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Navy SEALs capture most-wanted Iraqi terrorist, but now they're charged with punching him

November 30, 2009 |  6:06 am

Blackwater security guards killed in Fallujah 3-31-04, burned and hung from a local bridge

Catching Up: An amazing story out of Iraq over the holiday with likely domestic political repercussions, involving another possible case of political correctness gone awry:

Three Navy SEAL commandos, who recently captured one of the most-wanted terrorists in Iraq, are now being charged criminally by the Navy for giving the terrorist a bloody lip.

The captive is Ahmed Hasim Abed, who was codenamed "Objective Amber." He's the alleged mastermind of the capture, mutilation and deaths of four Blackwater security guards in 2004 (see photo above).

After patiently tracking the suspect and capturing him, the SEALs turned the prisoner over to Iraqi authorities in September. He then complained of being punched at some point. He was returned to U.S. custody, resulting in....

...the formal action against U.S. enlisted service personnel, by officers apparently still sensitive over past prisoner abuse charges at the Abu Ghraib prison.

So now the Navy has placed formal charges for allegedly roughing up an enemy combatant against three members of its elite commando unit, whose sharpshooters were universally hailed earlier this year for simultaneously blowing the heads off three Somali pirates who'd captured a merchant ship captain.

The three newly-charged SEALs, believing they acted appropriately in and after the clandestine capture operation, have rejected non-judicial punishments and requested formal, separate courts-martial.

Rowan Scarborough of Fox News, who broke the story, quotes Neal Puckett, one of the commando's defense attorneys, as saying:

I don’t know how they’re going to bring this detainee to the United States and give us our constitutional right to confrontation in the courtroom. But again, we have terrorists getting their constitutional rights in New York City, but I suspect that they’re going to deny these SEALs their right to confrontation in a military courtroom in Virginia.

The decision by the Obama administration's Justice Dept. and Atty. Gen. Eric Holder to reject military tribunals for some Guantanamo terrorist detainees and bring them to New York City for civilian trials has raised controversy among those who see the prisoners as military participants in the global war on terrorism, undeserving of the extra legal protections afforded outside the military judicial system.

Now, on the basis of the captive's claim, the Pentagon is charging U.S. service members with physical mistreatment. The captive is a suspect in an incident from March 2004, when four Blackwater-employed security guards protecting food supplies in a convoy in Fallujah were captured, tortured, burned and hung from a local bridge in an iconic, grisly photo that came to portray the unchecked violence in that land.

This SEAL incident comes as internal government investigations continue -- with congressional hearings to follow -- into the deadly shooting spree at the Army's Ft. Hood in Texas in early November. A Muslim U.S. Army major, Abu Nidal Hasan, has been charged with killing 13 fellow soldiers.

Surprising details have since emerged that Hasan's militant antiwar attitude and ties to a radical Muslim cleric in Yemen were known before the shootings but not acted upon, perhaps over political correctness and concerns about targeting a Muslim.

Tomorrow, after three months of deliberation, President Obama is scheduled to detail his newest new Afghanistan strategy in a speech from the U.S. Military Academy. Afghanistan is also the subject of White House talks today between Obama and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Obama is expected, among other things, to outline an exit strategy and conditionally increase the number of U.S. troops on the ground there, as he did in March. That decision brought U.S. military involvement to the current 68,000.

The U.S. SEALs are set to be arraigned Dec. 7.

Related items:

Obama issues special Hajj message to world's Muslims

Guantanamo fallout: White House lawyer resigns, NY trials set

Atty. Gen. Holder on hot seat over NYC trial decision

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Associated Press