Addressing the controversy over President Trump’s call to the family of a U.S. service member killed in Niger, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly gave a heartrending description of the process and rituals the armed services follow when notifying families of fallen soldiers.
It was a vivid reminder of the pain and sacrifice endured by these families that continues long after the death of their loved ones. As a nation, we owe these families not just our gratitude and support, but also honesty about how and why their service member was killed.
A movie released recently, “Thank You For Your Service,” provides another good example. It is a moving film showing these men cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Traumatic Brain Injuries and the guilt and shame and longing that have mixed with courage and sacrifice and heroism on every battlefield since the human epoch began.
The film, based on a book by David Finkel, is understated and beautifully acted. It tells the story of the real-life Sgt. Adam Schumann and his struggles to readjust to civilian life after returning home from Iraq. In life and in the film, Schumann is haunted by the death of James Doster, the soldier who took Schumann’s place on a patrol and was killed.
“Thank You For Your Service” is not about the war itself, but is instead a meditation on its aftermath and neither the book on which it is based nor the film adaption can be blamed for focusing on its central characters’ battles to adjust to civilian life stateside. Movies and books cannot always be comprehensive. Yet in telling this story, it is also important that Americans know the truth about the death of James Doster.
News accounts of Doster’s death say that he was killed in a “roadside bombing” by an “improvised explosive device.” One is left to presume that unspecified Iraqi insurgents were responsible for his death, but the roadside bomb that killed him — the one that still haunts Adam Schumann — was not likely “improvised” at all. Based on the location of the attack, it was probably an ‘explosively formed penetrator’ or EFP — designed and likely manufactured by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
These EFPs were sophisticated explosives that used a molten copper slug to devastate armored Humvees and were even capable of breaching the hulls of tanks. The Iranian military helped to develop and deliver these devices into the hands of Iraqi insurgents and even train them in their use.
According to intelligence assessments, at least 500 American military deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan were directly linked to Iran. In spite of this, Iran’s central role in targeting American service members in Iraq has been downplayed for years. At first, the fog of war obscured Iran’s complicity. Then the deteriorating security situation and an increasingly unpopular war necessitated that the surge of U.S. forces focus on Sunni extremists like Al Qaeda in Iraq, leaving Iran for another day. In the Obama years, Americans’ blood on Iranian hands became an obstacle to diplomacy and improved relations.
In short, there have always been reasons to look the other way, to ignore Iran’s responsibility for countless American deaths and injuries. Always, regardless of command, regardless of party, our government found strategic reasons to change the subject and do nothing about it.
The late California senator Hiram Johnson is often credited with the statement that “the first casualty, when war comes, is truth.” In Iraq, a multitude of casualties came first and the truth is still waiting.
The Global War on Terror. The Forever War. Whatever we choose to call it: it cannot be fought, let alone won, until we have the truth and the truth starts with a proper accounting of Iran’s central role in the suffering inflicted on our fellow Americans, what General Kelly aptly termed “that selfless devotion” that brought so many of our best men and women to die on dusty, garbage-strewn roads that became makeshift battlefields. We owe these service members and their families more than gratitude, we owe them that accounting.
Gary M. Osen litigates terrorist financing, state-sponsored terrorism and U.S. anti-terrorism law cases in federal courts. He served as lead trial counsel in the landmark Linde v. Arab Bank, Plc case, which resulted in the first, and still only, jury verdict against a financial institution under the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act. For Gary’s work on that matter, he was named one of Public Justice’s Trial Lawyers of the Year in 2016. Gary currently serves as co-lead counsel in five major terrorism-related cases pending in federal courts: Karcher v. Iran; Freeman v. HSBC Holdings Plc, et al.; Shaffer v. Deutsche Bank AG; Strauss v. Crédit Lyonnais, S.A. and Weiss v. National Westminster Bank Plc. The New York Times has recognized Gary as "an internationally consulted legal authority on terror financing." Businessweek has also noted that "Osen is doing what good lawyers do: capitalize on how jurisprudence evolves to fit the times." To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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