War Criminal or Hero?

Former U.S. soldier Steven Dale Green was just sentenced to life in prison for his war crimes while “serving” in Iraq. It seems that Pfc. Green and three of his soldier friends went to the home of a 14-year-old Iraqi girl, killed her family, gang raped her, shot her in the face, and then set her body on fire.

This is absolutely horrible, and I don’t excuse it in any way. I think he should get the death penalty, as do many in Iraq. However, it should be said that if he had dropped a bomb from the stratosphere or launched a missile from afar he would be lauded as a hero. Why is it that, to many Americans, killing from five feet is viewed as an atrocity, but from five thousand feet it is considered to be a heroic act?

Yes, but what about the rape? Well, if torture is okay, then why should anyone have a problem with raping female Iraqis? Aren’t all Muslims terrorists? Hey, if it saves one American life then it must be okay. Right? That, unfortunately, is the attitude of many “conservative” Americans, including too many Christians.

Author: Laurence Vance

Laurence Vance holds degrees in history, theology, accounting, and economics. He has written and published twelve books and regularly contributes articles and book reviews to both secular and religious periodicals.

41 thoughts on “War Criminal or Hero?”

  1. Some may claim that it is the intention of an action that matters most, not necessarily the consequence. So a bomber pilot that kills a target (for the sake of argument, a horrible human being) but kills a bunch of civilians in the process would not be considered a murderer, despite having killed many innocent individuals. His intention was righteous, whereas the soldier that rapes and murders a 14 year old girl is considered monstrous (and he is).

    This isn’t my position, mind you. I am, however, awed by how easily pro-war pundits are able to explain away the deaths of innocent human beings. It’s so easy for them. And with that, I find them the most contemptible.

    1. “Pro war pundits” – those in the Pentagon and the entire DOD, the 16 intelligence agencies that work their tails off to deter attacks on the homeland, do not “explain away the deaths of innocent human beings”! No one likes or loves war in any way.

      I think this entire wave of generations is just not looking at history and studying the facts. Have you heard of the Russian forced labor camps at Gulag – AFTER WWII? The atrocities and unimaginable acts of torture in Romanian concentration camps AFTER WWII from 1949 to 1954, the entire Holocaust, the evil genocide in Bosnia, the genocide of Saddam Hussein, and on and on?

      Do you know what “the truth will set you free?” means? It means once you wrap your head around the collosal evil of the world, past and present – once you amass the facts of the horrible crimes committed by “leaders” of foreign nations, you will understand the sacrifice of US blood, of what we have to lose. Because we HAVE NO IDEA how bad it could become. Those who bomb terrorists are only “horrible human beings” to haters of western values and American freedom. To the rest of us, they are heroes.

      1. The Gulag, and the millions who perished in them, was there long before WW2. The Nazis took lessons from them. In fact thousands perished while in the “care” of the allies. Would have been a lot of uncomfortable questions being asked if hundreds of thousands of bodies within the States had to be disposed of. Hmmmm? Better out of sight and out of mind. And when is it defense when you spend nearly 100% of your energies outside the borders of your empire? Unless, of course, you view the whole world as your playpen and everyone as merely serfs to do away with as you please. Someone dies as a result of a five hundred pound bomb… brains blown out and bodies shattered.. “ooops! my bad” says the military and they move on doing it again and again. Karzai yelps about “you need to stop killing civilians” but then scuttles back into his American protected palace. What a joke!

  2. To many Americans who support endless wars agains Muslim countries it does not matter if the killings,or the rape of the 14 years old girl in case ,happened from few feet or thousands of feet .To them it is justifiable no matter what.That’s why the guy did not get the death penality.If this same incident had taken place in Texas where the trial was held the jury would have no problem whatsoever at deciding on the daeth penality for this person.Many people on the airwaves seem to find every imaginable excues for his actions and his comarads in arms!

