If you are a soldier or a mercenary accused or already convicted of a war crime, President Trump will gladly grant you a pardon. Just in time for Memorial Day! He'll even call you a hero and patriot if your sadistic actions against human beings were especially gruesome and outrageous.
But, if you are a former Army intelligence analyst and whistle-blower named Chelsea Manning, and were instrumental in exposing war crimes to the world, you've been thrown back in jail. Not only that, you'll be heftily fined for every single day that you refuse to cooperate with the US government. The so-called Justice Department refuses to back down from its relentless demands that you testify, before a top-secret grand jury, against the publisher of damning and incontrovertible evidence of United States war crimes.
Physical (due to gender transition medical issues requiring specialized care), psychological and economic torture are your own very special Memorial Day treats from the Trump administration. You are essentially being punished for the same things you already admitted to and served years in prison for, before Barack Obama ultimately commuted your sentence rather than issue you a complete pardon.
And if you are Julian Assange, the WikiLeaks publisher of Manning's cache of war crime evidence, then you, too. have been jailed in Great Britain as you fight extradition to the United States on a trumped-up "conspiracy" charge related to the massive 2010 document dump outlining United States malfeasance ranging from the banal and petty to the brutal and deadly.
Such is the upside-down system of justice of the Permanent War State, a/k/a the World's Sole Remaining Superpower. By their cowardly, vicious and hypocritical acts ye shall know them.
Some of the servicemen for whom Trump is considering pardons have already been convicted of murder. The New York Times broke the story on Saturday:
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.Trump has already pardoned one convicted murderer, Army 1st Lt. Michael Behenna, who'd been found guilty of the 2008 killing of an Iraqi prisoner during an "interrogation."
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.
Special Ops chief Gallagher is accused of recklessly gunning down several people, including a woman wearing a hijab and an elderly man. He is also charged with stabbing to death a young captive who was receiving emergency medical treatment for his injuries, a killing that Gallagher later reportedly bragged about in emails.
It seems obvious that by pardoning these people right in the middle of enhanced saber-rattling by his Neocon advisers, who are itching for a war of aggression against Iran, Trump is sending a not-too-subtle message to his base of supporters. The message is two-fold: he's got their backs for the damage already done in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he is loath to send any more of them to fight and die anywhere else.
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd suggests that for once in his reign of error, Trump could act as the proverbial "adult in the room" if he controls his in-house war-mongers, particularly National Security Adviser John Bolton, one of the original architects of the Iraq War and also one of the brainless brains behind the ongoing US-led coup attempt in Venezuela.
In an echo of the hawks conspiring with Iraqi exiles to concoct a casus belli for Iraq, Bolton told members of an Iranian exile group in Paris in 2017 that the Trump administration should go for regime change in Tehran.
“And that’s why, before 2019, we here will celebrate in Tehran!” Bolton cheerily told the exiles.
When Bolton was the fifth column in the Bush 2 State Department — there to lurk around and report back on flower child Colin Powell — he complained that W.’s Axis of Evil (Iran, Iraq, North Korea) was too limited, adding three more of his own (Cuba, Libya, Syria). Then, last year, Bolton talked about “the Troika of Tyranny” (Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela). His flirtations with military intervention in Venezuela this month irritated Trump.My published response:
Trump won election in many of the distressed locales that sent a disproportionate number of their sons and daughters to fight and die in Bush's wars. Thus, his reluctance to send more troops on another misguided and deadly adventure. This is his voting base we're talking about. And he did make his opposition to Bush's wars a campaign issue.
It's not that he cares a fig about these people. of course. It's that he wants another term.
He also doesn't care about all the Middle Eastern civilians who have died, been injured, displaced and finally, been denied refuge in the US by Trump. If he didn't despise them, he wouldn't be readying pardons for several US troops accused or convicted of war crimes Meanwhile, whistleblower Chelsea Manning has been sent back to jail for refusing to testify before a grand jury against WikiLeaks' Julian Assange, who published evidence of these war crimes and whom the Trumpies seek to extradite.
Talk about a topsy-turvy world!
The scary thing is, Trump could revert to temper tantrum mode in an instant if a Gulf of Tonkin-type pretext convinces him that he has no other choice.
Finally, too many in the media, even erstwhile Trump critics, still have never met a war they didn't like. The journalistic cheerleaders of the Iraq War are still around to act as propaganda tools of their sponsors in the weapons, aerospace and oil industries, which always profit the most from the blood of innocents.
