Under the category, “I can’t believe what I am reading,” this appeared on the web site of Fox News:
Navy SEALs have secretly captured one of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq— the alleged mastermind of the murder and mutilation of four Blackwater USA security guards in Fallujah in 2004. And three of the SEALs who captured him are now facing criminal charges, sources told FoxNews.com.
The three, all members of the Navy's elite commando unit, have refused non-judicial punishment — called an admiral's mast — and have requested a trial by court-martial.
Ahmed Hashim Abed, whom the military code-named "Objective Amber," told investigators he was punched by his captors — and he had the bloody lip to prove it.
Did I read this right? U.S. Navy SEALs capture a cold-blooded killer and during the course of the capture he ends up with a bloody lip and now the SEALs are being charged? Come on! This must be a joke.
Back in 1962 when SEAL Team Two was formed, its first commanding officer was John Callahan. He died on Thanksgiving Day in Peru, Vermont, and it’s safe to assume he’d never understand a U.S. military nowadays where newer generations of SEALs--who risk their lives to apprehend a murderous thug under extremely dangerous wartime conditions-- are being treated as criminals.
Is it likely this terrorist wasn’t handled gingerly? Probably. But it’s equally likely that the guy wasn’t behaving very nicely during his apprehension and subsequent extraction. When SEALs have captured their target and are trying to exit the area it is at this precise time in which they are the most vulnerable. An uncooperative detainee that is either slowing the extraction down or alerting others to his plight puts all lives at risk, especially if more bad-guy reinforcements arrive. Keeping the detainee quiet and cooperative is important and necessary; and often requesting cooperation through multiple “pleases” just doesn’t work.
At the risk of being charged by authorities for an act that was committed over 36 years ago, I have to admit that at SEAL Team 2, we manhandled a fellow that we were trying to bring in. The six-member squad was trying to determine whether they had the right person to bring back to the base. This is necessary for two reasons: first, it would be embarrassing to bring back the wrong person; and two, the SEAL squad wanted to make sure they were not being set up to be ambushed either there or anytime during the extraction. The man suddenly became agitated, boisterous, and combative over being questioned and held. The man was taken to the ground and restrained. In the struggle he got hit in the face and started bleeding.
Once back at base he complained bitterly to superiors about his treatment. The commander simply ignored his complaint and I was told he said something like this back to him: “This is a training exercise. As a pilot if you ever get shot down over enemy territory and captured, it will be much, much worse. So stop complaining, don’t ever get shot down, and be thankful that there are people like SEALs who are willing to risk their lives to rescue you.”
My bet is that the pilot probably got manhandled much more in a training exercise--a simulated rescue of a downed pilot behind enemy lines--than a killer like Ahmed Hashim Abed did in real life. Unfortunately for three SEALs, the military brass did not handle the complaint of a captured terrorist nearly as well as the squadron commander did with his pilot years ago.
And while we’re at it, do all those people who hit me during my Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) training need to be charged with assault too? SERE training simulates being captured and taken to a POW camp. Those troops that regularly worked behind enemy lines were required to attend—mostly pilots and special operation types. Getting roughed-up from time to time is part of the training and is expected. It gives you just a hint of things to come if you are ever captured.
The abuses at Abu Ghraib has seemingly created an atmosphere where there is no sense of proportion or circumstances, and seemingly little understanding by higher-ups of the extreme danger and difficulty of successfully completing a mission like “Objective Amber.” Abu Ghraib should have never happened. But a reaction to Abu Ghraib that creates a mindset where using force is almost always equal to torture blurs the lines between the two and will certainly result in confusion among the troops. To many, charging three SEALs for assault with what has been reported so far seems like political correctness running amok in the military.