Our servicemen and women deserve all our support and praise. However, no one is above the law in the United States of America. President Trump’s decision to pardon several service members charged with war crimes creates a dangerous precedent.

Our servicemen and women deserve all our support and praise. However, no one is above the law in the United States of America. President Trump’s decision to pardon several service members charged with war crimes creates a dangerous precedent.

War is ugly and confusing, filled with unimaginable horrors. It destroys the souls, minds and bodies of fighters regardless of what side they are on. Millions of innocent civilians have been killed in conflicts throughout history and across the globe.

The horrors of war, however, are no justification for war crimes. Earlier this month, President Trump announced full pardons for three service members either charged with or convicted of war crimes. He is weakening justice and accountability within the armed forces, as well as damaging global trust in our military to protect the innocent and helpless.

United States service members, under the War Crimes Act of 1996, must follow the Geneva Conventions. The Geneva Conventions apply only during times of war and essentially lay out global standards for situations like treating prisoners of war and protecting civilians.

The difficult part of this whole situation is that we will never understand what these three men faced during their deployments. We can never know what was going through their minds when they commit these crimes. What we do know is that top military officials, including Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, do not support pardoning. 

United States servicemen and women have done horrible things in past wars, such as the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam and torture at Abu Ghraib Prison in Iraq. America has covered up war crimes, not properly handling evidence and accusations. If the government hopes to rebuild our image as being more moral than our adversaries, they need to challenge the president’s decision.

Former Army First Lieutenant Clint Lorance

After being found guilty of murder in Aug. 2013, Clint Lorance has been in prison at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. Trump’s pardon significantly shortened his 19-year prison sentence. Lorance had been a first lieutenant before being dismissed from the Army.

He had only been platoon leader for a few days when he ordered his men to shoot three Afghans. Two of them died. The men had been riding towards the group on motorcycles, transportation, Lorance’s defense argued, that was often an indication of trouble. Lorance, who enlisted in 2002, reportedly spent his short tenure as platoon leader ordering his men to shoot at villages and unarmed civilians.

To assume that he, as a platoon leader, would have the support of his men would be wrong. Several actually testified against him at his trial. They said the men were not threatening them and Lorance’s order was the only reason they shot at them.

The decision of nine platoon members to testify against Lorance shows that his actions were understood to be wrong. It was not a normal Army procedure. Lorance’s attempt to cover up his actions through falsified reports shows that he knew his orders were illegal. His men, not him, should be applauded by the president and Washington for turning him in.

Major Mathew Golsteyn

Maj. Mathew Golsteyn was awaiting trial when Trump pardoned him. He was charged last year with premeditated murder for a 2010 shooting. He allegedly told the CIA, during a 2011 job interview, that he killed a suspected Taliban bomb maker while serving in Afghanistan.

This admission prompted an Army investigation. It was eventually dropped in 2013, but Golsteyn lost his Silver Star, the third-highest award for valor given by the United States Armed Forces. After a second investigation was announced, Golsteyn was hailed as a hero by “Fox and Friends,” one of Trump’s favorite television programs.

Golsteyn was serving as a captain on a Special Forces team in Afghanistan when the shooting occurred. The suspected bomb maker was taken after two Marines were killed, yet was ordered to be released. Golsteyn ignored these orders and killed the bomb-maker after determining he could harm a local leader assisting the team.

Regardless of whether or not the man was a Taliban bomb maker, Golsteyn should not have disobeyed orders. He should be standing trial for his actions and the decision to charge him should be with military officials, not Fox News hosts. Although the president is commander in chief, this does not automatically make him the best judge of military justice.

Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher

Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer was fired Nov. 24, most likely due to his opinions on how Navy Seal Edward Gallagher’s case should be handled. Although Trump pardoned Gallagher, who was found not guilty of murder earlier this year, the Navy still planned to take away his Trident, the pin that distinguishes Navy SEALs from other sailors. 

Gallagher was turned in by his own men last year after shooting civilians and ultimately killing a teenaged Islamic State fighter with a hunting knife. First-degree and attempted murder were not the only charges. He also reportedly threatened to kill SEALs who reported him and was charged with obstruction of justice. His only conviction: taking photos with the dead captive. 

Although Gallagher was not convicted of murder and pardoned by Trump, top Navy officials still decided to begin the process of removing him from the elite team. He passed the intense training in 2005. They also have begun proceedings to remove three SEALs who supervised him in Iraq.

It should be up to top Navy officials, not the draft dodger in the White House, to decide these three men’s future. Should the United States wish to continue being trusted to protect and serve our interests around the world, military justice must be allowed to happen. All the president’s pardons have done is justify breaking code and abusing power within the military.

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Kayla Glaraton

Kayla Glaraton is a Generation Z Voice at The Pavlovic Today. Her interests include human rights, American politics and policy, the environment and international affairs. Kayla is studying journalism and...

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