December 28, 2019


Why Trump Vilifies Whistle-blowers and Venerates War Criminals (Eric Levitz, 12/28/19, New York)

That the U.S. president venerates lawlessness in the pursuit (or maintenance) of power is alarming; that the party he leads increasingly shares that ideal is even more so.

Two recent news items put this point into sharp relief. One is this New York Times piece on the Navy SEALs who reported their Special Operations chief's alleged war crimes. The other is a Washington Post story on the administration's efforts to intimidate or oust civil servants who complied with the House's impeachment investigation.

The former tells us little we did not already know. The fact that several Navy SEALs had accused SOC Edward Gallagher of murdering women, children, and prisoners of war in Iraq has long been public knowledge. And the fact that those SEALs suffered from a sense of profound moral injury and helplessness as they witnessed their chief's (alleged) war crimes has also been publicly aired. But the Times's curation of those soldiers' tearful video interviews and anxious text messages makes the truth of Gallagher's presidential pardon viscerally clear: In pardoning Gallagher, Trump did not put support for the troops above fidelity to the Geneva Convention, but rather, support for a war criminal above respect for the law-abiding service members he tormented.

As the Times reports:

In cramped interview rooms in San Diego, SEALs who spoke to Navy investigators painted a picture of a platoon driven to despair by a chief who seemed to care primarily about racking up kills. They described how their chief targeted women and children and boasted that "burqas were flying."

... Some of the SEALs said they came to believe that the chief was purposefully exposing them to enemy fire to bait ISIS fighters into revealing their positions. They said the chief thought that casualties in the platoon would increase his chances for a Silver Star.

Special Operator Vriens told investigators he had wanted to confront the chief in Iraq but had worried that if he did, he would be cut from missions and no longer be present to protect other SEALs from the chief. As he spoke, he struggled to keep his composure.

"I can speak up, stand my ground," he said in the interview. "He's just going to do this to a new guy who he can manipulate. So I was like, I'm going to be his right-hand man, so -- so no one else got hurt."

He pressed his forehead into his fists and started to cry. Then he took several deep breaths, rubbed his hands together and tried to continue.

"So I worked for him and I kept my mouth shut," he said.

Few will be surprised by this president's indifference to the (alleged, though not legally proven) wanton slaughter of Iraqi civilians. Trump's belief that unconstrained viciousness toward one's enemies is the definition of "strength" has led him to publicly champion such slaughter on multiple occasions. "We're fighting a very politically correct war," Trump told Fox & Friends in December 2015. "And the other thing with the terrorists -- you have to take out their families. When you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families! They care about their lives, don't kid yourselves. They say they don't care about their lives. But you have to take out their families." Later in the campaign, the GOP candidate praised the mass murder of Muslim prisoners of war with bullets dripped in pig's blood as a uniquely effective method of counterinsurgency.

Posted by at December 28, 2019 7:40 AM