November 16, 2009

Sergeant's Letter From Prison

Posted: 01:28 PM ET

By Scott Zamost
Senior Investigative Producer

For months, we wanted to hear from John Hatley.

John Hatley, Former First Sergeant
John Hatley, Former First Sergeant

He's the former first sergeant who had the idea to take four Iraqi detainees to a Baghdad canal and, along with two other sergeants, kill them.

SIU Correspondent Abbie Boudreau and I traveled to Germany over the summer where we interviewed Hatley's wife, Kim, and his attorney David Court. We told them it was important to hear from Hatley since he never testified during his court martial. Our only request: He should tell us what he wants the public to know.

Hatley is now serving a 40-year prison sentence at Fort Leavenworth after being convicted of premeditated murder and conspiracy to commit premeditated murder. After numerous requests, one day in September, a two-page single-spaced typed letter arrived in the mail at CNN.

Hatley began, "I've been contacted numerous times through third party sources that you have requested a statement from me. Obviously, I'm sure you understand my apprehensiveness in making a statement to the media, but there are some issues I would like to take this opportunity to address."

He wrote of the "frustration" with the Army detainee policy that allowed the enemy to be released two or three days later because there was not enough evidence to hold them. "An additional insult is that the units that capture these individuals are the same ones responsible to pick them up and release them. We've repeatedly found ourselves fighting the same enemy again and again."

He writes that the detainee rules have "extensive flaws" that the enemy "consistently exploits these to facilitate their release."

While he does not specifically address what happened, he does state: "I assure you the military spared no expense in the prosecution of my soldiers and me. If they would have spent half the time, effort and money in prosecuting the enemy as they had in prosecuting us, I assure you we would have never found ourselves in our current situation."

Finally, he says he loves and prays for soldiers oversees and wishes them a safe return. He writes: "Also, don't worry about us, we'll be fine. As they'll understand, this is probably the safest place we've been in the last 10 years."

Filed under: Special Investigations Unit

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Merc   November 17th, 2009 11:27 am ET

This whole situation reflects the difficulty of fighting against an enemy in war, then trying to deal with them legally under a civilian – not military – judicial system. Just wait until the 9/11 trials...

Bulloch   November 17th, 2009 2:01 pm ET

You ask for a volunteer Army to put themselves in harm's way, then tell them their word is not evidence? Blame the government that started the war, not the men and women sent to fight it!

johnson   November 17th, 2009 4:11 pm ET

Everything is being said about the so-called "killings"....but yet nothing has surfaced about absolutely NO EVIDENCE was found....I have seen part of the "clip" above of the interrogation. I am ashamed at how our military is treating our heros! In the way the interrorgator is asking questions; it is more like leading a very tired soldier (hero) to say what he wants to hear....after 8-10 hours of questioning...of course....I just hope that CNN will do the right thing and stand up for these heros and hopefully be a key force in their release and full pardon!

lupino   November 17th, 2009 11:14 pm ET


specter   November 18th, 2009 7:10 am ET

Free those soldiers!

specter   November 18th, 2009 7:15 am ET

I blame bush and all his buddies. They should be on trial not these soldiers.

Alim   November 18th, 2009 8:27 am ET

I understand perfectly what these men did. If I were there, I probably would have done the same thing that they did. But they broke the rules and in the Army, they will punish what they see as wrong doing even if they secretly agree with it.

cooper   November 18th, 2009 8:32 am ET

War is hell, nothing is black and white. These heroes bear the sights, sounds and smells of horrors we civilized people can never imagine. That is the burden we ask our soldiers to bear when they are sent away.

Bring these men home with honor, they performed honorably in an impossible situation. That is why they call it war!

jb   November 18th, 2009 9:14 am ET

Lawyers are Lawerys even in the military. Unfortunately they get more caught up in judicial system than the human aspect of the situation.

Let these poor guys go, they have to live with their conscience. That is punishment enough.

P. Stokes   November 18th, 2009 10:08 am ET

Even if these US soldiers shot the Iraqi men as claimed, why would they be charged with murder? Are we not at war? They didn't shoot unarmed men – they took their weapons away from them before they could use them, then shot them. That's what war is! Are the people in Iraq who are killing our American Soldiers being tried and sent to prison for murder? I think not – they're being hailed as heros. We are the greatest nation in the world and we have gotten so damned 'politically correct' that we can't even fight a war. If we don't change our ways and start protecting ourselves and let our soldiers fight the fight they have volunteered for, our country will be just as violent, unsafe and war torn as Iraq and Afghanistan. Our citizens will be just as afraid in their own homes as the citizens of those countrys. That's not what I wish for my kids or grandkids – how about you?

LDM   November 18th, 2009 10:14 am ET

Same old stuff; just a different day. Military hands tied because of the touchy feely be kind to others and eat your own USA politicans.

becknrobc12   November 18th, 2009 10:30 am ET are crazy.
These soldiers admitted to killing these people. I understand frustration in the fact that we are detaining, releasing, capturing,etc...but does that authorized a soldier to become a cold-blooded murderer and take it into his own hands?
As a retired Navy servicemember I am appalled that this idiot uses the psychological babble that he's safer now and how the prosecution spared no expense in prosecuting hoo. Enjoy your jailtime. Lastly...have you ever been frustrated standing in a medical line or at the DMV...if you agree with this guy you now officially have the right to kill whoever is not moving fast enough to provide you service? Frustration does not ever give you the right to take matters into your own hands and take a life....ever.

