On War Dead, Politics, and Trump


M. Davout

I was recently re-watching Glory (1989), starring Matthew Broderick and Morgan Freeman, with my high school senior son (for whom this was a first viewing). I’ve regularly shown sequences from this dramatization of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, one of the first “Colored” combat units to enter the fight against the Confederacy, to students in my “Film and Politics” course. Toward the end of the film, as the action swung to the 54th’s frontal assault on Fort Wagner, South Carolina, on July 18, 1863, I let slip, to my son’s chagrin, that the attack would fail and result in the regiment’s near destruction. He rhetorically asked why they would make a film about this regiment if the attack failed and all the main characters died.

My son is a tech geek with libertarian leanings and, as a result, he tends to analyze interactions through a transactional lens. In assessing whether a deal or agreement or commitment makes sense, he asks himself what each party materially stands to gain. From his point of view, the conclusion of the dramatic arc of Glory was problematic because it depicted men who failed and died rather than lived and won. And it left viewers with an emotional deficit rather than a surplus.

My son’s response to Glory put me to mind of the uproar over President Trump’s reportedly disdainful remarks about US war dead, which continues to reverberate in the mainstream media. The sources for the Atlantic Monthly story remain anonymous to date but Trump’s documented pattern of openly contemptuous remarks about John McCain’s harrowing imprisonment by North Vietnamese captors gives credence to reports that Trump considered fallen US soldiers to have been “suckers” and “losers.” He openly wondered during a visit with his then chief-of-staff John Kelly to the grave of Kelly’s soldier son why his son had put his life at risk for his country.

Trump’s reported comments and the attitude toward military sacrifice they purportedly exemplify have provoked attacks from Democratic politicians and a deafening silence from Republican politicians. It remains to be seen what lasting damage, if any, this controversy will do to Trump’s electoral prospects.

Sometime an outrageous comment can illuminate an issue worth thinking about that would otherwise be obscured in the dust of political combat. While Trump could be faulted for lacking decorum in pressing Kelly about the rationale for his son’s death, it isn’t an unserious question to wonder why someone would volunteer to be a soldier in a country at war. After all, countries or nation-states are mostly abstractions. People experience them mainly as aggregations of bureaucratic practices and routines which determine where borders are, where certain customs hold or one language or currency is in use rather than another.

It is intuitively graspable why one would be prepared to sacrifice one’s life for one’s child or one’s family or one’s close friend or even a flesh-and-blood stranger in a car accident whose distress provokes an immediate empathetic response. (Maybe not for Trump—he does not seem capable of empathizing with anyone enough to put his interests or life at risk for them.) But to be prepared to die for one set of bureaucratic routines and practices in a conflict with others fighting for a different set of bureaucratic routines and practices? How does that make sense?

Recognizing the challenge of getting citizens to feel a self-sacrificing love of country, the functionaries of emerging nation-states have come universally to institute all sorts of cultural practices designed to foster an emotional connection to one’s nation: pledges of allegiance, national anthems, patriotic rhetoric and ceremonies (e.g., France’s Bastille Day Parade), even the instrumentalization of war dead as a way of tugging on citizen heartstrings (e.g., Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address).

However, the fact that the inhabitants of a bureaucratically-inscribed geographic region come to love their country and feel ready to sacrifice their lives for its good does not, in and of itself, guarantee the reasonableness of their sacrifice or the moral worthiness of the policies that led to that sacrifice. People do end up dying for stupid or bad or even evil national causes and a government’s instrumentalization of the war dead has sometimes had a role in rallying people to do wrong or even terrible things. (See for example the Totenehrung at the 1934 Nazi Nuremberg Rally.) As numerous columns at Bracingviews.com have argued, notions of patriotic service to country can be enlisted in a program of militarization that mainly benefits corporate profits and bureaucratic growth.

So fault Trump for a narcissism so pathological that he cannot control his disdain and contempt whenever he is faced with the spectacle of people who have sacrificed in the service of others. Fault him for colossal presidential laziness and mammoth personal vanity in not wanting to pay respects at a second US military cemetery in France because the rainy weather would force him to take a long drive and get his hair wet. Fault him for his lack of sensitivity in needlessly rubbing raw the sorrow of a father at the grave of his fallen son. But do not let the anger (whether righteous or hypocritical) being expended on him in this heated moment of political controversy obscure the duty citizens have to judge the right and wrong of war policy and the reasonableness of dying for country.

