July 6, 2010

Imprisoned soldier's wife pleas for justice

Posted: 03:53 PM ET

Twitter: @AbbieCNN

Battlefield justice or murder?

That question was the focus of our CNN investigative documentary, "Killings at the Canal: The Army Tapes," which aired last November. The documentary was about three U.S. soldiers who shot and killed four Iraqi detainees in 2007.

Their families say the so-called "catch and release" program was not working, which was why these soldiers killed the four, unarmed Iraqi detainees. One of the soldiers, who was later convicted of premeditated murder, told Army investigators that killing the four detainees had likely saved countless American lives. It was an emotional story to report, and one that brought in thousands of responses worldwide.

We often hear from people who wonder what happened to the three convicted soldiers.

We know two of them had their clemency requests denied. All three are serving long sentences at Fort Leavenworth.

Recently, we got an e-mail from John Hatley's wife, Kim. Her husband is serving a 40-year prison term for the murders. This is part of her e-mail to us:

"I am on a mission to get word out about my husband, (former) Infantry First Sergeant John Hatley who is highly decorated, served 20 years in the U.S. Army, but was sentenced to prison for 'life' for allegedly killing 4 insurgents (enemy combatants) in Baghdad, Iraq at pre-surge, OIF – Operation Iraqi Freedom 06-08. This was a 15-month long deployment at one of the most violent periods in the Iraq war, each day riddled with extreme sectarian violence. This is a case of self-defense, for the 'detainee catch & release policy' was yet another flawed policy, that placed our troops in danger and continues to exist to this day. My husband did everything he could to bring his soldiers back alive. They were all like sons to him. This deployment resulted in six of my husband's soldiers getting killed; 2 by small arms fire and 4 by IEDs – Improvised Explosive Devices."

 Kim Hatley calls her husband a "hero," and she pledges to keep fighting until he is released from prison. The Army says what these three soldiers did that day in Iraq was murder, pure and simple.

 What do you think? Should these soldiers be released? Or do you think they deserve 30 to 40-year prison sentences?

 Here is a link to our full investigation and documentary.

 IF you'd like to read more about John Hatley's case, his website is below.

Filed under: Abbie Boudreau

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meeee   July 6th, 2010 5:03 pm ET

As far as I am concerned they were protecting all of us with no regard to their own lives and should be named heros. How many of our soldies are "murdered" at war? Do the enimes responsible go to jail?... no they are praised and do a dance in the streets.... The US Army instills these practices and views into our men and then condems them for it... failed government if you ask me... I say give them the purple heart just for going!

Leftthemilitary   July 6th, 2010 5:06 pm ET

FREE THESE MEN! If it were not for them, the entire battalion would have been killed. They were doing their job and protecting the innocent. I served in the military 10 years and was stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Your #1 priority is the survival of you and your troops while completing the mission. These men do not belong in prison! They were protecting themselves. Think about the innocent lives they saved. You should be thanking them for the freedom in which they fight for.

teresa, ohio   July 6th, 2010 5:54 pm ET

its war: kill or be killled.

i always find it odd what we CHOOSE to be honorable about.
We honor the enemy combatant TWICE: once by letting them go to kill our other soldiers and TWICE by putting our men in jail. It's absolutely mindboggling.

and this: "The Army says what these three soldiers did that day in Iraq was murder, pure and simple." Isnt that what WAR is and isnt that what soldiers are PAID for and TRAINED to do?

liz Temple Ga   July 6th, 2010 8:58 pm ET

-Damn skippy.....these men were defending their country, in line duty, and nothing can take that away. Prison is not where they belong. They are not killers, they neutralized an enemy. Just like generations of military men and women have done for hundreds of years. This is a miscarraige of Justice and it has NOT been served.

LetOurPeopleGo!   July 6th, 2010 9:07 pm ET

Freedom...Where would we be if we did not have it? These MEN and WOMEN are FIGHTING so that we can be free of everything those people in IRAQ are rebelling about. If it wasn't for these men and women and their strong faith in what they are doing, we would be in the same boat as the people who have been brutally tortured and murdered for years. Unfortunately, its not enough to play nice. Unfortunately, our young men and women are over there dying and freely giving their lives to fight for what they believe in. It sickens me to think of what everyone over there is going through. The people who have wrongly convicted these men of heinous crimes need to wake up. Yes, they may have taken a life, but would they have been treated differently if those detainees would of had guns and IED's. Or had been firing upon them. Yes, they would of. well, who's to say those detainees weren't meeting up with some of their terrorist buddies and going to turn around and kill our men. WAKE UP I SAY! WAKE UP!!!!! If one of those detainees had killed a relative of one of the court martial board and these investigators, I wonder how they would feel then. These men and women who are fighting in our military are not only being tortured physcially, but mentally. I wonder how many of their persecutors have seen what they have seen? or been faced with the situations these men have been faced with. My guess is none. Taking a life is not right, However, when you feel you have to kill to save yourself or others, then so be it. LET THEM GO! FREE THEM!

Danielle   July 7th, 2010 1:22 am ET

To be honest the code of conduct and the geneva conventions are great in theory. But so is pleading abstinence to teenagers and equally effective. With this in mind if the prisoners were unarmed its not self defense. but at the same point the enemy would have no problem doing the same if the situation is reversed. All i can say is it is easy to pass judgement (military court martal) without being in the situation. Every human life has value but i think that if the individual is willing to engage in actions that can lead to death then that value is forfeited. With this in mind I believe the wife is correct in the fact that the deaths of commrades took a serious toll on the people the killed the detaines. I also believe that the leadership was ineffective in dealing with the terrorists. taking away weapons or items used to make iuds doesnt stop a person from being a terrorist just makes them an unarmed terrorist. In the hopeless situation created by ineffective leadership these soldiers tried to solve the problems themselves more than likely just so they didnt see another commrade die. with this in mind does the sentance fit with the intent of the crime yes and no. yes because regardless this was a premeditated carried out execution and no because when you look at the mitigating factors being subjected to that kind of hell for 15 months something has to give. In my opinion, these soldiers are human and make mistakes regardless to the standards the military expects they are not robots and feel connections with on another. But these individuals could not stay in the military either due to a lack of mental fortitude to deal with combat situations. To me the proper sentance is simple Bad conduct discharge and 6 months to a year confinement. The heavier sentance should rest on the leadership since they created the situation and did not address it when they were informed their plan was not effective.

Virginia Miller   July 7th, 2010 1:48 am ET

LET THESE MEN GO, I'm not the sharpest tack in the pack, so let me get this straight. These men joined the military, they were taught to kill then sent into a war zone, they killed to proctect themselfs and others, then they were brought back to the U.S.A. convicted of murder then sent to prison for up to 40 years. WHAT'S WRONG WITH THIS PICTURE? If you don't want them to kill the enemy then our government shouldn't train and pay them to so. This still dosen't make sense to me. FREE THESE MEN!!!!!!!

michael wright   July 7th, 2010 2:06 am ET

Just wanted to put my 2 cents in. These men are all heroes no matter what the pencil pushing officers that have no combat experience to base what is right and wrong a combat situation. How can they judge those that willingly put their lives on the line day in and out without hesitation? These men also would not only do anything for their men but would also supply things out of pocket that soldiers under them would not have otherwise. So ask yourselves what is right or wrong given the same situation these decorated soldiers were faced with. I for one would ask that they do it the same if given the chance to do it all over again.

Tony   July 7th, 2010 2:18 am ET

these MEN are heros.if any body shouyld be in prison it's BUSH and OBMAMA

Erin   July 7th, 2010 3:39 am ET

What these three soldiers did was wrong. Killing is wrong. But then again so is the war.
So who are they to judge these three soldiers who were doing their job and best to protect their fellow commerades...

And because they killed these insurgents they went to jail and now have a long long time to sit. but what about the other thousands of soldiers who have shot other iraqis?? By fault or accident?
So is anyone going to prosecute these soldiers too??? by following orders and doing what it says in their job discriptions?

welcome to the home of the brave...

...and land of the free... right?

Geoffrey G. Nathan, Esq.   July 7th, 2010 7:59 am ET

I am parole and clemency counsel for John E. Hatley. This soldier has been abandoned by the government which sent him to war. Please write to President Barack Obama, Executive Office of The President, 1600 Pennyslvania AVE NW, Washington DC 20500 and demand Hatley be granted Presidential Clemency, and pardoned and released forthwith

Tracy S.   July 7th, 2010 8:15 am ET

My husband had the honor of following John Hatley into this war during 06-08. That tour of duty has scarred him for life. He came home a different man. He misses his "brothers" he lost and does not have the lightheartedness he once had. John Hatley was only person he knew he could turn to in this horrible atmosphere. He was like a father to my husband. Always there when they needed each other. When we heard what had happened, he was forced to re-live everything all over again. John Hatley is a HERO, he did save thousands of american lives and the one I am most concerned with, my husband and my sons' father. I truly believe because of John my husband came home alive. Our family would follow him anywhere! Release this hero now, he should be home with his family not in prison, a scapegoat for the politicians and product of an upset solider seeking a way to "get back" at his 1SGT for the poor decisions he made during battle.

matt gordon md   July 7th, 2010 9:47 am ET

History textbooks describe the Native Americans as "violent savages". Talk about revisionist history. Guess going forward it's more acceptable to term them as "insurgents" whose mass killing was justified by the settlers who were protecting... oh hell, it's just too crazy to suggest.

mercedes   July 7th, 2010 10:37 am ET

The US and their policies; put the shoe on the other foot, do you think the insurgents would have been jailed!!! FREE THE SOLDIERS! This is and should have been a non-issue; these men are fighting not only for their lives, but the lives of the American People.

