19:35 GMT26 February 2020
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    After one US Navy SEAL was accused of committing war crimes in Iraq, it revealed a larger system of coverups and a culture that discouraged reporting war crimes and other abuses. Two veterans-turned-anti-war activists told Sputnik that all wars are war crimes and that Americans need to stop romanticizing the military.

    Chief Special Warfare Operator Edward "Eddie" Gallagher has been accused of a slew of war crimes in Iraq, including killing an unarmed Daesh fighter with a knife and firing indiscriminately on civilians, as well as specifically targeting individual civilians and shooting them with his sniper rifle. He was charged with premeditated murder in January, among other crimes.

    U.S. Soldiers surveil the area during a combined joint patrol in Manbij, Syria, November 1, 2018. Picture taken November 1, 2018
    © REUTERS / Courtesy Zoe Garbarino/U.S. Army

    However, not only did Gallagher reportedly threaten witnesses of those crimes in an effort to intimidate them into keeping quiet, it's also emerged that his superior, Lt. Jacob Portier, didn't report the crimes and destroyed evidence of them, according to Business Insider. Both Portier and Gallagher have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

    What's more, the New York Times obtained a copy of a report from his home port of Naval Base Coronado in California showing that his teammates, as well as superiors, colluded to stop each other from reporting Gallagher's actions.

    Radio Sputnik's Loud and Clear spoke about the issue with two US war veterans who've become anti-war activists: Tarak Kauff and Kenneth Mayers, activists with Veterans for Peace who were unjustly denied permission to return home to the United States pending a trial on charges stemming from an anti-war protest at Shannon Airport in Ireland, which the US Air Force also uses.

    ​"Of course they were told to shut up — this is standard operating procedure in the military, and it comes from high-up" the command chain, Kauff told hosts Brian Becker and Nicole Roussell, "but they'll try and paint it that there's a ‘bad apple' — no, it's not a bad apple. There's a whole bucket full of bad apples."

    "We have a very corrupt government; we have a corrupt military that is following orders and doesn't want any mud spilt on them," Kauff noted, describing a similar situation to Gallagher's they were familiar with in Iraq.

    "It doesn't excuse Gallagher for what he did — it's horrible — but you understand, that the whole thing is horrible. The whole war is one large war crime," Kauff said. "These people become corrupted, you know, their minds become corrupted because of what they're exposed to and what they're doing. Not to excuse it, it doesn't excuse it, but we've got to look at where the real fault lies."

    "War is the ultimate crime," Mayers said, "once you're at war, it's like a license to kill, license to steal, license to torture if you're out in the field. I suspect there's never been an army, probably, throughout human history that hasn't gone wild if it's at war. That's why they talk about ‘unleashing the dogs of war.' So I think Gallagher's case is — certainly not unique, perhaps not even unusual."

    However, Mayers dissented somewhat from Kauff, telling Sputnik that "there are a lot of service people who want to do it the right way, but it doesn't take many to corrupt the whole environment. The thing is that the ones who are guilty of these war crimes are equally susceptible to shooting their fellow soldiers if the fellow soldiers go honest on them so that the system is so easily corrupted; it's not at all surprising that it is corrupted."

    Kauff said that "we have got to stop glorifying the military; we have got to stop glorifying war-making; we have got to stop glorifying our soldiers as heroes. They are not heroes. They are participating in illegal wars!"

    He said people who join the military "believed the hype" and thought they were "going into something noble," but "we've got to get past that, and the public has got to get past that. They've got to understand that the American military is not heroic, and wars are not heroic."

    "There's individual heroism… it exists all over… but the thing looked at as a whole is horrible, because women and children are getting killed, innocent people are getting killed, so we can't excuse that."

    Kauff said he expected Gallagher to be convicted and for US President Donald Trump to pardon him.

    "I think Trump will pardon him for political reasons," Kauff said, "and there's a lot of people in this country which will support that. And that's really sad." However, Mayers didn't agree, saying that public opinion has swayed in recent years, such that it would be politically unpalatable for Trump to pardon Gallagher.

    The views and opinions expressed in the article do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

    culture, coverup, war crimes, activists, anti-war, Loud and Clear, US Navy SEALS, Iraq
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