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Mercy or murder?

The attorneys and the judges in the Terri Schiavo case couldn’t get it right after a decade of legal wrangling and civilian court cases.

The brain-injured woman whose money was squandered in a protracted effort by her estranged husband to end her life, is now in her 14th day of court-ordered starvation.

Meanwhile, in Germany, a highly regarded U.S. Army captain is facing 20 years in jail for what he believed, under extraordinary battlefield conditions, was a mercy killing of a mortally wounded suspected enemy combatant.

You tell me we haven’t lost our moral bearings as a nation.

Everyone knows about the Terri Schiavo case. It has dominated news coverage throughout the world for the last three weeks. Her case has been debated in the U.S. Congress, the Florida Legislature, federal courts, county courtrooms and on radio and TV talk shows. The case of Capt. Rogelio Maynulet has received scant attention.

He stands accused in a U.S. Army court martial in Germany of taking the life of a mortally wounded suspected Iraqi terrorist in an act of battlefield compassion. He faces 20 years in prison.

Meanwhile, the estranged husband of Terri Schiavo is reportedly receiving multi-million dollar book, movie and TV deals for his story about his “act of compassion.”

You be the judge.

Maynulet is, according to his superiors, a highly regarded officer who made a split-second decision on the battlefield to commit a mercy killing of a severely injured Iraqi last year.

A medic on the scene, Sgt. Thomas Cassady, conceded during the trial that he “spazzed out” by the severity of the head wound – the worst he had ever seen in four years on the job.

He refused to treat the Iraqi and told the captain he “wasn’t going to make it.” Maynulet, convinced the man would not live, shot him to end his suffering.

Maynulet’s company had been on patrol when it was alerted to a car thought to be carrying a driver for radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and another militiaman loyal to the cleric. They chased the vehicle and fired at it, wounding both the passenger, who fled and was later apprehended, and the driver.

Two Iraqis who worked with Maynulet during his deployment to Iraq described him as compassionate and spoke of his helpfulness to civilians and Iraqi soldiers training for the civilian defense corps.

“Capt. Maynulet has compassion toward the Iraqi people,” Maj. Yehay Haider, said in written testimony read before the court. “Capt. Maynulet cares for the Iraqis.”

I suppose the easy thing to do under such extraordinary circumstances would be just allow the Iraqi to die a slow and painful death. Had he done so, there is little question Maynulet would not be facing disgrace and jail time.

But his intention was to stop the suffering of an enemy combatant.

Why is it that we expect soldiers on the battlefield to act like supermen when decisions of life and death are so hard to make under peacetime conditions and without time constraints?

Why was there such a rush to end the life of Terri Schiavo here in the land of the free and the home of the brave, with all of the great medical care at our disposal, but Capt. Maynulet is facing a stiff prison sentence for what appears to be a true mercy killing when no medical care was available?

This is yet another example of how mixed up America is as a nation right now – up is down, black is white, right is left and right is wrong.

Maynulet made the right call. The decision he had to make was tragic, but understandable.

The judges in the Terri Schiavo case made the wrong call. What they did defies understanding.