America Loves Excusing Its War Criminals

Public opinion backed Nixon in siding with perpetrators of My Lai rape-massacre 75 to 17

The report that U.S. President Donald Trump is preparing to pardon a number of U.S. war criminals, both accused and convicted, has sparked rightful outrage. These are not ambiguous cases: Seven former platoon members have accused one of the men, Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, of routinely targeting women and children as a sniper in Iraq, as well as murdering a teenage captive in cold blood. Nicholas Slatten is a mercenary who is, so far, the only man convicted of a massacre of 14 Iraqi civilians in 2007. Trump has repeatedly expressed his support for torture and atrocity in war, though as with Trump’s previous pardons of murderers in uniform, many of those who, unlike the president, actually served in the military are particularly disgusted by the move.

But while the violence of Trump’s rhetoric is new, effective impunity for U.S. soldiers in foreign lands is not. Iraqis’ resentment of U.S. forces is obvious and violent, but the pardons will also further corrode U.S. credibility among its calmer allies. That’s especially true in East Asia, where the inequities of U.S. military justice have frequently riled locals. In South Korea, Japan, and the Philippines, among others, the perceived impunity of U.S. military personnel has turned residents against the presence of military bases, sparked mass protests, and strained diplomatic relations.

Individual violations of sovereignty, as protesters see it, drive these complaints—but they’re also tied to a wider anti-American tradition fueled by the United States’ own repeated failures to try its own soldiers fairly. Although these failures of justice took place in different countries, and at different times, they form a strong part of collective historical memory. South Korean protesters frequently refer to the U.S. massacres in Vietnam—where South Korean forces also committed atrocities —as well as to horrors committed during the Korean War itself. The gross failures of Iraq are a touchstone for those opposed to the U.S. presence across the world.

U.S. military training today goes out of its way to emphasize the laws of war and the necessity of disobeying illegal orders. Yet U.S. actions offer little reassurance that political attitudes have changed.

U.S. politicians have repeatedly refused to accept the role of the International Criminal Court, and current Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has levied numerous threats against it. The arrogance, racism, and cheerleading for atrocity at the top of the U.S. government under Trump continue to negate any efforts to repair America’s reputation at the bottom.

None of this is the responsibility of U.S. soldiers as a group themselves, who are no better or worse than any other group of young people away from home. The root of the resentment is not their behavior but the agreements that protect them, and the frequent failure of U.S. military institutions to deliver justice. In Okinawa, the Japanese island that holds America’s key Pacific bases, they were immune from local justice until 1972 and rarely prosecuted by their own forces. “They would just hit somebody, and when they drove back to the base, through the gates, it was the same as going back to the USA,” one Okinawan told the Nation. “It’s so frustrating. You rape and kill or run over somebody and just go back?” That resentment formed the basis of a powerful anti-base movement on the island—despite the central Japanese government’s repeated attempts to crush it.

In both South Korea and Okinawa, the status of forces agreements today send U.S. personnel to military justice only when the alleged crimes are committed in performance of their duties. That has done little to dispel suspicions that the U.S. military protects its own. In Okinawa in 1995, a rape case—even though the accused were handed over to the Japanese authorities—instantly sparked rumors of a cover-up.

In South Korea in 2002, the deaths of two schoolgirls in a horrendous accident during U.S. military exercises, and the subsequent (and probably fair, from witness accounts) acquittal of the soldiers involved on negligent homicide charges by a military court, produced huge riots and a massive swelling of anti-American feeling. I was teaching in Seoul at the time, and my 10-year-old students would tell me they hated Americans because “Americans killed Shin Hyo-sun and Shim Mi-seon.”  The deaths are still commemorated by annual protests.

These emotions have practical consequences. Anti-Americanism remains a powerful force in South Korean politics, despite the looming threat of North Korea and the shield offered by U.S. troops. The building of U.S. bases on Okinawa has been frequently delayed or canceled due to opposition from locals. In the Philippines, U.S. forces were kicked out in 1991 and have been met with concerted protest and political opposition since their return in 1999.

Peacetime failures are serious enough but behind all this is also a long history of America’s failure to convict or punish its own personnel for war crimes in Asia. That goes back to the numerous atrocities committed during the occupation of the Philippines at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1902, Republican Sen. George Frisbie Hoar, a vehement anti-imperialist, condemned U.S. war crimes in the Senate: “You make the American flag in the eyes of a numerous people the emblem of sacrilege in Christian churches, and of the burning of human dwellings, and of the horror of the water torture.”

Yet the men responsible for mass murder and torture received little punishment. Jacob Hurd Smith, who had ordered the revenge killing of thousands of Filipinos after 48 U.S. troops were killed in an ambush, became infamous for his instructions to kill every man over the age of 10. But while he was court-martialed, the consequence was only a quiet retirement, and other high-level perpetuators went untouched.

