Trump Pardoning War Criminals ‘Undercuts’ US Military Justice System

© REUTERS / John GastaldoUS Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher prepares to answer a question from the media
US Navy SEAL Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher prepares to answer a question from the media - Sputnik International
Last week, US President Donald Trump pardoned Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher after he was convicted of unlawfully taking a photo with the corpse of a Daesh fighter during a 2017 deployment in Mosul, Iraq, a move that violates the military code of justice, retired US Army Colonel Ann Wright told Sputnik.

Gallagher, a Navy SEAL, was stripped of his rank of chief petty officer and demoted to petty officer first class after a court-martial found him guilty of posing in a photo with a dead Daesh fighter during his deployment. Gallagher was also accused of using a knife to murder a teenage Daesh prisoner in Iraq and killing other civilians, but he was not found guilty of those charges

Gallagher was arrested in 2018, more than a year after returning from his eighth overseas deployment in Mosul. However, on Friday, Trump decided to exonerate Gallagher as well as Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, who had been sentenced to prison for 19 years for ordering soldiers to fire on unarmed Afghan civilians. Trump also ordered that Gallagher’s demotion in rank be reversed.

“We’ve never had a president that’s really intervened like this before. I think there have been some presidents that have maybe … I’ve never heard of it in the last 50 years, that’s for sure,” Wright, who also formerly worked as a US State Department official in Afghanistan before resigning in protest of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, told hosts John Kiriakou and Brian Becker.

“First, anybody that commits or is alleged to have committed crimes, degradation, destruction of bodies has to be prosecuted, and the evidence showed through the court-martial that Gallagher was guilty of what was alleged  … that he had desecrated bodies, so for the president to step in and say, well, the court martial, ‘I don’t agree with it so we are just going to throw it out,’ just totally undercuts the whole system of military justice,” she said.

“We know of a lot of injustices that come about with it [the military justice system], but for the president to be stepping in to say: ‘Okay I’m going to throw that court martial out and I’m going to require the Navy to restore all of his benefits’ … I can just imagine that the SEAL community is just furious with all of that,” Wright told Sputnik.

“So Trump is kind of doing to the military what he said he could do for himself: that he could commit any crime he wanted and get away with it. And now he’s saying to the military, ‘You could do any crime you want to, and I may just pardon you,’” Wright told Sputnik.

US Secretary of Defence Mark Esper on Sunday fired US Navy Secretary Richard Spencer over his handling of Gallagher's case. According to a Pentagon spokesperson, Esper had lost "trust and confidence" in Spencer after learning that the Navy secretary had privately proposed to the White House that Gallagher be allowed to retire with his current rank and without losing his status as a SEAL. The DoD chief stressed that in previous conversations with Spencer about Gallagher's case, Spencer had not told Esper of his proposal to the White House, Sputnik reported.

“The code of military justice is very specific on what is allowed and what is not allowed, and when the president starts making up his own rules of the law of land warfare - which is part of the Geneva Conventions, actually - then it just shows that the US is, again, violating international law and the prosecution of war. It is a very dangerous thing … I can guarantee you that inside the military, Trump has lost a lot of favor if there were those in favor of him,” Wright added.

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