Why is Trump pardoning Chief Gallagher

Not an hour for patriots

"Semper fortis!" (Always strong!) Is the motto of the United States Navy Seals. They are the toughest of the tough, they are sent on the most dangerous missions, they are the first choice when US intelligence services want to eliminate a terrorist like Osama bin Laden again. It is expected that the Seals are not so strict about their own laws or those of other countries when they are deployed, and that it is usually tolerated "from the top".

But that wasn't exactly what Petty Officer First Class Eddie Gallagher could do. Because soldiers of his own platoon had reported the highly decorated leader. He is said to have shot arbitrarily at an unarmed civilian and a girl and killed a captured IS fighter with his combat knife. Before he was photographed with his victim.

That was in 2017 in Iraq. Of the allegations, only the "photo shoot" appeared in the verdict that passed in July 2019. Because it was inappropriate, the military tribunal demoted the killer and asked the Navy to look into exclusion from the Seal Associations.

That is exactly what will not happen, tweeted the US President, who by virtue of his office is also Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, last Thursday. In mid-November, Donald Trump had not only received Gallagher's demotion, but also pardoned two other soldiers accused of war crimes.

Chief Gallagher had been "treated very badly," Trump wrote, and the loyal soldier was "overjoyed" that his president was so committed to him. Trump did not accept warnings from high-ranking military officials that the commander-in-chief would damage the reputation and discipline of the troops with his decision.

Richard Spencer, the undersecretary of state responsible for naval affairs, initially ignored the president's request by pointing out that he could not possibly take a Twitter message as an instruction. But with this attack on Trump's current style of government, he made his immediate boss an enemy. On Sunday evening it was said in Washington that Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had ordered Gallagher to remain Navy Seal, but Spencer had lost the confidence of the Pentagon chief. Why? Because he talked past him to the White House about the Gallagher case.

The civilian chief of the US Navy duly complied with the resignation. But not without hardening criticism of Donald Trump in the corresponding request. You have to rely on the support of the people you serve. A reference to the trust of the allies is also not missing in the one-sided letter. However, Spencer went on to say, it has become apparent that, unfortunately, he no longer has the same understanding as the Commander-in-Chief when it comes to "the basic principle of good order and discipline." Consequence: "I cannot with a clear conscience obey an order that I believe violates the sacred oath that I have taken."

Of course, the opposition Democrats are exploiting the State Secretary's expulsion as best they can. For example, New York Senator Chuck Schumer called Spencer "a patriot." He could be proud not to have bowed to the presidential arbitrariness. Will Trump's show of power help the Democrats, who are known to have initiated an impeachment process to deselect the president and are currently nominating the first top people for the election campaign that is beginning? It is doubtful.

Time and again, US soldiers who have committed war crimes are not charged, acquitted or pardoned. One of the most gruesome cases is the murder of over 500 Vietnamese civilians in 1968 in the village of My Lai. Only four soldiers have been charged. Only Lieutenant William Calley was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1971. US President Richard Nixon commuted the sentence to house arrest the following day and issued a pardon in 1974.

The International Criminal Court in The Hague has repeatedly accused US soldiers of having committed war crimes in Afghanistan and in secret prisons in Poland, Romania and Lithuania. The US government described the allegations mostly as "unjustified" and held the court to be "inconsistent".

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