Hegseth said the U.S. needs to reevaluate what it considers to be “war crimes” and admitted he thought about “taking justice into our own hands” while unhanding Iraqi men when he served overseas.
“I was tasked with releasing Iraqi men who we knew had American blood on their hands,” he wrote. “The lawyers told us we had to. Did we think about taking justice into our own hands? Sure we did. The only thing that keeps me up at night is wondering whether those jihadists went on to kill Americans.”
Hegseth did not explicitly say he privately asked the President about issuing pardons for Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher — who is accused of murdering an Islamic State prisoner — Green Beret Matt Golstyen, or 1st Lieutenant Clint Lorrence, but he listed them as examples of accused war criminals who he believes should be pardoned.
“Since my tours, I’ve thought a great deal about rules of engagement, ‘war crimes,’ and the way we fight wars,” he wrote. “I’ve lived it and talked about it. My experience is that—if we want to win this long war—we need to back our warfighters, to include rewriting our rules.
“Our boys did their job, it’s time for us to have their backs,” he said.
Hegseth has not been quiet about his interest in the pardons of military personnel accused of war crimes and has even publicly advocated for the pardons on Fox News. The Daily Beast reported earlier this week that his public advocacy turned private in recent months as he engaged in private talks with Trump about the men’s pardons.