Sunday, May 19, 2019


I was momentarily surprised when I read this, but I shouldn't have been. We should have seen it as inevitable.
President Trump has indicated that he is considering pardons for several American military members accused or convicted of war crimes, including high-profile cases of murder, attempted murder and desecration of a corpse, according to two United States officials.

The officials said that the Trump administration had made expedited requests this week for paperwork needed to pardon the troops on or around Memorial Day.
I'm surprised he didn't want to do this during his upcoming Trumpified Fourth of July celebration. But Trump is emotionally a child, and children are never very good at deferred gratification.
One request is for Special Operations Chief Edward Gallagher of the Navy SEALs, who is scheduled to stand trial in the coming weeks on charges of shooting unarmed civilians and killing an enemy captive with a knife while deployed in Iraq.

The others are believed to include the case of a former Blackwater security contractor recently found guilty in the deadly 2007 shooting of dozens of unarmed Iraqis; the case of Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, the Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010; and the case of a group of Marine Corps snipers charged with urinating on the corpses of dead Taliban fighters.
In modern America, I think this will delight the armchair warriors of Trump's Fox News base. (The right-wing media regularly covers such cases as monstrous injustices.) I don't think it will impress the rest of the public, and it will horrify a lot of citizens, including many servicemembers and veterans.

But Trump is old enough to have been part of the overwhelming majority of adults in 1971 who backed William Calley:
The American people believe that First Lieut. William L. Calley Jr. was made the scapegoat for the massacre of civilians in the South Vietnamese village of Mylai, according to a poll conducted for the American Broadcasting Company.

The poll of 3,000 persons in all sections of the country by the Harris organization showed that 77 per cent believed Lieutenant Calley was singled out for court‐martial and punishment although the Mylai incident involved others including his superior officers....

Only 24 per cent agreed with the verdict of guilty.
As Rick Perlstein noted in his book Nixonland, letters to the Nixon White House ran 100 to 1 in favor of Calley's release. Nixon ordered Calley transferred from the Fort Leavenworth prison to house arrest while he appealed his life sentence; he eventually served only three and a half years of house arrest.

Calley had the backing of some critics of the war, who believed that the My Lai massacre was ultimately the responsibility of higher-ups. But for the rest of Calley's backers, this story played into the notion that -- as many of them would say in subsequent years -- Americans fought in Vietnam "with one hand tied behind our backs."

The domestic equivalent of this message, in the early 1970s and for many years afterward, was the notion that liberal politicians and judges had made it impossible for the police to fight crime effectively. Hollywood movies glamorized cops who took the law into their own hands, often in Trump's New York. Today, even as urban crime continues to decline and urban populations become more liberal on most issues, the notion persists that cops are being hamstrung by legalistic restrictions on their ability to do their jobs.

Trump's apparent plan to pardon war criminals comes at a time when a disciplinary proceeding is finally taking place in the case of Daniel Pantaleo, the white cop who in 2014 applied a chokehold while arresting Staten Island's Eric Garner, an African-American who was overweight and asthmatic and who died while repeating the words "I can't breathe." The disciplinary proceeding is not a criminal trial because Pantaleo has never been indicted and never will be:
A grand jury on Staten Island declined to indict Officer Pantaleo in 2014. A federal civil rights inquiry has dragged on for years without charges being filed. The statute of limitations expires on July 17, the fifth anniversary of Mr. Garner’s death.
That seems just fine with most white Americans. As an AP-NORC poll noted in 2015,
Black Americans are nearly four times as likely as whites to describe violence against civilians by police officers as an extremely or very serious problem.

... More than 80 percent of blacks say police are too quick to use deadly force and they are more likely to use it against a black person. Two-thirds of whites label police use of deadly force as necessary and nearly 6 in 10 say race is not a factor in decisions to use force.
These are ideas Trump has absorbed throughout his life. His most high-profile lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was a great apologist for violent cops as mayor of New York.

So we really should have seen these Trump pardons coming.

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