Niazy, Hale, Warnagiris And Our Endless War

Zalmay Niazy Photo Credit: CNN

Veteran Decries Inconsistent Justice by Ed Flaherty

The story of Zalmay Niazy of Iowa Falls has been well-publicized.  He was an interpreter for U.S. forces in Afghanistan for several years, has lived in Iowa Falls for several years, where he has become a valued and respected member of the community. He is now facing deportation back to Afghanistan because his visa has expired.

This is all happening as the U.S. is ending its military operations in Afghanistan and attempting to deal with visa requests from 18,000 Afghans who have served as U.S. interpreters. They now fear for their lives.

On Thursday, July 8, President Biden said, “There is a home for you in the U.S. if you so choose, and we will stand with you just as you stood with us.” Only a Pulitzer Prize-winner of the Fiction award could concoct such a ludicrous and obvious inconsistency.

Less obvious and more removed from the public eye is the contrast between the cases of Marine Major Christopher Warnagiris and Air Force veteran Daniel Hale.  Warnagiris participated in the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol, and reportedly physically attacked capitol defenders.  He has been charged with multiple offenses, but is still on active duty at the Quantico Marine base while awaiting trial. Daniel Hale, involved with weaponized drones while stationed in Afghanistan, has been in jail for several months and may be sentenced for up to ten years. His offense? He made public details about the use of U.S. weaponized drones, including the fact that, contrary to our government’s official statements, the drone program killed many more civilians than targeted “terrorists.”  

I hope by the time this article appears that Zalmay Niazy has gotten a green light to stay in the U.S. as long as he wishes.  And I hope that the July 8 words of President Biden regarding Afghan interpreters bear fruit in reality. I also hope that Major Warnagiris is promptly removed from active duty. If found guilty, part of his punishment must be a dishonorable discharge from the Marines. As for Daniel Hale, a truth-telling, non-violent veteran, I hope that Judge O’Grady imposes a very lenient sentence on July 27, and that President Biden grants him a pardon.

History will not treat kindly the U.S. involvement since 1980 in Afghanistan.  But at least we need not further dishonor our country’s reputation by ignoring the plight of these victims. Niazy and the Afghan interpreters who worked with the U.S. military served veterans nobly. Hale, asserting the rights of US soldiers to speak truth, honors veterans.  Warnagiris, if found guilty, should be punished even more than his January 6 peers because of the high responsibility he has as a senior officer to defend the Constitution.  He has dishonored veterans.

(Editor’s Note: On July 27, Daniel Hale was sentenced to 45 months in prison).

~ First published in the Cedar Rapids Gazette. Reprinted with permission of the author.

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