Confirmed as of Friday by NBC News, Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland has been taken off of the Army’s “removal list” for beating up an Afghan police commander accused of tying a young boy to a bed and brutally raping him for up to two weeks. The decision to rethink Martland’s discharge follows “allegations that U.S. troops have been discouraged from intervening in sexual abuse among locals.” In order to not appear to send the wrong message, the Green Beret is now free to remain in the Army.
Confirmation was secured from the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, though no explanation was stated explicitly for the reversal in the decision. A statement from the board, however, implied that it “had to do with a technicality in the negative evaluations Martland received after the September 2011 incident.”
Martland ally and spokesperson for California Rep. Duncan Hunter, Joe Kasper, claimed Hunter’s camp found “‘irregularities’ in the disciplinary process.” He said:
“We were under no illusions that the Army would stand up and say Charles was right to tune up that child molester.”
Martland’s case calls into question the bigger issue pertaining to how the “[U.S.] military handles allegations of child sex abuse by Afghan authorities.” The matter is currently being investigated by the Pentagon’s inspector general. Offering response and responsibility of its own, as well, the Afghan government claims it will increase efforts to stem the “sex abuse of children by its military and police.”
The U.S., of course, denies we’ve turned our back on any sexual abuse whatsoever. U.S. military commanders say as much out of one side of their mouths while saying the responsibility really falls on Afghan authorities out of the other. Of course, they’re right, though—this time. Afghan authorities do have to stop sexually assaulting the kids, but does that mean the U.S. military should turn the other cheek when it comes across it? Certainly not, one would hope, but things get even more complicated when one realizes “the United States continues to train and assist Afghan forces in their fight against the Taliban.”
The person you encounter alleged to have raped a young boy or girl may just be the friendly ally you helped train to fight the Taliban. The collisions of loyalties, jurisdiction and law make for a complicated matter, indeed, but at least Martland had the sense to do what he thought was right and let the red-tape of politics and law work themselves out after the fact. First things first—stop the abuse.
Martland admits he was “absolutely wrong” to strike the local authority, but stated “[he and his supervisor] were moved to act after the commander kidnapped and raped a local boy, and beat the boy’s mother for seeking the Americans’ help.”
The vindicated Green Beret wrote in January 2015:
“We already had two other ALP commanders receive no punishment from the Afghan government for the rape of a 15-year-old girl and the honor killing of a commander’s 12-year-old daughter for kissing a boy. My Detachment Commander and I felt that morally we could no longer stand by and allow our ALP to commit atrocities.”
Following the 2011 incident, Martland fought his discharge while his complicit supervisor, Capt. Dan Quinn, ended up leaving the military altogether over the matter. Seeking help, Martland eventually contacted Hunter, who went on to help the nearly disgraced Sgt. 1st Class win back his rightful place in the Army. Hunter also eventually drafted a bill seeking to permit U.S. troops the right to “confront sexual abuse.”
Hunter wrote to Ash Carter last August at the Defense Department:
“I believe SFC Martland and his team should be commended for showing any restraint at all, and they most certainly had a moral obligation to intervene.”
Carter would have been hard-pressed upon receiving that letter to find a party willing to defend the decision to overlook such atrocities, thereby making the U.S. military complicit in them, and he surely would have had to have had a hell of a time finding a party willing to argue that authority figures have the right to abuse children. Perhaps Hunter’s letter hit home and led to the recent reversal in the decision. Who knows? Regardless, Sgt. 1st Class Charles Martland remains a proud and active member of the U.S. Army, and one alleged child rapist in Afghanistan will never quite live down the sting of his blows.
Featured image by CNN via YouTube video screen capture.