Trump Loves The Loyal War Crimers
The Navy tried real hard to punish Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher for his grab bag of accused war crimes, which included randomly shooting Iraqi civilians and killing a captive prisoner. Although a jury found Gallagher not guilty of some of his crimes for reasons that escape us, the psychopath confessed to posing for selfies with the prisoner's corpse. That's the sort of Hannibal Lecter-type behavior that warrants a demotion. Donald Trump disagreed. The first lady takes photos with him all the time and that's practically the same thing. Are you gonna lock her up?
The president then blocked the Navy's attempt to expel Gallagher from the SEALs and strip him of his fancy Trident pin. Trump's Secretary of the Navy, Richard V. Spencer, tried to arrange a secret deal with the White House for Gallagher to quietly retire as a SEAL if Trump would just not make a big scene about it. This blew up in Spencer's face because the White House is its very own island of misfit crooks. Spencer was reportedly talking to White House (acting) Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney, who publicly confesses to crimes. He shouldn't have expected this to end well, and it didn't. Defense Secretary Mark Esper fired Spencer yesterday for going over his head. Trump isn't going to bail him out, either, because Spencer hasn't committed war crimes or posed for Annie Leibovitz-inspired photos with corpses.
Esper has straight-up admitted that Trump ordered him to restore Gallagher's Trident pin. Unlike Spencer, he has no problem with the public knowing he folded like a poker player with a high-card hand. He's more upset that Spencer went behind his back. Someone at the White House spilled the back channel talks to Esper because no one can keep a damn secret there. Esper claimed he was "flabbergasted" -- yes, he used the word "flabbergasted" -- by Spencer's actions. He later told reporters he'd "lost confidence and trust" in Spencer because of his "lack of candor." Esper should worry more about Americans losing confidence and trust in a Navy that would protect a bad actor like Gallagher, even if he's the president's new BFF.
Fired Navy secretary says Trump intervention "erodes" Navy discipline www.youtube.com
Spencer revealed in a CBS News interview last night that he offered the White House a nice sham trial for Gallagher with a predetermined outcome. Gallagher would retire with full SEAL honors, and all the president had to do was agree not to tweet about it and "let the Navy do its administrative work." Trump rejected the offer. He wanted his Big Mac-stained fingerprints all over this corrupt process. It was important to the president that the American people know how much he supports vicious (alleged) war criminals.
The military doesn't know how to cope with a president who does what he shouldn't just because he can. Retired admiral John Kirby worries that Trump will continue meddling in military personnel decisions.
KIRBY: Now what's going to happen? [...] At what level does the President stop interfering with normal administrative process. Where does it end?
It likely will only end when Trump no longer has the power to interfere. He boasted yesterday that he got involved in Gallagher's case because he has to "protect my war fighters." Trump is a little man who confuses brutality with strength. He fancies himself the commander in chief of an armed forces located in a Michael Bay movie. Trump campaigned on the benefits of waterboarding and other forms of torture that only work if you're a sick fuck and your goal is to inflict pain. Now he wants to campaign for re-election with his band of brothers in war crimes. The Daily Beast reported that Trump wants to bring Clint Lorance, Matthew Golsteyn, and Gallagher on the road with him for his hate rallies. He might even put them on stage at the Republican National Convention in Charlotte next year. During the 2016 convention, Republicans shouted, "Lock her up!" because they were so upset Hillary Clinton went unpunished for her private email server. Come 2020, though, they'll probably cheer stone-cold killers that the president pardoned or helped with their careers. Republicans are either complete hypocrites or very sadistic Luddites.
More than a few confused Democrats still won't fully accept that so many of Trump's supporters are every inch the "deplorables" Clinton said they were. It doesn't bother Trump's supporters that he considers himself above the law or that he pardons thugs in defiance of military protocol and discipline. President Trump is their middle finger to the world. They'll never give that up.
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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.