“If I don’t cooperate with them that they were going to do everything in their power to ensure that my mother would be deported.“ – US Marine threatened by military investigators.
As any Marine will tell you, it’s never a good thing when the enemy is making every attempt to kill you. And as the fighting Leathernecks of 1st Platoon, Fox Company will make equally clear, it’s worse when your own officers and government want you dead. Making the entire episode all the more disgusting, most Americans don’t even know anything about this.
As reported by KABC of Los Angeles, California, on Christmas day 2015, and also by the Los Angeles Times earlier this summer, despite seven Marines cleared of charges that could have led to the death penalty, the stigma remains. As some of the Marines claim, the US government has done precious little to clear their names and reputations after wrongfully being accused of killing 19 Afghan civilians and wounding 50 more.
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Now out of the Corps and free to speak his mind, Major Fred Galvin, USMC Retired, and two active-duty Marines who wished to remain anonymous due to still being on active duty are coming forth to the press to clear their names. As the Major told the LA Times, “‘The Marines were called into an office one at a time and interrogated for hours, with no Miranda warnings and no access to lawyers,’ Galvin says. ‘They were held incommunicado for days. They were publicly condemned by top military commanders.’
“‘We weren’t just abandoned — they tried to destroy us,’ he said recently near his Kansas City home, his hand resting on a file box containing thousands of pages of documents from the case.”
While deployed to the Taliban-infested Nangahar province in 2007, Fox Company’s 1st Platoon was in a six vehicle convoy heading into a meeting with village elders in the eastern district of Shinwar. With the small convoy rolling through the small Taliban-controlled village of Bati Kot that morning, they suddenly came under attack.
“The car bomb blew up right in front of our second vehicle. Having been involved in multiple explosions and roadside bombs, this was the largest I’d ever seen,” Galvin said. All five men inside were presumed dead, but through the smoke and flames – as enemy gunfire erupted – the Marines in the second vehicle showed they were very much alive.
As reported, “gunshots rang out from both sides of the road, [Galvin] recalled. Galvin said his Marines opened fire, disabling a Toyota SUV speeding toward them. In five minutes, Galvin said, his men had killed six to 10 combatants.” The whole ordeal was over in minutes. They had survived a suicide bomber and an ambush with only one Marine suffering a shrapnel wound.
As the Marines drove back to their base in Jalalabad, Galvin received what was described as the shock of his career: The BBC was reporting that the Marines had just killed 10 Afghan civilians. By sunset, the news reports from the Western media claimed “Afghan officials and villagers said some Marines were drunk and had shot wildly at civilians. They were accused of barging into homes to shoot inhabitants.”
Of the 120 men of Fox Company, seven Marines wound up facing charges, one of them being Galvin. They came to be known in the press as the “MARSOC 7” killers.
Besides being found guilty by the press, the Marines also faced US Army officers not only declaring them guilty, but Department of Defense (DoD) investigators engaged in tactics such as threatening one Marine from East Los Angeles that his mother would be deported if he didn’t “cooperate” with the government’s prosecution team.
“They were coming after the seven of us. It [official charges] said homicide, Article 138 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice: Negligent homicide, max punishment death,” Galvin said.
After more than three weeks of testimony at North Carolina’s Camp Lejeune, the Court of Inquiry concluded in January 2008 and decided not to bring charges. The findings weren’t made public until May 2008, buried late on a Friday of a holiday weekend. “Five months later on Memorial Day weekend, they [the US government] released a one-sentence statement, ‘The Marines acted appropriately,'” Galvin said.
As a prime example of left-leaning and an overtly bias media, Britain’s The Independent newspaper noted in a May 2009 article that despite reporting that the MARSOC (Marine Special Operations Command) members of Fox Company being cleared of all charges, The Independent still referred to the Marines as “Rumsfeld’s renegade unit” and was still printing that the Marines “fired indiscriminately at pedestrians and civilian cars, killing at least 19 people”.
The openly liberal paper did note that the US Army commander in Nangahar at the time, Colonel John Nicholson, did complain that the MARSOC Devil Dogs were guilty of “ignoring usual military courtesies.”
A full two months after the Taliban attack on the Marines, the very same Army Colonel met with families of the alleged victims. He also briefed the Pentagon later that same day. Before the investigation was even complete, Nicholson went before the news cameras to state, “I stand before you today deeply, deeply ashamed and terribly sorry.”
Not quite done yet acting as judge, jury and executioner of the accused Marines, the Army officer added, “The death and wounding of innocent Afghans at the hands of Americans is a stain on our honor.”
