In September, 2009, members of SEAL Team 3 captured Ahmed Hashim Abed, the man believed to be the mastermind of the 2004 Fallujah ambush where four Americans were murdered and their bodies mutilated and hung from a bridge. Although Abed was armed, the SEALs apprehended him without firing a shot.
However, the military has brought charges against three of the SEALs involved in Abed’s detention. As the al Qaeda training manual instructs, Abed has claimed that he was abused. According to court documents, his injuries amount to a punch in the stomach.
Rightfully so, the convening authority of the courts-martial has since deemed that Abed will not be present at the trial, and his statements will not be allowed as evidence.
But in the meantime, the military has offered no corroborating evidence, such as photos or medical reports, to support the prosecution. All it appears they have now is five conflicting statements by a sailor that claims to have witnessed the incident. There is also a chain of custody issue: Before being transferred to U.S. custody, Abed was initially detained at an Iraqi facility. If Abed truly was struck, how can the military know for sure that the alleged injury didn’t take place during his stay with the Iraqis?
The SEALs were initially offered an Article 15 hearing. Although it carried lesser punishments, accepting the hearing would have been viewed as an admission of guilt. Instead, the SEALs chose to have a trial by courts-martial, where all the evidence would be considered, but the punishments are significantly more severe.
These fine operators have experienced far more pain and suffering during any given moment of any training evolution than what this terrorist has alleged. How can we invest years and millions of dollars honing the skills of these elite warriors, only to ruin their careers over accusations of our enemies?
If the SEALs wanted to rough up Abed, they could have done so prior to or during his capture. But they didn’t. Then they could have accepted the Article 15 hearing and perhaps continued serving in their unit. But they didn’t.
The American public is against these trials. Congress has sent multiple letters to our military and political leaders. Members of the special warfare community have privately expressed that this trial has already negatively affected the way they do business. Does our leadership really want to put the words of an al Qaeda operative over our country’s national security?
It is a travesty that the military allowed this trial to go forward. Basing a case on the word of a terrorist, conflicting statements, chain of custody issues, and no corroborating evidence is a slap in the face of our fighting forces. This courts-martial will serve to embolden our enemies, and will undermine the effectiveness of our armed forces.
Director, The Victory Institute