M. Davout, a political science professor who teaches in the Deep South, is an occasional contributor to Bracing Views.

48 thoughts on “On War Dead, Politics, and Trump

  1. We all know that a broken clock (analog, of course) is right twice a day. I imagine the draft-age Donald Trump looked at the carnage being perpetrated by USA in Southeast Asia, televised into our homes daily, and asked himself “What the hell is going on?! I want nothing to do with this!” It would have been a correct perception of the US’s national WRONGNESS. At that time, the vast majority of Americans would not believe their military could be defeated. The cost of Americans discovering they were wrong, we all know, was terrible. But being a child of privilege enabled Trump to avoid potential military service–I doubt he was ever in any real jeopardy of being inducted and sent to a theater of war–by presenting a claim he was afflicted with “bone spurs.” To this day, Trump money purchases statements from physicians indicating whatever the patient wishes them to. In his mind, this is the course “winners” in life pursue. Let the poor suckers (“losers”) from less privileged circumstances do the fighting and dying, and if one can squeeze a little profit from the war, all the merrier. (I’m generalizing here; I don’t know if the Trumps made any money from the Vietnam fiasco.) The comments now being reported as having come from Trump’s lips are, of course, flamingly “unpresidential,” but what else is new? Had the Union Army command based all their battle plans on their odds of success in a particular campaign, we very likely would have the Confederate flag flying over the White House today. Oh, wait! We practically do!! I will close this out with a quote from Mark Twain, which I did not discover until decades after my own refusal to participate in the US war against the people of Vietnam. Twain, Vice President of the American Anti-Imperialist League, is recounting a discussion he’d been having of patriotism with some acquaintances.
    “They said ‘Suppose the country is entering upon a war—where do you stand then? Do you arrogate to yourself the privilege of going your own way in the matter, in the face of the nation?’
    “’Yes,’ I said, ‘that is my position. If I thought it an unrighteous war I would say so. If I were invited to shoulder a musket in that cause and march under that flag, I would decline. I would not voluntarily march under this country’s flag, nor any other, when it was my private judgment that the country was in the wrong.’” This quotation will be found in Volume One of the Autobiography.

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  2. I was going to write something on this topic, but fortunately my friend Davout beat me to the punch.

    I’ve walked in a lot of cemeteries over the years, notably in England, looking at the memorials to the dead of World War I, and seeing so many young men cut down in their prime, especially in early July of 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. And I think about what waste results from war, and how true it is that it’s neither sweet nor fitting to die for one’s country.

    Andy Rooney put it well. Troops don’t give their lives for their country — they have their lives taken from them. Sometimes quickly, but often slowly and in great agony. Their sacrifice may be in vain; they may be fighting on the wrong side and for the wrong reasons; but I wouldn’t say this made them suckers or losers. It just made them dead.

    Don’t disparage the troops who served and died. Disparage those who sent them to their deaths. Disparage a system that still finds war to be a respectable, even laudable, way of settling disputes.

    Here’s the Andy Rooney piece on Memorial Day. Wise words here.

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      1. Thanks for the Andy Rooney video. I remember his comments on Omaha Beach on the 40th anniversary of D-Day in 1984. He was standing at the seawall and talked about the roughly 1,000 US dead at Omaha and said the same: they didn’t sacrifice their lives – they were taken. Andy was an exceptional reporter – he wrote the tribute in the book about the 8th Air Force. In it he said he got to go on one of the bombing missions, which made him feel better about himself.

        I think for the men of that generation as horrible as combat was (and is), they felt they didn’t quite measure up if they hadn’t done and seen the things the “other boys” did who faced the fire.

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  3. I have to say once again, as in the previous thread, that focusing on highly partisan political gossip — fomented by the noisome likes of Swamp toad stool Jeffrey Goldberg, of all people — misses by a mile the key policy dispute now raging within the Trump administration: an unedifying bureaucratic cock fight that would rage in any administration that even dared to suggest repatriation of US military forces (and their highly profitable dogs-of-war mercenary attendants) from their resource-devouring imperial deployments abroad.

    Also, as a related matter: Assuming — as the author of this article apparently does — that this tawdry gossip somehow gives evidence of deep philosophical questioning in the troubled minds of seriously thoughtful persons — regarding “selfless service” and “sacrifice” to “the nation,” etc. — only dignifies — by obscuring — the naked, self-serving careerism and and insatiable lust for global capital accumulation that in fact motivates the power-seeking participants in this dubious drama. George Orwell, for his part, rather neatly disposed of this “philosophical patriotism” distraction by quoting G. K. Chesterton to the effect that: “‘My Country Right or Wrong’ is on the same moral level as ‘My Mother, Drunk or Sober’.” And no responsible son or daughter would give Mom the keys to the family’s only car after she’s had too much to drink.

