Gregory Humphrey’s (that is your CP blogger) History Minute! When one has lost a military stand-off but then also faces additional embarrassment at not even being able to capitulate without losing again. The Ottoman Empire, HMS Doris, and Alexandretta, now known as İskenderun. Short, snappy, and amusing.
The headline came across my computer screen and it was not so much news but rather what must be the inevitable next step from events that played out this weekend.
President Biden threatens to review sanctions on Myanmar following coup
It was gut-wrenching for the world to learn that in Myanmar the military seized power and detained Aung San Suu Kyi. So it is more than appropriate that Biden called this situation a “direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the rule of law.” But make no mistake on what needs to follow.
Not more words. Rather, the united actions from the world community to underscore what Biden stated. The world community must “press the Burmese military to immediately relinquish the power they seized.”
Let us not forget what happened in November 2020. Aung San Suu Kyi, along with her party, again won a landslide election and in so doing ensured–or so it was thought by the voters–a civilian government in the country. But this weekend the military struck hard and now Kyi and a host of others who share democratic notions and ideas are all detained.
I am not posting today to in any way promote Kyi as a saint. Or the standard by which democracy should be vowed. She is not. Her previous actions regarding the repulsive nature of defending the immoral generals in their ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims have put her whole being in the light of day. There is much darkness that the light of truth has allowed the world to see. But the integrity of an election and the subsequent actions of the winner then ruling must be the international standard that we all seek to uphold.
There must be a foundation the world fights for. It is really a most simple sentence to write. An election victory must never be undone by a coup. And a landslide one, at that!
Biden is correct to use the power of his office, and the might of our nation to set a tone for how to move forward when dealing with the junta in power. Their declaration of a one-year state of emergency underscores the nature of what we are dealing with in Myanmar. The BBC reported this morning that the army had already announced the outlines of a new cabinet. My readers will not be shocked to learn that military officers, both active and retired, will fill many positions.
This must not be allowed to continue without a very concerted and demanding message from the international community. This coup must not be tolerated.
A most damming opinion column by the famed reporter and writer David Ignatius about Donald Trump and his words and views concerning the military in The Washington Post today. Considering that Trump wanted to get COVID bumped further down the front page so as to not have his failures as a leader showcased with banner headlines….beware what one wishes for.
The first open break point came in June, after former military leaders watched Trump try to use the military to put down protests for racial justice. Retired Adm. Mike Mullen, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, denounced Trump for “politicizing the men and women of our armed forces.” Retired Gen. Jim Mattis, the former defense secretary, called Trump “the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people.” Retired Gen. John F. Kelly, a former Trump White House chief of staff, said he agreed with Mattis.
It’s hard to remember now that Trump’s dealings with military leaders started off pretty well. I remember traveling in May 2017 with our Special Operations forces to the newly liberated town of Tabqa, at the gates of the Islamic State’s capital of Raqqa. A senior U.S. official told the Syrian Kurdish commander who led the assault that this rapid assault “never would have happened without Donald Trump.” There would have been too many meetings under his predecessor, President Barack Obama.
Trump wanted victory in Afghanistan, too, so long as it was fast and unambiguous. Gen. John Nicholson, the U.S. commander in Kabul, was given authority to use America’s most intimidating conventional weapon against the Taliban — the so-called “mother of all bombs.” No more anguished meetings in the Situation Room. The gloves were off.
Trump initially saw Mattis as a man in his own image — awarding him the Trumpian nickname “Mad Dog,” even though the ascetic Mattis was closer to a monk than a mongrel. Over the two years Mattis ran the Pentagon, his relationship with Trump grew poisonous. The more Mattis tried to educate Trump, as in his widely reported July 2017 seminar in the “tank” at Pentagon, the more Trump became resentful.
Trump berated his generals at that gathering — with language that’s eerily similar to what was reported in the Atlantic this week. According to Philip Rucker and Carol D. Leonnig in their book, “A Very Stable Genius,” Trump said: “You’re all losers. You don’t know how to win anymore.”