Anita-AZ Veteran   July 7th, 2010 11:00 am ET

I believe the military erred in charging these 3 heroes with "most of their life" sentences. The military trains one to protect yourself and your fellow troops. It is quite evident that the "catch and release" policy was very flawed and has been changed since its inception. We all know that when the troops originally went over there – they did not have the proper equipment to protect themselves and to date we have lost over 5,000 troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. These 3 brave soldiers need to be released, given their military time back and let them choose if they want to remain soldiers or civilians. Unless we walk in someone's shoes and we were there – we have no right to judge their state of mind at the time of reaction to "war."

Tiffanie   July 7th, 2010 11:03 am ET

These men did what they thought they had to do to help ensure their and their brothers in arms came home safely back home to us.

Cathch and release is for fishing.. not a war time practice for fun..

Oh..lets see how many of these guys who are trying to kill me I can "catch".. but then I will send them on their way.. to try to kill a different US soldier.. makes no sense..

While I would agree with these men being discharged (standard not dis-honerable) from the military, they do not deserve 30 to 40 years in prison for killing an enemy during violent war. They should have turned them over to the Iraqi authorities.. the iraqi authorities would have killed them!

Dan   July 7th, 2010 12:12 pm ET

These men did what needed to be done to protect themselves from future attacks. It was self-defense in the most primal form. Their punishment does not fit the crime. It's funny, a man can come home to his wife in bed with another man and kill them both, and it's called a crime of passion. The man might serve 5 years. Three U.S. Soldiers are engaged in a kinetic engagement in a war zone, following which they execute the detainees, and it's called premeditated murder? I'd be willing to bet the people who sent these men to prison have never been in battle.

Andrea   July 7th, 2010 12:19 pm ET

MSG Hatley has brought so many soldier home safe and sound. He had commited himself to serving his country and the people. And it is an unbelievable injustice that he and the other guys are in prison right now for this.
Those were known insurgents, had been captured before and were released because of failed policies and quite frankly every human being has a point at which they react in a way that others might not be able to understand. Fact is John Hatley and the others need to be freed. And fact is they fought for this country and are being let down right now. God Bless our Troops !

Kerstin   July 7th, 2010 12:21 pm ET

free them.. they was fighting for everyone else freedom and now they have to serve time in prison?? this is wrong. y them? all they did was protecting there unit and all of us. ma husband is in the army. most of ma friends are. they come back and they saw so much they never gonna be the same again. it is not right that those soldiers spending time in prison for something every soldier is doing. and im not talking about killing. im talking about PROTECTING THE COUNTRY... free them they dont deserve one day in prison

hearseman   July 7th, 2010 12:57 pm ET

Strange Doings!
The CIA kills unknown people with drones, in a country where they have no offical jruisdiction, they have to use dna to see who they killed, but they procecute the soldiers who are just protecting them selfs.

Roy Gandy   July 7th, 2010 1:45 pm ET

Not just released, but they need to be Pardoned. They have served our country that has been truly Mission Impossible. Self-preservation and service to our country should be rewarded, not punished.

Anonymous   July 7th, 2010 2:01 pm ET

i put anonymous because i do not want to be prosecuted for my opinions.

ok... so being a guy that was in the military, i understand that they did what they thought was the best action. (either let these guys go and probably loose more of my friends, or get rid of them) the army rules and laws are clear unfortunately. everyone thats been deployed knows that it's a big no no to kill anyone unarmed.

but that being said, in my opinion, i still think these guys did the right thing. it IS a war. it IS a situation of kill or be killed. in any situation, i will choose my friends/family/life i know over someone i don't know. the issue is that the media is crawling all over this war. they show pictures and videos of destruction and chaos. joe civilian is not comfortable with seeing bodies, wounded, people is distress therefore an outcry is born. civilians start to worry about the soldiers, they don't want to be represented by a soldier that doesn't follow these absurd military rules. i.e. one well known rule is that a US soldier cannot shoot until shot at. read: IF you're lucky not to be in the sights of a sniper, and you're still around after a few rounds fly at you, only THEN can you shoot back. some states don't even have that crazy rule. it is called self defense and preservation. shoot the guy before he shoots you. but i digress... that is too absurd to live by.

the military needed to set an example i believe and these soldiers were the targets. i feel for them and i am saddened that such a flawed system has all but literally nailed these guys to a cross.

the only thing that these soldiers did that was wrong was get caught.

if you ask any infantry soldier if they were in the same situation (known bad guys captured, knowledge that said bad guys killed men in your unit before, and knowledge that the US military will not do anything to keep these bud guys off the streets) 100% every one of us will be happy to do the same thing, and would be willing to deal with the junk these soldiers have gone through and will go through.

Vett   July 7th, 2010 2:24 pm ET

I watch the news story on this case and I know these guys are heroes and should be released.

Rach   July 7th, 2010 2:33 pm ET

I wrote my letter to the president and it's your turn. Lets get this war hero out of where he is. If enough people do what I did someone is going to have to listen.

K. eckols   July 7th, 2010 3:21 pm ET

These soldiers are heros...pure and simple. They did their job and went above and beyond the call of duty. Our government should be ashamed for convicting these patriots for protecting our country and freedoms. And YET we ALLOW molesters; murderers and harden criminals to go free. American Patriots need to stand up against this atrocity to shake up and wake up our government...and allow our military to do their jobs...SET THESE MEN FREE.....PATRIOTS DEMAND A FULL PARDON FOR THE SOLDIERS WRONGLY CONVICTED AT FT LEAVENWORTH!!!!!!!!!

jimmy   July 7th, 2010 3:39 pm ET

Good lord. Apparently the "war is hell" defense, or "the other side would do the exact same thing" excuse, is good enough for most of the people commenting here. I beg to differ. It is outrageous and immoral behavior to kill an unarmed prisoner of war in any context. Period.

Lisa   July 7th, 2010 3:59 pm ET

Kim – I'll pray for you and your family to see justice.

Thunder Kitty   July 7th, 2010 4:19 pm ET

I understand why the soldiers did what they did and I applaud them for that. However, I also understand that when you are in the military, you are given orders. Orders that you must follow and if you do not you are disciplined. The rules and procedures put in place may not be popular with everyone but they are the rules. If every soldier took it upon themselves to not follow orders and make up their own rules we would have a much bigger problem. Again, I understand the what and why of what they did, but if you have a problem with the policy you work to change it, not kill to change it. This country has no problem getting it's hands dirty, it just has to be done in the most PC way possible. If it's not done the PC way,the powers that be will do everything in it's power to distance itself and punish accordingly. It's not right, but it's not going to change anytime soon.

Annmarie   July 7th, 2010 4:42 pm ET

Once again, this is a situation where polticians and the politically correct police put our armed forces in danger. In order to pander to the PC police, dangerous murderers are released back to kill more of our soldiers. What would I do in that situation? Probably the same thing these soldiers did. They knew these enemy combatants would turn around and kill more soldiers, as well as civilians. Why turn loose someone who is set on murdering you? That is the definition of insanity.
....And that is where our so-called "leaders" place the people who put their lives on the line for us every day-then crucify them for making that impossible decision. Kill someone outright, or allow him to certainly kill others? What would you do? As a retired police officer, I know people who killed for money, revenge and jealousy...and none of them got a 40 year sentence. This is an abomination.

Fred   July 7th, 2010 5:48 pm ET

One of the reasons we (the USA) can't win any conflict anymore is that we have a strange ethical belief that we can win over the hearts of these so-called insurgents. For so many years now, we believe we must play by some "rules of engagement" while our troops are targets of men, women and children who are brainwashed into doing all sorts of immoral acts in the name of a cause. Our soldiers are going into battle basically with one arm tied behind their backs or without ammunition. War is Hell as once was aptly stated and that means that sometimes things happen. So be it. We should not continue to put our men and women in harms ways and tell them you can't defend yourself

Steff   July 7th, 2010 5:52 pm ET

The fact that these soldiers were ever charged and tried in the first place is an abomination. I am the daughter, wife, and mother of soldiers and I can't even imagine sending someone to war and then punishing them for protecting other soldiers. "Catch & release" is for fishing, not war. Putting an experienced, accomplished soldier like John Hatley in prison weakens our military as whole. One, by depriving other soldiers of his knowledge, expertise and care, lives are put at risk. At a time when the Army is shrinking, can we really afford to lose a seasoned leader like John Hatley? Two, what does the prosecution and conviction of their comrades do to the morale of those they served with? How can it not make them hesitate in that split second before pulling the trigger and possibly saving their own lives and the lives of other Americans? Do we as a nation want our defenders to second-guess and wonder if they"ll be the next ones in prison for doing their jobs? And three, what does a travesty like this do to recruiting and retention within the military? I signed for my son to join the Army at 17. I doubt very much that I would do that today. How many bright, capable young people will reject military service due to stories like this? How many currently serving soldiers will decline to reenlist. Would you stay with an employer that may well imprison you for doing the very job you were trained for? So again, we lose the best & brightest new of whom may have one day been the leader that gets us out of this mess...and we lose the experienced veterans who day in and day out lead by example & teach our children to be good soldiers and give them the information they need to stay alive. 1SG Hatley and the other soldiers are heroes. Write to the President and your other elected officials and let them know that Americans won't stand for this kind of betrayal by the military.