    Now, if one wishes to engage in the tedious gossip, then fine. But for my part, the policy question remains paramount: Will the hideously expensive “troops” come home to the barracks and parade grounds of Fort Podunk, U.S.A.? Or to dispersal into the 50 state militias and Coast Guard? Or, simple discharge and demobilization into civilian life? Or, induction into an FDR-style national Works Progress Administration? In many of these cases, the US taxpayer will still go on paying these particular Americans, only this time to work for us rebuilding our rotting infrastructure and cleaning up after natural disasters instead of defending foreign territorial oligarchs busy plundering their own people — and ours — for a transnational class of stock speculators.

    And I would really want to pause for a very long time — perhaps indefinitely — before taking the word of volunteer Israeli prison guard Jeffrey Goldberg about anything.


  4. Relevant to the policy-dodging political gossip stuff. From the Moon of Alabama blog:

    “In 2016 the Democrats lost the election despite their constant attacks on Donald Trump’s personality. Over the last four years they continued those attacks with Russiagate and impeachment nonsense. Trump turned each of the attacks into a win for himself. Unfortunately that pattern continues.”

    “Over the last two days the Joe Biden campaign made a rather hapless attempt to smear President Donald Trump over allegedly negative comments about previous wars and dead soldiers. The attack was launched with a Jeffrey Goldberg piece in the Atlantic headlined: Trump: Americans Who Died in War Are ‘Losers’ and ‘Suckers’
    . . .
    “None of what those four anonymous sources claimed is true according to on the record quotes from people who were there:”
    . . .
    The blog proprietor “b” goes on to debunk the Jeffrey Goldberg hit piece in quite some detail which readers interested in how to dispose of such campaign gossip-mongering can read for themselves: here.

    I don’t care for President Donald Trump, but since the Democratic Party can not find anyone of even Trump’s low caliber to run against him, I have to regard this gossip-sniping as a sign of real desperation. Again, gossip aside, the political choice before American voters this November 3 boils down to this:

    Choice A: Elect Donald Trump and the troops will not come home because the US military will not execute President Trump’s policy as ordered.

    Choice A: Elect some people surrounding Joe Biden who will not even bother to order the US military to do what the US Military will not do no matter who orders them to do it. Got that, fellow Crimestoppers?

    Election result: Choice A. The troops will not come home from their imperial dispersion abroad which devours all national resources which might otherwise serve to better the lives of the American people: the true domestic policy reason for “the troops” and their endless deployments OVER THERE.

    Now, come again with what Jeffrey Golberg and the Biden campaign say that President Trump said about our Vaunted Visigoths, their dogs-of-war mercenary attendants, and corporate camp followers busy bombing and butchering to their hearts content for any number of reasons: few, if any, of them noble.

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    1. Swanson’s commentary is excellent; his summary of the issues at stake is masterful. His essay evokes the memory of the movie, “Patton.” The scene I refer to was very theatrically staged for production value, but the quotation George C. Scott delivers is reliably sourced to a speech by Patton in 1943:

      “No dumb bastard ever won a war by going out and dying for his country. He won it by making some other dumb bastard die for his country.”

      Cynical, but accurate.

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      1. I consider “Patton” a simply stupendous movie. But as for the quote, naturally it maintains the BIG FAT LIE. The Vietnamese Liberation Forces died for their country. The fallen Americans died for a thoroughly corrupt empire, trying to maintain “a beachhead” in Southeast Asia. And this will persist as long as American parents believe the lie and give their blessing to their sons and daughters signing up for the military.

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        1. Wham! Bullseye! It’s absolutely beyond me how any parent could possibly encourage a son or daughter to sign up for the possibility of getting killed, especially in our many undeclared wars. Isn’t parenthood about teaching your children to avoid deadly physical risks?


          1. Sadly, that does not always work. Young man I know, dissuaded by parent and grand parent against joining the military but has done it anyway!!


            1. Well, once they reach 18 the kids are free to enlist without parental approval. Some of them will go in all gung-ho (more than merely seeking job security with full health insurance, etc.) and perhaps become as disenchanted with military reality as Robert ‘Bowe’ Bergdahl ended up.


