If you have not yet heard about the article in The Atlantic by Jeffrey Goldberg then you may think that this piece is about someone or something else other than the United States military. Unfortunately, the title comes from the mouth of Mr. Donald J. Trump and he was referring to our military, especially to those killed, wounded or missing in action. In accordance with the over 20,000 documented lies that the president has uttered since taking office, no one is surprised that Mr. Trump denied saying anything like that and trotted out a series of sycophants and Trump associates to deny that he ever said it.
Believe what you want, but I’ll go with The Atlantic and the corroboration of the essence of the article as confirmed by the Washington Post, New York Times, Associated Press, and Fox News. It also fits a long pattern of actions on his part that indicate his prime interest in the military is the trappings of office and banana republic style parades and displays of military equipment. For example, in 2018 his personal attorney Michael Cohen testified that Mr. Trump told him that he would never have gone to Vietnam. “You think I’m stupid? I wasn’t going to Vietnam.”
To me, it is easy to believe. It fits a pattern of behavior and conduct in office that fully supports his belief that nothing, absolutely nothing, is worth doing unless there is some personal monetary or other reward involved. He simply cannot comprehend that anybody would put their lives at risk for a concept such as democracy or the Constitution. His world view is that everyone is out to get whatever they can, and to get it they will lie, cheat or steal. If you do not do that then you are a loser or a sucker. You are there to be had.
Apparently in his world view, no one gets rich in the military so to join makes you either stupid — literally, you couldn’t do anything else — or a sucker. He is reported to have said to aides after a briefing by the then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Joe Dunford; “That guy is smart. Why did he join the military?”
This latest revelation of the superficiality of everything associated with Mr. Trump is not surprising. A quick look at some of his greatest hits shows that his language about the military is nothing new. I still find it depressing. Apparently he is not just totally transactional, but also ill-informed and basically ignorant about anything that does not involve his personal interests.
- In 1997 Mr. Trump said during the Howard Stern Show that his “personal Vietnam” was avoiding Sexually Transmitted Diseases. “I feel like a great and very brave soldier.”
- Starting in 1999 he continually attacked Senator John McCain and called him a loser. Mr. Trump denies this but his own Tweet from 18 July 2015 says exactly that. The then Chief of Staff at the Department of Homeland Security Mr. Miles Taylor attested to the fact that Mr. Trump did not want to take any honorific actions following the Senator’s death. Indeed, Mr. Trump was outraged that action was taken.
- Following the 2016 Democratic Convention he relentlessly attacked Khizr and Ghazala Khan after they spoke about the sacrifice of their son Army Captain Khan who was killed in action in 2004.
- In a botched condolence call in 2017 to the widow of Army Sergeant La David Johnson she said that Mr. Trump could not remember her husband’s name (he told her he read it after stumbling over it) and said to her “He knew what he signed up for.” When she expressed her pain over the call, Mr. Trump spent the next eight days attacking her via his Twitter account.
- In 2017 during a meeting in the Pentagon with the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other senior administration officials, he angrily told them they were all “losers.” “I wouldn’t go to war with you people. You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”
- In 2019 he interfered in the military justice system by overturning the war crimes convictions of a Navy SEAL and an Army Special Forces officer and another Army officer about to go on trial for war crimes. Special interests used the medium of Fox News to get him to intervene. He thought it was good for him to do so because it would be popular. He said, “We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill.” Such statements show that he has no clue about the military, its honor, or its code of conduct.
- Against the advice of his senior military and civilian advisers Mr. Trump precipitously withdrew U.S. support to the Kurds in Syria leading to a near massacre as Turkish forces poured across the border. He left a staunch ally in the lurch in order to impress the thugish leader of Turkey.
- This summer Mr. Trump threatened to deploy U.S. combat troops against American citizens. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley had to make two separate public statements affirming the military is not in the business of acting against our own citizens and that the non-partisan nature of the military precludes support for any candidate for public office.
- In July of this year Mr. Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw about a third of our deployed forces in Europe to support NATO. This is a move that certainly delights Russian president Vladimir Putin. His stated reason for doing so was “We don’t want to be the suckers anymore. We’re reducing the force because they’re not paying their bills. It’s that simple.” (Not surprisingly, his statement on bill paying is not accurate and shows his ignorance of how NATO defense spending works. But hey, remember the 20,000 lies.)
- It is well known in and out of government through published reports that Russian agents in Afghanistan put bounties on the heads of U.S. military personnel. Taliban fighters would be paid for each American killed. This is perhaps the greatest sign the Mr. Trump cares not one iota for American military personnel as he makes countless excuses for inaction. Claiming ignorance, to this day he has not confronted the Russians over this outrage. Preventing the needless loss of life for the troops and doing all in his power to keep them safe is the greatest responsibility of the Commander-in-Chief and he refuses to take action.
There are many more examples of his callous disregard for the American military. He seems to think that all he has to do is mouth a few words at some rally and he’s done.
Do I believe that Mr. Trump is capable of calling our dead and wounded losers and suckers? You bet I do. His track record is abysmal. To paraphrase another president, Mr. Trump does not ask what he can do for the country, he asks what the country can do for him.
The last few weeks produced a year’s worth of newsworthy events. Among other things was the Commander-in-Chief interfering with the effective application of good order and discipline in the military under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). The president pardoned three men convicted or accused (and awaiting trial) for war crimes — two Army officers and one Navy Chief Petty Officer. In doing so he further demonstrated a total lack of understanding of the military by tweeting (of course) that he did so because “we train our boys to be killing machines and then prosecute them when they kill!” Such statements totally ignore the fact that what separates our military from most others is that in training to fight for our country, our military also learns to do so with discipline, under a code of conduct that prohibits indiscriminate killing, especially of civilians and works to protect the honor and dignity of our nation’s morals, espoused in a speech by General Douglas MacArthur, as “duty, honor, country.” Note that all three men were brought up on charges of crimes under the UCMJ by their own soldiers and Sailors, not by higher ranking officers trying to make some politically correct example of them, as the president implies.
