What if Donald Trump orders the U.S. military to commit war crimes? The good news is, the top brass has a plan. The bad news is, the plan is rather terrifying.
Let’s start with waterboarding, among the various war crimes Mein Trumpf has vowed to commit while “making America great again.” In a Nov. 2015 interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos he outlined his very simple plan to stop terrorism. First, he’ll deport all Syrian refugees and block any new ones from coming here. Then, he’ll bring back waterboarding.
‘We have to be strong. You know, they don’t use waterboarding over there, they use chopping off people’s heads, they use drowning people.’
Geneva Conventions? We don’t need no stinkin’ Geneva Conventions. In any case, when it comes to war crimes, “waterboarding is peanuts.”
‘I would bring it back, I think waterboarding is peanuts compared to what they do to us. I would absolutely bring back interrogation and strong interrogation.’
And what does Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), who serves on the Armed Services committee think of Donald Trump’s embrace of war crimes? Back in May, he offered a weak endorsement because “we can’t afford a third Obama-Clinton term.” But on Wednesday he cheerily told CNN‘s Wolf Blitzer that waterboarding isn’t really torture.
‘Waterboarding isn’t torture. We do waterboarding on our own soldiers in the military.’
But just because we train soldiers to withstand waterboarding doesn’t make it ethical or legal. An incredulous Blitzer insisted, “but the U.S. doesn’t do it any more.” But the senator insisted that if we need to commit war crimes, we will.
‘Donald Trump’s a pretty tough guy, and he’s ready to make those tough calls.”
Never mind that for a bully like Donald Trump, committing war crimes against others isn’t necessarily such a “tough call.” This brings us to a more urgent question . . .
What will the U.S. military do when ordered to commit war crimes?
It’s one thing for Donald Trump to order the U.S. military’s top brass to authorize war crimes like waterboarding, bombing civilians, and stealing Iran’s oil. It’s another thing for our soldiers to actually do it. On Friday, CNN reported that although He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named will soon be our commander in chief, he will meet a lot of resistance if he gives orders that involve war crimes.
‘Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook noted on Thursday that all U.S. troops have an obligation not to follow illegal orders. And he made clear the decades of expectations by troops and commanders that they wouldn’t be asked to do so.’
For starters, the disgrace of Abu Ghraib remains all too fresh in our minds. Cook also told CNN that when it comes to U.S. soldiers committing war crimes:
‘I don’t think this is something we should even be discussing. They’re not going to get an order in violation of the law.’
So how do our senior officers plan on confronting the Trump administration if they receive any illegal orders? An official explained they could resign, but no one with four stars or above would do so, because that would put their troops in an untenable position.
‘Instead, the official said, a four-star commander would make a President Trump publicly fire them.’
That’s right. If Donald Trump orders commanding officers in our military to commit war crimes, their plan is to refuse and then shame him by making him fire them in public. The problem is, neither Donald Trump nor the Republicans surrounding him are capable of shame and would likely just keep firing people and drilling down until someone gives the order.
And then our nation will be discredited among all who don’t already think we’re the laughing stock of the world.
‘While the U.S. is not a member of the International Criminal Court at The Hague, if there were illegal orders given and followed, then US military personnel would be discredited around the world and U.S. standing would be hurt with other nations the U.S. military must work with.’
Watch: Sen. Tom Cotton defends Donald Trump’s future war crimes.
Featured image: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images.