Clint Lawrence, A former Army lieutenant convicted of second-degree murder for war crimes in Afghanistan was a beneficiary of several pardons issued to convicted war criminals by former President Donald Trump.

Lawrence, who won a pardon after an advocacy campaign by conservative activists and Republican politicians, was released from prison in 2019 thanks to Trump. From then on, he moved forward in his life in every way. He has written two books: one on his experience being accused of war crimes and the other offering tips for millennial conservative activists on how to ensure that America “will always lead the world in everything.”

In his latest post-murder move, Lawrence is working to become a lawyer. After graduating from Appalachia School of Law this May, he is now also reportedly sitting for the Oklahoma bar exam and applying to practice law in the state.

The idea of ​​a convicted war criminal being tasked with interpreting and upholding the law in America has upset some — especially Lawrence’s former military comrades. It was people from his unit who arrested him after witnessing the murder of two innocent Afghan villagers, Haji Mohammad Aslam and Ghamai Abdul Haq. They testified against him at his court-martial.

Now, a man in his unit is making his objections official. In response to the news that Lawrence would sit for the bar exam, Todd Fitzgerald issued a letter to the Oklahoma Bar Association calling for its one-time bar commander to be denied certification to practice law in the state.

Fitzgerald, a former Army soldier who served with Lawrence in the 82nd Airborne Division in Kandahar and witnessed his crimes, sent his letter late last month. The message outlines a series of events that he and his fellow soldiers witnessed during the period they were under Lawrence’s volatile command – for three whole days – before killing two civilians.

“During the three days that he was in charge of our platoon, his actions were deliberate and he repeatedly displayed an astonishing lack of forthrightness, which resulted in his being reported, detained, and ultimately fired by me and many others. He was convicted and sentenced on the basis of the testimony of eyewitness, Fitzgerald wrote in his letter to Barr. (Neither Laurens nor the Oklahoma Bar responded to requests for comment.)

Fitzgerald wrote that, during those three short days, after Lawrence had been sent to his post, soldiers observed him pointing a gun at the face of an elderly Afghan man as he prepared to kill him, causing a chaotic situation in a village. methodically opened fire, ordered his reluctant soldiers to shoot and kill two unarmed men on a motorcycle, and then threatened to kill the weeping women and children of the village, who later came to collect the dead men’s bodies .

In his letter, Fitzgerald said that Lawrence “behaved cruelly and inhumanely without provocation, and caused loss of innocent life as well as the safety of everyone in the vicinity.” The letter accused Lawrence of fabricating a false narrative in his defense that the men he ordered killed were villagers, known to US soldiers, and supporters of the Taliban, while portraying himself as a victim of the political military justice system. . The killing of the two men not only devastated the residents of the nearby village, Fitzgerald said, but also destroyed the US military’s efforts to cooperate with them against the Taliban.

“He has since refused to accept any responsibility for his actions.”

“He has since refused to accept any responsibility for his actions,” Fitzgerald said in his letter, “instead saying that he takes responsibility for our actions as if he is protecting us while The truth is that he has put everyone in danger. By causing the death of those who were earlier helping us and destroying the relationship we had built with the local citizens.

Fitzgerald was not the only one in Lawrence’s platoon who had this feeling about his former commanding officer. In view of their pardon, many of them come forward to give your feedback, one described it as a “nightmare”. while Lawrence has become a cause celebre In parts of the right wing, with Trump bringing him and other pardoned war criminals on stage with him at public events, soldiers who served under Lawrence’s command and witnessed his actions in the line of duty are suffering from post-traumatic stress. Has suffered from eating disorders, alcoholism, suicide, and drug abuse since leaving the military.

In an op-ed for Army Times published Last month, another soldier who served under Lawrence in Afghanistan, Mike McGuinness, also called on the Oklahoma bar to decline Lawrence’s advocacy bid. McGuinness described Lawrence as morally unfit to be entrusted with the responsibility of upholding or interpreting the law under any circumstances.

McGuinness wrote, “Ordering unarmed people to shoot, threatening women and children, and then asking subordinates to cover it up is very serious evidence of a lack of moral composure.” “What makes this stand out even more is Lawrence’s insistence that he was a victim, his complete lack of remorse, and his failure to take accountability for his actions in Afghanistan.”

Raeford, NC - May 6: Mike McGuinness at home on May 6, 2020 in Raeford, North Carolina.  McGuinness was a staff sergeant in the platoon that served under Clint Lawrence.  McGuinness said:

Mike McGuinness at home on May 6, 2020 in Raeford, NC. McGuinness was a staff sergeant in the platoon that served under Clint Lawrence.

Photo: Bonnie Jo Mount/The Washington Post via Getty Images

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Lawrence was initially sentenced to 19 years in prison after a 2013 court-martial for murder. He was released from prison in 2019, after a successful campaign by conservative activists and commentators—including Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Pete Hegseth—as well as current and former GOP politician Duncan Hunter. Paul Gosarand Adam Kinzinger – to lobby for Trump’s pardon.

Lawrence’s pardon — and subsequent self-reinvention as a conservative activist, author and future lawyer — was only one result of Trump’s emboldening of convicted war criminals during his time in office. In addition to Lawrence, Trump pardoned a group Blackwater mercenaries blamed for an infamous massacre in Iraq, Former Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, and several other soldiers convicted by military courts for killing civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan. These pardons were often issued objections US military lawyers, senior military commanders and other Pentagon officials criticized the move as undermining military discipline and damaging the armed forces’ reputation.

Today, Lawrence’s LinkedIn page describes himself as a “military justice reform advocate” as well as an “Iraq and Afghanistan veteran and author.” Page says he completed his degree from the Appalachian School of Law in May of this year. It is unclear whether the outcry from other veterans he served with will be enough to prevent Lawrence from practicing law in Oklahoma, especially given his support from several powerful conservative politicians who advocated for his pardon. . Despite his unpopularity among the troops he commanded, he remains a revered figure on the Republican right, who have portrayed Lawrence’s defense as an act of loyalty to American service members.

“It is an appeal to the conscience of those who were unjustly killed and are not here to defend themselves.”

Yet the celebration of a war criminal convicted by the military’s own court system, the neglect of those who served under it and tried to do the right thing, has left a painful memory for Fitzgerald and others who spoke out against Lawrence . In his letter to the Oklahoma Bar, Fitzgerald called on the institution to take a moral stand against Lawrence and deny him admission in light of the serious crimes of which he had been convicted.

“It is my utmost respect for the rule of law and the institutions that uphold these laws that prompt me to send this communication. It has been a horrifying experience and a moral trauma to live amidst the killings of two innocent people. As long as the person responsible takes no accountability and attempts to exercise influence over the lives of others in any position of authority or control, it would be a great injustice to say nothing,” Fitzgerald wrote. “This is an appeal to the conscience of those who died unjustly and are not here to advocate for themselves, for their families and for all the other living witnesses who carry the burden of this loss on their hearts and souls. living together ,

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