Yesterday The Intercept published an explosive article titled “The Crimes of SEAL Team Six” which accuses the unit of institutionalizing war crimes from a former unit commander on down into the enlisted ranks. Many SOFREP readers wrote to us asking if the allegations in the article are correct. While SOFREP cannot independently verify every claim made in the article, through numerous sources we are able to confirm that SEAL Team Six operators have committed war crimes to an extent that it can almost be described as the unit’s standard operating procedure.
These crimes include scalpings, canoeing (by shooting open the top of the skull), the taking of anatomical war trophies, and the needless killing of unarmed civilians. No one was more skeptical of these claims than I was, as this was such a profound departure from my own experience in Special Operations units. Over the years, I have been told of war crimes being committed by the unit which are described in The Intercept article as well as others that are even darker. One SEAL I spoke to described what was going on in the unit as resembling the Cormac McCarthy novel “Blood Meridian.”
I wish I could say that “The War Crimes of SEAL Team Six” is just a work of creative fiction or journalistic sensationalism. Sadly, the main trust of the article is factually correct.
Our Special Operations personnel have personal responsibility for any and all deliberate criminal activity undertaken while deployed overseas, however, perhaps what is more disturbing is the fact that dozens of military officers assigned to numerous commands such as SOCOM, JSOC, WARCOM, and Naval Special Warfare, enabled and facilitated these crimes by covering them up. These commands had numerous opportunities to address the issue and begin cleaning things up. Many believe that issues like this should be handled “in-house.” These commands had the chance to keep it in-house but chose to paper over the problem instead. The end result is a media expose.
These officers quickly compromised their integrity, honor, and service to their country for the sake of careerism. They thought they could ignore the problem and kick the can down the road. Meanwhile, the institutionalization of war crimes spread like a cancer throughout SEAL Team Six. To be clear, not every operator in SEAL Team Six committed war crimes. However, every operator assigned to the unit over the last 15 years knows about these crimes. Any who claim otherwise are telling a bold-faced lie.
At SOFREP, we tried to take a somewhat more subtle approach, urging the command to clean things up on their own through formal and informal communication channels. I published an article about why we have not been shown pictures of Osama Bin Laden’s corpse several years ago. It incited anger from a former SOCOM Command Sergeant Major who admitted to actually touching the corpse but said it was not mutilated. The Intercept story also contradicts the official narrative, claiming that Bin Laden had been branded by SEAL Team Six with one of their trademark war crimes by canoeing his skull.
The Crimes of SEAL Team Six is a sad commentary on what we have become after 15 years of war. As a friend said, what we have allowed our young men to become is a disgrace to our nation. Many soldiers and veterans will attempt to justify war crimes that place us in the same moral category as our enemies. We have traded our military ethics in for cheap self-satisfaction which served no tactical or strategic purpose, the war crimes being the masturbation of weak, damaged, or broken minds.
It is our hope that SOCOM, JSOC, and SEAL Team Six will now finally take corrective measures because the thought of an elite unit gone rogue is a nightmare on par with our deepest fears about groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS.
Image courtesy of AP