“I’m not saying the military’s in love with me,” Donald Trump said on Monday. “The soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren’t because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.”
Thus, the man who had us on the brink of war with Iran before COVID-19 hit, who throws literally unrequested billions of dollars at the Pentagon, who circumvents Congress to sell weapons to murderous regimes overseas, and who fawns so shamelessly over the tools of war-making that he wants his political rallies to look like North Korean military parades, painted himself as an anti-war dove facing off against the warmongers in the defense department and their army of lobbyists.
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And the kernel of self-serving truth swaddled in all these lies? The fact that war is among the most profitable industries in the U.S.
Among the most insidious tricks Donald Trump plays on people is his habit of seasoning the delivery of his daily verbal avalanches with the occasional nugget of raw truth.
When he pivots off a truth like that to paint himself as some ersatz savior, however, and when he makes promises he knows he won’t keep, and especially when he tells that rare truth in order to hide from his serial lies, Trump does a greater disservice to the truth than all his confabulations combined.
The truth from a damned liar becomes a lie itself, tainted by a bitter alchemy that steals from the people even the smallest solace found in being able to trust in any truth, especially that which they most need to hear.
The nation clanged off this phenomenon again last week when Jeffrey Goldberg’s bombshell article in The Atlantic painted Trump as disdainful to serving soldiers, veterans and the military dead. “Suckers” and “losers” are Trump’s words for the armed forces, according to Goldberg and the numerous sources he cited. The president of the United States has no concept of service or sacrifice, was the gist, and views those who give without getting as dupes and fools.
Trump himself has made great hay out of demands to respect soldiers and the flag at professional sporting events. Now here he is, allegedly pissing in the faces of those troops on a regular basis and as an expression of his core beliefs. To trample on the virtue of the sacred soldier in America, allegedly or in fact, is about the most perilous thing a politician can do.
This was the perfect scandal for a 21st-century American military empire whose hegemony over vast swaths of the planet remains undisputed. We have been at war for so long that “Support the troops!” may as well be printed on the currency. Anyone crossing the line into overt criticism of the military runs the risk of public defenestration.
Reaction from the administration was swift and frantic. Trump denounced the Atlantic story with all the venom he could muster, and a number of present and former Trump officials issued non-denial denials regarding ever having heard Trump speak this way. When Trump deemed those defenses to be inadequate to the moment, he lashed out at the Pentagon… and told quite a bit of truth in the process by citing the power of “all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes.”
There are many things wrong with the United States today, but this nation’s ability to kill billions of people in less time than it takes to bake a meatloaf remains fully and expensively intact. Nestled deep in missile silos marking time beneath Nebraska cornfields is apocalyptic fire, awaiting only an order from a man like Trump to reveal itself.
The Pentagon is the storefront for this global industry, and the pipeline between that building, the lobbyists, the weapons manufacturers and Congress is wide open and well worn. Despite promises to “drain the swamp,” Trump has done nothing whatsoever to ameliorate the process. Now, he attacks it to distract people from accusations that he calls fallen soldiers “suckers.”
Are they? My father volunteered for Vietnam and came home with a head full of broken glass, all his plans for the future scrambled by war. Did that make him a loser? Conversely, do the U.S. soldiers who shot civilians and bombed ambulances in Fallujah under the command of Marine Corps Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis automatically qualify as heroes because they wear the uniform?
These are the conversations that fall by the wayside in this hypermilitarized nation, with its nearly truthless president and his penchant for stealing the honor of his betters for his own self-preservation. The alchemy of the liar poisons the necessary truth, and we are all the real losers in the end.