Army's decision to charge SFC Taylor with a crime. That said, I am hopeful that SFC Taylor will be vindicated through the Article 32 investigation. There is in my mind a strong possibility this case will not proceed to a court martial.
As for Taylor, Culp had this to say:
I have never met a more professional or conscientious non commissioned officer than SFC Taylor. I spent four years in the infantry., and I was a non commissioned officer as well. Had I faced the circumstances SFC Taylor encountered, I would have done the same thing. If my son ever serves in the military as an enlisted soldier as his father and grandfather did, I would be a lucky father for him to serve under the leadership of a man like SFC Taylor. It is an honor to represent him in this grave matter.