Ed Arrington   July 7th, 2010 6:10 pm ET

I have known John Hatley since the day he was born. He was a good kid, and grew up to be an honorable man. He should be pardoned, given his full retirement, and an apology from the Army for the shoddy way they have treated him. How did America ever get to the point that we coddle terrorists, but punish soldiers for doing their job?

defendjohnhatley   July 7th, 2010 6:22 pm ET

For those very few commentors that wrote that the enemy combatants were not armed, obviously did not read the website nor research before they made their desparaging remark against our 3 soldiers.

The 4 x individuals got into a firefight previously with our troops and tried to KILL them. Later, after our troops tried to turn them in to the DHA – detainee holding area annex, to get them off the streets, but were told NO, let them go you don't have enough evidence, these 4 x individuals were found hiding in a house, with a huge cache of weapons, some which were rifles with sniper scopes, IED bomb making materials and their hands tested positive for X-spray, which showed that they had gun powder residue on their hands.

There is always more to any story, situation...............but please research, read fully...............................before stepping on our brave soldiers with ignorance and unwarranted words of hate and animosity. – Thank you, from Mrs. Kim Hatley

Bob Cvengros   July 7th, 2010 6:33 pm ET

The imprisonment of these 3 soldiers is a slap in the face to all to all taht serve in the U.S. Military, and a slap in the face to every American. These brave young men went to serve our Nation and preserve our way of life and freedom. They were sworn to defend America against all enemies "forgien and domestic". We are at war, its kill or be killed. This is a "judgement" call and should have been left as such. I was in the U.S. Marine Corps ans served in Vietnam. This is what we were taught and trained to do. We were not sent into a war zone with lollipops, but with weapons. A soldier knows how to use his/her weapon. Now we are going to punish them for doing so. This is totally wrong. We abomb goes astray and kills civilians do we charge our pilots with murder? What is our government doing for the families of these men that were wrongly convicted. Ourr government will abandon these families as they have done to their loved ones. Just as has happened in Vietnam we are seeing the results of why politicans should stay out of war making decisions. Politicans only start wars our military must left alone to finish them. President Obama please return these men to their families and loved ones.

Tammy   July 7th, 2010 6:45 pm ET

These soldiers aren't the only soldiers that faced the perils of the "catch and release" program. Hundreds of them have performed the same job over the last 5 years, including my husband. Does it suck, yes. But that doesn't give a soldier the right to buck policy and orders and take things into his own hands. Soldiers die because of other rogue soldiers. They had a clear cut objective and mission and they blew it. They deserve to be punished. My husband has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. Would he love nothing more than to take out a few insurgents to make up for the brothers he lost, you bet. But he wouldn't because it isn't his place to make that call. The real heros are all the soldiers that have managed to do this same job without losing their cool or their ability to obey their commands. Not a soldier that has decided he knows better than everyone else in the military. It is soldiers like these that were more of a threat to our military's safety than insurgents.

A. Cecil Dressler   July 7th, 2010 7:39 pm ET

My son, SGT. Shawn E. Dressler served under 1ST SGT Hatley and with all three of these imprisoned men. My son, SGT Shawn Dressler, is one of the six soldiers who died on the streets of Baghdad. He was likely a victim of our detainee release policy. These wars are not being fought as if they were wars. If they were, we would be winning and with much fewer causalities. These three soldiers do not belong in prison. The men who killed my son were captured. They are likely eating supper with their families tonight and laughing about watching my son die.

Wolf-White1Alpha   July 7th, 2010 7:40 pm ET

1SG Hatley, SFC Mayo, and Doc Leahy were three of the most professional, honorable, and dedicated soldiers I ever knew. These men were forced to do what happened due to the circumstances that their country put them into. If the four insurgents had of been released they would have been right back out the next day, maybe even the same day, firing on American soldiers or innocent Iraqi citizens. Due to ridiculous detainee policies the four insurgents were to be released. 1SG Hatley was really good and cutting out the BS and I think this was simply his way of doing that. There is no doubt in my mind that many of our soldiers, myself included, are alive today because of the actions that these three soldiers made on that day. I feel that these soldiers have been punished enough. Their honorable military records were not properly considered during their trials, in my opinion. These men do not owe a debt to society, society owes them. If there is justice and righteousness left in the world, these men will eventually be free.

sam   July 7th, 2010 8:09 pm ET

This is why I tell young people to stay away from the military. Look at what it does to it's soldiers. Who ever charged these guys should be shot. You are a scumbag whoever you are. STAY AWAY FROM THE MILITARY kids the chain of command are cowardly turds and real stupid. I should know I spent ten years in the army.

s burk   July 7th, 2010 8:15 pm ET

These soldiers are HEROES. If you are fighting a war, you have sense enough to kill before you get killed. These soldiers are fighting every day to protect me and you, they should be PARDONNED fully and given the Purple Heart. They are the HEROES who keep us safe, doing their job. They government should allow them to do just that. Bring those guys home.

Brooks   July 7th, 2010 8:43 pm ET

40 years for killing someone who had just tried to kill you is not murder-particularly in a war zone. These brave soldiers should be freed and the flawed "catch and release"policy examined and rescinded. The military courts should be ashamed of themselves.

caren arizona   July 7th, 2010 9:20 pm ET

Our Military is sworn to uphold and protect freedom for all. The Commmander -our President should stand up for them while they are doing their job that they are enlisted in to do- not wasting tax payer dollars on making them out to be the bad guys. War is War- sometimes the enemy is our own government to our heroes- some times it is the ordinary citizen of another country that seems trustworthy, who will kill our soldiers when their back is turned. Lets not let our government stab them in the back too for trying to protect our freedom. My grandfather was in World War 1, my distant cousin died in Iow Jima, my father was a survivor on the USS Maryland in Pearl Harbor. He would never talk about it until he was in his 70's shortly before he died. He had been horrified by what he experienced. The government never gave him any counseling for his tramatic ordeal. I believe he was affected by it all his life. Our government has to take care of our servicemen and women and reach out to them. I also believe anyone who has served in active duty has earned the privelege of not having to pay taxes for the rest of their life. They have already risked their life for the rest of us to live in a free country where we should reward them in this way.

Skip Franklin   July 7th, 2010 10:21 pm ET


Sharon   July 7th, 2010 11:01 pm ET

So, I guess I'm in the minority here. This type of killing, of unarmed people, is one of the reasons that jihadists can attract more people to their cause. These soldiers actions, while well meaning in their minds, can now be used by those who are against us to justify more terrorism. This was not what they were sent to do & they did not have any orders to do this. Unfortunately this particular war seems to be even messier than Vietnam but the US should still act with dignity & soldiers should follow their orders – not act of their own accord. That is why they were prosecuted. They were heroes – until they disobeyed command.

Darla   July 7th, 2010 11:22 pm ET

My heart breaks for 1SG Hatley. and all his can take away his rank but you will never take away the heart of the man who to this day would walk out of those prison gates and walk right back on that battlefield to finish his last 6 months of his 20 years in the Military..he asked for those 6 there a minute or two.

Those that put the three heros behind bars would have a different story if they walked in the blood Hatley and his men wiped off of their boots daily...yes, daily, blood of Iraqi children and women and american soldiers as they picked up the body pieces, praying no IED would be planted in them by the cowards that were just released days before. Look.what is wrong here!!! He serves 20 years, minus a few months, highly decorated, flawless military record, his wife served 6 years, his son is an active duty Marine.. A family determined to serve in our military and fight for us...Lets fight for them !!!! FREE OUR HEROS

When my son in law finished his 4 years and was praying about re-enlisting, all I could think about was the kind of young man he is..and what an asset to our country .After 911 he was determined when he finished high school he was going to serve for his country and enlisted in the Marine Corp.. I watched as he received rank and medals and I thought this could be another John Hatley, determined to make a difference.. a true leader, fearless and risking it all for his men and country.....but wiil THE MILITARY have his back.?

I will continue to pray for the blinders to be removed from those who put our heros away and for our troops who still serve and for John and his family and many soldiers he called sons. We as Americans must let our voices be heard about this injustice..
My son in law is out but forever a Marine.... Our country has lost a great leader in Hatley and many more that may have followed because they wanted to be like him... Thank you CNN for letting our voices be heard. I..

DAC   July 8th, 2010 3:01 am ET

These soldiers are Heroes and should be released immediately.

The Army should be ashamed of itself for treating its best soldiers in this way for defending themselves and the people they were there to free from a tyrannical ruler. And just in case anyone has forgotten, they NEVER found the bodies of the alleged victims and no missing persons report of these was EVER filed on the persons allegedly killed. If this were a civil case, there would be NO CASE and they would NOT be in prison!

warsteiner   July 8th, 2010 8:48 am ET

I dont think its right to jail soldiers for doing their job killing the enemy

Mandy   July 8th, 2010 8:59 am ET

FREE THESE MEN!! I find it totally wrong that these men are serving any time AT ALL and I firmly believe that by killing those insurgents these men saved many lives and to me are hero's. I would have killed them too!! Start a petition if you dont have one already. I'LL SIGN in a heartbeat! I hope their families never give up and my thoughts and prayers are with them!

Einstein08   July 8th, 2010 9:39 am ET

The problem with war is that the fat politicians sit far, far away from the mess and dictate what should/should not be happening.

Terrorists showed zero mercy for non-military members at The World Trade center buildings. I am not saying that our military should not show mercy but when it comes to saving lives we must do what is right and send the defects back to Allah since these morons think he's all great and powerful.

