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New Book Recounts Trial, Aftermath Of Controversial Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher

Speaker 1: 00:00 In 2018, us Navy seal Eddie Gallagher was court marshaled for a number of shocking crimes. He was accused of committing while leading an elite commando unit in Iraq, despite appalling accusations from members of his own unit, Gallagher was ultimately only convicted of posing for a photograph with the corpse of an enemy, combatant his case and the ensuing political discord that surrounded it continues to spark debate about us military conduct during war and how American soldiers are held accountable for their actions in his new book, alpha Eddie Gallagher and the war for the soul of the Navy seal, New York times, military correspondent, David Phillips recounts the experiences of Gallagher's unit, as well as the ensuing investigation of Gallagher's actions and the controversy of his verdict. David Phillips joins us now, David, welcome to the program. Thanks so much. So let's start with the title. What made you want to frame this story as a battle for the soul of the Navy seal? Speaker 2: 00:59 And what I realized when I started looking into this crime is that it wasn't much of a who done it. There was a lot of evidence that Eddie Gallagher had indeed killed this enemy combatant, including his own words and texts that he sent to France, but there was something much more interesting. There was sort of a cultural who done it because it seemed like Eddie Gallagher's behavior was very much a learned behavior of, of a subculture in the seals. And there was an internal clash in the seal teams between people who were trying to operate with the rules of the law of war. And there were other people that saw that as naive and that, you know, the most elite unconventional forces had to do things that were a little bit in the shadows and the law sometimes got in the way Speaker 1: 01:41 Terry's prosecution of Gallagher's case was riddled with errors. Is that also part of the struggle for the soul of the military? Well, I think Speaker 2: 01:50 It prevented the Navy seals and, and us as a nation from really taking on a stock of what happened and what lessons can be learned. So in, in Eddie Gallagher's case, he was charged with murdering a prisoner and shooting at civilians, old men, women, children, and he was acquitted as you noticed that almost everything. But what we found that was that there were several things that might've kept a really reliable verdict from being reached, including that on the jury, there was a seal who knew Eddie Gallagher personally, and lied about it to, uh, the Navy prosecutors and the judge. Speaker 1: 02:26 You write about one of the men that Gallagher served with Craig Miller in many ways, he was sort of a whistleblower of this whole case. What role did he play in noticing some of the red flags of Gallagher's behavior and ultimately in alerting superiors to his conduct, Speaker 2: 02:42 Greg Miller, who by the way, right now is serving as an active duty seal chief in quarter natto. He was Eddie Gallagher's right man hand, man, and, and his closest ally in the platoon. And step-by-step, he, he came to believe that his leader, his chief had really gotten mad and he had to do something about it. Now you, you call him a whistleblower. I think that all of these guys were really reluctant to say anything that there was extreme pressure within the seal teams to protect the tribe, to keep news like this within the family, to be loyal to your brothers that you went to war with. But ultimately what he was forced to decide is, am I doing more harm? Am I betraying my brothers more by staying silent? And this was not an easy decision to make, but he, and several other members of the platoon eventually decided that they came to see Eddie Gallagher and, and, and his subculture as a cancer, that if they didn't cut it out of the seals, no matter how painful was going to be potentially really bad news Speaker 1: 03:40 Deals a lot with how well regarded Gallagher was by many of his peers, something that is made even more shocking by the seriousness of what he was accused of. How do you think Gallagher is regarded by people within the military? Speaker 2: 03:53 Well, you know, there's millions of people within the military and I'm sure there's as many opinions, but certainly within the seal teams, he was seen as, as you know, what they call a good dude. That's sort of their seal of approval, uh, a reliable operator and experienced die, a guy who would be good to have by your side. And when the seals that served under him in alpha platoon learned that he was going to be their leader. They were excited because he had an excellent reputation and they thought that he would be a ticket to success. And in some ways he was, he got them a very coveted assignment to go to Mosul, to fight ISIS. But when they got there, they realized that his reputation hits something much darker, that he was going to do things you're well beyond what they were supposed to be doing. And things that had nothing to do with the mission Speaker 1: 04:38 And the death of one person is not all he was accused of, correct. Speaker 2: 04:43 His, his, uh, platoon doesn't really know how many people he killed because of the way it happened. According to them, he fired a lot at, at civilians, out in the city and how many of them were killed. They don't know, but there were stories that individual eyewitnesses told of him shooting unarmed, old men or groups of school-aged girls or families going to get water at the river. They, they heard him boast about this stuff and, and keep a mounting count of the people that he had killed. Speaker 1: 05:12 Here's conviction was ultimately overturned by president Trump. What message did that send about this case and how the actions of military personnel are perceived? Speaker 2: 05:22 I think that the Navy leadership was extremely troubled. Um, they actually wanted to throw at a Gallagher out of the Navy, um, essentially fire him after this because they thought that, that he had done so many bad things beyond just what he was charged with criminally. And so to have a president in their view, politicize, what is, you know, a matter of good order and discipline was really a problem because what happens when the next guy gets accused, does he learn the lesson that, Hey, if you go on Fox news and get the president's attention, you can essentially get out. I think that's their concern, Eddie Gallagher's cases. The only one like this in the sense that he is to my knowledge, the only seal, uh, ever to be charged with murder in a combat zone. But in my reporting of this, what I found over and over and over is it was almost like walking down a long corridor, where there were rooms off to either side that you could kind of look in. And when passing, where there seem to be other things, including things from Eddie, Gallagher's other deployments to places like Afghanistan, uh, there seemed to be a culture that celebrated law breaking and celebrated bloodshed. Now, I do not want to suggest that this is the majority of seals at all. I mean, what this book tells is the story of a bunch of really upstanding guys who did the right thing, even though it was super tough, but, uh, I think there's a persistent subculture that doesn't really care about the rules and things that are above them. Speaker 1: 06:50 I have been speaking with author and New York times military correspondent, David Phillips, David, thank you very much for joining us. Speaker 2: 06:58 Sure.

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In a new book, New York Times military correspondent David Philipps explores the controversy surrounding retired U.S. Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher.
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