          2. To paraphrase ‘Ol’ Bone Spurs’–eat your heart out, ‘Blood & Guts’ Patton!–speaking a few years ago about a US GI killed overseas, “He knew what he was signing up for.” Myself, I am far more concerned that Americans should cease killing people on foreign soil than lose their own lives. Believe it or not, world, there still are such things as morality and ethics! This country of ours has not participated in a “just” war since 1945. Everything since has been a ginned-up war of choice, starting with the Korean adventure (the “police action” never declared a war by Congress). Should any veteran of the Korean War stumble upon this post, I’ll say “I do not apologize for telling the truth.”

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  5. Just wondering about which of President Trump’s repugnant “values” most offends the tender sensibilities of Americans who worship the US military and all its blundering belligerence. I mean, how does gossip by Jeffrey Goldberg — alleging that President Trump called US military unkind names like ‘suckers’ and ‘losers’ — stack up against President Trump pardoning a convicted war criminal, Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher, and then using him as a willing campaign prop before his adoring supporters? I caught a brief discussion of this on Consortium News (September 5, 2020) where Jimmy Dore interviewed Noam Chomski, Alice Walker, and Daniel Ellsberg. Those interested can listen to the whole thing, entitled WATCH: Chomsky, Ellsberg, Walker on the Julian Assange Case. One of the key segments of the discussion began at about the 24 minute mark:

    [24:08] Daniel Ellsberg: “We have the obscene spectacle of this president using Eddie Gallagher as, actually, a campaign supporter, a convicted war criminal whom he pardoned for this, and I mentioned this earlier, as a former lieutenant in the Marine Corps, a platoon leader and company commander, I still have enough of that identification in me, despite the sorrows of recent decades of the Marines, to be shocked, as a Marine leader and platoon leader, at the idea of the message that sends to everybody, that the atrocities of which Gallagher was plausibly accused by the other people working with him in the military: No problem if it’s an American. Meaning that our wars, whether they’re of aggression, like Iraq, or possibly otherwise. There are no laws of war as far as Americans are concerned. And that will mean even far more victims than otherwise. . . . [emphasis added]

    But, Oh! Those unkind names. [But not so much offense at the kindly pardons]. I mean, how does a “sucker/loser” war criminal compute?

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  6. Excellent essay.

    People who join the military are risking their lives because they want to serve their country. The worst that can be said is they may be misguided believing that the agenda of the administration is necessarily good for the country even if led by neocons who long for power and will dupe the American people into carrying out their plans (looking at you Dick Cheney). We all need to keep in mind that administration goals and what is good for the country can be distinct and even in opposition. If Trump had a heart, he would break into tears for the many who died believing in their country but led by fools on crazy foreign adventures.

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  7. A Pause for Another (Cynical) Sidebar:

    Not everyone who takes the oath does so out of patriotism.
    Between WW II and Korea, and again between Korea and overt US involvement in Vietnam, the so-called “peace time army” had more than a few enlistees who joined because “3 hots & a cot” (followed by VA/G.I. Bill benefits) was a better offer than what was available to them in the day-to-day.
    Once the US actively opposed “Communist aggression” and sought to keep “the Domino Theory” from becoming fact, it was not uncommon in the pre-three strikes era for judges to offer the opportunity to serve one’s country in lieu of a trial and (most likely) jail time. In the years before my own draft eligibility, a number of local high school students/classmates, previously regarded as “troublemakers” suddenly disappeared from the streets. A few months later, their photographs would appear in the Hammond (IN) Times, announcing their having completed boot camp. I thought perhaps this was a local practice, but years later learned that several of my fellow employees – from Texas, California & New York – were given the same choice.
    Since the first “Gulf War” the military has once again been a better option for many than the limited options available to them coming out of high school (which for a couple decades now has prepared students for little more than flipping burgers or a low-paying retail job).
    And then there are the idiots like my nephew and his friends who, after lengthy success at multi-player online video war games, enlisted in the belief that a previously unexpressed desire “to kill people who hate America” (my nephew’s words, later echoed by his parents) would be enough to see them through.
    Pretty sure none of the above qualifies as true patriotism or “a desire to serve.”
    Of course, neither does sending such people off to fight “regime change” wars, chase after “insurgents” or to protect oil fields or other commodities.
    And now, back to our regularly scheduled programming ….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes — there are many motivations to serve. I signed up for AF ROTC because I was keenly interested in the AF (I used to read “Aviation Week” in my local library), but I also got a scholarship that paid my college tuition as well as books and fees. For that, I owed the military four years of my life.