While I have never been in combat I have trained for it. It is not pretty. I have friends that served in both Iraq and Afghanistan. They never talk about what goes on there because of the pain they dealt with.

The American military is the best in the world. Fat politicians should let the military run the show. Unfortunately, General Mattis didn't get the nod to take over for McChrystal even though he should have. Politicians screw up wars not the soldiers.


michael wright   July 8th, 2010 1:38 pm ET

These men should be treated as heroes.

Steve Lombardi   July 8th, 2010 4:49 pm ET

My son is alive and home because of 1st Sgt. Hatley. Free him NOW! The moral flaw is in the "ivory tower" mind set that if we set a good example(by putting our own people in harms way) the people of Iraq will be impressed and come flocking to our side. NOT GONNA HAPPEN! If we are to err on the side of safety it should be in our favor. Sgt. Hatley do so and is being made to suffer for showing our leaders what fools they truely are. "SUPPORT OUR TROOPS" is not just a slogan, it's a way of life for those of us with family down range.

Derral   July 8th, 2010 5:26 pm ET

At the end of world war 2 didn't Patton want to go on to Russia because they were our next threat? If he would have gone to Russia they wouldn't be a threat to us now. There are four Iraq Terrorists that are no threat to us now !! God Bless these three soldiers. Let them go !!

Army wife   July 8th, 2010 6:03 pm ET

This just blows my mind! I do not feel that these men should be in jail! I feel that they acted just to protect themselves and there unit. I don't feel that our soldiers should be judged for what they do while at war.

We follow so many strict rules while at war but yet I know for a fact the terrorist do not do the same. I can not believe people would even have the audacity to state that they feel that they did wrong because without brave men and women we would not even be free. This was not done to be cruel they did what was best for the AMERICANS....

FREE OUR SOLDIERS!! People can murder in the states and get less time then this so HOW THE HECK IS THIS APPROPRIATE!! THIS JUST ANGERS ME!!! FREE OUR SOLDIERS!!!

Linda Michaud-Wehunt   July 8th, 2010 9:53 pm ET

These Americans took action to save the lives of fellow Soldiers and Marines, to save the precious blood of our young men and women in uniform.

NEVER leave any Soldier behind! THEIR Battle is OUR Battle!

If WE DO NOT SUPPORT OUR TROOPS in their decisions or split-second decisions and RALLY-UP IN SUPPORT OF ALL OUR TROOPS...our Troops will hesitate to shoot in deadly threats–out of fear of Court Martial's and prison! Our Troop casualty WILL RISE!!

We SEND THEM TO ROOT OUT TERRORISTS/INSURGENTS and then TIE THEIR HANDS when it comes to protecting themselves, their Comrades AND THE UNITED STATES!!!

WE NEED TO SUPPORT OUR TROOPS!!!!!!! Do NOT put our Troops in harm's way...then punish them for doing that which they were SENT TO DO–ELIMINATE THREATS TO OUR SAFETY, THE AMERICAN PEOPLE, THEIR SAFETY, and the safety of their Comrades!

WE ARE AT WAR! Let the innocent get out of the KILL ZONE! They know the rules. Civilians are USED as a SHIELD...THESE INSURGENTS/TERRORISTS KNOW THAT WE WILL NOT ENGAGE IF CIVILIANS ARE IN THE KILL ZONE! They exploit our Troops 'feelings of compassion' and KNOW our ROE's.

"PERMISSION TO ENGAGE, SIR, WE ARE BEING FIRED UPON!!! FRIENDLIES HAVE BEEN STRATEGICALLY PLACED IN THE KILL ZONE!" (Women with female children, because they have no reverence for females–if the females disobey...THEY get shot by their very own!)


Not only is this a miscarriage of Justice on the Troops, who were acting to prevent further loss of life in their Units, it is demoralizing to the U.S. troops who continue to fight on behalf of the freedom and security of our nation. Whether it is U.S. Border Patrol Agents, members of the Armed Forces, or FBI individual who is serving on the FRONTLINES in the War on Terror should be so blatantly mistreated.

Asking our Soldiers to lay down their lives to defend our freedoms, capture and bring terrorists to Justice, yet now there are calls to prosecute them after doing so, not only underlies their better judgment, but jeopardizes the National Security of our Country, it's interests and abilities to conduct successful missions abroad.

Prosecuting our Soldiers in cases like this is UNPATRIOTIC and dangerous–dangerous to us as Americans and dangerous to our Beloved Troops! We will see a higher casualty rate with the new ROE's.

What these men did or didn’t do in that combat situation is irrelevant. If they did not do it, they shouldn’t be in prison. If they did do it, they eliminated an enemy combatant and probably saved American lives in the process. I trust THEIR GUT! I was not there...they were. Everyone has an opinion, but you weren't there!


We need to bring our Troops home and–>> N-O-W! This has gone too far...hostiles will make a mockery of our TROOPS!

It constantly amazes me, what the 'Senior Ranks' in the Military, do to our Troops. They have never been in a 'War Zone.' They talk as though it were a game of Chess!

'Politically Correct' people love to use the term 'War Crimes.' Bring our men and women home now if we can't fight to win!

ENOUGH...PLEASE–let us take action in order to SET OUR HEROES FREE! ALL OF THEM!


Judy Cooper   July 9th, 2010 10:53 am ET

It has always amazed me that we have "rules" for such an obscenity as war. These men should be freed today. They were just doing their job, as sad a job as it is.

Sean   July 9th, 2010 12:34 pm ET

If it can be proved that these insurgents in fact did commit crimes, then the sentence is too harsh. If they were truly innocent bystanders, then it is indeed murder. In any case, I do not wish for these soldiers to waste away in prison, because I may have doen the same under the pressure that these men were under. It's a hard call, but I'm sure there are Iraqis that got away with murdering our soldiers, so it's hard to condem these men.

Chris   July 9th, 2010 12:40 pm ET

FREE THEM NOW!!! Remove the decision makers from command immediately. This is a waste or tax dollars and is only hurting family members. Soldiers and Marines kill – that is their only purpose on a battle field.

Toni E.   July 9th, 2010 2:21 pm ET

Get the damn lawyers off the battlefield!

Our "Catch and Release" detainee policy is disgraceful. Enemy combatants are released again and again to kill our soldiers, and our soldiers are imprisoned for defending themselves on the battlefield.

When our soldiers bring an enemy in for detention they are more often than not released, and our soldiers have to return the enemy with a letter of apology and a fistful of cash.

Release these honorable soldiers!

Skip Franklin   July 9th, 2010 9:29 pm ET

PS. Thank you ABBIE for taking the time to write a very good article.

Army wife 21 years   July 10th, 2010 10:40 pm ET

after being an Army wife for 21 yrs and having my husband deployed 3 times twice to Afghanistan and once to Iraq...Living the life...We know what are men and women go through in combat, we may not know details but we know the effects that this combat has on our loved ones. this situation was kill or be killed..they did what they did to protect themselves and battlebuddies and unit which are there family. Free these brave heroes give them awards not time in prison.
<3 you all stay strong and we will fight for you like you do for us!!

Oklahoma   July 12th, 2010 12:29 pm ET

If the situation were reversed, and a group of insurgents captured one of our American soldiers, disarmed him to where he was no immediate threat to the group, and then later shot him in cold blood, America would be justifiably OUTRAGED!

These men are trying to do an impossible job under VERY trying circumstances–circumstances that I cannot even imagine. But even these circumstances do not allow our soldiers to break the international Geneva rules on how they must treat prisoners of war. If we do that, we will no longer be able to morally say that our enemies must treat our POWs with human dignity.

We must never condone cold-blooded killing of POWS, regardless of the circumstances, unless we are willing to sit quietly as horrible atrocities are committed against our unarmed POWs by our enemies.

SCM   July 12th, 2010 12:44 pm ET

I dont agree with the life sentence of any soldier protecting our country unless it is blatant murder of civilians. Four Iraqi prisoners, whom probably killed US Soldiers should be put to death so they cant kill any more. During war times none of us know how we would react or think until you are faced with the destruction during war time. Self preservation is a part of all of us and noone can expect our soldiers to make choices in a split second that everyone will agree with. They can only make the choice based upon their experiences. I hope that the people putting them in prison will never have to experience what these soldiers have, but if they continue with these choices they should be sent to the front lines so that they can be educated with the reality of war and what these soldiers had to do to save all of us.

Trish   July 12th, 2010 1:36 pm ET

'Those men are heroes – not criminals, Do you think that our enemies would have hesitated to kill them??? Would they be in prison if they killed our soldiers??? Hell no. RELEASE THEM.

Mandy   July 12th, 2010 2:53 pm ET

I am a Canadian citizen, therefore my "opinion" may not count, however, I'm going to give it to you for free...

When you send men to WAR to KILL, and they do their job, the government has NO BUSINESS calling them murderers and prosecuting them like they "picked someone off a US street corner".

I say free these men... you paid them to KILL THE ENEMY, and that's just what they did... THEIR JOBS!!!!!

Just like the government to say one thing and condemn when their "orders" are carried out... that would be ANY GOVERNMENT, not just the US Government.

I hope these men truly find JUSTICE!

Sherri   July 12th, 2010 5:22 pm ET


No. I don't think anyone who kills someone else is a hero.


Kevin Gruber   July 12th, 2010 5:37 pm ET

I say hang the people who set the rules and release the incarcerated men. Bravery comes in all sorts of way and they are heroes and should be released

Wayne Reeves   July 12th, 2010 6:29 pm ET

War is for killing. The one who killls the most wins the war. Are we having nice wars now?

