President Trump Pardons Accused War Criminals

Tex232

Member
The “war crimes” these men were accused of are nothing compared to stuff that happened on the battlefields of WWII. Look at men like Lt Col Ronald Speirs. He was rumored to have killed several unarmed German prisoners, and one of his own men for being drunk on duty. In today’s Army great leaders like him would be hung out to dry. By the standards used by our modern military, you would probably have to call 25% of the greatest generation “war criminals”. But now all of a sudden posing with a dead body is a crime? Give me a break, that’s war. God forbid we ever try to ambush the enemy, I’m sure some people want our troops to give the Taliban 24 hours notice before conducting a raid.

Where was all of this outrage when our last President decided to pardon Bradley Manning, who leaked secret material? Or when we traded known terrorists for the AWOL Bowe Berghdal, only after several of our own soldiers were killed looking for him.
 

Old Navy BGO

5-Year Member
I really haven't researched the specifics of any of these cases, and I recognize that media and online commentators all have their own biases and agendas. However, based upon what I have seen ..the young Lt shouldn't be spending an extended prison term. Did a young, green Lt make a bad decision, in the heat of the moment,, sure ... but I would expect that it was a heat of the moment decision, and he did what he thought he needed too keep his men safe. If you punish a young officer to severely for making a bad decision, others will take notice, and the result will be causing others to freeze or fail to make decisions for fear of punishment, and that's what gets our people killed.

Now, there was a suggestion earlier in the thread that the young Lt made false reports and statements. That is not excuseable under any circumstance. If you mess up, admit and take your lumps. The consequences are almost always worse if you try to cover it up or lie. If that it what happened, I am all in favor of relieving him, even throwing him out of the Service, but prison isn't the right answer.
 

Old Navy BGO

5-Year Member
. By the standards used by our modern military, you would probably have to call 25% of the greatest generation “war criminals”. But now all of a sudden posing with a dead body is a crime? Give me a break, that’s war.
Tex, I don't disagree with your observation about the conduct of WWII, there were certainly attrocities and war crimes on both sides (actually, all three sides, because the Pacific War was probably far worse than the European theater), but I really can't accept that its okay because "that's war." I won't criticize means and methods used in WWII, that was the last "total war" we have faced, and we faced a very determined , even fanatical enemy, so extreme actions were necessary at both the strategic and tactical level. One could argue that the end justified the means then. However, we should never forget the definition of a "war crime" is usually dictated by the victor, and if the outcome were reversed, there would have been a lot more scrutiny of our actions.

Times have changed since WWII, and society is more "sensible" (I learned that term here!) and "woke" than ever before, and we have the added burden of much increased communications ..social media exists even in third world countries. Killing unarmed citizens or posing with a severed head, was never really socially acceptable, it adds fuel to the fire and is detrimental to the mission as a whole. I'm the last person who could ever be accused as soft or liberal, but really can't buy the "its war" excuse.
 

cb7893

5-Year Member
Where was all of this outrage when our last President decided to pardon Bradley Manning, who leaked secret material? Or when we traded known terrorists for the AWOL Bowe Berghdal, only after several of our own soldiers were killed looking for him.
I know one person who was/is outraged, me.

Still don't understand why Bergdahl isn't sitting in prison.

Much like I don't understand the coziness some folks have with Wikileaks, a "hostile foreign intelligence service" according to Mike Pompeo, and the receiver and disseminator of the files stolen by Manning.
 

conrack

Member
In the heat and stress of battle people sometimes do inappropriate things, that doesn't excuse adhering to the ROE but I would rather err on the side of protecting our own. Lots of young children have been run over by tanks or shot but no one got prosecuted, Obama released several known terrorists but there was no outcry.
 

MemberLG

5-Year Member
I am okay with these pardons

- by definition, a pardon is forgiving a crime, not saying a crime wasn’t committed. Can’t say some crimes can be pardon and so crimes can’t. I suspect who has the authority is causing the disagreement.
 

OldRetSWO

USNA 78/parent 11/BGO for >25yrs
5-Year Member
Some thoughts here.

It is not unusual for Presidents to hand out pardons after the fact and is considered to be part of the healing process. In the case of LT Lorance, he has been in prison for a number of years already. Considering what has been said about the dead having been found to have actually been combatants, I am left looking at the false reports. The time he has already served is probably enough for that offense.

The case of Chief Gallagher is different. He was actually convicted of one offense, that of posing with/taking pics of enemy dead. There have been a number of other SEALs who have been punished for this and it was done with NJP (Captain's Mast) and the punishment far less severe. Considering the Prosecutorial Misconduct in this case along with adverse influence from high levels within the Navy, I was not surprised to see him get a severe sentence but that looks a lot like UCI (Unlawful Command Influence) which has been seen too often in recent years. Seeing that pardonned means that Chief Gallagher ONLY served over half a year in the brig for something that most others paid far easier penalties.

