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Wednesday
Dec022009

Facebook group draws 39,251 members supporting Navy SEALs facing charges

by Kay B. Day

Exclusive: The US Report

The Facebook group ‘Support The Navy Seals who Captured Ahmed Hashim Abed’ has drawn 39,251 members who want to support 3 Navy SEALs facing charges over an alleged terrorist detained in Iraq. The group's numbers rise by the minute.

The detainee was described by Fox News who broke the story as “one of the most wanted terrorists in Iraq.” Fox said Ahmed Hashim Abed allegedly masterminded “the murder and mutilation of four Blackwater USA security guards in Fallujah in 2004.” A lawyer representing one of the SEALs told Fox the detainee accused the SEALs of punching him in the gut. That alone is enough to mobilize public sentiment among members of both major political parties. But the story is more complicated than that.

The SEALs refused non-judicial punishment—a “captain’s mast”—and they insisted on a trial by court martial. The ‘captain’s mast’ could leave an illusion of guilt, and apparently the SEALs want their names cleared.

Navy Times said the accusation occurred after the detainee was captured in September.

Fox News said the detainee issued the charges to Iraqi authorities after he was handed over to them, a fact that naturally raises suspicions about the detainee’s claims.

One member of the Facebook group held nothing back in responding to news of the charges. “As a father of a SEAL,” he wrote, “I had to join this group. They should be given a medal for their mission discipline in capturing him and not killing him, despite his killing and mutilating one of their own, Scott Helveston.”

After serving as a SEAL, Helveston had gone to work in the private sector, serving as a guard in Iraq.

Navy Seal Lt. Commander (ret.) Anthony O'Brien is now a Plymouth County {Mass.) Commissioner after a distinguished military career.While supporters are focusing on the injustice in charging some of the most elite members in the American military, a retired SEAL describes a more complex issue. Navy SEAL Lt. Commander Anthony O'Brien (ret.) said, “The SEALs are going to a military trial based on what appear to be false allegations. But here [in the U.S.] you have a top terrorist going to a civilian court. It’s interesting the SEALs will have less rights in a military trial than the terrorists will have in a U.S. civilian trial—I’m speechless.” O’Brien is now a county commissioner in Plymouth, Mass.

O’Brien’s remarks are in line with a statement attorney Neal Puckett gave to Fox News: “I don’t know how they’re going to bring this detainee to the United States and give us our constitutional right to confrontation in the courtroom...But again, 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.”

Justice or politics for the SEALs?
Some conservatives wonder if the backlash against the SEALs and the filing of charges will hamper the war effort in general. Questions arise regarding the trickling of political policy down to command levels, and whether highly trained troops are being accused of what many see as trumped up charges.

The Beaufort Observer (N.C.) pointed out another dimension to the charges—propaganda: “Today we learn that a private security firm, Northeast Intelligence Network has uncovered documents used to train Ahmed and other terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan. Interestingly, the training document contains explicit instructions for what terrorists should do when they are captured. Surprise, surprise, what Ahmed has done is clearly scripted in the training documents.”

The tactic is not new, having been used effectively by Islamic radicals against the government of Egypt and others more than half a century ago. Claims by other detainees read near-verbatim to claims levied by members of the Muslim Brotherhood against Egypt in the early era of organization of fanatics.

Perhaps because of his highly intensive training and his experience as a SEAL, O’Brien isn’t fazed. “Our troops are professionals,” he said. And of the impact on the war effort, he’s pretty calm. “I don’t see any impact. The American military is handling probably hundreds of prisoners a week throughout the world—you never hear anything about it. And 99 percent of the time, our people get it right. I don’t think there’s any reason to worry about the repercussions, especially in combat. We have captured thousands of prisoners in these conflicts. Our guys are pros; they’re gonna do a great job.”

Presumption of innocence
O’Brien is a staunch believer in a high level code of conduct. “You have to honor the law of war; if I’m a SEAL that doesn’t mean I can kick the crap out of a prisoner. I’m sure our 3 boys didn’t do that. I just don’t believe they did that.”

He is also a realist about Iraq, however. “We’re trying to run a politically correct war.” That term he says is “an oxymoron.”

He also points out almost no one in the Middle East wants us there except the terrorists. “If we’re not there, they’ve got nothing to do. They don’t like us and they’re not going to any time soon.”

O’Brien echoes feelings of many, both Democrats and Republicans, with an assessment of the conduct of the war. “With all our power and might,” he said, “this thing should’ve been over a long time ago.”

Arraignment in Norfolk
Meanwhile, three of America’s most highly trained troops await their day in court. Navy Times said, “Special Warfare Operators 2nd Class Matthew McCabe and Jonathan Keefe, and SO1 Julio Huertas will be arraigned Dec. 7 in a military court in Norfolk, Va.”

Importance of remaining calm, despite frustrations
Another Facebook group member posted a message that reflects frustration many feel regarding what can be perceived as politics versus reality. For many who vividly recall the loss of more than 3,000 innocent lives on American soil and the loss of members of our military as well as private contractors, anger is an irresistible oulet. He wrote of the terrorists,  “Next time bust their lip with a 9mm.”

But O’Brien, who has seen more combat than most will see in a lifetime, offers common sense advice. “We gotta’ keep everything in perspective,” he said. “Stay calm.”

[The editors thank author Betty Kilbride for being instrumental in our obtaining an interview with Lt. Commander O'Brien. Kilbride is the author of the just-released book 'Soul of American Warriors, A Writer's Journey Comes Full Circle.' Watch for an upcoming interview at TUSR with Kilbride.]

[Update Dec. 9, 2009: The editors thank The Free Republic for sharing this story with your members shortly after we published it, and for expressions of support at that website. We also thank those of you who shared this story with others by email.]

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