Now He’s Pardoning War Criminals

Every morning, Americans wake up to news of additional Trump efforts to roll back rational regulations, to insult long-time allies, or attack and undermine the rule of law.

And then there’s misuse of the Presidential pardon power.

I’m not talking about his documented efforts to suborn perjury by dangling the promise of a pardon to people like Michael Cohen. I’m not even referring to the shameful pardon of racist lawbreaker Sheriff Joe Arpaio. I’m talking about his recent pardon of a soldier convicted of a war crime, and his publicized intent to pardon others who have committed such crimes.

Senior U.S. officials have reported that Trump has been examining high-profile war crimes cases from Iraq and Afghanistan, and that he has had aides preparing paperwork so that he can issue pardons.

Not only would such pardons encourage horrific behaviors, they would put American soldiers at risk.

The possibility that Trump could issue pardons has brought a flood of opposition from current and former high-ranking officers, who say it would encourage misconduct by showing that violations of laws prohibiting attacks on civilians and prisoners of war will be treated with leniency.

“Absent evidence of innocence or injustice, the wholesale pardon of U.S. service members accused of war crimes signals our troops and allies that we don’t take the law of armed conflict seriously,” retired Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a tweet Tuesday. He added: “Bad message. Bad precedent. Abdication of moral responsibility. Risk to us.”

Time Magazine ran a column by retired Admiral James Stavridis in which he reminded readers that service members convicted of these crimes had received more than adequate due process:

The circumstances, motivations, outcomes and punishments all differ. But [the cases] share one crucial element: the military members went through, or still face, the military judicial system, which includes a strong presumption of innocence by fellow military members; a very high bar for conviction; a set of judges, prosecutors and defense teams composed of military personnel, most with real combat experience themselves; and a fully engaged appellate system that likewise was composed of military judges. While there may be a very atypical case wherein a Presidential pardon could right an obvious wrong, such a situation is extremely rare — the punishments meted out take fully into account the circumstances.

These individuals have been convicted by their peers of violating both the laws of war and the code of military conduct.

It appears that President Trump is considering pardoning those men, as well as other military members credibly charged with a variety of crimes, including murdering an enemy captive or killing unarmed civilians. (The President is also reportedly considering pardoning a security contractor twice convicted by a federal court.) All of these actions are gross violations of the laws of war and the U.S. code of military conduct. They are extreme ethical and moral failures.

The Admiral also warned of the consequences of issuing such pardons: it would undermine American military standards, be a gift to enemy propagandists, and further undercut our relations with allies (who have strong systems in place to prevent these kinds of actions).

Worst of all, such an action would encourage our enemies to engage in barbaric behavior.

This kind of pardon disrespects every single one of our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who follow the strict standards of the Code of Conduct. They do not abuse captives who have surrendered, use torture to interrogate, cause needless casualties to civilians through collateral damage or desecrate corpses.

In the New York Times, columnist Jamelle Bouie described the conduct for which these men had been convicted.

Last year, a federal jury in Washington convicted Nicholas Slatten, a former security contractor, of first-degree murder for his role in killing one of 14 Iraqi civilians who died in 2007 in a shooting that also injured more than a dozen others. Matthew Golsteyn, an Army Green Beret, was charged late last year with the murder of an unarmed Afghan man during a 2010 deployment. Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who served in Iraq, was reported to authorities by his own men, who witnessed him “stabbing a defenseless teenage captive to death,” “picking off a school-age girl and an old man from a sniper’s roost” and “indiscriminately spraying neighborhoods with rockets and machine-gun fire.”

Why would any President–even Trump–want to pardon such behavior?

For Trump, this toughness — this willingness to act cruelly and brutally — is a virtue. That’s especially true when the targets are racial others.

We saw this 30 years ago when he called for the return of the death penalty in the wake of accusations against the Central Park Five. We saw it during his presidential campaign, when he called for American soldiers to commit war crimes in the fight against the Islamic State. “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families,” Trump infamously said during a 2015 interview on “Fox & Friends.”

This is the moral code of a caveman. Or a Nazi.


  1. What did we expect? The US ran torture centers in other countries during the Iraq war and no one was ever convicted of those crimes. We locked up hundreds of the Taliban at Guantanamo without so much as a trial. Most recently we kidnapped children and locked them up in cages at the southern boarder for the crime of wanting a better life. And now we are upset over pardoning war criminals? Trump’s behavior is nothing more than the continuation of past American policies and practices. And Americans support all this by their inaction, because Americans do not really believe in justice and the rule of law much less the Sermon on the Mount.

  2. Trump is sending a message to his supporters: I’ve got your back. Murder the *right kind of people* and I’ll pardon you.

    Meanwhile, he continues to denounce the press as “enemies of the people” and anybody who investigates his misdeeds, or fails to applaud his speeches loudly enough, as “treasonous”.