Hanging over everything of course, is the impending impeachment of the President of the United States. In the course of events, three particularly troubling things are happening that in my opinion fundamentally threaten the nature of our democracy.
Very troubling is the conscious use of Russian propaganda on the part of Republican U.S. Senators to try and defend the president’s shakedown scheme against Ukraine to help his own reelection in 2020 using taxpayer money. Otherwise knowledgeable and intelligent Republican Senators such as John Neely Kennedy (LA) and Ted Cruz (TX) and others publicly say that we do not know whether the Russians meddled in the 2016 election, rather it was the Ukrainians. Such garbage could have been written by the former KGB officer Vladimir Putin himself. A unanimous intelligence community agrees it was the Russians. Period. They agree it was not Ukraine, a fact FBI Director Christopher Wray reiterated just last week. The alleged Ukrainian “meddling” is most often a reference to a single op-ed piece written by the Ukrainian Ambassador to the United States criticizing then candidate Trump for saying that Crimea (stolen from Ukraine by force by Russia) “belongs” to Russia. Since Ukraine and Russia continue in a hot war, it might not be too far of a stretch to say that there were some hard feelings towards Mr. Trump saying, essentially, that Ukraine should be a part of Russia again. Another statement straight out of Putin’s talking points.
It is shameful that Republican Representatives and Senators perpetuate such lies on the citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.
But it get worse.
The long anticipated Department of Justice (DOJ) Inspector General (IG) report on the origins of the investigation into meddling in the 2016 election came out. This report, according to Mr. Trump and his supporters, would unmask the “deep state” and clearly show that the FBI and DOJ were out to keep Mr. Trump from becoming president through a vast “liberal” conspiracy. It did none of those things. None. On the contrary, while the IG’s report found some troubling procedural problems that need to be corrected or changed, it explicitly says that the basis of the investigation was solid, within DOJ guidelines, had no bias behind any of the decisions made and was fully appropriate.
The president’s reaction? He lashed out as usual. Among other things he referred to the people in the FBI as “scum.” Perhaps we as a country have come to expect that from a President of the United States, but I have not. But, I am no longer surprised. What deeply troubles me is that Attorney General William Barr, the DOJ and FBI boss, echoed the president’s remarks. Instead of supporting the FBI or the work of the independent IG, in an interview with NBC News he said about the report and investigation:
“I think our nation was turned on its head for three years based on a completely bogus narrative that was largely fanned and hyped by a completely irresponsible press. I think there were gross abuses and inexplicable behavior that is intolerable in the FBI.”
In an interview with the Wall Street Journal he said of the investigation “It was a travesty, and there were many abuses.” So much for the credibility of an independent IG and so much for the Attorney General working for the people of the United States rather than being the president’s personal shill, I mean attorney.
Deeply troubling. But it gets worse yet.
The president is about to be impeached (appropriately in my opinion, but that’s a post for another day). The Senate will then conduct a trial on the two Articles of Impeachment to either remove Mr. Trump from office, or acquit him.
All 100 of the sitting Senators act as jurors and take an oath. It is not the oath of office, but an oath as a juror. According to Rule XXV of the Senate Rules On Impeachment Trials the oath is:
“I solemnly swear (or affirm) that in all things appertaining to the trial of ___, now pending, I will do impartial justice according to the Constitution and laws, so help me God.”
The Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) went on TV and declared that he is “in total coordination with the White House counsel” on the rules and parameters of the trial — such as calling witnesses or not — and opined that the president would be acquitted and that all Republicans would so vote. Senator McConnell gets to set the rules of this trial and is also a juror. Fair and impartial? It is like the jury foreman in a case getting together with the defense attorney before the trial to determine how they will acquit the defendant.
Other Republican Senators have expressed similar opinions, most notably Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). On Sunday’s Face the Nation he said that he was going to vote to acquit the president and that “I don’t need any witnesses. I am ready to vote on the underlying articles.” Earlier last week he said that he did not even intend to review any of the facts raised before the House of Representatives during the investigation leading to the Articles of Impeachment. So much for following one’s oath.
Impeachment is a serious and sobering step. The Senate deserves to treat it as such. Instead we continue to hear Republicans moan and groan about “hoaxes” “witch hunts” “undermining the 2016 election” and other whiny defenses of the president. Please note that not one of them disputes the facts as presented in the House.
Our democracy is in trouble as the president continues to argue that he is above the law. He claims that he cannot be investigated by law enforcement or by the Congress. Nobody or no entity or no organization can do so. His lawyers have even argued in court that if the president actually did shoot someone on Fifth Avenue in New York (as he famously said during his campaign) that he could not be prosecuted.
In recent days, Mr. Trump’s “personal lawyer” Rudy Guiliani, just back from a “fact finding” trip to Ukraine, is bragging to anyone that will listen that he “forced out” U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanavitch because she was getting in the way of his schemes.
The president is being impeached for Obstruction of Congress and Abuse of Power. It is clear that he did not just abuse power, rather that he continues abusing power today. Events are unfolding that impact our elections. Not the one in 2016, but the upcoming 2020 elections. We already know that Mr. Trump thinks his position is so weak that he must cheat to win. He took advantage of Russian meddling and he has often publicly stated that he will take help again from other nations if it will help him win.
The past is past. We need to protect our future.