  3. Dear Dale A. Sender. The argument that Green and his fellow subhuman scum would not have committed these unspeakable crimes if the American Fuhrer and his henchmen wouldn't have committed the supreme warcrime is alas invalid. That is because it does not follow from the fact that the American Dear Leader commenced an unprovoked war of choice and illegally invaded and occupied another country sending armed retards to do the filthy job, that Green and his fellow subhuman scum would have no choice but to commit this unspeakable crime. They did and they made it.

    Green, like Bush is responsible for his own crimes. It is not that Bush and his henchmen are protected from the law, domestic and international by the next Dear Leader. While I understand the frustration that the big criminals go free, this is no excuse to excuse the smaller ones, like Green, for his crime was no "small" atrocity.

    And auto da fe (since Americans by and large seem to be fond of reviving the methods of the Inquisition) wouldn't even be enough to suit his crime.

  4. Apparently a lot of people get the point. I don’t believe in the death penalty except for cases of political corruption, e.g.: TREASON. But I do support having the Rule of Law restored to my country again, and until such a time that the whole entire U.S. chain-of-command, all the way to the former non-elect president, george w. bush, are indicted, and tried in a court of law, and then, once convicted, executed for those crimes, that then and only then can we prosecute low hanging fruit like this soldier/monster that committed murder. his murder wouldn’t have taken place had he not been illegitimately and illegally ordered into combat in a nation that never posed a legitimate threat to the united states. people tend to overlook that fact just a tad when they focus and get tunnel vision about the scope of the criminality here.

    so, until the day comes that the root cause of this murder gets punished, that being, the illegal orders that sent the soldier there in the first place, to otherwise destroy a nation that had not harmed us, and occupy it illegally, then there’s no reason of any kind to make this one piece of a very long murderous chain, bear the weight of the whole nine yards.

    the illegal order to go to war against Iraq is the true war crime. the soldiers wouldn’t have harmed a single person had they never been illegally sent there.

    1. Dale, all well and good but you wouldn’t have soldiers killing people if you first didn’t have people “wanting” to be soldiers and knowing full well that JOB ONE is to kill someone. I have no sympathy for anyone who gets shot in a “career” field whose sole purpose is to kill and blow up things. All that talk about protecting democracy is all BS. Seriously! I’ve been in the military and you’d have to be a complete idiot to not know these things beforehand. Don’t want people to die or die because of illegal orders? Then do yourself and your loved ones a favor and stop supporting the machine with your blood, rhetoric, or treasure. Simple as that. I’m not suggesting that YOU do but you and most everyone knows deep down the answer but haven’t realized it.

  5. Ahh damn.. I should have read it first.

    I meant to say: The argument that Green and his accomplices would not have committed these unspeakable crimes if Bush and his henchmen wouldn’t have invaded an occupied Iraq is invalid, because it does not follow from that fact that Green and his accomplices would have no choice but to commit this unspeakable crime. They did and they made it.

    Green, like Bush is responsible for his own crimes. It should not be that Bush and his henchmen are protected from the law, domestic and international, by the next Dear Leader that Green should therefore also be protected from the law. While I understand the frustration that the big criminals always go free, this is no excuse to excuse the smaller ones, like Green, for his crime was no “small” atrocity.

    Even an auto da fe wouldn’t be enough punishment for his crime.

  6. Ben Franklin is quoted as saying, “we’ve given you a Republic if you can keep it.” Obviously, ‘we the people’ couldn’t. The systemic rot and corruption has eaten the foundation of our once great nation and it’s just about game over. The Bushco war criminals will walk. How does the Empire hold Caesar to account?

  7. I’m not washing Green’s hands of his blood, folks. I’m simply saying that this problem is so big you have to triage it and deal with the major problem, that being the endemic corruption at the top of the food chain, not the immediately disgusting and ugly crimes of the foot soldiers who got sucked up into this abatoire of murder.

    so I beg to differ with you. None of these troops would have been put into the position to harm a single human being had they not been illegally sent there by the CONgress and the Senate, and the criminal, non-elect, president.

