The Sheik of Rutbah

The The Seattle Times reports on a bizarre war crimes crime taking place at Fort Carson, Colorado. It seems that Captain Shawn Martin went a bit Apocalypse Now while in Iraq.

The trial of an Army captain accused of assaulting Iraqi civilians began yesterday with a witness testifying that the officer, Capt. Shawn Martin, saw himself as a “sheik” or “king” of Rutbah, the small Iraqi desert town under his supervision. Martin faces eight counts of assault and one count each of obstruction of justice and conduct unbecoming of an officer. Lt. Joseph Heyman testified he saw Martin point a gun at the head of an Iraqi detainee and shout, “What do you know about this? If you don’t tell me, I swear I’ll kill you.”

Prosecutors have also said Martin beat Iraqis with an aluminum baseball bat and once fired his pistol at the feet of an Iraqi suspect during an interrogation.


FILED UNDER: Iraq War, Military Affairs
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. LJD says:

    With all of the freakish acts of human degeneracy on the news every evening, we never associate it with the populace in general. The Army is simply a cross section of society. Regardless of the added discpline & structure, we should not be too surprised when something like this happens.

    I just can’t stand it when this type of thing is used as a reflection of the entire Army, or of an administration’s policy decision. That’s just reaching.

    We should all be glad, and very proud, that the Army does a great job enforcing standards and policing itself. With all of the beheadings and intentional killing of innocent civilians by the enemy, pointing a gun someone’s head seems relatively minor. Yet, the Army is again upholding standards, and making an example for their leaders to consider. Still, network news will try to elevate this to some Abu Ghraib proportion, ordered by those at the top of the admin.

  2. Jack Army says:

    the good news is that this guy is going down. It is a shame that he did what he did, but someone reported it, as they should have, someone else investigated it and now the Army is cleaning up this garbage.

  3. ken says:

    Without a random draft it is untrue to claim that the military represents a true cross section of society. The military is a self-selected organization with an unusually cohesive mindset bordering on groupthink. As such it is reasonable to assume any one member of the military is representative of most of the military unless proven otherwise.

    Further, even the Army’s most recent recruiting campaign for an ‘Army of One’ makes the point that each soldier represents the Army in its entirety.

    That is why people are not surprised to hear about stories like this and are likely to assume that it is more representative than not of the entire military.

  4. LJD says:


  5. ken says:

    No, stupid, I don’t support our troops beating Iraqis, or anyone else, with aluminum baseball bats.

  6. LJD says:

    Ken, you clearly have no experience or knowledge of the military, who you so casually bash. So many honorable men and women, outside of your stereotype, serve and protect your right to ignorant speech, and you don’t even appreciate it. Ungrateful ass.

  7. Ellie says:

    You shouldn’t believe everthing you read. Captain Martin has more than 15 years of outstanding military service to his credit. Did you ever think that defending yourself with a baseball bat when bullets are flying overhead is incredibly brave and humane???