Army Not Giving Pardoned Admitted War Crimer Back His Boy Scout Badge -- No, The OTHER Pardoned War Crimer
Army Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn was facing charges of premeditated murder for the 2010 shooting of an Afghan man. Golsteyn had even confessed to the killing during a job interview with the Central Intelligence Agency. It was a bold answer to the otherwise trite question, "What is your greatest weakness?" The Army closed the case in 2013 but Golsteyn couldn't do the same with his mouth. He confessed again to killing the man during a 2016 Fox News interview. The Army reopened the case.
Golsteyn never stood trial for his crimes because Donald Trump pardoned him last November -- which, we'd like to note for the record carries "an imputation of guilt." (Trump can thank the Supreme Court for that in Burdick vs. US.) Trump fancies himself a sort of superhero who specializes in saving accused war criminals. Trump tweeted that Golsteyn was charged with "killing a Taliban bomb maker." He wasn't, you know. He was charged with killing a "suspected bomb maker," who wasn't even on a list of "targets" the military was approved to kill. The suspect was already detained but there was a concern he could escape and go on a roaring rampage of revenge. During his interview with the CIA, Golsteyn said he took the suspected bomb maker off the base, shot him, and buried him in a shallow grave (he really tanked this job interview). He returned with two other soldiers later that night and dug up the body, returning it to the base and setting it on fire in a pit used to "dispose of trash." Unless there was compelling evidence the Afghan man was a vampire, Golsteyn is a complete monster. But that's who receives the president's mercy -- not immigrant children but men who start bonfires with the dead.
Fresh from his preemptive pardon, Golsteyn wanted to return to his old life as if nothing had happened. He requested that the Army reinstate his Special Forces tab. Lt. Gen. Francis M. Beaudette, the commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, denied the request, probably fully aware that this would piss off Trump. Golsteyn claimed he hadn't heard the news until the Washington Post reported it. The admitted war criminal is always the last to know.
GOLSTEYN: I'm disappointed, but I'm not surprised. I was really hoping they would do the right thing.
Beaudette declared in a December memorandum that Army Special Operations Command had "explicitly adhered to the Presidential Pardon," but he'd chosen to deny Golsteyn's request because his actions "demonstrated a lack of adherence to the Special Forces Creed, and our American and Army values." Beaudette isn't the final word, unfortunately. The Army's Board of Corrections for Military Records will consider whether to reinstate Golsteyn's Special Forces tab and a Distinguished Service Cross, which is the military's second-highest award for valor. Golsteyn's killing of the suspected bomb maker had no more "valor" than a mob hit. An administrative panel will also determine whether to expunge a letter of reprimand Golsteyn received for his murder charge.
When accused war criminal Edward Gallagher was at risk of losing his SEAL Trident pin, Trump intervened on his behalf. He might ignore military protocol and make some noise for Golsteyn as well. Golsteyn appeared with the president recently at a Republican fundraiser in Miami. He was joined by 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, whom Trump also pardoned last year. Lorance was serving time in Fort Leavenworth for the murder of two civilians. The fundraiser was closed-door, so we can't confirm if there were any military personnel present who weren't loyal war criminals.
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Stephen Robinson is a writer and social kibbitzer based in Portland, Oregon. He's on the board of the Portland Playhouse theater and writes for the immersive theater Cafe Nordo in Seattle. Tickets are on sale now for his latest Nordo collaboration, "Curiouser and Curiouser," an adaptation of "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and "Through the Looking Glass." It promises to feel like an actual evening with SER (for good or for ill).