Saturday, May 16, 2015

Military Injustice: Sad Case for Army Major and the Army, Too

Army Captain Mathew Golsteyn Receives Silver Star (Jan 4, 2011) 
(for action in battle in February 2010 in Afghanistan)

June 2009: President Obama Announces McHugh (R) as Army Secretary

This tragic story is about Army Major Mathew Golsteyn, and his roller-coaster military career from battlefield hero to whispers of a war crime is rooted in the deadly month of February 2010, when American-led allied forces seized the Taliban stronghold of Marjah in Afghanistan's Helmand province.
Insurgent snipers unleashed fire on Forward Operating Base (FOB) McQueary. A patrol of about 80 troops headed out across muddy poppy fields to find the enemy. Over a four-hour firefight, then-Captain Golsteyn repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire as he helped evacuate a wounded Afghan soldier and directed repeated airstrikes on the enemy, according to the Army's narrative of why he was awarded a Silver Star medal.
Then, about two months before being promoted from Captain to Major in November 2011, he had an interview with the CIA. He talked about something he'd done during the 2010 deployment before the battle near Marjah.
Now, as Paul Harvey was famous for saying: “The rest of the story:”
Golsteyn claimed to have captured and shot and buried a suspected IED bomb maker. He further went on to comment that he went back out with two others to cremate the body and dispose of the remains, that according to a memo summarizing the Golsteyn case. In short: “Captain Golsteyn stated that he knew it was illegal but was not remorseful as he had solid intelligence and his actions protected the safety of his fellow teammates.”
The Army CID (Criminal Investigative Division) acting on the CIA's tip, could find no one who corroborated Golsteyn's claim to have hunted the bomb-maker after an attack that killed two Marines. Nor could they find any cremated remains of the Afghan IED maker in question. Despite that, investigators said in part: “Golsteyn committed the offenses of murder and conspiracy based on the interview provided by the CIA,” in a September 29 memo first published by the web site "The Intercept."  LTC Christopher Kasker, a spokesman for Army Secretary John M. McHugh, confirmed the memo is authentic.
The bottom line, if there will be a fair bottom line: The American legal system requires witnesses, a body, or some evidence that a crime occurred, says Golsteyn's lawyer. His own statement isn't enough to prosecute him. Why not?
“You've got to have something in addition to somebody's confession to convict him of a crime," attorney Walker said. “That's a safeguard against official misconduct and abuse. If all you need is a confession, well let's just beat a confession out of the guy and we're all done."  
Last fall, Secretary McHugh revoked Golsteyn's Silver Star presented three years earlier
McHugh also rejected a recommendation to upgrade Golsteyn's honor to the Distinguished Service Cross, the second-highest military decoration a soldier can receive for extraordinary heroism. Then in February, the Army initiated the process to kick Golsteyn out of the active-duty military. He was taken out of action and assigned to a headquarters unit.
My reading on this case and I have no inside information - only what I have read: The Silver Star awarded and taken away was NOT related to the supposed crime Golsteyn admitted he committed a few months before the battle he was awarded the Silver Start for happened.
That award should stand. Major Golsteyn should not lose the Silver Star for something that occurred earlier that is unrelated to the IED killing, if it even happened. 
Secretary McHugh I believe was wrong to approve the revocation of that award. As I said, the two events are not related. He can be punished fairly for the IED killing, if proven true and factual, and not lose the combat award that has nothing to do with that event.
As a side note: I personally know Secretary McHugh - having run for Congress against him in 1994 (I lost the race), and he is a honorable man and doing a fairly good job in office since 2009. That is not the issue, however.

From what I know about this case, the award was pulled for an act that occurred in a battle that happened before the IED killing... pulling that award disgraces the act and battle loses for which Major Golsteyn earned it in a heroic fashion - there was nothing dishonorable about that battle the award was given for - it should be given back to him.

In essence, pulling that Silver Star award the way it was pulled amounts to punishment retroactively. That surely cannot be the Army way, fair way, or just way. 

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