Military justice has gone amok in the trial and appeals of 1st Lt. Michael Behenna of Edmond. The U.S. military convicted Behenna of unpremeditated murder of a suspected Iraqi terrorist and roadside bomber, Ali Mansur. In fact, Behenna was in a protective mode for himself and the soldiers in his unit. Behenna was doing what soldiers have done since the beginning of warfare — covering the back of their buddies. I know this from World War II. I was an infantry soldier under fire and my buddy, Don Penny, took out a German sniper who had me hunkered down. The sniper was out of my view, but Don could see him.
In Behenna's case, a roadside bomb had already killed two men in his unit when Behenna began the interrogation. Remember that Behenna was dealing with one he considered his enemy because of the roadside bomb. Thus, under the circumstances of wartime behavior, Behenna was justified in protecting himself and all those in his unit. He wasn't in a practice military exercise!
The trial and all subsequent proceedings have warped the standard of behavior in wartime. The conviction should unquestionably be overturned and there should be restoration of rank and all pay for these years Behenna has spent in prison. If Behenna then chooses to leave the service, it should be with full honors. The Supreme Court should take jurisdiction and remand back to the trial court with instruction to acquit and restore Behenna to full rank and benefits.
Sid M. Groom Jr., Edmond
Groom is a World War II combat veteran, a Korean War-era reservist and a member of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar.