No Purple Hearts for “friendly fire”?

Let me skip all of the obvious political comments on the John Murtha story (including the questionable political wisdom — let alone the questionable morals — of trying to link a famous hawk like Murtha to Michael Moore) and note a bizarre policy I hadn’t been aware of. Apparently no matter how badly a soldier is injured, the Purple Heart isn’t awarded unless the injury was from enemy fire.

Several times a year, Murtha travels to Iraq to assess the war on the ground, and sometimes he just calls up generals to get firsthand accounts.

His voice cracked and tears filled his eyes as he related stories of one of his visits to wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

One man, he said, was blinded and lost both his hands but had been denied a Purple Heart because friendly fire caused his injuries.

“I met with the commandant. I said, ‘If you don’t give him a Purple Heart, I’ll give him one of mine.’ And they gave him a Purple Heart,” said Murtha, who has two.

Okay, I give up. What’s the rationale behind this policy?

Update Turns out “friendly fire” does count, but only in “the heat of battle.” Time to change the rules?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: