The United States has a heinous record when it comes to committing war crimes. Even more heinous, however, is the fact that commander in chief after commander in chief continue to pardon those convicted of these unspeakable acts. As whistleblowers like Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning rot in prison, military personnel who’ve slaughtered civilians are receiving pardon after pardon. President Donald Trump has continued to walk down this shameful road by pardoning war criminals.
Earlier this month, Trump pardoned a former lieutenant in the US Army who was convicted of ordering his troops to slaughter innocent civilians. While on deployment in Afghanistan, First Lt. Clint Lorance ordered his soldiers to start firing at 3 random civilians on motorcycles. They did. Two of them died.
Todd Fitzgerald witnessed Lorance order his platoon to fire at three unarmed men on a motorcycle, killing two. Fitzgerald testified against Lorance in a 2013 trial. Lorance was convicted and spent six years in prison until Trump pardoned him on Nov. 15.
During the trial, multiple members from 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment testified against Lorance for issuing these murderous orders. Yet still, Trump found it necessary to free him.
That’s not all.
Ali Mansur Mohamed was shot and killed in 2008. The man who killed him, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, was found guilty of unpremeditated murder for Mansur’s death and sentenced to 25 years in 2009. Earlier this year, president Donald Trump has issued Behenna a full pardon.
As the pardons for war criminals continue to roll out, high-level military commanders are being forced to speak out against it, claiming, and rightfully so, that these pardons undermine the military justice system as well as America’s moral authority. After all, if we grant immunity to murderers, what grounds to we have to stand on when invading and occupying foreign countries — to give them some “freedom”? What’s more is the fact that pardoning these war criminals then justifies their behaviors, turning them from murderers into martyrs and even heroes.
“The tragedy of pardoning (Lt. Clint) Lorance isn’t that he will be released from prison – I’ve found room for compassion there,” Patrick Swanson, Lorance’s commander in Afghanistan told The New York Times. “The tragedy is that people will hail him as a hero.”
There is nothing heroic about ordering troops to slaughter unarmed civilians — mistakenly or not. Nevertheless, Americans still beat on their chests, chanting “USA! USA!” blindly claiming the moral high ground.
As Steven Greenhut points out in an oped for the Orange County Register:
Our country claims to be different, to be a model for the rest of the world. Maybe not so much anymore. Common Dreams argued that the president’s action conforms to “a pattern of refusing accountability for violations of international law and a litany of war crimes over recent decades.” I don’t buy that leftist narrative, but why give fodder to those who do? The pardons stain the nation’s honorable service members by saying that they can’t be held responsible for their own actions. If they do atrocious things, well, boys will be boys.
The pardons also suggest that “Trump holds a dangerous, obsolete view of warfare—one that had fallen into disrepute after the horrors of World War II,” wrote Cornell law professor Jens David Ohlin, in a Washington Post column. “His actions suggest that he believes in ‘total war,’ in which warfare is conducted not only by professional soldiers but also by entire societies, including their civilians.” Indeed.
Making this entire situation that much more insidious is the fact that true heroes, whose actions have exposed criminals, shed light on the surveillance state, and given Americans a glimpse into the horrors of war, like Chelsea Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden, are rotting in prison or exiled while pardons are doled out to murderers. A travesty, indeed.
As TFTP reported in April, several men in black suits, surrounded by a dozen cops, raided the Ecuadorian embassy in London and kidnapped Julian Assange. Moments later, the Department of Justice released a statement charging Assange with computer hacking “conspiracy” for allegedly working with US Army soldier at the time, Chelsea Manning.
According to the DOJ, Assange’s roll in the alleged conspiracy with Manning was encouraging her to provide more information—something that any journalist worth their salt would be doing. This move has amounted to little more than the blatant criminalization of journalism.
The DOJ says part of what Assange did to justify his prosecution – beyond allegedly helping Manning get the documents – is he encouraged Manning to get more docs for him to publish. Journalists do this with sources constantly: it's the criminalization of journalism pic.twitter.com/GXNjWlkFZw
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 11, 2019
Not only did Trump refuse to step in and pardon one of the the key players whose information leaks arguably led to him winning the presidency but he went on the offensive against him.
Shortly after being kidnapped from the Embassy at the behest of the Trump administration’s Department of Justice, a kangaroo court was setup to railroad the journalist.
A London court ruled on May 1 that Assange was guilty of “violating bail conditions,” and he was sentenced to a 50-week internment at a high-security Belmarsh prison—a sentence United Nations human rights experts called “disproportionate” over such a “minor violation.”
Assange now faces extradition to the United States where he will be further prosecuted for “conspiracy” for doing nothing other than exposing war crimes of the West.
Julian Assange is a hero. His actions helped to expose horrifying crimes carried out by the US government, including mowing down innocent journalists with a .50 cal. His persecution by the UK and the US is undoubtedly retaliation and punishment for exposing these crimes.
The idea that a journalist is being held in solitary confinement on a whim from this administration, and also faces the possibility of being “disappeared” in a US black site prison after his extradition, is utter insanity.
How much longer can we go down a road in which murder is celebrated and truth is prosecuted before it all comes crashing down in a hellfire of smoke and ash? My guess is, not so long….