The Corner

Law & the Courts

How to Destroy the Morale of the Army Special Forces

On Sunday, a Special Forces board at Fort Bragg tossed out the accusation that a Green Beret had shot an unarmed Afghan bomb maker in 2010. The board declared that accusation to be unsubstantiated, but it found him guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer. Major Matt Golsteyn will be dismissed from the Army with a general discharge.

For four years, the Army has pursued a vendetta against Golsteyn. The alleged incident occurred while I was embedded with his team and two Marines under his command were blown to bits. Golsteyn performed superbly under fire to protect his men. In a CIA polygraph, he allegedly said he killed the bomb maker.

The CIA gave a written summary of the poly to the Army but refused to hand over the video of the actual poly. So the Army never knew the context of the discussion. The Army then stripped Golsteyn of his command, his medals for valor, and his Special Forces tabs. He was ordered to stay at Fort Bragg for four years, while Army investigators in Afghanistan and in the States interviewed dozens and looked for evidence. Finding no one or no thing to substantiate the allegation, a board was convened to throw Golsteyn out of the Army. The board initially refused to accept the summary of the poly, because a poly is inadmissible in court due to its notorious unreliability. The Army then ruled that the board had to accept the summary as evidence. 

Doing its political bidding, the Army board found Golsteyn guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer, but innocent of the action that was unbecoming. Yes, you read that correctly. We cannot prove the allegation, but let’s throw him out anyway.

Imagine the effect upon the morale of all Green Berets who go into combat in small teams under the most stressful conditions. Why should any team fight fanatics who do not wear uniforms, if the United States Army lies in wait to prosecute allegations that are not substantiated? Puritan legalism corrodes martial spirit. 

 

Bing West, a bestselling author and former assistant secretary of defense, served as a Marine grunt in Vietnam and later as a dean at the Naval War College.

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