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When self-defense is rendered meaningless

| Friday, Dec. 5, 2014, 8:57 p.m.

When St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert P. McCulloch explained that some exonerating testimony in the shooting death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., came from several black eyewitnesses (who described Brown as having charged police Officer Darren Wilson before he fired the fatal shots), it was a powerful moment.

Such testimony was consistent with physical evidence establishing that Wilson had not fired at Brown's back as repeatedly and poisonously alleged. Indeed, it would seem that the aggressor in this fatal encounter was not Wilson but Brown.

It was this right to self-defense — “even” for a policeman — that the grand jury decision left sacrosanct when it determined there was simply not sufficient evidence to indict Wilson for any crime.

Shocking as it may seem, self-defense is not a bedrock right in some courts — specifically, U.S. military courts, where U.S. soldiers have seen their right to self-defense on the battlefield negated by murder convictions.

Listening to McCulloch's statement of how an unarmed but powerfully built 18-year-old posed a threat to an armed policeman, I couldn't help but think about another case.

When former Army Ranger Lt. Michael Behenna shot and killed an unarmed Iraqi terrorist named Ali Mansur in 2008, Behenna, too, claimed to have acted in self-defense when the Iraqi rushed him. Physical evidence supported Behenna's version of events, but he was convicted and originally sentenced to 25 years for murder.

When the highest military appeals court affirmed his conviction, it determined that in the circumstances, Behenna had “lost the right to act in self-defense and did not regain it.” Sickening.

Think of it. The military appeals court ruling tells us that justice would have been better served had Behenna been killed in the altercation. I can't help think that the agitators in the Brown case, from President Obama on down, feel exactly the same way about Officer Wilson. To them, self-sacrifice (someone else's) is preferable to self-defense.

Earlier this year, an act of clemency released Behenna from the military prison at Ft. Leavenworth but not before he had served 5 years behind bars. Other U.S. soldiers remain behind bars whose main crime seems to be that they, too, remained alive after a do-or-die point of crisis.

There is Sgt. Derrick Miller, whose fatal struggle with an Afghan inside the defensive perimeter over Miller's own gun earned Miller a premeditated murder conviction — and a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole for 10 years.

There is also Master Sgt. John Hatley, convicted of the murders of four detainees in Iraq in harrowing conditions. Not only were the bodies never recovered, the deceased were never reported missing. Hatley, however, is serving 40 years in Leavenworth.

The Obama administration at these fateful junctures is consistently and predictably callous or hostile to those who have protected America from our worst enemies abroad or maintained the peace at home. This would seem to explain the many cases where Obama administration sympathies, or even benefits of the doubt, unduly extend to the other side, whatever form it takes, from terrorists to mobs.

As usual, this leaves the rest of us in serious trouble.

Diana West's latest book, “American Betrayal: The Secret Assault on Our Nation's Character,” is now available in paperback from St. Martin's Press.

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