I was so proud of the Secretary of Navy for his resignation in protest of a hideous act to cover up the atrocities of those in the military charged with war crimes.
Richard Spencer resigned rather than follow what he called an “unlawful” order from the commander-in-chief about a Navy Seal facing the military’s equivalent of a sentence for actions taken in war. Chief Petty Officer Gallagher was charged with multiple war crimes being convicted of a single lesser charge — posing for a “trophy photo” with a corpse of a fighter in Iraq. He was one of three military men President Donald J Trump “pardoned” after tribunals imposed their actions and findings.
Trump also pardoned Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, convicted in 2013 of two counts of second-degree murder after ordering his soldiers to fire into a group of unarmed Afghans; and Army Maj. Mathew L. Golsteyn, awaiting trial on charges he murdered an Afghan man. 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.
Gallagher killed a captive teen-aged Islamic State combatant by stabbing him in the neck and chest in a Navy SEAL post near Mosul, Iraq.
Gallagher and other members of his platoon posed with the prisoner’s body. Prosecutors say he used it as a prop in a re-enlistment ceremony. Later, Gallagher allegedly sent a text, “I got this one with my knife.”
I served as a combat infantry platoon leader and had to admonish my men when one of them belittled the corpse of a fallen Viet Cong. One of the grunts – or perhaps the Kit Carson scout attached to my unit – had left a flat piece of chocolate to melt on the chest of the enemy’s dead body.
It disturbed me and most of the men – many still in their late teens and no more than their early 20s – with whom I fought. Nothing like it ever happened again.
I was later stationed with the 23rd Infantry Division, the outfit that 1st Lt. William I Calley had lead in the infamous “My Lai Massacre.” It was the mass murder of unarmed South Vietnamese civilians by U.S. troops Between 347 and 504 unarmed people were killed by U.S. Army soldiers. Victims included men, women, children, and infants.
Soldiers returning to the United States from the war zone were spit upon and called “baby-killers” in large part because of this atrocity.
Navy Secreatry Spencer submitted a letter that said “I hereby acknowledge my termination,” and rebuked Trump by saying that he had been given an order he could not in “good conscience obey.”
That rebuke reminded me of what had occurred to soldiers from another era who simply said they were “following orders” when confronted at the Nuremberg Trials while serving as Nazi soldiers in World War ll.