Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and a 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, tore into President Donald Trump’s plan to pardon several U.S. servicemen accused or convicted of war crimes, calling it “disgusting” and “an affront” to the law.
“When you serve, when you take that oath, the oath is to the Constitution,” Buttigieg, a U.S. Navy veteran, told The Washington Post’s Robert Costa during a livestreamed interview Thursday.
“If you are convicted by a jury of your military peers of having committed a war crime, the idea that the president is going to overrule that is an affront to the basic idea of good order and discipline and to the idea of law ― the very thing we believe we’re putting lives on the line to defend,” he added.
The White House has reportedly requested the necessary paperwork to issue a pardon for a Navy SEAL accused of firing on civilians in Iraq in 2017 and fatally stabbing a wounded teenage ISIS fighter.
The accused, Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward “Eddie” Gallagher, also allegedly bragged about racking up civilian kills and threatened members of his SEAL team if they reported him. He has pleaded not guilty.
Others who are reportedly up for a pardon include a former Blackwater security contractor who was found guilty of shooting dozens of unarmed Iraqis and an Army Green Beret accused of killing an unarmed Afghan in 2010.
“Another thing that makes this so dangerous and so insulting to people who served is, you know, we finally live in a time when Americans have figured out how to separate the way they feel about a policy from the way they treat troops,” Buttigieg said Thursday. “This was not the case for everybody who came back from Vietnam.”
I’m so thankful that we live in a moment that we can honor the troops separately from policy. Even then, there are some people .. who think anybody who served is a war criminal. ... Our firewall against that is the fact that American law ― American military law ― is abundantly clear on what you do and do not do in uniform. And if you do something wrong in uniform, you will be prosecuted and you will be held accountable. If the president blows a hole in that, he is blowing a hole in the integrity of the military and he is putting troops’ lives at risk.
Buttigieg on Thursday also bashed Trump for “faking a disability” to avoid military service during the Vietnam War era. When he was draft-eligible, he received deferments because a doctor diagnosed him with bone spurs in his feet.
“I don’t have a problem standing up to somebody who was working on Season 7 of ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ when I was packing my bags for Afghanistan,” Buttigieg said, referring to the president’s past role on the reality TV show.
“I have a pretty dim view of his decision to use his privileged status to fake a disability in order to avoid serving in Vietnam,” he continued. “I don’t mean to trivialize disability, but I think that’s exactly what he did. ... If he were a conscientious objector, I’d admire that. But this is somebody who ... took advantage of the fact that he was the child of a multimillionaire in order to pretend to be disabled so that somebody could go to war in his place.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.