By Shawn VanDiver
“There are some assholes in the world who just need to be shot.”
What a striking sound bite–especially when it is ascribed to President-elect Trump’s choice for Secretary of Defense, the beloved and seemingly infallible General “Mad Dog” Mattis. Reality, however, cannot always be summed up through sound bites. And besides, General Mattis surely could not have meant that unarmed civilians or detainees in the custody of the U.S. Military deserve to be killed without trial or imminent threat. Therefore when Rep. Duncan Hunter, Jr.–whose father previously held the office for many years–used this quote from General Mattis, my lie detector went off.
Over the past eight years, Hunter has harshly criticized the Obama administration in the name of “the troops”. His shots are often off-base, always politically motivated, and rarely, if ever, aligned with military core values. For instance, his most recent forays into Department of Defense policy have been on the behalf of convicted war criminals–one who is serving 19 years and one who walks free today.
Serving out his sentence in Kansas, First Lieutenant Clint Lorance had ordered soldiers in his platoon to kill three unarmed Afghan civilians who were on a motorcycle about 200 yards away.
Ultimately he was convicted of two counts of second degree murder for his actions, and the conviction was upheld after a review by the Commanding General of the 82nd Airborne Division. While his mother pleads with President Obama for a pardon, the soldiers in his command describe Clint as having “a taste for blood” and being overzealous and out of control. At his trial, several members of his platoon testified against him. They asserted that he spent days leading up to the ordered murders tormenting locals and issuing death threats.
Major Matthew Golsteyn, meanwhile, walks free. After information surfaced in a polygraph for employment with the CIA, he was convicted of “Conduct Unbecoming an Officer” and stripped of a Silver Star plus his Special Operations uniform tab. Golsteyn, the Army learned, had taken a suspected bomb maker, executed him, buried his body, and then dug it up in order to burn it and destroy the evidence.
Those actions constitute murder, plain and simple, but his conviction was lenient due to lack of evidence. Now new information has come to light, and so the Army has reopened the case. Goldsteyn’s heinous act is an affront to common decency, insults my service and the service of all my brothers and sisters who wear the uniform, and should be investigated fully. Hunter, however, aims to block the investigation.
These men are war criminals. So, why would Rep. Hunter support them? Why would he support a pardon for Lorance and attempt to block the investigation of Golsteyn?
Each military service has adopted core values. In the Navy and Marine Corps, we cite Honor, Courage, and Commitment as ours. Yet I am having a hard time identifying how Duncan Hunter, a Marine Corps veteran, can square those core values while supporting these war criminals.
I can only assume that somewhere along the way he lost his values. Recently on Facebook he posted a scathing critique of Secretary of the Army Fanning, in which he said that the Army had no business reopening the investigation into Major Golsteyn. Then he posted yet again, declaring how the sentence for a man for illegally ordering the deaths of Afghan nationals should be ignored and that Lorance should instead be pardoned.
Hunter labeling Golsteyn and Lorance as heroes goes beyond me. Core values matter; they unify everyone who has worn or continues to wear the cloth of our nation. I think it is wonderful that Congressman Hunter sticks up for the little guy, I just wish he was a little more judicious about the folks he backs and a little less politically vilifying of my fellow Democrats. Honor, Courage, and Commitment are not partisan concepts.
Shawn VanDiver is a 12 year Navy veteran and Co-Director of the Truman National Security Project San Diego Chapter. Follow him on Twitter at @ShawnJVanDiver