Reps. Dan Burton (R-Ind.), Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) were joined by over a dozen retired SEALS and other special forces representatives at a press conference on Capitol Hill calling for the exoneration of the three Navy SEALS accused of mistreating al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Hashim Abed.
Also at the presser was Special Operations Petty Officer Matthew McCabe, one of the SEALs who faces court martial. McCabe faces charges including assault for allegedly punching Abed in the stomach after the terrorist was captured.
“Mr. McCabe and his colleagues captured a known al Qaida terrorist in Fallujah,” Burton said at the presser. “[Abed] had tortured and killed four American contractors, dragged their bodies through the streets of Fallujah, and hung them from a bridge. And when they captured him, they turned him over for a short time to the Iraqi military, and then they got him back. And when they got him back, he said he was hit in the stomach, and in the face by somebody, he didn’t know whom, but he blamed the three Navy seals, including Mr. McCabe, who captured him. Because of that, and because they’ve been accused of misleading people about what happened, they have been under a court martial.”
Burton also presented two petitions in support of the SEALS – his own, to Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead – and the HUMAN EVENTS petition to Defense Secretary Robert Gates which asks him to intervene to dismiss the charges against the SEALs. Both petitions will be hand-delivered to the Pentagon. (Sign the petition here.)
“About a 170,000 Americans have signed petitions, which we have with us today –they’re here and on the lectern — they believe that these young men are not to be court-martialed but should be hailed as heroes for doing their job,” Burton said.
“These people are laying their lives on the line every single day, and they can’t go into a combat situation with kid gloves on,” Burton said. “They have to know they’re dealing with terrorists who are trying to kill them, and whose total goal is to destroy the American way of life. And so we should really realize the pressure that they’re under, and we should not be court-martialing them for something like this.”
“In addition to that, in the manual that al Qaeda uses, they say that they should always act like they’ve been harassed or hurt or tortured in some way when they’re captured,” Burton said. “And that could very well be the case as far as the terrorist that they’ve captured is concerned. So we’re today to support them, and to support all our military men and women in the field, and to make sure that they know that the American people are behind them while they’re fighting to save our way of life.”
Burton also said he’s attempting to coordinate a trip to Iraq for members of Congress during the trial of two of the SEALS.
Rep. Gohmert, a former Army JAG officer and former Texas appellate court chief judge, expressed particular concern for the SEALS because of the politicization of the military and the detrimental effect that atmosphere has on a UCMJ court martial.
“The very people who can sign off and make sure charges take place or go away are the very people who hand pick the jurors,” Gohmert said. “There’s no random selection. You get the jurors that the people that sign off on the charges pick for you. …What we have seen too much in the military in recent years, it’s become very political. Well if it is to be political, than we need make sure the message goes to the White House, to all of those who have an effect on the Commander in Chief, to make sure the commander of these brave heroes treats them appropriately.”
McCabe’s lawyer Neal Puckett, Lt. Col, USMC (Ret.), warned that unless there is intervention from Gates or the SEALS’ chain of command, the first two SEALS will be tried in Iraq mid-April.
“Currently the status of the three cases are — and I can’t really speak to the other two cases except to tell you that Jonathan Keefe and Julio Huertas are scheduled for court martial in Baghdad somewhere during the middle of April.” Pucket said.
“Matthew McCabe’s trial is set for May 3 at the naval base at Norfolk, Virginia,” Puckett said. “We’re preparing every day for that trial. We’re interviewing witnesses, and we’re preparing our defense for him. We anticipate that he’ll be acquitted, as will the other two SEALS. There just isn’t sufficient evidence to prove their guilt, and we look forward to a good outcome from that case.”
Rohrabacher express outrage over the charges and vowed to stand by the SEALS.
“We join with our fellow citizens today in demanding that this prosecution, that this court-martial be canceled, and that these Navy SEALS, these brave heroes of America who are putting their lives on the line for us, are treated fairly and being able to go back honorably and do their job,” Rohrabacher said. “This prosecution clearly undermines the national security apparatus that is protecting us against terrorism, because there’s nothing more important in the security establishment… than the men and women who are out there on the front line. If they are to have faith that they can get their job done, they have to have faith that we will back them up.”
“In this situation, these Navy SEALS were apprehending a terrorist, a terrorist murderer, and they’re being accused of roughing him up?” Rohrabacher continued. “Give me a break! These men should be given medals, not be prosecuted. These men are heroes!”
For more information: http://www.freetheseals.com