I do not agree as readily with the pardon of Maj Golsteyn and think that the case should have been adjudicated before consideration of a pardon.

Then again, I certainly did not agree with the how Manning, Bergdahl and the draft evaders from the Vietnam War were let off the hook. Seeing Manning held up as an icon and running for office makes my skin crawl and not for her transition but for the breach of faith and oath that she perpetrated.
 
Bottom line is we sent Chief Gallagher, Maj Goldsteyn, and LT Lorance to kill the enemy, they followed those orders. To me it's that simple.

There is no black and white in the wars being fought in Middle East, we are the only ones in uniform. Our enemies are disguised as harmless civilians. When in doubt and American lives could be at stake better to err with action as opposed to inaction.
 
Then again, I certainly did not agree with the how Manning, Bergdahl and the draft evaders from the Vietnam War were let off the hook
Going to be careful here, last time I commented on Military Justice/Politics, I was banned for a week. Anyhow, I was barely in High School when Carter pardoned the draft dodgers from the Vietnam War on his first day in office. Something like 200,000 men where charged with violating the draft, and another 350,000 were never formally charged. Canadian border patrol was told not to ask questions back then, and draft dodger were accepted as legal immigrants (way to go Canada). That's half a million men that were pardoned!

I thought this was wrong at the time, I've come to change my mind (although I still think Carter was an awful president). So, for the guys that volunteered to step into hell's gate's, there is forgiveness.....the same as those that's chose not to. I mean, I've even forgiven Patton for slapping that kid.
 

NJROTC-CC

Member
I don't know any of the facts. I note that the media seems to be saying the majority of senior leadership in the military was against the pardons. The Commander in Chief should abide by senior military leadership IMHO, and not second guess those who have more direct knowledge and are career officers.
 

A1Janitor

Member
I don't know any of the facts. I note that the media seems to be saying the majority of senior leadership in the military was against the pardons. The Commander in Chief should abide by senior military leadership IMHO, and not second guess those who have more direct knowledge and are career officers.
I believe senior military leadership should abide by the Commander in Chief, regardless of what their positions are.
 

OldRetSWO

USNA 78/parent 11/BGO for >25yrs
5-Year Member
I don't know any of the facts. I note that the media seems to be saying the majority of senior leadership in the military was against the pardons. The Commander in Chief should abide by senior military leadership IMHO, and not second guess those who have more direct knowledge and are career officers.
I think that when you re-read your source material, you'll see that the media never comes out and says that its the majority of senior leadership, just "Former Military Leaders" or "Many" Generals, etc. Our system has civilian control of the military, I was a senior officer and I don't always like the direction of that civilian control but also see where it is beneficial to us. Like it or not, the military justice system has had a problem with UCI for some time and the Navy especially has had it recently. When the Senior Leadership, even the MOST Senior leaders declare a not yet convicted defendant to be both guilty and in line for serious penalties, the military judicial system WHO ALL WORK FOR THAT LEADER are on notice that they need to "hang" that defendant. Presidential pardons are a way to "fix" some of that. As has already been said, these break down to military people making judgments on the fly and often in difficult circumstances. I have a very different opinion about those who break faith with and cause harm to our forces as I've already opined.
 

Tex232

Member
I don't know any of the facts. I note that the media seems to be saying the majority of senior leadership in the military was against the pardons. The Commander in Chief should abide by senior military leadership IMHO, and not second guess those who have more direct knowledge and are career officers.
The career officers and civilian leaders at the Pentagon don't always have the best interest of the little guy (military or not) at heart. That will probably be a somewhat unpopular opinion here, but it's pretty hard to earn a star without also becoming somewhat of a politician. Not saying all of them are like this, but they exist.
 

Old Navy BGO

5-Year Member
note that the media seems to be saying the majority of senior leadership in the military was against the pardons. The Commander in Chief should abide by senior military leadership
A couple comments:

1) At the risk of crossing political bounds here, be careful about quoting "the media." The mainstream (aka historic) media isn't necessarily unbiased these days, and some outlets have a clear agenda (on both sides !). The topic of the decline of journalism could be a whole 'nother discussion.

2) As others have noted, we have a long tradition of civilian control of the Military. The President is the Commander in Chief; a good leader considers the input of his subordinates, but sometimes that leader has to disregard that input and make tough decisions him/herself. When that happens, its the Officers duty to say "aye, aye sir" and carrry out the direction of civilian authority, (This is a theoretical statement, and I don't have any idea what input the President received on this subject).

