‘The Line’ explores the impact of America’s wars on Navy SEALs through Eddie Gallagher’s murder trial
“The Line” looks at the infamous case of the Navy SEAL accused of murdering a 17-year-old prisoner of war. In 2018, a group of SEALs accused Eddie Gallagher, now a retired United States Navy SEAL Chief, of murder and eventually found themselves in one of the biggest war crimes trials in decades. Host Dan Taberski, also the host of “Running From COPS,” dives into this case and everything surrounding it: bringing us into the courtroom, analyzing the culture of the Navy SEALs, and seeing what is happening to the minds and hearts of people the United States is sending into its forever wars.
“The Line” is an Apple TV+ and Jigsaw Productions podcast, consisting of six, 40-minute episodes. In it, Taberski dives into the history of the Navy SEALs, a group that, over the past two decades, has faced many scandals. While this podcast begins and ends with Eddie Gallagher, who was eventually acquitted of the murder, “The Line” dives into the life of a SEAL and what right and wrong mean in war.
To start out, Taberski brings us to the scene of the crime. The Alpha Platoon of SEAL Team Seven found themselves in Mosul, Iraq in 2017 in the middle of one of the most aggressive battles of the decade. But they were excited to join the fight, considering themselves lucky to be there. ISIS had control of the city for the previous several years, holding many of the citizens of Mosul hostage. The SEALs were assisting Iraqi forces in clearing ISIS out.
For a branch of the Navy that seemingly prides themselves on being secretive, Taberski says that it’s a bit amazing how much of it they record on the personal Go-Pros they attach to their helmets. That’s the footage he is watching, and that the court watched, that put Gallagher on the stand.
On May 3, 2017, the SEALs ordered an airstrike on a building in Old West Mosul, where several ISIS fighters were hiding out. Five ISIS fighters were killed and others escape, except for one, captured by Iraqi forces. He’s a 17-year old boy, with an obvious leg injury, possibly more, and disoriented from the blast. An Iraqi reporter was actually on the scene and interviewed the young man who was now a prisoner of war. Taberski shares sound bites from their interview.
The reporter asks him why he was with the ISIS fighters and if he was forced to fight with them. The boy replies, no, he joined them because his abusive father told him not to join. The reporter asks, “Then why did you go?” The boy says it was because they said it was a good job. The reporter repeats what the boy just said, that he joined the ISIS fighters because it was a good job, to which the boy says, “Yes, Uncle.”
The Iraqi reporter then leaves the boy, moving on to other matters that call upon a war journalist. Little did he know, this young man would end up being a much bigger, and more tragic, news story than anyone could have predicted.
The Iraqi forces picked him up and drove him from the front lines, bringing him towards the Navy SEALs. From Go-Pro footage, one can see the 17-year-old draped over the hood of the Humvee. One can also see Chief Eddie Gallagher, the top enlisted man in the Platoon as well as a trained medic, who has taken to carrying a hunting knife alongside his standard pack of medical supplies on his belt, approach the boy.
Gallagher kneels over him and rips open the pant leg over the boy’s wound. The boy’s body shoots up in pain, Gallagher pushes him back down, and then… the camera shuts off. And that was the last time the boy would seen alive on tape.
Chief Eddie Gallagher was not only accused of murdering a prisoner of war, but also of posing for a photograph with the corpse. While on trial, prosecutors pointed out that over the course of his time with the SEALs, Gallagher became more reckless and murderous. In 2017, he fired his sniper far more frequently than other snipers, sometimes pointlessly firing into buildings. One of the snipers said he saw Gallagher aimlessly shoot and kill an old man and a young girl, as well.
“The Line” dives into all of these accusations, asking: “What has war done to these SEALs?” How have America’s forever wars deeply affected her soldiers? On those notes, Taberski also asks and answers what it means to be a SEAL and what happens when the line between good and bad becomes increasingly blurred after years and years of killing. He even looks at Andrea Gallagher’s situation, asking what happens when your spouse, who is essentially a professional killer, is charged with war crimes?
There are only about 2,500 SEALs. There is a SEAL Team One through Ten, SEAL Team Six being the most elite and most well-known for taking down Osama Bin Laden. And Taberski has spoken with a lot of SEALs (around 50) for “The Line.” Through Eddie Gallagher, his case, and his platoon, “The Line” dives into the impact of war on the soldiers fighting it.