Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA), who ran a 2018 reelection campaign rooted in Islamophobia, said Saturday that he had posed for pictures with dead combatants during his time as a Marine in the Middle East.
Hunter was defending Navy SEAL chief Eddie Gallagher, one of several servicemen charged with war crimes who may soon receive a pardon from President Donald Trump.
Gallagher is currently awaiting trial for numerous acts allegedly committed during his time in Iraq, including firing a machine gun haphazardly into residential neighborhoods and killing a young girl and an old man with targeted sniper fire. Gallagher also allegedly stabbed a wounded teenage ISIS fighter who had been taken prisoner, and shared photos of himself holding the dead boy’s head later, boasting that he “got him with my hunting knife.”
“Eddie did one bad thing that I’m guilty of too, taking a picture of the body and saying something stupid,” Hunter said over the weekend.
Hunter said he had taken multiple pictures like that during his time serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, though he insisted he never shared the photos with anyone. “But a lot of my peers … have done the exact same thing,” he added.
Hunter claims to have seen the helmet camera footage that Gallagher’s lawyers say exonerate the Navy SEAL chief, believing it shows him attempting to save the injured captive. The video, however, does not account for the shared photos, nor the testimony from fellow members of Gallagher’s platoon.
That Hunter would admit to such actions — in violation of the Pentagon’s Law of War Manual (188.8.131.52) — is consistent with his history of Islamophobia. In his reelection campaign last year, Hunter called his opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar (D) a “security risk” and a “radical Muslim,” falsely accusing him of trying to “infiltrate Congress” and use different names to “hide his family’s ties to terrorism.”
At one campaign appearance last September, Hunter insisted that kids were being shown “radical Islamist propaganda” to convince them to respect their Muslim classmates. “Can you imagine being the parent of one of those kids?” he said. “That’s what’s happening here. Sharia and Islamism — it wouldn’t be as dangerous if it was just a religion. It’s not just a religion. That’s why we’re fighting them.”
Hunter is currently facing charges of embezzling $250,000 in campaign funds over nearly seven years. Both he and his wife, who has also been charged in the alleged scheme, have pleaded not guilty on all counts.
Gallagher’s case received national attention earlier this year when Trump lauded him as a national hero and insisted he should be detained more comfortably.
In honor of his past service to our Country, Navy Seal #EddieGallagher will soon be moved to less restrictive confinement while he awaits his day in court. Process should move quickly! @foxandfriends @RepRalphNorman
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 30, 2019
“In honor of his past service to our Country, Navy Seal #EddieGallagher will soon be moved to less restrictive confinement while he awaits his day in court. Process should move quickly!” he tweeted in late March.
Reporting suggested Trump might issue pardons for Gallagher and several other servicemen convicted of war crimes as soon as Memorial Day, but that did not occur. The others being considered for pardons are also accused of killing people in Iraq or Afghanistan outside the bounds of combat and/or desecrating their corpses.