15:07 GMT18 January 2021
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    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) - US President Donald Trump's decision to pardon military contractors responsible for a civilian massacre in Baghdad is offensive and hurtful for both the Iraqi people and American soldiers, Vietnam Era veteran and peace activist Gerry Condon told Sputnik.

    "President Trump's pardon of convicted mass murderers adds insult to injury for the people of Iraq, who lost hundreds of thousands of their loved ones as a result of the unjust and illegal US war and occupation", Condon, a former president of Veterans For Peace, said. "Pardoning war criminals also adds insult to injury for the US veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan, and who carry the trauma of having witnessed atrocities against innocent civilians".

    Condon stressed that there are "rules of engagement" that soldiers are supposed to follow in order to avoid committing war crimes.

    "But these rules are frequently disregarded when soldiers are asked to fight unwinnable wars against entire populations", he said. "Young soldiers with lethal weapons are overcome by fear, vengeance, racism and hatred, and they know that there will be no price to pay for murder".

    The fact the US Commander-in-Chief pardoned a few "soldiers of fortune" who were finally held accountable for their unforgivable crimes in Iraq sends the wrong message and must be rejected, he said.

    "Soldiers have the right and the responsibility to refuse illegal orders to kill innocent civilians or to participate in illegal and unnecessary wars", he pointed out.

    The organisation Veterans For Peace continues to call for the withdrawal of all US troops and mercenaries from Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and all of the Middle East and Africa, Condon added.

    He also said Veterans For Peace is urging Trump to pardon individuals like Julian Assange, Chelsea Manning, and Edward Snowden and much-loved political prisoners like Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu Jamal.

    "Such pardons would help to heal the wounds of war. President Trump's pardons do just the opposite", he concluded.

    On Tuesday, Trump granted full pardons to four former Blackwater contractors convicted in connection with the death of 14 Iraqi civilians, including two children, in Baghdad's Nisour Square in 2007.

    Spokesperson for UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Marta Hurtado said in a statement on Wednesday that OHCHR is deeply concerned by Trump's decision to pardon four private military security guards, stressing that "Pardoning them contributes to impunity and has the effect of emboldening others to commit such crimes in the future".

    The four former contractors were convicted six years ago. Nicholas Slatten was serving a life sentence on first-degree murder charges while the others received sentences of between 12-15 years. The incident with the Blackwater guards sparked an international debate about the role of private security companies hired by the US government to work in war zones.

    The private military company Blackwater, founded in 1997, was later sold and rebranded as Academi.

    pardon, Donald Trump, Vietnam War, Iraq, Blackwater Baghdad Shootings, Blackwater
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