Vietnam was little better. While war crimes were sometimes investigated, many were swept under the carpet. To be clear, these weren’t the high-level war crimes that critics of the Vietnam War accused Washington of pursuing, such as strategic bombing of civilians, but acts of rape and murder illegal under U.S. military law—but rarely prosecuted. The men of Tiger Force, an elite unit of the U.S. Army, murdered, tortured, and mutilated their way across Vietnam’s highlands; a four-year investigation by the Army confirmed the crimes but produced no prosecutions.

  1. Jozo Magoc says

    Semites are only the Native American ” Indian” people,so are their Semitic,Naguatl languages of Naga= cobra…The Serpent cultures of Mesoamericawere big warriors and sacrifiers of its own kind people …The modern jews are descendants of these Serpent culture-people trough the Canaanites( Can= Serpent/ Snake in Native American tongues), who slso established a such Serpent/ Dragon cities as Jeru-salem( Ezekiel 16:3)= Dragon dusk city; Jeri- cho=Dragon forces, or Jere- van= Dragon Lake,etc…
    The modern jews that their origins are in Ama-ruca= Pluned Serpent Land( Wikipedia), Snake continent shaped as female body,with two Snake rivers( Vilcanota/ Urubamba,themothernone)…
    Once the modern jews-recolonised America,their Motherly land, it was evident that by them hijacked and annexed United Snakes will go the Aztec way ov life, wars anc rumors of wars, BUILDING PYRAMIDS OF SKULLS& BONES, around the whole world!!

  2. Jozo Magoc says

    Read below: the zionists as the Aztecs,building PYRAMIDS OF SKULLS& BONES, and sacrifying its own goyim in (9/11) zionist terrorist attacks!!

  3. Séamus Ó Néill says

    Of course Trump will pardon war-criminals, he’s one himself, like every other US president. America has never been invaded or even threatened with invasion, but they brought demonic war and genocide to every corner of the globe. They murdered 3,000 of their own people in 9/11 so that their psychopathic lust for blood could be satisfied with the slaughter of 27 million in the ME……and they’re not finished yet ! America is a satanic amoral cesspit, hated, loathed and detested around the world.

  4. JustPassingThrough says

    I suppose one could psychologically test for psychopathy, but wouldn’t one be more prone to accept a “controllable” psychopath (ie one that does not kill his own comrades) as a combatent?

    Isn’t that what you want when you send someone to murder, wholesale?
    Isn’t that what one has with the IDF and its planned genocide, for example?

    Once you remove patriotism, honor, national security, “for god and country” etc. as “acceptable” reasons for murdering some poor sod, psychopathy becomes a positve attribute, doesn’t it?

    The only thing missing, i think, is that these mental dwarfs should participate to a greater extent in the profit distributions of the MIC and also, very importantly, have a limited shelf-life. Society doesn’t do well with these over-drugged dwarfs running through shopping malls unloading their weapons on the “shop til you drop” crowd. Tie it up, nice and neat.

  5. Rowdy-Yates says

    Last night I watched the movie “JFK”. In that movie it claimed that President Kennedy was killed by President Johnson because Kennedy was about the end the Cold War by making peace with Russia and nixing the Vietnam war. He was about to bring peace to America.
    But the military industrial complex wanted nothing to do with Peace. That American industry had to create wars in order to make unimaginable profits. In such wars soldiers are always heroes even when they are not.

    1. JustPassingThrough says

      There was also rumor that he was going to emasculate the Fed and that was a reason for the headshot. I wonder if we’ll ever get the whole story.

      1. Rowdy-Yates says

        Yeah. that is right. Kennedy was going to have the Federal Reserve audited at the very least.

  6. CHUCKMAN says

    The kinds of behaviors a man like Gallagher was convicted of cannot be avoided with training.

    It is just a fact that many extreme narcissists and psychopaths, a naturally-occurring small percentage of every human population, are attracted to military service.

    And all the more so with “elite” services because of the big ego-satisfaction and perhaps greater opportunities for operating unobserved.

    It is nothing new.

    If the United States were dedicated to behaving conscientiously, it would try eliminating them in its recruitment, something possible to do with fairly simple psychological testing.

    But the US, given its extreme war-like posture, is now always experiencing a shortage of military recruits in recent years, so there is no way it is going to get fussy over otherwise attractive “natural born killers.”

    Fewer damned wars would of course reduce demand, and recruitment could become more conscientious.

  7. Vish says

    Americans loves their war criminals because the United Snakes of America is a war criminal nation from Main Street USA to the Pentagon.

    That is who the Americans are as a nation and as a people.

    But America and its stormtroopers will reap what have they sown as payback for all the criminal wars and war crimes that the “Beacon of Liberty” is guilty of.

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.