John   November 18th, 2009 10:44 am ET

As a former airborne NCO and a person responsible for the actions of his squad, IF the evidence points to an actual execution by these military personnel, they have violated the trust of American people, not to mention have broken all rules governing warfare. Duty, honor and sacrifice does not include murder. These are the examples that have tainted both the Bush administration and our military in Iraq and Afghanistan. While we villify the actions of terrorists, we seem so quick too heap "heroism" on every person who puts on a uniform. Human nature dictates that there is good and bad in every person, and these guys were guilty of doing something just as heinous as the "bad guys". Either we uphold "our moral high ground" by the humane actions of a civilized society, or we simply reflect the same horrors that we say we abhor.

Louis A. Morales   November 18th, 2009 10:56 am ET

Who is truly guilty of these and other murders? Let the finger point to where it needs to be pointed and leave these volunteer soldiers alone.

Jerry   November 18th, 2009 11:06 am ET

Former ISG Hatley is right one what he said here. He was attached to my unit at the time this happen. If these detainees would have been put away for doing the crimes they did the first time it would not have come to this. ISG Hatley was a great leader. He was a man i looked up to everyday and still do. He was wise and he never asked us to do anything that he wouldnt do himself. I am ver sorry that 1SG Hatley and these other men are where they are now. Its a great lost to the Army and the young soldiers that might have been under him in the future. I am currently on my 3rd tour in Iraq and i never stood beside a man like 1SG Hatley again. I would like to thank him in the wise mentorship he has given me. I give my sympothy to there families

Buffalo_GI   November 18th, 2009 12:25 pm ET

Hatley's statement disgraces the uniform and his service to our nation. Perhaps, if he spent half the time capturing the insurgents and collecting the evidence according to procedure that he spent writing his response to the press, he wouldn't be in prison. He pretty much states that the prosecution and Army were the enemy in his court-martial. Isn't that ironic–you break the rules and you become the enemy–that's the same reason we're fighting insurgents. Hatley's own actions, and those of his fellow convicted, turned him into an insurgent. His actions probably enlisted dozens of new recruits in that village who now feel they have reason to join in the fight against America, and shoot at soldiers. After all, if this is an example of an American hero, why would you trust Americans to protect you–carry your gun and protect yourself...from them. Sound about right?

durangodave   November 18th, 2009 2:31 pm ET

Just passing this along, since no one else appears to have made this connection yet. Via John Cole at

"CNN’s current series Killing at the Canals, which focuses on the investigation and conviction of the Army NCOs who murdered detainees execution style and dumped their bodies into canals, is about the First Sergeant who commanded Scott Beauchamp. His name is First Sergeant John Hatley ... "

Beauchamp was savaged by the conservative media when his book, "Shock Troops" came out describing this. As far as I know, no one has bothered to correct the initial reporting.

Bill Downing   November 18th, 2009 3:51 pm ET

Our commander in chief led us to war along with v.p.cheney,however v.p. had 6 or 7 deferments and other priorities,commander said he did not want to blow out his ear drum with a shotgun and preferred not to go to Canada during our generations war and thus begins the story of our leadership for two wars.All we heard for years was that our troops volunteer for duty and I wonder what kind of country we have that allows troops to serve 5 or possibly more deployments.They fight an enemy that does not wear a uniform, speaks a different language,different culture and religion and add to all this the fact you cannot engage the enemy until they shoot you.The term,"fog of war" and bad leadership go hand in hand.Our combat sergeants,like all boots on the ground do their job and this is how we show our appreciation.Generals get promoted and our Life's blood goes to prison or beyond.No matter "which end of the stick"a person serves,the same standard should apply.My heart is always with the combat soldiers on the crap "end of the stick"!

randy   November 18th, 2009 8:18 pm ET

all ready did..
freedom for these soilders

kim malloy   November 18th, 2009 10:29 pm ET

I would have like Robert S McNamara to stand up in front of ALL Americans and admit that what he and his cronies did was wrong. To ask forgiveness from the brave,honorable troops that he massacered in Nam. IT is the same crap, different day that is still going on that has gone on for every conflict/war since Korea. Wake up citizens and quit allowing the Higher-Ups to continue this madness. Enough already. More than one tour in the same theatre is WRONG. I applaud every single G.I that has "COME HOME" to an angy reception. HUG a VET and tell him or her WELCOME HOM" & THANK-YOU" for your sacrifice. It is a sacrifice and the P.T.S.D passes down to their families.
The cronies need to be accountable for their poor decisions. War is hell.

kim malloy   November 18th, 2009 10:36 pm ET

This is a poem from a book called "The Living and the Dead". When the war is over, we will be proud of course the air will be Good for breathing at last. The water will have been improved the salmon. And the silence of heaven will migrate more perfectly. The Dead will think the living are worth it we will know who we are, and we will all enlist again. -W.S. Merwin

anne   November 18th, 2009 11:05 pm ET

These soldiers need to be released and returned home to their families.
President Obama needs to pardon them. This is very, very wrong, these men were affected by war, likely not in a logical mind at the time.
I do not think that the Iraquis would "catch and release " prisoners, nor should we.