It's way past time for another anti-war movement.Given that we no longer have a draft, that last suggestion is not too likely to happen. Absent a mass moral awakening in this country to the unequal class aspect of our forever-wars, the mostly poor and working-class people who get killed in them tend to slide down the Orwellian memory hole of the collective American psyche.
A study jointly conducted by professors at Boston University and the University of Michigan Law School concluded there is indeed a direct correlation between the number of casualties from three specific states during the Bush-Obama wars and the 2016 election results in those states.
From the report's synopsis:
"Trump was speaking to this forgotten part of America. Even controlling in a statistical model for many other alternative explanations, we find that there is a significant and meaningful relationship between a community’s rate of military sacrifice and its support for Trump. Our statistical model suggests that if three states key to Trump’s victory – Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin – had suffered even a modestly lower casualty rate, all three could have flipped from red to blue and sent Hillary Clinton to the White House.
There are many implications of our findings, but none as important as what this means for Trump’s foreign policy. If Trump wants to win again in 2020, his electoral fate may well rest on the administration’s approach to the human costs of war. Trump should remain highly sensitive to American combat casualties, lest he become yet another politician who overlooks the invisible inequality of military sacrifice. More broadly, the findings suggest that politicians from both parties would do well to more directly recognize and address the needs of those communities whose young women and men are making the ultimate sacrifice for the country."The moral of this story is that if we can't appeal to amoral politicians' humanity and altruism, then at least we should be able to appeal to their political self-interest.
Maybe that's wishful thinking too.
Iraq War cheerleader Joe Biden, who currently leads in the polls for the Democratic nomination, not only made the decision to plop his own campaign headquarters in Pennsylvania, he also delivered his official maiden campaign speech in Philly over the weekend. He didn't mention bringing home the troops and ending Permawar. He called instead for "unity" and bipartisanship, and a return to the golden years of the previous administration, bragging about passage of the increasingly costly and restrictive Affordable Care Act and a tepid economic stimulus program that did little to make people's lives better.
In a move reminiscent of an aviator jacket-attired George W. Bush strutting on board a Navy aircraft carrier to deliver his infamous "Mission Accomplished" speech, Biden strode onstage and manfully "ripped off his aviator sunglasses and threw his jacket into the crowd... the event felt like authentic Biden."(according to a Politico reporter on the scene of the boilerplate action.)
When will they ever learn?
As repulsive as Trump's looming pardons for a handful of murderous service members may be, are they any more repulsive than Barack Obama schmoozing that "We must look forward, not back" to explain that he would not be holding Bush, Cheney, current CIA Director Gina Haspel and the whole gruesome gang accountable for their own war crimes and torture sessions as well as for the illegal invasion of Iraq itself? Are they any more repulsive than Obama ruefully admitting that "we tortured some folks" as he redacted whole chunks of the Senate report on torture that the CIA had already hacked? Although these politicians and apparatchiks never (I assume) personally wielded an assault rifle or a combat knife or operated a drone joystick or dropped a bomb, they are the ones who are ultimately responsible for the deaths and injuries and psychic damage done to millions of people in the name of American "democracy."
It's just as repulsive that the United States is the only Western democracy that has refused to sign the Rome Statute treaty, which would render it culpable in the International War Crimes tribunal. As a matter of fact, if any high or low American official is ever hauled before this court to face justice, there's a law passed by Congress authorizing the American military to break the suspects out their Hague holding cells and whisk them off to the safety of Homeland soil.
Guess who dreamed up that self-immunizing policy? Perhaps one reason that Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange have been persecuted and deemed permanent enemies of the state is that the WikiLeaks cables also revealed how John Bolton came up with the idea of immunizing the U.S. government from international war crimes statutes as well as from the laws of the countries they were invading and occupying.
So perhaps the most valuable mission that Trump has ever unintentionally accomplished is that he has freed other nations, especially in Europe, from the bonds of paying unquestioning homage to the Land of the Free and the Home of the Knaves.
The Iraq invasion's hideous "Coalition of the Willing" is no more.
So maybe somebody should inform the stubborn war-hungry Neocons in both of our establishment political parties and the corporate media of that inconvenient fact.
Somebody should also clue them in to the fact that that their continuing punishment of Chelsea Manning for leaking the "collateral murder" video is so warped and so unjust as to be criminally insane.
Finally, somebody should tell them that Julian Assange is a publisher deserving of the same First Amendment protections as every other journalist.