President Trump Pardons Accused War Criminals

mil.intel

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I was wondering what y'all think of these pardons? As a current active duty officer, I wanted to see what the general consensus of the president's actions have been on the morale and ethics process for the US Military.


EDIT: I apologize if I have violated any forum rules and/or posted in the wrong subthread. Please remove as necessary.
 

sanman

The token Brit
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I fully support the pardons. Being originally from the UK I am dismayed by the UK soldiers being put in prison for murdering enemy combatants whilst in war zones while IRA bombers that targetting civilians were pardoned and set free.
 

mil.intel

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I'm okay with it.

I fully support the pardons. Being originally from the UK I am dismayed by the UK soldiers being put in prison for murdering enemy combatants whilst in war zones while IRA bombers that targetting civilians were pardoned and set free.

I want to pick your brains for a bit if you don't mind.

How can you justify the alleged actions that have taken place by these men?:
  1. Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, an Army Special Forces officer who was facing murder charges for killing an unarmed Afghan he believed was a Taliban bomb maker.
  2. Mr. Lorance was a rookie Army lieutenant who had been in command of a platoon in Afghanistan for two days in July 2012 when he ordered his troops to fire on unarmed villagers who posed no threat, killing two men. He then called in false reports over the radio to cover up what had happened. He was immediately turned in by his own men.
  3. Chief Gallagher was charged by the Navy in 2018 with shooting civilians in Iraq, killing a captive enemy fighter with a hunting knife, and threatening to kill fellow SEALs if they reported him, among other crimes.
What kind of precedent do we want to set for our future generations of the US military in our profession of arms? Another tangential and hypothetical question is that if you are okay with these men going free, would you have let the 26 soldiers charged with massacring 22 Vietnamese villagers go free in the My Lai massacre?

Thanks for your inputs.
 

horizonx

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War criminals are criminals. This could undermine the moral foundation of our military. We have to keep our military justice system intact and respect the Geneva Convention. We can't win any war without strong morals especially in international warfare. I agree with Buttigieg. He said in the Washington Post, “If the president blows a hole in the military justice system, he is blowing a hole in the military and he is putting troops’ lives at risk by signaling to adversaries that the United States is not bound by the laws of war, so they needn’t be either."
 

Korab

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I want to pick your brains for a bit if you don't mind.

How can you justify the alleged actions that have taken place by these men?:
  1. Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, an Army Special Forces officer who was facing murder charges for killing an unarmed Afghan he believed was a Taliban bomb maker.
  2. Mr. Lorance was a rookie Army lieutenant who had been in command of a platoon in Afghanistan for two days in July 2012 when he ordered his troops to fire on unarmed villagers who posed no threat, killing two men. He then called in false reports over the radio to cover up what had happened. He was immediately turned in by his own men.
  3. Chief Gallagher was charged by the Navy in 2018 with shooting civilians in Iraq, killing a captive enemy fighter with a hunting knife, and threatening to kill fellow SEALs if they reported him, among other crimes.
What kind of precedent do we want to set for our future generations of the US military in our profession of arms? Another tangential and hypothetical question is that if you are okay with these men going free, would you have let the 26 soldiers charged with massacring 22 Vietnamese villagers go free in the My Lai massacre?

Thanks for your inputs.
You seem to have an agenda here. I haven’t researched the details of the Golsteyn or Lorance case but Gallagher was acquitted of every charge but taking a photo with a corpse. Golsteyn hasn’t been convicted of anything. He was pending a trial at the time of the pardon. Surely you must know this if you are concerned about these issues.

Since WWII, our armed conflicts aren’t with uniformed forces. The other side doesn’t care about the Geneva Convention. They dress like civilians, hide below schools, and use children as shields and combatants. Mistakes happen. While I am not in favor of blanket immunity, I am proud that our President is willing to use his pardon powers in the situations he deems appropriate. Holding our soldiers to an impossible standard is wrong. When was the last time Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria or Palestine or Isis enforced rules of engagement for its terrorist/soldiers?
 
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Korab

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War criminals are criminals. This could undermine the moral foundation of our military. We have to keep our military justice system intact and respect the Geneva Convention. We can't win any war without strong morals especially in international warfare. I agree with Buttigieg. He said in the Washington Post, “If the president blows a hole in the military justice system, he is blowing a hole in the military and he is putting troops’ lives at risk by signaling to adversaries that the United States is not bound by the laws of war, so they needn’t be either."
Please identify any adversary we have faced since WWII that has abided by the laws of war.
 

GoCubbies

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You seem to have an agenda here. I haven’t researched the details of the Golsteyn or Lorance case but Gallagher was acquitted of every charge but taking a photo with a corpse. Golsteyn hasn’t been convicted of anything. He was pending a trial at the time of the pardon. Surely you must know this if you are concerned about these issues.

