Marine veteran turned congressman Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) made an unusual admission during a town hall meeting over the weekend: He'd absolutely taken a photo of himself with the body of a dead enemy combatant while deployed overseas potentially in violation of the Pentagon's rules.
Speaking during a meeting on border issues in the southern California town of Ramona on Saturday, Hunter was commenting on the case of Naval Special Warfare Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher, the Navy SEAL accused of war crimes that include snapping photos with the body of a captured ISIS fighter after allegedly stabbing him to death with a hunting knife.
Gallagher “did one bad thing that I'm guilty of, too — taking a picture of the body and saying something stupid,” Hunter said, adding that he had taken photos “just like that when I was overseas,” according to the Times of San Diego.
As Task & Purpose previously reported, Gallagher allegedly posed next to the body of a 15-year-old ISIS fighter before carrying out his reenlistment ceremony, texting a photo of himself cradling the dead fighter's head in one hand and boasting that he “got him with my hunting knife.”
As the Washington Post notes, posing next to the body of a dead combatant runs counter to the Pentagon's Law of War Manual, which stipulates that “the handling and burial of enemy military dead must be discharged with the same respect as would be afforded to, or expected for, friendly military dead.”
But it's worth noting that the Navy judge presiding over the Gallagher case ruled in February that taking photographs of or conducting a reenlistment ceremony over an enemy corpse doesn't rise to the level of “prohibited acts” under Article 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
In this April 7, 2011 file photo, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington.(Associated Press/Carolyn Kaster)
“The judge is saying that two of the specs under charge 3, the [Article] 134 violation, did not rise to the level of war crimes,” Navy spokesman Brian O'Rourke told Task & Purpose at the time. “The judge said 'these are in extremely bad taste, and you should have known better.'”
Lt. Jacob Portier, who faces charges of dereliction of duty amid claims that he covered up Gallagher's alleged crimes, reportedly told his superior officer the same thing, according to documents obtained by Navy Times: “It was just in poor taste.”
Gallagher's case reached the pubic eye after the New York Times reported in mid-May that President Donald Trump was considering a presidential pardon not just for Gallagher, but two other U.S. service members accused of war crimes.
Hunter, who was indicted last year for bogarting upwards of $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use, has strongly advocated for a pardon for Gallagher since the Navy initiated proceedings against Gallagher.