The focus here isn’t President Donald Trump. He is a creature unto himself. Rather, this is about his spineless political party, which stands mute, or even supportive, as he breaks U.S. military discipline, morale and leadership.
The GOP used to be the party of superpatriots, always saluting our men and women in uniform. It still play-acts. Some members of the Republican caucus continue to make a show of thanking soldiers for their service even as they savage the soldiers’ reputations to advance the president’s interests. (Someday we’ll get to the bottom of what those interests really were.)
Navy Secretary Richard Spencer has just been fired. Ignore the convoluted explanations for his termination. In the end, Spencer was dismissed for having openly opposed Trump’s perverse move to reverse the judgments on three service members accused or convicted of war crimes. The decisions were all reached within the military justice system.
Trump’s method of attack on the nation’s military leaders includes – to use a gender-specific term – the emasculation of them. Consider his decision to suddenly pull nearly all U.S. troops out of Syria without consulting Gen. Joseph Votel, then-commander of military operations in the Middle East.
Trump’s abandonment of Syria and our gallant Kurdish friends, Votel wrote, “threatens to undo five years’ worth of fighting against ISIS.”
Trump’s defense secretary, retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, resigned shortly after – at which point Trump called him “the world’s most overrated general.” Mattis’ departure did bring forth some diplomatically worded praise of him but only by a handful of Senate Republicans.
News reports say that despite Trump’s call for complete withdrawal, smaller numbers of American troops remain in Syria to fight ISIS, which Trump insisted was completely defeated. Confusion reigns.
The military has a strong tradition of not criticizing the commander in chief, but leaders now see grave danger in holding back as Trump compromises national security. Retired Adm. William McRaven, who oversaw the Navy SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden, put it bluntly. He and his colleagues feared that America “was under attack, not from without, but from within.”
Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a combat veteran wounded in Iraq, found himself at the center of the right’s mouthing-off when he told House impeachment investigators what he heard during Trump’s infamous call with Ukraine’s president.
You’d think that Republicans would have given some slack to a decorated war hero serving on the president’s National Security Council. On the contrary, Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., tweeted, with zero evidence, that Vindman was the whistleblower’s “handler.” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., also overworked his imagination in a letter implying that Vindman was part of a covert group that “never accepted President Trump as legitimate and resent his unorthodox style and his intrusion onto their ‘turf.’”
This may seem like ancient history, but a normally patriotic party would have dumped a candidate who slimed John McCain for “getting caught” and being held prisoner in North Vietnam. McCain’s death didn’t slow down the invective. You do have to wonder by what mechanism genuine heroism sets off Captain Bone Spurs.
As far as we can tell, not a single Republican senator has expressed interest in removing Trump from office should a Senate trial follow impeachment by the House.
To recap: Trump has smeared our bravest soldiers, undermined military discipline, ignored the expertise of officers in the field, disrespected our military leaders and betrayed allies who fought and died beside us. Meanwhile, the Republican leadership sits in dumb and cowardly silence.
Vladimir Putin must be writing Trump a thank-you note on his finest stationery.
Follow Froma Harrop on Twitter @FromaHarrop. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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