WASHINGTON — They say there is nothing more devastating than losing a child.
Imagine, then, what it must be like to have a son predict his own brutal murder, and stand by helplessly as his prediction comes true.
WND’s camera was rolling as Greg Buckley Sr. summoned all his strength and told the heartbreaking story of his Marine son’s violent death to the crowd at the “Reclaim America” rally across the street from the White House Tuesday.
Visibly shaken and struggling to keep his emotions in check, it obviously took all the willpower the proud father could muster to tell how Lance Cpl. Greg Buckley Jr. was shot to death by a supposed ally – one of the Afghans the U.S. military is assigned to train and protect.
Buckley Sr. recounted how his son, safely stationed in Hawaii, volunteered in March 2012 to replace an injured buddy slated to go to Afghanistan.
The Marine was sent to Forward Operating Base Delhi, and it quickly became apparent that all was not well there.
When Buckley Jr. predicted his own death, his father could not understand: The Marine should be safe because he was not on the battlefield.
But his son would explain why he felt being on the base with the people he was supposedly there to protect was so much more dangerous than being in combat.
‘You don’t understand how bad it is here’
The Marine told his father about training the Afghan police and described their chief as “a bad guy.”
“They’re going to kill me here,” the son told his father. “They’re going to murder me inside my facility. These people are bad people, Dad.”
“You people don’t understand how bad it is here,” he explained. “They don’t care about us. They don’t want us here. They said it to me. But we have to do what we’re told to do because we’re Marines.”
Buckley Jr. described how he how he wasn’t scared about fighting; he was scared about being murdered at night while he was sleeping.
“They’re not normal people, and we shouldn’t be here. We’re serving no purpose. We’re being lied to. They’re telling us one thing and it’s a whole other agenda. They have their reasons for us to be there. And as soon as we stand up and say something, they make us disappear,” the son confided to his father.
A few weeks later, the Buckley family received a goodbye letter from the Marine.
He thanked his parents for everything they’d done for him and told his two younger brothers to grow up to be great young men and always to do the right thing.
A few days later, the Marine was dead.
Fifteen months later, Buckley Sr. said the family still hasn’t received a report on the incident from the Marines.
The Marine Times reported, “Staff Sgt. Scott Dickinson, 29, Cpl. Richard Rivera, 20, and Lance Cpl. Gregory Buckley, 21, died Aug. 10, 2012, after an attacker opened fire on them with an assault rifle at a base gym. A fourth Marine, Staff Sgt. Cody Rhode, sustained five gunshot wounds, including one that shattered his elbow, according to a Marine Corps news release. They were all members of a police advisory team attached to 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C.”
The accused shooter is in custody, but Buckley Sr. strongly believes the real culprit is an Afghan police chief who is not facing any charges.
Buckley said that man was involved in prostitution of young boys, called “tea boys,” drugs and the Taliban, but the U.S. military allowed him to be inside the base.
“Tea boys” are part of a child-molesting cultural tradition in Afghanistan WND has reported on called bacha bazi, or “boy play.”
WND military expert Michael Maloof reported, “In the practice of bacha bazi, boys ages 9-17 are dressed up as women to dance for leering Afghan men who then use the boys for sex and make them their property. Sources say that the dancing boys are, in effect, sex slaves owned by Afghan police, diplomats and wealthy drug lords.”
“It’s a disgusting practice. … It’s a form of slavery, taking a child, keeping him. It’s a form of sexual slavery,” Radhika Coomaraswamy, U.N. special representative for Children and Armed Conflict, told PBS’s “Frontline.”
The U.S. State Department has called the Afghan practice of owning “dancing boys” a “culturally sanctioned form of male rape.”
Never been vetted
Buckley Sr. said it was the police chief’s 15-year-old “tea boy” who pulled the trigger.
The father described how, on that fateful night, his son was in a gym on his base at 8:30 at night, lifting weights, laughing with his friends.
“And the chief of police gave his ‘tea boy,’ and we know this for a fact, his AK-47, because I found out the serial number matched his (rifle.)
