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article image'War crimes' pardons undermine military discipline and culture

By Karen Graham     Nov 17, 2019 in Politics
Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg attacked Donald Trump’s pardons for war crime cases, saying his action “dishonored” the military.
“There’s nothing pro-military about overruling our military justice system to prevent it from delivering accountability for war crimes,” Buttigieg tweeted, reports the HuffPost. “The president has again dishonored our armed services."
The West Bend, Indiana, mayor served in Afghanistan. Donald Trump never served in the military because he allegedly had "bone spurs." In a radio interview with shock-jock Howard Stern, Trump once quipped that his own personal “Vietnam” was avoiding catching sexually transmitted diseases from his various intimate partners. “I feel like a great and very brave soldier."
So when it comes to Trump pardoning military members found guilty by a military tribunal of war crimes, both Democrats and Republican members of Congress, and the Defense Department see the move as potentially damaging the integrity of the military judicial system.
Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other senior military leaders had told Trump that a presidential pardon could potentially damage the integrity of the military judicial system, and undermine discipline within the ranks.
US President Donald Trump asserts an "absolute right" to pardon himself
US President Donald Trump asserts an "absolute right" to pardon himself
The Trump pardons
Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance - Lorance was found guilty in 2013 of second-degree murder for ordering his men to fire on three men on a motorcycle in Afghanistan.
Navy SEAL Eddie R. Gallagher - He faced a court-martial for premeditated murder, attempted murder, obstruction of justice, posing for a photo with a casualty and other offenses. He was acquitted on almost all of the charges in July but was found guilty of posing for the photo and was demoted.
Army Major Mathew Golsteyn - Golsteyn has been charged with the murder of an Afghan man in 2010. He pleaded not guilty in June, according to the Army Times. He was awaiting a trial date.
Despite the advice of the military, the president moved ahead with his decision, acting on the second day of the House impeachment inquiry’s public hearings. This was also the day his close friend and cohort, Roger Stone was found guilty of lying to and obstructing Congress - a case involving Trump and the release of stolen Democratic emails in 2016 by WikiLeaks. ​​
“The President, as Commander-in-Chief, is ultimately responsible for ensuring that the law is enforced and when appropriate, that mercy is granted,” the White House said in a statement. “For more than two hundred years, presidents have used their authority to offer second chances to deserving individuals, including those in uniform who have served our country. These actions are in keeping with this long history. As the President has stated, ‘when our soldiers have to fight for our country, I want to give them the confidence to fight.’ “
Undermining the authority of command
There was nothing the Army or Navy could do after the pardons were issues. “Under the Constitution, the president has the power to grant pardons for federal offenders; that authority extends to military court-martial proceedings,” the Army announced in a statement.
The official twitter account of Rear Adm. Charles Brown, the Chief of Naval Information, indicated that Navy leaders “acknowledge his order and are implementing it.”
Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU’s National Security Project, in a statement, blasted the moves by the president. “With this utterly shameful use of presidential powers, Trump has sent a clear message of disrespect for the law, morality, the military justice system, and those in the military who abide by the laws of war,” she said.
More about Trump, War crimes, presidential pardons, military justice system, rules of engagement
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