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INELIGIBLE BY CURRENT LAW; CONVENING AUTHORITY FOR “PENDLETON 8”
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jan. 2, 2017) — President-Elect Donald Trump has announced that his choice for Secretary of the Department of Defense (DOD) is Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis (Ret), a four-star general who oversaw the prosecutions of the “Pendleton 8” following the death of an Iraqi civilian in Hamdania, Iraq in April 2006.
Enlisting in the Marines in 1969, Mattis spent 43 years in various capacities, including as a platoon commander in the Third Marine Division; captain of the First Marine Brigade in the Pacific and Indian Oceans; a battalion officer and later, a lieutenant colonel in Operation Desert Storm and Commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command as a general.
His last position before retiring in 2013 was Commander, U.S. Central Command in the Middle East.
According to The New York Times, Mattis told members of Congress that the Obama regime employed a “policy of disengagement in the Middle East” which allowed terrorism to flourish.
Mattis was the convening authority for the Pendleton 8 trials involving seven Marines and a Navy corpsman.
The most severely punished of the group, Sgt. Lawrence Gordon Hutchins, III spent more than six years in military prison after his 2007 conviction for the death of the Iraqi civilian in Hamdania.
After his arrest, Hutchins was interrogated for hours in solitary confinement without an attorney present by NCIS agent James Connolly, the same person named by LCDR Walter Francis Fitzpatrick, III (Ret.) as having visited his home unannounced in March 2005 and threatening his life were he to continue to press for a new investigation into the forgery of his signature on a confession letter admittedly crafted by Fitzpatrick’s defense attorney following his 1990 court-martial.
In what evolved into a lengthy saga, Hutchins’s conviction was twice overturned and Hutchins not only reinstated in the Marines, but also restored in rank to sergeant from a demotion to private.
He spent some of his prison time at Ft. Leavenworth, where he became known as one of the “Leavenworth 10.”
In June 2015, a retrial of Hutchins’s case was conducted, resulting in his receiving a “bad-conduct discharge” for the original alleged crime of “unpremeditated murder.” However, the jury determined that no additional prison time was warranted.
During the hearing, six of seven of Hutchins’s fellow military members in Hamdania that day refused to testify against him and claimed that their statements in their own trials were “coerced by prosecutors and the NCIS.” A seventh testified against Hutchins.
According to a biography of Mattis at brittanica.com, Mattis once described Taliban operatives as “fun to shoot.” In August 2007, Mattis, then a lieutenant general, allowed two of the Pendleton 8 to be released early from their prison sentences but declined to do so for Hutchins and another defendant in the case.
Some sources have reported that in order to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate as Secretary of Defense, Mattis would require a waiver. However, such a “waiver” would have to take the form of a congressional statute because of the National Security Act of 1947, which bars former uniformed military from serving in a civilian capacity until they have been retired for ten years.
In 1950, Congress passed a statute allowing Gen. George C. Marshall (Ret), who had retired from military service in 1945 and served as Secretary of State, to serve as President Harry Truman’s Secretary of Defense. However, the statute included the following wording specific to Marshall:
While Sen. John McCain has indicated his support for a statute allowing Mattis to serve, others have voiced their opposition.