President Trump has pardoned an American soldier who shot and killed an Iraqi prisoner in what he always has maintained was self-defense.
WND long has reported on the case of Army Ranger Michael Behenna, including in 2015, when he was released on parole from his sentence for killing an al-Qaida terrorist in Iraq.
Behenna had been given a 15-year sentence for the death of al-Qaida operative Ali Mansur in Iraq in 2008 and was paroled after serving five years.
The Daily Mail reported White House press secretary Sarah Sanders revealed Trump signed an executive grant of clemency for Behenna, now 35, of Oklahoma.
Behenna had been scheduled to remain on parole until 2024.
During his trial, Behenna confirmed he took the Iraqi prisoner to a remote area, stripped him and questioned him at gunpoint about a bombing that had killed members of Behenna’s platoon.
Behenna testified that the suspect suddenly moved toward him and was trying to grab his gun, so he fired at him.
The move for a pardon had attracted wide support in the military. Oklahoma’s attorney general asked for pardon in February 2018, then again last month.
The Washington Examiner reported the White House statement said, “Mr. Behenna is entirely deserving of this Grant of Executive Clemency.”
At the time of Behenna’s parole, talk-radio host Michael Savage interviewed Behenna’s parents.
Vicki Behenna, a federal prosecutor who worked on the Oklahoma City bombing case, explained soldiers in combat “are going to make decisions that the general public is not going to like, but you don’t incarcerate them for the decisions that they make.”
Michael’s father, Scott Behenna, is an FBI intelligence analyst and retired Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation special agent.
Vicki Behenna reflected then on the family’s years of fighting for Michael.
“There’s an injustice here, and it’s not just an injustice because it happened to my son,” she explained to Savage at the time. “But, how in the world do we expect to send soldiers and combat Marines into combat zones and not support them?”
Savage and his listeners were major contributors to a defense fund the family had established that receives online donations through the “Defend Michael” website.
‘I want to fight terrorists’
Haunted by the images of people leaping from the World Trade Center on 9/11, Michael Behenna told his parents he wanted to enlist in the Army and “fight terrorists.” He ended up enrolling in the ROTC program at the University of Central Oklahoma and graduated in 2006.
After Officer Candidate School and Infantry Officer Training, he was selected to attend the U.S. Army’s Ranger School. Behenna was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division as a platoon leader and deployed to Iraq in 2007.
Behenna and his platoon conducted counter-insurgency operations in the Salahuddin province.
Behenna, who learned Arabic in his spare time, was known for his efforts to engage Iraqi civilians, and he encouraged his soldiers to learn about their culture and eat their food.
“He was the type of guy that liked Iraqis,” Spc. Cody Atkinson told the Los Angeles Times. “That was the only annoying thing about him. He was always about saving the country.”
The platoon suspected the al-Qaida operative, Mansur, of being involved in an attack that killed two of their colleagues. But after holding him for nearly two weeks, military intelligence was unable to find sufficient evidence, and Mansur was ordered released.
An intelligence report, however, had identified Mansur as an explosives transporter for the local al-Qaida cell, and a local sheik identified him as a terrorist.
Behenna’s platoon was ordered to return Mansur to his town as soon as possible. The prosecution alleged Behenna, while conducting an unauthorized interrogation, shot Mansur in cold blood. Behenna claimed he fired in self-defense because Mansur was trying to attack him.
A government witness presented exculpatory evidence to prosecutors, but he was not allowed to testify, and the evidence was provided to the defense only after the verdict was delivered.