Military Brass On Pres Pardoning War Criminals: Situation Trumpy All F*cked Up
Donald Trump's apparent desire to celebrate Memorial Day with some hot dogs, a picnic, and pardoning some convicted (and accused) war criminals is not going over very well with a lot of current and former officers in the military, who think it's a terrible idea that would endanger US military forces overseas. The Los Angeles Timesreports many in the military establishment -- those knee-jerk liberals -- believe the pardons "would send a dangerous signal to U.S. troops and potential adversaries."
Take former chair of the Joint Chiefs of the Staff, retired Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, for instance, who tweeted his objections Tuesday:
Absent evidence of innocence or injustice the wholesale pardon of US servicemembers accused of war crimes signals o… https://t.co/6W19Uu3vjp— GEN(R) Marty Dempsey (@GEN(R) Marty Dempsey) 1558440915.0
Gee, why would anyone think that, unless they've actually spent a career in the military and don't make all their decisions based on what idiots on Fox News advise? The military is awfully big on the code of conduct, while Donald Trump has always seen every set of laws or norms as a bunch of annoyances to get around, which is why he loved Roy Cohn so much.
As we've noted, Trump is reportedly considering pardons for Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, whose own men testified against him for his attacks on civilians and other crimes with which he's been charged. They even decided not to tell him his rifle sights were slightly misadjusted, so he would be less able to take potshots at girls walking down by the river. Gallagher also allegedly threatened to kill witnesses to his actions -- truly a patriot.
Others Trump may pardon include Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, a Green Beret convicted of murdering an Iraqi civilian who he suspected of making bombs; Blackwater contractor Nicholas A. Slatten, the only mercenary whose conviction stood after he and a group of "security contractors" murdered a bunch of Iraqi civilians; and some or all of those nice Marines court-martialed for urinating on the corpses of Taliban fighters in Afghanistan.
Retired Gen. Charles Krulak, the former commandant of the Marine Corps, seems to be indoctrinated with weakness and Marxism, too, saying,
If President Trump issues indiscriminate pardons of individuals accused — or convicted by their fellow service members — of war crimes, he relinquishes the United States' moral high ground and undermines the good order and discipline critical to winning on the battlefield.
Because taking public positions on politics is verboten for military members, currently serving leaders are more circumspect, but a lot of the brass are pissed:
Senior officers have not spoken out publicly about the possibility Trump could pardon accused war criminals, but many are privately outraged, according to one currently serving at the Pentagon.
"I think a lot of us would see it in the same way — that it's just awful," he said.
Acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan went with very careful circumspection on the matter, telling reporters Tuesday,
I'm not really going to speculate on any of the pardons, but I would just say we'll leave it to the White House to comment on the situation there.
But the retired senior military officers, they're happy to comment, and if any have come out in favor of pardoning war criminals, we haven't seen 'em. No, retired Army National Guard Major Pete Hegseth, who reportedly lobbied Trump to pardon the war crimers, does not count. A review of military law experts in Stars and Stripes -- again, hardly an anti-military publication -- didn't turn up any supporters of the pardons, either.
The case for not pardoning war criminals is laid out succinctly in Time by retired Gen James Stavrides, who as Supreme Allied Commander of NATO in 2012 was the top commander of the Marines who urinated on those dead Taliban fighters. He notes the discipline meted out to the Marines was rigorous, and absolutely free of any capricious "political correctness":
Those Marines were subsequently charged and punished by military courts for, or themselves pled guilty to, obvious violations of our code of conduct. Some were demoted a rank or, in at least one case, discharged — albeit honorably. The fellow Marines who conducted the disciplinary activity were sober, thoughtful and fully knowledgeable of the stress of combat operations.
Stavrides notes that one conviction was even overturned on appeal because a general had exerted "undue command influence" on the investigation -- the sort of interference that can get in the way of a fair court-martial. Like for instance a commander-in-chief opining a soldier on trial should be shot.
Further, Stavrides explains why these pardons would be terrible, not just on an ethical level, but for some very practical reasons: Any such pardon, he says,
spurs our enemies on to even more barbaric behavior as the battlefield descends into moral chaos on both sides of the line of combat. This kind of pardon disrespects every single one of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who follow the strict standards of the Code of Conduct. They do not abuse captives who have surrendered, use torture to interrogate, cause needless casualties to civilians through collateral damage or desecrate corpses.
On the other hand, yelling that Our Boys can murder anyone they want because ISIS does atrocities really pleases Republican voters, and the torture fan in the White House, so who cares about wimps who follow the rules? In the movies, you have to ignore laws and rules to win, and you'll be rewarded by seeing the bad guys vanquished, which is all you need to know, the end.
Perhaps the most chilling line in the LA Times piece?
Several officials said Trump is not believed to have consulted his senior military advisors about issuing pardons.
Why would he? They're the ones who always tell the heroic bad boy heroes to stand down.
[LAT / Daily Beast / Stars and Stripes / WaPo]
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