cassandra   November 18th, 2009 11:06 pm ET

Those soldiers broke the law. Those men are no heroes, they are cowardly killers. Too bad that they will get out one day. As the wife of a ret. four star general (who served his country honorably), I detest people like the 1st Sgt. He was a bad leader; if he had asked his men to kill people they had detained. There seems to be no proof that the men they had detained, were the ones who had shot at them. What about those men? What about their families???? The 1stSgt shot and killed a wounded man. Hero????? He is a disgrace to the Military. Makes me wonder how many women and children he killed to satisfy his hatred of the people of Iraq. Calling those murderers heroes shows the ignorance of the ones who think that killing disarmed people is acceptable. Too bad that their sentence was reduced and they will walk among us one day. Hopefully they will move next to the people who think that they are heroes.

anne   November 18th, 2009 11:20 pm ET

Free these men, they were affected by war and terror. President Obama needs to pardon them and return them home, with counselling.
Anyone who fights in Iraq needs to be cut some slack!

capt.rc   November 19th, 2009 9:42 am ET

As a vet, vietnam, i cannot endorse what they did, however, these are wars facing an invisable enemy. You end up suspecting every local and always watching your back They were exposed to the horrow offseeing their buddies killed and maimed. These are soldiers subjected to numerous tours under horrid conditions which tends to affect your judgement. They do not deserve to spend the better part of their llves behind bars....Reduce the sentance and let they join their families where they are needed!

AJDNMOM   November 19th, 2009 9:45 am ET

When will people realize that in war you kill the enemy. Soldiers put
there lives on the line. These soldiers should be released. War is killing. People need to start thinking about what freedom costs. I have a Marine nephew. Have had many family members in war. The ones that protest and say that we should prosecute the soldiers need to read the definition of war. Thanks to all the men and women in the armed forces that put their lives on the line everyday to protect our freedom. To the ones that protest the killing – You need to leave this country and go live where freedom doesnt exist and see what happens to you there

At Bagram now!   November 19th, 2009 11:42 am ET

There has to be a way these men can appeal...this is war or they were at war....even if they did it there was cause. The problem is good men and women are dyeing right now because of poor policy and cowtailing to the ACLU. Do you know what would happen if the Taliban captured one of our men or woman? Do you know what would happen if Al Quida captured one of our soldiers? Do you know that because of political sensitivities we allow captured Taliban to visit their families and quite frequently they are released only to kill our soldiers again? Let me know where I can donate money to help in their hopefully soon successful appeal! God bless you guys we are here and we will not forget you!

....   November 19th, 2009 12:59 pm ET

cassandra you hit it 100% on the nose...your comment is the truth...

john   November 19th, 2009 1:14 pm ET


DH   November 19th, 2009 6:59 pm ET

These guys are a joke and deserve to be in prison for decades. What they did was simple – they executed prisoners of war. A 5 year old knows that is wrong. And if you are going to do it, don't do it in front of a dozen witnesses. They had it coming.

Sirilda J   November 19th, 2009 7:24 pm ET

I served and retired from the US Army and served my country faithfully and with honor. I also served in Desert Storm, so I do have some first hand knowledge of the pressures of war and know that you are putting your lives on the line everyday. For the thousands of soldiers who have not relented to such muderous, vicious and cruel behavior, I commend you for serving your country under extreme pressure and duress with dignity and valor.

But for soldiers like Sgt Hattley and others who they that they are justified in their thinking and believe that they can do what they want and when they want no matter the cost. You are no different or better than the villians and murderers that kill, maim and destroy lives and don't care who they hurt in the process. I have not once heard Sgt Hatley apologize or show any remorse for his actions and to me that is a major indication of the type of person he is and possibly why he participated in these killings.

There is a price and cost of war and because you are angry or don't like the system; doesn't mean that you can act upon your beliefs and don't think that you won't have to pay the ultimate prices for it, in this case you have forfeited the right to enjoy the rest of your lives. If every solder did what they did, then we wouldn't have any need for a military, or police, we could just all become vigilantes and kill anyone we want. If they didn't like the program, find another way to say how you feel or get the h___ out of the military. I think that when we become judge, jury and executioners than we bring not only shame and dishonor to our country, and the military but to ourselves and making the decision to kill people without due process of law. It is quite possible that these men were innocent, but we will never know will we, because they aren't around to speak for themselves, looks like they spoke for them by silencing them forever?

Although, I do understand what it is like to be in Iraq and I do know what it is like to be under the constant daily pressure of being shot at, bombed and facing the possibility of death everyday. These soldiers swore under oath to obey the constitution of the United States and those laws of the military, to serve honorably with valor and integrity. Although, I consider them courageous in their willingness to serve their country, they actions were anything but courageous. If they felt they were justified in their actions, then why did they try to hide it and cover it up?

Their behavior was cowardly and unbecoming of a soldiers and leaders. They failed as leaders to the soldiers who looked up to them, the military and their country. Lastly, I wonder if they would not have gotten caught, would they have taken this to the grave? I honestly felt that they thought they were going to get away with it and only thought of themselves. Everybody says that they didn't fail their country and they should be heroes. But in hindsight, they failed the military, their command, their units, their soldiers and their families and only thought of themselves.

