I much prefer this outcome to the judge chewing the guys out before letting them walk.
I’m gonna go ahead and say I’m okay with that. I’m even okay with him characterizing them as good people. I’m tired of this idea that there are good people and bad people.
Good people do horrible things. Thomas Jefferson is my favorite example of a “good person” who engaged in chattel slavery. Or take the flip side: Any number of criminals who are unarmed but killed by police. Are they good people? The more I consider this dynamic, the less I understand it as a coherent concept. I’m not saying that I want to buy these guys drinks and play video games with them, but I’m also not going to pretend that they are cartoon monsters.
Cynicism tells me these guys will be shuffled out the back door into new identities to continue their mercenary careers, but in the alternative it will be a smart prison guard who bets on these guys for their inmate fighting ring.
These clowns will win an appeal and eventually walk. Too bad they weren’t tried and convicted by a court where the crimes took place. It drives me nuts when that happens. Like the US Marine pilot whose hot-dogging snapped a gondola cable and killed 20 people in Italy. The American courts tried him here and sentenced him to 6 months in jail. He got out after 4 months.
Boys will be boys, those scamps. Always clowning around with automatic weapons in dense crowds of not really people…
If that qualifies as ‘overall’ good, I’d hate to see what sort of perps Lamberth’s moral compass is calculated against.
In topsy-turvy world, mercenaries are heroes. Especially on the ground where brown people live.
Any group known for forcing American soldiers off the road and even pointing weapons at them can hardly be seen as patriotic.
“You’re a good young boy, so, life in prison.”
“You said I was good!”
“Not that good. See ya.”
Are you kidding? These kids are throwaways. It’s true they committed atrocities, but they were also little parts of one big atrocity, and the ones who perpetrate those don’t get life - they get a statue.
None of the good people I know murdered 14 innocent people. Would you tell the grieving relatives of the victims, “No, really, they’re good people.”
Perhaps the judge just bungled a Chesterton quote:
“The word "good" has many meanings. For example, if a man were to shoot his grandmother at a range of five hundred yards, I should call him a good shot, but not necessarily a good man.” ― G.K. Chesterton
“How can you shoot women and children?”
“Its easy, you just don’t lead them as much…”
The phrase “Too Big to Fail” comes to mind.
Or paraphrasing, “Too famous/rich/powerful to Prosecute.”
The question is what environment they were/are in. Good people can do pretty bad things when the conditions are wrong. And then become good people again when the conditions normalize. See the My Lai incident as one of many many examples.
We have to be aware of this and not rely on good people not doing bad things in bad conditions - that’s a direction where disappointment lies.
I’m just going to assume you’re talking about Thompson and his crew or Bernhardt at My Lai, rather than Calley and friends. Otherwise your argument is horrific.
Followed by, “They’re going to jail till they’re old or dead” kind of puts things in perspective though. I don’t have any sympathy for them, but at the end of the day, you have square what they did against the fact that they’re still human beings. The vast majority of your actions have no moral character. By the time you die, am I supposed to add things up to decide whether the balance of your actions are good or evil? I gave that idea up along with religion. I also dumped the idea of retributive vengeance along with it.
It’s simply unimportant whether they are arbitrarily good or arbitrarily bad. It’s important that people know going forward that you cannot kill people with impunity. It’s important that the justice system recognize the humanity of the victims. It’s important that these people cannot be permitted to harm others in the future. The victims’ suffering didn’t start with the judge saying, “Eh, I think they’re good kids gone wrong.” It hasn’t ended either. Hell, I’m sure some of them won’t feel justice is done until someone gets the gas chamber. I don’t blame them for feeling that for a second. But I apply the same standard to Blackwater contractors as I do to the eighteen to twenty year olds who join ISIS and behead people: They are products of their environments, societies and upbringing.
I’m not going to sit here and be satisfied with, “They’re just bad people.” We’re all just waiting to become bad people. Some death penalty opponents are a murder-in-the-family away from wanting to kill. Some entitled teenagers are one quantum of empathy (whatever that is) away from becoming rapists. If there’s one idea I didn’t dump with religion it’s, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Except I don’t apply it to the circumstantially less-fortunate, just the morally less-fortunate. I don’t take my morality for granted, and my point was that no one should.
The weird thing is they’re not going to jail for such a long time because of the actual killing – the judge sentenced them to a token single day in jail for the actual manslaughter convictions.
Instead, the long sentences are due to their violation of a 1980s-era law designed to discourage possession of fully automatic weapons by drug dealers in the United States.
But as the Blackwater employees noted in their defense, they possessed the machine guns in Iraq with the knowledge of and at the behest of the agency they were contracting with, the US State Department.
This also will let them off the hook if the weapons charges are thrown out on appeal, which seems likely. Those charges were controversial even within the Justice Department according to the NYT.
I am talking primarily about Calley. There is a piece of hell in every one of us; those unlucky enough will find themselves in situations when it gets out. We all have our thresholds, and the jungle and everyday VC threats and the inability to know who is a friend and who is an enemy will wear you down sooner or later.
And I am aware my argument is horrific. The history is littered with such examples so densely, though, that I am afraid my argument is also true.
In a different situation, Calley would spend his life working as some clerk, have a moderately happy family in an average suburb, and he’d never get notable enough for a wikipedia entry.