10:20:32 pm on
Sunday 15 Dec 2019

War Crimes
AJ Robinson

My dad considered himself a war criminal. Some years ago, I wrote a story called The Face of Thy Enemy, which explains why. You can find it here among my library of stories.


It was WWII in Italy.

In The Face of Thy Enemy, I related the details of a deeply troubling episode in the life of my father. It was World War II. He was in Italy, leader of men.

One night they had to deal with a contingent of German soldiers that were encamped near them. My dad went to check out their camp. He killed a sentry.

He beat the German soldier to death, with a tire iron. It was dark. The guard had his back to my father. It wasn’t until dad dragged the body away and rolled him over that he knew what he’d done: he murdered a child.

The guard was fourteen, at the most. Some could argue he was a soldier. He was in the uniform, he was on guard duty and he was the enemy. Role reversal was possible; it was war, after all.

Thus, my dad justified in his action. All those pretty arguments did little to assuage the guilt that tore at his soul for the rest of his life. The night he told me the story, I understood, finally, why dad never encouraged my brothers or me to enlist in the Army, say. I understood why he didn’t like it when my friends and I played war games or other shoot ‘em scenarios. The memories still burned inside his mind, thirty years later.


What would my dad think of Trump and his military injustice?

I thought of my dad recently, when I heard of The Great Orange once more inserting himself into military justice. Yes, I know, I could write of the impeachment hearings, but I feel like there’s nothing new to say there and this little story seems to be slipping under the radar of many people.

Lost in the shuffle of endless reports on the latest outrage by Trump are a few news stories dealing with him granting pardons or clemency to American soldiers guilty of various war crimes. Every time he does grants such a pardon, I think of my dad and how deeply hurt he would be by those acts.

My dad was not a career military officer, but he had a deep respect for our armed forces. He also understood the need for rules and discipline in such an organization, especially during wartime. My dad supported the peace action qua war in Viet Nam, but he was furious over incidents like the My Lai Massacre. He would go off on a rant saying, “What did we fight the war for, if we’re no better than the Nazis?” The war he was referring to was, of course, World War II. For my dad, it was always the war.

This is something Trump cannot and probably never will understand. As a draft dodger looking to suck up to the military, he obviously thinks he needs to protect the troops from any sort of accountability. In a twisted sort of way, it does make sense, of a sort. After all, he is never accountable for anything, he does. In addition, as he has openly called for the murder of innocent civilians, the families of combatants and terrorists, he probably sees the actions of these criminals as totally justified. Heck, if he could, he’d probably give all those men medals.

He is so wrong. What’s worse is that he’s not merely wrong. He’s actually hurting our armed forces.

All of these war criminals came to justice by the actions of their comrades. The people that saw what they were doing reported them to their superiors. Then the investigations moved up the chain of command; this is how it works.


Trump screws up everything.

Ultimately, the trials ended in disciplinary action for the men convicted. Then the Great Orange stepped in and screwed everything up. As with everything else he touches, he’s diminished and damaged our troops, our military and our standing in the world. What’s sadder still is that no one seems to care, no one reports this travesty and there are no consequences for Trump. My dad would weep.

Combining the gimlet-eye, of Philip Roth, with the precisive mind of Lionel Trilling, AJ Robinson writes about what goes bump in the mind, of 21st century adults. Raised in Boston, with summers on Martha's Vineyard, AJ now lives in Florida. Most of the time he writes, but sometimes he works at Disney World to renew his fantasies and get a few dollars more. AJ writes, with insight and passion, about his family and his dog. His liberal, note the small "l," sensibilities often lead to bouts of righteous indignation, well focused and true.

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