Dwight   July 12th, 2010 8:59 pm ET

Free those men NOW!

JAY   July 13th, 2010 2:53 am ET

Free these men, anyone who fights in a war should not be prosecuted for killing dirt balls. Even if it was not justified it should be, "Kill Them All Let God Sort Them Out"

retired army   July 13th, 2010 3:33 am ET

Folks get a grip. This was not self defence this was an out right act of FIRST DEGREE MURDER. Yes the dead may have been our enemy, but once detained they are out of the battle. If you see someone with a gun or trying to put in an IED then by all means kill the SOB, but to take men down to a canal and have then kneel down and shot them in the head is not how we treat our POW's. I for one feel like they should have been given the death sentence and it should have been carried out.

DMB   July 13th, 2010 5:09 am ET

It is a war, what do you expect to happen. The Army is ridiculous and I think it is atrocious to let PC reign in a war zone. This is a disgrace to our country to have these men in jail! I am sickened over this! LET THEM GO!!!!!

DMB   July 13th, 2010 5:14 am ET

A second thought to my original comment....I will NEVER encourage any of my children to join our armed forces! You just cannot trust our government when something like this can happen.

nance   July 13th, 2010 7:24 am ET

We ask the men and women of our military to serve this nation in times of peace and right now in times of war. WAR being the key word. They do their duty and without regard to their own lives and safety, and yet, they are being punished for doing their jobs. Free these men they did nothing wrong. They saved the lives of their fellow soldiers. This is a war pure and simple and people die in wars. Where is the outrage for our soldiers that have been captured and tortured? Where is the justice for our soldiers? What kind of message is the United States of America sending the SOB's that we are fighting? I am ashamed and disheartened by this legal system and my thoughts and prayers are with the men and their families. If you don't want killing then don't go to war.

Jon   July 13th, 2010 9:25 am ET

As a former army investigator I am appalled by the lack of thought that has gone into most of the posts on this page. If we do not agree with the law(Military or civil) then we do not have to abide by it right?? No that is not right, if we do not agree with the law/order/rule then we have to work to get it changed, we cannot have soldiers/civilians not abiding by laws/rules/orders etc, just because they do not agree with them. If the soldiers could show a immenent threat then they would of been justified, the military has a court system that tried and found these individuals guilty. The system allows for lawyers, arguements, evidence to all be presented. If they do not agree with the judgements then there is an appeal process. We cannot make judgement based on limited facts that have been presented, we must assume that the military court and the soldiers lawyers presented all the facts and that the judgement was made based on the FACTS of the cases. Yea yea, I hear you all allready, but statistically it is a very small percentage of innocent people who are jailed after trial, less than 1% of the total inmate population.

macdaddy   July 13th, 2010 11:34 am ET

These men tied up 4 unarmed men, marched them to a creek and shot them in the back of the head. Just like the Nazi's did to the jews. Murder pure and simple, if you let them go, like Lt. Behenan, who also murdered an Iraq man, you tell all the military this is ok and orders don't mean anything. In 40 years they will be ok.

DuDaNasTee   July 13th, 2010 7:28 pm ET


bdecker   July 14th, 2010 10:09 am ET

I personally know of at least two situations where World War II combat veterans where honered at the White House by past US Presidents. Both of these mens fought fierce battles in Europe under the worst of human conditions and both of these men had shot German POW's on more than one ocassion. I've read thier war memiors, they were tired of seeing their fellow soldiers killed and if prisoners were taken when they simply had no way to adequately handle the prisoners, they simply shot them. Not saying this is right but this is war.

War is not about laws or right and wrong. War is about winning as fast as you can and getting home alive. Sometimes you have to do what you have to do and go on.

These soldiers should not be imprisoned for 40 years, commute thier sentence after a couple of years and let them go home. That should satisfy all those that seek a politically correct move in this situation.

JJ   July 14th, 2010 12:33 pm ET

While many think that what these individuals did was right because they were protecting themselves, they had not right to kill just because. Eventhough they found a weapons cashe, they did not really know that they were the ones that were firing up the soldiers. What they did was vigilantism! And not report it to anyone for 6 months is cowardice and unbecoming an NCO (especially a SENIOR NCO)! Granted, many of our Soldiers have been fired upon, wounded and killed, but two wrongs sometimes don't make a right. They are not heroes, they are cowards! They deserve the sentence for involuntary manslaughter! Be a man, serve your sentence.

jackie   July 14th, 2010 3:14 pm ET

Honestly, how do they know that the detainees were not going to harm anyone? It's our soldiers duties to protect us, and that is what they were doing, and you mean to tell me that if they had let them go and the detainees did in fact kill more americans, that it would be ok? I believe they are sent out there for a reason, and if they felt like their lives or the lives of others are in danger than i believe they did the right thing. LET THEM GO!!!

Ryan   July 15th, 2010 12:56 pm ET

In my opinion these men acted wrongly. Now I know you hardcore patriots out there probably think i'm a coward or a 'terrorist' but I know there is no honor in killing someone who has no chance to defend themself. Thats the difference between being a battlefield casualty or being executed. What if these soldiers made a mistake and the so called insurgents were actually decent people trying to flee the violence. Lets get real here people I am proud of our soldiers but lets get rid of this "our soldiers can do no wrong" mentality. On second thought i say lets free these soldiers and put the bush administration in jail for 30-40 years for causing all of this death and destruction and so called patriotism all in the name of oil.

Andrew   July 15th, 2010 3:29 pm ET

From an infantryman with two combat tours to Iraq these men are guilty. Not because they killed supposed insurgants, but because of how and when they did it. The prisoners had been in U.S. custody, were unarmed and were being released. For whatever reason the military had determined to release these men. Individual soldiers don't get to "take the law into there own hands" and execute them – they had orders to release them. It is keeping with the good order and discipline of the military. Imagine the chaos if every individual could decide for themselves whether or not to shoot prisoners. There may not be much discussion of it, but there is Law of War. They weren't actively protecting or defending anyone. They were speculating on what might happen in the future. If these soldiers believed there was a "catch and release" going on then stop "catching." Had the shooting taken place during the capture or attempted surrender vice the release I might feel differently about it.

Lee   July 15th, 2010 5:57 pm ET

As a veteran I know that the government tells us to stand on the front line and watch are friends get shot but don't shoot back. These guys did nothing wrong and shouldn't be sitting in a jail cell so the Army looks to good to military hate groups.

M   July 16th, 2010 9:44 am ET

They are murderes and they got what was coming to them, and regardless of whether or not they remain in prison, God has seen their actions and one day they will face their eternal judgment.

Stinger USN 69-75   July 16th, 2010 11:15 am ET

Release them; NOW! Sometimes I hate my leaders for the PC worms that they have become. Is there no one in authority that sees the injustice, and is willing to step up? No; I didn't think so...

DJ   July 16th, 2010 11:53 am ET

*Hero's* yes they should be release it was war.

DW   July 16th, 2010 8:54 pm ET

What part of war don't they get. Our military commanders have lost their balls. You do not catch and release enemies. It's a war you kill them before they can kill you. Where the hell is Swartzcoft, Patton, or McArthur? Put stormin' Norman in there and they'd all be home by Christmas. Did we catch and release Nazi's? HELL NO! What about Japanese POW's. We hung on to them until the war was over. I swear Norman Swartzcoft was the last real General we had. This is hunting not fishing there is no catch and release.

wjking   July 17th, 2010 12:49 am ET

we take an oath to protect and defend the constitution of the USA from all enemies both forein and domestic. it's a shame we (soldiers) take the brunt of the task and the political fallout, all in the name of the freedom we are to protect.

James Hersey   July 17th, 2010 3:34 pm ET

I served with 1st sgt John Hatley and with sfc mayo this is wrong they are men of honor men that would give there lives for there country for there families for anyone one they would have given there lives to protect me in iraq in 2004 and I would have given mine to protect them they taught me this. I remember my first encounter with the 1st sgt I had gotten in a fight at a night club had to face the first sgt the next day he says to me "Hersey nothing ever good comes from going to a club,you know your tough I know your tough but if you cant tell friend from foe your not any help to me or this unit " and he could have demoted me article 15 you name it but he didnt he talked to me and taught me he was the father figure I never had and the man taught me honor and respect and integrity this man has saved countless lives in his service not all of them in iraq he is a credit to the army the united states and to anyone that knows him

m   July 17th, 2010 3:50 pm ET

These soldiers should not be imprisoned. They did what they needed to do. "Catch and Release" shouldn't be applied to anything other than fishing and the policy definitly doesn't belong in our military (or our federal government... ahem... illegals...) And honestly, if the situation was reversed, and the enemy had four of our unarmed soldier? Do you think they would keep our soldiers alive?
... Only long enough to torture them...

m   July 17th, 2010 4:00 pm ET

And one last thing... When in war, humanity is non-existent...

Sleeping Beauty   July 17th, 2010 11:28 pm ET

Let these men go!!! Its kill or be killed, thats what war is. I am proud of all our men and women who are fighting for our freedom, they should not be in any prision but be back home with their families.

Talasin   July 18th, 2010 1:47 pm ET

Which prison are the people who tanked our economy in?
Which prison are the politicians in that drove our country into the ground?
Which prison is the wife of our President in for sedition? (Didn't you see the news clip of her promising an illegal alien child citizenship?)
Which prison do YOU want to be in when they come for you?

