Clint Lorance had been in charge of his platoon for only three days when he ordered his men to kill three Afghans stopped on a dirt road. A second-degree murder conviction and pardon followed. Today, Lorance is hailed as a hero by President Trump. His troops have suffered a very different fate.
The war crimes and their aftermath followed Lorance’s soldiers home to Fort Bragg and, in some cases, into their nightmares. […] Since returning home in 2013, five of the platoon’s three dozen soldiers have died. At least four others have been hospitalized following suicide attempts or struggles with drugs or alcohol.
Fox News’s Sean Hannity took up Lorance’s case, calling the conviction a “national disgrace.” […] This story is based on a transcript of Lorance’s 2013 court-martial at Fort Bragg, N.C., and on-the-record interviews with 15 members of 1st Platoon, as well as family members of the soldiers.
More from the story:
- Six days after Trump was inaugurated as president, Hannity asked him in a White House interview about pardoning Lorance. “He got 30 years,” Hannity said incorrectly. “He was doing his job, protecting his team in Afghanistan.”
- The president’s opponents described the pardon as another instance of Trump subverting the rule of law to reward allies and reap political benefits. Military officials worried that the decision to overturn a case that had already been adjudicated in the military courts sent a signal that war crimes were not worthy of severe punishment.
- In New York, Sean Hannity, Lorance’s biggest champion and the man most responsible for persuading Trump to pardon him, asked Lorance about the shooting and soldiers under his command. Lorance had traded in his Army uniform for a blazer and red tie. He leaned in to the microphone. “I don’t know any of these guys. None of them know me,” Lorance said of his former troops. “To be honest with you, I can’t even remember most of their names.”
- Zach Thomas, who had been standing just yards from Lorance when he gave the order to fire, was driving to community college in 2017 when he heard Hannity talking about the Lorance case on the radio. “My blood just started boiling,” he recalled.
- Others in the platoon argued on social media with pro-Trump friends, who insisted Lorance was innocent. “You realize I was f—ing THERE, right?” one soldier wrote to a fellow veteran. “Like you realize I was one of the godd— WITNESSES who testified, right?!”