When it comes to the reality of modern warfare, few have the perspective of Robert O’Neill.
The Navy SEAL veteran was the man who shot down al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden during a special forces raid on the terrorist mastermind’s hideout in 2011.
Now, he’s standing up for another veteran of combat against terrorism — and supporting the nation’s commander in chief when it comes to the controversial case of SEAL Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher.
In an interview published Monday, O’Neill told The Washington Times that the criminal charges brought against Gallagher — that he killed unarmed Iraqi civilians as well as an Islamic State group prisoner — didn’t hold water.
Instead, he said, prosecutors “were looking to advance their own agenda.”
“It’s like someone wanted a notch on their belt: They took down a SEAL,” O’Neill told The Times.
If that was the case, the agenda ran into a problem in the White House.
The tumultuous court-martial ended in July, after a bizarre series of twists right out of a Hollywood thriller, including, as Fox News reported, a confession on the witness stand by a SEAL medic who said he actually killed the prisoner in question.
He was sentenced to a demotion to petty officer first class and four months’ confinement, with credit for time served.
On Oct. 31, Gallagher’s family launched a social media appeal to President Donald Trump asking that he intervene in the case.
It paid off. On Nov. 15, Trump reversed Gallagher’s demotion, restoring his rank and pay to chief petty officer.
He also made it clear in a tweet that he would not allow the Navy to revoke from Gallagher the Trident that’s a symbol of being a member of the Navy SEALs.
The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2019
That, in turn, set off a series of events that culminated Sunday in the firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.
The case has brought critical attention to the nation’s military and the Navy’s SEAL teams, and the mainstream media will never miss a chance to portray Trump in a bad light — an NBC News report last week quoted anonymous military officials insisting that military leaders had lobbied Trump not to intervene in the Gallagher case.
To O’Neill, however, Gallagher did nothing to merit the prosecution he endured.
“He’s a great guy. He’s a poster image of what a SEAL should be,” O’Neill said. “I’d go to war with him tomorrow.”
That’s high praise coming from the SEAL who killed one of the most infamous enemies in U.S. history and who hasn’t been shy about making his views on public issues known.
Few Americans have the perspective that O’Neill does, but it sounds like he and the nation’s commander in chief see things the same way.
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