Mattis seen as hope to clear soldier who killed bomb maker
A war veteran congressman is citing the words of Defense Secretary-designate James Mattis in a bid to stop the Army’s reinvestigation of a Green Beret in the killing of an Afghan Taliban bomb maker.
Maj. Matt Golsteyn was investigated once but not charged. However, the Army has reopened the criminal probe based on statements he made in an interview with Fox News.
On Friday, Rep. Duncan Hunter, California Republican and a former Marine Corps officer, wrote to the Army leadership.
“Major Matt Golsteyn is an American hero, and his experience calls to attention another hero, retired General James Mattis and something he said: ‘There are some assholes in the world that just need to be shot.’ I know you agree that a known Afghan bomb-maker with the blood of American service members on his hands fits into that category,” the congressman wrote to Army Secretary Eric Fanning and Gen. Mark A. Milley, Army chief of staff.
Retired Marine Corps Gen. Mattis is nicknamed “Mad Dog” for his aggressive approach to killing the enemy and winning battles. President-elect Donald Trump has picked him as his defense secretary to devise a strategy to quickly destroy the Islamic State
In a Dec. 7 letter, Mr. Hunter noted that a board of inquiry already had looked into the killing of the maker of improvised explosive devices, which have killed more Americans in Afghanistan than any other weapons. This Afghan was believed to have killed at least two enlisted Marines. The board did not find Maj. Golsteyn guilty of a war crime but of conduct unbecoming an officer. It recommended a general discharge under honorable conditions.
Maj. Golsteyn’s post-Afghanistan problems began when he informed the CIA during a polygraph job interview that he had killed the IED producer. The CIA informed the Army, and the Criminal Investigation Command launched a probe.
John M. McHugh, Army secretary at the time, stripped the Green Beret of his pending Silver Star. Maj. Golsteyn was removed from the Green Beret cadre and set for a less-than-honorable discharge.
“The Army investigation demonstrated that Maj. Golsteyn’s service during or after the time of the distinguished act, achievement or meritorious service was not honorable,” Mr. McHugh told Mr. Hunter.
Maj. Golsteyn’s Silver Star citation showed that he repeatedly risked his life to save his men as his forward operating base came under sniper fire in February 2010. He organized a Green Beret/Marine/Afghan team to leave the relative safety of the base and hunt and kill the snipers.
“Captain Golsteyn was alone running in the open through enemy gunfire that had over 80 men pinned down, and from the crow’s nest on top of FOB McQueary it looked like Captain Golsteyn was alone fighting 30 enemy fighters out in the poppy fields,” the award for valor says.
“With blatant disregard for his own personal safety, Captain Golsteyn exposed himself again to heavy enemy fire and moved 200 meters from the center of the patrol to the eastern flank in order to establish a position of advantage from which to engage the enemy,” the narrative says.
Then-Capt. Golsteyn later encountered the IED maker suspected of killing two Marines, took him into custody and killed him. The Army says the act violated the laws of armed conflict, but the CID probe did not result in criminal charges.
The CIA provided the Golsteyn transcript to the CID and the board of inquiry. It also let a CID agent view the video of the interview, to which the agent testified at the board of inquiry. Maj. Golsteyn’s men refused to testify against him at the board.
Maj. Golsteyn’s supporters say the CID already had him on tape admitting to the killing and wonder why another investigation should be opened. From the CID’s perspective, the CIA has refused to cooperate in a criminal prosecution, which means the transcript and the video might not be admissible at trial.
Then came the Fox News interview in October. When asked by anchor Bret Baier whether he killed the bomb maker, Maj. Golsteyn answered, “Yes.”
Now the Army has Maj. Golsteyn’s own words to use against him via the Fox interview.
The Washington Post obtained Army documents from the first probe under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents said the soldier told the CIA that he “couldn’t live with himself” if the bomb maker killed more American troops. After a tribal leader identified the man as a Taliban member, Maj. Golsteyn took him off base, shot him and buried his remains. He later burned them in a trash pit.
Mr. Hunter’s office maintains that the Taliban bomb maker was an “enemy combatant” and that the killing was lawful.
In his Dec. 7 letter to the two Army leaders, Mr. Hunter said: “Golsteyn is an American hero — a true warrior, in fact. Why the Army is hell-bent on destroying a combat hero’s career is truly astonishing. I’m confident that Army CID has more important things to [do] than investigate Golsteyn again, and you both have the ability to fix this stupidity.”
In a handwritten note, the former Marine said, “Gentlemen, come on! This is a joke. I’m sure you have more important stuff to do. This is getting old.”