Trump Versus the Troops

In an apparent move to lose even more of the military vote than he’s already lost, Trump has ordered the complete shutdown of the American military newspaper Stars and Stripes. The last issue will be at the end of this month, assuming Congress doesn’t save it.

Exactly why Trump wants to do away with this venerable bit of military tradition is not clear. He says it is to save money, but Stars and Stripes is a tiny blip of the ginormous military budget. Something in it must have pissed him off.

The history of Stars and Stripes goes back to Union troops in the Civil War. It has been published daily since 1918 and began the careers of many legends of journalism and publishing, such as Alexander Woollcott and Bill Mauldin. The paper is funded by the Pentagon but is editorially independent.

This news comes within hours of Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic exposé of Trump’s contempt for the dead and wounded of war. If you haven’t read it, please do so. I assume you’ve heard a lot about it by now. The White House is denying all of it, of course, but a lot of this story was already public.

Trump’s no-show at the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial In November 1918 to honor the dead of the Battle of Belleau Wood, for example, was widely noted at the time. His excuse was bad weather, which didn’t stop other heads of state and dignitaries from being there. Winston Churchill’s grandson had some words.

Nicholas Soames, a British politician and grandson of Winston Churchill, ripped President Trump on Saturday for canceling a cemetery visit in France due to bad weather.

“They died with their face to the foe and that pathetic inadequate @realDonaldTrump couldn’t even defy the weather to pay his respects to The Fallen,” Soames tweeted.

Soames, who is a member of Parliament for Mid Sussex, included a hashtag saying Trump is “not fit to represent his great country.”

There was plenty more of that. Trump was thoroughly roasted for not being there. A couple of days later, Trump lashed out at his staff for not explaining to him that skipping the ceremony would be bad PR. I wrote at the time, “As if any American wouldn’t care enough to want to go; as if any American wouldn’t realize how it would look to cancel. He has no sense whatsoever of American history and tradition; anything that happened before him is of no interest to him.”

Sometimes Trump acts as if he were just pulled out of a petri dish and has never lived on this planet before. There have been a handful of presidents — including some great presidents — without personal experience in the military, but I believe Trump is the first president who hasn’t even been related to someone who served in the U.S. military.  And time and time again he reveals himself to be utterly ignorant of U.S. military history. Someone had to explain to him what happened at Pearl Harbor before he toured the memorial, for example. How do you not know that? Especially at his age? What American boy grew up in the 1950s not watching classic 1950s war movies like From Here to Eternity and To Hell and Back and re-creating D-Day and Iwo Jima with his buddies in the back yard? It’s not normal, I tell you.

Anyway — some of Trump’s denials of the Atlantic article have been fact checked. He denied he had ever called John McCain a “loser,” for example. Oh, yes he did. And enough of it is on video, such as his famous “I like people who weren’t captured” putdown of John McCain’s years as a POW, that Goldberg’s new revelations are entirely believable. They are part of a well-established pattern. The Associated Press says it has corroborated much of the new information.

One of the saddest stories in Goldberg’s exposé is of the time Trump and Gen. John Kelly were at Arlington, standing over the grave of Kelly’s son. And Trump said of the Marines buried there, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” I notice that Gen. Kelly has yet not spoken up to deny this story.

The problem, of course, is that Goldberg’s sources were all off the record, meaning they are anonymous. This makes the story easy for the Trumpers to just ignore. Fake news!

At Slate, Fred Kaplan calls for the brass to go on the record.

This would be unusual. Generals don’t like to go on the record when talking about anything controversial, and certainly not when dissing a sitting president. This is true for retired generals as well, who feel no less bound by the ethos of respecting civilian authority and staying out of politics.

But by talking to Goldberg about these events at all, these generals waded deep into the political swamp. They must have thought it important for the public—for voters—to know this side of the man in the White House. They must, deep down, feel despair over the possibility that this man—who holds their professions, their values, and their patriotism in such contempt—might serve as president for another four years.

One or more of these generals should weigh the competing values: their loyalty to the president versus their loyalty and lifelong dedication to the security of the nation and the lives of their fellow service members.

Charles Pierce is harsher. See Jeffrey Goldberg’s Atlantic Piece Shows the Difference Between Battlefield and Political Courage.

