Yesterday the T-Rump bested hiself in his quest to be as loathsome as possible in a couple of moves — first by throwing a wrench into keeping the federal government running and according some relief from the COVID pandemic, and secondly, by pardoning a shitload of asshole criminals — 15 people in all, most just worthless creeps, but four convicted for war crimes:
As Donald Trump tonight pardons Blackwater contractors convicted of murdering Iraqi civilians in Nisour Square, Iraq, it's worth (re)watching my rather intense exchange with Blackwater founder Erik Prince on this very issue, back in 2019, on @AJHeadtoHead:pic.twitter.com/7f4unXn1zz
— Mehdi Hasan (@mehdirhasan) December 23, 2020
In a list of shitty pardons — liars, embezzlers, grifters, and with the Blackwater killers, crmes against humanity. Even in taking a horrible, false war which led to the death of hundreds of thousand, gave rise to ISIS, and shifted the political-soul map of the Middle East, the T-Rump gave further notice he’s a tried-and-true monster.
And to add context, in a piece this morning at USAToday, Rachel E. VanLandingham, a professor of law at Southwestern Law School, and Geoffrey S. Corn, the Vinson & Elkins Professor of Law at South Texas College of Law Houston, contend T-Rump’s Blackwater pardons are not only an example of failed leadership, but also degrades national security:
These pardons will undermine respect for rule of law among our armed forces and security contractors entrusted with lethal power overseas, and complicate commanders’ efforts to ensure respect for rule of law during military operations.
These legal exonerations also lessen our nation’s safety by signaling that Americans can get away with anything in war, a potent recruiting message for ISIS and similar terrorists.
And they will undermine our allies’ trust in us.
The Blackwater contractors Trump pardoned are not heroes deserving of sympathy for bad decisions made in the fog of war. Their trials — seven years of proceedings that required an extraordinary commitment to wartime accountability by Department of Justice professionals who refused to allow impunity for this deadly rampage by Americans — exposed the brutal reality of the contractors’ indifference to innocent lives.
Importantly, these men were not convicted of esoteric international crimes; they were convicted of first-degree murder (for one contractor) and manslaughter (for the other three) for opening fire in a crowded intersection in downtown Baghdad — an unprovoked rampage that slaughtered civilians trying to go about their daily lives in that war-torn country.
Such homicides also constituted war crimes, given the wartime context and the killing of innocent civilians — thus magnifying both the harm done by their commission, and the resultant harm wreaked by Trump’s pardons.
Trump has already demonstrated that he understands very little about the role law plays in war, and why accountability for violating the law of war’s fundamental norms is so central to the legitimacy of U.S. military operations.
It’s obvious he is equally ignorant about how respect for this law preserves the moral integrity of the men and women who fight for our nation plus those who serve alongside them in contractor positions.
Criminal accountability for massacres such as the one perpetrated by the Blackwater contractors in Nisoor Square reinforces an important message: “If you must fight, safeguard civilians and punish those amongst you who fail to distinguish the innocent from the enemy.”
Criminal accountability for war crimes also ensures that the tiny number of U.S. personnel who do murder in the name of America, wearing our flag, will justifiably be perceived as genuine outliers.
Judge Royce Lamberth, the federal judge who sentenced several of the contractors for their needless slaughter, said: “We hold our armed forces and our contractors accountable for their actions.”
Not if they are pardoned later, we don’t.
VanLandingham is also a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel and a former military attorney; Corn, likewise retired military, an Army lieutenant colonel and also former military attorney and intelligence officer. He’s also Distinguished Fellow for the Gemunder Center for Defense and Strategy of the Jewish Institute for National Security in America.
They have what we’d call ‘street cred‘ to address the issue.
The 2014 trial of the four killers:
“Anything that moved in Nusoor Square was shot. Women, children, young people, they shot everyone,” said Hassan Jaber Salman, a lawyer who survived the attack with his son, during the trial.
Blackwater said its convoy came under attack, and defense attorneys said in court that witness accounts were fabricated.
But witnesses testified that the contractors opened fire without provocation.
Seventy-one witnesses testified in total, including 30 from Iraq — the largest group of foreign witnesses to travel to the US for a criminal trial.
The T-Rump has 27 days, 20 hours, 29 minutes to create a clusterfuck for Joe Biden, along with the rest of us.
(Illustration: MC Escher’s engraving, ‘Old Olive Tree,’ found here).