Friday, September 04, 2020

Trump swears "on whatever, or whoever, I was asked to swear on"

I hope you've read this story in the Atlantic. Everyone is talking about it.
A first lieutenant in the Marine Corps, Robert Kelly was killed in 2010 in Afghanistan. He was 29. Trump was meant, on this visit, to join John Kelly in paying respects at his son’s grave, and to comfort the families of other fallen service members. But according to sources with knowledge of this visit, Trump, while standing by Robert Kelly’s grave, turned directly to his father and said, “I don’t get it. What was in it for them?” Kelly (who declined to comment for this story) initially believed, people close to him said, that Trump was making a ham-handed reference to the selflessness of America’s all-volunteer force. But later he came to realize that Trump simply does not understand non-transactional life choices.

“He can’t fathom the idea of doing something for someone other than himself,” one of Kelly’s friends, a retired four-star general, told me. “He just thinks that anyone who does anything when there’s no direct personal gain to be had is a sucker. There’s no money in serving the nation.” Kelly’s friend went on to say, “Trump can’t imagine anyone else’s pain. That’s why he would say this to the father of a fallen marine on Memorial Day in the cemetery where he’s buried.”
Trump is crying "Fake news" -- his usual response -- but that ploy won't work because the unnamed sources are very obvious: General John Kelly and General Jim Mattis. In the first paragraph quoted above, the only possible source is Kelly. As for the second paragraph: Mattis is a retired four-star general, he is a long-time friend to Kelly, and as Secretary of Defense, he got to know Trump very well. (Recall that Mattis, after leaving the administration, basically called Trump a dullard.)

Trump himself, in his intemperate response, called these two men "failures in the administration that I got rid of."

In that same response, Trump denied that he ever called John McCain a "loser." In fact, he is on record using that word. Trump also claimed that he did not hesitate to approve funerary honors for McCain. In fact, he ordered the flags at half-mast only after veterans' groups had pressured him to do so.

Rachel Maddow is the only commentator known to me who pointed out how well this new information tracks with an earlier report about Trump's prenup arrangement with Marla Maples. According to the terms of that agreement, Tiffany (already born) would lose her yearly stipend if she ever joined the military.

At the time, that report (denied by neither Marla nor Tiffany) shocked even me.

But I was not shocked when The Atlantic claimed that Trump became furious when his son Donald Jr. contemplated joining the armed forces.

I've met many different kinds of people on both the left and the right, and I've never encountered anyone with this kind of animus toward the military. I can understand the pacifism of the Amish, but Trump is not a pacifist. If he were merely a coward, he would not force cowardice onto his offspring. Ultimately, Donald Trump believes that service is for the genetically inferior. When Trump thanks those in uniform, he thinks that he is thanking the help.

It should not be forgotten that Friedrich Trump (Donald's whoremonger grandfather) was expelled from Germany for his refusal to do military service.

Incidentally, the author of the Atlantic piece is Jeffrey Goldberg. As Juan Cole notes,
The White House is denying Goldberg’s story. But Goldberg was a cheerleader for the Iraq War and a defender of far-right Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, so he isn’t exactly a bleeding heart liberal. If even he is pursuing leads on a story that reflects so badly on Trump, it is because the story is true.
What was the name of that book again...? In his tweeted response, Trump said something particularly bizarre:
Also, I never called...John a loser and swear on whatever, or whoever, I was asked to swear on, that I never called our great fallen soldiers anything other than HEROES.
The thing he was asked to swear on is a book called THE BIBLE. How could he not know that? (As I recall, his mother's Bible was used when he was inaugurated.)

It was bad enough when this ninny referred to Second Corinthians as "Two Corinthians." It was bad enough when he referred to the communion wafer as his "little cracker." It was bad enough when he proclaimed that he needed no forgiveness because he had committed no sins (in contradiction of all Christian doctrine). But to forget the name of the world's most famous book...?


If any Democrat has said the exact same words, rightwingers would scream like a million air raid sirens.

Good guys. Let's get back to the Atlantic piece. Everyone knows that Donald Trump's historical nescience is astounding, but it's still hard to believe that an American president would ask who were "the good guys" in World War I.

