Jess Cunningham tried to stop the murder of Iraqi detainees — Photograph/Jonas Fredwall Karlsson
Cunningham was now a pariah.
He says warnings spread through Alpha Company to be careful about what was said around him. Thirteen men had been present at the killings at the canal site, and Cunningham was the one who could take them all down. For Cunningham it was a dangerous position to be in.
Critics later blamed him for not coming forward at once, but the army has no mechanisms in place that would have whisked him away and protected him. For precisely that reason, war crimes are more common than is generally supposed: they are simply too dangerous to report. A related truth is that some number of soldier suicides in combat zones are not suicides at all—they are murders committed to cover up crimes.
At the highest level, American military leaders must be aware of the pattern. They could begin to remedy the problem if they chose to—just as they have in the case of sexual assaults within the ranks, where immediate protections are offered to accusers. But war crimes are different. The United States takes a serious hit every time one is reported. It seems that the leadership would rather not know about them than have to deal with every one that takes place. The consequence, however unintentional, is that soldiers who report war crimes are put in harm’s way.
Had Cunningham come forward in Baghdad, he would have been exposed to a battlefield where there were a hundred ways to die. Even silent dissent was tricky for him now.
RTFA from the beginning. Long – and worth every word. Once again VANITY FAIR does the world journalistic service.
The tale is too real. Ignorant blind patriotism taken down to the gangbanger level. A command structure, military incompetence from the grunt level up to a White House that rejected global treaties and standards of conflict that respected the value of human life.
Jess Cunningham deserves the gratitude of the portion of this nation that stands for justice and honor. The remainder hate people like Cunningham for supporting justice over gang pride.