Are US soldiers good fighters?
In the eyes of some, Edward Gallagher is a war hero. A highly decorated soldier with the US Special Forces Navy Seals who risked his life for his country. But the allegations that investigators raise against the 39-year-old weigh heavily.
They accuse him of stabbing an injured fighter from the terrorist militia Islamic State (IS) to death in Iraq in 2017 and later posing next to his body. He is also accused of shooting civilians. Starting Monday, Gallagher will face a military tribunal in San Diego for murder and other charges. He denies the allegations.
Some of his comrades also defend the soldier and contradict the allegations. The case has been making waves in the United States for months. Several dozen Republicans have jumped aside Gallagher, and the conservative media are in storm. And US President Donald Trump has also intervened.
Combat operation in Mosul
Review: Gallagher is stationed in Mosul in May 2017, it is his eighth mission. The city was once the IS stronghold in Iraq, with Gallagher's deployment there are still some districts under the control of the terrorists, the battle for recapture is ongoing. American special forces are supporting the Iraqi military in this.
In the specific case, which is said to have taken place on or around May 3, Iraqi soldiers are said to have captured a young IS fighter who was injured in an air strike. According to the indictment, Navy investigators accuse Gallagher of killing him.
The "New York Times" has published details from a secret investigation report that have it all: According to it, a US Navy medic treated the IS fighter when Gallagher approached the injured man and repeatedly in the teenager with a knife stabbed the neck and side.
He later posed next to the body for a swearing-in ceremony while another soldier held up an American flag. After the incident, Gallagher sent a photo of the body to a comrade and wrote: "I caught him with my hunting knife."
Shots at civilians
In addition, according to the indictment, the elite soldier is said to have shot civilians several times. According to the "New York Times" about a girl and an old man who had a water jug in their arms.
Some members of his unit were so concerned about Gallagher's behavior that they manipulated his weapon to make them less accurate, the newspaper reported, citing the investigators. They also fired warning shots to alert civilians.
Gallagher denies all allegations. When asked by the DPA news agency, his lawyer Timothy Parlatore said that his client had provided medical care to the IS fighter. He was the only survivor of a rocket attack on a building and had serious injuries. Gallagher did what he was trained to do, he gave medical help.
The defense accuses members of Gallagher's unit of having denounced their boss because they did not get along with his manner. They wanted to have him removed from his post.
Fight for reputation
That is a representation of what happened. The investigators paint a different picture. According to the New York Times, they state in their investigation report that the case only came to light because seven soldiers from Gallagher's unit were not intimidated. They did not give up, so that their commander finally reported the allegations.
Gallagher's family is fighting for its reputation. His brother Sean Gallagher appealed to President Donald Trump in February to stand up for the elite soldier. He is a "real warrior" who risked his life fighting IS. There are photos, videos and eyewitness reports that show that the allegations are baseless. The system is broken and Trump has to fix it.
In mid-May, the New York Times reported that Trump was considering pardoning several Americans accused of war crimes or who had already been convicted. One of them: Gallagher. A few days later, Trump said he had not yet made a decision. "It's a bit controversial. There is a very good chance that I will let the process run and make my decision after the trial."
Just recently, Trump pardoned former army officer Michael Behenna, who had been convicted of the murder of a prisoner in Iraq. The civil rights organization ACLU criticized this sharply: Trump must prevent war crimes instead of approving them.
Cases like this bring back memories of the dark chapters in the fight against terrorism - and, as in many political debates in America under Trump, the question of what kind of country the USA wants to be is also discussed here subliminally.
Criticism from veterans
Such pardons are also viewed critically from the ranks of veterans. "It's a bad idea. Bad for America. Bad for our troops," said the founder of the organizations Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans for America, Paul Rieckhoff, the US broadcaster CNN recently.
"When the president arrives and pardons these people, it basically means that our troops are not bound by rules. They can do what they want."
Rieckhoff also fears that such pardons would have an indirect impact on the security of US soldiers in conflict areas. "If people in these countries think that we can commit war crimes without being held accountable, they will not trust them (the soldiers)," said the veteran. "We'll go from the good to the bad at once."
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