I was actually prepared to give Comrade Trump some credit. I mean, he actually visited troops in a theater of combat operations. Yes, that’s something every POTUS in recent history has done and is expected to do, but let’s face it — nobody really expects Trump to behave like a president anymore. But I believe in giving credit where it’s due, so I found myself in the unusual position of giving Trump props for doing the minimum requirements of his job.
But Jeebus on toast, he had to go and fuck that up. All he had to do was go the al-Asad Air Base, shake a few hands, take a few photos with a few troops, and give a simple speech supporting their mission. Seriously, a high school student could have done that. But Trump? Apparently beyond his ability. He just couldn’t do it.
First, the point of POTUS visiting troops in a combat area is to bolster the morale of the men and women who do the fighting and killing and dying at the Commander-in-Chief’s direction. That’s it. It’s a simple task. It’s NOT even remotely a venue for partisan politics. And it should NEVER be about money.
Here’s one of the early comments in Trump’s speech to the troops:
“America shouldn’t be doing the fighting for every nation on Earth not being reimbursed. If they want us to do the fighting, they also have to pay a price — and sometimes that’s also a monetary price — so we’re not the suckers of the world. We’re no longer the suckers, folks.”
The US military isn’t a mercenary army. They’re not for hire. We don’t tell other nations we’ll protect their interests (and our interests) only IF they can reimburse us. The US military isn’t a for-profit enterprise. Comrade Trump doesn’t seem to understand that.
Then he moved on to domestic partisan politics.
We want to have strong borders in the United States. The Democrats don’t want to let us have strong borders — only for one reason. You know why? Because I want it. … You know, when you think about it, you’re fighting for borders in other countries, and they don’t want to fight — the Democrats — for the border of our country.
First, Trump makes it about him. Democrats are opposed to building a wall along the southern border just to spite him. Second, he accuses his political opponents of not wanting to protect the nation. Turning a morale-building mission into a political campaign speech is despicable.
That said, I must say I have no problem with Trump signing MAGA hats while at the air base, providing the Trump campaign didn’t bring them or distribute them. I don’t think the criticism Trump received for hat-signing is justified. If troops ask him to sign their hat, he should damn well sign their hat.
Near the end of his speech, Trump flat out lied to the troops. He lied to them in a typical Trump self-aggrandizing way.
“You just got one of the biggest pay raises you’ve ever received… You haven’t gotten one in more than 10 years — more than 10 years. And we got you a big one. I got you a big one. I got you a big one. They had plenty of people that came up. They said, ‘You know, we could make it smaller. We could make it 3 percent. We could make it 2 percent.’ I said, ‘No. Make it 10 percent. Make it more than 10 percent.'”
They’ll get a 2.8% pay raise next year, which is about average. It’s certainly not the biggest raise the military has ever received. They’ve been given a raise every year for decades. It’s not enough, of course. It’s not even close to enough. I’d applaud Trump if he actually DID fight for a meaningful pay increase for the troops, especially enlisted personnel. But he hasn’t.
And if all that wasn’t bad enough, Trump and his communications team inadvertently outed a covert Navy SEAL team. The locations of special forces units deployed abroad is classified, and showing the faces of spec ops troops is generally a violation of operational security. Trump’s team put their faces on Twitter. Twitter, for fuck’s sake.
Oh, and one more thing (there’s always one more thing when Comrade Trump is involved): he didn’t bother to meet with the Prime Minister or any Iraqi officials while he was there. He apparently doesn’t understand that US troops are stationed in Iraq with the permission of the Iraqi government. President Obama worked out an arrangement with the Iraqis; the Trump administration has been attempting to negotiate a similar long-term arrangement since the spring…without success so far. Snubbing Iraqi officials isn’t going to help. Some Iraqi officials are now calling for all US troops to be removed.
Comrade Trump was in Iraq for a total of about three hours. In that time he offended the Iraqi government, outed a covert SEAL team, lied to the troops, and turned a simple morale-building mission into a political campaign event.
Three hours. The thing is, I don’t think any of these fuck-ups were deliberate. They were all just the result of a president who doesn’t understand his job and is incapable of carrying it out. This should have been an easy gig for Trump and his team. But in three hours they managed to create a monumental clusterfuck.
I guess we should be grateful it was only three hours.
There’s a lot to rail against Trump for regarding this, but the SEAL Team 5 debacle/outing isn’t one to place on his shoulders. OPSEC is the purview of the commanders on the ground and the team itself. This is a command fuck up and someone with a lot of shiny stuff on their collars should be figuratively crucified for it. Publicly. This is something that a stupid new butterbar does, not someone with an eagle or stars.
The other command issue is the picture of the colonel holding a Trump campaign flag and the soldiers with MAGA hats. You can hold political views in the military, but if you’re in uniform that shit is seriously verboten.
Now if you want to say that all of this is an example of “the snake rots from the head” I will not disagree with you.
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There’s a LOT of blame to go around on the SEAL fiasco. I put more of the responsibility on Trump and his communications folks because they seem to have been the ones to put it on Twitter. It’s not unheard of for spec ops teams to want to have their photos taken with the CiC. We know Obama had his photo taken with at least some of the operators in ST6, for example, but Obama’s folks were savvy enough NOT to publish those photos. I expect the members of ST5 assumed the CiC’s people would know better than to publish their photos.
I haven’t seen the colonel with the Trump campaign banner, but yeah…you don’t wear or display political paraphernalia when you’re in uniform. I can see troops wearing MAGA hats when they’re off duty and in civvies, and I can see them wanting Trump to sign them. I’m okay with that (well, aside from I don’t understand Trump supporters at all). so long as they’re not wearing them in uniform.
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His “team” must be dumber than he is.
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It’s too bad there’s a contest to see who’s dumber.
Reading your ‘about’ section I became interested in you..after all, I thought that you did have some interesting ‘past’, and I liked your ‘been around the block’ expression. But then, reading this article was no more than a typical CNN disaster of their 24/7/365 ‘Trump hate’. Just like you ‘been around the block’ in some areas, so have I, especially about Middle Eastern Politics…that being said, I think the best way to describe how I felt reading your mediocre essay, is something my favorite clown character Agent 86 Maxwell Smart would say; when he said: “You had me, right up until the end”! Meaning…I liked your earlier description of your history/background, but then reading this, was just another liberal joke.
I get this reaction occasionally. There are folks who think that because I’ve been in military service, because I’m from the working class, because I got my college degrees largely through the GI Bill, because I’ve dealt with criminals, because I’ve taught policing and criminology, because I like shooting guns, that I must be a conservative. Both liberals and conservatives sometimes make that assumption.
But clearly, I’m not a conservative.
I don’t hate conservatives. I just disagree with their politics and policies. I do, sometimes, hate their behavior. And sometimes I hate what their policies do.
Anyway, thanks for reading and taking the time to respond.
Actually, Greg, Bloomberg reports that the Trump team handed out the campaign paraphernalia, a violation of the Hatch Act which the West Wing had been warned against.
Unfortunately this didn’t clue any of the media present to spotlight those staffers and not the troops. The military have a term of art for people who get played like this.
The troops, particularly officers, should have known better. But my God, do these “political reporters” bother to think past a surface reading of anything?
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Bloomberg is usually a reliable source, so I’m inclined to accept their reporting. I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to learn the Trump campaign staff handed out the hats — they’re notoriously clueless (and unconcerned) about the law. Part of the problem, of course, is that there’s little differentiation between Trump campaign staff and White House staff.