Taylor   July 19th, 2010 9:02 am ET

@ Geoffrey G. Nathan, Esq. Do you have a template of a good letter to use or a website to give examples. I think more people would be willing to write if they understood what they had to write.

Charlotte Hoaks   July 19th, 2010 11:17 am ET

Catch and Release...since when is war like sports fishing? My father fought in WWII and they fought battles where the enemy were caught or killed and those caught were sent to prisons or camp until the end of war to ensure they not fight again. Whose bright idea is it that a revolving door makes for winning a war and defeating an enemy?

MSCAPTININSANO   July 19th, 2010 11:50 am ET


a   July 19th, 2010 1:08 pm ET

I work in a prison and I deal every day with people who are the scum of the earth. If they get violent, we are able (required, in fact) to use whatever force is necessary to regain control of the situation.

However, once the situation is under control, THE USE OF FORCE STOPS. It doesn't matter what the guy just did, or what he's in prison for. Once he's under control, the fight's over.

You've got to have those kind of rules. If you don't, things get out of control because people's emotions get out of control.

These insurgents were in custody. They were under control. Taking them out and shooting them is just cold-blooded murder.

Believe me, I know what it's like to see someone released that I think is still a serious danger to society. I don't like it, but it's not my call. It wasn't theirs, either. They need to be held accountable for their actions.

bloodofpatriots   July 19th, 2010 1:11 pm ET


I can understand why temperatures are running hot on this issue. I come from a family with a proud military heritage, fighting for our safety since the French and Indian War. And I say, without hesitation, that these men are murderous thugs who deserve no clemency.

We regulate the actions of our soldiers because, as a society ruled by laws, we must have standards. One of these standards is that when you shoot and kill a soldier who's trying to kill you, you're justified; when you execute a helpless prisoner, you're a criminal no better than the 9/11 terrorists, or the Germans at Malmedy.

These men may have been heroes in combat, but that ended the day they presumed to have powers of judge, jury and executioner. Instead, they should have remembered that they've sworn an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States of America.

This is one of the big differences between our republic and totalitarian regimes from throughout history and across the world: We have ideals to uphold that go beyond "kill this guy now lest he try to kill us tomorrow". We do not kill for expediency.

We value our combat soldiers so highly because they risk their lives for us when we go to war, because we expect them to protect and defend our people and institutions. If they crap all over our laws and our values, they've struck at the very pillars of what they've sworn to defend.

There is no legal or moral justification for their actions.

Derek   July 20th, 2010 5:16 pm ET

It was murder. If 'enemy combatant' Iraqis held an unarmed US soldier as prisoner and shot him dead, wouldn't we consider that to be murder and something worthy of punishment or retribution? It is sad, unfortunate, and possibly unjust. But we cannot individually act as judge and executioner, as it appears that this First Sergeant did. Our society stands for more than that. May God's peace be with you Kim, and your husband.

Linda Taylor-Day   July 20th, 2010 11:10 pm ET

1SG Hatley, SFC Mayo, and Doc Leahy joined the military to protect this country at all cost. But what they did this was not Battlefield justice this was out right murder. I don’t care how highly decorated these men are, they still murdered four people without reason. These soldiers are not Heroes and should not be released. The men they murdered could have had families of their own. The US Army courts did the right thing by sentencing them to prison for killing 4 men. As a wife of an active duty military man with 25 years of active service and has been deployed twice to Bahrain and Iraq, I would not respect my husband if he murdered four men without reason.
LTD 26 years USCG Retired

kelly   July 21st, 2010 12:14 am ET

I think these men should get out, I think until we walk in there shoes we can't judge, they lived every day over there wondering if they were going to live or die every day, things happen in war and there is no reason they need to spend all this time in jail. i will never think any less of any of these soldiers. God bless there family's and may get released soon we can only pray.

bear   July 21st, 2010 7:21 am ET

It's a bunch of crap. If the miliary is prosecuting it's soldiers for killing. Why the hell are we sending them over with weapons. When you can hear the bullits whistling by your head and watch as a friend bleeds out and dies in front of your eyes its a totally different story. The persons that thought up these rules of engagement is probably a politician that has not been in that situation. If limitations are placed whats the point of going, their soldiers not the Peace Corp. Hope these guys are released soon.

Sam   July 21st, 2010 3:16 pm ET

I love our soldiers...was one myself. But, I stand by what the Army said. This was murder and no matter how one tries to rationalize it away under the guise if "war" it does not make it any less barbaric and inhumane.

nick   July 21st, 2010 11:52 pm ET

Not only is john a hero he is a mentor to the brave men and women that fight for this country! People that have never watched someone die in front of them or see the horrors of war are quick to judge. John hatley loved every one of his soldiers as much as he loved me his son. I recently came back from a deployment in afghanistan and flew out to kansas to see john. After 20 years of combat training and fighting he told me he was more scared when I deployed than when he was there himself because he wasn't there beside me. So if you think we do this to kill your wrong. We fight for the guy next to us because if we keep him alive he keeps me alive.I can assure you that we don't want to kill anyone that we don't have to because then what are we fighting for? Put yourself in johns shoes before you judge him. Be glad that you can drive by a box on the road and not tense up waiting for it to explode. You people have it so so easy because of men and women like john. You have no idea the pain that we all share because of what we have done keep that in mind.

akay   July 23rd, 2010 8:14 am ET

I have tried to take a neutral stand on this issue. Understandably this is emotional for every US citizen with any shred of patriotism in them.

However there are two aspects of the issue.

The was the act to shooting a captured enemy 'combatant' right?

Clearly if these 4 insurgents / combatants had been captured, they get classified prisoner of war, and they should have been treated according to the US Military Code of Conduct. Hence, technically, the punishment of these soldiers is justified.

The second aspect is around the contention that these individuals seem to have been made a scapegoat and what is moral obligation that the country has to these men?

Clearly the act carried by these soldiers was a result of deep in-grained mistrust of commanders on the ground and of the strategy of engagement being followed by the commander in chief. Given John's long and distinguished career, I find it absolutely unbelievable that he carried out this act in sudden anger. This is clearly act seems like a result of long and sustained frustration. The army owes it to John and every other soldier who put his life in danger to investigate the circumstances under which this incident has occurred.

Further this begs the question, did these soldiers feel, or were made to feel, a complete dis-regard of the perils that they faced on a day to day basis?

Jimmy Crane   July 26th, 2010 12:22 pm ET

These men should be freed immediately, and restored to duty and their records cleared of any wrong doings, because they did nothing wrong. they wrer in a war fighting for survival and American lifes and freedom.

alisa   July 27th, 2010 3:53 pm ET

I feel that these men are heros being punished for helping the United States. These men risked their lives for us and put themselves on the line. Now because they killed these iraqi's who probably would have killed them or other soldiers if they had not done so, are being jailed for life? This is something that boggles my mind. I think these men should be released just because they served enough time over in that hell! Jail isnt as bad as being as war. My fiance is in Afghanistan as we speak and if he had to make the choice to kill one of them tommorrow would support him 100%. Its their lives or the terrorist's lives. What makes them more deserving to live considering the moral they are living by? This is just absolute non sense these men are imprisioned. You would think being the "land of the free" someone would have more to say about this!!!!!

mafi   July 27th, 2010 4:35 pm ET

These men are not being called heroes because they killed but because they were doing their jobs working for their country.I am pretty sure they did not enjoy and no one enjoys killing but they had to .They did what they had to do they all shouldn't be punished for it.I pray that they will be set free

Anthony   July 27th, 2010 5:09 pm ET

Let them go. They did nothing wrong. The only reason they are in prison is B/C some stupid liberal had to start whining for the enemy for war crimes. its not a crime its not murder its war those people are the enemy. If they got a hold of you they would torture and kill you with no second thought, man, woman old, or young, they would kill you.

Let our soldiers go!

Mary VanLuven   July 29th, 2010 7:06 am ET

I only ask, what the hell were these soldiers suppose to do, wait until they were shot and killed and unable to protect themselves. They were surviving in WAR for God sake!! I'm really glad to hear that Anderson Cooper will be doing a special on this. He's is a well respected, fair and honest reporter that will not quit until he gets to the bottom of the truth. He will be of great help to this cause so rest easily while it's in his hands. He will give you a fair shake and hopefully shake up the truth so your loved ones can come home with a clean record!!! Love and God Bless

boss hogg   August 1st, 2010 10:50 am ET

Hatley is a hero, let him go.

Bob Wonnell   August 8th, 2010 9:51 am ET

For God sakes release these men. They were soldiers doing what we ask soldiers to do in wartime. Wake up America.

Diaz Nicolas E   August 8th, 2010 12:04 pm ET

i served with 1sg Hatley, during that time, used to cross paths almost everyday, and just to know that he was one of the leaders in charge in our batallion made me so proud and felt good to know that soldiers under his command were taken cared of. He was and always be the leader i will follow anywhere anytime, any war!!! To those who dare to critize or judge his actions, shame on you! people have no idea what it was like over there, to see your brothers, and friends die based on a policy that was not working, i am witness of the so corrupted system that the iraqies had, still do. catch and release??!!! really??? we got those monsters off the street , those who were killing entire families to include babies that were shot while breastfeeding from their mothers, people that killed children while they were playing in their backyard, i witnessed all these despicable acts comitted by these people that just for the fact that they were shiites were release regardless of what they did!, and continue killing inocent people, i can asure you and could put my hands on the fire when i say that when these prisoners were executed, violence in that sector stopped for a while. these soldiers are heroes and should be release and given an honorable discharge, because of their actions saved countless american soldiers lives, they deserve the freedom they defended and fought for.