I really wish I could have pity on them, but I can't. I do feel sorry for them and will pray for them. But in the end, it is their families who have been hurt because of their actions and to me that is the saddest part, because they went to make our country safe from our enemies, so that their families would be safe and in the long run, they hurt their families.

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supportingourtroops   November 19th, 2009 7:32 pm ET

After reading over these comments it has come to my attention that the ones who are condemning these America heroes have never served in the military and are the true cowards. Cassandra I doubt if you were every married and surely not to a four star general because if you were he would have served in Korea and Vietnam and would have stop you from making these outrages statement. Look no one likes war and every avenue should be consider and taken before we go to war but once we have started down that road then it should be left up to the military commanders and not the public as to how we should proceed in fighting and winning the war. Everyone wants to give their two cents but no one wants to milk the cow. Some of you people remind me of the kid who use to get beat up in school and now just looking for a way to express yourself at or one another dime. If you don’t like what war brings then find a rock and go and hide under it, or better yet show your protest by moving to the country we are at war with and leave these and all of the brave men and women alone who fight so that you have the right to be free, please remember you can leave any time you like. You people do not know what it takes to keep us safe and living the America dream and this is coming from a black man yes, I know America is not perfect by a long shot we are still dealing with the haves and the have not’s black and white issues but try spending 2 months in another country and you will not what to every leave America again. Please support these and all of the military personnel that protect you freedom they/we deserve your support and if you find you can’t support us then just leave us along and move to another country I can bet you that in the near future that new country you are in will be begging for our military support. If CNN really want to do a story about people being treated wrong and unjust maybe they should look into the pay of the military and why military personnel have to go on welfare and accept government hand outs just to care for their family. You are asking for the truth well you know what “You can’t handle the truth”

ernie   November 19th, 2009 8:16 pm ET

Who can judge these men? No one. How many times did they have to fight the same enemy soldiers because of a stupid command directive? What did this do to them mentally? Are there more incidents like this going on? I'm sure there is. I understand the criticism and the outrage that most civileans feel; but, unless one really trys to understand what they went through, which is impossible unless you were in their combat boots, who can judge these men?

John   November 19th, 2009 8:58 pm ET

As a Vietnam Veteran I understand the frustration levels these soldiers encountered on a day to day basis. Heroes? Hell no. Survivors? Hell yes. Wrong? Yes. Unfortunate? Yes. Murderers? NO. These men acted inappropriately in an inappropriate manner. Until you spend night after night wondering whether than next bullet is destined for you, don't judge my reactions. Judge my character. Sure. Judge my penalty. Sure. But don't you dare judge my frustration with the whole situation when the individuals themselves who put me in harms way to begin with can not even judge the necessity for this war.
I remember vehemently stating that no child of mine would ever be put in that situation. I declared I would personally take them to Canada to flee the draft. Yes, I was drafted. But the harms way was no different than the soldier next to me who enlisted on their own.
Now I find myself the father of a soldier who willingly enlisted on HER
own. Yes, my daughter enlisted. I don't know why she enlisted but I have a strong feeling that it may be because of my introvertedness concerning my experiences in Vietnam that played a role. You see, she is an Army pyschologist who deals with the feelings of soldiers coming and going to Afghanistan and Iraq. She is one of the most caring, understanding, non-judgmental individuals I have ever known. I am truly proud of her and the work she is doing in the Army to assist soldier with PTSD. I don't know whether I ever had PTSD or was just too dumb to realize. I do know that I tend NOT to label situations nor individuals. I think my daughter has inherited this trait. It can be good or it can be bad. Good for the soldier denying their feelings but bad for those around that soldier. Thank you to my daughter for helping a new generation of soldiers try to cope and understand their actions. Forty years after my return from Nam and I still don't know why the hell we as a Nation was there. I do now, however, understand why I as an individual was there. It was because Uncle Sam made me an offer I could not refuse. Nothing more, nothing less. I do know, however that I am extemely proud of my country and my service but I am even more proud of the difference my daughter is trying to make to a new generation of "mixed up soles." Thank you Captain Browne. I love you and am extremely proud of you.


jeanine   November 20th, 2009 12:18 am ET

Amazing how these soldiers are fighting, leaving their families behind, and risking their lives for their country, yet their country won't watch out for them!

Veteran   November 20th, 2009 2:55 am ET

As a former airborne NCO and a person responsible for the actions of his squad, IF the evidence points to an actual execution by these military personnel, they have violated the trust of American people, not to mention have broken all rules governing warfare. Duty, honor and sacrifice does not include murder. These are the examples that have tainted both the Bush administration and our military in Iraq and Afghanistan. While we villify the actions of terrorists, we seem so quick too heap "heroism" on every person who puts on a uniform. Human nature dictates that there is good and bad in every person, and these guys were guilty of doing something just as heinous as the "bad guys". Either we uphold "our moral high ground" by the humane actions of a civilized society, or we simply reflect the same horrors that we say we abhor.


