Stop Prosecuting Our American Heroes

By Chuck Hustmyre

In what must be one of the most outrageous criminal prosecutions in American military history, the U.S. Navy is dragging three Navy SEALs, members of one of our country’s most elite commando and counterterrorist units, before a court martial for punching a terrorist in the mouth and giving him a bloody lip.

The alleged “victim” of this so-called assault is not just any old anti-American, murderous barbarian terrorist. No, the scumbag who these SEALs gave a schoolyard fat lip to was Ahmed Hashim Abedm, the man the U.S. government suspects planned the ambush, murder, and mutilation of four U.S. civilian contractors in Fallujah, Iraq in 2004. After the ambush, terrorists hung the charred bodies of two of the American contractors from a bridge.

The three SEALs–Special Warfare Operators 2nd Class Matthew McCabe and Jonathan Keefe, and Special Warfare Operator 1st Class Julio Huertas will be arraigned Dec. 7, according to the Navy.

The irony of that date should not go unnoticed, for it was on Dec. 7, 1941 that a surprise attack almost crushed the war fighting capability of the U.S. Navy. Now, 68 years later, the war fighting spirit of the Navy stands on the brink of being crushed.

According to a military official, Petty Officer McCabe is charged with one count each of assault of the detainee, dereliction of duty and making a false official statement, including “willfully failing to safeguard a detainee.”

Petty Officer Keefe is charge with one count each of dereliction of duty and making a false official statement, and Petty Officer Huertas is accused of dereliction of duty, making a false official statement, and impeding an investigation.

The U.S. military spent five years tracking this barbarian murderer, a “high-value target” whose code name was OBJECTIVE AMBER, and these three guys were part of the team that actually captured him. Now they face a year in prison and the wrecking of their military careers for maybe–and I stress maybe–giving this terrorist the same injury as any fifth grader who has ever been in a playground tussle.

And that’s only if one of these SEALs slugged the guy. For a while after his capture, Abedm was in Iraqi custody, where it’s apparently still legal to smack around a guy who has been murdering people and trying to destroy your country.

There is also the possibility that no one even hit this terrorist. In an al Qaeda training manual recovered in Manchester, England and later translated by the FBI, captured terrorists are instructed to claim they were “mistreated or tortured during detention.”

As a 20-year law enforcement veteran, I understand that in theory trials are the vehicle for determining the truth of a criminal charge, and that defendants are presumed innocent.

However, in the real world of criminal justice, I know that prosecutors don’t file charges unless two conditions exist:

1. They believe the defendants committed the crimes charged.

2. They are confident they have enough evidence to convict the defendants.

It would be unethical for a prosecutor to charge someone with a crime that the prosecutor did not believe the person had committed. (Remember the Duke University rape case?)

By the very act of filing these criminal charges, military prosecutors have demonstrated that they are convinced that at least one of these three Navy SEALs committed a crime by smacking this murderous thug in the face, and that the other two SEALs committed a crime by either allowing it to happen or failing to report it.

These charges are a disgrace.

We would not have won World War II had we hamstrung our fighting men with these absurd rules.

Fortunately, not everyone in the U.S. government has drunk from the same P.C.-flavored Kool-Aide. A few–far too few–Republican lawmakers are rising to the defense of these heroes.

U.S. Congressman Ted Poe, a Republican from Texas, said: “We should be celebrating this achievement, and these Navy SEALs should be getting medals for their work doing what we’ve asked them to do. But that’s not what is happening. … They are going to be court-martialed because some terrorist supposedly got a bruised mouth.”

Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter from California said: “It’s just so absurd. I mean, they split his lip. In a boxing situation, that’s legal. They punched a terrorist in the face and, boom, we’re going to launch these guys out of the Navy.”

Dan Burton, a Republican congressman from Indiana, called the charges crazy. “I think that is insane,” Burton said. “What kind of a message are we sending to our troops in the field when they do their duty, risk their lives, capture a terrorist that’s wanted, one of the top 10 terrorists, and we’re going to court-martial them? I don’t care if they broke the guy’s nose or broke both his arms and his legs. This is insane.”

It’s disgusting that these charges were ever filed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if these men leave the Navy even if they are acquitted.

But as bad as this prosecution is for these three SEALs, imagine the morale killing message it is sending to every member of our military, and particularly to our special operators, who hunt these murderous terrorist bastards in the dark, far from friendly forces, out in the lands the bad guys call home.

Let’s send a message to the government: Stop prosecuting our American heroes.

Chuck Hustmyre is an award-winning journalist and a retired federal agent. He is the author of three books and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles. For more information visit



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