War criminals and Trump’s pardon power In early May, President Trump issued a pardon to Michael Behenna,
Trump has said he is now considering pardons for several other U.S. soldiers who have been charged with or
convicted of committing war crimes while serving overseas.
The idea has gotten strong pushback from current and former military officers, who believe the pardons would undermine America’s moral authority and make foreign allies less willing to trust the United States.
Others have called for the president to wait until the individual cases have played out in court, to avoid undercutting the military legal system.
Although President Trump has the power to pardon anyone he chooses, his previous uses of that authority, some
argue, have been guided by personal and political motivations rather than correcting injustice, as the Founders intended.
“Trump wants to dominate the targets of his hatred with arbitrary violence. With these pardons, he has made a promise to those who might engage in the violence he admires: If you do these things, I will protect you.” — Jamelle Bouie, New York Times
“Does Donald Trump agree with this fog-of-war reasoning? The evidence suggests that he doesn’t, and that he actually supports service members who have been accused of war crimes because he believes that the U.S.
“The impact of decisions to pardon war criminals also has serious implications for military command and morale. Within the ranks, leaders have been fighting for years to eliminate a toxic culture — especially common in elite,
“In other words, presidential pardons are supposed to reduce cruelty. Trump would reward and encourage it. In this president’s hands, it seems, even the power of mercy can become ugly and twisted.”