Let's all get pardoned

Today's look at war from the cheap seats

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Trump goes full Oprah with pardons

Because what a complex issue like the fact that the Pardoner-In-Chief is damaging American credibility with his indiscriminate pardoning of US war criminals needs is an outdated and overused meme of a hugely popular talk show host handing stuff out willy nilly. Which it turns out was itself problematic, because taxes.

What’s happening is that everyone’s favorite draft dodger and toxic masculinity groupie is throwing out pardons for members of the uniformed services who have been convicted of doing super honorable things like shooting naked, unarmed Iraqi prisoners, because ‘murca.

Which isn’t sitting well with people.

For those of you just tuning in at home, Gen. Dempsey is one of the most thoughtful general officers to ever wear a uniform in Uncle Sam’s Big Green Machine, and he’s not alone in thinking that the current rash of pardons is not a great idea.

"If President Trump issues indiscriminate pardons of individuals accused -- or convicted by their fellow service members -- of war crimes, he relinquishes the United States' moral high ground and undermines the good order and discipline critical to winning on the battlefield." — Gen. Charles Krulak, former commandant, USMC

And it’s not just retired brass who take exception to what’s happening in the Oval Office. In reference to the 2010 incident where then-Capt. Mathew Golsteyn murdered and then buried an Afghan detainee, a serving SF soldier had this to say:

[T]he idea [that] he is a Green Beret hero when he murdered a dude in cold blood and hid the evidence is not what we do. He is giving the regiment a bad name… People like him make people mistrust us.”

Even presidential candidate Pete “I Totes Went Outside the Wire” Buttigieg, who, unlike Der Donald, actually put on a uniform that meant something, has been less than enthused with the president’s take that “when they fight sometimes they get really treated very unfairly.”

“The idea that being sent to war turns you into a murderer is exactly the kind of thing that those of us who have served have been trying to beat back for more than a generation,” Buttigieg said, adding, “Frankly, his idea that being sent to fight makes you automatically into some kind of war criminal is slander against veterans that could only come from somebody who never served.

So who’s behind the push to pardon all the prisoner killers?

Enter Fox & Friends Of Freedom Pete Hegseth, who along with Rep. Duncan “But I Only Spent Some Of It Illegally” Hunter has been lobbying hard to pardon what they both see as heroes being unjustly tried for things real warriors do anyway.

“These are men who went into the most dangerous places on earth with a job to defend us and made tough calls on a moment’s notice. They’re not war criminals, they’re warriors.”

It’s true that civilians armchair quarterbacking the war effort can interpret what’s done in the name of freedom as something other than the shit that happens when people are trying to shoot other people in the face. But making a man strip naked and then killing him when you’ve been ordered to take him home isn’t a tough call: it’s a deliberate act that violates the fuck out of the conventions designed to draw a line between the warrior and the war criminal.

We could argue the efficacy of a war effort that clings to concepts like laws of land warfare when faced with an enemy that’s less inclined to play by the rules. But until governments decide that the rules don’t matter and the world goes full Lord of the Flies on the battlefield, there are rules to how this is done. Rules that matter, and rules that separate the good guys from the other guys.

Even when the other guys are American Taliban we’re letting leave prison.

On the upside, Trump and his Foxian ilk are in the minority, but there are plenty of uniformed service members that agree with their position. And by sending a message from the top that the rules don’t really matter anymore, we run a real risk of eroding the institution of the profession of arms, and cede whatever moral high ground still remains to the forces of the United States.

Ghani happy to play in overtime

Because fuck democracy, President Ghani’s National Unity Government mandate ran out on 22 May 2019. However, since the Afghan Supreme Court says it’s cool that he stays until the delayed elections happen in September, the president’s still working as if it’s cool that he stick around.

This is already leading to demonstrations by the opposition, who think he should step down and let a caretaker government take over until the elections. Which he has no intention of doing, and there’s president: Hamid Karzai did the same thing in 2014 when presidential elections then were such a shitshow.

Complicating things? Ghani’s counterpart in the NUG, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah is running against him for president, as is his former national security adviser. None of which means this promises to be a peaceful transition of power in the fall.

DoD gets base money, Trump loses a wall battle

The Senate finally passed a $19 billion disaster relief bill that’s going to help rebuild key facilities like Tyndall AFB in Florida. Sticking point in kicking this loose? $4.5 billion the White House wanted to deal with the border.

Democrats said this was a non-starter, and the Trumpster appears to have ceded, even though a court is blocking DoD funds for that wall. Which is going over pretty well.

Is that eggplant racist or just a dick reference?

Sometimes a cigar’s just a cigar, but the eggplant emoji might be racist af.

The two pilots also submitted logs from a WhatsApp chat group called "Pure Bloods," in which instructor pilots disparaged them and their performance. In the chat, one of the instructors used the eggplant emoji to refer to the Marine pilot. It was a visual representation of a racial slur, the pilot alleged.

"That dude was so bad. I can't even comprehend how someone does not have the most basic level of self-awareness and realize he's going to kill himself or someone else," an instructor wrote in the chat.

The Marine pilot had also been singled out in the squadron when a significant mishap for which he was responsible -- mistaking an instructor's order and blowing the canopy off an F/A-18 -- was depicted on a class T-shirt with the slogan, "Once you pop, the fun don't stop."

The investigation determined the eggplant had been meant as a phallic symbol, not a racial one. Paired with a cork-popping champagne bottle emoji in the chat, the symbols were intended to reference masturbation, not the Marine pilot and the canopy incident, the probe concluded. However, the discussions were evidence of a broader lack of inclusion and professionalism, Miller decided.

The story’s less than amusing, however, because at issue is whether African American pilots in training are being treated differently by white instructors and colleagues. Because getting the callsign “Radio” if you’re black and in uniform? Not a good luck, ‘murca.

No more Rolling Thunder…thanks, millenials!

First they came for the motorcycles, now they’re coming for Memorial Day motorcycle rides, as this year will be the last year for the Rolling Thunder ride through DC.

Muller denied that waning interest among younger veterans was a factor in calling off Rolling Thunder. The National Park Service declines to give crowd estimates, but Muller said Rolling Thunder had about a half-million participants in 2018.

So maybe the kids are all right, and the cost of keeping this thing running is what’s killing it. Still, membership in Rolling Thunder chapters nationwide and overall membership in older veterans organizations is on the decline. Here’s hoping that when the bikes go silent, we don’t forget about why they were rolling in the first place.