''jack''   August 8th, 2010 12:30 pm ET

I served with 1sgt hatley during OIF 06-08. You can't convince me otherwise that those four "detainees" didn't get what they had coming. We'd face these same damm guys over and over again because they decided to let them go. They were caught red handled handed. so what's the problem. Let me ask the prosecutor's this. If you were in their shoes and if you experienced what we did. Wouldn't you have done the same thing?........

Dennis McCarthy   August 8th, 2010 1:31 pm ET

If we insist on tying our soldiers' hands behind their backs in this war, then the only option is to bring them all home if they're not permitted to do the job.

First Sergeant Hatley is no more guilty than Border Patrol Agents Ramos and Campeon are – and, to be clear, I mean he and they are NOT guilty. We cannot charge our miltary to protect our nation, then beat them down when they do. America will fall if men like John Hatley remain imprisoned.

WolfPack4Life   August 10th, 2010 9:50 pm ET

Ok let me explain something, I have served under 1sg Hatley and he will always be a 1sg in my eyes. I have never ever before seen a man so devoted and willing to sacrifice for his men(son's)'

Here is the problem I have he allegedly killed 4 detainees, well in order to have a murder I beleive you must have bodies. I do not believe any were found. After an extensive search of the towns people asking if they were missing family memebers none were reported. The Iraq's would report a dog missing just to claim money from the U.S. So I ask if we have no reports and no bodies how do we have a murder, let alone 4. Just food for thought.

Marine Mom   August 10th, 2010 10:54 pm ET

A lady posted on July 12, 2010 that no one that kills/murders is a hero. Our Military history is full of them... Heros that HAD to take lives to protect our country, our rights, and our freedoms. Very few of them wanted to take a life... it was just something they had to do in the moment. Until you've walked in someone's shoes, you have no right to make any judgement. I have a scenario for you. You have 4 children and one day you go to the grocery store without them. While you are gone, a man breaks into you house and kills one of your children. He is taken to jail, but due to lack of evidence, he is released back into your neighborhood. A few days later he comes back, breaks into your house (unarmed) to kill the rest of your children. This time you are home... what do you do? To me... the mom who would put a bullet in that SOB would be a hero! He might be unarmed... but NO BODY would get to my babies! Just saying! Maybe that's how John Hatley felt. From what I've heard about him, his soldiers were like his sons. I know there are very strict rules in the Military, my husband spent 10 years in the military, my son is a Marine, and for the most part I agree with and understand the rules. But you can't judge if you don't know every little detail of each situation. I think serving in the US Military for 20 years, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan as long as John did, and seeing all that he has seen, should be punishment enough.

Barbara   August 13th, 2010 4:24 pm ET

These men and all of the other men and women sent to war are given guns with live amunition. If they aren't meant to kill the Iraqi insurgents, then we should send them to war with rubber bullets, billy-clubs, and/or stun guns. It is a "war"; Kill or be Killed. I believe this happens in all, if not most wars. Usually when men make a pact to do what needs to be done and keep silent about it don't usually "rat out" their comrads like Seargeant Cunningham did..

DGriego   August 16th, 2010 10:39 pm ET

These men are heroes in my eyes and should be counted as heroes by their country. I do not think anyone can understand the horrors of war, and the choices that must be made often in a second's time and the scars that our brave warriors carry, unless they have been there, or waited for someone who went there.
I love America, and I love and respect our military in which I was proud to serve in my day, but I am ashamed of the treatment we have given these men, in exchange for their faithful service. If we as citizens, sit silent and allow such treatment to go unanswered, then we as citizens deserve not the sacrifice that is given by men such as these for our benefit.

Todd San Diego   August 16th, 2010 11:39 pm ET

It's easy to judge from an arm chair in a safe country in a safe house, with plenty of sleep. These men have been in combat for most of their enlistments. If someone broke into those lawers houses and killed thier significant others and got let go, then that same person goes back into their house to kill the kids I would hope the one in charge of the house would protect those looking to him w/ saftey.
Release Them Now

Rwelement   August 17th, 2010 2:05 am ET

We can drop atomic bombs and kill thousands on civilians in japan, but these heros kill some insurgents and they get punished? I just don't get it! Free these heros!!

SteveInSD   August 18th, 2010 2:48 am ET

What I have to say might already have been said, but I have become too angry to read all of the comments.
A relatively small percentage of those commenting have taken the purely ideological position that it is wrong to kill prisoners. They are unarmed, at our mercy, etc. That is true in a purely logical situation.
The situation our forces are put in is not logical at all. They have been put into a position where one of the most basic natural rights, self defense, is severely infringed. ROE give the enemy the advantage of choosing the time and place of any fight. That alone is an advantage almost impossible to overcome, especially long term. On top of that, if they capture an enemy and it is deemed there is insufficient evidence, they have to turn them loose to try again?
As if that were not bad enough, let's leave them in that position for months on end, and let them watch their buddies get killed, mutilated, etc. That is not a sane situation.
What type of crime would they have to be guilty of to be sentenced to something like that? Wouldn't it likely be labled cruel and unusual punuishment? And they are put in that situation without even being accused of anything.
I would let every one of these guys plead temporary sanity (yes, sanity).
I think the real criminals are the ones that created that situation and put them in it. Line every one of them up against a wall somewhere. Every one of them.

nick   August 21st, 2010 1:40 pm ET

I saw i documentary about the war in iraq. There was the part about the "surge" that really made me upset. This was my first deployment by the way. What made me so mad was the fact they left out so much. The fact they lied so much. They said, our job became easier, we were able to get more rest. B.S.! It only made our job harder. I recall numerous times only getting maybe 2 hrs of sleep if i was lucky. Our deployment was pushed to 15 months. We were hit everyday. We took insurgents prisioner during raids. many times i'd have to gaurd them only to see them get let go. Lots of time THE F@#!ing DHAH WOULDN"T TAKE THEM AS A RESULT OF THIS MORE OF OUR GUYS WERE KILLED! HOW MUCH PROOF DO YOU NEED? our blood isn't enough for you for. Why would they lie like that? Why can't they just tell the truth. They clearly don't care. just my opinion

Kay   August 25th, 2010 1:06 pm ET

It's amazing how many of you think it's perfectly fine to murder unarmed people and throw them in a canal...since we ALL know darned well that, had it happened to OUR troops, you'd all be up in arms screaming about it and calling for blood.

And, if another country invaded the USA, are you telling me that YOU wouldn't fight back??? Never mind that the invaders call you "insurgents"...wouldn't you consider yourselves patriots fighting for your own darned country???

(After all, we *are* talking about Iraq...that did NOT have WMD. And that did NOT have al Qaeda until *we* invaded and left the darned place wide open for them to come in. Way to go, USA. Invade a country that didn't need invading.)

Come on, guys. Use your frickin' common sense.

Jake   September 5th, 2010 9:03 pm ET

Kay, crawl back to your hole...John Hatley is a HERO!

Crandon Mahoe   September 7th, 2010 1:23 pm ET

I am a Squad Leader and I have had the honor to serve directly under the command of 1SG Hatley. I am amazed that there are people out there that have their own opinions about war crimes, and the closest that they have ever been to it, was either playing a video game or watching a war movie. Being an Infantry soldier in the middle of a war zone is one the most difficult things in the world. Especially being a Non-Commissioned Officer, our job is train and lead Soldiers into combat. What the public doesn't know, is that the Federal Government entrusts leaders like us to take care of the many sons, brothers and fathers that serve this country. I challenge the public to ask themselves: When you go to work, are you personally responsible for the life of the people that work for you? Do you rely on the person that you work with to do whatever needs to be done to take care of you? I know it might sound silly to ask yourself these questions, but that is the way I view our lifestyle. We have no choice but to rely on the man to our left and right, because our very lives depend upon it. Once you are put in a situation where you are personally responsible for another human life, then you may voice your opinion of war crimes and justice. I have served with 1SG Hatley in the past and I would continue to follow him until the end of time. I have no regrets, and I do not believe that the allegations brought against him and the other NCOs have put them in this predicament. I support John Hatley, and I know that they are wrongfully imprisoned and need to be released as soon as possible.

Charles B Vance   September 7th, 2010 8:11 pm ET

After watching this "report" I was sickened by the blatant bias you had for these men Abbie. Within the first seconds you had already identified them as murderers, and most despicable of all, you actually referred to MSGT Hatley as a "monster" while interviewing his precious wife, shame on you.

In the theater of war there is no law and to characterize this theater as a "crime scene" expecting soldiers trained to engage with and destroy the enemy to then switch roles and collect evidence, take photos, and even get eye witness testimony from that enemy to justify the action is impossibly insane. You should are an educated person, you should understand this. Please take off your pious liberal cloak long enough to see the truth.

Release the Leavenworth 10!!!!!

Polly Vance   September 7th, 2010 8:21 pm ET

We now know that there are confused orders, rules of engagement, and unrealistic and unattainable rules for holding detainees which I call "suspected terrorist". The unrealistic rules for holding suspected terrorists have allowed for the"catch and release" policy now being enforced by our military. The "catch and release" policy has afforded the terrorist the ability to go home to their families without detention and be "freed". Realistically, it has also afforded them to be released only to kill our men and women in uniform again, and again, without reprisal. Thus, the lack of congruency relating to the "state of war" vs. the "rule of law" flies in the faces of all who deem to recognize it.
I believe that a grave injustice has been done, not to the terrorists that were killed, not the suspected terrorist, but to the brave men who made decisions in combat that would protect the lives of their men and the lives of Americans. As for the words "murder", "crime", or "monster"...they don't belong in any discourse regarding "war".

