In the United States, our military comes from all walks of life. And like in the civilian world, you have some really great people. You also have some folks who would steal from their own grandmothers. That is the nature of any large organization. When I served, I served with some great people, I also served with a couple guys who probably should have been in prison.
The military also has its own set of rules, the uniform code of military justice. It details non-judicial punishment, known as Article 15, this covers a gamut of issues, and punishment can include confinement to quarters, loss of rank, loss of pay, and extra duty. Smart off to your squad leader, and you could find yourself in front of your commanding officer receiving one of these. A service member can survive getting an Article 15, and even go on and have a long career.
Then, there are the more serious crimes, these are punishable by court martial. Among the crimes serious enough for court martial are war crimes. Since 2001 there have been a number of high profile war crime cases that have gone to court martial.
Navy Chief Edward Gallagher was charged on ten criminal counts.
Aggravated assault with a dangerous weapon x2 on non-combatants
Firearm, discharging willfully, under such circumstances as to endanger human life at non-combatants
Obstructing justice (three counts)
Wrongfully pose for an unofficial picture with a human casualty
Wrongfully complete reenlistment ceremony next to a human casualty
Wrongfully operate a drone over a human casualty
Wrongful use of a controlled substance—Tramadol Hydrochloride
Unlawful possession of a controlled substance
He was found guilty of only one, wrongfully posing for an unofficial picture with a human casualty. He was supposed to be reduced in grade to E-1.
On Tuesday, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday decided to retain the spirit of a military jury’s recommended sentence for Gallagher, 40, letting stand the panel’s call to demote him but keeping him a petty officer first class and not the E-1 pay grade where Navy regulations would’ve automatically left him after more than two decades of service.
1st Lt. Clint Lorance was convicted of two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder.
On July 2, 2012, Lorance, who had just taken over as a platoon leader, and his soldiers were on a foot patrol alongside Afghan soldiers when three men on a motorcycle approached the patrol, according to news reports and a website set up in Lorance’s defense.
Prosecutors said Lorance violated the military’s rules of engagement when he ordered his soldiers to shoot the men on the motorcycle. Two of the men were killed and the third ran away.
Clint Lorance was sentenced to 20 years of confinement in August 2013. He is confined at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
Maj. Matthew Golsteyn is being charged with murder in the death of an Afghan man during a 2010 deployment.
Golsteyn’s commander “has determined that sufficient evidence exists to warrant the preferral of charges against him,” U.S. Army Special Operations Command spokesman Lt. Col. Loren Bymer told Army Times in a brief email statement Thursday.
“Major Golsteyn is being charged with the murder of an Afghan male during his 2010 deployment to Afghanistan,” Bymer wrote.
The major’s attorney, Phillip Stackhouse, told Army Times that he and his client learned of the charges on Thursday as well, and that the murder charge carries with it the possibility of a death penalty.
Two of these men are convicted war criminals, one is facing court martial for war crimes. Donald Trump has restored Eddie Gallagher’s rank and is planning to take action on the other two:
President Donald J. Trump plans to “take action” in the cases of two soldiers accused of war crimes, one of whom was already convicted, Fox News hosts said Monday morning.
“I was able to confirm yesterday — from the president of the United States himself, the commander in chief — that action is imminent, especially on the two cases of Clint Lorance and Matt Golsteyn,” Fox News host Pete Hegseth first said. “The president, as the command-in-chief, has a lot of latitude under the Uniformed Code of Military Justice to dismiss a case or change a sentence, and from what I understand, that is what will happen shortly.”
It remains unclear what exactly the president’s actions in the cases will be. Lawyers for the two soldiers told Army Times that they asked the president to disapprove the findings in one case and dismiss the charges in the other.
If you read the comments on these linked articles, which I recommend you do not do, you would find that Trump supporting veterans, and those claiming to be veterans are all for celebrating these men, two of which are war criminals, and one is facing court martial for war crimes.
Trump never served, and the people who are whispering in his ear about these men are giving him bad guidance. Any action he takes will undermine the chain of command, the military justice system, and will give the United States a black eye in terms of human rights. Being in combat does not absolve you of acting morally and ethically. Trump would not understand that because he has no moral or ethical background to speak of.
The Code of Conduct is drilled into every single service member in basic training/boot camp. Article six specifically states, I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. When that was drilled into my head over thirty years ago, it came with an an explicit understanding that we would we would treat noncombatants morally and ethically at all times, and combatants morally and ethically if captured, or detained. In other words, we would not shoot first and ask questions later. American soldiers are supposed to hold the moral high ground. We are supposed to be the standard for the world, that is what our principles are supposed to be.
Dismissing charges, restoring rank, and pardoning war criminals is a slap in the face to every veteran who has served honorably during peace time, and in times of war.