    Until 535 or so members of the House and Senate stand war crimes trials for mass murder, illegal invasion and occupation, and the killing of 1.3 million Iraqi citizens by ‘proxy’ assassination, then I see very little being accomplished by hanging Green out to dry for this.

    We’re bleeding from the jugular vein and you want to put a bandaid on the stubbed toe. Wrong answer. You treat the bigger threat first, and that’s the endemic corruption of the highest levels of government, which is, in fact, TREASON. Then you deal with the Green’s out there who got suckered into going into the abatoire for the maniac serial killers known as P.N.A.C. and Bush and Cheney and Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz and Cambone and Abrams and Libby, as well as Feith. You try them, you convict them, and you hang them, and then you get war crimes trials set up for the House and Senate, all who voted for the mass murder and illegal war are complicit and guilty of war crimes, or should be proven guilty of them. No excuses of any kind will wash with me. If they voted for the war, they are complicit in TREASON.

  8. I’m sure you don’t mean to, but you are.

    By persisting in the faulty logic of a causal chain, you are transferring his responsibility for Green’s own actions to that of Bush, who I’m sorry to inform you, despite some irrelugarities and manipulations really was elected by the American people. Twice! I understand the shame, but denial isn’t going to make it go away, nothing is.

    You might want to place yourself in the shoes of the relatives of that girl insofar as is possible and then think how you might look upon someone expounding your American-centric and highly political view.

    I do understand your perspective on this, at least I think I do, and am sympathetic to it – one should always sweep the stairs from top to bottom, but reality dictates otherwise and there is really nothing you can do but scream at the top of your lungs that it sucks whaleballs.

    And while in your fantasy you go after Bush and let Green – who alledgedly you think was “simply sucked up” in the grand scheme of his criminal overlords, off the hook for the time being. I’d like you to explain your noble motives to the relatives of victims.


    On second thought, actually I’d prefer to be spared the humiliating sight of that.

    1. Irrelugarities?? [And on and on] Again my sincere apologies for abusing your language.

    2. I don’t intend to defend any of Mr. Sender’s hyperbole, but I just want to comment that although Green’s guilt is not diminished by the culpability of the leaders, the leaders do have a share of responsibility for all atrocities that happen in a war of choice that they are responsible for.

      It is simply the nature of war that some people freak out and commit monstrous atrocities when put into inhuman conditions. (Not helped by conditioning to dehumanize the subject population by superiors.) That doesn’t diminish the immorality of the individual acts. Just like substance abuse causes some people to commit violent crimes, but doesn’t diminish the individual guilt. This is well known in advance by the leaders who make the decision to start the war. Thus, they are partially responsible for setting the conditions for atrocities to be performed.

      The leaders’ role can be compared with the acts of a drug dealer. He is not personally responsible for the individual acts of his drug-crazed clients, but his acts are rendered immoral by the perfectly expectable results of his actions as a whole.

      You can bet that the victim’s family feel anger and hatred not only towards Green, but also towards Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rice.

      1. I agree. Nicely formulated. But to stay within your analogy I reacted to the horrible idea that you should suspend prosecuting any crackcrazed criminal who raped and killed a little girl until after you sentenced the kingpin of the drug cartel.

        In a way this line of thinking is symptomatic for the same disease described by mr Vance. The luxury of psychological distance a pilot has, maps on the physical distance to the consequences he is responsible for. Political distance can serve as a subsitute for physical distance and have the same effect of preventively blocking empathy. A noise filter for the human conscience as it were.

        It is a very useful myth that wars (or drugs) make criminals, very reassuring but wrong. What it does is provide for opportunity, to make already pre-existing pathologies of the mind manifest.

        In the case of Green judging from the testimonies of others and comments from himself that appeared in the press, that should have been entirely foreseeable, of course not the particulars but the probability.

        The prosecution of individual warcriminals in no way diminishes the responsibility for the sum of all the crimes and all the consequences – including those for Americans, in concordance with the Nuremberg verdict [..To initiate a war of aggression, therefore, is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole..] lie with the Decider and his henchmen who made the decision to commit the ultimate warcrime known to man.

