Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, from left, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. Mark Milley, and Commandant of the Marine Corps Gen. Robert Neller listen as President Donald Trump delivers his first State of the Union address in the House chamber of the U.S. Capitol to a joint session of Congress Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2018 in Washington. (Win McNamee/Pool via AP)
Earlier this week, Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer was told to pack his sh** and get off the battlefield by Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. It was a righteous decision. Spencer had told the SecDef that he would resign if President Trump intervened to keep the US Navy from stripping SEAL Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher of his SEAL Trident. As it turned out, Spencer had been trying to work some kind of incredibly stupid backroom deal with the White House whereby President Trump would let the process put in motion by the Navy continue but Spencer would guarantee that Gallagher would not be booted from the Navy’s Special Warfare community. I say the deal is stupid because it was the kind of deal that was guaranteed to leak to the press within nanoseconds as it was harmful to Trump and it was harmful to the people wanting to punish Gallagher. What the episode underscored, though, was that the U.S. Navy felt so confident of its own power that it took an action for the sole reason of sticking a thumb in President Trump’s eye and trying to embarrass him in public in an election year.
Since that time, several articles have appeared which accuse the President of undermining good order and discipline within the Armed Forces.
Whatever motivated Trump’s intervention, it has angered many senior military officers and Pentagon civilians. The rebuke of Green has been especially disturbing, because it subverts his efforts to instill better ethics and discipline in a SEAL community that commanders fear has become unmoored by its recent Hollywood celebrity and tolerated unethical behavior.
Pentagon leaders are fuming about Trump’s intervention to overrule military justice. A nation that loves its military should be outraged, too. Just as Trump subverted his diplomats in Ukraine, he’s now sabotaging his admirals and generals. This must stop.
… It was the first time a president had pardoned a service member for war crimes, and it prompted fierce backlash from veterans and legal experts who said it will erode the system of military justice and hurt U.S. credibility abroad.
…Perhaps Mr. Trump has watched too many bad war movies, but if he were to consult with his military leaders or talk to the many fine men and women in uniform, they would tell him they are trained to engage in combat while following the laws of war and upholding the country’s ideals.
With Spencer’s firing, Trump has recklessly crossed a line he had generally observed before, which had exempted the military from his belligerent, government-by-tweet interference. But the Gallagher case illustrates how an irascible, vengeful commander in chief is ready to override traditional limits to aid political allies in foreign policy, law enforcement and now military matters.
For Pentagon officials who have wondered whether Esper would have the backbone to resist Trump, Sunday’s events were troubling. The Pentagon, like the State Department under Mike Pompeo, is now overseen by an official whose overriding priority seems to be accommodating an impetuous boss in the White House.
While no president could ever shake our pride in our military service, we fear that President Trump’s recent decision to pardon two service members involved in war crimes cases and reverse disciplinary action against another — and his stated motives for doing so — will damage Americans’ perception of the military, encouraging the view that veterans are “broken.”
These cris de coeur, these impassioned NeverTrump bleats, were followed by more ominous posts hinting that President Trump may have lost the ability to command the Armed forces. This from CNN: Worry rises in military over Trump’s decision-making.
Tensions that have been mounting for months between some of the nation’s most senior military officers and President Donald Trump are boiling over after his decision to intervene in the cases of three service members accused of war crimes.
A long-serving military officer put it bluntly, telling CNN “there is a morale problem,” and senior Pentagon officials have privately said they are disturbed by the President’s behavior.
Dismay in the Pentagon has been building over Trump’s sporadic, impulsive and contradictory decision-making on a range of issues, including his sudden pullback of troops in Syria. But now there are new and significant worries, as multiple military officials and retired officers say Trump’s intervention into high-profile war crimes cases cannot be ignored.
Even more worrying, “the military is divided,” one official said. “There are two camps. Half are ardent Trump supporters that believe the President is watching out for the troops.” But the other half, many of whom are high ranking, believe the military must remain independent of partisan political influence and they don’t see the President adhering to that.
The New York Times goes a bit further: Trump’s Intervention in SEALs Case Tests Pentagon’s Tolerance
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.
To be quite honest, there is a lot of bullsh** being slung about here. First and foremost, Gallagher was tried by a jury and acquitted of all but the most chicknsh** of charges. It was a verdict that expressed revulsion at the tactics of the Navy JAG officers carrying out the prosecution and their minions in the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and a total rejection of the evidence presented against Chief Gallagher. Even the court-martial convening authority thought the punishment meted out went too far and he intervened to prevent Gallagher from being reduced to the lowest enlisted grade. The whole episode, as I’ve posted before, was nothing more or less than an admiral who was torqued because a court-martial panel did not give him the verdict he wanted decided he’d take his pound of flesh.
On the subject of war crimes, the United States has never severely punished war crimes by our own troops, even in egregious cases. William Calley served some three years of a life sentence in house arrest for the My Lai Massacre. His commander, Ernest Medina, was acquitted. (I, myself, made the pilgrimage to V.V. Vick Jewelers at Cross Country Plaza where Calley worked.) The soldiers convicted of kidnapping, raping, and murdering Phan Thi Mao in 1966 served a mere four years of a life sentence before being released. I’ve posted on two cases from Sicily in 1943 were some 72 Italian and German prisoners were executed by two Americans. One was acquitted based on a “following orders” defense, the other was sentenced to life but served less than a year before being restored to duty and eventually receiving an honorable discharge. In short, Clint Lorance served longer for a war crime than any other American ever convicted of one, in fact, he served nearly as a long as all previous convictions combined.
The more serious issue is that there is apparently a cabal heading the US Armed Forces that sees the military services as its own little sandbox to play in. While they claim to be non-political, it is pretty clear from their actions over the past decade that Antonio Gramsci’s Long March Through the Institutions by the American left has created a senior officer corps that is not only “woke” but very anxious to flex its muscles to challenge a sitting President who is not a progressive.
Every senior officer who was interviewed for the CNN and New York Times articles, at a minimum, violated the UCMJ. Their statements were, where not outright contemptuous (Article 88 of the UCMJ), manifestly detrimental to the maintenance of good order and discipline by expressing the opinion they did not trust President Trump’s decisions. This issue with the pardons for Gallagher, Lorance, and Golsteyn is not the first instance of rebellion. We’ve seen this as the military hierarchy fought tooth and nail to continue to allow transgenders into the military despite an order to cease doing so (imagine this, a straight man with braces is barred from enlisting but a person who is unbalanced psychologically and taking several varieties of drugs is cleared). We saw a military judge tie the UCMJ to the rack and torture it in order to allow the duplicitous, if not outright treasonous, Bowe Bergdahl go free in order to take a jab at President Trump. All of this calls into question whether the military command structure would actually obey President Trump when called upon to do something that they viewed against their institutional interests or if they would take action favorable to their perceived prerogatives despite a presidential order to the contrary. This, by the way, is not something unique to the past three years. If you’ll recall, Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinseki was fired because he tried to do an end run to Congress around Don Rumsfeld to preserve a redundant artillery system that he had championed. So the rot is deep and long standing but only clearly visible today.
President Trump is facing an direct challenge from the military leadership that no US president has faced since Harry Truman and Douglas MacArthur had a parting of ways. A top priority of the administration, should it be returned to office, has to be a thorough housecleaning at the upper ranks of the military. The idea that the military can pick and choose which lawful orders it wishes to carry out based upon the preferences of the officer corps is offensive to any free people and fatal to any republican form of government. It can’t be allowed to fester, it must be excised.