Honor and Betrayal : The Untold Story of the Navy Seals Who Captured the "Butcher of Fallujah"-and the Shameful Ordeal They Later Endured (9780306823091)

BOOK: Honor and Betrayal : The Untold Story of the Navy Seals Who Captured the "Butcher of Fallujah"-and the Shameful Ordeal They Later Endured (9780306823091)

This book is based on actual events that occurred when three US Navy SEALs, part of the Special Forces Team that captured Iraq's most wanted terrorist in 2009, faced courts-martial on charges relating to allegations of prisoner abuse. It is the story of those brave SEALs and the subsequent ordeal they suffered, including their courts-martial. As with many such trial proceedings, conflicting accounts of what actually happened were presented.
Honor and Betrayal
is told from the perspective of the defendants and reflects the opinions of the author, who is a devoted advocate for all US Navy SEALs and for these three SEALs in particular. Some names have been changed, and some dialogue has been reconstructed.

Copyright © 2013 by Patrick Robinson

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher. For information, address Da Capo Press, 44 Farnsworth Street, Third Floor, Boston, MA 02210.

Editorial production by
thon Production Services.


Set in 12-point Dante by Jane Raese

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available for this book.

ISBN 978-0-306-82309-1 (e-book)

Published by Da Capo Press

A Member of the Perseus Books Group


Da Capo Press books are available at special discounts for bulk purchases in the U.S. by corporations, institutions, and other organizations. For more information, please contact the Special Markets Department at the Perseus Books Group, 2300 Chestnut Street, Suite 200, Philadelphia, PA 19103, or call (800) 810-4145, ext. 5000, or e-mail
[email protected]



Author's Note

Open Letters to Admiral Pybus

The Butcher on the Bridge

“We're Navy Seals—and We
Screw It Up!”

Echo Platoon in Battle Mode

We Want This Maniac Alive

A Presumption of Guilt

Scapegoats of Empire

Sound and Fury in Congress

The Outrage of the American Public

US Government Denies Immunity

Denied in Favor of the Defense

Two Verdicts in the Iraqi Courtroom

The Green Light from High Command



Almost a decade has passed since the world first saw those shuddering pictures of the burned bodies of American security officers swinging from the iron bridge over the Euphrates River in Fallujah. It brought perhaps a new dimension to the fiendish cruelty Iraq's jihadists were carrying out in the name of the Prophet.

But, curiously, when a Navy SEAL Team finally went in and grabbed the perpetrator after five years, the aftermath of that event caused an almost bigger sense of outrage. Because the US military authorities decided to court-martial the men who had carried out the raid—for “prisoner abuse.”

The US public rose up in protest. Literally hundreds of thousands of people signed petitions. I was among a few writers and historians requested to join the uproar and contribute words and/or cash to the SEALs' defense.

From that moment I followed the scant accounts of the legal process, making notes, tracking the three Special Forces heroes all the way to their respective military trials. And the only thought I ever had was:
these men deserve vindication
. The media did their best, but they didn't bother much to investigate whether the alleged assault actually happened.
Who cares?

Well, for a start, I cared. And in the spring of 2012 I decided to lay out the complete story, making clear the precise differences between “not guilty” on a point of law, “not guilty” because the case was not proven, and “not guilty” because the crime was never perpetrated in the first place.

I knew that all three of the SEALs were still in the Navy, but I nonetheless reached out to them, trying to find out what really happened.
One of them, a devoted member of the Team, could not reveal very much. The other two confessed that the trials had devastated them and that they would both be leaving the Navy with the utmost sadness.

They had much to say but could not recount anything until they were no longer wearing dark blue. The process was long and sometimes arduous. The iron grip of secrecy imposed on all US Special Forces could not easily be pried open. The reason there are almost no accurate renderings of modern court-martial proceedings is because the military will not allow it. There are massive restrictions on the media, with bans on photographic and recording equipment in the courtroom.

However, even though I say it myself, I have sought the truth. Working closely with the defense lawyers, I have turned this saga into a fly-on-the-wall look at this most notorious court-martial. It's a unique account of how a “politically correct” government works when confronting the inflammatory words, “prisoner abuse.”

I've read about a zillion words on the subject of courts-martial, and from this research I present the most dramatic story of a military trial since
The Caine Mutiny
, Herman Wouk's 1951 Pulitzer Prize–winning novel.

Slowly, piece by piece, this sometimes-heartbreaking story of courage, loyalty, and dedication has evolved into a blow-by-blow courtroom drama, in which I take an unprecedented look at what can happen to innocent men when caught up in a system bent on destroying them. And, indeed, what it took to protect them.

I hope I have done the story—and the SEALs—justice and that the US Navy will understand I have tried to be scrupulously fair and have made absolutely sure that no SEAL battlefield secrets have been disclosed.

Throughout the manuscript I have deliberately withheld surnames of many US Navy SEALs and, in some instances, altogether altered their names and, occasionally, ranks. This, of course, applies particularly to those who are still serving.

All actions SEALs have undertaken are classified, and I have meticulously not revealed any strategies or tactics that may prove to be in
any way useful, revealing, or helpful to US enemies. Further, in some instances I have deliberately obscured accurate revelations about enemy strongholds or garrisons. This is not detrimental to the narrative, but it does add an extra layer of secrecy regarding US Special Forces' knowledge of various areas.

Only foreign terrorists or other fanatics will concern themselves with these geographic details. But should they decide to mount any attack based on “knowledge” discovered in this book, they will find themselves an impossibly long way from their intended target.

My advisers during the months when I was preparing this manuscript, both of them loyal and patriotic Navy personnel, always stressed they would not tolerate one word uttered against the “SEAL Teams.” Neither would they contribute a word that may assist any terrorist with bad intentions toward the United States of America.

I found them to be without rancor or bitterness, though the attitudes of certain members of the Navy High Command did mystify them somewhat. Even more so by the somewhat careless lack of consideration they received from the Army Special Forces High Command.

None of the three accused SEALs will ever quite understand why no one believed their truthful accounts. And none of them will ever understand why they, above everyone else, should have been selected for such ruthless accusation.

Their three “not guilty” verdicts were gratifying. But the scars were too deep to be eradicated altogether; even in the case of Sam Gonzales, who is still in the Navy. Matt and Jon have walked away, much more in sorrow than in anger.

As Matthew McCabe said, “I'm over it now. I'm never going to think about it again.”

And, as Jon Keefe once replied somewhat wryly: “Yeah, right. Of course you're not.”

Patrick Robinson


Open Letters to Admiral Pybus

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