Kelly and the president* went to Arlington five months into the president*’s term. Kelly worked for the president* for another year and, since then, until just now, he has maintained his silence as the president*’s assault on the rule of law and the Constitution only intensified. All of them—Kelly, H.R. McMaster, James Mattis—have been Good Soldiers rather than patriots. (Mattis did call the president* a threat to the Constitution in another Goldberg piece that ran in June. Of this year. Barn. Lock. Missing horse.) This is also the case for all the anonymous people behind Goldberg’s opus. Personally, I have more respect for the average kid marching in the streets than I do for all of them combined.

I don’t want to hear about “duty” and “service,” either. They took an oath to defend the Constitution, not to hold their tongues until they could get a book deal as a reckless vandal takes the Republic down, brick by brick. Of all the people whom history will account as being complicit in the attempted demolition of constitutional government, I rank them ahead even of the invertebrate Republicans in the United States Senate. I do not expect political courage from the likes of Mitch McConnell or Ben Sasse. I expect it of men who have demonstrated physical courage under extreme circumstances, but never has the difference between battlefield courage and political courage been more clearly drawn. I am glad that Goldberg has written this piece. I’m glad it’s out in the world. I’m glad that people are outraged about it, and I’m glad for whatever role it may ultimately play in lifting this scourge from the land. But I am sorry, and angry, that it has come to this, in 2020, when the vandals are still on a rampage that seems as though it can only end in annihilation.

Gen. James Mattis’s public rebuke of Trump last June ought to make this easier for them. Trump must not be allowed to be Commander in Chief any longer.

Update: Get this:

Having ordered Stars and Stripes to be destroyed, now he’s pretending to save it.

15 thoughts on “Trump Versus the Troops

  1. Donald J. Trump


    The United States of America will NOT be cutting funding to @starsandstripes magazine under my watch. It will continue to be a wonderful source of information to our Great Military!

    The Donald's minion will have no trouble believing that he 'saved' StarsAndStripes.

    tRumpTard (definition):  A person who, when confronted with two statements from The Donald that are mutually exclusive and impossible for both to be true, believes both statements.


    • oldvet, I am also an old vet. When I was a young vet, there was quite a cross-section of opinions. There's more women and more minorities in the military than in the 70s. The troops tend conservative but they don't tend stupid. Then noticed when Trump threw the Kurds under the bus. They noticed when Trump insulted Mattis and Kelly. They noticed (without delight) when Trump proposed to use soldiers to quell protests in the US. (Not riots, protests. They know what their mission would have been.) They noticed that Trump was going to pull troops from the border just in time to prevent paying benefits. They noticed when Trump tried to pull the plug on the Stars and Stripes. They don't need a road map to know what happened. They know Trump hated McCain. (with a purple passion.) Generally, McCain was seen as a friend of the troops in Congress.) They know Trump was AWOL for Vietnam and how. They know Trump was AWOL from services to honor the WWII dead and other leaders stood in the rain to pay homage.  There's a significant number who want a fascist president. But there's a growing number according to polls who are NOT thrilled with this clown as CinC. Today Trump sliced his wrists as far as the troops go. 

  2. What American boy grew up in the 1950s not watching classic 1950s war movies like From Here to Eternity and To Hell and Back and re-creating D-Day and Iwo Jima with his buddies in the back yard? It’s not normal, I tell you.

    Well, I guess that if you were raised to cheat, lie, look down on and take advantage of those less fortunate than yourself, to avoid taking responsibility for yourself and blaming others for your own failings, than maybe you didn't have time watch classic movies about people who were the exact opposite of the values that were inculcated in you.

    It's also possible that Trump didn't have any friends, and wasn't able to ask any friends what their father did in the war or where they served. So he missed out on gaining a full understanding on the scope of the sacrifice made by the men and women in the second world war. When Trump looked in the closet to see his father's old military uniform from WWII like must of us kids did, Trump only found a Klan robe, with hood.

    Trump is a self centered bag of shit!

    • I haven't finished Mary Trump's book, but it's obvious that Trump did not, in fact, have any friends, and did, in fact, spend his entire youth thinking of nothing, ever, but how he could become the favored son in his dad's eyes, eventually settling on the "idea" of stealing even more money from poor and working-class tenants in Queens than his dad had.

      As for Stars and Stripes, it's simple: Trump found a newspaper he had the power to shut down so he shut it down. Just in case anyone didn't realize what we're dealing with here.