Nicholson wasn’t the only Army officer to betray the Marines. The Army’s Lt. Gen. Frank Kearney, head of U.S. Special Operations Command-Central Command, said six weeks after the shootings that there was no evidence of insurgents among 10 dead and 33 wounded Afghans. Kearney had ordered Fox Company removed from Afghanistan six days after the attack.
Kearney, now retired, declined to comment for the LA Times article.
A month after the attack, Galvin was relieved of command. The same combat Marine was ordered to stand in front of his entire 120 Marine command and relieve himself from duty.
He and six other Marines on the convoy were investigated for negligent homicide and dereliction of duty. “After that, we were radioactive,” Galvin said. “These traditions — never leave a Marine behind — well, they left us behind.”
However, Major Gavin knew exactly what the stakes were against him and his Marines. “They were coming after the seven of us. It said homicide, Article 138 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice negligent homicide, max punishment – death,” Galvin said.
After more than three weeks of testimony at Camp Lejeune, NC, the Court of Inquiry concluded in January 2008 and decided not to bring charges. The findings weren’t made public until May 2008, buried late on a Friday of a holiday weekend “document dump”.
“Five months later on Memorial Day weekend, they [the US government] released a one-sentence statement, ‘The Marines acted appropriately,'” Galvin said.
Retired Marine Col. Steven Morgan, one of the three officers on the Marine jury that exonerated the unit, said in an interview: “These Marines still have this black mark on them that never should have been there. It’s an ugly story and it makes me angry.”
In the meantime the Army has promoted Nicholson to Lt. General (three stars) and has said through a spokesman that his “thoughts have not changed” since his testimony at the 2008 court hearing.
KABC also reported, “Those who are out say they can’t find jobs, many are in failing health and divorce is common, the stress too much for several marriages. They say the stigma of murder allegations follows them everywhere. ‘This has radically, adversely affected the lives of Marines, and we just want it to be known that we are innocent,’ Galvin said. He’s asking the Marine Corps for several things, among them that the commandant of the Marines publicly announce that the MARSOC 7 are 100 percent not guilty.
The LA television station also added, “When reached for comment, the Marine Corps told Eyewitness News that a Court of Inquiry is a fact-finding procedure that doesn’t have the power to determine guilty or innocence. They added that the commandant will have nothing further to add. Further requests for comment and clarification went unanswered.”
Retired Marine Capt. Vince Noble, formerly Fox Company’s Executive Office (second in command), said the military command buckled to political pressures and abandoned its own men. “I still ask myself: How could the military turn against its own like that?” said Noble, who now works in law enforcement in New York.
As the LA Times noted, During the trial, cracks appeared in the case against them, such as:
- A U.S. military police patrol that arrived on the scene about 30 minutes after the incident found no dead or wounded Afghans.
- Navy investigators didn’t reach the scene until two months later, spending only about an hour there.
Among the most damning witness testimony was that of Haji Liwani Qumandan, who said he was driving a blue Toyota SUV — which the Marines said carried armed men who fired at them. Qumandan testified that everyone in the vehicle was an unarmed civilian.
Qumandan said the Marines fired “thousands of bullets” which killed his father and 12-year-old nephew, and wounded him in the back. Simply for his name not turning up on any US intelligence terrorist lists, Qumandan received a condolence payment for the deaths of his father and nephew as well as the supposed wound to his back.
Yet in a classified court session that was withheld from the media, a US intelligence report described Qumandan as an “active Taliban participant,” according to Colonel Morgan, the Marine jury member.
“He was bad news — we were dealing with the devil,” said Morgan, who had served as a Marine intelligence officer prior to his retirement.
Several other intelligence reports also said Qumandan actively supported Taliban efforts, retired Marine Master Sgt. James Crawford, the signals intelligence chief for Fox Company in 2007, said in an interview.
After 17 days of testimony, the three-officer jury cleared Galvin and the others. The court noted “unsubstantiated allegations” by military commanders about civilian casualties. It cited the undue influence of a “high level of command, media and governmental attention focused” on the incident.
Testimony by the Marines was “consistent, truthful and credible,” the court concluded. Afghans, on the other hand, were known to “fabricate statements and evidence” in hopes of receiving U.S. condolence payments, the court said.
Earlier this year, Rep. Walter B. Jones (R-N.C.) demanded a public apology from then-Marine Corps commandant, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, who is now serving as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Jones, whose district includes Camp Lejeune, said Fox Company had been the victim of “a witch hunt” in which “senior leaders of our Armed Forces publicly denounced Maj. Galvin and his Marines before an investigation of the matter was made.”
The Tar Heel Congressman demanded that the Marines’ service records be corrected “to remove the stains of being wrongly accused of homicide.”
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