Fox News contributor Pete Hegseth supports President Donald Trump’s reported plans to pardon several U.S. servicemen who’ve been accused or convicted of war crimes — and in an op-ed published late Thursday, the former serviceman explained why.
But in doing so, he made a candid admission that’s been seized upon by some members of the left to portray him as a violent, villainous man and potential war criminal.
“I was tasked with releasing Iraqi men who we knew had American blood on their hands. The lawyers told us we had to,” he wrote of his past military work.
“Did we think about taking justice into our own hands? Sure we did. The only thing that keeps me up at night is wondering whether those jihadists went on to kill Americans.”
Some of the backlash may be seen below:
— Winston Smith 🏳️🌈 (@WinSmith71) May 24, 2019
2-Hegseth, u miserable RW moron, you and ppl like you BETTER PRAY THAT JUSTICE IS NEVER DONE REGARDING IRAQ. Because any justice regarding it will not be a good place for this country. And no-TRUMP’S PISS & VINEGAR WILL NEVER WASH YOUR RECORD AWAY.
— DSPAM (@DSPAM11) May 24, 2019
“Violent white male” and their enablers is the Fox audience 🤷🏼♀️
— AJLux (@LuxAngela) May 24, 2019
Hegseth may even have done it and absolving these war criminals would give him absolution. Regardless, it’s a travesty of justice that undermines troop morale and incites more crime.https://t.co/4bSryYX0VG
— blue 🌊 rant 🧢 2019 (@web_rant) May 24, 2019
What these critics may have neglected to consider was the context.
“We send men to fight on our behalf, and too often second guess the manner in which they fight. Count me out on the Monday morning quarterbacking — I’m with the American warfighter, all the way,” Hegseth’s passionate piece continued.
“I’ve been on the battlefield and that’s why I feel so passionately about this issue,” he wrote. “I’m not talking about massacres or sheer recklessness. None of us ever contemplated the killing of women and children for sport. We didn’t shoot innocent civilians for fun.”
“There may be a few deranged combat troops, and they will get their due. Yet, too often, when warfighters come home they are second-guessed. Prosecuted by lawyers who never left their air-conditioned offices or politicians with ulterior motives.”
The bolded statement above suggests that Hegseth doesn’t support war crimes. He does appear to believe however that accused servicemen deserve the benefit of the doubt.
“Lives ruined, reputations destroyed, families broken—all because they were willing to do things other Americans can barely fathom. They are heroes, every one of them,” he added.
“From Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher to Green Beret Matt Golstyen to 1st Lieutenant Clint Lorrence. We presume these men guilty before trial, or lock them up and throw away the key. Since my tours, I’ve thought a great deal about rules of engagement, ‘war crimes,’ and the way we fight wars.
To be clear, neither Gallagher nor Golstyen — two of the men the president is considering pardoning — have been convicted or locked up. Gallagher is currently under court martial for allegedly going on a killing spree that left several unarmed citizens and a prisoner of war dead. Golstyen meanwhile has been charged with murder for killing an alleged Afghani bomb-maker.
Other potential pardon recipients include a former Blackwater guard, Nicholas Slatten, found guilty of shooting dozens of unarmed Iraqis, and a group of Marine snipers accused of urinating on a dead Taliban fighter’s corpse.
— Pete Hegseth (@PeteHegseth) May 24, 2019
In concluding his piece, Hegseth shared his belief that America’s rules of engagement need be rewritten.
“Since my tours, I’ve thought a great deal about rules of engagement, ‘war crimes,’ and the way we fight wars,” he wrote. “I’ve lived it and talked about it. My experience is that—if we want to win this long war—we need to back our warfighters, to include rewriting our rules.”
Again, neither Gallagher nor Golstyen have been convicted and locked up. As for the Blackwater guard mentioned earlier, he was convicted for taking part in a massacre.
“Slatten was convicted of killing Ahmed Haithem Ahmed Al Rubia’y, 19, an aspiring doctor who was one of more than a dozen civilians killed by Blackwater guards in Baghdad’s Nisour Square on 16 September 2007,” The Guardian reported last year.
“While escorting a diplomatic convoy, Blackwater guards opened fire in the bustling square with sniper rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers – allegedly without provocation – leaving at least 14 civilians dead and at least 18 wounded. The Iraqi government says the toll was higher.”
It’s unclear whether Hegseth also views Slatten as a hero deserving of a pardon, or if his op-ed was only in reference to certain servicemen. Regardless, for the most part, social media users appear to be responding positively to his column and negatively to his critics.
I’m a bleeding-heart liberal and I don’t think “considering” it is evil. Acting would be. Fleeting thoughts aren’t what we should be judged by. Even Jimmy Carter lusted in his heart.
— Chris Randall (@cfrandall) May 24, 2019
In those circumstances I think those thoughts and feelings would be entirely normal and ought to be entirely unsurprising.
“People Sleep Peacefully in Their Beds at Night Only Because Rough Men Stand Ready to Do Violence on Their Behalf”
— pjw (@pwj70) May 24, 2019
It’s fineto disagree with his viewpoint. But it’s insane to criticise him for a very human response, if he didn’t even think about revenge he’d be some form of sociopath
— Kevin Wrigley (@KevWrigley) May 24, 2019
Great piece Pete. How can you ever explain the intersection of nutty ROE and the chaos of an engagement?
Those who offer it all deserve the presumption of innocence as well as the recognition that what they were doing was unimaginable to those who haven’t.
— Dan Bowen (@ScotchGuyDan) May 24, 2019
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