Given his desire to maintain his fundraising perch at Fox News, Montana’s Congressman Ryan Zinke is making some odd choices in order to appease the factually challenged hosts of the network’s shows. One of those choices is to take up the case of former Lieutenant Clint Lorance, who was convicted of two counts of murder for a shooting incident under in Afghanistan. Despite a full military court martial and subsequent review of the case, Zinke and two other conservative members of Congress are pushing for a review of the case outside of the normal military process—and demanding to see the evidence gathered if Lorance does not receive an appeal.
Lorance’s case has become a another talking point among conservatives on Fox and the right wing media who believe that pesky concepts like rules of engagement should not apply to American soldiers in combat zones. As Zinke and the other Congressman wrote in their letter, “the warfighter doesn’t always have the benefit of time, given lives are always at risk in a war zone,” suggesting that Lorance’s actions could be explained away by the circumstances he faced.
But a story in the New York Times demonstrates that it’s only politicians and conservative media who are defending Lorance, not the men who served under him. They report that his men not only didn’t support him, but testified against their lieutenant:
That chorus of supporters, however, is notable for what it lacks: members of the platoon itself. Though many members of the platoon have never publicly expressed their views of the case, nine came forward to testify against Mr. Lorance at his trial, and in interviews several have contradicted Mr. Lorance’s account of a split-second decision to protect his troops.
The Army Times quotes a current active duty solider who served with Lorance:
“All these petitioners need to be shown what kind of man [Lorance] really is,” said a soldier who served as a team leader in Lorance’s platoon, who asked to speak on background because he is still on active duty. “This isn’t a soldier that went to war and gone done wrong. This is a soldier that had a taste for blood and wanted to have that fulfilled. And he did, but in the wrong way.”
The ongoing tragedy of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq doesn’t lend itself to easy analysis and just as we should take no pleasure in the loss of innocent lives in Afghanistan, no one should be happy that Mr. Lorance seems to have destroyed his own life in the conflict. That being said, Congressman Zinke should be far more selective about the conservative fringe causes he endorses so freely. Whether it’s calling for the impeachment of the President, advocating an invasion of Mexico, endorsing torture or defending a soldier who gunned down two unarmed men, threatened a village, and issued a false report about his actions, Zinke should realize that his office comes with the obligation to act in the interest of his constituents, not to appease the reactionary wing of the Republican Party.
And he probably should realize, given his time in the military, that he owes something to the kind of soldiers who served under Lorance, who did the right thing and represented the best traditions of American military service by refusing to fire on children and those who posed no threat to the unit. He ought to realize he owes something to Specialist Todd Fitzgerald who has to bear the psychological costs every time someone defends his former lieutenant:
“We gave a lot, sacrificed a lot. To see it destroyed, that was bad enough,” he said. “Every time a new story calling him a hero happens, I don’t sleep. I lay down in my bed and close my eyes and lay there all night until the sun comes up.”
Surely that matters more than appealing to Sean Hannity or raising a few dollars for his future campaigns.