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Gratitude, not a court martial, for the SEAL Three


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Gratitude, Not a Court Martial for the SEAL Three by Rep. Mike Rogers



They are the best of the best in the entire world. They comprise the top 1 percent of Americans in physical ability, mental aptitude and sheer bravery.


They can push themselves to the physical limits of the human body. Most have advanced degrees from America’s best universities and many speak multiple languages fluently.


They are America’s Navy SEALs, and they put their lives on the line every day in defense of our nation, all of them willing to die to protect America’s way of life.


Why then would the nation they serve take three SEALs off the battle field and consider putting them through courts-martial proceedings based on their capture of one of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq? Ahmed Hashim Abed is believed to have planned the 2004 Fallujah ambush that resulted in the savage murder of four Americans.


On March 31, 2004, four men working as security guards -- Scott Helvenston, Wesley Batalona, Jerry Zovko and Michael Teague -- were ambushed by insurgents in Fallujah. They were killed, their bodies burned and mutilated, and two were strung up on a bridge over the Euphrates. The insurgents made their own video of the attack, broadcasting the images around the world.


That is the atrocity Ahmed Hashim Abed is accused of plotting and executing. Yet, charges are pending against the three Navy SEALs who captured this terrorist, a man whose goal in life is the death of America and American citizens.


It is well-known that one of al Queda’s key training techniques for operatives includes the directive that if captured they should allege abuse at every opportunity. Charging these American heroes based on the flimsy claims of a top terrorist gives al Queda a strategic advantage and sends the wrong message to the next group of Americans sent out into the shadows to capture one of the bad guys. Media reports have stated Abed had a fat lip.


That is why every Republican on the House Intelligence Committee has written to Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, stating that while we would never endorse the abuse of any detainee, we are deeply concerned that the investigation and potential prosecution of our Navy SEALs in this case adds nothing to the important debate on detainee treatment. In fact, it may seriously undermine our capability to locate, detain, and interrogate high value targets who despise our values and seek to destroy our way of life.


In part, our comments to Secretary Gates included:


“If, after a thorough and impartial hearing on the alleged violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), these military personnel are sent to Special Courts-Martial, other problems will certainly arise. Any competent trial team will request that Ahmed Hashim Abed testify in court or at least be made available for a deposition. Official guidance governing special operations and terrorist detentions may also become public. We should be very concerned about the disclosure of operational details surrounding special warfare and providing a public forum for terrorists such as Abed to pollute our media with his hatred of American values.


“The strategic ramifications of this issue are staggering. This case effectively will place all Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel on trial. Beyond the specific consequences of a courts-martial, any potential prosecution will also tend to demoralize other Special Operations Forces. These quiet professionals who operate all over the world and work tirelessly to gain the trust of local populations in order to help improve their way of life will have their reputations irreparably damaged. This damage will negatively impact and impede future operational efforts and intelligence gathering.


“We have great respect for the military justice system, but believe that the events concerning these SEALs may damage future special operations. Having spent countless hours with SOF personnel, we know their professionalism and their integrity. Their role in today’s struggle against violent extremism is well-known. We respectfully ask you to review this matter and take this information into account.”


The three SEALs are not being forgotten by their families or by Americans who hear of the outrageous charges against them. Matthew McCabe, Julio Huertas Jr., and Jonathan Keefe, all in their mid-20s, are being defended by family, friends and even strangers who believe it is wrong to prosecute them for doing their job.


Last Monday, a crowd of close to 100 people demonstrated outside the Norfolk, Virginia Naval Station where McCabe, Huertas and Keefe are being held. There were reports that the crowd included people from Texas, North Carolina, South Carolina, Delaware and Maryland.


The outrage Americans feel about the wrongful prosecution of these three Navy SEALs is blazing across the Internet on Facebook and other social networking sites, and national news outlets like HUMAN EVENTS are making sure these men are not forgotten.


These SEALs and all the men and women of our Special Operations Forces face the enemies of the United States and bring terrorists to justice for the good of the free world. We owe them a debt of gratitude we can never repay, not a criminal proceeding.

U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-MI, is a former U.S. Army officer, and FBI Special Agent who worked organized crime cases in Chicago. He serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and is the Ranking Member on the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Counterterrorism and Human Intelligence.


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