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Pardoning war criminals will hurt US troops deployed overseas. I know from experience

Editor’s Note: The following is an op-ed. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Task & Purpose.

My cell phone rang on a sweltering Baghdad summer night in 2006. My best friend and West Point classmate, Maj. Bill Taylor was on the other end.

“It’s bad,” he said. “We need to get these guys to an American military hospital, ASAP.”

“These guys” were captured suspected al-Qaeda insurgents, and Bill, one lone American soldier, was now the only thing standing between them and several hundred Iraqi soldiers bent on tearing them apart.

Bill and I were advisors to a newly-formed Iraqi Army unit that had been suddenly deployed to conduct security operations in the most violent neighborhoods in Baghdad. Our Iraqi partner unit was made up of mixed sects but, like the country, was mostly Shia. Together we patrolled two ethnically-cleansed neighborhoods, now in open warfare with each other: the Sunni enclave of Adamyia and infamous Shia-dominated Sadr City.

Once our Iraqi unit and its handful of American advisors deployed to Baghdad, we were tested daily. Snipers, IEDs and car bombs took a bloody toll on our partners. Soon, an attack would claim the life of a popular Shia sergeant in our partner Iraqi brigade.

On the night that Bill called me, three suspected Sunni insurgents were detained and brought to the camp we shared with our Iraqi partners. Iraqi officers followed all the appropriate procedures, but once the suspected insurgents got on the base, a few dozen Shia soldiers mobbed them. The enraged soldiers beat the detainees to within inches of their lives until an Iraqi sergeant called for help from his American advisors.

Bill grabbed a hat, cell phone, and, wearing the pistol he always carried, ran towards the escalating situation with …read more

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