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Trump’s war-crime pardons could be his most Nixonian moment yet

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21.05.2019

If indeed President Trump pardons one or more U.S. military men accused or convicted of war crimes in Afghanistan or Iraq, it could be his most Nixonian moment yet.

On March 29, 1971, a U.S. Army court-martial at Fort Benning, Ga., convicted Lt. William Calley of 22 murders for his part in the massacre of as many as 500 men, women and children by a company of U.S. soldiers at My Lai, Vietnam. The tribunal sentenced him to life in prison.

President Richard M. Nixon did not see this as an opportunity to drive home the point that U.S. soldiers must follow the laws of war and that deviations are not only morally wrong but counterproductive militarily.

Rather, Nixon decided to exploit a groundswell of sympathy for Calley. In 1971, millions of Americans vilified Calley as typical of a corrupt and violent policy; yet millions more saw him as a dedicated soldier being scapegoated for the failed policies of others.

A song called “Battle Hymn of Lt. Calley” sold more than 200,000 records in the three days after the court-martial ended. “My name is William Calley, I’m a soldier of this land,” the lyrics went. “I’ve tried to do my duty and to gain the upper hand. But they’ve made me out a villain; they have stamped me with a brand.”

Within days of Calley’s conviction, Nixon exercised........

© Washington Post