I like how this country and you pick and choose when you uphold your moral high ground. What about when Boosh and Cheney approve water boarding and undo our moral high ground for the last 50 years??
What about when they used false information to get us into Iraq in the first place?
Yeah, moral high ground. We're about moral even ground right now at best. And President Obama is not helping to secure the high ground with his look to the future and forget the war crimes of the past tactics.

Veteran   November 20th, 2009 3:03 am ET

Those soldiers broke the law. Those men are no heroes, they are cowardly killers. Too bad that they will get out one day. As the wife of a ret. four star general (who served his country honorably), I detest people like the 1st Sgt. He was a bad leader; if he had asked his men to kill people they had detained. There seems to be no proof that the men they had detained, were the ones who had shot at them. What about those men? What about their families???? The 1stSgt shot and killed a wounded man. Hero????? He is a disgrace to the Military. Makes me wonder how many women and children he killed to satisfy his hatred of the people of Iraq. Calling those murderers heroes shows the ignorance of the ones who think that killing disarmed people is acceptable. Too bad that their sentence was reduced and they will walk among us one day. Hopefully they will move next to the people who think that they are heroes.

Hey lady,
the war your 4 star general sees(REMF) and the war we see (including this 1SG) is 2 totally different things.

ever listen to generation kill? i bet you would have locked up those devil dogs too.

get your head out your a**. they absolutly know about the men. they caught them over and over, took them in, didnt have enough evidence ever b/c of the flawed system, and had to drop them off at their next ied point. repeat.

you know what.... just b/c your a damn dependent doesnt mean jack... you have no clue.. your probably parroting your husbands opinion anyway so go watch the view and leave war to the soldiers

A. Smith, Oregon   November 20th, 2009 2:28 pm ET

The Bush jr. administration and the Bush jr. Iraqi State Department should be walked to the plank for the American Public to see.

They absolutely worked with the Iraqi Government in passing this very unjust Iraqi Law which forced 3 highly decorated Sgt's to come up with clear and specific evidence of guilt against those suspected enemy combatants or release them in three days.

Bush-Cheney should be dragged onto the carpet about bringing these men to where they are today in Fort Leavenworth Prison.

What was Bush-Cheney thinking when they worked with the Iraqi Government to pass this law?

kim malloy   November 20th, 2009 10:22 pm ET

I agree that Bush and his "wanna-be" V.P. should be tried for war crimes. He is a liar and a disgrace to the American people. he took away our first admendment. "Freedom of Speech". He stole from generations of families for sending our men and women into he theatres they are in now. Serving 2,3,and even 4 tours. All because he didn't like the guy who said he wanted to "take his daddy OUT". Why did he get away with it? Because he was just a puppet for someone elses agenda. He should be held accountable for being that "PUPPET". He is evil.

Tony   November 21st, 2009 3:57 pm ET

We need to get out of this war. Unless we're fighting this war with the correct strategy, we'll lose. The lessons of Viet Nam obviously wasn't taken into consideration when this war started. Did we forget about the My-Lai incident from Viet Nam? These soldiers was frustrated by behind the desk policies that could get them killed by the same enemy they apprehended before. Each and everyone of us will ultimately be judge by our maker for our own action. If you know you'll be killed sooner or later by the same ones you captured before and now are releasing, what will you do? Do not be so fast to condemn these men as well as elevating them to hero status. Comment like the retired four stars General's wife who were so fast to condemn these men, give me a break. It's like you're eating a chicken and condemning the butcher as the killer. Those of you that elevated these men to hero status, do you really know what motivated them or what was their thought when they committed this act? As a nation, we need to have a clear objective here as where the war is going and how to most effectively deal with it and end it. We do not want Afghanistan to be the breeding ground for every Tom, Dick and Harry in the terrorist world, but this is a fight where we're fighting a bunch of cowardly ghosts. We should've declared war with Afghanistan using drummed up excuses like drug, terrorists or what not (we're good at this area), took over, applied martial law, install the people's leaders that's not corrupted and provides them with backbone until they're able to stand on their own-then get the heck out of their business. Probably put a couple bases there like what we did with Japan and Germany just so they don't forget whose blood were sheded to get them to where they are today. We did that with Japan and Germany and look at those countries now. Afghanistan will be another Viet Nam because we're never good at gorrila warfare and we will eventually come home licking our wounds again.

John Doe   November 21st, 2009 9:16 pm ET

Good bless those soldiers. Set them free. I have no words, why we're doing this with our Heroes, they volunteering to protect our country. I am proud US Soldier, and at the same situation i will do the same.

