Author’s Note: This is my creative piece for the context of justice. Hope you like it, would appreciate some kind of response. WARNING: Has strong language and themes.
“It is the intention of this hearing to determine the culpability of Captain Jones in the shooting and hospitalization of Major Brandt,” the Judge said. He was a military Judge, a hard-faced man with grey eyes. He sat atop his high chair, behind his bench in a skeleton-like courtroom. Jones and Brandt’s lawyers were both there, plus the appropriate courtroom personnel. It was a fairly standard court room construction for what essentially amounted to a court martial. The events about to transpire, of course, were absolutely extraordinary.
“The Defense shall give their opening statement,” the Judge said. It was customary. Jones’ lawyer stood. He was a shrewd man, grey-haired and almost fifty with the kind of glasses that always made it appear as if he was peering at you curiously.
“Good morning, your Honour, Prosecution. My name is Mr Grey,” surprise, surprise, “and it is the intention of the defense to prove one thing today. My client admits to the assault of Major Brandt.”
The Prosecution was grinning, as if his day just became a dozen and half times easier.
“However,” Grey continued, in that voice that carries rapt attention and dares interruption, “my client did so under extenuating circumstances. Namely, the defense of innocent civilians who were, at the time, incapable of defending themselves. It is our intention to prove that Major Brandt’s racism and extremist bigotry led him to raising a gun to a family’s heads. It is our intention to prove that my client saw only one way to stop Brandt from murdering five people: shooting him in a non-lethal location.”
If a pin had dropped in that courtroom right then, not only would everybody have heard, but they would have ignored it. The skeleton crew, numbering about twelve, in the room were all staring at Grey as if we’d grown thirteen new bodily appendages in just as many seconds. Their owlish blinking was rather entertaining. The bland Judge merely sat there, his mouth slightly agape. This case was about to get a lot more complicated, and more than likely, it would also garner a lot more media attention. Attention that he really didn’t need.
The Judge took a moment to recollect himself and picked up his hanging jaw. Brandt’s lawyer stood up again.
“Your Honour, the Prosecution requests a short recess. We need some time to reexamine our case,” he said.
“Granted,” he said. “We will reconvene tomorrow at ten.”
He banged his gavel and everybody filed out of the room.
It was devilishly hot. This area was a frying pan. Every soldier dreaded it. Hell lived on this little patch of earth. It was expansive, and the glare of the rocky desert with small patches of dirty grass could blind an unprepared man.
But these men were far from unprepared. These men had trained for over a year to be here. Special Forces. The best of the best, the hardest of the hardest; the most indomitable people in the world. They were also, in hindsight, probably the most insane.
They parked their Humvee, beige to match the barrens. It was a little village they were visiting, one of the many in this area. With what amounted to mud huts for homes and poppy seed fields for farms, one would be lucky to find a cow amongst these villagers. They got their money and their food mostly by providing the insurgents with drugs to sell internationally.
The thud of the troop’s boots was obvious in the air. None of them wore helmets. All of them had guns.
They walked into the village, joking.
“Do you reckon we’ll see some action today, Dash?” Jerry Malone asked. Jerry was the joker of the group. Brandt, the lunatic captain. Jones, the calm second. Malone, the comic relief. And Sharp, the witty retort.
“Maybe. These guys aren’t gonna shoot at us though,” Dash Sharp replied, nodding at some villagers who were going into their houses.
“Look at the shits. None of them want to stand with us,” Brandt said, pointing with his gun. Jones’ head snapped around so fast, you could blink and miss it.
“’Cos when we leave, the guys with guns will come in here and shoot their wives and take their damn cow if they’re seen with us,” he replied. Jones was the calm one. The rational one.
But sometimes, it was hard as hell to stay calm when your commanding officer was being a dick.
“Plus none of them have your titanium balls, Brandt,” Jerry sniped in. They all laughed at that one.
“Alright, would the Prosecution like to call its first witness?” the Judge asked.
Brandt’s lawyer stood. He was wearing almost exactly the clothes as the previous day. Jones hadn’t bothered with his name before, but now he knew. His name was Mr Hart.
“Yes, your Honour. The Prosecution calls Captain Dashiell Sharp to the stand,” Hart said.
Dashiell Sharp was witty by nature. He was witty at training, witty in the field. But when you put some fancy military dress on the man, he was immaculate.
“Do you swear?” asked the Judge. Dashiell placed his right hand on the book of God by him.
“I swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth,” he swore. Mr Hart stood up.
“Would you recount the events that took place on the fourth of June this year for the court?” Hart asked.
This time the courtroom was almost full. This wasn’t trial by jury, as was military custom, but the press would still dig their claws into the back of this case. A soldier shoots another soldier to prevent racism? The scenario begged to be sensationalized.
