Trump’s Pardons are a Message

Keegan Waller
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Donald Trump’s recent decision to pardon the people who murdered 17 civilians in the Nisour Square Massacre might be seen as more of the same pandering to his base that he has been doing for the last four years. It could be seen as an attempt to curry favor and hold influence over Erik Prince, the billionaire brother of Betsy Devos and wannabee super villain who founded Blackwater, in the lead up to inauguration day in the event that his coup attempt goes beyond the courts. It could be neither. It might be both.

But whatever Trump’s reasoning for the pardon, this should be seen as another dog whistle to potentially violent white men that they can and will get away with murder as long as the people they are murdering are non-white, and preferably non-conservative. Nick Slatten and the rest of the mass-shooters at Nisour Square have been a talking point for the far-right for years, there has been constant chatter about how the government has gone soft for punishing war criminals, and how the military should “take the gloves off” and massacre even more civilians in the Middle East. In the minds of the people on the far-right, the issue is not that America is continuing to destabilize the region for profit, it is that we aren’t doing it effectively enough. To them, Slatten and his friends firing machine guns into a crowd of men, women, and children is not an atrocity, it’s a good start.

Expect this rhetoric to increase now that four of the most high-profile war criminals from the Iraq War have avoided consequences for their actions. It may be a coincidence that these pardons come at the same time that the Justice Department closed the case on the cops who killed Tamir Rice without filing charges, at the same time that Kyle Rittenhouse is being lauded by Republican politicians and their constituents as a hero for murdering two leftist protestors, at the same time the Kenosha DA declined to press charges on the cop who shot Jacob Blake, and at the same time a far-right protestor is not being prosecuted for shooting a counter-protestor on film at a protest in Olympia, WA, but it should not be treated as such, and Trump’s base will only become bolder as a result. And on top of that, Erik Prince now owes Trump a favor.

Stay safe, and watch out for your people in the coming months.

Keegan Waller is a writer from Georgia who lives in Utah where he is pursuing a bachelor's degree in English. His writing has been featured in Boston Literary Magazine, Folio, and various websites and magazines. He writes for the Utah State YDSA chapter's website, which can be found at