A year ago, syndicated columnist Diana West attended a hearing at which Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna tried (unsuccessfully) to get the military's highest court of appeals to overturn his conviction on unpremeditated murder. West said what she witnessed during Behenna's Washington, D.C., hearing last April “was enough to make the gold eagle on top of the American flag in the courtroom shake and then hang its head.”
Behenna, an Edmond native, has been held in the military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., since 2009 for killing a man with terrorist ties in Iraq. That man, Ali Mansur, was part of a terrorist cell operating in the area where an attack in 2008 had killed two of Behenna's men. Mansur was detained for a short time and then released, with Behenna ordered to escort him back to his village. Instead, Behenna took Mansur to a deserted area for one more interrogation. He forced Mansur to strip and questioned him at gunpoint. The soldier said he shot Mansur twice after the man threw a piece of concrete at him and lunged for Behenna's weapon.
Perhaps most distressing about the case, West wrote, “were the lengths to which the U.S. government was prepared to go to strip this soldier, and by extension all soldiers, of their ‘right to self-defense,' even amid the untenable conditions of urban counterinsurgency warfare and its restricted rules of engagement.”
The Obama administration continues that assault with its response to Behenna's request for a review of his case by the U.S. Supreme Court. Behenna's attorneys argue that the ruling by the top military appeals court deprives soldiers of the right to defend themselves in unconventional wartime situations. The Justice Department says Behenna forfeited his right to self-defense when he ordered Mansur to strip and pointed a gun at his head. It noted that Behenna disobeyed an order when he chose to interrogate Mansur on his own instead of taking him home, pointed his loaded weapon at Mansur's head and threatened to kill him.