President Donald Trump has caused one hell of a SNAFU at the Pentagon due to his interference with military justice to help accused war criminal Navy SEAL, Eddie Gallagher. And now the chaos of his administration has poisoned command and the ranks.
Gallagher shot and killed an enemy combatant who was already wounded and out of the fight and then posed for a picture with a dead prisoner. Both acts violate international and US law as well as the military code of conduct. But Trump publicly intervened during his court-martial and proclaimed Gallagher innocent after the case was brought to his attention by Fox News host Pete Hegseth. Gallagher would be acquitted and Trump would restore his rank and position with the Navy SEALs.
But the Navy wanted to convene a review board to determine if Gallagher should be ousted from the SEALs. After all, he was convicted of posing for a picture with a dead prisoner. Once again, however, Trump stuck his nose where it didn’t belong and Navy Secretary Richard Spencer was ultimately fired as part of Trump’s effort to subvert military justice, all so that he could enlist Gallagher and other accused war criminals he pardoned to campaign for him in 2020.
This has only escalated tensions between the Pentagon and the White House and is causing significant damage to the chain of command, as the New York Times reports:
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. The president’s handling of the case has distressed active-duty and retired officers and the civilians who work closely with them. Mr. Trump’s intervention, they said, emboldens war criminals and erodes the order of a professional military.
This is backed up by military specialist Peter Feaver, who served under President George W. Bush.
“He’s interfering with the chain of command, which is trying to police its own ranks,” Feaver told the Times. “They’re trying to clean up their act and in the middle of it the president parachutes in — and not from information from his own commanders but from news talking heads who are clearly gaming the system.”
Again, one of those talking heads is Hegseth, who has pushed Gallagher’s case in front of Trump on Fox & Friends as well as the cases of other accused war criminals, thereby undermining military justice and the Pentagon from the sidelines.
Even former sniper Chris Shumake, who served with Gallagher, slammed Trump for getting involved in something he knows nothing about.
“It’s blown up bigger than any of us could have ever expected, and turned into a national clown show that put a bad light on the teams,” he said. “He’s trying to show he has the troops’ backs, but he’s saying he doesn’t trust any of the troops or their leaders to make the right decisions.”
And his actions have poisoned the command structure and code of conduct our military has been practicing for years, not to mention tarnishing the reputation of one of the most popular institutions in this country.
“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,” the Times notes.
The damage Trump has caused to the Pentagon and military will reverberate for years to come and it will take another president to come in and fix it. Because as long as Trump is in office, troops will believe they can commit war crimes and get away with it as long as their case is taken up on Fox & Friends.
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