You know something is horribly amiss when a Green Beret in the U.S. military is forced out of service to his country because he pushed a child rapist to the ground after confronting him in Afghanistan. But that is precisely what has happened, now that the Army has rejected the soldier’s appeal.

The men and women serving our country in the military deserve our empathy, not this sort of egregious slap in the face. The Department of Defense is increasingly rife with political correctness, causing unmanageable ambiguity. 

Is child rape now just something that only Americans “think” is wrong? If acts that evil are morally up for grabs, how do we even identify who America’s enemies are?

Moral absolutes are not recognized at even the highest levels— even when it comes to child rape—or they are simply ignored altogether. This is dangerous and unfair, particularly for our special operators at the tip of the spear.

Sergeant First Class Charles Martland is a Green Beret who has served his country honorably for 11 years. True to his training and true to Green Beret ideals, he is a warrior who means just what he says. In 2011, Martland and his team leader confronted an Afghan local police commander accused of chaining a little boy to a bed, raping him repeatedly for days on end, and then beating his mother after she reported the abuse to authorities.

When the man laughed it off, Martland and his team leader, Capt. Dan Quinn, slammed him to the ground and then threw him out of the camp “to make sure that he fully understood that if he ever went near that boy or his mother again, there was going to be hell to pay,” Quinn said. For that response, Martland received a markdown in his performance evaluation, which led to involuntary separation. Quinn has already left the military.

Many appropriate responses are available to the command in a situation like this, but a bad performance evaluation is not one of them. In fact, after verbal counseling, Martland should have received a handshake for confronting heinous evil and doing something about it. Yes, he is under authority and must act accordingly, but he is also a soldier with a crystal-clear sense of right and wrong who is trained to fight for the oppressed.

Every culture is different and should be afforded respect, but we are in a very bad place if we can’t recognize that some acts are just wrong across all cultures. Fundamental freedoms, such as life and liberty, come not from government but from our Creator. Regardless of time, culture, or context, it is wrong to chain a little boy to a bed and to rape him repeatedly. It deserves a response, and most Americans would likely cheer a soldier who recognizes “a moral obligation to act,” which is what Martland says he faced.

“You cannot try to impose American values and American norms onto the Afghan culture because they’re completely different…. We do not have any power or the ability to use our hands to compel them to be what we see as morally better,” said Col. Steve Johnson, a previous commander of Martland who was in Afghanistan at the time of the incident.

More chilling words could hardly be spoken. Is child rape now just something that only Americans “think” is wrong? If acts that evil are morally up for grabs, how do we even identify who America’s enemies are?

It’s one thing to refrain from imposing every American value on another culture; it is quite another to abdicate our responsibility to respond to clear evil.

Martland can still appeal to the Army Board for Correction of Military Records, and some are urging Congress to get involved to correct this misguided and unforgiveable attack on a true American hero. The military should right this wrong quickly, not only to exonerate Martland, but to reclaim its moral compass.

 

Daniel Briggs is legal counsel and director of military affairs for Alliance Defending Freedom and served as an Air Force JAG officer in the U.S., Turkey, and Afghanistan.