  3.  “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?”

    Same reason he's proud of dodging taxes – "because I'm smart"

    He simply has no clue about other people or service. He's infantile, sucking all energy and attention.

  4. Khizr Kahn says,… "Donald Trump's life is a testament to selfishness."

     I couldn't agree more!

  5. Wow just wow. Seldom inclined to comment because why what’s it serve? I gotta say though any defense of the military as noble is misplaced. 

    Trump’s ignorance is a dead horse beaten over and over again. 

    Lives lost for lost causes are lamentable, sure. War is insane. Who does it serve?

     I take this post as a sign of the times. Maybe time to check back in with your zafu. 

    • It's not a simple matter by any means to tease out, but I would argue that wars are sometimes necessary. It was necessary for America to help destroy the Nazis. There are other examples. 

      No one's doubting your assertion that "War is Insane". Unfortunately it's also necessary as a last resort.

      This plane of existence is where middle beings like humans contend with issues of good and evil, big and small. Ignoring evil doesn't work, and will send you back. I would argue: you're here to develop the muscles and smarts to deal with it properly.

    • The zafu shouldn't be teaching anybody to think in simplistic, black and white terms. No just nation starts wars, but the world is full of nations that are not just. Even a just nation faced with an existential threat must engage in war. (There's actually a Mahayana sutra that explains this.) 

      I come from a family with a tradition of American military service on both sides, going back to the Revolution. These included a great x 4 grandfather whom we believe fought alongside Francis Marion, a great-great grandfather who marched through Georgia with Sherman, and another great-great grandfather who was imprisoned at Andersonville. My father was born while Grandpa was in the trenches on the Western Front in France. In World War II the army trained my dad to be an airplane mechanic so he didn't see combat, but his brother, a Marine, was a POW in Japan.  He lived to the early 1970s so I got to know my Uncle Harry; he was a great guy. So when Trump disrespects those killed and captured, it's personal to me.

      Further, the troops themselves don't start the wars. The most enlightened and pacifistic people in the world sometimes end up on front lines with guns in their hands. What do you do, then? It's possible to understand a particular war was insane and unjust — Vietnam, say — and still honor the service of those who found themselves sent to fight there — like my brother, in country 1969-1970, Bronze Star, Army Air Medal, Legion of Merit, and now buried at Arlington Cemetery. After he got back from Vietnam he went into the Reserves and went back to school to get a Ph.D. in psychology, and he spent a career in the army providing psychological counseling to soldiers and their families. He ran a suicide prevention program for the army back in the 1970s. In the early 1990s he was the officer in charge of the psychiatric wing of the American military hospital in Landstuhl, Germany,  and was there when the "black hawk down" crew was brought in from Mogadishu. And he suffered multiple cancers, which he believed were from exposure to Agent Orange; cancer is unusual in my family. He was only 68 when he died. 

      So don't start with me about disrespecting the troops. Thanks much. 

  6. Great article! 

    But "knowing" this "man" since the early 80's, there was nothing in it that surprised me.  Not really.  Not even the story I hadn't heard before – the one with the un-human/non-human/inhumane way he behaved with Kelly at the grave of the General's son.  And that question!  It's so unfeeling, and it exposes such a wide and deep void where a soul should be, that it's almost evil.  Or even mocking.  But it's completely in tune with the "man's" "character" as I know him.  And as you do.

    As for calling military personnel – alive or deceased – "stupid," and/or "a loser," well, is that really news?  Everyone on the damn planet is stupid and/or a loser as far as tRUMP is concerned.  And the only way to get out being considered "stupid," and/or "a loser," is to either worship tRUMP unconditionally,  or – maybe even better – you become in some way useful to him.  But once you question him, or cross him, or no longer become useful to him, you fall right back into the human sea of "stupid" "losers!"

    tRUMP doesn't "grok" duty, honor, love of country" or anything like that.  His is a transactional life.  And he wants to be a winner.  THE winner!

    I'll finish by saying that I'm glad some military folks decided to confide in Jeffrey Goldberg, so people see a truer vision of what this "man" is.  More miliary leaders need to say something.  OPENLY!  NOW!!!

    I'd expound some more on what I think of presiDUNCE tRUMP, but the GREAT Swami said it best:  tRUMP is a bag of shit!!!

