This article appeared in the May 24, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

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Memorial Day, presidential pardons, and a question of honor

Paul Morigi/AP/File
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, shown in 2013 in Washington, is among several high-ranking retired officers to oppose the proposed presidential pardon of war criminals, on the grounds it sets a bad precedent and could put soldiers at risk.
Peter Grier
Washington editor

Irwing Lazo is a former Marine who served three tours in Iraq. He says that the first principle of the Marine Corps is honor.

And that, Mr. Lazo says, is why he’s insulted by reports that President Donald Trump is considering pardons for several U.S. service members charged with or convicted of war crimes, including murder. It’s possible those pardons could be issued as early as this Memorial Day weekend.

If they do happen, they’d be “the exact opposite of what the military stands for,” Mr. Lazo, who now works for a California school district, told our correspondent Martin Kuz.

Honor is not a vague concept in the U.S. military. Specific definitions are drilled into recruits. The Marine definition calls for Corps members to “exemplify the ultimate” in ethical and moral behavior, among other things.

“This is the bedrock of our character,” it says.

At issue are actions that seem to contradict that ethos. The situations differ. But one case involves a Navy SEAL accused of killing a defenseless prisoner and shooting unarmed civilians, including a young girl, in Iraq. Another involves the murder of an unarmed Afghan. And so on.

Some high-ranking former officers, including former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey, have denounced the possible pardons. They say excusing such behavior could put American troops at risk.

Rank-and-file vets contacted by Mr. Kuz had personal reactions to the news.

Joe Fuentes, a Floridian who deployed to Afghanistan with the Marine Corps Reserves in 2009, says that issuing such pardons on Memorial Day shows a misunderstanding of the holiday, meant to remember members of the military who paid the ultimate price.

Maggie Seymour, a resident of South Carolina and Marine intelligence officer who deployed to both Iraq and Afghanistan, worries the pardons might erode Americans’ support of the military.

“It’s damaging at the personal level,” concluded Mr. Lazo, a former corporal. “It diminishes my sacrifice and the sacrifice of everyone who has served honorably.”

Now to our five stories for the day, which include a look at how employers are ditching their old thinking about age and hiring more older workers, and a story about a town in southern Jordan and its centuries-old tradition of hospitality and the feeding of travelers.

This article appeared in the May 24, 2019 edition of the Monitor Daily.

Read 05/24 edition
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