“We were sweeping through the town, looking for weapons caches, when we came across a man and his family standing outside the front of their house…” Dashiell began.
“Are you sure they meant this village? These people are all freakin’ farmers,” Malone asked. Brandt turned to him.
“The thing about this damn place is that any one of those damn farmers could pull a gun out of their thirty-two and a half layers and shoot your eyeball out the back of your skull,” Brandt shot back. “And of course I’m effing sure they meant this village.”
Malone, suitably chastised, muttered a, “Fine, fine,” and stepped back into line with Sharp. Sharp and Malone made up the back line, and Brandt and Jones took the front end of the unit. They rounded a corner, into a little dead-end road. At the far end of the road (or rather, dirt path) was a man, standing a few meters in front of his family, all of whom were outside what was probably their house.
“Who the fuck are they?” muttered Brandt. Dashiell could barely make out the under-the-breath remark.
“Locals,” Jones replied.
“I know that, but why are they outside? All the others are pissing themselves inside,” Brandt said. Jones shot him a look, and Dashiell looked over at his friend. Even Malone, the guy who always laughed, was frowning at their leader’s behavior. “Let’s go find out.”
Before anybody could stop him, he was approaching the man.
“So you’re man enough to stand out here and look at us, huh?” Brandt said in Arabic. They all spoke the language; one of the reasons they made a valuable SpecOps team.
“Yes. You come into our town and sack and disturb and do nothing for us,” said the man. His wife sheltered her children behind her.
“What the fuck do you mean, we don’t do anything for you? We’re trying to free you from people who want to fucking kill you,” Brandt spat.
“Why didn’t one of you try to stop Major Brandt at this point?” Mr Hart asked Malone. Malone shot him a withering glare.
“Because we didn’t think it would go as far as it did. If I knew now what would have happened, I’d have knocked Major Brandt out and tied him to a post,” Malone replied.
“Continue,” Hart commanded.
“Your freedom and our freedom are not the same,” said the woman. The man nodded. Brandt looked like he would blow a fuse.
“You think we’re the same as the Taliban?” Brandt shouted. “Well, I’ll show you the fucking difference.”
Brandt pulled his assault rifle up, aimed at the family. “If I was the Taliban, I’d fucking shoot you!”
“The Taliban only shoot those who don’t do what they want,” replied the man. “We don’t want you in our house, so you cannot search it or destroy what is inside. Are you going to shoot us?”
Brandt unclicked the safety.
“What was going through your mind when your superior was threatening this family? Did you think they deserved it?” Mr Hart asked. Jones frowned at him.
“No, I didn’t think they deserved it. I was thinking that there are better ways to make the villagers believe we aren’t the Taliban, to make them see that they aren’t trading one dictator for another,” Jones said.
“More peaceful ways?” Mr Hart. The disdain in his voice was evident, and yet, totally unchallenged by the entire room, now full to the brim with reporters, family, and military personnel.
“Better ways,” Jones insisted.
If Sharp and Malone were lost and confused when Brandt pulled his gun up, they were even more impotent when Jones raised his, unclicking the safety professionally.
“You don’t know what you’re doing,” Brandt said, not lowering his gun, or altering his aim.
“Yes, I do. I’m trying to save a man’s life,” Jones snapped back. “Put the gun down, Major.”
“You’ll be court marshaled for this, Captain,” Brandt growled.
The slightest hair fell through the sky, and like a breath, it happened. The almost imperceptible twitch of Brandt’s index finger wasn’t missed by Jones. The sound of a single gunshot cracked through the open plain, echoing against the mountainous walls of the valley.
Brandt was one the ground, clutching his leg and screaming, trying to get at his gun. Jones kicked it away and stood over him, his rifle pointed at Brandt’s chest.
“My ruling is as follows: Sergeant Dashiell Sharp is cleared of any involvement in the events of June 4,” bang of the gavel, “Sergeant Jerry Malone is cleared of any involvement in the events of June 4,” another bang, “Captain Michael Jones is determined to be culpable in the events of June 4 and so is dishonorably discharged from the Armed Forces,” said the Judge, with another bang. It was supposed to be the final one. Cameras clicked. “And finally, Major Mark Brandt is suspended from duty, pending an inquiry into his actions during the events on June 4.”
The cameras went into a furor, and the entire room was drowned in white lights and shouts for comments.
INQUIRY INTO THE ACTIONS OF MAJOR MARK BRANDT: JUNE 4TH/2012
Subject of Inquiry: Major Mark Brandt
Purpose of Inquiry: To determine culpability and if necessary, punishment.
Events in Question: Attempted shooting of innocent civilians in the theatre of war, possibly because of extremist racist tendencies.
Result of Inquiry: Major Mark Brandt is found to have been acting with mission parameters and violated no orders, standing or otherwise active.
Comments: Major Brandt was doing what he needed to do.