Saturday, September 25, 2010

Can Soldiers Face the Death Penalty for Crimes Against Civilians?

\his article from the Foreign Poicy website speaks to the US context, where members of the US military can be and have been sentenced to death for crimes against the civlian populace of the US and of other nations. The Canadian situation is different, since this country does not have the death penalty. The last Canadian soldier to have been executed was Private Harold Pringle, executed in 1945 for murder.

Can Soldiers Be Sentenced to Death for Killing Civilians?
Yes, but they probably won't be executed.
BY JOSHUA E. KEATING, Sept 21, 2010

The Washington Post reported on Sunday that five U.S. service members have been charged with the premeditated murder of three Afghan civilians earlier this year. In addition to the coldblooded murders, the five allegedly kept photos and grisly souvenirs of the bodies and intimidated a fellow soldier who threatened to report them. Preliminary hearings in military court for the accused -- who deny the charges -- will begin in a few weeks. If convicted, could they be sentenced to death?

Yes, but it could take a long time for the sentence to be carried out. The Uniform Code of Military Justice, which applies to all U.S. military service members worldwide, allows for both the death penalty and life imprisonment in cases of murder, no matter the nationality of the victim. The mandated method of execution is lethal injection.

An estimated 465 U.S. soldiers have been executed since the Civil War -- most for desertion or mutiny -- though no death sentences have been carried out since 1961. The practice was found unconstitutional by a military appeals court in 1983, but reinstated one year later by President Ronald Reagan with much stricter sentencing guidelines. Technically, there are 15 offenses for which service members can be executed, but some of these, like desertion and disobeying orders, apply only during wartime.

Read the whole story here.

Friday, September 24, 2010

US Soldier's Near Death Experience Becomes Source of Hope for Comrades

An inspiring story of resilience from the AFPS, worth repeating. Sometimes it's all about hope. MP+

Soldier Turns Brush With Death Into Message of Hope
By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

Army Capt. Joshua Mantz speaks with Iraqi children while on patrol near Sadr City, Iraq, about an hour before an enemy sniper attacked his unit and nearly killed Mantz, April 21, 2007. A military medical team brought him back to life. Courtesy photo

WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2010 – Army Capt. Joshua Mantz was dying on a hospital bed in Iraq.

Just moments earlier, a sniper’s bullet had severed a femoral artery in his right thigh, causing massive blood loss. As the medical team strove to save him, Mantz struggled to take each breath. He felt the blood creep from his legs to his stomach to his chest -- a telltale sign of a catastrophic injury -- and knew the end was near.

He began repeating the names of his mother and two sisters in his head, over and over, and then had his last thought -- a prayer: “Please take care of them.”

He felt a deep peace and took one last breath. Everything faded to black, and he died.

Read the whole story here.

In Bethesda Military Hospital, Chaplain is Part of Collaborative Treatment Team

The chaplain angle is a small part of this story from the US DOD regarding collaborative treatment of wounded warriors, but it does point to the important role my colleagues play in this and other hospitals such as Landstuhl, Germany. MP+

Collaboration Improves Treatment of Unseen Scars of War
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

BETHESDA, Md., Sept. 23, 2010 – Several times every week, a team of about 50 specialists gathers around a conference table at the National Naval Medical Center here to assess the progress of every wounded warrior undergoing treatment at the hospital.

They bring an array of expertise to the discussion, with specialties in everything from trauma surgery to pain management and physical and occupational therapy. Joining them at the table are social workers, case managers, a chaplain and military service liaisons.

And, even if there’s no immediate indication of a brain injury or post-traumatic stress, members of a new psychological health and traumatic brain injury team participate fully in talks about treatments being administered, medications prescribed and results seen.

Read the whole piece here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Homeland Security: A Sermon for Battle of Britain Sunday

Preached at Christ the King Chapel, CFB Suffield, AB, 19 September, 2010, on the occasion of the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Britain.

Micah 4:1-5, Psalm 23,Ephesians 6:10-18, John 15;12-17

Homeland Security

Ask anyone whose home has been robbed or invaded and they will tell you what a terrible feeling of violation and threat they feel long afterwards. It’s worse when your home is attacked, and it’s infinitely worse when your homeland is attacked. Just over nine years ago, we were shaken by the terrible events of September 11, 2001, and none were more shaken than our American friends, who saw the violence of an enemy directed from their skies against their country and against their institutions. As we watched the Twin Towers burn that day, we surely felt the same emotions that American journalist Ernie Pyle described during an air attack long ago, over London one night in 1940:

I shall always remember above all the other things in my life is the monstrous loveliness of that one single view of London on a holiday night - London stabbed with great fires, shaken by explosions, its dark regions along the Thames sparkling with the pin points of white-hot bombs, all of it roofed over with a ceiling of pink that held bursting shells, balloons, flares and the grind of vicious engines. And in yourself the excitement and anticipation and wonder in your soul that this could be happening at all.