Since WWII, our armed conflicts aren’t with uniformed forces. The other side doesn’t care about the Geneva Convention. They dress like civilians, hide below schools, and use children as shields and combatants. Mistakes happen. While I am not in favor of blanket immunity, I am proud that our President is willing to use his pardon powers in the situations he deems appropriate. Holding our soldiers to an impossible standard is wrong. When was the last time Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria or Palestine or Isis enforced rules of engagement for its terrorist/soldiers?

Thing is though before we deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, we were told even if the enemy didn’t follow the rules of war or the Geneva Convention or whatever rules are out there, we (US Armed Forces) would follow them anyway.

While I may sound too idealistic, I always want to believe that WE would do the right thing not because we expect the enemy to do the right thing, but because we are Americans and the right thing is what we’re expected to do.

If I didn’t follow the Geneva conventions because I didn’t feel the enemy would, then I would have treated and cared for only our own wounded and injured.

Not saying the pardons were right or wrong. I’m not making a political statement.

I’m saying the logic that we don’t do the right thing because the enemy doesn’t will never sit well with me. We should always take the high road- and be prepared to pay the price to do so. As my DD’s USMA class motto goes, “Freedom isn’t Free.”

The standards, while impossible in some situations, are the right and moral standards.
 

Korab

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Thing is though before we deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, we were told even if the enemy didn’t follow the rules of war or the Geneva Convention or whatever rules are out there, we (US Armed Forces) would follow them anyway.

While I may sound too idealistic, I always want to believe that WE would do the right thing not because we expect the enemy to do the right thing, but because we are Americans and the right thing is what we’re expected to do.

If I didn’t follow the Geneva conventions because I didn’t feel the enemy would, then I would have treated and cared for only our own wounded and injured.

Not saying the pardons were right or wrong. I’m not making a political statement.

I’m saying the logic that we don’t do the right thing because the enemy doesn’t will never sit well with me. We should always take the high road- and be prepared to pay the price to do so. As my DD’s USMA class motto goes, “Freedom isn’t Free.”

The standards, while impossible in some situations, are the right and moral standards.
Agreed. That’s why I said I am not in favor of blanket immunity.

We are sending our young men and women into impossible places to make impossible decisions that could mean the difference between life and death for themselves and their fellow soldiers, all while fighting with two hands tied behind their backs against an enemy that intentionally hides amongst the civilian population and has no rules. When mistakes are made, my inclination is to give them the benefit of the doubt, not prosecute them for murder like it’s a civilian criminal case.

Every case certainly turns on its own facts, however.
 
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Soldiergriz

Husband, Dad, Soldier
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Thing is though before we deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq, we were told even if the enemy didn’t follow the rules of war or the Geneva Convention or whatever rules are out there, we (US Armed Forces) would follow them anyway.

While I may sound too idealistic, I always want to believe that WE would do the right thing not because we expect the enemy to do the right thing, but because we are Americans and the right thing is what we’re expected to do.

If I didn’t follow the Geneva conventions because I didn’t feel the enemy would, then I would have treated and cared for only our own wounded and injured.

Not saying the pardons were right or wrong. I’m not making a political statement.

I’m saying the logic that we don’t do the right thing because the enemy doesn’t will never sit well with me. We should always take the high road- and be prepared to pay the price to do so. As my DD’s USMA class motto goes, “Freedom isn’t Free.”

The standards, while impossible in some situations, are the right and moral standards.

And, no one in your chain of command would tell you differently.

Presidential pardons such as these have zero bearing on the standards. Pardons don't create new ones...
 

mil.intel

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You seem to have an agenda here. I haven’t researched the details of the Golsteyn or Lorance case but Gallagher was acquitted of every charge but taking a photo with a corpse. Golsteyn hasn’t been convicted of anything. He was pending a trial at the time of the pardon. Surely you must know this if you are concerned about these issues.

Since WWII, our armed conflicts aren’t with uniformed forces. The other side doesn’t care about the Geneva Convention. They dress like civilians, hide below schools, and use children as shields and combatants. Mistakes happen. While I am not in favor of blanket immunity, I am proud that our President is willing to use his pardon powers in the situations he deems appropriate. Holding our soldiers to an impossible standard is wrong. When was the last time Iraq or Afghanistan or Syria or Palestine or Isis enforced rules of engagement for its terrorist/soldiers?

My only agenda as a current active duty officer is constantly calibrating my own moral compass as necessary and abiding by my own set of ethical standards that are not explicit in the constitution. I do have my personal reservations, but it would be remiss to entirely ignore these conversations because of its highly politicized nature. Throughout my ROTC curriculum, these ethical scenarios and proven criminal acts of military worldwide were actively discussed (My Lai massacre, Nuremberg principles etc).