Clue: German troops invaded France; the French were not in Germany. Another clue: German dirigibles dropped bombs on Britain, our ally.

If the entente powers had lost, a militaristic, authoritarian Germany would have dominated Europe from the Pyrenees to Scandinavia to Ukraine, wiping out every vestige of democracy. The UK probably would have fallen -- and soon thereafter, the United States would have been under threat. I have no doubt that Germany would have marched into Russia, displaying all of the murderous barbarity of Hitler's invasion. The German/Turkish alliance would have controlled the oil fields of Arabia -- and while I'm no fan of the Saudis (who were eventually installed by the British), the alternative would have been far worse. Imagine how wretched our lives would be right now if an unconquerable military dictatorship in Berlin controlled both our oil supply and the world's economy. Even if the Germans had decided not to attack us directly, we would still have spent the past century under their dominance.

When I was growing up in the 1960s and '70s, it was chic to view the First World War in very cynical terms. Revisionists insisted that the war was fought for profit and imperialism, and that millions died needlessly. The film Oh, What a Lovely War summarizes my generation's view of that conflict.

But in the years since, I've done a lot more reading and a lot more thinking. I've learned that a young man's ignorant cynicism can be just as dangerous as another young man's ignorant optimism.

As this 1999 Atlantic piece notes,
The notion, advanced by the German historian Fritz Fischer and some of his protégés, that there wasn't much difference between the war aims of Wilhelmine and of Nazi Germany remains controversial. It's clear, however, that at least after the war began, German plans effectively called for (along with the subjugation of much of Eastern Europe and Russia) the permanent subjugation of France, the transformation of Belgium into a "vassal state," and the German navy's taking of French and Belgian Channel ports to use as bases...
Can any honest person rationalize that outcome? Even if you're a Marxist who still holds onto absurdly romantic ideas about "The Revolution," can you imagine such a revolution occurring in a world largely under the thumb of an immovable German tyranny?

Yes, the First World War was unbelievably horrific; you can still see the craters if you "travel" across Belgium via Google Earth. Yes, allied military leaders made many blunders. Yes, our political leaders were hardly angelic. But the fight was necessary. For all of the flaws of "our side," we really were the good guys.

I'll tell you something else about that war. In Britain, the death rate for Oxford graduates exceeded that of the nation as a whole. The British upper classes have been guilty of many, many sins -- sins enough to make the Devil blush -- but they also understood duty. The same can be said of the aristocracy of most other nations. In previous generations, the one virtue of the blue blood was his willingness to risk the shedding of his own.

Trump is different. He represents a newer, more verminous type of oligarch. He may have money, but he will never have class.


Anonymous said...

So, you've read a lot more about WWI in your later years, eh? I suppose you now think the Balfour Declaration was an antisemitic hoax too, and that Colonel House was just Woody's dear friend and trusted counselor.

Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

@Anon: Sir, this is an Arby's.

Ivory Bill Woodpecker said...

Your weekly reminder:

8 PM – 9 PM Central time Friday nights: The Magical Mystery Tour. Host Tom Wood takes a look at the Beatles from various angles, one angle per week.

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Both shows can be found at Arkansas Rocks.

If you can’t listen to Beaker Street live, files of the broadcasts show up shortly afterward at this site.

Joseph Cannon said...

The first Anon leaves me with my head shaking. I don't know what to say.

Anonymous said...

Donald Trump’s brother, Fred Jr, was in the Air National Guard. Don and Fred Sr called him a loser. This is in Mary Trump’s book...l

fred said...

According to Michael Cohen Trump hired an Obama look-alike just so he could berate him and "fire" him. There are photos. This is the real Trump, where everyone he meets is an actor in his own "perfect" melodrama, actors assigned their own role and script just to boost his ego. We are all "distant' from strangers who are seated twenty feet away from us in a restaurant. We can see and hear them but are untouched by them. They are outside our zone of emotional engagement. Trump has that experience all the time even with people three feet away from him, even people he knows. He's untouched by them so he has to act as if he is really responding to them. It's all learned behaviour, all acting. He has no emotional engagement with them. He's a psycho.