Trump really did seem to think he knew better than his generals. “I wouldn’t go to war with you people,” Trump told them, according to Rucker and Leonnig. “You’re a bunch of dopes and babies.”
The commander who succeeded best in keeping the lid on, as Trump grew cockier, was Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. A tall, reserved and utterly reliable Marine, he was often able to curb Trump’s impulsive decisions and steer him toward steady policy, without infuriating him.
What the military liked in Trump was that he was sometimes (not always) prepared to “take the shot” at terrorist adversaries, such as Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, and Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Quds Force.
Trump’s near-constant belittling of NATO hurt his standing with the Pentagon. So did his inexplicable affinity for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Yet military leaders bit their lips, because they were grateful that Trump had endorsed a national military strategy that took a tougher stance toward Russia and China — and added money for new weapons to combat these near-peer adversaries.
A heartbreaker for the military was Trump’s decision to abandon the Syrian Kurds who had fought so bravely against the Islamic State. I remember talking to the officer who had to break the news of Trump’s decision to quit Syria to Gen. Mazloum Abdi, the commander of the Syrian Democratic Forces. His description of that betrayal was unprintable.
What the military came to understand over the past four years is that, for all Trump’s talk of patriotism, he truly is transactional. Throughout his career, he has always believed that loyalty was for chumps. That’s why New York business executives told me back in early 2016 they had never wanted to do business with him.
The military understand their role in a democracy. They have obeyed Trump as their commander in chief, even amid his tirades and insults. And they will continue to do so if he’s reelected. But many of them won’t like it: Trump just isn’t a guy with whom you’d want to share a foxhole.
The headline to this post is one that our nation thought Donald Trump had achieved over and over, again and again, these past four years. But no, he was saving the worst example of himself for his final months in office.
Donald Trump finally achieved what he has been seeking, a topic for the nation to talk about other than 188,000 deaths in America from a pandemic. The pandemic that he allowed to take hold of the nation while it undermined our economy has been bumped from the headlines as we now read of the deplorable way he speaks about our United States military.
The bizarre, inappropriate, despicable, and simply disgusting behavior was presented in the article in The Atlantic by respected journalist Jeffrey Goldberg. For the record, this household has been a subscriber to the magazine for about a decade. It is from this recent reporting we know Trump has treated the volunteers to our military like used burger wrappers.
I’ve asked numerous general officers over the past year for their analysis of Trump’s seeming contempt for military service. They offer a number of explanations. Some of his cynicism is rooted in frustration, they say. Trump, unlike previous presidents, tends to believe that the military, like other departments of the federal government, is beholden only to him, and not the Constitution. Many senior officers have expressed worry about Trump’s understanding of the rules governing the use of the armed forces. This issue came to a head in early June, during demonstrations in Washington, D.C., in response to police killings of Black people. James Mattis, the retired Marine general and former secretary of defense, lambasted Trump at the time for ordering law-enforcement officers to forcibly clear protesters from Lafayette Square, and for using soldiers as props: “When I joined the military, some 50 years ago, I swore an oath to support and defend the Constitution,” Mattis wrote. “Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens—much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside.”
As The Atlantic reported…
(The president did not serve in the military; he received a medical deferment from the draft during the Vietnam War because of the alleged presence of bone spurs in his feet. In the 1990s, Trump said his efforts to avoid contracting sexually transmitted diseases constituted his “personal Vietnam.”)”
Here is the Trump interview.
Trump’s understanding of heroism has not evolved since he became president. According to sources with knowledge of the president’s views, he seems to genuinely not understand why Americans treat former prisoners of war with respect. Nor does he understand why pilots who are shot down in combat are honored by the military. On at least two occasions since becoming president, according to three sources with direct knowledge of his views, Trump referred to former President George H. W. Bush as a “loser” for being shot down by the Japanese as a Navy pilot in World War II. (Bush escaped capture, but eight other men shot down during the same mission were caught, tortured, and executed by Japanese soldiers.)