        1. Very well said Albert. I can not see how the stress of combat could in any way be used as a mitigating defense for rape and murder. We have millions of vets from these wars and contrary to popular belief most of them are not running around raping and murdering little girls. I have read many studies that show a correlation between exposure to Combat and suicide, but I have yet to read even one that correlates rape with the modern combat experience of US soldiers. A sick mind is a sick mind, end of story. No it doesn’t help handing a sick person a gun and authority, we see enough of that in our police force but no one would condone this type of behaviour from a cop.

          PFC Green should have been prosecuted to the full extent of the law, as should the war criminals who started this illegal occupation. But I won’t hold my breath waiting for Bush or any of the elite to go to Jail.

          Almost no one even thinks about putting daddy Bush in prison and he is a first class war criminal for the illegal invasion of Panama that killed thousands of civillians in the first night alone. Hell we elected Chaney to be vice butthead and he was the secretary of Defence and also a war criminal based on the illegal invasion of Panama.


  9. The real criminals are the political and military “elites” who never get their hands dirty and sent him over there. They will never be punished.

  10. I don’t understand the need to add “…including too many Christians.” It proves your view towards Christians. Why not “including too many Muslims, atheists, Hindus, etc.?” How do you know what’s in a person’s heart? If you want to have a good discussion over issues and situations that happens in the world, you need to get rid of your prejudices, racism, and other “isms” you may have.

    1. You need to read Mr. Vance’s latest article on LewRockwell.com concerning so-called “Christians” who excuse torture, even though it’s the ultimate un-Christian act.

      1. So what? Just because some “so called Christians” excuse it does not make it a characteristic of Christians. Look, almost all suicide bombers are Muslims, but that doesn’t make them all approve of that. Go to the inner cities and the perpetrators of crime are usually one particular color, but that doesn’t make them all criminals. Come on, stereotyping gets us nowhere. 75% of people in the USA claim to be Christians. A few who say torture is OK does not make everyone that way. If you believe in respecting people nregardless of color, religion, race, social-economic conditions, etc., then you have to respect people who believe in Christianity as well, and not stereotype them so easily. Otherwise you are just like the conservatives and “so called Christians” who may be bigots.

        1. I believe the point Mr Vance raises is that if, as you mention, 75% “profess” to be Christians then in the light of that particular religious vein you should practice what you preach. It is clear that a majority of people in this country don’t ultimately believe what they say they do on Sundays. If they did then this wouldn’t go on.

    2. Because US Protestant Fundies are ‘way too blood-thirsty, these days. Why worry about the specks in the eyes of Hindus, Muslims, etc., when there’s a forest of beams in the eyes of US Prots?

      Personally, I have an unhappy intuition that, some day soon, Americans are going to start killing each other the way they have been slaughtering Vietnamese, Central Americans, Iraqis, etc. Probably it’ll be all against all, but it will certainly include lots of Prot Fundies smiting the heathen, ie, killing people like me.

      Lester Ness

  11. Albert,

    I can appreciate your comments. Military recruiters seem to fish in troubled waters. In my case, I had suffered a nervous breakdown in college and after wearing out my relatives' limited patience, found myself wandering the streets of San Diego broke and homeless. Wound up in the San Diego jail charged with violating California's old anti-Okie statutes regarding liberty and poverty. Anyway my public defender told me that my choices were 60 days at the state prison farm in Chino or join the military. Being that this was San Diego, the military option was convenient. My mental state did not seem to stand in the way of my national service. Later, in the Navy, I ran across many sailors who were there due to legal scrapes, bad homes, etc.