Some of you keep bringing up the nature of our enemies that they don't abide by the laws set forth by the Geneva Conventions, but majority of these allegations seem to be actions taken against unarmed civilians, or at least actions antithetical to the professionalism of the US military. I also want to shed light on how in 2/3 cases above, the fellow soldiers and sailors were the ones initially to report the allegations up the chain of command. Shouldn't this mean something?
 

A1Janitor

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I see both sides.

I would prefer to see pardons for these guys ... or unjust prison sentences like Alice Johnson ... than for rich political donors.

And during the middle of a Presidency than at the end - so voters can have a say.
 

Korab

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Messages
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My only agenda as a current active duty officer is constantly calibrating my own moral compass as necessary and abiding by my own set of ethical standards that are not explicit in the constitution. I do have my personal reservations, but it would be remiss to entirely ignore these conversations because of its highly politicized nature. Throughout my ROTC curriculum, these ethical scenarios and proven criminal acts of military worldwide were actively discussed (My Lai massacre, Nuremberg principles etc).

Some of you keep bringing up the nature of our enemies that they don't abide by the laws set forth by the Geneva Conventions, but majority of these allegations seem to be actions taken against unarmed civilians, or at least actions antithetical to the professionalism of the US military. I also want to shed light on how in 2/3 cases above, the fellow soldiers and sailors were the ones initially to report the allegations up the chain of command. Shouldn't this mean something?
Your own moral compass and ethical standards are irrelevant on the battlefield. The rules of engagement govern conduct.

Enemy combatants don’t wear uniforms. They disguise themselves as civilians to take advantage of our rules of engagement. That’s where most of these cases arise - in hostile situations our soldiers can’t tell civilians from enemy combatants.

In the Lorance case, all three “civilians” had connections to combatants, including one of those killed being connected to a prior IED via biometric data.
 
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cb7893

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26 soldiers charged with massacring 22 Vietnamese villagers go free in the My Lai massacre?

26 soldiers were charged with killing 100's of Vietnamese villagers. Only one, Lt. Calley, was convicted of killing 22. He was sentenced to life in prison, but never set foot in one as a part of his sentence.
 

cb7893

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Holding our soldiers to an impossible standard is wrong.

How about the standard of not posing with the corpse of an unarmed prisoner, holding up the head with one hand and a Ka Bar with the other, then posting the picture on social media with the caption "Got him with my hunting knife?"
 

Soldiergriz

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My only agenda as a current active duty officer is constantly calibrating my own moral compass as necessary and abiding by my own set of ethical standards that are not explicit in the constitution. I do have my personal reservations, but it would be remiss to entirely ignore these conversations because of its highly politicized nature. Throughout my ROTC curriculum, these ethical scenarios and proven criminal acts of military worldwide were actively discussed (My Lai massacre, Nuremberg principles etc).

Some of you keep bringing up the nature of our enemies that they don't abide by the laws set forth by the Geneva Conventions, but majority of these allegations seem to be actions taken against unarmed civilians, or at least actions antithetical to the professionalism of the US military. I also want to shed light on how in 2/3 cases above, the fellow soldiers and sailors were the ones initially to report the allegations up the chain of command. Shouldn't this mean something?

Again, the incidents in question and these pardons are independent things. Pardons happen all the time for any number of reasons.

It's OK if you don't like pardons, and also OK if you don't like these particular pardons.

Consider writing a professional paper for publication in one of our journals.
 

Korab

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How about the standard of not posing with the corpse of an unarmed prisoner, holding up the head with one hand and a Ka Bar with the other, then posting the picture on social media with the caption "Got him with my hunting knife?"
The sentence you quoted wasn’t written specifically to address the Gallagher situation, but you know that.

Since you asked, I will give you my thoughts. It’s important to note the picture wasn’t posted to social media as you claim, it was texted to his buddies within the military community. It’s also important to note that he’s a SEAL with a Bronze Star who served 8 deployments in defense of our country. He spent 201 days in the brig awaiting trial.

Should he have done it, no. What’s the appropriate punishment? Remember that all the President did was restore his rank.
 
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jl123

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With respect to the case of Clint Lorance, my understanding of the facts are:
  1. LT. Lorance was leading a foot patrol in a combat zone in Afghanistan in an area known for Taliban activity
  2. Attacks from vehicles had taken place previously in the area, including suicide bombs
  3. A vehicle with 3 occupants approached from 200 yards away at a high rate of speed and ignored warnings to stop
  4. A member of the platoon requested permission to fire.
  5. LT. Lorance gave permission to fire, resulting in two dead
  6. No weapons were found
  7. The prosecution alleged that the vehicle could not have reached the platoon because of its position in a grape field and granted immunity to members of the platoon to testify as such
  8. Evidence linking the two dead to terror networks and evidence of explosive residue on the hands of the two dead were not permitted to be presented at trial
Assuming there are no countervailing facts that I missed, I agree with this pardon. Soldiers in combat zones should be given broad latitude for decisions that must be made quickly and under duress.
 
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