Archive for June 20th, 2012

U.S. Army’s malicious prosecution of SFC Walter Taylor


Aug 2011: SFC Taylor receives the Purple Heart and a criminal charge sheet

UPDATE: June 27, 2012: See three Stars & Stripes reports on the Article 32 hearing here, here, and here.

U.S. Army prosecutors did not have the guts to charge Sergeant First Class Walter Taylor with murder or manslaughter for the July 21, 2011 shooting death of Aqilah Hikmat. They knew that no one will convict on those charges for the split-second, fog of war decisions made by our troops in combat. So, they went with what might fly with his two-star Convening Authority and a court-martial panel comprised of officers and senior non-commissioned officers all accustomed to seeing lawful orders obeyed: negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. But investigators still question Taylor’s state of mind.

Last week, the Los Angeles Times reported:

Second 1: A figure dressed in dark, bulky clothing emerges.

Second 2: The figure begins walking toward the trunk.

Second 3: Taylor, with five wounded comrades behind him, sees a thin trigger wire seeming to snake directly toward the black car. Could there be a second bomb in the trunk?

Second 4: Taylor squeezes the trigger on his M-4 carbine. The figure crumples to the dirt.

The figure was not an insurgent, but Dr. Aqilah Hikmat, a 49-year-old mother of four who headed the obstetrics department at the nearby Ghazni provincial hospital. Also dead inside the car were Hikmat’s 18-year-old son and her 16-year-old niece. Hikmat’s husband, in the front seat, was wounded.

Army prosecutors say Hikmat’s killing in July 2011 was not just a casualty of combat, but a crime. Charged with negligent homicide and dereliction of duty, Taylor will face a hearing June 19 before a U.S. military judge in Germany to determine whether the case goes to a full court-martial, with the possibility of three years in prison.

Here is what led up to SFC Taylor pulling the trigger:

The 541st, nicknamed the Outlaws, had one of the most dangerous jobs in the Army. It was charged with detonating or dismantling bombs found along the so-called Highway of Death between Kabul and Kandahar, while fighting off the insurgents who planted them. Between January and October of last year, Taylor’s unit was hit by homemade bombs 16 times. Thirty-eight men were injured in those explosions; 12 were hit three times; two died.

Taylor’s day of decision — the four seconds in which he ended Hikmat’s life — came on a routine patrol late in the afternoon of July 21, 2011, near the village of Shekhabad.

The blast of the roadside bomb was so powerful it hurtled one of the 45,000-pound Buffalo mine-clearing vehicles 10 feet into the air with Wedgeworth [Spc. Wayne Wedgeworth injured in the July 2011 attack] and four other men inside it. Taylor and his fellow soldiers clambered out of their vehicle and began exchanging fire with insurgents on the hillsides and in a pair of white cars fleeing the scene.

Almost simultaneously, a black Suzuki sedan raced up behind the white cars and sped past one of them before skidding to a halt under a withering hail of gunfire. “Cease fire!” someone yelled over the radio as the white cars disappeared into the distance.

Taylor and three of his soldiers crept cautiously across the empty field, seeing the thin wire from what had been the roadside bomb and tracing it back to what appeared at the time might be its source — the black car.

“I thought they were insurgents,” Sgt. Nicholas Wilson, who also fired at Hikmat during those few seconds, told investigators. “I wanted to make sure we all got back safe.”

Taylor insists Aqilah Hikmat never raised her arms, never said a thing, and just walked toward the back of the car, where he feared she might be going for a weapon.

There is more. Read it. But don’t try playing CID at home contemplating the state of mind of those with ‘skin in the game’ on a battlefield where friend and foe alike all look like civilians. “He showed restraint” makes for a bitter epitaph on a tombstone.

Please do remember that this incident happened right after the enemy changed its tactics:

Taliban use females in recent suicide attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan — By Bill Roggio, Long War Journal June 26, 2011

Over the past two days, the Taliban on both sides of the Afghan-Pakistani border have used females to carry out suicide operations.

The first attack took place at a police station in the town of Kolachi in the district of Dera Ismail Khan in northwestern Pakistan. A husband and wife, both wearing burkas, entered the town’s police station under the guise of filing a complaint and took several policemen hostage. The pair detonated their vests as police laid siege to the station, killing seven policemen and a tea boy.

The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan claimed the attack, and said it was carried out to avenge the death of al Qaeda founder and former leader Osama bin Laden.

“The attackers were a husband and wife,” Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan told Reuters. “We will keep carrying out attacks with different strategies.”

The second attack took place today, in the Char Chino district in the southern Afghan province of Uruzgan. The Taliban gave an eight-year-old girl a bag of explosives and had her walk to a police outpost, according to the Afghan Ministry of Interior. The explosives detonated before she reached the police, killing only the girl.

The Taliban have carried out three suicide attacks using females this month. On June 4, the Taliban claimed credit for a suicide attack in the Marawara district in Kunar province, Afghanistan that killed three interpreters. The Taliban released an official statement on their propaganda website, Voice of Jihad, and claimed that a “Mujahida sister” killed 12 US and Afghan troops.

The Article 32 officer will wrap up today and make a recommendation. Hopefully, the Convening Authority will put an end to this persecution.

You can support this wounded warrior. First, go to the In Support of SFC Walter Taylor Facebook page, leave a comment, and pass the word. If you can, you can help offset the many thousands of dollars it takes to defend those who defend us. Our friend Diana West gathered the information:

Contributions to the Walter Taylor Legal Defense Fund can be made by sending a check or money order payable to “FBO Walter Taylor” to:

Wells Fargo Bank
271 University Oaks, Blvd.
Round Rock, TX 78665

Or;
A check or money order made payable to “FBO Walter Taylor” can be mailed or presented to any Wells Fargo Bank location in the United States

Or;
Funds or contributions can be wired to Wells Fargo Bank for the Walter Taylor Defense Fund by using the following account and routing numbers:

Bank: Wells Fargo
Account Name: Walter Taylor Legal Defense Fund
Account#: 1559270168
Routing Number: 111900659

America must end the criminalization of its warriors. Such investigations are all about appeasing the Karzai government as President Obama looks for an exit from the “right war” in Afghanistan.

Freedom Radio shows on this subject can be found here.

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