Semper Fi   November 22nd, 2009 7:18 am ET

"Hero" a word that gets thrown around carelessly these days–everyone who puts on a uniform is not a, "Hero." All maggots who go around using the word like it's nothing don't have heros anymore, hell, everyone's a hero, right? WRONG, look up the word you dolts. Does the name, Calley, mean anything to you people? was he a hero for what he did at My Lai? By your standard, yes, he was, simply because he was wearing the uniform. A hero is someone who is put in a trying situation not by choice but by circumstances and he/she does not run from the challenge to do what may cost them dearly. I don't call anyone of today's troops "hero" unless they deserve it. If ya'll want to look for a place to put the blame for Iraq, put it right where it belongs: Bush and Cheney, they committed the gravest sin of all: using our military for purpose other than defense of our great nation, they have the blood of all those fine young HEROS who won't get to go home, ever, on their cowardly and lying hands.

kill or be killed   November 22nd, 2009 3:25 pm ET

We are in a time of WAR people!!! These so called murders are just a reflection of how American people have become so P.C. and not calling it how you see it. For example they had to let insurgents go for lack of evidence or saying that the weapons found were in the next room and not the room where they found the insurgents. Yet they didnt find any bodies at the canal and still got a conviction. Just goes to show where our countries loyalties lay. Do you think the enemy cares how Americans die? Do you think they hold court or let Americans go for lack of evidence? Let me answer that for you "NO" they don’t. To the enemy a dead American is a good American. They don’t care if your a man, woman, or child! Further more they don’t care how you kill an American or in what fashion or how brutal or torturous. So I will leave you with this saying. "Kill them all and let God sort'em out"

DAB   November 22nd, 2009 11:52 pm ET

We all realize the difficulty of war conditions especially when you must watch fellow soldiers lose their lives daily. The responsibility of leaders to correctly influence their subordinates, even in a war zone, cannot be undermined. We have become the enemy. There is a difference between making a split decisions when bullets are flying and the enemy is in pursuit ...weapons in hand. Making the decision to become the "judge and jury" for fear of what you THINK may happen is inexcusable. It comes from a place of anger, hurt and maybe even rage. These feelings are understandable... the decisions that follow these feelings are not. These men are not heroes, they comitted murder. They are no different than the gangs on the street (who also share a brotherhood, by the way) and often take matters into their own hands. The rules of evidence should apply because we are the United States of America. The decision made by these soldiers was selfish and affects not only their service brach but he entire military and this country. The hero is the individual who made the moral and ethical decision to come forward and tell what happen. The fact that he has to be concerned...or live in "fear" about what might happen to him because he broke the silence of the "brotherhood" is just additional proof of the moral decay of our society and is a slap inthe face of those who wear the uniform and choose to do the "right" thing. May God have mercy on us...

mad medic   November 23rd, 2009 12:26 pm ET

becknrobc12, are you out of your mind. Your a Navy vet well thank you for serving your country. Maybe I am the one with the confusion. But I can tell you first hand that what you say is by far the reason we are in the position we are in right now with the current, missions in Irad/Afganistan. You seved in the navy far from the frontlines I am sure, I have served five combat deployments with both special operations units and conventional units. We are fighting the same damn scumbags with whom we put are ass on the line every day dodging IED's and ambushes, most of which are carried out by the very same insurgents we detained only weeks earlier. In this country if a police officer witnesses someone being shot in cold blood in front of them after they are arrested are they then released a few days later because the police oficers witness to this shooting was not good enought evidence to keep the shooter in prison. Try that one on!

Being in the Navy while admirable, it is in fact a long way from foot patrols on the streets in say fallujah, or ramadi . Don't pretend to know what was at the time going thru the minds of these soldiers, if you have not been in that position you will never be able either sympathize or understand. So when it comes to the boots on the ground thats why we have fine soldiers like this, like the old saying in the Army, if you need some trucks and tanks delivered to the battlefield call the Navy. If you need to win a war on the ground leave in to the soldiers.

Korey   November 25th, 2009 2:02 pm ET

They are trained to be soldiers. I think what is going on here is wrong it's not like we haven't had bad laws before, maybe the military needs to turn it's sights from the soldiers to the enemy

A PISSED OFF CITIZEN   November 25th, 2009 2:58 pm ET



audrey   November 25th, 2009 4:42 pm ET

In the book Rights From Wrongs by Alan Dershowitz on page 40 it states, "Justice Robert Jackson observed, 'The most odious of all oppressions are those that mask as justice'"

Let's all send cards of support to these men and their families.

Pardon them.

Sandy   November 25th, 2009 4:44 pm ET

Sitting here reading all the comments has made me realize I need to write my feelings about these soldiers unjust imprisoned for killing 4 terrorists who had been detained many time and released every time to go out and kill more of our soldiers and those of other countries. It's a war unlike any others excepting Viet Nam which was also a huge mistake. Bush and his administration are responsible for this horrible war and are to blame for getting us in there in the first place. We had no business attacking another country unprovoked and it was unprovoked! If he had to have war, then find the evidence first that will prove Saddam had WMD. I'm ashamed of our intelligence operations in our country iF this is the best they can do. I sick and tired of Politically correct – say it like it is. Coverup coverup coverup! CORRUPT, CORRUPT, CORRUPT!! /Sorry, it bears repeating.

What has happened to the greatest country in the world? Does anyone not think of the fact that our enemies are no longer afraid of us, along with that they have no respect for us. Politically correct is ruining this country. These soldiers were willing to give their lives to there country for a war that was not needed not desired by most Americans. I'm a 70 year old female and I grew up in after World War II, which my father served in aboard a Navy carrier, his brother died at the Battle of the Bulge and not enough of him was ever found to bury. But they served in a war that was eliminating an evil man bent on killing all Jews and any one else he didn't favor. Another brother also serve there in France and he did survive.

