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Opinion | Trump’s Code of Dishonor

The Navy still demoted Gallagher for posing with the dead captive. That was until some Gallagher pals and Fox News got Trump to reverse the punishment, restore his rank — and block the Navy from upholding its moral code by stripping Gallagher of his Trident pin, signifying his membership in the elite SEALs.

For Trump, the idea that in war or diplomacy there would be an ethical code that we’d impose on ourselves is an utterly alien concept. Trump has never lived by any code in any context — not in real estate and not as president.

Codes are for suckers and sissies in Trump’s view. He thinks that what makes American soldiers great is that they’re killers. And his view is let killers be killers. And anyway, for Trump, if an Iraqi girl wearing a hijab got shot by accident, who cares, they’re all scum anyway.

As Andrew Sullivan put it in an essay on this subject in New York magazine last week: “A president who believes a war criminal is among the finest fighters the U.S. has and suggests he will pardon him after his trial is, quite simply, unique in the history of the U.S.”

But Gallagher’s SEAL teammates, by calling him out, said that what makes our military unique and respected is that we operate by a code and that code operates even in the most heated of firefights. That code is our moral framework under pressure, and by holding each other to it we keep our unit and our country strong.

That’s why they blew the whistle. But Trump hates whistle-blowers who take seriously their oath to defend the Constitution. That’s why the same president who invited the cowardly Gallagher and his wife to Mar-a-Lago — not the heroic SEALs who had the courage and integrity to step forward to defend their code, our code — was the same president who used the cowardly Rudy Giuliani to secretly push out the high-integrity U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, who had the courage to defend our code in diplomacy and try to prevent the spread of corruption in Kyiv.

Why does it all matter, you ask? Ask the family of the next American soldier captured by terrorists after his captors declare, “We’re going to do to your soldier just what Trump excused Gallagher for doing to one of ours.”

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