When lashing out at critics, Trump often reaches for illogical and corrosive insults, and members of the Bush family have publicly opposed him. But his cynicism about service and heroism extends even to the World War I dead buried outside Paris—people who were killed more than a quarter century before he was born. Trump finds the notion of military service difficult to understand, and the idea of volunteering to serve especially incomprehensible.
It is not only solid reporters across the country who have examined the article and found the accuracy of the news. The Fox News channel is also confirming reports from The Atlantic about the deplorable and reprehensible words and actions from Trump regarding the United States military.
When the Republican mouthpiece underscores the truth from other reporters it is clear to see the White House is in deep trouble.
As it should be.
Not being aware of how callous the American public had become, I was sure that when Donald Trump maligned Senator John McCain, a former POW, that his presidential campaign would fade away. One of the ‘do not ever cross’ lines had been crossed and then doubled down on by Trump.
Much of the public did not care. In retrospect, I should have learned from that disappointing moment when the shallow end of the pool became deeper. But I am an optimist and think we will do better. Even now when our nation has allowed itself to be shoved towards illiberal democracy I still have faith that we can correct the mess voters created in 2016.
But as I watch the political news I am aware of our nation again being confronted with conservatives attacking a member of the military–and again against one who gave more than she ever could have known would befall her. Democratic Illinois Senator Duckworth is getting hit over and over on Fox News, mainly from Tucker Carlson.
I have often written on this blog that America is not so much land from this point to that point on a map, but rather an idea. We are based on ideals. What made this place most unique from the start, and still so starkly different today from many other nations, is the ability of anyone to dissent and differ with powerful words and spirited debate.
When that is done, especially from a person who had both legs blown off in an explosion in Baghdad, there is reason to give some license for the words offered. That is just the decency factor that is built into coming back to our nation with fewer limbs than one had when leaving to serve in our military. When we can not allow for that trade-off to be heard and respected than we have lost something about that idea of America.
Perhaps the shallow end of the pool is getting deeper, again.
Let it not be forgotten that Republicans and conservatives have been attacking military veterans for a long time. Recall Maxwell Cleland, a Democratic politician from the state of Georgia, a disabled Army veteran of the Vietnam War, a recipient of the Silver Star and the Bronze Star for valorous actions in combat? He was slammed around by Republicans in some of the most vile political attacks I had seen used against a member of the military. One would have thought he was nothing more than a traitor if only the campaign ads from his opponents were known about. But what we must not forget—ever–is that due to the severity of his wounds, doctors amputated both of Cleland’s legs above the knee and his right forearm. He was 25 years old.
“I’d never seen anything like that ad,” McCain said at the time of the spot, which was widely condemned by Democrats. Putting pictures of Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden next to the picture of a man who left three limbs on the battlefield is “worse than disgraceful,” said McCain. “It’s reprehensible.”
Now conservatives are kicking Duckworth–another soldier who gave more than any FOX News commentator ever will. It is disgusting what that network allows on the air–in the guise of news and commentary. Surely even the average FOX News viewer must have some moral fiber that allows them to find Carlson’s attempt at increasing his ratings unacceptable.
I have hope that advertisers will help flush the Fox system. But then I had hoped the public was not so devoid of patriotism when McCain was attacked. I have come to learn that even with optimism there are always some conservatives who continuously play their dark diseased deeds.
And so it goes.
….you know there is a reason for the word choice.
Let me start by underscoring how dramatic this news story is, and not because it has the word Nazi in the article. No, rather because there is a code of conduct that General Jim Mattis has lived and demonstrated over his long career. He is not one to go public with criticism of sitting political leaders. That holds true not only for him but for others who have served in the military.
But there are those moments in our history when the adults must rise from the corners and speak out. Timing is everything at a moment like this, and as such Mattis sent Trump a clear message that he’d better back down or risk united resistance from the military establishment. It is Mattis now……others will follow if Trump does not slink backward from his threat to use federal troops in the states–or to further attack our citizens as was done this week outside the White House.
