Alcohol infused bar fights rarely end well for military service members and when someone lays dead after it is all over, you’d expect that someone is going to be spending their foreseeable future in military prison. Particularly when they are tried by a military justice system that boasts a 90% plus conviction rate. However, the facts of the case laid out against Marine Raiders Josh Negron and Danny Draher told another story. The facts indicated that justice rested on the side of these two Marines’ innocence. Unfortunately, facts and a fair trial are not easy to come by when the military prosecution has a seemingly unended budget and a mandate to manufacture guilt. When these two Marines were cleared of homicide charges, it was a righteous win for military justice and if we can borrow just a few minutes of your time, we’d like to tell you why.
The Military Justice System Often Seeks To Compound A Tragedy
Now, we must first acknowledge that a Green Beret veteran who was serving as a private military contractor at the time lost his life in this incident. That is a tragedy in every light and we want to acknowledge the reality of that tragedy. Unfortunately, the military justice system often seeks to compound tragedy because it operates from the viewpoint that someone must be to blame for every tragedy. For the sake of military order and discipline, it is as if someone has to take the fall, innocence be damned.
It is a discernible truth that Gunnery Sgts Negron and Draher were drinking while deployed in Iraq and both admitted as much. There was a lawful general order in place which prohibited the consumption of alcohol in that location and punishment for such actions would be warranted. It is also a discernible truth that the private military contractor was drinking as well. When that military contractor came at the two Marines with drunken aggression, the Marines used violence in self-defense.
When the brief melee was over, the two Marines left the contractor in the care of a Chief Petty Officer and Navy Corpsman. It wasn’t the first drunken bar fight in military history and nor will it be the last. On the surface, this fight went down as most do. Unfortunately, the contractor would later pass away from his injury and the Marine Corps believed that someone had to pay for it. As such, it brought an extreme overreach of charges against two highly decorated Marines in order to compound the tragedy of this man’s death. That’s not justice, but it is what you’d expect from the military justice system.
One Violation Of The UCMJ Doesn’t Make You A Murderer
The way the military justice system likes to portray it is that the violation of one element of the UCMJ makes you guilty of them all. You were drinking while deployed, clearly you murdered this man. You missed formation because you were hungover in bed with a hottie, clearly you committed rape. That’s because the military justice system prioritizes order and discipline over truth and justice. It’s hard to scare people into compliance if you just keep dishing out light punishments, even if light punishment is what justice demands.
The Marines were drinking in violation of a general order. That’s wrong, but it has also been happening in Iraq since the invasion began back in 2003. We’ve heard first hand accounts of Marines purchasing beer and piss poor Iraqi whiskey from kids outside the wire. We can regale you with the tale of a drunken Corporal in 2003 Iraq who suddenly found himself a Private after getting drunk, half naked, and ceremoniously doing shots in front of the Company Commander.
It ought not be a surprise that we have 20 years of Marines drinking in Iraq considering the Marine Corps was born in a damn bar. That doesn’t make these Marines murderers. The right to self-defense is acknowledged in courts throughout the land, but the military justice system is a different animal. Remarkably and in a rare win for justice, these two Marines just might walk away with their careers intact thanks to an aggressive and competent defense.
You Can’t Coexist With A Military Justice System Out To Destroy You
We see it far too often that good men and women are hesitant to take on the military justice system because they think they screwed from the beginning. They knew they were busted for drinking and so why not give up and hope for mercy. It is a fool’s errand to expect mercy from a military justice system with a mandate to make an example out of you. You have to fight back if you hope to survive with your career, retirement, and freedom in one piece.
These Marines fought like hell and had a highly skilled civilian attorney who was willing to do the same. The result was that they were not only cleared of homicide charges, but a jury of their peers chose not to impose penalties for consuming alcohol. They could have easily faced years of confinement, dishonorable charges and forfeiture of pay just for those charges alone. Instead, they fought back and they won.
That is the moral of this story and it is a righteous win for justice in a system that rarely pursues it. If you’re facing an investigation or court martial and you know you did screw up, you still have to fight back. Again, one violation of the UCMJ doesn’t make you a murderer, rapist, or all around shitbag. You got drunk like Marines do and yet, you’re still the very person our nation needs in a fight. Granted, if you get half naked and start doing shots in front of the CO, you might be in that fight as Private, but hey, you’re still in the fight. Don’t give up if you are squaring off against the military justice system. Fight back, win, and get us into that fight on your behalf.