Friends of Padre Steve’s World,
A day after President Trump pardoned three convicted American war criminals against the strong objections of the Department of Defense and the military services. With one stroke he took back military justice to the day when President Richard Nixon for all practical purposes overturned the military Justice system’s conviction of Lieutenant William Calley for the My Lai massacre by commuting his sentence to house arrest. It took decades for the United States Army to recover from the stain of what it had done in Vietnam, and the Presidency years to recover from the stain of Richard Nixon.
This happened during a week where I have been doing a lot of reading on the Japanese War Crimes during the Second World War, reviewing my previous studies about the Nazi War Crimes, and watching a mini-series about the Tokyo War Crimes Trials.
I am appalled at the President’s despicable defense and pardoned three men convicted of war crimes by U.S. military courts. Truth matters, law matters, and justice matters.
These pardons have the potential release unprecedented evil by otherwise honorable men who either believer that they are just following orders or approved by God through the words of their leader.
I take this very seriously. War Crimes are war crime whether committed by Nazis, Communists, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, or American soldiers. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson who organized the Nuremberg Trials and prosecuted the leading Nazis noted before the trials began:
“If certain acts of violation of treaties are crimes, they are crimes whether the United States does them or whether Germany does them, and we are not prepared to lay down a rule of criminal conduct against others which we would not be willing to have invoked against us.” Justice Robert Jackson International Conference on Military Trials, London, 1945, Dept. of State Pub.No. 3080 (1949), p.330.
The fact that the United States Congress has never approved U.S. membership in the International Criminal Court means that we do not take war crimes seriously if they are committed by our soldiers. We make a mockery of justice, and even when our own military seeks justice, now the President is overturning the our military justice system to set convicted war criminals free. The President has dishonored the country and the military that is sworn to obey the law and the Constitution.
That is what it comes down to. How does one speak for human rights and against war crimes and crimes against humanity, yet watch the President of the United States make a mockery of justice.
3 responses to ““If Certain Acts and Violations of Treaties are Crimes, They are Crimes…” Trump Pardons Convicted War Criminals”
Common sense need not apply to all things Trump. In Trumpworld rule of law is irrelevant, as is decency, propriety and justice. Sigh.
I couldn’t agree more!
The US-military seems to know their responsibility to convict those among them that commit war crimes.
Is it perfect?
No, but at least they give in the cases you mention a message that warcrimes will not be tolerated.
However if you have a President that in essence condones crimes against humanity of those that entering the US via the Mexican border.
The detentioncenters, the treatment of those locked up there. Violationting The International Rights of Children (which the US hasn’t ratified either) by seperating children from their parents, locking them up etc.
Than add the arrogance the president shows, encouraged by “advisors” that the US is above any international law, above any warcrime, above any Universal Human Rights, above Universal Children Rights.
In fact against everything abused, igbored, misinterpreted
The arrogance the presidents shows against any voice of reason, within the US, the treatment of the American citizen, the press.
Destroying that what many Americans hold dear.
Freedom of (real) speech.
Not one person dictates and the other has to listen and obey
Freedom of the press, (independent press)
No press that turns truth into lies.
No press that makes lies represemted as truth.
Here again I find as much fault with We The People and our elected representatives in Congress (specifically the Senate) as with the Chief Executive and his underlings. We allow ourselves to remain uninformed concerning the actions of these soldiers and the allegations arising from them; in two cases we allowed the US Navy to mis-handle the investigations and then further to bungle the prosecutions.
I do not say Trump would have done otherwise—he is too weak and too invested in his own delusions of military grandiosity to ever miss a chance to steal the spotlight—but the political costs of the pardons on the part of the GOP in “down ballot” races, where Trump is killing them, would have been much more severe.
The acts were never put in their proper context. The press was allowed to characterise the allegations as “war crimes”, without spelling out what the allegations were; the CPO was charged with conduct any SO leader knows is absolutely antithetical to good order and discipline, and in no way mitigated by the nature of the missions or of the foe. The charges were not simply “war crimes”—they were lines American soldiers are not permitted to cross by the values of our nation. That leaders crossed those lines was unacceptable through the command structure of the military…
HOWEVER…ILLEGAL CONDUCT BY LEADERDS OF THE ARMED FORCES WAS **NOT** UNACCEPTABLE TO CIVILIAN LEADERSHIP.
We have the right to assume, therefore, that the Departmental leadership of the Armed Forces (Secretaries of Defence, and those of the Navy, Army, and Air Force) is in full agreement with the **civilian** decision to permit UNLAWFUL use of force by the armed forces as and when they wish.
Remember that the Chief Executive **cannot** make legal what the Congress legislates as illegal; it is not up to the President, acting as part of the NCA, to determine what is or is not unlawful. All the President may do elect to instruct the civilian command authority reporting to him not to enforce the law, or to pardon those who violate the law; the acts themselves remain illegal.
Lt. Calley was not the responsible officer at My Lai. That was a Captain who the US Army decided not to proceed against. Moreover, it quickly became clear that complicity in the actions at My Lai went far up the chain of command at MACV. The Army covered its own ass, and the civilian leadership was happy to help.
In this case, the Navy and SOC were NOT complicit; rules and discipline were in place and enforced; the individuals charged had already received sufficient warnings and review; the record is clear on those points. The US military acted promptly, the chain of command understood the black eye that was coming but went forward courageously; the respective Chiefs of Staff acted according to their duty and advice.
It was the civilian command authority, which is in place in this country to **prevent** the military becoming an instrument of tyranny or oppression, which failed those who serve, and we who are served.
A weakling’s need for military acceptance and craving for theatrics perverted the course of justice, and marred one of the really shining moments of military justice. The need for sales and advertising revenue perverts our Press, and prevents their publishing facts as facts, or giving substance to vaguely-worded phrases like “war crimes”.
If all the SO CPO had done was take a picture with a corpse, I would say all he merited was the punishment he received; reduced in rank and mustered out. After all, he is an enlisted NCO leader in an elite SO unit—the bar is supposed to be higher for him.
But that isn’t the only thing he did. It;’s the only thing the incompetent Navy prosecution could prove; despite a mountain of evidence available that could have overwhelmed the Court Martial, the prosecution made a poor presentation of a poorly-prepared case that couldn’t have convicted a sailor late to quarters (the Navy’s version of being late-to-work, which is also a punishable offence).
A low-water mark for the NCA, for civilian control of the military, for the Secretaries of Defence, and the Army and Navy especially, and for military justice.
A dark day, too, for those of us who wear our nations’ SO badges.