3) OldRetSWO is right about unlawful command influence. I saw it at the operational level as a young LT , Squadron legal officer dealing with relatively minor issues, and I'm sure its a much bigger issue with high visibility, criminal cases ...particularly when relationships with host countries and allies are involved. To some degree it can't be avoided, since everyone in the chain of command wants to please the boss --and even if the boss doesn't say or do anything overtly, it's usually pretty easy to guess what outcome the boss wants to see ! I really don't know what the right answer is.. I think the Navy JAG Office is doing a deep review, and it will be interesting to see what their conclusions an recommendations are (if they are made public).

4) Finally, with respect to Tex's comment about politicians in the military...its no secret that you have to be somewhat of a politician to get a star. Some are more subtle about it than others, and there are rare exceptions where the person is so damn good that they get away with stuff that others never would, That said, being a politician doesn't necessarily mean that you can't have the "best interest of the little guy" or the "best interest of the military" at heart. Sometimes those two objectives can seem opposed, but the truly good leader figures out how to balance the objectives.
 

cb7893

5-Year Member
A couple comments:

1) At the risk of crossing political bounds here, be careful about quoting "the media." The mainstream (aka historic) media isn't necessarily unbiased these days, and some outlets have a clear agenda (on both sides !). The topic of the decline of journalism could be a whole 'nother discussion.

2) As others have noted, we have a long tradition of civilian control of the Military. The President is the Commander in Chief; a good leader considers the input of his subordinates, but sometimes that leader has to disregard that input and make tough decisions him/herself. When that happens, its the Officers duty to say "aye, aye sir" and carrry out the direction of civilian authority, (This is a theoretical statement, and I don't have any idea what input the President received on this subject).

3) OldRetSWO is right about unlawful command influence. I saw it at the operational level as a young LT , Squadron legal officer dealing with relatively minor issues, and I'm sure its a much bigger issue with high visibility, criminal cases ...particularly when relationships with host countries and allies are involved. To some degree it can't be avoided, since everyone in the chain of command wants to please the boss --and even if the boss doesn't say or do anything overtly, it's usually pretty easy to guess what outcome the boss wants to see ! I really don't know what the right answer is.. I think the Navy JAG Office is doing a deep review, and it will be interesting to see what their conclusions an recommendations are (if they are made public).

4) Finally, with respect to Tex's comment about politicians in the military...its no secret that you have to be somewhat of a politician to get a star. Some are more subtle about it than others, and there are rare exceptions where the person is so damn good that they get away with stuff that others never would, That said, being a politician doesn't necessarily mean that you can't have the "best interest of the little guy" or the "best interest of the military" at heart. Sometimes those two objectives can seem opposed, but the truly good leader figures out how to balance the objectives.

Thank you @Old Navy BGO for an excellent post discussing the command process, politics included, at the levels of O-6 and higher.

I am most intrigued by the command process of O-3 and below, particularly in those parts of the SOF community that operate in smaller and more independent units like SF Teams and SEAL Platoons. The trust among the members has to be absolute. Often times there is an O-3 commanding E-7's and beyond with 2-3 times the TIS. Seems as though there were issues in at least the case of Gallagher. I can't imagine the careers of his accusers were helped by coming forward if they intended to stay in the Navy SOF community.

To be clear, I don't question the pardons. I'm more interested in the politics within the small units.
 

Humey

Member
Lets be honest, if the LT hadnt ordered firing on the truck that was advancing on him and it turned out they were armed and his men had died, he would be eating crap for allowing his men to die. It was honestly a crap shoot and he lost. He would be considered a hero if the people he had ordered shot were armed or had explosive. He is being charged for not being able to read the drivers mind.
 

Old Navy BGO

5-Year Member
I am most intrigued by the command process of O-3 and below.......The trust among the members has to be absolute. Often times there is an O-3 commanding E-7's and beyond with 2-3 times the TIS.
I'm can't try to describe the relationship between Officers and Enlisted in the SOF communities; they are a special breed and I suspect the group dynamics may be different than the Fleet as a whole. However, I would expect that the rule that the Officer in Charge of any unit has the ultimate authority and responsibility still applies, regardless of rank and time in service.

Everyone has heard stories about Chiefs and other senior enlisted schooling clueless Ensigns, and there are certainly plenty of cases of said Ensigns ignoring their Chief and doing dumb things. However, by the time said Ensign is a Fleet LT, he/she usually has developed enough respect for the senior enlisted's experience in their area expertise to seek their input, but also have developed enough experience and confidence to make those decisions. Similarly, the senior enlisted recognizes and respects the LT's responsibility, and provides his sage advise, but accepts it if the LT has to make tough decisions.
 
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