    Even if the main body of Trump’s supporters were too dense to draw the obvious implied conclusion, there are plenty of agitprop websites and Facebook accounts that are happy to connect the dots for them.

  3. It’s more than just bullying…and less. He wants to pardon war criminals who have killed the “other” because he wants their kind to be his Pretorian Guard when the Marshalls come for him in 2021. All the protests from the orderly military leadership have no meaning to the psychopath in chief. The rule of law and consequences for actions have NEVER mattered to Donald Trump. His universe is like a broken Venn diagram where it overlaps with no other circles.

    In other news, Trump is using his newest legal toy, Bill Barr to deeply disturb the intelligence community. If deep cover sources start being outed, look for massive resignations therein, thus making us more vulnerable than we’ve been in a century. On the other hand, there is a kind of brother/sisterhood among the intelligence community that is predicated on real and true patriotism, something Trump is completely unfamiliar with. That said, don’t be surprised if one or more of these patriots steps up and does what they think is necessary to save the country from the clutches of a fool and a madman.

  4. Thankfully trump has announced he is reconsidering these ill thought out pardons. I hope he doesn’t go thru for all the reasons listed. Its bad enough to have pardoned many of those high profile folks he did while worthy potential pardons are ignored, largely I suspect, because they aren’t high profile and /or not white.

  5. We pardon war criminals, but if you’re a whistleblower about war crimes, we throw the book at you.

    We’ve hired contractors (mercenaries) to kill men women and children without being called murderers.

    We are lawless predators. We are lawless pirates.

    But today, please tune into all the “news agencies” who will talk about “important stuff”.

    I believe Trump’s supporters could care less about ethics, morals, or laws. They cheer when Donny breaks decorums and laws…”He’s the people’s president, not a bureaucrat!”

    Donny is no Hitler. Adolph was a brilliant strategist and propagandist. Donny flies by the seat of his pants. Xi and Vladimir are schooling him at every single turn.

    His one act of war was bombing an empty airfield in Syria — our fearless foot disabled commander.

    But once again, he’s doing all the dirty work for Democrats. You don’t hear DNC donors crying about his economic policies or his slashes to the social safety net. They just don’t like his crudeness and improper ways of handling matters in D.C.

    Who’s responsible for the actions of snakes?

    The snakes or snakes owners.

    If you believe it’s the owners — we must look past the actions of the snakes. Since the new congressional players entered Washington, there have been more stories of abusive companies and their CEOS than I have ever witnessed.

    Do you believe they just acted badly in 2019? 🙂

  6. What do our Indiana Republican Congressional Reps have to say about all this?
    And our Senators?
    They are all kissing the morons ring so far
    Why is that?

  7. 45 was right a few weeks ago when he said that more people are saying God’s name since he became President. Here I go again, twice! My God, how did we let this happen? Dear God, save us from this maniac and from ourselves.

  8. Pardoning those who qualify for Eric Prince’s Blackwater troops? Tightening his connections to the Prince and DeVos billions? Selling weapons to the Saudis?

    “Why would any President–even Trump–want to pardon such behavior?”

    As always; FOLLOW THE MONEY!

  9. There are many solid reasons for not pardoning a war criminal, some enumerated here, that I fully support.

    However, I never bought into the idea that our code of personal military conduct restrained our enemies from doing anything. ISIS and Boko Haram come to mind. So does John McCain and the Hotel Hilton.

  10. We have been excusing, pardoning or ignoring American War Criminals in my life time since the My Lai massacre. Occasionally, some low ranking individual will be made a scapegoat, when the crimes are too big to ignore or we want a show trial to prove the “system” works.

    Whistle Blowers are accused of being traitors. Meanwhile the architects of war, who placed the low ranker’s in untenable positions escape any blowback. These Architects of War write books and are treated with respect by a servile press corps. Here I am thinking of the Neo-Cons and their allies in Congress who approved the Gulf War 2 in Iraq by Bush the Younger or Obama’s list of targets for drone kills.

    Time and time again the Imperial Presidency since LBJ with the overt or covert approval of Congress have issued a blank checks. The recent Saudi Arms deal by President Agent Orange without direct Congressional approval is just one more example.

  11. Yet odummy let thousands of muslims into our country. You liberals are going to love sharia law. I can’t wait to see you bellow unfair then.