    There is sometrhing; however, at the core of the military which celebrates evil. I was on an aircraft carrier when the Viet Nam War started. Our ship launched the first Navy aircraft to bomb North Viet Nam. I remember what a festive atmosphere prevailed on ship. One of the first aircraft to be launched was being loaded with 500 lbs bombs. All flightdeck personnel had the invitation to write a little greeting in chalk on the bombs. "This is for you, Ho" and "sorry, about that" – that kind of juvenile junk. Also we had a "leadership" lecture from our senior NCO. He told us that we were not to feel sorry for the "enemy" as they were just "gooks" and were little better than insects. Myself and several others refused to go along with this racist crap. Later, I overheard, the senior NCO speak of the need to throw people like me overboard if "things got rough".

    When my enlistment was up, I had nightmares nightly that I was still in the Navy.

    1. Thank you for sharing that with us. This reminds me of a time during the first gulf war when the bombing of Baghdad had begun. There were various press reports about American and British (and I think some other European pilots) being interviewed. The American pilots were hyper-excited, acting like spoiled frat-jocks and talking about how “they had lit up Baghdad like a Christmas tree”. The reference to a Christmas tree – a Christian symbol – while attacking a muslim country was particularly inapropriate, but probably lost on them. The British pilots in contrast were somber, reserved, and subdued. They expressed concerns about possible civilian casualties and seemed far more mature(?) then the American pilots. I remember being taken by the difference in the mentality of the two groups.

  12. We need to remember that in today’s military, they are all volunteers. They don’t need to be there in Iraq or Afghanistan. They don’t need to be killing anyone, breaking down anybody’s door, or raping any young girls.
    It brings to my mind an episode on the TV series, “The Sopranos” – Carmella Soprano tells her priest that she is ashamed of her comfortable lifestyle that is based upon crime and violence. The priest tells her simply to leave. Unfortuneatly, Carmella wasn’t ashamed enough to do that.

    1. Yes there is no conscription, but that doesn’t automatically make the US army an army of volunteers in the sense that a randomly picked person on average made a well informed conscious decision without any kind of pressure. Instead there is a lot of social pressure; an unsoundly high regard pervading the entire society for all things military; the constant reinforcement of ridiculous stereotypes and the hero cult by the entertainment industry, constantly pushing the idea that every problem can be solved with violence; the carefully cultivated and politically expedient atmosphere of constant fear; the religion that the US is a shining hill in a rotten and dangerous world, waiting anxiously to become just like the US.

      And all taken together it still doesn’t work. The US seems compelled to ever lower it’s demands on the quality of the recruits, they ever more agressively are pursuing. Which is why Green was given a machine gun instead of a ride to the nearest mental hospital in the first place.

      About a third of the invasion force stationed in Iraq from the beginning weren’t even US citizens, they in turn consisted predominantly of Mexicans and Latin Americans who were just promised they could apply for citizenship directly if they joined up while simultaneously the longer alternative non-military route was being shut off after 2001.

      I say it again, for a country with an all volunteer army the US to me seems unsoundly militarized. Beware, I’m wearing a uniform while writing this, so unless you’re wearing one you must accept this as the gospel truth.

      1. “Beware, I’m wearing a uniform while writing this, so unless you’re wearing one you must accept this as the gospel truth.”

        My point exactly. Say, I’ve got a couple of teenaged daughters, is there anything they can do for you? I mean, you having saved the US from certain destruction and submission to our Iraqi-Afghani overlords. Let me know if you want the blonde or the brunette.

    2. A little bit of rationalization and self-deception can do wonders for a guilty conscience. Then its back to enjoying the good life…

  13. There was an old Hollywood movie about American soldiers raping the local female in a foreign country, with Kirk Douglas. Four American servicemen in Germany raped a German girl and were brought to trial for that. Kirk Douglas, their military lawyer convinced the court that the girl was a flirt and had it coming anyway, so the soldiers were set free or given light sentences. In the movie the girl committed suicide after finding out about the verdict and Kirk Douglas went to a bathroom and vomited in the john after hearing about her suicide. But the most striking part was the scene after Kirk Douglas threw up. He was this straight arrow again with his military uniform intact on his body, the very last word in American righteousness walking away from the German town.

  14. Is an auto da fe a new kind of hybrid car? If it gets good mileage and the batteries aren’t too exspensive, I would be very interested.

