- President Donald Trump is considering pardoning troops accused and convicted of war crimes, possibly this Memorial Day weekend, according to The New York Times.
- Several retired US generals have criticised the president’s reported plans, arguing that doing so would be “immoral,” a “mistake,” an “abdication of moral responsibility,” and a betrayal of American ideals.
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President Trump is reportedly considering pardoning troops accused or convicted of war crimes, and retired generals who rarely criticise political leaders are lining up to tell the president why that’s a really bad idea.
This unprecedented move would relinquish “the United States’ moral high ground,” a legendary former Marine Corps commandant said, and is a “risk to us,” a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.
Trump is, according to the New York Times, thinking about pardoning Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who is expected to stand trial for allegedly stabbing a captured militant teen to death and shooting innocent civilians with a sniper rifle while deployed to Iraq in 2017.
The Trump administration is reportedly also considering pardons for former Blackwater security contractor Nicholas Slatten, who was recently convicted of first-degree murder, and Green Beret Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who was charged with premeditated murder.
The administration is said to have made expedited requests for paperwork to make a Memorial Day pardon possible.
Since that news broke, a number of retired generals have spoken out against the president’s reported plans.
Retired US Army Gen. Marty Dempsey, who previously served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was deeply critical of the possibility that the president may choose to pardon troops accused of war crimes before their trial, calling such an action the “abdication of moral responsibility.”
Trump’s move would be “immoral,” retired US Army Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling, who now serves as a national security, intelligence, and terrorism analyst for CNN, wrote in an op-ed Monday.
“The pardons would damage the way the US military is perceived by our allies and partners around the world and give credence and reinforcement to our enemies,” he explained.
“They would cause even more damage to civil-military relations in our republic and send a very bad message to all those who serve.”
Absent evidence of innocence or injustice the wholesale pardon of US servicemembers accused of war crimes signals our troops and allies that we don’t take the Law of Armed Conflict seriously. Bad message. Bad precedent. Abdication of moral responsibility. Risk to us. #Leadership
— GEN(R) Martin E. Dempsey (@Martin_Dempsey) May 21, 2019
Pardoning troops accused or convicted of criminal behaviour on the battlefield would have negative consequences, including diminishing the discipline needed to defeat enemies on the battlefield, said a retired Marine Corps commandant.
“If President Trump follows through on reports that he will mark Memorial Day by pardoning individuals accused or convicted of war crimes, he will betray [American] ideals and undermine decades of precedent in American military justice that has contributed to making our country’s fighting forces the envy of the world,” retired Gen. Charles Krulak wrote.
“If President Trump issues indiscriminate pardons of individuals accused – or convicted by their fellow servicemembers – of war crimes, he relinquishes the United States’ moral high ground and undermines the good order and discipline critical to winning on the battlefield,” Krulak added.
Retired US Army Maj. Gen. John Altenburg, a former Army lawyer with decades of experience in the military justice system, told Business Insider that the system is there for a reason and stressed that pardoning individuals accused of war crimes before they stand trial would be a poor decision.
“I think that would be a mistake; that’s not allowing the rule of law to function,” he said.
“We have defence lawyers, prosecutors, judges, and juries to find facts and protect rights. We should allow the system to work itself it through before assessing whether the process worked as it should and then determining whether a pardon is even needed or appropriate.”
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