This week's column focuses on what David Petraeus could do, besides talk, about a small group of veterans whose punishments for "murder" and related charges on the COIN battlefield he ordered them onto are unjust, excessive or even corrupt. One of those veterans is Sgt. Derrick Miller (above with daughter Kaitlyn), who joined the " Leavenworth Ten" in 2011.
Below is an email exchange I had in July 2011 with Derrick's original defense lawyer Charles Gittens after Derrick was sentenced to life in prison.
Hello, Mr. Gittins,
Saw a brief story about Sgt. Miller's sentencing (first I'd heard of
the story). Can you send me any more information about his case?
Charles Gittins replied:
In a contested jury trial at Fort Campbell KY, SGT Miller was sentenced to life in prison with the opportunity for parole (in 10 years) for killing an Afghan civilian when the civilian grabbed his weapon during harsh questioning. The civilian was identified as a possible insurgent who had been walking through SGT Miller's platoon defensive perimeter observing their defensive positions. After the shooting the unit was attacked in a complex attack and the ANA soldiers assigned to the platoon pulled back prior to the start of the shooting and hid behind a building.
The witnesses against SGT Miller were a soldier who originally supported SGT Miller's version of events, but he changed his story when he was threatened with being named an accessory and being placed on legal hold so he could not de-mobilize. The other witness was an Afghan translator who was promised US Citizenship in exchange for his testimony. He was brought to the US in January and has been living on Fort Campbell in a base hotel at $630 per month with a dedicated van to take him wherever he wants to go, and has been fed at taxpayer expense. Basically, the two witnesses had every incentive to testify the way the Government wanted them to -- consistent with guilt rather than SGT Miller's claim of innocence. SGT Miller cooperated in every way from the date of the shooting, but his command lacked the moral courage to stand behind him.
I wrote back:
If I say I'm not shocked, it's only because I've been following such cases for years now. But I'd also be exaggerating, because what you describe is shocking in a most disgusting way. Who, in your opinion, is this show trial designed to play to?
The Afghans that run that area of the country. This guy [the victim] was an insurgent but no one in the fricking military is willing to say so to the two-faced Afghans. They had a firefight that night that was designed to kill Americans -- all the while the ANA soldiers were nowhere to be seen. They disappeared just before the shooting started and the fire on American positions was such that the guys targeted were sure that they [the insurgents] had recon of American positions due to this guy and his two military-aged males accompanying him reporting on the positions.
That we waste ONE American life in defense of that country is anathema. The country is completely corrupt; they are cowards unwilling to defend their own country, and we have gotten so deep in defending an indefensibly corrupt regime we cannot extricate our military in a way that allows us to maintain our honor.
If President Karzai was on fire I wouldn't urinate on him to put out the fire. Feel free to quote me.