Gen. Krulak Statement on Trump’s Military Pardons
In response to President Trump’s announcement that he would pardon three service members accused or convicted of war crimes, General Charles C. Krulak, former commandant of the Marine Corps and advocate with Human Rights First, issued the following statement:
For almost 15 years I have led a group that has grown to more than 170 retired admirals and generals who share a belief that fidelity to our nation’s most cherished ideals is the foundation of our security. As President Trump intervenes in war crimes cases on behalf of individuals accused or convicted of war crimes, he betrays these ideals and undermines decades of precedent in American military justice that has contributed to making our country’s fighting forces the envy of the world.
As General Martin Dempsey, retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has stated, “Absent evidence of innocence or injustice the wholesale pardon of U.S. service members accused of war crimes signals [to] our troops and allies that we don’t take the Law of Armed Conflict seriously.”
Disregard for the law undermines our national security by reducing combat effectiveness, increasing the risks to our troops, hindering cooperation with allies, alienating populations whose support the United States needs in the struggle against terrorism, and providing a propaganda tool for extremists who wish to do us harm.
More important than the message such interventions would send to others, however, is that which it would send to our own service members and citizens. As the late Senator John McCain said in 2011 about torture and war crimes:
“This is a moral debate. It is about who we are. I don’t mourn the loss of any terrorist’s life. What I do mourn is what we lose when by official policy or official neglect we confuse or encourage those who fight this war for us to forget that best sense of ourselves. Through the violence, chaos, and heartache of war, through deprivation and cruelty and loss, we are always Americans, and different, stronger and better than those who would destroy us.”
If President Trump intervenes on behalf of individuals accused – or convicted by their fellow servicemembers – of war crimes, he relinquishes the United States’ moral high ground and undermines the good order and discipline critical to winning on the battlefield.