Trump’s Suggestion of War Crime Pardons Dishonor Memorial Day

May 27, 2019

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Earlier this month, it was reported that the Trump administration had requested paperwork to pardon a series of accused or convicted war criminals, possibly during Memorial Day weekend. The reported accused, or convicted war criminals were involved in shooting unarmed civilians or killing prisoners. President Trump already has brought presidential pardon powers into the realms of scandal by using it to the benefit of political supporters and allies. This very notion of pardoning war criminals is so egregious that it dishonors the brave men and women to which we memorialized this holiday weekend.

This weekend, we honored the many that have served, sacrificed, and died for our great nation. Yet the president of this same nation has decided to sanction the worst inclinations of our adversaries by pardoning those that went out of their way to oppose the standards that our brave heroes upheld. Trump has undermined our military-justice system, weakened order and discipline in the ranks of our defense, and further eroded the trust we built with our allies the world over. Trump has dishonored those who have given their last measure of devotion, to favor those that have gone astray from their brothers at arms.

The Army is known to echo the refrain “Choose the hard right over the easy wrong.” The rhetoric of the Commander in Chief is in direct opposition to that ethic. Trump never served, and this was apparently due to his infamous deferment for bone spurs on both heels of his feet. Now, he seeks to pardon those that blatantly violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice. From the first day of basic training, like every member of the military, we were taught to follow orders, regulations and laws. If unit solidarity suffers, lives are put at risk when troops go rogue and are not punished. Trump, in pursuit of some misguided notion of military “toughness,” shows little respect for the principles that the for which our brave men and women have died. If Mr. Trump wishes to honor our fallen veterans this weekend, then he will refrain from these self-aggrandizing proclamations of pardoning criminals, and practice honoring our heroes with some solemnity.

The pardons of those that have committed the most heinous of acts would show our armed forces are without discipline, and our nation’s enemies will take notice. The crimes to be pardoned will be the fodder that our enemies will use to muster hatred against us. The crimes, and these subsequent pardons, would make peace more difficult. If we do not take the law of armed conflict seriously, it will serve as a rallying cry for America’s enemies as an excuse for brutality against U.S. armed forces. If we continue to tug at the threads of conduct and code among our ranks, then we encourage the very beliefs that we are battling against.

Sustaining order during war is imperative. By even suggesting that he might pardon war criminals, our allies may lose some faith in our ability to take the Law of Armed Conflict seriously. America, for generations, has lead the way into conflict with our allies. We are looked to as the military standard for how to conduct ourselves with discipline and courage.  The president’s whims and opinions in matters of military law and justice are an affront to the justice system, and especially to the military on a weekend when we honor veterans that died upholding our nation’s standards.