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Trump makes a mockery of military honor. Again. | Editorial

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He said John McCain wasn’t “a war hero because he was captured.”

He belittled a Gold Star family, the Khans, whose son died in a car bombing in Iraq as he tried to save other troops.

But President Trump has just cleared three men of war crimes, praising them as heroes and “great fighters” – contradicting the many eyewitness accounts of their comrades and undermining their commanders.

Top military officials say punishment is necessary to maintain the honor and discipline of our soldiers abroad. But a draft dodger with a note from his podiatrist knows best.

One man, Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, was convicted of posing for a trophy photo with a corpse — a teenage prisoner of war he was accused of slaying. He texted it to a friend, adding: “Good story behind this, got him with my hunting knife.”

Another, Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, hadn’t even had the chance to face trial on the charge of killing an unarmed Afghan man, which shows just how much the facts matter to Trump.

The third, Lt. Clint Lorance, was serving a 19-year sentence for ordering his soldiers to fire repeatedly on unarmed Afghans, and lying about it.

Trump’s argument isn’t that their punishments were overly harsh. After all, Gallagher was facing a mere slap on the wrist. Golsteyn hadn’t even had the chance to try to clear his name.

No, it’s that any punishment – even just administrative – will spook the troops. “When our soldiers have to fight for our country,” Trump said, “I want to give them the confidence to fight.”

Unlike previous presidents who pardoned draft-dodgers or deserters, Trump’s message here is to “embrace the crime, not forgive it,” as law professor Mark Osler pointed out to the New York Times.

It’s an insult to battle-hardened soldiers who fight with courage and without criminal behavior, and have the integrity to stand up for their code of honor.

Seven Navy SEAL commandos turned in Gallagher, after their complaints about his horrifying actions were ignored for months. They were warned that speaking out could cost them their careers. They did so anyway.

Nine members of Lt. Lorance’s own unit testified against him. Now they are reeling in disbelief. A member of his platoon who witnessed his murders, Todd Fitzgerald, got choked up about it.

“It tainted our entire service,” he told the Times. “We gave a lot, sacrificed a lot. To see it destroyed, that was bad enough. Every time a new story calling him a hero happens, I don’t sleep. I lay down in my bed and close my eyes and lay there all night until the sun comes up.”

Yet Trump sees this as a way of endearing himself to the military. It’s a fundamental misreading of military honor. But it also fits neatly with his world view that anything goes, and no ethical rules apply.

The ends always justify the means, as in his dishonorable abandonment of our faithful Kurdish allies, or refusal to grant asylum to the Iraqi combat interpreters who risked their lives for us.

Trump’s defenders, like House Minority Whip Steve Scalise, argue his move to pardon soldiers for war crimes actually boosts morale. And it probably does, among a certain criminal subset. Who’s next? Roger Stone?

This much is clear: Whether on the battlefield or in the White House, Trump wants mercenaries who do not question his orders, not public servants willing to blow the whistle.

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