In September 2001, the sense of wonder that this could even be happening was replaced by a determination never to let this happen again. When the US created the Department of Homeland Security, it was as if the government was trying to assure its people that they could be protected and that a 9/11 would never happen again. We pray that it may be so, but our history, and our faith, warn us that security is a difficult, and perhaps impossible, thing to guarantee.

The Battle of Britain was a struggle for the security of one homeland, that of Great Britain, but also a struggle for the security of nations yet to be enslaved by Nazi Germany, and for the hope of deliverance of those nations already enslaved. Though some, like Winston Churchill, had predicted the coming of war for years, when it came Britain was barely prepared and badly outnumbered. The commander of Britain’s fighter defences, Sir Hugh Dowding, knew the odds and the cost when he said that “our young men will have to shoot down their young men at a rate of four to one if we are to keep pace at all”. Likewise, when Churchill promised his people nothing but “blood, toil, sweat and tears”, be knew that security did not come from the names of government departments or from sweeping guarantees, but only from struggle and sacrifice.

The Battle of Britain can seem to be a story of gallant and glamorous young fighter pilots, who protected Britain from invasion and thus changed the course of the war. That is true, and their courage and their sacrifice, including that of the one hundred Canadian pilots killed, should never be forgotten. If you look at the photos of the pilots, you can sometimes see the enormous strain and the physical exhaustion that they flew with.

They knew the odds, and they knew that no matter how well they flew and fought, German planes would get through, bombs would fall, and innocents would die. The homeland security of England was never guaranteed. The government tried to evacuate children from the worst threatened areas, but it could not protect them from homelessness or worse. Even after the Battle of Britain was won and the threat of invasion passed, England would suffer air raids throughout most of the rest of the war. This story, like few others in history, reminds us that the freedom and security of a people must sometimes be paid by great effort and great cost, and should be valued accordingly.

What lessons can we as people of faith draw from this story? In our Gospel lesson today we heard Our Lord say that “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (Jn 15:13). We might thus be tempted to say that the sacrifice of the pilots and people of Great Britain and it its allies was in the same spirit as Christ’s sacrifice of himself on the cross to save others, but there is a danger in this line of thinking. What about self sacrifice in a bad cause? When the fortunes of World War Two changed, German pilots sacrificed themselves to defend their homeland just as bravely, even though they were attempting to save Hitler’s evil regime.

Does their self sacrifice count? Did the German people deserve to suffer and die under Allied bombs? My theology professors taught me always to be wary of simple questions and simple answers, so I think we always need to resist saying that God, then or now, willingly enlists himself in war efforts. After another deliverance, when a great storm destroyed the Spanish invasion fleet, the government of Elizabeth the 1st had a coin made saying, “God breathed, and they were scattered”. In that war it was Protestant Christians killing Catholic Christians, and yet, as I write this, Pope Benedict is completing his tour of the United Kingdom. I doubt God wants Protestants and Catholics to kill one another now any more than he did then, and I daresay the same is true for Muslims and Christians.

Our first lesson, from the prophet Micah, reminds us that God’s vision for the world is what the Hebrews call “shalom” or peace. Micah’s vision was that one day, in God’s time, nations would realize that they are all part of God’s creation, and so they would come together that God “may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths” (Micah 4:2). If you think that Micah’s vision is theological pie in the sky, consider that today, British and German militaries work as allies, and aircraft flying between British and German cities deliver passengers, not bombs. The Battle of Britain may have been a moment in human history when God’s shalom took root, but it is a fragile plant, and it’s growth needs careful encouragement. As long as hatred and extremism exist, we will need the professionalism and the courage of a few, like the pilots we remember today, who stand ready to protect others. But we also need to recall Christ’s words to his followers, that “You are my friends if you do what I command you to” (Jn 15:14). It is noble to want to fight for our homelands and to keep them secure, but our homelands are part of God’s creation, and they will only be truly secure when we are as determined to make the friendship of others as God in His Son is willing to make us his friends.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Ethical Dilemma May Have Pushed US Army Interrogator to Suicide

This piece by Greg Mitchell on the "Huffington Post" tells a tragic story of a young and principled US Army interrogator whose objections to interrogation techniques of Iraqi detainees may have contributed to her suicide in 2003. While the exact reasons for this soldier's suicide may never be known, the story reminds us that ethical issues matter, not just for reasons of optics, as military training sometimes overemphasizes, but also for the spiritual and mental health of soldiers who are put in terrible situations. MP+

Greg Mitchell.Blogger, The Nation, "Media Fix"
Posted: September 15, 2010 09:39

The U.S. Soldier Who Killed Herself After Refusing to Take Part in Torture

With each revelation, or court decision, on U.S. torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gitmo -- or the airing this month of The Tillman Story and Lawrence Wright's My Trip to Al-Qaeda -- I am reminded of the chilling story of Alyssa Peterson, who died seven years ago today. Appalled when ordered to take part in interrogations that, no doubt, involved what most would call torture, she refused, then killed herself a few days later, on September 15, 2003.

