Joshua Waddell, a first lieutenant in the U.S.
Marines, appeared on his way to a stellar career as an American military
officer. The son of a retired Navy SEAL commander, Waddell had won a
Bronze Star during his first tour of duty in Afghanistan and had
returned for a second.
Then he made a decision in combat that military experts say has severely jeopardized his future in the corps.
But some military experts say the black mark
on Waddell's record was undeserved, that he and other young American
officers are being put in a difficult, if not impossible, situation by
unreasonable rules of engagement foisted upon the military by
politically sensitive commanders in the Pentagon.
The facts in Waddell's case are spelled out in
Marine Corps documents. But how those facts should be interpreted is a
matter of heated dispute.
On Nov. 1, Waddell, a 25-year-old executive
officer with 3rd Battallion, 7th Marine Corps Regiment, was monitoring a
surveillance camera in Sangin, Afghanistan, when he spotted a man who
had been identified as a bomb maker working with area insurgents. Two
days earlier, a sergeant from India Company had lost both legs and a
hand when a bomb detonated in their area of operation. The man spotted
on the camera was believed to be responsible.
After receiving permission from his battalion
commanders, Waddell ordered Marine snipers to open fire on the man, and
he was hit. A group of Afghans rushed to the man, put him on a tractor
and attempted to flee. Waddell ordered the snipers to hit the engine
block of the tractor, disabling it so the man believed to be a bomb
maker would not escape. The tractor was hit but no civilians were
Then, about three weeks later, the civilians who helped remove the wounded man from the area were found to be teenagers.
As a result, Waddell was demoted from
executive officer, and the battalion commander, Lt. Col. Seth Folsom,
determined he had violated rules of engagement that governed when
Marines could fire, and at whom. Folsom said Wadell "is not recommended
for promotion" and "in violation of [combat rules] during an
engagement." The report stated that "noncombatant local nationals" were
in the area of direct fire and that "the engagement resulted in a
damaged local national vehicle."
A Marine brigadier general who reviewed the
case was sympathetic to Waddell, whom he described as a "superb and
heroic combat leader. But the general said the decision on whether
Waddell should be promoted was "the commander's prerogative," noting
that the battalion commander on the scene had lost "confidence in
Marine Maj. Shawn Haney, spokesman for Marine
Corps Manpower and Reserve Affairs, said Waddell's fitness report will
go before a review board at the time of any promotion "and everything is
under scrutiny, so Waddell will have a chance to defend himself against
the accusations." Still, Haney conceded, Waddell's fitness reports play
a "significant role in future promotions."
The upshot is that Waddell's career has been effectively blunted, his chance for promotion blocked.
Waddell is just one of hundreds of cases of
troops who have suffered under stringent rules of engagement, said Jeff
Addicott, a former senior legal adviser to U.S. Army Special Forces.
"We have hamstrung our military with unrealistic ROEs that do more harm to our soldiers than the enemy, and now a Marine's career is on the line because he disabled a tractor,"
Addicott said. "In many ways our military is frozen in fear of violating
absurd self-imposed rules on the battlefield, How can you tell if it's a
teenager or a man, a farmer or an enemy when you're fighting an
A Marine stationed in Afghanistan who does not
know Waddell, but who has operated under the same rules, said, "The
rules of engagement are meant to placate [President Hamid] Karzai's
government at our expense. They say it's about winning the hearts and
minds, but it's not working. We're not putting fear into the enemy, only
Waddell's father, Mark Waddell, who served
more than 25 years in the military and retired as a commander of a Navy
SEAL team, said his son and other Americans fighting in Afghanistan are
being victimized by these rules.
"I feel what's happened to my son is a
complete betrayal, and he isn't the only one," said Waddell, of Fort
Worth, Texas. "Josh is a hero. We expect them to go out and make
instantaneous combat decisions, then we Monday-morning quarterback their
decisions. It's an outrage."
Read more at the Washington Examiner: http://washingtonexaminer.com/news/world/2012/01/marines-career-threatened-controversial-rules-engagement/2127401#ixzz1kQ9XNXOZ
|Liveleak on Facebook|