Statement from General Charles Krulak, USMC (Ret) Opposing Reported Memorial Day Pardons
Washington, D.C.—In response to reports that President Trump is preparing Memorial Day pardons for servicemembers accused or convicted of war crimes, General Charles C. Krulak, former commandant of the Marine Corps, 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. If President Trump follows through on reports that he will mark Memorial Day by pardoning individuals accused or convicted of war crimes, he will betray these ideals and undermine 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, recently stated, “Absent evidence of innocence or injustice the wholesale pardon of US servicemembers 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 pardons would send to others, however, is that which it would send to our own servicemembers 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 issues indiscriminate pardons 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. I urge the President against taking this step and hope that Members of Congress will oppose it.