(Ben Green) #1


in november, PresidenT TrumP
signed pardons for Army First Lieutenant
Clint Lorance and Army Major Mathew
Golsteyn, and an order restoring the rank
of Special Warfare Operator First Class
Edward Gallagher to chief petty officer.
The White House press release announc-
ing the decision concludes with a quote
from Trump: “When our soldiers have to
fight for our country, I want to give them
the confidence to fight.” In the face of bat-
tlefield misconduct, this final statement
is perplexing and begs the question: From
where do we draw our confidence to fight?
Pete Hegseth, veteran of the Iraq and
Afghanistan wars and co-host
of Fox & Friends Weekend, has
said the President believes,
“The benefit of the doubt
should go to the guys pull-
ing the trigger.” Fair enough:
war is complicated, a realm
where the toughest decisions
appear not in black or white
but in murky grays. However,
in these cases, the issues are,
for once, very clear. Lorance
was found guilty of murder,
and Golsteyn has confessed
to murder—twice. With
Gallagher—who posed for a photo over an
executed ISIS prisoner and texted it to a
friend, writing, “Good story behind this,
got him with my hunting knife”—Trump
is trying to strike the pose of being sym-
pathetic to the war fighter while simulta-
neously undermining commanders who
petitioned to demote Gallagher and strip
him of his SEAL qualification in order to
maintain good order and discipline.

The confidence To fighT comes
not from laxity but from discipline.
When unit discipline breaks down—
when lieutenants start shooting civilians
(the case of Lorance), when special op-
erators begin executing prisoners (the
case of Golsteyn and, I would contend,
Gallagher)—the confidence to fight evap-
orates. In fact, you aren’t fighting any-
more. You’re doing something altogether
different: killing.

Trump doesn’t understand this dif-
ference. In October, he took to Twitter to
discuss Golsteyn’s case, writing, “We train
our boys to be killing machines, then pros-
ecute them when they kill!” Is that really
how Trump views the U.S. military? As a
collection of “killing machines”? When
I returned from Iraq and Afghanistan, I
was often asked by well- meaning people
whether I had “to kill anyone over there.”
My response evolved to: “If I did, you paid
me to.” Which was more often than not
met by confusion as opposed to the in-
tuitive understanding that it was U.S. tax
dollars that had sent me to war, and thus
U.S. citizens who shared in the
complicity of whatever killing
I had done.
I recently sat on a panel
where the question came up of
whether “Thank you for your
service” was a sentiment ap-
preciated by veterans. My co-
panelist felt it held us apart
from society, giving veterans
an awkward “otherness.” My
view was that it is a genuine
expression of gratitude. What
both of us agreed on was that
in the past few decades, norms
of behavior toward veterans have changed
for the better in this country. Thankfully
we won’t regress to the days of the Viet-
nam War when citizens spat on returning
soldiers. Today, we all agreed, no one de-
files the uniform and those who wear it.
How naive.
Norms have changed. We’ve discov-
ered a new way to defile the uniform.
Today, we allow murderers to wear it while
being lauded as heroes. They tell their
stories on cable news specials. This new
norm should come as no surprise. In 2016,
then candidate Trump announced in Iowa
his personal view of killing and death.
“I could,” he said, “stand in the middle of
Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I
wouldn’t lose any voters.”

Ackerman is the author of Places and
Names: On War, Revolution and


Trump’s pardons of U.S. soldiers
defiles America’s military
By Elliot Ackerman

We’ v e
a new way
to defile the
Today, we
murderers to
wear it while
being lauded
as heroes



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—Alice Park














R^ T



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