Rep. Duncan Hunter likely won't face charges after claiming he took photos with enemy corpses downrange

Analysis
A Navy SEAL Is Accused Of Committing War Crimes In Iraq

Editor's Note: This article by Richard Sisk originally appeared onMilitary.com, a leading source of news for the military and veteran community.

Rep. Duncan Hunter's claim that he posed for a photo with a dead enemy combatant while serving as a Marine Corps officer will probably not expose him to any charges under military or federal criminal law, three military law specialists said Tuesday.

Hunter, a California Republican, left the Marine Corps Reserve in 2017 as a major.

"What he's done is all kinds of stupid, but a criminal act? I think not," said Gary Solis, a former Marine Judge Advocate General and now an adjunct professor of military law at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

"For criminal wrongdoing, you've got to have more" than just posing for a photo with a corpse, such as degrading the body, Solis said. "In this case, [Hunter's] assertion of having done so is not necessarily a crime."


"I don't think he's subject to the [Uniform Code of Military Justice]," agreed Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale University and served on then-Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl's defense team.

Fidell said it is his opinion that "the conduct [Hunter] has admitted to does not come under" the War Crimes Act, a federal criminal statute, although the behavior described "severely compromised his standing as a commissioned officer."

Geoffrey Corn, a professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston, took a similar view on Hunter's statement, made last Saturday at a town hall meeting, that he took the photo with a dead enemy combatant while serving as a field artillery officer.

Hunter made the statement to show support for Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who is facing a general court-martial on numerous charges, including that he allegedly stabbed to death a wounded and captured enemy combatant in Iraq in 2017. One of the counts against Gallagher alleges that he took a photo of himself with the corpse.

At the town hall, Hunter referenced the Gallagher photo, saying, "A lot of us have done the exact same thing," according to reports by the Times of San Diego and the San Diego Union-Tribune.

"Eddie [Gallagher] did one bad thing that I'm guilty of too -- taking a picture of the body and saying something stupid," he said.

Hunter, who served two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, said he had taken a photo "just like that when I was overseas," referring to the alleged Gallagher photo. He did not specify whether his photo was taken in Iraq or Afghanistan, but added that he did not text or post the image.

In commenting on Hunter's statement, Corn said in an email that the War Crimes Act "provides for federal criminal jurisdiction over certain war crimes but, in my opinion, while this [Hunter's photo] may have breached the customary obligation to treat the dead respectfully, I don't think it could be charged as a war crime under this statute for a number of somewhat complicated legal impediments."

A Marine Corps spokesman, Maj. Brian Block, said the service is aware of Hunter's remarks but offered no information on whether there would be a preliminary inquiry.

Hunter's California office did not immediately respond to phone calls or emails asking for comment. The lawmaker is already under federal criminal indictment on a range of fraud charges for allegedly diverting campaign funding for personal use, such as vacations in Italy. He faces a court hearing in July and possible trial in the fall.

The reactions to Hunter's remarks — if they can be judged by postings to his Twitter account — were mostly negative.

"Randomly admitting to war crimes while under indictment for stealing campaign funds. That's a great look my guy," said one. Another said, "Thank you for your service."

According to the Defense Department's Law of War Manual, "The respectful treatment of the dead is one of the oldest rules in the law of war. Enemy military dead must be protected from disrespectful or degrading acts."

It adds, "Posing with bodies for photographs or leaving a 'calling card' on a body are also inconsistent with the respectful treatment of the dead."

This article originally appeared on Military.com

More articles from Military.com:

SEE ALSO: Reenlisting Next To An Enemy Corpse Isn't A War Crime, Navy Judge Rules

WATCH NEXT: Inside SWCC

Photo: Twitter

For an organization that is constantly shining a light on things that would rather be kept out of the public eye, the moderators of U.S. Army WTF! Moments have done a remarkably impressive job at staying anonymous.

That is, until Monday.

Read More Show Less

For U.S. service members who have fought alongside the Kurds, President Donald Trump's decision to approve repositioning U.S. forces in Syria ahead of Turkey's invasion is a naked betrayal of valued allies.

"I am ashamed for the first time in my career," one unnamed special operator told Fox News Jennifer Griffin.

In a Twitter thread that went viral, Griffin wrote the soldier told her the Kurds were continuing to support the United States by guarding tens of thousands of ISIS prisoners even though Turkey had nullified an arrangement under which U.S. and Turkish troops were conducting joint patrols in northeastern Syria to allow the Kurdish People's Protection Units, or YPG, to withdraw.

"The Kurds are sticking by us," the soldier told Griffin. "No other partner I have ever dealt with would stand by us."

Read More Show Less

Defense Secretary Mark Esper has confirmed that a nightmare scenario has come to pass: Captured ISIS fighters are escaping as a result of Turkey's invasion of Kurdish-held northeast Syria.

Turkey's incursion has led to "the release of many dangerous ISIS detainees," Esper said in a statement on Monday.

Read More Show Less
ABC News anchor Tom Llamas just before his network airs grossly inaccurate footage

Video footage of a purported "bombing of Kurd civilians" by Turkish military forces shown on ABC News appeared to be a nighttime firing of tracer rounds at a Kentucky gun range.

Read More Show Less

The U.S. military's seemingly never-ending mission supporting civil authorities along the southwestern border will last at least another year.

On Sept. 3, Defense Secretary Mark Esper approved a request from the Department of Homeland Security to provide a total of up to 5,500 troops along the border until Sept. 30, 2020, Lt. Gen. Laura Richardson, commander of U.S. Army North, said on Monday.

Read More Show Less