Diana West

Does any American believe that Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, 28, should remain in a military prison for the next 20 years for "murder" after giving a legitimate order to his soldiers to fire at three Afghan men on motorcycles, killing two in the process?

What circumstances in those few seconds of on-the-ground command decision-making -- during Lorance's second patrol in Afghanistan -- could possibly compel the Army to rob Lorance of his freedom until he is 48 years old?

I have been reading up on Lorance's case and I find none. I am not a military prosecutor (thank goodness), but I see nothing in accounts of the incident to warrant a sentence of two decades -- unless, that is, Lorance's lawyer, retired Lt. Col. Guy Womack is correct. Following Lorance's sentencing at Ft. Bragg, N.C., on Aug. 1, Womack said: "The Army is using him as a scapegoat so they can tell the Afghan government the person who killed the civilians is being punished."

Read it and weep -- and get sick.

Then, I hope, get angry -- and let your congressman know it.

I have long had the terrible suspicion that the military has followed a "sacrificial lamb" strategy as the ugly subtext of "murder" prosecutions related to Iraq and Afghanistan going back at least as far as Haditha in 2005. Another landmark case involved Army Sgt. Evan Vela in 2007.

Vela is the first-tour Army sniper whose commander ordered him to kill a captured Iraqi who had blown the squad's cover behind enemy lines. In a highly unusual procedure, Vela was tried for murder in Iraq even after his division was ordered home. The Iraqi minister for human rights at the time, Wijdan Salim, attended the trial. "I want to be sure that any American soldier who wrongs an Iraqi will go on trial," Ms. Salim told Time magazine. "(Vela) killed an Iraqi man, an unarmed man. He must be punished." Vela was. He was sentenced to 10 years beginning in 2008. Thankfully, he was paroled earlier this year.

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).