Read the whole piece here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

An Army Chaplain and Rugby Hero Passes

They don't make priests and padres like this much any more. From the Daily Telegraph. I love the bit below about the sermon in front of the glowering general. MP+

The Reverend Robin Roe, who has died aged 81, played rugby for Ireland and the British Lions and was awarded an MC for his courage in Aden while an Army chaplain.

Rugby led directly to his Army duties as, when England played Ireland at Twickenham in 1952, Roe was one of two novice priests – both Protestants – in the Irish team. The other, Canon “Gerry” Murphy (now chaplain to the Queen at Sandringham), had done military service and encouraged his team-mate to do the same. Despite the presence of the two men of God on their side, Ireland lost 3-0 – to a try by Brian Boobbyer, grandson of a bishop, who devoted the rest of his life to Moral Rearmament.

Roe was commissioned into the Royal Army Chaplains’ Department in 1955. Twelve years later he was attached to the 1st Battalion, the Lancashire Regiment, on a nine-month operational tour during the Aden Emergency.

On the morning of June 20 1967, elements of the South Arabian Armed Police mutinied. Roe was in Radfan Camp and, hearing gunfire, jumped into his Land Rover. As he raced out of the camp gates, he faced driving 400 yards across open desert to reach an Army lorry which had come under attack, leaving several dead and wounded.

His vehicle was brought to a halt, its radiator riddled with bullets. Forced to turn back, he devoted himself to assisting the medical orderlies with the local casualties until the victims of the main attack were recovered. He was already a popular and inspirational member of the battalion. Unarmed, save for a stout Irish blackthorn stick, he used to accompany soldiers on patrols in danger areas of the slums known as “grenade alleys”.

“His complete disregard for his own safety in the face of danger, and his infectious enthusiasm and confidence under all conditions, has had the most profound effect in the maintenance of morale in the whole Battalion,” his citation noted.

Robin Roe was born on October 11 1928, at Borris-in-Ossory, Co Laois, and started playing rugby at the age of 10 at the King’s Hospital School in Dublin.

He was ordained into the Church of Ireland in 1953 after studying for six years at Trinity College. By then he had already won his first cap for Ireland, replacing the famous Irish hooker Karl Mullen. Roe won 21 caps in successive matches until 1957, when he was replaced by another of the great players, Ronnie Dawson.

Both Mullen and Dawson became captains of the British and Irish Lions, and Roe himself was chosen for the Lions tour to South Africa in 1955.

Although he was kept out of the Test side by the brilliant Welshman Bryn Meredith, he played valiantly in 11 games for the midweek “dirt trackers”, once turning out with two cracked ribs and also playing as an emergency prop forward. He shared a room with Tony O’Reilly, then a 19-year-old prodigy, who joked that his huge 20-inch neck would be “great for a Catholic collar”.

Roe was attached to the Life Guards the following year and to the HAA Regiment RA in Malta in 1958. While there he scored a try playing rugby in Rome against an Italian side. The Italians could not believe that a clergyman was playing and they jumped up and down in their seats shouting: “Make him Pope!”

When he could get leave Roe played his club rugby for London Irish, where he appears on the Hall of Fame. He also appeared 11 times for the Barbarians and for the Army and the Combined Services, retiring from the game at the age of 40. Ireland won six, drew two and lost 13 of the internationals in which he played.

Postings to 12 Infantry Brigade in BAOR and 28th Commonwealth Infantry Brigade in Singapore were followed by moves, successively, to HQ 3 Division, 1 Division and 1st (BR) Corps. On one occasion, after preaching a sermon, a general took him aside and asked him to restrict himself to 10 minutes. “Any longer,” he said, “and you will send the soldiers to sleep.” The following Sunday, Roe had been speaking for 12 minutes when he saw the general glowering at him. He looked at his watch. “Jasus!” he exclaimed, “I’m into injury time!”

Roe was promoted Chaplain to the Forces 1st Class in 1973. After appointments as assistant chaplain general at HQ BAOR and then at HQ UKLF, he was made an honorary chaplain to the Queen in 1977 and appointed CBE on leaving the Army in 1981.

He then took over the parish of St John at Merrow in the Guildford diocese, from which he retired in 1989. He became a bereavement counsellor and was described by a fellow churchman as “a humble giant with a gracious spirit” who never let his parishioners know about his MC or his rugby career.

