Which War Criminal Will Trump Pardon Next? Duncan Hunter Thinks It Should Be This Asshole
Donald Trump issued a full pardon earlier this week to Michael Behenna. A military court convicted the former Army lieutenant in 2009 for killing an Iraqi prisoner. Behenna claimed he shot Ali Mansur Mohamed, who was naked at the time, in self-defense. Who's up next for a pardon of dubious merit? The leading contender might be (alleged) psychopath Edward Gallagher. The Navy SEAL is accused of multiple war crimes in Iraq, including stabbing a teenage prisoner to death, firing rockets at random neighborhoods, and picking off a little girl and an old man from a sniper's perch like Amon Goth. No one's perfect, and Rep. Duncan Hunter feels real sorry for the guy. The California Republican is proactively asking Trump for a pardon in the event a conscious jury convicts Gallagher.
Hunter claims he "doesn't trust the Navy to give [Gallagher] a fair trial," which is an odd thing for a congressman to say. But Hunter himself is an odd congressman. He was indicted last year for conspiracy, fraud, and campaign finance violations. Hunter still won re-election thanks to a shamelessly racist campaign against his Democratic opponent Ammar Campa-Najjar. They're set for a rematch in 2020 and Hunter has already sunk low enough to call California native Campa-Najjar a "national security threat."
We think the true "threat" is Gallagher, whom Trump recently transferred to "staycation" confinement at the Navy Medical Center in San Diego pending trial. Hunter believes there's "no case" against Gallagher. Spouting some Trump-flavored rhetoric, he stated without evidence that the military justice system is "absolutely broken" and "rigged." He's probably never seen A Few Good Men, or maybe he has and just thinks Jack Nicholson's character got a bum rap.
Here's where things get weird(er): Hunter contends that combat footage exonerates Gallagher of one of the charges against him. "One" is not "all," and the other charges include killing children and old people. Hunter needs some remedial assistance with the definition of "exonerate." But then, so does half the country.
Hunter screened the helmet camera footage to a group of lawmakers on Wednesday. It reportedly shows Gallagher rendering aid to the teenager he stabbed. See, it was all a misunderstanding -- although Gallagher later posed with the prisoner's corpse during his reenlistment ceremony, which is psychotic. It's also not a war crime, according to the judge presiding over Gallagher's case. If you posed for your driver's license photo with the dead teen you ran over in the parking lot and the judge said it was no big thing, you'd probably think your case was in good shape. You wouldn't need the help of a corrupt congressman.
SEALs rarely testify against each other, but horrified members of Gallagher's unit are prepared to reveal under oath that he confessed to killing four women and "bragged" about "10 to 20 people a day or 150 to 200 people on deployment." We're not sure if Gallagher will attempt Arnold Schwarzenegger's "but they were all bad" defense.
Gallagher's lawyers claim that these turncoat SEALS are all haters who concocted all of this to rid themselves of a "demanding platoon leader." They just can't hack it in the big boy Navy or tolerate the occasional murder of random people for sport.
Republicans have argued that Barack Obama slapped the taste out of democracy's mouth when he commuted the sentence of Chelsea Manning. But that wasn't a pardon. Manning didn't kill anyone, and she still served serious jail time. Behenna wasn't even in prison anymore when Trump pardoned him. He was released on parole in 2014. Meanwhile, Hunter wants us to believe Gallagher is an innocent "war hero" falsely accused. This isn't about clemency. It's about wiping the slate clean for a homicidal maniac.
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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).