The Ultimate Firearms Destination for the Gun Lifestyle

The right thing at war – and its consequences

A young enlisted man reported a war crime in Iraq. That is harder – a lot harder – than it sounds. The crime itself was awful; 4 soldiers of the 502nd PIR raped and killed an Iraqi teenaged girl along with members of her family. What followed was, in many ways, a travesty. The soldiers who committed the crime (variously known as the Mahmudiya Murders or the Ysufiyah Murders) were punished, but if you read the story of the soldier who reported it (and others in the platoon), you’d be hard pressed not to wonder – was he being punished too?

The crime has been well documented. The story of the man who reported the crime, his NCOs and others in the platoon, much less so. As a cautionary tale and a lesson in leadership it absolutely deserves to be told. Author Chris Hernandez is running a series of on Breach Bang Clear wherein he talks to several of the men and relays what they experienced. It is a compelling read, though by no means an easy one. You can read it here; the next installment will go live tomorrow morning (Tuesday the 12th). Here’s an excerpt from War Crimes: Hard Choices and Harder Consequences.

The day after John Diem’s report was forwarded to the company commander, the battalion commander and sergeant major went to the checkpoints where Cortez, Barker and Spielman were assigned. Colonel Kunk questioned them about the reported crime. All denied any knowledge or involvement. Then Kunk and the sergeant major went to Watt’s patrol base. Yribe was also there. Watt, on duty behind a machine gun in a Humvee turret, watched Kunk’s convoy drive in. He was scared out of his mind, hoping he wasn’t about to get outed.

“PFC Watt!”

Oh, shit. He climbed out of the turret and jogged to Colonel Kunk and the sergeant major. They took him to a small, dank room in a dilapidated building. The colonel and sergeant major sat on MRE boxes, but told Watt to stay at attention. A few soldiers at the checkpoint watched what happened next.

Kunk screamed that he should charge Watt with filing a false report. He accused Watt of trying to get out of the Army. He asked why Watt wanted to ruin his fellow soldiers’ careers. He and the sergeant major said Watt was just repeating third-hand information and had no idea what he was talking about.

Watt was sweating bullets. He knew that Yribe was standing behind him, watching it all. He desperately tried to explain to Colonel Kunk why he reported the war crime, and why he believed his squad mates were guilty. Kunk brusquely told Watt to shut up and go back to his post.

Incredulous at what had just happened, Watt slunk back to the Humvee. He watched the battalion commander load up with his convoy. The vehicles drove out the gate, turned the corner and disappeared.

The exact thing that Watt had been afraid of had happened. He had been publicly identified, then abandoned. Word would spread. Retaliation was almost certain.

“I can’t explain to you how I felt watching that convoy drive away,” Watt told me. “I thought I was a dead man.”

But then Watt heard a voice on the radio. Sergeant John Diem, at another checkpoint just down the road, had seen the convoy leaving the patrol base. The twenty-three year old junior sergeant, who wasn’t Watt’s team leader and wasn’t responsible for him, had done his job and reported the crime. The platoon sergeant and platoon leader had in turn pushed the information. The company commander had sent the report up the chain. But Diem wasn’t at all sure Colonel Kunk had done his job.

Diem keyed up and bluntly asked the battalion commander a question.

“Do you have Watt in your convoy?”

Colonel Kunk replied that he didn’t.

“You have to go back and get him. If you leave him there, they’ll kill him.”

 

War Crimes: Hard Choices and Harder Consequences.