Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) admitted at a town hall last week that as a Marine, he’d taken selfies with dead enemy combatants. He took those comments even further in a recent podcast interview, during which he said he likely killed hundreds of civilians and admitted that he doesn’t care if a Navy SEAL committed a war crime by murdering an ISIS prisoner.
Hunter spoke to the podcast Zero Blog Thirty in an episode that originally came out Tuesday and garnered widespread attention over the weekend. The hosts asked Hunter specifically about the case against Eddie Gallagher, who faces charges of numerous war crimes, but most notably stabbing a wounded teenage ISIS fighter in the neck and sharing photos of himself with the dead boy’s head.
Hunter has publicly advocated for President Donald Trump to pardon Gallagher, which the president is reportedly mulling. As Hunter explained on the podcast, his own rationale is that he doesn’t actually care if a war crime was committed.
Hunter insisted he doesn’t believe the case against Gallagher, but that it doesn’t matter to him if it’s true. “I frankly don’t care if he was killed,” Gallagher said of the ISIS fighter. “I just don’t care.”
In the end, even if everything that the prosecutors said about the one ISIS fighter that escaped the bombing of this building — and that the Iraqis then shot, and then interrogated, then turned him over to the SEALS — I frankly don’t care if he was killed. I just don’t care, and that’s my personal point of view, and as a Congressman that’s my prerogative to help a guy out like that. Even if everything that the prosecutors say is true in this case, then Eddie Gallagher should still be given a break I think.
When host Kate Mannion noted that the stabbing might even violate the Geneva Convention, Hunter insisted, “Yeah, but ISIS is not part of — and I think this guy was going to die anyway, because I’ve seen the video.” When pressed on whether he still wouldn’t care if Gallagher’s actions constituted a war crime, Hunter said, “I would still support him, yeah.”
As the conversation continued, Hunter took a defensive position, suggesting that he was likely responsible for killing many civilian women and children too.
Then how do you judge me? So I was an artillery officer and we fired hundreds of rounds into Fallujah, killed probably hundreds of civilians — if not scores of hundreds of civilians — probably killed women and children if there were any left in the city when we invaded. So do I get judged too?
Mannion tried to note that there’s a difference between the collateral damage of artillery fire and killing a specific prisoner who’s already wounded — not to mention desecrating the corpse by posing for pictures with it. “I just feel like we’re above that, that’s all,” she said.
“Okay,” Hunter replied, ending the discussion.
The interview suggests Hunter wishes to offer wide latitude to soldiers to act in immoral ways. Before the discussion about Gallagher, the congressman also suggested that there should be a one-month grace period for soldiers returning from combat zones “where you get some time to not get in trouble, especially if you get a DUI or something like that.” (Hunter is currently facing charges of embezzling $250,000 from his campaign over a period of seven years, undermining his moral credibility to defend others.)
The comments Hunter made on this podcast also cannot be separated from his history of extremely Islamophobic rhetoric. In last year’s election, he attacked his opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar (D) as a “security risk” and a “radical Muslim,” even complaining at one campaign rally that kids in California schools were learning how to be respectful of their Muslim classmates. “It’s not just a religion. That’s why we’re fighting them,” he said.
Barstool Sports, which publishes the Zero Blog Thirty podcast, released a statement Sunday calling Hunter’s rhetoric “horrific.” Describing the interview as “a big ball of what the fuck,” co-host “Chaps” explained that they decided to publish the interview because “there’s a decent portion of the mil[itary] community who agree with Hunter. ZBT doesn’t and we had to be clear about that.”