Donald Trump has launched an extraordinary and virtually unprecedented attack on the US military leadership with an inflammatory claim.
Donald Trump has launched an extraordinary and virtually unprecedented attack on the US military leadership with an inflammatory claim.

Trump’s ‘deeply ignorant’ military attack

Donald Trump has sparked more backlash for a "disgusting" attack on US military leadership, accusing top brass of attempting to start wars to benefit defence contractors.

The US President was speaking to reporters on Monday where he again addressed controversy over an anonymously sourced article in The Atlantic that alleged he had described fallen soldiers as "losers".

Mr Trump has strenuously denied the story - which was immediately seized on by Joe Biden's presidential campaign for a series of slick TV commercials - as "a total lie" and a "hoax".

"I'm not saying the military's in love with me, the soldiers are," Mr Trump told reporters at the White House.

 

"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."

He continued, "But we're getting out of the endless wars, you know how we're doing. We've defeated 100 per cent of the ISIS caliphate. When I came in it was a mess, it was all over - they had it in a certain colour (on the map), all ISIS - a year later I said, 'Where is it?' 'It's all gone, sir, because of you, it's all gone'."

The comments drew sharp criticism from pundits.

 

The New York Times correspondent Maggie Haberman said, "The White House is aware that they don't have a bench of top military officials willing to defend the President. But denigrating them as mainly serving the military-industrial complex is quite something."

"This is such a deeply ignorant and insulting view of American military leadership," MSNBC host Joe Scarborough tweeted. "From Dwight Eisenhower to Colin Powell, it has been our military leaders familiar with the hell of war who have hated it the most."

Many were quick to point out that it was former president Eisenhower who coined the phrase "military-industrial complex" in his famous 1961 farewell address, which warned against the corrupting influence of the powerful weapons manufacturers.

"In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex," the WWII general said. "The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes."

But CNN national security reporter Ryan Brown called Mr Trump's comments an "unprecedented public attack by a sitting US president on the leadership of the US military", and said comparisons to Mr Eisenhower's address were off the mark.

"Some folks really ought to read what President Eisenhower actually said," he tweeted. "While they are both critical of the military industrial complex, nowhere does Eisenhower actually accuse military leaders of engaging in shooting wars to boost profits for firms."

 

Speaking on CNN, retired army lieutenant general Mark Hertling said it was interesting that Mr Trump had attempted to deny accusations he had insulted the military "by insulting the military".

"It was insulting to me as a former general," he said. "As a former soldier, going into combat the military-industrial complex was not even a portion of my thought process. All I wanted was the equipment and the resources to fight the battles."

Mr Hertling also pushed back on Mr Trump's "endless wars" jab, which he took as a criticism of how US conflicts in the Middle East had been run by military leadership.

"We are told what to do by our elected officials, so if there's bad strategy, bad involvement in foreign wars, it's because the political masters have sent us there to do their bidding," he said. "We attempt in every way possible to conduct the operations."

Mr Hertling said Mr Trump was attempting to sow division. "This is kind of like fighting an insurgency - President Trump has already gone after the intelligence community by separating their leaders from those who are in the trenches," he said.

"He has separated the FBI, claiming the leaders are terrible but everybody in the FBI is good, now he's attempting to do the same thing with the military. 'The generals are all bad, they're all working for the military industrial complex, but all you soldiers still love me, right?'"

 

Many conservatives defended the comments, pointing out the large number of retired senior military leaders now working for defence contractors. "If you want to end the endless wars immediately put a permanent moratorium on retired generals serving on the boards of defence contractors," Donald Trump Jr tweeted.

"We would be out of Afghanistan by Wednesday."

It comes after The Atlantic's Jeffrey Goldberg warned there were more revelations on the way, even as he conceded that the central premise of his bombshell article - that Mr Trump cancelled a trip to a French WWI ceremony in 2018 because it was raining and he didn't want to get his hair wet - may have been false.

After the story was published, several media outlets including the Associated Press, The Washington Post and Fox News claimed to have "confirmed" the story - something journalists on both the left and right took issue with.

 

"It is literally impossible for anonymous sources to 'confirm' a report, particularly when the original report is based solely on anonymous sources," Mollie Hemingway from conservative website The Federalist said.

"The same people can repeat claims to multiple reporters, of course, particularly when engaged in a campaign operation."

According to Goldberg, the reason his four anonymous sources did not want to come forward was because "they don't want to be inundated with angry tweets and all the rest".

In a scathing article, The Intercept founder Glenn Greenwald described the use of "confirmed" as "journalism's new propaganda tool".

"Quite aside from this specific story about whether Trump loves The Troops, conflating the crucial journalistic concept of 'confirmation' with 'hearing the same idle gossip' or 'unproven assertions' is a huge disservice," Greenwald wrote.

"It is an instrument of propaganda, not reporting."

 

frank.chung@news.com.au

 

 

 

Originally published as 'Deeply ignorant': Trump's military attack


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