- Mike Blake/Reuters
- California Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter has confessed to some troubling acts in his defense of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who stands accused of war crimes.
- In the past week, Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, has admitted to posing for photos with dead enemy combatants and potentially killing hundreds of civilians with artillery strikes.
- He has also said that he believes that even if the allegations against Gallagher, which include stabbing a captured teenage militant to death and shooting innocent civilians with a sniper rifle, are true, the SEAL should be “given a break.”
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Rep. Duncan Hunter of California has confessed to some questionable acts from his time in the military in his unwavering defense of Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who will soon stand trial for war crimes allegedly committed in Iraq in 2017.
The Republican member of Congress, who is accused of misusing campaign funds, has rallied to the support of Special Warfare Operator Chief Gallagher, who is accused of stabbing a teenage prisoner to death and then conducting a re-enlistment ceremony next to his body. Gallagher, who has pleaded guilty to all charges in the high profile trial, is also accused of gunning down innocent civilians with a sniper rifle.
Gallagher allegedly sent the photo to a friend with a note saying that he killed the 15-year-old militant with a hunting knife.
Hunter, a Marine Corps vet who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, has repeatedly rushed to Gallagher’s defense, in some cases admitting to troubling actions from his own time in uniform. Last week, for instance, the former Marine major confessed to posing with a dead combatant.
Gallagher “did one bad thing that I’m guilty of, too – taking a picture of the body and saying something stupid,” Hunter said at a forum in Ramona. “A lot of my peers … have done the exact same thing.”
Posing with a dead combatant falls into a legal grey area.
“US service members have been charged and punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice for posing for pictures with human casualties,” the Marine Corps told Business Insider in an emailed statement. But, in Gallagher’s case, a military judge ruled in February that taking photos with an enemy corpse was not considered a prohibited act under Article 134 of the UCMJ.
“What he’s done is all kinds of stupid, but a criminal act? I think not,” former Marine Judge Advocate General Gary Solis told Military.com in response to Hunter’s comments. “For criminal wrongdoing, you’ve got to have more.”
In Hunter’s case, given that his overseas deployments were over a decade ago, his actions, regardless of whether they constitute an offense, are outside the 5-year statute of limitations for the UCMJ. Hunter remained in the Marine Corps reserve until 2017, when he retired as a major, a rank he held since his promotion in 2012.
Over the weekend, Hunter admitted that he may have killed hundreds of civilians with artillery strikes in Iraq, comparing his actions with Gallagher’s alleged slaying of civilians with a sniper rifle.
“I was an artillery officer, and we fired hundreds of rounds into Fallujah, killed probably hundreds of civilians,” Hunter told Barstool Sports. “Probably killed women and children, if there were any left in the city when we invaded. So do I get judged, too?”
Gallagher’s victims “might have been killed in a way that you don’t personally agree with, because you say it’s against the laws of war,” he said. “As opposed to artillery killing civilians, women and children, because it’s kind of indiscriminate in a way. It’s not a sniper weapon, right. Which is worse?”
Even if Gallagher stabbed the captured teenage militant to death as prosecutors allege, Hunter has said that the Navy SEAL still deserves a pass.
“I frankly don’t care if he was killed, I just don’t care,” Hunter explained recently. “Even if everything that the prosecutors say is true in this case, then, you know, Eddie Gallagher should still be given a break.”
Hunter has accused the military justice system of being “corrupt.” He is facing federal corruption charges for misusing campaign funds. He has pleaded not guilty.