Friday, October 08, 2010

Like it or not, Capt. Semrau must be punished

I'm not sure I'm the guy to take this on and as usual these days I'm busy juggling flaming chainsaws on the  job search and family fronts (ain't transPacific relocation a hoot!), but I have to say I'm getting a bit tired of all the letters to the editor I'm seeing about how the high command and "the system" has failed Capt. Semrau and how he deserves a medal.
I don't for a moment think the guy is some kind of bloodthirsty scofflaw, but rules are rules and exist for a very good reason. Do we want soldiers on the battlefield deciding which among  the wounded may or may not be successfully treated and simply shooting the ones they think won't make it at their own discretion? Would those who want to pin a medal on Capt. Semrau like to see Canadian soldiers treated by such a standard?
I think the military judge showed the wisdom of Solomon and exercised considerable leniency in dismissing the captain from the military without giving him a dishonorable discharge or a prison sentence. He may well have acted from the highest motives - or the lowest, there really isn't any way of reading his mind - but he acted in clear violation of all the rules of the Canadian Forces and the Geneva Convention, so obviously - at the very least - he had to be punished as an example.
Semrau has been portrayed as an exemplary soldier and commander and he probably was until he stepped over this important line. His men defended his actions and his defence has been that what he did was a mercy killing.
That may be, but it was still an unlawful killing. What he did was withhold medical treatment from a wounded prisoner and then murder that prisoner.  Whatever the motive, whether he acted out of brazen cruelty, a secret desire for revenge, or (most likely) compassion for someone in pain he didn't think would survive, what he did was still a war crime and has to be treated as such.  His motives and intentions, noble though they may be, don't really matter in the end. Whether international law needs to be revisited to allow for such actions is an entirely separate minefield and one I don't suggest we should enter.
Semrau must be punished not only for his concrete actions, but for what they represent - a commissioned officer willfully and knowingly violating the rules of war, the regulations of the Canadian Armed Forces and the Geneva Convention. Such conduct, no matter the reason, must carry consequences, otherwise military discipline is seriously undermined. Let us not forget that while the Canadian military defends our democracy and all those other egalitarian principles we hold dear, it is not and cannot be a democracy itself. Structure, chain-of-command and top-down leadership are all essential to the military functioning properly. Soldiers must follow orders and regulations or they are nothing more than a well-armed mob. I'm sorry that Semrau has sacrificed his military career, but his actions cannot be ignored - he is fortunate not to be in prison.


http://www.wikio.com

8 comments:

harebell said...

You are right the Military Command cold not let this one pass. It was not the command instincts that could be seen to condone in any way.
In my post I also noticed this at the end of the article you linked to:
"Semrau's family and supporters argued it was unfair that he faced prosecution in a courtroom for decisions made on the battlefield."
Where else would he have been able to defend himself and his actions fairly. He was tried, quite swiftly, by his peers and was found seriously wanting. Compare that with others like Khadr.

double nickel said...

gmail.comHow would Canadians feel if a Taliban fighter shot one of our soldiers to out him out of his misery? I predict they wouldn't stand for it. Why am I hearing the double standard from so many concerned Canadians in this situation?

Edstock said...

Sorry Rev, but I don't agree. Obviously, I wasn't there, and neither was the court-martial — or you. It was a fire-fight, and the Muj was severely wounded. Was medevac possible? Would the Muj have died on the way to the hospital?

Sherman said war is hell, and second-guessing by those who have not seen the elephant smacks of good ol' politically-correct unctuousness. If the roles had been reversed, would the Muj have played as nice with a quick surcease?

Check out Kipling:

When you're wounded and left on Afghanistan's plains,
And the women come out to cut up what remains,
Jest roll to your rifle and blow out your brains
An' go to your Gawd like a soldier.

As their atrocities show, the Muj don't care about anything except killing our boys and girls and any Afghanis that won't do the Taliban Tango.

