Last week, the New York Times reported that the president was thinking seriously about pardoning military officers and one contractor who had been convicted of, or were facing charges for, committing war crimes, in time for announcement on Memorial Day. It seemed a grossly inappropriate way to celebrate a national holiday devoted to those who died for our country, not those who lived but slaughtered innocents. But then again, Trump does seem to conflate patriotism with jingoism, parades, and intimidating foreigners with threats of lethal violence.
It’s unclear what will happen on Memorial Day, but the Los Angeles Times is now reporting that a backlash has developed among current and former military leaders who consider the idea, well, kind of dishonorable:
Current and former military officers urged the White House not to pardon service members and security contractors implicated in war crimes, warning that forgiving their offenses would send a dangerous signal to U.S. troops and potential adversaries …
Other officers warned that if U.S. personnel accused of such crimes escaped punishment, civilians on foreign battlefields would be less inclined to cooperate with U.S. forces, and U.S. service members taken prisoners would be more likely to be mistreated or even killed when taken captive.
One former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff went very public on Twitter:
And a former Marine Corps commandant, Charles Krulak, was equally blunt in remarks to the L.A. Times:
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.
That should be obvious, but as the Times laconically put it: “Trump has ignored top military officers before.”
The president has consistently supported barbarous wartime behavior — from torture of prisoners to attacks on the families of terrorism suspects — that violates international norms (for which he is especially contemptuous) and the U.S. military’s own codes of conduct. So it’s not especially surprising that he sympathizes with those who believe in killing ’em all and letting God sort them out:
The pardons reportedly under consideration involve a Navy SEAL officer, Edward Gallagher, who is soon to go on trial for allegedly killing multiple unarmed Iraqi civilians, and a Blackwater gunman, Nicholas Slatten, who has already been found guilty of murdering ten women, two men, and two children, also in Iraq.
The reported pardons are bad enough, but profaning Memorial Day with them is worse. Why should those who died honorably in sacrifice to the country and its ideals be overshadowed by those who saved themselves by killing civilians? Maybe Trump will listen to reason and just let the nation mourn its dead without any conspicuous outrages from its commander-in-chief.