In 2012, United States soldiers informed Navy SEAL commanders that they had witnessed three SEALs brutally beating Afghan detainees. The abuse was so severe that one of the prisoners died within just one day.
However, the abusive SEALs were eventually cleared of any wrongdoing, despite the fact that a Navy lawyer recommended that they should face charges of assault and a possible court martial. Now, many military personnel are outraged about how the incident was handled.
Retired rear admiral and former judge advocate general of the Navy Donald J. Guter said, “It’s unfathomable. It really does look like this was intended just to bury this.”
An investigation into the matter focused on interviews with victims, current and former military personnel, residents of the Afghan village near the location of the incident and the four American soldiers who originally reported the abuse. The actions of the SEALS reportedly drove some cooperative Afghans into joining the Taliban and working against American forces.
The report also fueled the speculation that SEALs and other elite military units receive additional leeway when it comes to disciplinary matters. This can cause certain units to believe that they essentially have the privilege to act however they want.
According to SEAL captain Robert E. Smith, there were inconsistencies in the accounts of the soldiers when they were questioned about the incident five months after the fact. He said that conflicting statements from witnesses did not give him enough evidence to hold the SEALs accountable for their actions. As a result, the SEALs were essentially able to get away with murder.
Additionally, the Navy SEALs never reported the abuse, which enabled Smith to dismiss the charges. Smith made the decision even though he said that it was evident that the detainees were being severely mistreated. Navy officials defended Smith’s decision, saying that he had the authority to determine the actions that should be taken. Ultimately, the SEALs were only charged with failing to report the incident.
Of course, the Navy wants to pretend like this never happened. But that doesn’t change the fact that a man was killed, while other Afghans suffered severe injuries from the beatings. While not much is to come from exposing this story, it does highlight the corruption that occurs within the U.S. military.