President Trump respects the military
After Trump's attack on the military : Ex-Secretary of Defense Hagel accuses Trump of ignorance
US President Donald Trump has a strange way of defending himself. At a press conference on Monday lunchtime (local time) in the White House, which was more like an election campaign event, he again rejected a report in The Atlantic magazine, according to which he allegedly made condescending comments on fallen soldiers.
This report is uncomfortable for him, as it puts a strain on the Commander-in-Chief's relationship with his military. Trump is apparently very angry about the revelations - and also about the fact that hardly any of the top military is defending him. But the way he reacted to makes things worse.
At the spontaneously convened press conference, which took place for the first time in front of the north entrance of the White House, Trump first extensively praised his own achievements and attacked his challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden, whom he called, among other things, "stupid" - all no real news, which justified such an appearance on a major holiday (Labor Day).
But then he attacked the military leadership, as a "Commander in Chief" seldom has done in public. He accused her of starting wars in order to push the revenues of the armaments companies.
"I'm not saying the military loves me - the soldiers do, but the Pentagon leadership probably doesn't because they want nothing but wage wars for all of these wonderful companies that make the bombs, the planes and everything to make others happy. "
Trump repeatedly praises himself for having significantly increased military spending
The top staff in the Pentagon, especially Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, appointed Trump himself. And it was he who repeatedly praised himself for the increase in military spending after Barack Obama's previous government "ran down" the military.
The US defense budget increased from 2019 to 2020 by $ 22 billion to $ 738 billion. Trump had welcomed this after the agreement in Congress, in which his Republicans had prevailed, and spoke of a "historic" budget.
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But it wasn't the first time that Trump attacked high-ranking military officials. So he mocked the late Republican senator and war hero John McCain and also his former Secretary of Defense, the four-star general Jim Mattis. Why he does this is difficult to understand, as Trump actually needs the support of the military, an important group of Republicans.
Once again, immediately after Trump's statements, highly decorated veterans came forward to contradict the president. Former Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby said on CNN: "The president's remarks about the motivation of the military leadership not only degrade their service and that of those who lead them. They make credible the very contempt and thoughtlessness that he has denies. "
Ex-Defense Minister Hagel: That shows how little Trump thinks of the military
Chuck Hagel, once Republican Secretary of Defense under Democratic President Obama, told Tagesspiegel on Tuesday that Trump was showing how little he understood the military and how little he valued its services for the country. "Nothing could be further from the truth: military leaders are not keen on going to war. They are the very last ones who want it!"
These remarks and the magazine report would resonate with the soldiers, said Hagel. Because Trump has been condescending to Americans who have served. He considers it right that active military officials did not speak out in public. "They consciously stay out of politics and do not react to what politicians say." In contrast, an unusually large number of highly respected veterans have spoken out in the past few months to contradict the president. That has never happened before, said Hagel.
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"The Atlantic" reported on Thursday that Trump made fun of US soldiers who died in the First World War during a trip to France in November 2018. The US President had therefore rejected a planned visit to the US military cemetery Aisne-Marne near Paris with the words: "Why should I visit this cemetery? It is full of losers."
Later he called the more than 1,800 US soldiers buried in the cemetery "idiots", "The Atlantic" reported, citing four witnesses. The US delegation had officially justified the cancellation of the visit to the cemetery because the weather was too bad for a helicopter flight.
Since then, the dispute has raged whether this report is true or not. Several US media confirmed the article or parts of it, including the AP news agency and CNN and the Trump channel Fox News. On the other hand, people from Trump's environment denied that the president had expressed himself in this way.
The Trump campaign sends out a "witness list"
Even his former security advisor, John Bolton, who left the dispute and has just published a book very critical of Trump, said he had not heard this. In his memoir, Bolton gives technical reasons for Trump's decision not to attend the memorial ceremony at the cemetery. Accordingly, rain made it difficult to travel by helicopter, and a trip would have been too long and cumbersome.
On Monday, Trump himself once again dealt with the "worst" weather and the helicopters, of which he "understands a lot". A flight was not possible.
However, the weather did not prevent all other heads of state and government from attending the ceremony, said ex-Defense Minister Hagel. "Chancellor Merkel got there, as did French President Macron and Turkish President Erdogan. Except Trump."
The issue continues to preoccupy the president - and those who are campaigning for him. The Trump campaign sent an email on Monday afternoon with 19 "witnesses" who proved that "The Atlantic" had invented the story. 13 of them were there in Paris.
Among those mentioned are First Lady Melania Trump, then and now press secretary, Sarah Huckabee and Kayleigh McEnany, his chief of staff Mark Meadows, the US ambassador to France Jamie McCourt and the former UN ambassador Nikki Haley, who is aspiring to succeed him Trump applies. It also includes Zack Fuentes, an employee of the former chief of staff, John Kelly. Kelly himself, a former general in the United States Marine Corps, has remained silent so far.
Is Trump's Secretary of Defense Esper on the brink?
In general, there is hardly a high-ranking officer on the "witness list" sent out, whether in active service or veteran, who speaks in favor of the president. Therein lies the great danger for Trump: that his relationship with the military will continue to cool rapidly.
In the US media it is said that Trump could soon replace Secretary of Defense Esper, with whom he has been dissatisfied for a long time. But since the election will take place in less than two months, that would be a risky undertaking. Esper is the third Pentagon head of the Trump administration.
Among other things, Esper drew the president's displeasure when he said in June that he was against using the military against the demonstrators amid the unrest in several US cities. The use of professional soldiers at home should only be the "last resort" in the "most urgent and extreme situations". "We are not in such a situation at the moment."
Trump had previously threatened: "If a city or state refuses to take steps necessary to protect the lives and property of its citizens, then I will use the United States military and get the problem up for them quickly to solve." He had thus drawn a lot of criticism from the military. And the past four years have shown that this President is not good at dealing with criticism.
The only problem for Trump is that he stirs up new resentment with each of these appearances. The mood among the soldiers is not good anyway.
According to a survey published in the summer by the "Military Times" and the Veterans Institute of Syracuse University, only 37.4 percent of active members of the army are in favor of Trump's re-election. 43.1 percent prefer his Democratic challenger Joe Biden. Trump, who did not serve himself, repeatedly expressed admiration about the military at the beginning of his term in office. This love seems to have cooled down now.
"Trump's remarks do not only concern the American soldiers, their families and the veterans," said Hagel. "This country worships its veterans. It worships its military. Therefore, this behavior anger not only the military, but all citizens who respect the military. The White House is rightly very concerned."
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