After a two year investigation, Matthew Cole of The Intercept has written a shocking exposé on the atrocities committed by SEAL Team 6, also known as “the President’s own,” and how the government lost control of this now rogue unit.

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Officially Known As The Naval Special Warfare Development Group, Seal Team 6 Is Today The Most Celebrated Of The U.S. Military’s Special Mission Units. But Hidden Behind The Heroic Narratives Is A Darker, More Troubling Story Of “Revenge Ops,” Unjustified Killings, Mutilations, And Other Atrocities — A Pattern Of Criminal Violence That Emerged Soon After The Afghan War Began And Was Tolerated And Covered Up By The Command’s Leadership.

SEAL Team 6, who is best known for killing Osama bin Laden, is revealed to have a darker side that involves mutilated corpses, skinnings, and attempted beheadings, all of which can be considered war crimes under the circumstances. While senior command staff were aware of the misconduct, they did little to stop it, and often helped to cover it up. Amy Goodman of Democracy Now speaks further with Matthew Cole:

Cole describes how after 15 years of war and successes on the battlefield, SEAL Team 6 has acquired a purely heroic reputation back in the States, despite the particularly dark occurrences that transpired in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The extreme misconduct started with what the SEALs refer to as “The Wedding Party Massacre,” in which Lt. Cmdr. Vic Hyder mutilated the body of an Afghani civilian the team had mistakenly killed with a party of wedding-goers.

Hyder was upset over the recent death of a comrade named Neil Roberts at a previous battle now referred to as the battle of Roberts Ridge. This also worked to pierce the SEAL’s sense of invincibility, and regardless of the fact that the civilian who was mutilated at the Wedding Party Massacre had nothing to do with that death, Hyder’s mutilation of the victim was described as an act of revenge.

After the massacre and subsequent mutilation, a meeting was held to discuss battlefield ethics, and while the officer who committed the offence was ostracized, he wasn’t turned in. This, in essence, set an example that though it was spoken aloud that acts of misconduct such as mutilation is “not a part of the game,” these acts of extreme misconduct will be hidden not only from the public, but often the military itself.

Before the assassination of Osama bin Laden at his compound, which Cole states did in fact happen (bin Laden was mutilated by the SEAL team, which is why photos were never provided to the public), two members of the unit, Robert O’Neill and Matthew Bissonnette, argued over how they would share the fame and book profits after bin Laden’s killing. And in fact after the raid, they were the first two to leave the unit to pursue glory back home in the States. According to one of their bosses, “they were in a race to write a book and make money off of the operation,” as quoted from Cole in the second half of his interview with Democracy Now (below).

Between the two books (both of which O’Neill and Bissonnette tried to paint themselves as the heroes who killed bin Laden), the actual events that transpired during the raid on bin Laden’s compound have been muddled. One of the impressions given was that when bin Laden was killed, it was because he was a threat – that he hadn’t laid down on the ground and surrendered; but this version of events is apparently fiction. According to Cole, he was killed because there was an order to kill him “no matter what.”

Bin Laden was unarmed, wearing pajamas, and was standing with two female relatives on both sides of him. He was killed with two shots by an anonymous unit member known only as “Red”; one to the chest, and the other to his hip. It was as he was dying (according to Red, he was essentially already dead) on the floor that O’Neill, who was the second to fire shots, mutilated bin Laden’s body by “canoeing” him, or shooting off the top of his head to create a ‘V’ (or canoe) shape, in effect destroying his face beyond recognition.

This is apparently an important fact to know, because as O’Neill explains it; bin Laden was hiding behind one of the females, and had a weapon nearby, forcing O’Neill to make the decision to shoot him in the head. This latter version is, of course, a complete farce. For more information, please see part two of Matthew Cole’s interview with Democracy Now:

Both Bissonnette and O’Neill declined to answer questions for Matthew Cole’s exposé, and the anonymous team member known only as Red will never step forward because unlike Bissonnette and O’Neill, he’s an actual “professional,” in SEAL Team terms. We recommend reading Cole’s exposé in its entirety.