“He gave it to him and told him to ‘Go into the gym and to murder as many Marines as you can.’ So at 8:30 at night, he walked into the back of the gym, walked over to my son and shot him in the chest with an AK-47. And then shot his best friend, right behind him,” said Buckley. He continued to explain how the boy shot two more Marines. One victim survived.
The Washington Post reported, “Aynoddin, who, like many Afghans, uses only one name, was in high school when he started work for Garmsir’s police chief, Sarwar Jan, in the southern province of Helmand. He spent his days cooking for Jan and cleaning up after him. Both Afghans and Americans knew him as the boss’s ‘tea boy.'”
The paper said the teenager had easy access to the weapons arsenal of the Afghan police and had never been vetted.
Buckley is all the more distraught because he said the Marines were warned 15 days before the attack, and now, he said, the Corps is turning the whistleblower into the fall guy.
The fall guy?
According to CNN, Maj. Jason Brezler, a Marine Corps reservist, was going to graduate school in Oklahoma “when he received an e-mail from Marine officers in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, a deeply troubled area where Brezler had been deployed in 2009-2010.”
The subject line of the e-mail he received said in all capital letters with three exclamation marks “IMPORTANT: SARWAR JAN IS BACK.”
Kevin Carroll, Brezler’s attorney, said, “When Jason was serving in Afghanistan in 2010, he caused Sarwar Jan, a police official, to be fired from that position because he was raping children.”
Carroll told CNN “within minutes” Brezler wrote his colleagues back at Forward Operating Base Delhi, warning about Jan. He attached to the e-mail a classified document that included allegations about Jan, claiming he had ties to the Taliban.
“When the Marines in Afghanistan wrote back saying that some of that information might have been classified, (Brezler) immediately turned himself in,” said the attorney.
Had the Marines simply heeded Brezler’s warning, Greg Buckley Jr. and two of his fellow Marines might not have been killed.
Instead, Brezler is facing a disciplinary hearing.
Marine Col. Francis Piccoli told CNN that because of “the mishandling of classified information, Maj. Brezler has been ordered to show cause of retention in the U.S. Marine Corps before a Board of Inquiry.”
Two New York elected officials from the Buckleys’ home state have come to the aid of Brezler.
“Maj. Brezler was in a position where lives were in danger and time was of the essence, and in the end his assessment of the threat proved accurate,” wrote New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., in a letter to the Marines.
Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., King wrote to Marine Commandant Gen. Jim Amos that it is “unfair for Maj. Brezler’s good-faith effort to warn his fellow Marines, of what sadly proved to be mortal danger, to derail his reserve career.”
‘We can make a huge change in this world’
But none of that will bring back three dead U.S. Marines.
“Since my son’s passing, I have never slept through a whole night yet,” said Buckley.
All he asked is that people join his son’s Facebook page. “Help me and my family.”
“If we all come together we can make a huge change in this world,” he said. “Bigger than you think.”
Not in vain
The Marines still have not issued an official explanation for why Brezler’s potentially life-saving warning was ignored.
The Corps still has not explained why an accused child molester was allowed on base as a police chief or why he was allowed to have a child servant who had not been screened by security.
But, the death of those Marines was not in vain.
Buckley Sr. put a lot of blame for the death of his son on the rules of engagement in Afghanistan.
His sister, Mary Liz Grosseto, described the deadly absurdity of a situation in which, “Marines were not allowed to have loaded weapons on their base. The Afghans that they were training had loaded weapons. They all had AK-47s.”
“This is why the boys in that gym were killed,” she insisted. “They didn’t have a weapon on them. They weren’t permitted because the Afghans found it offensive. And, God forbid we offend the Afghans.”
But, despite all the gloom, a silver lining finally appeared.
The family was furious with the Marine Corps over the rules of engagement, venting their anger before national and local media.
The night before they buried her nephew, they were in the funeral home home when they received word of something that made her very proud: A general had “ordered that all Marines from then on would carry loaded weapons with them at all times.”
Follow Garth Kant on Twitter @DCGarth