It’s been a long process, at least by military tribunal standards, but Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher has been found not guilty on nearly all charges related to the death of an ISIS militant in Iraq in 2017. He was found guilty of a single charge of posing for a photo with the dead combatant, but he’s already been confined for longer than the maximum sentence on that charge so he’s a free man. (NY Post)

A decorated US Navy SEAL accused of several war crimes, including stabbing a wounded teenage ISIS militant to death in 2017, was found not guilty of murder on Tuesday.

It took a military jury of five Marines and two sailors about nine hours over two days to clear Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher, 40, of all charges — except posing for a photo with the captive’s corpse.

The maximum sentence for the photo is four months — meaning Gallagher was set to walk free on time served from his nine months of pre-trial confinement.

As more and more details emerged from this case, it became increasingly confusing. What may have initially looked like a fairly open and shut case to prosecutors was quickly clouded by allegations that Gallagher was being set up by members of his own platoon.

The teenage ISIS fighter had been injured in an airstrike and received medical attention from Gallagher’s platoon. That’s when the SEAL allegedly stabbed him in the neck with a knife. He denied killing the terrorist and the case became even more convoluted when a medic from their platoon (who had been granted immunity in exchange for testimony) took the stand and claimed that he had, in fact, killed the ISIS member himself by blocking his air tube. He said the guy was going to die anyway so it was an act of mercy.

In any event, all of these conflicting stories clearly created enough doubt for the jury to find Gallagher not guilty of the killing. As for the photo, it was later revealed that all of the members of the platoon who accused Gallagher had also posed for photos with the corpse, so they didn’t seem all that upset about the death at the time.

So did something terrible happen that day in Iraq? That depends entirely on your personal world view and what you believe. While I’ve been criticized for saying this in the past, I always recall five words my father said to me when reminiscing about his time in France and Germany during World War II. “Son, bad things happen in war.” I understand how that can come off sounding like a cavalier attitude toward something that would be considered a major crime back home in the United States. And I’m not even saying you should find it honorable. But plenty of warfighters from every war we’ve engaged in have photos like those tucked away somewhere. And as for the killing… it’s war. You’re there to kill the enemy. And it leads to things happening that you would never do in civilian life.

Gallagher was accused, he was charged and he was given the chance to defend himself in court. Now he’s prevailed and it’s over. There’s really not much more to be said about it. And in the end, we broke ISIS’ back and scattered them to the wind. That happened thanks to a lot of people like Eddie Gallagher.