In later years Roe was eager to point out that, in his day, a hooker had to demonstrate “a skill and a science” in actually hooking the ball, since referees insisted that the ball should be put in straight to the scrum. Today, he said, a hooker is an extra prop forward with a special skill, not at hooking, now largely redundant, but at throwing the ball into the line-out – a task performed in Roe’s time by wing-threequarters.

Robin Roe died on July 15. He married (dissolved), in 1957, Vera Brown, who survives him with their three sons.

US Military's "Restoring Hope" Project Targets Military Suicides

Military suicides, especially since frequent stress and deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been a huge issue for the US military. I was very impressed by the number of resources and stories put together on the Restoring Hope website and refer it to my colleagues, to soldiers and their families, and to everyone who cares about the people in uniform. MP+

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Canadian Forces Honours Its Chaplains

The following is an excerpt of a Canadian Forces General Order (CANFORGEN) listing honours and awards, including a unit commendation for the Canadian Forces Chaplain Branch for its service in operations over the last decade. I am proud of each and every one of my chaplain brothers and sisters who through their efforts overseas, from Bosnia to Afghanistan to Haiti and the Golan and many places besides, earned this commendation because they were called to serve. MP+

01 01 021358Z SEP 10 RR UUUU CMP 072/10




Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Life at Suffield

One month into my posting as Base Chaplain of CFB Suffield, I'm starting to get a feel for this interesting and diverse place located, as a British Ministry of Defence news piece puts it, amidst the "endless barren prairieland" of SW Alberta. W

I'm getting to know the 100+ Canadian Forces personnel who run the base and its huge training ranges, and who support our lodger units, including the Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC) staff and British Army Training Unit Suffield (BATUS).
Can't say much about DRDC, because it's all cutting edge, high tech, and secure. As one of its number told me, "don't believe half the stuff you hear about us, Padre". Hah. If I was told they have the crashed UFO and alien bodies in one of their facilities, I'd believe it.

The Canadians have a good sense of humour, and do a tricky job of balancing the needs of the British and our own armies to train with the environmental impact of their training, given its effects on land and on several endangered species. There are also resource management needs, given that industry has many natural gas wells and projects going around the base. Sometimes the local animals strike back and get the upper hand, as I noticed from this display outside our signals section last week.

The Brits are an interesting bunch. The BATUS staff who are stationed in Canada for several years, running the excercises for the British army units sent over here, outnumber us Canucks. They wear their hair longer than Canadian or US troops do, and their rank badges are different. The other day I saluted a chap wearing a large crown, and when he rolled his eyes and waved dismissively at me, I realized he was a Warrant Officer. Right. UK majors wear small crowns. Got it. Not embarrassed, really. BATUS wives and kids play in the parish hall outside my office most mornings and sound like they stepped out of Coronation Street. The wives are apparently enthusiastic and vicious ice hockey players.

BATUS can be generous hosts when they aren't busy with exercises. Recently they hosted an evening called Beating the Retreat, featuring the music of the Heavy Cavalry Band and an excellent curry dinner. Unfortunately bad weather prevented the band from demonstrating their marching outside, but they did a fine job inside. I was personally delighted that they played "Show me the way to Amarillo", which I suppose after the viral video some years back has now become a UK army anthem.

British armour ready to serve as a backdrop for the Heavy Cavalry Band, before the weather turned bad.

I haven't had a chance to get "out on the prairie" as the Brits say to see an excercise in progress, but I'm hopeful. Here's what one of the current Prairie Thunder EXs look like, in this picture from the UK MOD press service.

Soldiers from 1st Battalion The Princess of Wales's Royal Regiment, part of 20th Armoured Brigade, taking part in Exercise Prairie Thunder in Canada
[Picture: Cpl James Williams, Crown Copyright/MOD 2010]

A British writeup on the recent Prairie Thunder exercise can be found here.

Gophers, weather, and culture shock permitting, I'll have more to say about life in Suffield in future posts.

Why Does This Florida Church Want to Kill Soldiers?

Sign displayed by Dove World Outreach Centre.

"We have firmly made up our mind" to carry out the Koran burnings, "but at the same time, we are definitely praying about it." That sounds pretty discerning. Pastor Dave Jones of the Dove World Outreach Centre in Gainesville, Fla, may indeed believe that God wants him and his flock to burn copies of the Koran. However, while they keep praying, perhaps God will lead them to listen to General David Petraeus, who thinks that "International Burn a Koran Day" is a pretty dumb idea that will get his soldiers killed in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Normally I don't think that military leaders should tell churches what to do, but I'm prepared to make an exception for the General this time.

Mad Padre

Mad Padre
Opinions expressed within are in no way the responsibility of anyone's employers or facilitating agencies and should by rights be taken as nothing more than one person's notional musings, attempted witticisms, and prayerful posturings.


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