There's still a lot of Muj that need killing, and now we won't have Capt. Semrau around to help do this.

I hope that all the politically-correct are really proud of themselves over this disgusting exhibit of mendacity. Fucking assholes and cowards.

liberal supporter said...

I think the military judge showed the wisdom of Solomon and exercised considerable leniency in dismissing the captain from the military without giving him a dishonorable discharge or a prison sentence.
He probably showed compassion to the dying Talib by killing him, and the court similarly showed that kind of compassion by not jailing him.

There's still a lot of Muj that need killing, and now we won't have Capt. Semrau around to help do this.
We'd get better results killing the ones that can still operate their guns, as opposed to the wounded that Semrau killed.
Since he was not dishonourably discharged, he can re-apply, and probably will.

I hope that all the politically-correct are really proud of themselves over this disgusting exhibit of mendacity. Fucking assholes and cowards.
Get off your high horse, you silly buffoon. It's assholes like you that would support any atrocity in the name of this war. If we're going to be there, at least we can take the highest road we can, and demonstrate that we follow our own rule of law.

Rev.Paperboy said...

to m'learned collegue Edstock,
No, indeed I was not there and neither were the people who wrote the Geneva conventions. That is irrelevant. Semrau knowingly, willingly violated one of the core regulations of the military and that cannot be tolerated. I feel for him and presume that he acted from the noblest motive, but that doesn't matter a goddamn bit. Officers must obey the rules or else order evaporates.
As to the argument that the Taliban would have happily shot a wounded Canadian prisoner - yes, they would have shot him, probably they would have tortured him too. So what? Are we now to expect our soldiers to sink to their level? I think that kind of defeats the whole purpose of this war. If we are going to be the good guys, we have to show that we are better than the Taliban, otherwise we might as well just carpet bomb or even nuke the whole fucking place and call it a day. You are correct that the Taliban don't care about anything but killing our people and anyone else that won't knuckle under. Are you suggesting we take the same approach?
You don't fight and win a moral war against monsters by becoming a monster.
I'm afraid we shall have to agree to disagree on this one.

Harebell, I saw that bit about being prosecuted in the courtroom for actions taken on the battlefield. I think it bears pointing out that if he were to be prosecuted on the battlefield for his actions, he'd likely be facing a firing squad. We always prosecute people in a courtroom for actions committed elsewhere, that's what courtrooms are for. I think Semrau's supporters have come up with a nice turn of phrase that sounds great until you think about for five seconds and realize it is nonsensical.

Boris said...

The standard of care provided for wounded enemy cannot be lesser than that provided to our own side. Wounded enemy can be kept separate from friendly, and disarmed and organised according to prisoner of war handling necessities, but their treatment cannot differ.

Battlefield executions of any motivation are simply illegal by any civilian or military law Canada subscribes too. If Capt Semrau did the same to wounded Canadian soldier I would expect he be dealt with the same way. It is good hypothetical question of whether he would have done the same had that been the case.

The standard of care and basic humanity to a triaged mortally wounded battlefield casualty involves making that individual as comfortable as possible for the remainder of their life. This does not allow for the medical use of ball ammunition. Medics carry pretty powerful painkillers that might have eased him out of his life without the final violence Semrau caused him his last moments.

Boris said...

I should add that if the war has reached the point where it has eroded our own ability to adhere to own rules, then it is time to stop fighting because we've lost the plot. The battlefield-courtroom argument is bullshit and implies some sort of what-happens-in-vegas logic that says we can do whatever the hell we want over there.

Edstock said...

@liberal supporter:
"Get off your high horse, you silly buffoon. It's assholes like you that would support any atrocity in the name of this war."
Put a sock in it dickweed. It's assholes like you who have never been in harm's way that are so sanctimonious. You weren't there and have no fucking clue as to the tactical situation faced by Capt. Semrau.
But clueless like you are so quick to condemn. STFU.