    Have a great and safe Labor Day weekend!  Without the labor movement, we wouldn't have a weekend off from work to thank the previous generations of workers.  So, I'll reflect for a bit on all of the wonders we have in our lives, thanks to workers all over the world – though what I'd love to see, is more of everything labeled, "Made in America."


  7. OY!

    Instead of the word "stupid" in my earlier screed, replace it with the word "sucker."  Though, FSM knows, he's always calling everyone "stupid!"

    So, basically, what I'm saying about my mistake is, how "stupid" of me!


  8. Trump is so eager to distance himself from the exposure of his disdain for the honorable men and women that served their country that he actually said…"I'll swear on anything that I didn't say they were losers and suckers.".

    There is a scripture that says something to the effect of, swear by neither heaven nor earth, meaning that when you speak the truth it doesn't have to be buttressed with an object or an idea to make it be true, it stands on it's own because it is the truth.. Trump's attempt to bolster his denial is a tell that he's lying.. How many times in grade school did you hear a bullshitter trying to foist a lie by saying…I swear on the bible or I swear on my mother's grave, when you know that they were lying.

    Trump doesn't even bother to get specific about what he's willing to swear on..Just anything.. name your poison?

  9. I’m not going tit for tat with you on the war and military issue, but I come from a long line of military males and am the only one who did not serve. I saw Vietnam for what it was as a teenager. My brother was over there. I can count five friends who came back with heroin habits and died of overdoses. I can count far more acquaintances who were physically and psychologically damaged from that fiasco. 

    Today the military is a draft of the poors, and there’s nothing noble about it if there ever was. 

    Also, I’m a student of world history so that informs my perspective. And your accusation that I’m engaging in dualistic thought is way off mark. A blog comment section is not conducive to in depth analysis. 

    I’ve been reading your  blog for some years and have thought that you’ve been going in a more mainstream and conservative direction for a while. It’s your blog and I respect your dedication, commitment and writing skills. But . . .

    Support the troops? Please. 

    • Today the military is a draft of the poors, and there’s nothing noble about it if there ever was. 

      mago… I'm not sure what you are trying to say there. That it victimizes the financially disadvantaged? The military isn't just about producing cannon fodder and mindless cretins whose only skill to kill other human beings. It is probably the greatest opportunity to be found anywhere in our society to improve one's position in life. The training and educational opportunities provided by the military is immeasurable if a person has the gumption to avail themselves to it.

      My daughter is a veteran, her husband is a field grade officer career military, and my son is also career military currently serving in Korea. And all of them have college degrees that were paid for by the military and all of them have skills learned on Uncle Sugar's dime that translate to big bucks in the civilian market.



  10. 1) The statement about Kelly is a lie. He certainally showed no restraint from jumping into smearing Rep. Frederica Wilson with a bald face lie that was disproven by video and documents and yet he never apolagized.

    2) The military consistently will vote for the warmonger. In 2000 they broke for the twit in a big way, an AWOL protected by political connections. Then when they got the war they wanted they started whining about how the Iraqi's had the gall to shoot back while the US sent a conquoring army to loot and murder. 

    Even after that they went for the twit again in 2004. I guess stupid never learns.

    Then in 2016 they went for thier enfeebled macho man the demented one because he appealed to their idea that might make right.

    Quite frankly anyone who ever voted for either of those losers ( the twit and the demented one), or even addled ronnie raygun, is too stupid to be allowed to have a weapon of any sort. 

    3) the military proved they were not professional or believed in any rules or regulations. After WW II the UCMJ inserted a clause that anyone in the military had an affirmative DUTY to ignore and disobey illegal orders. Yet they merrily marched off to an illegal war of conquest, tortured people contrary to the Geneva rules and the UCMJ and any number of other criminal acts while relying upon the discredited Nuremberg defense of "just obeying orders" to justify thier inhumane and criminal actions.

    A "professional" military would have refused those orders. We have nothing more than a force of baby merc's indulging in thier adolescent fantasies of violence while claiming immunity fom any sense of justice or humanity.

    The military has become like the police claiming that anyone who questions thier actions such as raping prisoners ( NYPD, Iraq) Murder (Minn and other police / the entire war of conquest in Iraq) torture and communal punishment are beyond review because they are protected by thier uniforms.



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