Enemies, Foreign and Domestic
An interview with author and Navy SEAL Carl Higbie.
Enemies, Foreign and Domestic: A SEAL’s Story is a new book by former Navy SEAL Carl Higbie. Higbie was on the Navy SEAL assault team that in the summer of 2007 captured the most wanted man in the Middle East (apart from Osama bin Laden) – Ahmed Hashim Abd Al-Isawi, known as the Butcher of Fallujah. But afterward, Higbie and others in his unit were charged with prisoner abuse when Al-Isawi alleged that they had bloodied his lip.
Suddenly, the “mission accomplished” became a much more challenging ordeal as Higbie et al were threatened with courts-martial over supposedly roughing up a ruthless terrorist. When he went public with his account of what happened, the Navy pushed back hard to save face and protect careers. But Higbie pushed back harder.
Higbie, also the author of Battle on the Home Front: A Navy SEAL’s Mission to Save the American Dream, became a SEAL in 2003 and deployed twice in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. He is now a political commentator in national media including the Fox News Channel, Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The Daily Caller, and Breibart. He graciously agreed to answer a few questions for FrontPage Mag about his lates book, Enemies, Foreign and Domestic.
Mark Tapson: About the mission to capture and extract this high-value target, the Butcher of Fallujah. You and your unit accomplished the mission, handed him over, and all seemed good – but then what happened afterward?
Carl Higbie: After turning over custody to the Master at Arms (MP), the MP admittedly left his post. During this time the prisoner bit his lip (as testified by an oral surgeon) and spit blood on his clothing. Out of fear for his own career, the MP concocted a story that he saw many of us abuse the prisoner. This story was fabricated, as was apparent from his numerous changes in his official statement.
MT: The accusation should have been cleared up quickly, but instead, the Navy did its best to break you and the other suspects down and get confessions out of you. Tell us what happened.
CH: Initially we were investigated by NCIS and their investigation made the recommendation to not charge us. It was our Commanding officer along with General Cleveland that decided to proceed despite the facts. Because of the lack of evidence, they wanted to proceed “general’s mast” where there is no need for evidence and a punishment can be issued arbitrarily. They were doing to his to save face and “make an example” out of us.
We all requested a courts-martial so we would have a fair trial and be able to present evidence in our favor. The command tried to talk us out of this because they knew they would lose. They separated us and threatened us with all kinds of punishments, but we held strong and forced the courts-martial.
MT: Why do you think this guy made such a serious accusation about some of his fellow soldiers, and why do you think the higher-ups weren’t more supportive of the accused, especially considering that the so-called victim was a terrorist?
CH: The higher-ups were afraid of simple allegations, how that would affect their careers. They lost sight of the mission and their duty to their men. They put politically correct public image in front of their oath. They had us pegged for guilty from day one despite ALL the evidence. So much for “innocent until proven guilty.”
MT: What’s your opinion of the Rules of Engagement our warriors were bound by which were so strict that merely bloodying a terrorist’s nose could get you court-martialed? Do you think those ROE are proper or are they hindering our men in the field and perhaps even endangering them?
CH: Rules of engagement are different from guidelines for treating prisoners. I think the Rules of Engagement are atrocious. You cannot have one side playing by a set of rules that does not apply to the other side. War is not a moral endeavor, it is people killing each other; therefore you must be willing to be as ruthless as your enemy.
As for prisoner handling, we should never have stood any discipline after NCIS cleared us and recommended not going forward. This is what investigations are for and they should not be overstepped by a commander who has no knowledge of the situation. Moreover, who cares if a terrorist that we had legal authority to kill had a bloody lip?
MT: After you were eventually cleared, you wrote a book – as a private citizen, not as a SEAL – called Battle on the Homefront based on your experiences, in which you complained about various ways in which Americans are failing to live up to our country’s own exceptionalism. But the Navy brass gave your manuscript the runaround and did their best to suppress publication. Why do you believe they did that, particularly since many of them privately agreed with what you wrote?
CH: I spent almost two years, 24 times the length of time the DOD has allowed by their own standards for the review. At every corner, they stonewalled me, refusing even to conduct a review. I had been consulting an attorney throughout the process who was dumbfounded, as we had continuously jumped through hoops to accommodate their ever-changing requirements.
The book was controversial and no one wanted to review it because they were concerned about how it would affect their careers if they were the ones with the approval stamp on it. The military spent more resources trying to bury it than it would have taken to conduct the review. After a review from NCIS on security, and under advice from my attorney, we published without command approval since they had failed to comply with their own rules.
MT: Since leaving the Navy, you’ve pursued a path as a political commentator in the media. Is that another way you feel you can best serve your country? Do you have political ambitions in the future as well? Tell us about what you’re doing to help reinvigorate the American Dream.
CH: I have pursued the political route because I believe that to be the root of the problem today. I am unsure whether I will run again but I am heavily involved with this presidential race and many other races as well. If we want to fix this nation we have to start at the top.
Mark Tapson is the editor of TruthRevolt.org and a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.