Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command, Rear Adm. Collin P. Green delivers remarks during the change of office ceremony July 30, 2019 during which NAVSEA 06 (PMS-340) Major Program Manager Capt. Robert “Chad” Muse was relieved by Capt. Brian O’Lavin. (U.S. Navy photo/Laura Lakeway)
Just last Friday, President Trump announced clemency decisions in the cases of three members of the Armed Forces accused of war crimes. I’m a firm believer in discipline and rules of engagement. But I also believe you can’t send young men into Endless War and expect them to behave in a way that would be required were they working for the Washington Post or on Wall Street. I firmly believe that unless there is blatantly obvious evidence that an atrocity was committed, our guys get the benefit of the doubt because bringing our guys home safely is much more important than some perverse permutation of the Marquis of Queensbury rules.
Anyway, the men who received clemency were Lieutenant Clint Lorance who had served six years of a 19-year sentence for ordering his platoon to engage three Afghan men on a motorcycle that he perceived to be an imminent threat. Lorance, or so I’ve read, had been in-country only two days when the even took place. President Trump’s order released him from prison.
Major Matthew Golsteyn, a decorated and demonstrably heroic Special Forces officer, was the most problematic. He admitted to killing a known Afghan bombmaker but doing so outside the existing rules of engagement. The event happened in 2010 and rather than acting on the allegation and closing it, for reasons best understood by Army lawyers, the case was set to go to trial next month. President Trump’s order prevented that trial from going forward. Golsteyn’s career is finished but he will not be in jeopardy of a long prison sentence.
The best-known case is that of Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher. He was acquitted of murder in a trial that was riddled by criminal malfeasance, incompetence, and bad faith on the part of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the general court-martial convening authority. The prosecution team attempted to bug the phones of Gallagher’s defense team, Gallagher was, for a time, placed in pre-trial confinement, and the star witness confessed on the witness stand that he had killed the enemy fighter that Gallagher had been accused of killing. Gallagher was demoted one grade. Trump ordered him restored to his pre-conviction rank.
The Navy didn’t take that laying down. Someone, somewhere decided that the President might restore Gallagher to rank but they would take action to strip Gallagher of his right to wear the SEAL Trident badge. Virtually all awards and decorations can be revoked but this action seemed nothing short of petty and vindictive…in other words, it was very much like the court-martial itself. The revocation would have no real effect on Chief Gallagher other than to stick a finger in his eye before he was discharged. Just another act of the #Resistance against the authority of the commander-in-chief.
Via the Military Times:
Days after President Donald Trump ordered the Navy to restore Gallagher’s rank to chief petty officer, the head of Naval Special Warfare Command assembled a staff meeting. In it, according to a complaint filed with the Pentagon’s inspector general’s office on Tuesday, Rear Adm. Collin Green “made clear his contempt of the President and disagreement with the President’s decision” to bump Gallagher’s rank back up to chief.
That’s when Green announced plans to strip Gallagher of his trident, the complaint states. Three of the chief’s superiors face the same fate: Lt. Cmdr. Robert Breisch, Lt. Jacob Portier and Lt. Thomas MacNeil.
A Navy official confirmed to Military.com on Tuesday that letters have been drafted to the four informing them that they’ll face trident review boards. The boards will determine whether they can keep the coveted special-warfare insignia.
Via the New York Times:
On Tuesday, multiple Navy and Defense Department officials said the Navy had cleared the decision to review Chief Gallagher’s Trident with the White House, though they acknowledged the risk of seeking to punish a SEAL who counts Mr. Trump among his vocal supporters, and said they knew the president could easily reverse the decision.
Even so, the Navy’s decision to start the process to oust Chief Gallagher was not made in haste, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private deliberations. The commander of Naval Special Warfare, Rear Adm. Collin Green, discussed the matter with Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer and the chief of naval operations, Adm. Michael Gilday, and the Navy briefed Defense Secretary Mark Esper.
In the hours before the letters were issued, two Navy officials said, the Navy reached out to the White House for clearance multiple times.
The answer wasn’t long coming.
The Navy will NOT be taking away Warfighter and Navy Seal Eddie Gallagher’s Trident Pin. This case was handled very badly from the beginning. Get back to business!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 21, 2019
Giving the benefit of the doubt here, it is well known that the SEALs, never known for air-tight discipline, to begin with, and that the Naval Special Warfare commander, Collin Greene, has been trying to tighten things up. The best you can say is that this is one of those ‘A’ for effort, ‘F’ for judgment situations in which smart people myopically plowed ahead and ended up cutting their own legs from underneath them. That’s the best case. But there is little reason to give that benefit of the doubt because there are very few ways of interpreting the Navy’s actions as being anything other than a direct F*** You to President Trump. Trump was obviously watching the Gallagher case. He was the one who intervened to have Chief Gallagher removed from pre-trial detention which the Navy was using as simply additional punishment. Trump congratulated Gallagher on his acquittal. Trump ordered the awards given to the prosecutors in the case to be revoked. Why anyone thought that Trump was going to stand idly by and watch the Navy try to vindictively punish Gallagher after the executive clemency decision is beyond me. This is how Gallagher’s lawyer described it:
“Monday morning, the admiral comes in and says I disagree with the president, I’m going to take his Trident,” Mr. Parlatore said. “What he’s doing here is really just an effort to publicly humiliate Chief Gallagher and stick it right in the president’s eye.”
Exactly right. All this was was an attempt to show the President who was still the boss.
READ: President Trump Orders Navy To Revoke Medals Given To Eddie Gallagher’s Prosecutors
READ: President Trump Restores Chief Petty Officer Gallagher to his Pre-Court Martial Rank
READ: Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher Acquitted of War Crimes Charges by Court Martial
READ: Judge Tosses Military Prosecutor in Trial of Navy SEAL
READ: Judicial Fragging in the Military (VIP content)
READ: Trump Issues Pardons in Three Highly Controversial War Crimes Court Martial Cases