By Kay B. Day
PO 2nd class Matthew McCabe’s trial in a Norfolk (Va.) courtroom is underway, and an issue I’ve raised is relevant to any trial for a member of the military in a foreign war zone. I have modest fluency in several languages, and once you study another language, you begin to understand that like English, those languages have various nuances and larger options for leeway in translation as well.
I remain concerned about the fairness of trials for our military members who must rely on translators we cannot fully vet. And it’s a known fact translators of Middle Eastern languages can often be difficult to find.
Thus I was relieved to read that this potential source of confusion was addressed on Tuesday in court.
CAAFlog BLOGGER TRUMPS CORPORATE MEDIA COVERAGE
Dwight Sullivan, a blogger at CAAFlog, a military justice blog not connected to the government, has been following the trial and reporting in detail. Explaining that audio of the alleged victim and terrorist Ahmed Hashim Abed’s deposition was played in court, Sullivan wrote, “The translator for the deposition, as the defense had argued, appeared to be fairly poor — and according to his own statements on the record, must have been at least 75 years old and was hard of hearing in his right ear.”
On Monday Sullivan noted the translation of a question—“whether Abed worked for the Sunni faith was translated simply as, ‘Do you work?’” That of course is a loaded question because the late dictator Saddam Hussein was Sunni. This religious faction once ruled the country, even though Shi'ites were the majority, and Sunnis naturally did not take kindly to Hussein’s capture and execution, leading to great civil conflict that has gradually declined.
Sullivan has written up the trial proceedings each day in a very reader-friendly manner. Although he does explain the legalese—after all, he’s writing for military justice experts at the blog—he manages to produce a very engaging narrative.
FACTS ABOUT THE ALLEGED TERRORIST’S CLAIMS OF ABUSE
Sullivan also covered civilian defense attorney Neal Puckett’s opening statement. Puckett asked excellent questions for members of the jury to use as “framework for their deliberations.” Those questions included addressing the issue of what medical screening showed after the alleged assault occurred and why nine Naval officers and petty officers would lie under oath.
Perhaps the most persuasive information comes from a passage following the disclosure that the accuser, actually a sailor who is not part of the Naval Special Warfare Community, said three times that he didn’t know why Abed had blood on his lip after being detained. The accuser then changed his response.
Sullivan elaborated on the circumstances:
“Mr. Puckett showed a picture of Abed’s lip to the members, describing what appeared to be a sore. He told the members they would hear from an oral surgeon that it didn’t appear to be the result of trauma, but rather a canker sore — and that that sore could have been the source of the blood that the lieutenant saw. Mr. Puckett then described the Manchester Manual and said al Qaeda members are trained to feign abuse and blame it on American service members. He said it’s entirely likely that the source of the blood on Abed was self-inflicted and that this may have caused the petty officer who was responsible for Abed to panic and make bad decisions. Mr. Puckett concluded by telling the members that at the close of the case, they would not merely not be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt, but would truly believe that SO2 McCabe is innocent — because he is.”
THE MANCHESTER MANUAL; THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE CALIPHATE
A word about The Manchester Manual. A commander said he wasn’t familiar with this. This manual should be required reading for anyone going into a war zone. Because it is key to the enemy’s tactics, especially when it comes to the psychology of jihad. And I believe it is key to this trial as well. The subtitle of the manual is ‘Military Studies in the Jihad Against the Tyrants.’
The lead prosecutor wanted only parts of that manual admitted, apparently out of concern the whole document might “inflame” members of the jury.
However, to admit only part of that document is to short the jury of the entire concept of the enemy’s goals, mainly restoration of the Caliphate. A brief history in the front part of the manual details alleged atrocities dating to 1924 when the Caliphate fell. Sidenote: someone should inform the college kids this war did not begin with President George W. Bush. He inherited it.
Perhaps the best backgrounder on the Caliphate’s relevance is provided by the Center for Strategic Studies, headed by Rear Admiral Michael McDevitt, USN (Ret.). The Center published a 2007 report, ‘The Struggle for Unity and Authority in Islam: Reviving the Caliphate?’
The report points out: “Today’s struggle for unity and authority in Islam is playing out, to some extent, in a modern caliphate debate. However, when considering the institution of the caliphate today the past must be borne in mind because no aspect of the Islamic faith can be thoroughly understood without considering history.” [Pg. 4, No. 3]
The strategies and goals outlined in The Manchester Manual rest on that struggle cited in the Center’s report. One mission specifies, “Spreading rumors and writing statements that instigate people against the enemy.”
WESTERN MEDIA USED BY AL QAEDA, TALIBAN
If you read the Associated Press story I analyzed after two other SEALs were acquitted, you should be able to put the narrative in the context of left of center American media.
Apparently the AP is trying to be less biased in coverage of McCabe’s trial—a different writer is handling coverage stateside and the contrasts in stories are glaring.
A final note. Tidbits gleaned from Sullivan’s account include the fact Abed’s alleged ‘torture’ lasted 5 minutes and Abed confessed he only saw his attacker’s legs. Therefore Abed could not point to McCabe as his alleged attacker.
Reading between the lines here, it’s obvious America’s war effort is seriously manipulated by Washington politics. I have no proof the cases against these SEALs were pushed by those at high levels in politics rather than the military. But I have plenty of common sense and it tells me these cases aren’t about real torture at all. They’re an exercise in politics, an attempt to appease a vocal, violent enemy who has killed thousands and thousands of Muslims and those of other faiths in cold blood here at home and abroad.
Left of center media don’t like to talk about that.
Sullivan’s CAAFlog account is a true public service. Despite a background in the world of military justice he’s pretty straightforward. And we thank him for the account of a trial we would have covered in person had funds been available. Indie blogs like The US Report struggle to keep the lights on.
Hopefully the judge and the jury will consider broader issues related to a partly deaf translator and an alleged terrorist whose claims appear to be fabricated. And if the detainee is the terrorist authorities believe him to be, his sympathies lie with a cartel dedicated to the destruction of our country and to Western entities in general.
[For more information and regular updates, visit Support the Navy SEALs who Captured Ahmed Hashim Abed. To contribute to funds for the SEALs’ civilian defense, visit Maritime Tactical Security.]