Eddie Gallagher says he and other Navy SEALs used a dying enemy fighter for medical practice with no intention of saving him

·5 min read
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Navy Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher was acquitted of murder on July 2, 2019. Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images
  • Eddie Gallagher said he and other SEALs practiced medical procedures on a prisoner of war.

  • "We killed that guy. Our intention was to kill him. Everybody was on board," he said on a podcast.

  • He said that what had appeared to be life-saving actions were really just live practice.

  • See more stories on Insider's business page.

Retired Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, who was found not guilty of murder in a high-profile war-crimes trial nearly two years ago, said in a podcast that aired Tuesday that he and his team practiced various medical procedures on an enemy combatant until he died, with no intention of saving him.

Gallagher was charged with killing a severely wounded Islamic State prisoner in Iraq in 2017 by stabbing him to death, but he was acquitted in 2019. He was, however, convicted of posing for a photograph with the enemy fighter's corpse and demoted.

After the trial, President Donald Trump restored Gallagher's rank and personally intervened when the Navy attempted to take away Gallagher's SEAL trident.

Gallagher recently told Dan Taberski, host of the podcast "The Line," that "the grain of truth in the whole thing is that that ISIS fighter was killed by us and that nobody at that time had a problem with it."

"We killed that guy. Our intention was to kill him. Everybody was on board," he said.

"He was going to die regardless. We weren't taking any prisoners. That wasn't our job," Gallagher said, adding that "everyone was like, let's just do medical treatments on him until he's gone."

Edward Gallagher
Gallagher in an undated photo released on May 24, 2019. Andrea Gallagher via Reuters

The former chief petty officer, who served as the senior enlisted leader of his SEAL platoon and a medic, argued that he did not stab the enemy fighter to death, as some former members of his team have alleged.

Instead, he said, "that dude died from all the medical treatments that were done, and there's plenty of medical treatments that were done to him."

Citing records, Navy Times reported in 2019 that after 20 minutes of treatment, the prisoner's body "ended up inexplicably spangled with medical devices," including a trachea tube, chest tubes, and a sternal intraosseous infusion.

During the podcast interview, Gallagher said that he cut an emergency airway in the ISIS fighter's throat and inserted a breathing tube "just for practice." He added that he "was practicing to see how fast I could do one."

"Everybody knew what was going on," Gallagher said. "That's the only truthful thing to this whole process," he continued. "And then the rest of it just is, like, a bunch of contorted lies to, like, pin that whole scenario on me."

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Though his defense team did not openly argue this narrative during Gallagher's trial, the focus instead being on disproving the prosecution's narrative, it appeared in a motion filed by the defense.

The motion, obtained by Navy Times, said that when the 17-year-old ISIS fighter was brought in, "he was at or near death."

The defense argued that Gallagher had "initially attempted to save his life" but that once it was clear he could not be saved, the platoon's medic started "using the newly dead or nearly dead ISIS fighter as a training aid to practice performing medical procedures."

Gallagher's statements appear to build on that information and potentially fill in some gaps about what occurred.

Gallagher's defense attorney, Tim Parlatore, told Insider that what the former Navy SEAL described in the podcast, which he accused of some "selective editing" for the purpose of sensationalism, was "what truly happened."

He explained that assertions that Gallagher attempted to save the life of the enemy fighter, who had been critically wounded in an airstrike, referred to the initial medical assessment Gallagher conducted, not necessarily all of the latter treatments. Once it was determined that saving his life was an impossibility, the decision was made to use the fighter as a training aid.

Parlatore also argued that such practices are not uncommon, calling it beneficial training.

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Gallagher walks out of military court in San Diego on July 2, 2019. Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images

While the American Medical Association says that "medical training sometimes involves practicing procedures on newly deceased patients," a 2002 article in the Journal of General Internal Medicine argued that "current ethical norms do not support the practice of using newly and nearly dead patients for training in invasive medical procedures absent prior consent."

Parlatore said that although such actions may be ethically questionable, practicing medical procedures on a dying person beyond saving is not illegal. He argued that the cause of death in this case was the airstrike, telling Insider that the medical procedures practiced on the fighter did not do anything to hasten his demise.

Speaking to Military.com about the podcast, Parlatore said that Gallagher's 'inartful" statements have been misinterpreted and that the Navy SEALs "did not intend to kill an unarmed prisoner using medical treatment." He added that some of the medical procedures may have even prolonged the prisoner's life.

During the trial, Parlatore argued that the case "isn't about murder" but "about mutiny." The defense argued that disgruntled members of Gallagher's platoon had seized the opportunity and made up a story about what had happened to get rid of him.

In various interviews, some of Gallagher's former platoon members described him as "toxic" and "freaking evil," with Petty Officer 1st Class Corey Scott saying, "You could tell he was perfectly OK with killing anybody that was moving."

Scott testified under immunity that while Gallagher had stabbed the young ISIS fighter, it was he who had actually killed him by covering the breathing tube and asphyxiating him as some sort of mercy killing. Questions have been raised about the veracity of these statements.

The US Navy has not responded to Insider's request for comment on Gallagher's latest remarks. When Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby was asked about Gallagher's remarks on Wednesday, he stated: "I'm not sure I'm going to dignify those comments with a response."

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