Diana West

It's that time again, and I don't just mean Christmastime.

We're now entering the final phase of an outgoing administration. And during this phase, George W. Bush, mere mortal but still president, has the practically supernatural ability to grant pardons. This endows him with the power of life over death, of clemency over conviction. For one month more, President Bush will be able to right wrongs, show mercy and restore faith. For one month more, he will have the opportunity to pardon Sgt. Evan Vela, now serving 10 years in a military prison for what a court martial called "murder" but what I, along with many, many Americans, call war.

I first heard about Sgt. Vela last spring in an e-mail from his father, Curtis Carnahan. "I do not know if you have followed my son's case," he wrote, "but some people have drawn similarities between the Luttrell situation and Evan's."

Carnahan was referring to Marcus Luttrell, whose best-seller "Lone Survivor" tells of four Navy SEALS, Luttrell among them, whose secret mission in Afghanistan was compromised when two unarmed goatherds discovered the Americans hiding in Taliban territory. Fearful of precisely the kind of legal action that would later ensnare Evan Vela and his comrades, the SEALs, as Luttrell tells it, decided not to kill the Afghans, even to preserve their own lives, let along the success of their mission. So the SEALs released the Afghans and abandoned their mission.

It was the tragically wrong decision. Soon, the SEALs were under attack from a large force of Taliban. In the ensuing battle not only were three of the four SEALs gruesomely killed -- with only Luttrell living on as the "lone survivor" -- but so were 16 additional U.S. special forces who perished in a rescue attempt.

While the Taliban are the clear agents of death in this terrible case, it is our own acid ideology of political and cultural self-sacrifice that is actually responsible. The stunning fact is, the SEAL team faced not one but two enemies that day in Afghanistan: their jihadist opponents in the mountains and their politically correct fellow-citizens in the courtroom. They chose to fight the one enemy they thought they could defeat.

In very similar battleground circumstances, Staff Sgt. Michael Hensley, Evan Vela's squad leader, made a different decision. Of course, Hensley thought he could whip both enemies at once.


Diana West

Diana West is the author of American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character (St. Martin's Press, 2013), and The Death of the Grown-Up: How America's Arrested Development Is Bringing Down Western Civilization (St. Martin's Press, 2007).