  12. Trump promises Dan power. That’s so much more attractive to Dan than freedom for all is.

    I ran across reference yesterday to the “White Rose” which was a small group of University of Munich students and professors who saw the mistake Germany had mad in falling for the promise of power for some and wrote about it through seven leaflets until they were caught and executed. Here’s something that they wrote in leaflet three:

    “But our present “state” is the dictatorship of evil. “Oh, we’ve known that for a long time,” I hear you object, “and it isn’t necessary to bring that to our attention again.” But, I ask you, if you know that, why do you not bestir yourselves, why do you allow these men who are in power to rob you step by step, openly and in secret, of one domain of your rights after another, until one day nothing, nothing at all will be left but a mechanized state system presided over by criminals and drunks? Is your spirit already so crushed by abuse that you forget it is your right – or rather, your moral duty – to eliminate this system? But id a man no longer can summon the strength to demand his right, then it is absolutely certain that he will perish. We would deserve to be dispersed through the earth like dust before the wind if we do not muster our powers at this late hour and finally find the courage which up to now we have lacked. Do not hide your cowardice behind a cloak of expediency, for with every new day that you hesitate, failing to oppose this offspring of Hell, your guilt, as in a parabolic curve, grows higher and higher.”

  13. Thank you Sheila, as always,

    Admiral James Stavridis and his comments in his piece from Time our spot on as is usually the case. This is a horrendously wrong-headed move by Trump if it is, indeed, carried out. As a veteran myself, one of the things that I remember from navy boot camp was the indoctrination we had regarding the Uniform Code of Military Justice or UCMJ as it is normally referred to on countless posters and directives that were usually hung in plain sight wherever I was during my four years on active duty.

    For him to pardon these individuals that committed obvious war crimes while being deployed in combat zones in Iraq and Afghanistan undermines everything that our armed forces are supposed to stand for. To put it in a very easy to read way-were supposed to be the “good guys”, deployed there to protect the civilian population nine to indiscriminately kill them. I am at a loss to understand why Trump would even consider doing such a thing and what purpose it serves other than what is obvious. This will undermine the safety and image of our people deployed and in harm’s way as a result. Is that really what he wants to do since that’s what will happen as a result?

    I am at a loss as well in regard to understanding who the constituency for such a move would be. These people were tried and convicted for committing heinous and totally arbitrary actions on their own where they kill the innocent civilians for what amounts to sport. Such actions are outrageous and can never be condoned under any circumstances and illustrate in a very terrible way a very likely breakdown in discipline and leadership.

    Most of us that are “baby boomers” should remember the name of a village in Vietnam known as My Lai where US Army troops went berserk due to extremely poorly leadership and essentially massacred the entire village with a small number of exceptions. Initially, the Army leadership there tried to cover it up but it was eventually uncovered for what it was at a higher level of command but even then only one man, First Lieutenant William Calley, the man in charge on the ground, was charged with criminal conduct. President Richard Nixon later commuted his sentence which was controversial at the time.

    Now we have an even bigger nutbar sitting in the White House that wants to go even further than what Richard Nixon did simply because he feels that he can. While I’m not going to try to analyze our current President’s mental gyrations on this (I do not want to risk damaging my own brain) his actions in regard to this are truly outrageous and extremely counterproductive.
    People die in war, it’s a given, but the goal the than in the midst of chaos that is beyond the average human being’s capability of understanding there are rules preclude the intentional endangerment of noncombatant civilians and they must be adhered to are all sorts of reasons. Again, were supposed to be the “good guys” and be there to protect civilians not indiscriminately kill them. Trump’s action will undermine everything our military is supposed to stand for and will ultimately endanger our troops that we supposedly support and ask God to bless and protect. As a result, there should be a great public outcry against this stupid, stupid move by the worst president we have had in the history of this Republic.

  14. Make no mistake, he is laying the groundwork to forcibly stay in office. He is ingratiating himself to all of the right-wing militias, secret societies, and nationalistic fascist forces that exist in this country today. when you trivialize the lives of everyone who is not white, including minorities in this country. Along with people who we are in current conflict with, this just endears Trump to those who are of like mind and will use force and terror to prevail. Don’t be surprised if you see an American version of night of the Long knives.

  15. Once again, our new pal Dan shows what abject ignorance and misguided opinions look like. These damn fools are still railing against Obama with racist and denigrating epithets because they have NOTHING of any substance to offer. NOTHING.

    How about thinking up something positive, Dan. Maybe you should just go to the movies and give it a rest. You certainly seem to need one.

    Who is this guy?

  16. Vernon; I found a Dan Winright who lives in Flowing Wells, AZ, on Facebook who might be the answer to your question “Who is this guy?”

    His INTRO: “If you are a liberal Democrat keep moving, got no time for your stupid shit.” Totally circumstantial but…

  17. “Dan” is nothing more than a “but, whatabout” troll. I guess I could have stopped at “Dan is nothing.”

    I suspect the numerous pardons Trump is considering are merely camouflage for the one individual that actually has connections to individuals with sufficient money to bribe his way out of prison. The pardon of so many military men convicted of egregious criminality allows one person to appear more or equally “pardonable” by comparison. As JoAnn said, “follow the money.”

  18. “Dan” might even be a “bot” — I am told that the Russians el al are searching for more & more liberal blogs to dive into in order to create more chaos. Let’s not give “Dan” & his ilk one more thought. We must keep focused on the solution to such evil that is passing for governance these days.

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