The president and I have something in common: Neither one of us served in the armed forces. Trump got a doctor to get him a medical deferment from serving in the military during the Vietnam War, and by the time I turned 18 there was no longer any draft.
Although my father did not serve in the armed forces, three of my uncles and my father-in-law were in the military and fought in World War II. My father-in-law was a member of the Navy and was stationed during the Second World War in the Pacific, besides for a short time when the ship he was on was sent to the English Channel to help ferry troops to the shore of Normandy on D-Day. Although my father-in-law never wanted to talk about his experience in the Navy, he made sure to keep his uniform until his death. He did what he had to do, saw things that he wished he had never seen, was in harm’s way, but survived while many others became forever young.
I have the highest regard for those who are members of the armed forces. However, as a civilian, I will never be able to fully understand the military culture, including training methods and the importance of medals and certain methods of discipline. That is why I do not believe that I have a right to criticize how the military deals with their soldiers.
The United States armed forces is a superior fighting group not merely due to the advanced hardware but due to the training and discipline of the soldiers. In the Navy, one of the elite units is the Navy Seals.
The military knows what is necessary to keep soldiers working at peak efficiency. It is dangerous that the president decided to get involved in three different cases.
Navy Seal Edward Gallagher was charged with killing an unarmed ISIS prisoner and other charges. He was found guilty of posing for a picture on the individual’s dead body.
The Navy felt it was important that there must be accountability when a member of the Seals acts in a manner not befitting their position. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday announced on Oct. 29 that he was going to preserve Gallagher’s demotion to Petty Officer First Class. The Navy also wanted to take away his Trident pin as a Navy Seal. Instead, Trump told the Navy that they should restore Gallagher’s rank as Chief Petty Officer and not take away his pin. There has been almost universal condemnation of the president’s action from senior present and past officers in the Navy.
The president pardoned Clint Lorance, a former Army lieutenant. He had served six years of a 19-year sentence for the murder of two civilians. He had ordered his men to fire at unarmed men on a motorcycle. Nine members of his platoon testified against him.
He also pardoned Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, an Army Special Forces officer who was facing murder charges for killing an unarmed Afghan he said he believed was a Taliban bomb maker. Retired Adm. James Stavridis, the former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, in commenting on the president granting a pardon before the case was tried, noted that “doing so is deeply unsettling to military leaders, showing a complete disregard and indeed a disrespect for the military system of justice.”
These two cases may have not received as much attention as Gallagher. In many respects it is more dangerous since Gallagher was “only” taking a picture with a dead body, while in these cases the soldier had been convicted of killing civilians or was going to trial for killing a civilian.
The president at a rally defended his conduct, stating, “I stuck up for three great warriors against the deep state.”
The president, by pardoning these individuals, and his deep state comment, sends the wrong message to the military and our adversaries. It weakens both our forces and the respect for the military. Moreover, if the president condones the needless killing of civilians, then our enemies can use the same logic in killing Americans.
General Marty Dempsey, former chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, made this point: “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.”
The former secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, who was ousted after indicating his opposition to special treatment for Gallagher, tried to explain how Trump would act in such a manner. “It was also a reminder that the president has very little understanding of what it means to be in the military, to fight ethically, or to be governed by a uniform set of rules and practices.”
This is just another example of the president destroying brick by brick the foundation of this country that has made it great.