Listen to this (podcast)

I just yesterday finished listening to what is easily the best limited series podcast I’ve ever listened to (and you know I listen to a lot of podcasts).  It’s ostensibly about Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher who maybe killed an Iraq prisoner and was a conservative cause célèbre, but was about so much more, especially the line between right/wrong/good/evil and what we expect special forces soldiers to do in service to America.  And the costs they bear.  So, so good.  If you listen to podcasts at all, it’s an absolute must-listen.  And if you don’t, this is as good a reason as any to start.  From the NPR review where I learned about it:

The title of the new investigative podcast from Alex Gibney’s Jigsaw Productions, “The Line,” refers to the precarious moral boundaries that are distorted over and over in the heat of battle. And as host Dan Taberski explores throughout a six-part series, that constant warping morality often leaves lasting destructive effects on the psyches of soldiers sent into war. At the center of “The Line” is the case of one such soldier, Eddie Gallagher, the Navy SEAL who, in 2018, was accused of committing war crimes during the battle of Mosul in Iraq. The most prominent of these accusations involves the killing of a teenage ISIS fighter who was captured as a prisoner of war. Gallagher was the subject of a highly publicized trial, sparked when a group of fellow SEALs broke ranks over concerns of Gallagher’s erratic conduct in the field. He was ultimately acquitted of all charges except one – posing for a photo of himself with the body.

Much of “The Line” takes the form of a courtroom drama. It’s a reliable framework to tell the story, the narrative parsing through the accusations levied against Gallagher, as well as the details of the defense. Through trial recordings and extensive interviews, including with Gallagher himself, Taberski takes on the role of outside investigator, piecing together what actually happened in Mosul and working through the question of Gallagher’s guilt or innocence. But “The Line” is also interested in the bigger picture, in particular the tensions between what soldiers are made to understand about their role and what they’re ultimately made to do. The concept of moral injury plays a heavy role into Taberski’s examination. How do repeated forays into murky gray areas impact a soldier’s sense of themselves as moral actors?

Just listen.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

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