These three soldiers were in an impossible situation as are all the soldiers in Iraq and Afganistan. Why are our young soldiers over there dying for countries that have fought each other and themselves for centuries? Killing is all they seem to know. One of the Sgts. was on his third tour over there, that should not be happening! No one should have to serve three times in a losing situation. Even if we all do not call them heroes for killing the 4 Iraqis, we can all call them heros for being there and trying to do an impossible job with impossible regulations. No one knows the things that may have happened in the first and second World Wars, we didn't have media coverage like we have today. Nam and these wars are different in many respects. More horrible in some respects. War is hell we all know that. But to sentence them to 20 and 40 years in prison from killing the enemy in a war zone is wrong. How many rapists, murderers, child pediphiles are roaming the streets of our country because they aren't in prison where they should be for the rest of their lives. Excuse me, these soldiers did not commit a crime larger than molesting,raping, murdering a five year old girl. But they are paying the price of a crime like that. Let's wake up here before it is too late. Give these soldiers a break. OK others are over there fighting and whose to say when someone else will reach are breaking point and do something they will regret, and of course they regret the manor in which they did this, but it is war, kill or be killed. The Iraq Terrorists had already shot at them that day.

And if we3 re going to imprison 3 of our top sgt. over there for 20-40 years for what they did. Just what are we going to do to the army Major who was born here, grew up an American, whose religious beliefs are Muslim, who just premedicated for months the murder of 13 courageous soldiers being prepared to go to Iraq? He is quilty of treason against his own country as well as the murder of 13 people including an unborn child. Yeah I hear it, well, the woman had know business being there in the first place! Excuse me, she had every right to be a soldier and be with her unit. What she shouldn't have had to face was a terrorist in her own country gunning down his own. No one would say it for a time, we have to be correct – he is a terrorist a muslim terrorist, not an immigrant, one of supposedly us. I don't care what religion one chooses to worship, but when the very words of the religion call for killing of American Christian citizens, regardless of who and where they are, then I care. I'm sorry, I don't care that he is parallized from the waist down, he should be dead or sitting in front of a firing squad. Justice. Not political correctness. I pray God someone who has some clout reads this because I, as an American citizen am outraged at the way our country is going and has been going. I have rights too as do all Christians. I may not be the most active nor the best one, but I believe in fairness, love, truth, justice.

These three young soldiers are in prison falsely. Yes, they killed terrorists. They and others are over there fighting for our right to say Merry Christmas and Christmas Tree. Say it like it is. No more Happy Holidays unless you say Merry Christmas first. Nothing wrong with the alternative seasonal greetings – but let us have Christmas. Put Christ back in Christmas and in our country. Put the pledge of alligence back in schools and prayer back in our lives. My four year old son brought tears to the eyes in 1966 to an entire Grange Hall full of people by standing up proudly and saying the pledge in his quiet little whispery voice. I am still proud of that little boy. I'm proud of all of our sons and daughters. I'm proud to be an American, but I'm not so proud of our government these past 8 years, perhaps 9, not sure about President Obama yet, but willing to give him the time and chances he needs to try to get us out of this horrible mess created by the Bush Administration – no I'm not a real Democrat, am really a moderate, am an American. We are not white, African American, or Latinos, we are Americans – please get this right people. Get off this political correctness crap and say the truth. If you are going to say African American, Latino American, then say White American, Native American, Aian American. Or better yet, how about just plain American. Thank you, a plain old American lady.

A PISSED OFF CITIZEN   November 25th, 2009 5:20 pm ET




Leslie   November 25th, 2009 10:06 pm ET

I truly do not understand why the military has turned its back on these men. It feels very political. I thought the military never leaves one of it's own behind. I am ashamed to think we train our soldiers for war, which involves killing, and then we judge our own soldiers with simplistic rules which are out of context? This is not a simple yes or no, right or wrong. This is war and it is terribly complicated, where the policies change and the rules don't quite fit the complexity of the war. I am embarrassed and upset that some people are judging these men when they have not been in their shoes on that day. Why are we so quick to judge? Please inform us as viewers on how to help these men and their families and how we can advocate for their release. Thank you for sharing this special report with us so we can deepen our own understanding about this war.

Della   November 27th, 2009 12:11 pm ET

Just like everyone else, I am appalled that our military is being treated like this! We are at war and this isn't just a cut and dry war where we know who the enemy is. It doesn't help that our media makes mountains out of molehills to "get their story". I say who the hell cares if these soldiers did kill someone? Are those enemy forces who stripped and dragged our dead soldier's bodies going to be punished for their crimes? How about using civilians as cover and then blaming their deaths on American Forces? I am proud of our service men and women and what they have sacrificed to fight a war we NEVER should have been in! As for our goverment officials who pass judgement and seek prison for our vets, why don't you get off your *** and go to Iraq and Afghanistan and fight in the war so you can see what our men and women in uniform do every day. Don't pass judgement on something you all know nothing about!

Garold L. Mays   November 27th, 2009 12:28 pm ET

Only a warrior would understand these killings. Not headquarters people but warriors. Not logistic people, but warriors. People who put their lives on the line, day after day who are isolated, alone, and fear for their lives can understand what happened. I watched your special and I am watching it now as one young man is being hounded by a man who does not know that this soldier is suffering from PTSD or care. When he says he can't remember shooting a man to his right.

