SEALs deserve their day in court
Examiner Editorial December 4, 2009
As former President George W. Bush would say, Ahmed Hasim Abed is an evildoer. He masterminded the killing of four American military contractors and ordered the desecration of their bodies in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004. Abed was considered a high-value target in the war on terror, so when three Navy SEALs brought him to justice, they should have been hailed as heroes.
Instead, they were reprimanded for allegedly injuring Abed. After being turned over to Iraqi authorities, Abed complained of being punched, which caused -- quelle horreur!-- a bloody lip. All three SEALS requested and were granted court marshals in order to clear their names. Those proceedings will convene in January. The SEALs surely believe they acted appropriately because military courts are notoriously strict and severe compared with civilian courts.
The incident with the SEALs highlights an uncomfortable truth about the Obama era: Terrorists operating on foreign soil get more favorable legal treatment than uniformed members of the American military, who risk their lives to protect and defend the Constitution.
This injustice is not lost on the SEALs, who are afraid the Navy won't even grant them due process. "We have terrorists getting their constitutional rights in New York City, but I suspect that they're going to deny these SEALs their right to confrontation in a military courtroom in Virginia," said Neal Puckett, a lawyer who is defending one of the accused.
The Navy's treatment of these SEALs suggests the military has learned nothing from previous hasty attempts at military justice in Iraq. In 2006, an inquest was prompted by a Time magazine article titled "The Shame of Kilo Company." Eight Marines were quickly rounded up and charged with massacring civilians. Time later ran multiple corrections of the story, and the magazine's primary source turned out to be of dubious character. Six of the Marines have since been cleared or acquitted of all charges. Of the remaining two Marines whose charges remain unresolved, one wasn't even present for the alleged crimes, and the other's chief accuser was "not being truthful," according to one Naval Criminal Investigative Service report. The only shame belongs to Time magazine and overzealous military prosecutors.
The Navy has offered no public defense of its arbitrary disciplining of the SEALs based on the word of a murderous terrorist. Was it fear of bad publicity, or simply investigatory or prosecutorial incompetence?
Whatever the explanation, the SEALs deserve their day in court, and the Navy should do whatever is needed to ensure this kind of railroading never occurs again.