Trump weights pardoning US soldiers accused of war crimes
US President Donald Trump says he is mulling conditions to pardon American soldiers charged with war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan.
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Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday that the pardons would be controversial but justified because they had been treated “unfairly.”
However, Trump said he had not decided yet on the cases but may wait until the accused stood trial before deciding whether to grant them presidential clemency.
“Some of these soldiers are people that have fought hard, long. You know, we teach them how to be great fighters, and then when they fight sometime, they get really treated very unfairly,” he said.
The New York Times reported last week that Trump had asked the US Justice Department for immediate preparation of paperwork required to pardon several American troops convicted or accused of war crimes – including premeditated murder, attempted murder and desecration of a corpse.
One request, according to the report, was for US Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, who was court-martialed on charges he fatally stabbed a helpless, wounded Daesh prisoner, and shot two unarmed civilians from a sniper’s perch in 2017 during his deployment to Iraq.
Critics say the pardons would preempt justice, undermine military discipline and send a message that battlefield atrocities will be tolerated.
Many war veterans say they are angered by the pardon reports. “He is a serial draft evader who wants to play general,” Gary Solis, a former military judge and Vietnam war veteran, told the Quartz news website.
“This just exhibits the president’s ignorance,” he said.
By considering pardons for troops who have defied orders, Trump dishonors all military members who do adhere to the laws of war, Solis said.
Critics say the president is creating a climate that condones war crimes, undermines commanders’ authority in the field, and ignores the Geneva Conventions, a set of internationally agreed-upon legal protections to safeguard soldiers, civilians, and prisoners during wartime.