I am a former warrior and I say leave these these men alone. They have suffered enough. You trained these me to kill. On one sargant I saw a CIB with a star, meaning he was in thrown into combat twice! Asked to kill in two wars. That is obscene. These wars are obscene on so many levels. Stop this madness!

J Phillips   November 27th, 2009 12:38 pm ET

I whole heartedly agree with Sgt Hartley in his statements regarding the incident in Baghdad. What the hell are we sending these men to fight a "war" for then putting idiotic limits on how they accomplish the tasks assigned to them. He is right, they capture prisoners and in no time they are back out killing our men. This is not a video game but real life. This is ridiculous; I am a Korean War veteran and i would have been proud to serve with Sgt Hartley and the other two Sgts serving time for doing theire jobs. It disgusts me to hear the "interrogators" questioning the Sgts- they are part of the problem putting words into their mouths and being the "goody two shoes". Our soldiers are trained to defend our security then when they try to do it there are all kinds of rules put on them. Thats why we are losing the fight in Iraq and Afghanistan by using our troops to be policemen; if they want policemen why not send real policemen there?
We should be using our troops to win the fight not to worry what the Iraquis think. Sgt Hartley is also right that if we expended as much money and time prosecuting the enemy not defending them. Lets get real!!!

Jason   November 27th, 2009 1:32 pm ET

Once again our government finds away to give the criminals or in this case the insurgents more protection and rights than the individuals tasked to protect our liberties and freedom. How can anyone that hasn't walked in these soldiers shoes expect to understand what the men and women in Iraq have to deal with day in and day out. This is "War" folkes. We didn't ask to be there, and we sure don't want to be there. The only reason our soldiers volunteer, is to protect their brothers and sisters in harms way. It's unfortunate that our soldiers not only have to protect themselves from an enemy that blends in with the locals, but now they have to protect themselves from the enemy that dresses and looks like them back home and to make matters worse the rules of war are written to protect the guilty.
I was trained by the Army "to kill or be killed" and hesitation is the quickest way to be sent back home in a body bag. This is the mindset our soldiers must have during war. Compassion for the enemy will get you killed. These three soldiers are heroes and because of their actions they have saved countless American lives.

Erik Raisanen   November 27th, 2009 3:53 pm ET

We have sent our soldiers to prison for killing enemy soldiers without giving the enemy a court hearing. I am saddened by the abuse of our heroes at our own hands.

John   November 27th, 2009 4:35 pm ET

I simply am appalled at the comments literally in favor of freeing these guys. I also served in the airborne rangers, and this is not the actions of disciplined soldiers. It is not now, nor has it ever been the right of military personnel to question the rules of warfare and the Geneva Convention. When you enlist, it isn't "I'll fight, but only by what I believe is right". I agree that something must change in that we either a.) charge suspected insurgents and hold them permanently until the war is over, or b.) get out of Afghanistan forever. Nothing will ever change over there as they still live by tribal laws, and American's get seem to get it through their skulls that they can out last us if it takes 100 years, and Americans want a quick, clean war. It simply isn't possible. I also would like to comment on the "free" usage of the word hero which I'm reading in most comments. These guys signed up to do this job, while that is admirable, it doesn't make everyone of them hero's. I know that the military is simply a micro-cosim of society in general. There are brave people, cowards, people with good intentions, but ill suited for their task, and criminals. What these guys did just casts another dark shadow on what most people think of Americans. War cannot be the actions of individuals who apply justice in whatever manner they please, there is a code of conduct and rules of warfare. What these guys did is a blight against the record of all who served in the military in an honorable way. Those of you who seem to condone this action.....well I would question what kind of malice and criminal behavior you must exhibit in your lives. Right is right and wrong is wrong, these guys were wrong. Because if these guys did the right thing, then anarchy anc a complete lack of morality can't be far off.

Ken   November 27th, 2009 6:53 pm ET

This most likely isn't the first time this has happened, it's just the first time some one was caught. I would have done the same thing if I was in the 1st Sgt's position and I don't have any combat time behind me. Who's the enemy? Let our soldiers do their jobs and back them up when they do!!!

john   November 27th, 2009 7:20 pm ET

When you sign your contract and give your oath you must do what you are told. even if you do not agree, even if you "know" that your way is better. And you don't get to make personal decisions on punishment of others

Jack L   November 29th, 2009 8:22 pm ET

He doesn't deserve more than, "an eye for an eye..." but he deserves at least that. He's safe alright and the victims are very much DEAD!

secret soldier   May 10th, 2010 10:38 am ET

1SG John Hatley was one of the most steadfast and reliable soldiers ive ever known. For those of you passing judgement on a man you know nothing about then shame on you.... with that said.. TOP your a hero to all who have served with you... every life you have touched.. no matter how long or short the time. god will show light on you for standing up for the members of the Wolfpack.... a former member of A co. 1-18th Infantry Regiment, Schweinfurt Germany.

FatSean   May 24th, 2010 12:07 pm ET

Invading Iraq and Afghanistan was stupid. Full stop. These soldiers should be brought home ASAP. The men who ordered them there should be shot.

However, if soldiers do do wrong, they must hang for it. The Nazi's didn't get away with "just following orders" and neither should these people.

I said do do.

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