Monday, December 2, 2019

Autocratic President Donald J. Trump, 'Old Bonespurs', administers military justice

Here is why you should worry about that. General Bonespurs has assumed autocratic control of military justice reports the NY Times: Trump’s Intervention in SEALs Case Tests Pentagon’s Tolerance. Here is some of the report.

He was limp and dusty from an explosion, conscious but barely. A far cry from the fierce, masked Islamic State fighters who once seized vast swaths of Iraq and Syria, the captive was a scraggly teenager in a tank top with limbs so thin that his watch slid easily off his wrist.

Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher and other Navy SEALs gave the young captive medical aid that day in Iraq in 2017, sedating him and cutting an airway in his throat to help him breathe. Then, without warning, according to colleagues, Chief Gallagher pulled a small hunting knife from a sheath and stabbed the sedated captive in the neck.

The same Chief Gallagher who later posed for a photograph holding the dead captive up by the hair has now been celebrated on the campaign trail by President Trump, who upended the military code of justice to protect him from the punishment resulting from the episode. Prodded by Fox News, Mr. Trump has made Chief Gallagher a cause célèbre, trumpeting him as an argument for his re-election.

The violent encounter in a faraway land opened a two-year affair that would pit a Pentagon hierarchy wedded to longstanding rules of combat and discipline against a commander in chief with no experience in uniform but a finely honed sense of grievance against authority. The highest ranks in the Navy insisted Chief Gallagher be held accountable. Mr. Trump overruled the chain of command and the secretary of the Navy was fired.

The case of the president and a commando accused of war crimes offers a lesson in how Mr. Trump presides over the armed forces three years after taking office. While he boasts of supporting the military, he has come to distrust the generals and admirals who run it. Rather than accept information from his own government, he responds to television reports that grab his interest. Warned against crossing lines, he bulldozes past precedent and norms.

As a result, the president finds himself more removed than ever from a disenchanted military command, adding the armed forces to the institutions under his authority that he has feuded with, along with the intelligence community, law enforcement agencies and diplomatic corps.

“We’re going to take care of our warriors and I will always stick up for our great fighters,” Mr. Trump told a rally in Florida as he depicted the military hierarchy as part of “the deep state” he vowed to dismantle. “People can sit there in air-conditioned offices and complain, but you know what? It doesn’t matter to me whatsoever.”

The president’s handling of the case has distressed active-duty and retired officers and the civilians who work closely with them. Mr. Trump’s intervention, they said, emboldens war criminals and erodes the order of a professional military.

Check out the Times’ report for more on Trump’s meddling. For even more, check out this report on Trump’s pardons in two additional cases: Trump Clears Three Service Members in War Crimes Cases. The moves signaled that as commander in chief, Mr. Trump intends to use his power as the ultimate arbiter of military justice. Trump has set himself up as the ultimate arbiter of military justice.

Consider: “He ordered the full pardon of Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, an Army Special Forces officer who was facing murder charges for killing an unarmed Afghan he believed was a Taliban bomb maker.” That case had not even gone to trial. I fully understand the meaning of Commander-in-Chief, but this intervention goes beyond the appeal-pardon route and is the action of an autocrat using these three cases for political advantage.

What worries me most of all is that Trump has neither military experience nor, as far as I can tell, an understanding of the need to insulate the military from politics. Instead, he is driven by his pathological need to advance everything that benefits himself. That motivation has not served our nation well.

Rick Wilson has famously observed that Everything Trump Touches Dies. As now applied to our armed forces, we should pray (to whomever we pray to) that Wilson is wrong. But given Trump’s track record I wouldn’t bet on it.

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