CODEPINK and many Americans have called on Trump to pardon whistleblowers Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning, who exposed the heinous crimes that U.S. officials, soldiers and mercenaries were responsible for during the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq. Instead, he has pardoned four Blackwater private mercenaries who were convicted of murdering 17 Iraqi civilians, including two boys 9 and 11, in an unprovoked attack on a crowd of unarmed people.
In 2014, three of these convicted murderers—Paul Slough, Evan Liberty and Dustin Heard—were sentenced to 30 year prison sentences, later reduced on appeal, while while the fourth, Nicholas Slatten, the team’s sniper who was the first to open fire, was sentenced to life in prison. As the U.S. Attorney’s office said at the time, “The sheer amount of unnecessary human loss and suffering attributable to the defendants’ criminal conduct on September 16, 2007, is staggering.”
Known as the Nisour Square massacre, the slaughter became a symbol of widespread and systematic abuses by U.S. occupying forces, and led to growing calls by the Iraqis for U.S. forces to leave the country.
Trump’s pardon continues a long, shameful tradition of Americans evading accountability for war crimes in Iraq and other U.S. wars, from policymakers in the Bush administration who gave the orders to invade Iraq on the basis of lies, to politicians like then-Senator Joe Biden who orchestrated one-sided Congressional hearings to strengthen the case for war, to U.S. military officers responsible for illegal orders to torture and kill civilians and prisoners of war. Collectively, they paved the way for endless war and hostility and the creation of ISIS.
This pardon gives the world one more piece of evidence for the U.S. government’s disregard for the lives of the Iraqi people, whose country we destroyed, and for humanity and the rule of law. Trump’s action can only weaken the United States’ deservedly low standing in the world at this critical moment in our history.