Jason Beaudyne   September 12th, 2010 8:57 pm ET

If we can get a real man,or woman,in office for president in 2012,maybe all these courageous veterans can be vindicated and released.How can we help more???

defendjohnhatley   September 18th, 2010 10:50 am ET


defendjohnhatley   September 18th, 2010 10:55 am ET

CNN did an OUTSTANDING job of covering our story. John and I are very thankful to the Special Investigatives Unit reporter – Abbie Boudreau and her producer, Scott Zamost for all their hard work and professionalism. I would also like to thank CNN's Anderson Cooper for his 4 x consecutive nights of covering our story, to include a 1-hour documentary which followed on the 5th night. All aired Internationally in November 2009.

Thank you.

Kim Hatley
Proud Army Veteran
Proud Marine Mom to a son serving in the US Marine Corps
Proud Wife to (former) Infantry First Sergeant John Hatley who served his country for almost 20 years of his life

SueAnn   September 23rd, 2010 12:22 pm ET

This is a clear example of UPSIDE DOWN JUSTICE! We are so politically correct, U.N. butt kissers, that we are making VICTIMS of our enemies and CRIMINALS of our warriors!


Imprison those prosecutors who sent them there! This is U.N. tyranny!

sara   September 25th, 2010 4:24 pm ET

that is no hero, regardless of what those people in Irag are it does not constitute vigilantism. The insurgents did not attack those soldiers or were causing bodily harm to them so there is no act of self defense. To be called a hero is a disgrace for the men and women who have died in real harms way. He deserves is punishment as well as the others do. If thats what there pointing out to other countries that is what real american soldiers do is kill is just a shame then the other countries sees the US as the enemies. Plain and simple they killed now they should be punished to the full extent.

Lesley Noble   September 26th, 2010 9:45 pm ET

Let them go. Their action saved lives. I am sorry they were forced into it, but they were given an impossible choice. Let them go.

TRY   September 28th, 2010 2:45 pm ET


Donna Griego   October 24th, 2010 6:58 pm ET

Yes they should be released. As the mother of an Infantryman it is my prayer and my hope that he will always serve under a man such as John Hatley, one who will put the lives of his men ahead of his own.
Release them.

Tony   December 29th, 2010 12:47 am ET

They should be sentence to time served, in country (Iraq). I'm a 3 time combat veteran of Iraq, and I served in OIF 2 with 1SG John Hately. This man is a hero. He saved my life numerous times and deserves to be set free. So do the men that are in prison with him. War is hell, bad decisions are made every day by generals and colonels that are in charge of all of the soldiers on the ground, but yet nothing happens to them when they send troops to certain questionable areas and they get attacked and only a few of them survive. They just brush off their shoulders, issue the proper "purple hearts" and send a folded flag home to mommy, and act like nothing happened. Why aren't they punished? Why aren't they in prison? John and his men are hero's, so they made a mistake and lives were lost. It happens every day, it's WAR!

bran dito   January 2nd, 2011 7:10 am ET

War will be war. Instead of imprisoning us soldiers for what we were called to do how about praising us. The true crime i see in this is not the killings but the locking up of the soldiers who were just doing what they felt best to save there lifes. If there in jail then shouldnt the countless bomber pilots be who killed hundreds of inocents. Just saying there is always death in war since when do we start locking soldiers up. This has to stop, it has soldiers scared to defend them selfs for fear of being locked up when they do.

Michelle Woods   February 1st, 2011 10:25 pm ET

Despite the fact that most Americans think these Soldiers were done wrong, our government still doesnt listen to us!!! Our government is suppose to be there to represent US, the AMERICAN people! And we want our Soldiers released AND pardoned!!

Tank   February 2nd, 2011 1:39 am ET

Free them!!!

w   February 16th, 2011 4:09 pm ET

Probably the most ignorant comment I have ever seen. Maybe You should educate yourself on government before you post such ridiculous comments. The truth is plans of terrorist attacks were under way well before bush and 9/11. Clinton knew these plans were underway and did nothing resulting in 9/11. 1000's of innocent people were killed. Bush simply saught justice for those people. No one likes war but it was necessary. That being said it needs to end and OBAMA who promised an end is instead sending more troops over.

Eric Larsen   March 25th, 2011 6:01 pm ET

Hi, I realize this situation presented to you Mr hatley and to you Mrs hatley has come on deaf ears, to include most who have tried to help in many ways, but know in advance that they cannot. The president of the United states can pardon all 3 men if he seems to deem this as a case of injustice. I will only say this, the procedures been used now definitely fail in every category to free them all, from thousands of letters to congress all the way to the white house is the issue at hand here.The appeals process to the military will never work, they all convicted these men and will stand by their bent morals to the very day they die...believe me there is so many other approaches needed here. Put pressure on all your politicians and not a handful of brass that kisses ass.

April   May 24th, 2011 4:18 pm ET

if cheating loosing arnold man can free criminals that are really criminals but yet the AMERICAN government keeps a hero locked up. I don't care if you put him and his family in a private secure custody and change the identity of him and his family. get this man the hell out of there sick A** people! I mean for God's sake, may those of you that made this decision burn in the same depths of hell that you not only sent this man off to but created YOURSELVES as he suffers everyday and you so selfishly take for-granted! Wake the HELL up Obama cant he grant a clemency!

Carlos   May 26th, 2011 11:44 pm ET

Hatley kept his men alive.Inadequate counsil,i believe

brady   June 28th, 2011 8:08 pm ET

i served with john and he was a great man who did what was necessary to keep soldiers alive....he was dedicated to us and was face to face with the enemy unlike alot of leadership ..he would be there for you if you just needed a chat or just needed a boot in the butt to remind you life goes on after you lose a friend .....i pray that someone in our government will pull their heads out of there ass and do something about this...there are many soldiers that have been used as scapegoats these are men and women with families like johns hatley..i know his son and wife miss him alot and would like to see him back in their arms..........FREE JOHN HATLEY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Donna Griego   June 28th, 2011 8:13 pm ET

Free these men, they are most wrongly imprisoned. These men are heroes, they are like the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy, who parachuted behind enemy lines, like the men who fought on Iwo Jima, America you must write your elected officials on the behalf of these men, to let them sit in prison is so very wrong. Without men such as these our nation would be without hope.
As the mother of an active duty Infantryman, one who is right now getting ready to deploy, I can only pray, with all my heart, that he will be led by a man such as John Hatley and that he will be surrounded by men such as these.

They sit imprisoned because the majority of America does not know about them, does not know their stories, does not know the travesty of justice that has kept them incarcerated. Thank you CNN for reporting on this. KEEP REPORTING..DO A FOLLOW UP! PLEASE!

GruntStyle   June 29th, 2011 2:56 pm ET

I am an Infantry Drill Sergeant and business owner and I absolutely support Kim and MSG Hatley in what they did.

There is no doubt in my mind that he saved lives that day. Some heros gave up their life for others, John gave up the rest of his for others. Hero.

MrsHink   June 29th, 2011 9:29 pm ET

These US soldiers should never be in prison!

Justin   July 25th, 2011 11:05 pm ET

As a man who is serveing in the United States Army Infantry, and as a man who was deploied to Iraq in 08 after the surge. I know what 1st Sgt Hatley and his men where going through. The uncertantly of war, expeshally with a group of terriorest who fight like cowards and hide. In my personal beliefs he was doing his job and keeping his men safe. But as a lot of the public doesnt know Rules of Engagment are (at that time) shoot if threatened. Now where these guys terrorest? Of course they where, but the threat wasnt there yet. In UCMJ they were in the wrong, no matter how right they really were.

AJ   August 6th, 2011 1:39 am ET

This Great man was 6 months away from retiring from a 20 year career in the army. I really don't think it's right for you to cast such extreme shallow judgement on him and his men based on your husbands tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. You state that a soldier that decides he knows more then anyone else in the military. Please explain how that statement is remotely relevant to this situation? The reason I don't think it's relevant is because the goal was not to be defiant and disregard orders the goal was to save lives and they did that. If they really were defying orders, why did they take the detainees to detention in the first place?I will tell you, simply because they were following orders and sops not defying them. when that failed they improvised as every good soldier does and completed the mission to save lives. I'm not saying your husbands decisions not to do what these men did was wrong, but Since you claimed these heroes cost lives, I ask you ponder this: How many of the insurgents that your husband released decided they longer wanted to be "insurgents" and went on to be positive contributing members of society? I would guess next to none. Now ask how many went back to what they believe in(killing innocent people)? Lastly ask yourself how many of the insurgents that these heroes were supposed to release went back to being insurgents... ZERO. Who is costing lives now?

Johnny   August 19th, 2011 10:35 pm ET

A lot thing happen in war- people die -people get hurt – In Vietnam 1968 a young Lt. faced charges of murder. He was found gilt but did not have to live his life in jail. – In June 1968 a helicopter was shot down- later that day the pilot and gunner was found back to back., Dead they ran out of ammo. They had no chance. was the N.V.A. / V.C. charge for their murder? No. Other countries kill our soldiers and on with their lives.
Our soldiers kill and get killed, it's war. There is few rules in war. We who have fought the battles know this. Release my soldiers- my protectors! I feel our president should release these good men.

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