Dovere: You thought about revenge. How do you process that?
Gallego: First, you have to understand why we even think that way … Clearly these Iraqi villagers could have told us or they could have given us a warning. We had all these ways for them to actually call and anonymously give us tips. I remember when I met one of the first firefights I got into, I was going through this road along the river and all of a sudden everyone just disappeared, and as soon as that happened, they hit us with RPGs and machine-gun fire. And they had clearly set this up for quite a while, and they basically let us go into an ambush. So the way you think about this is, like, you know, they're not innocent. They're now part of the enemy, because they're helping out the enemy … And the way that I kind of got myself out of it is I try to give myself some rules, and the two rules was that I was going to survive. And when I didn't think I was going to survive, I was going to go honorably.
Dovere: Revenge is what escalation is. How do we get out of that?
Gallego: If you're a marine, the first thing they teach you is mission objective. And a war crime is, by nature, horrible, because you're targeting innocent civilians and basically going against the basic rules of humanity. But it also will endanger your mission, endanger your men. And I think if you're someone like the Iranians or President Trump, you really need to think about that. What is the mission here? The mission of Iran is pretty simple: get the United States out of Iraq, make Iraq a proxy state. So that way Iran can control from Tehran all the way to the Mediterranean, a swath of land that they've always wanted to control. Our objective should be to have a stable, secular Iraq that is a buffer to Iran. Right now, if President Trump is smart—and we'll find out pretty soon—our goal is to make sure that we have an ally in Iraq and not seek revenge and not allow the Iranians to have their goals met. And if they keep that in mind, instead of the idea of revenge, I think we could—we as the United States could be in a better position.
Dovere: If you were in the field and were told to target civilians or cultural sites, what would happen?
Gallego: I would refuse. I think most would. We are trained to understand what war crimes are.
Dovere: As a veteran, are you disconcerted by a commander in chief who talks about committing war crimes?
Gallego: These men and women are going to do whatever they think is lawful for this president. The problem is that this president, I don't think [he] sees them as America's forces. He sees them as his forces. And he is going to use them for whatever he believes is best for him, not for this country.
Dovere: What would you say to those talking about World War III on social media?
Gallego: Eh, calm down. No. 1: A war with Iran will be a totally different war than we know. I mean, we could basically destroy their navy, destroy every piece of aircraft platform they have. And we would still be at war, right?