Ex-Secretary of Defense William Cohen said members of the military who followed an order by Donald Trump, if here were president, to kill terrorists’ families could face a Nuremberg-like trial for war crimes.
Trump has repeatedly expressed a desire to give such an order and to use torture to fight terrorism, which Cohen called “astounding.”
Speaking on CNN Thursday, Cohen referred to comments on HBO last week by former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden that the military would “refuse to act” on the order given by Trump as commander in chief to kill family members of Islamic State terrorists.
“And I think we have to remember when Michael Hayden, General Hayden is saying that the military may refuse, there’s something called Nuremberg that we have to be concerned about, that you have an order given by the commander in chief which violates every sense of law and order, international law and order, that would make any of those who carried out that dictum as such to be a violation of the international criminal code,” said Cohen, who served under President Bill Clinton. “So I think we have to be very careful what we’re saying here.”
Trump, the front-runner in the Republican presidential race, said Friday he would not order the U.S. military to violate international laws to fight terrorism, contradicting positions he restated in the Republican debate the day before.
During the debate on Fox News, Trump reasserted his support for targeting the families of terrorists and for the use of waterboarding. “We should go for waterboarding and we should go tougher than waterboarding,” he said.
But Trump later said in a statement that he understands “that the United States is bound by laws and treaties” and said he would “not order our military or other officials to violate those laws and will seek their advice on such matters.”
In the interview Cohen referenced, Hayden told Bill Maher of Trump that “if he were to order that once in government, the American armed forces would refuse to act.”
“You are required not to follow an unlawful order. That would be in violation of all the international laws of armed conflict,” he said.