“Sometimes we have to face what we are trying to avoid,” reflected sniper Howard E. Wasdin in SEAL Team Six (Review, 2012) the memoir in which he recounted his life in the Navy Seals, one of the most exclusive and closed units of the US Navy. Wasdin belonged to the sixth platoon, the same one that years later killed Bin Laden . In this case, he was referring to the bullet holes that he had in both legs and with which he stayed hidden without moving, trapped for several hours during a raid. Prepared for whatever on the battlefield, no one could imagine that part of the elite of the best army on the planet was going to exploit for another reason, a process that almost everyone would have wanted to avoid and that changed the rules of the game among those who believe that there are red lines that should not be crossed and those who think that anything goes as long as they defeat the enemy.
In May 2017, the Seals Seals Seventh Platoon successfully captured an ISIS position during the fight with the Iraqi army to retake Mosul. To everyone’s surprise, there was a survivor after the heavy bombardment, a weak and malnourished young man, wounded and disoriented, who died shortly after at the hands of his captors. What happened in those hours and its consequences are the central theme of The Line, docuserie available on Apple TV +.
Through four chapters of impeccable workmanship, the documentary puts us squarely in the case against Eddie Gallagher, leader of the platoon accused by several subordinates of murdering the ISIS fighter with several stab wounds to the neck. In a closed culture, based on brotherhood, loyalty and silence, several soldiers decided to step forward and denounce this and other excesses of their boss, whom they accused of shooting civilians, stealing and risking the lives of the soldiers. yours in mindless operations. “They never told us that our leaders would commit war crimes,” says one of the witnesses in the first five minutes of the series, organized as a long informative piece in which the whole case is already condensed, but which does not gut anything. The narrative, in which all those affected by the case on both sides participate (several complainants, the accused, lawyers, relatives, experts, journalists …) has extraordinary images of the daily work of these soldiers in Iraq, operations, bombings. , moments of camaraderie, all narrated by its protagonists for the documentary, which gives it verisimilitude and rhythm. It also has a structure of thriller that does not lose at any time and that helps to follow it, whether the outcome is known or not.
Eddie was a legend, a physical beast, addicted to training, always up for the next challenge. He was named Seal of the Year and decorated multiple times. He was a good leader, a mentor for the younger ones. But those who deployed with him on his ninth mission, in Iraq and against ISIS, saw his progressive fall into the dark side, his mistakes, his obsessions, his abuse of drugs to mitigate pain, his conversion into The Devil Gallagher, as he became known among some. Those who had more solid principles could not bear it, and less when, contrary to what the correct organization of the platoon says, he began to spend the day in a sniper position, from which he shot civilians, the elderly, girls and women. That is what those who denounce it say, of course, the group of soldiers who broke the wall of silence and earned, for many, a stigma that still survives. His complaints were stuck in a hierarchy of which the accused was a part. Until everything exploded and the secret stopped being it.
“It is war. If you can justify the shooting and then you can sleep and live with it, go ahead. ” “When you fight these monsters for so long, you end up looking like them in some ways. Become a monster to fight another “” Are we here to win or not? It seems that if you follow the rules that they have given us, we are not even close to winning. You have to get your hands a little dirty to win ”. These are some of the many phrases that a proud Gallagher lets out during the docuseries. His statement in the final minutes of the last chapter, as a sad epilogue, is a triumphal song for war criminals, do what you want to win, an implicit assumption of crimes for which he can no longer be convicted that gives chills.
A show trial
Before, the last two chapters focus on the military trial Gallagher was subjected to, who faced life in prison if convicted of murder. Again with great narrative pulse, the documentary shows us how the family took advantage of the coverage of Fox and other harsher right-wing media and the help of President Trump and showed Gallagher as a hero mistreated by a group of millennials who had been enlisted in the Seals to show off and get decorations, cowardly soldiers who covered up with their complaint their lack of motivation to go to combat. By simplifying the process and forgetting details that would work against them, they tainted the name of the complainants (all soldiers of proven reliability, who had passed inhumane tests to get there) and took advantage of the operation of justice in the United States to turn everything into a circus from which they benefited.
The trial uses certain images of appeal, unavoidable since it was a military process, but the authentic voices of witnesses and lawyers give it credibility. Corey Scott, the doctor who was with Gallagher when the prisoner dies, changes his testimony at the last second and turns the whole thing upside down. When the case seems to have no more possible twists, the star character of the last chapter appears on the scene, a dark and bright lawyer who plays with each other. You can see the final result in the news that was published with the case already solved or let yourself be captivated by this docuseries (also available in a podcast very complete), a riveting reconstruction of an ominous secret that, in its end, forever changed the Navy Seals.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.