    Anyway, you get two chances to prosecute. You can prosecute them now, or you can prosecute after they come home and hurt or kill Americans. Your choice.
    First, according to every military person I’ve talked to, we owe these fine folks who fought in Afghan-Iraq our very lives. The least we can do for them is release them from the onerous burden of following the normal regulations concerning assualt, domestic violence, kidnapping, and the rest. How can you punish a man who saved you from Saddam? And even more serious, what does a guy do for fun after Iraq? How are we gonna keep ’em down on the farm, after they’ve sacked Bahgdad?

    1. “First, according to every military person I’ve talked to, we owe these fine folks who fought in Afghan-Iraq our very lives”.

      And how many would that be Mooser? My bet would be zero. I do know many vets I am one myself and I can tell that you have no idea what the hell your talking about. Most vets who have seen combat don’t run around spouting off about anything let alone acting like they somehow saved your life.


  15. Actually an auto da fe is a fairly old transportation method and yet it resembles what they use in Star Trek sans the annoying tingly sounds. Some people consider it a huge drawback that it usually lacks a reverse for some reason. I hear the Koreans are working on it.

    You raise some pretty tough questions. Especially about the issue of haircolor. I’m going to have report back on that.

  16. Shame he wasn’t put to death. Sick of criminals living beyond their crimes of murder rape and pillage, whether they are soldiers, citizens or presidents

  17. If this person committed this same crime in Texas in the same manners ,the Jury would have decided on the penalty in a jiffy.

  18. Neither conservatives nor Christians condone this type of behavior from a US soldier! This man’s action is NOT aligned according to any type of war policy.

    You are confusing individual acts of moral depravity with acts of war. One is the standards of a human being – those rational, decent acts of behavior that set us apart from Dark Ages acts of hedonism – and the other is foreign policy. One determines the individual’s choice, the other decides policies of sovereignty, proactive measures of defense against slewing millions of Americans under the threat of weapons of mass destruction – specifically biological warfare as the current threat. The man’s actions were incorrect, inhumane, and wrong. The bombing of terrorists, even in inadvertantly killing civilians which is a tragic outcome of war, is NOT to be confused with “inhumane” action. These unapologetic barbarians would cut your head off unhesitatingly, regardless if you agreed with them or not, but simply because you are American. Read the 9-11 Commission report for starters on their motiviations, in addition to a slew of other material, right and left. The anti-American indoctrination has been going on for decades, primarily because we have succeeded so demonstrably as a great nation, which only served to make them feel inferior and threatened and also coincided with their anti-materialistic islamic beliefs, which evetually became distorted as extremism in pockets.

    What the common misperception here deals with is the assumption that radical Islamists are somehow rational like Americans. They are not, there is a delineation, and this is why we are fighting them; before they massacre the US homeland is mass numbers.

    1. If family members were blown to bits, or shot by accident or not, for simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time as a result of a foreign military presence, I can see where someone would take matters into their own hands. With nothing left to live for I sympathize with anyone who may feel pushed to enact revenge on anyone wearing a state sanctioned costume. I’m not saying its “right” I’m just saying (using Chris Rocks old lines about OJ) that “I understand!” WMD’s (seriously… are you so daft as to believe in that anymore?) Sigh! I’m beginning to reel with the absurdity of that one quip alone. What kind of a lunatic hangs onto that notion anymore?

  19. and Lauren, how can you, given this country’s amazingly bloody (and genocidal) history, even use the phrase “rational like Americans.”

    The lack of historical knowledge is just amazing among the Idicocracy. Iraq was not a “radical Islamic State.” Our invasion PUT RADICAL PRO-IRANIAN ISLAMISTS IN POWER. Read something other than the Wall Street Journal or National Review for a change, my god.

  20. I have read a lot of people saying that Green should have gotten the death penalty. He shouldn't have…they should have gone KGB on him. Start by pulling out his toenails.
    It's time we started torturing the right people, already…

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