Former Defense Secretary James Mattis slammed Donald Trump’s response to the protests over the death of George Floyd and called his photo op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church “an abuse of executive authority.”
Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people—does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us,” Mattis wrote in a statement published Wednesday by The Atlantic.
“Instructions given by the military departments to our troops before the Normandy invasion reminded soldiers that ‘The Nazi slogan for destroying us … was “Divide and Conquer.” Our American answer is “In Union there is Strength.”‘ We must summon that unity to surmount this crisis — confident that we are better than our politics,” Mattis wrote.
In the stunning rebuke of his former boss, Mattis, a retired general, said he’d promised to defend the Constitution when he was sworn into the Marine Corps “some 50 years ago.”
“Never did I dream that troops taking that same oath would be ordered under any circumstance to violate the Constitutional rights of their fellow citizens — much less to provide a bizarre photo op for the elected commander-in-chief, with military leadership standing alongside,” Mattis wrote, referring to Monday night’s federal show of force to clear protesters from the front of the White House.
Donald Trump was doing on Monday night what he does continuously. He created a needless bombastic statement that aimed not to engage in the heavy task of leading a nation that is crying out for answers but instead pulled a verbal grenade in trying to get ratings and offer PR gimmicks in place of serious policy responses.
So what is new? The gravity of what he threatened and the way it runs counter to the foundations of our nation.
Trump stated, “If the city or state refuses to take the actions that are necessary to defend the life and property of their residents, then I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”
Today the fallout of that reckless comment can be seen nationwide. Retired senior military leaders condemned their successors in the Trump administration for ordering active-duty units on Monday to rout those peacefully protesting police violence near the White House. What was witnessed in our nation’s capital, all so Trump could have a PR moment holding a bible in front of a church, a simple act he was not even able to carry off, was both shocking and dismaying.
It was sickening to witness Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and General Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff standing alongside Trump as military helicopters flew low over the nation’s capital. Being a party to Trump’s desire to urge our national military into a domestic confrontation is so beyond the scope of acceptability it truly stuns the senses.
The blowback was fast and furious. General Dempsey, a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote on Twitter that “America is not a battleground. Our fellow citizens are not the enemy.”
General Thomas, the former head of the Special Operations Command, tweeted: “The ‘battle space’ of America??? Not what America needs to hear … ever, unless we are invaded by an adversary or experience a constitutional failure … ie a Civil War.”
Today people are asking the question if Trump can send the U.S. military into a state, even when the governor of that state doesn’t ask for its assistance, or even if the governor actively opposes such a step? For instance, the governors of California, Illinois, and Michigan have all made it most clear they will not seek the involvement of federal troops in their state efforts to handle the protests and riots.
One of the founding principles of the Republic, something that Trump has very little if any knowledge about, is that the federal military should not be involved in domestic law enforcement. Granted, over time the law has carved out certain narrow exceptions to that rule, notably in the form of the Insurrection Act, from 1807. This law says that “whenever there is an insurrection in any state against its government, the President may, upon the request of its legislature or its governor,” call in the armed forces. That is rather cut and dried. A President can bring in the military only if a governor or a state requests it. None will be doing so at this time, nor should they.
But the other modification to the law from 1956 to assist in enforcing civil rights laws is the part the Trump thinks he can now use. This provision states that, when the President determines that there are unlawful activities which “make it impracticable to enforce the laws of the United States,” he may call in the armed forces. Last night I was reading views from law professors who question whether that provision, which was based on the protection of constitutional rights, would now give Trump the authority to create domestic discord by its use.
Donald Trump MUST NOT make such a reckless act, on top of his reckless statement. He must not send federal troops to a state that says stay the hell away. I often post about the autocratic nature of Trump and the undermining of liberal democracy. This is yet one more shining example of his abuse of power and his affection for authoritarianism.
It needs to be unscored that during the past three years American military officials have expressed concerns that Trump does not understand either his role as commander in chief or the role of the military that is sworn to protect the Constitution. Those concerns have again been brought to the top of the national discussion.
What a sad and pathetic man Trump proves to be, again and again.