      Every time I thought about getting out, the AF gave me a good deal. The government (socialism!) funded my graduate work, so I never had student debts. I got to teach for six years at the AF Academy, a job I really enjoyed. Got to do some interesting engineering work too, and learned a lot about myself and my country.

      As an Army colonel buddy of mine used to say, every day is a good day in the military when you’re not being shot at. I was never shot at, so my days weren’t so bad.


      1. Same thing we used to say on the Fire Department “This would be a great Job- the Brotherhood, Camaraderie, Parades, Adulation, Respect– “If” it wasn’t for the Fires!!! My Enlistment (U.S.A.F.) I flew down to Tx. with a bunch of Guy’s year 1973 from “Southie” Boston real Hell Raisers think “Dropkick Murphy’s” beating up rival Gangs, Gays, and Stealing Cars for Fun… I knew brother Firefighter’s who told me that they also had the choice Jail, or Enlistment, and to think of it now even future Cops I knew got the ultimatum. Nothing like a D.I.’s Bed Drills, Mind Games etc. to make you think! I could have a pretty good Life if I just straighten up & fly right! I used the G.I. Bill myself. Back to Trumps Comments tho. I think they are unconscionable and undeserving of my, or any Vets. Vote. Its time we restored dignity, honor and honesty above all to the White House. I just wish we had better choices.- 2 tired Old Men just ain’t makin it with me…

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        1. But only one–let’s hope!–of those two tired old men is certifiably INSANE!! That’s what matters, I think.


      2. A “good day in the military” would also have to include not being reamed out by an asshole of a “superior” officer! Old slogan: “We are the unwilling, led by the incompetent to do the unnecessary.” The Army had an official goal during my time in olive drab: ZERO DEFECTS. Oh yeah, that’s the US Military for you, 40 ways from Sunday! Whatever that old saying means!

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        1. “Zero defects” — what an idiotic concept.

          I was in the relatively tame AF, not in combat, and I didn’t have to “ream” anyone. Indeed, one thing I quickly learned was to listen to NCOs. Most of them have earned their stripes and will help butterbars and other unfortunates if the LTs will shut up and listen.


          1. Right. If you’ve risen to the level of a Sergeant First-Class (E-7) or First Sergeant or thereabouts, you’ve comprehensively learned how to work the system. Joseph Heller had his protagonist state early on in the novel “Something Happened” (I have to paraphrase, don’t have time to dig up my copy): “There are four people in my office I fear, and seven who fear me.” Up and down the ladder of the hierarchy we go. I suppose some corporations have grown hierarchies rivaling the military’s in rigidity. Thank goodness I never worked for any of them!


    2. I was astonished to learn, in 1968, that one of my fellow students in advanced Medic training in the Army had been on the receiving end of one of those judges’ “Army time or jail time” offers. He was a soft-spoken, very bright chap from Texas, though he didn’t speak like a stereotypical Texan. I think I didn’t press him for all the details, but this very handsome kid may well have been caught in flagrante delicto with a daughter of “the wrong man,” i.e. some local business magnate. And yes, today’s economy is definitely a recruiting agent for some (many) for entering the military. And you want cynicism? The military absolutely seeks to recruit video game “top guns” to pilot assassin drones. There is no doubt about this.

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      1. When I was in ROTC, about 1983, I watched an AF recruiting ad that asked, Where are we getting the pilots of the future? And it cut to a video arcade with lots of kids blasting away at space aliens and the like.

        Not much has changed in nearly 40 years, except I’ve gotten older and crankier. And airpower with drones piloted remotely has become much more video-game-like, unless you’re on the receiving end of those Hellfire missiles …

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  8. As regards individuals putting themselves in harm’s way, including getting killed or dying, it comes with the territory.
    I am absolutely and totally against any war but it is not my place to guess or judge why a person chooses to join the military. And he/she does not designate herself/himself a PATRIOT…. the label is give by others. All occupations/professions can become hazardous. And people choosing them know, it could be lethal one day. So, those choosing military service will continue doing so just like individuals will still continue choosing medicine or nursing as their profession in spite of knowing they could die from Covid-19 or before that, gangs bursting into ER with guns and they DO NOT consider themselves heroes…. it is a war zone everyday, away from any battlefield.


  9. Not a bad summary of Trump’s views on the military:


    Not much new here. Trump got out of Vietnam (“bone spurs”) and was against the war; Trump criticized John McCain for being a POW; Trump denigrated generals; etc.

    What really concerned me in 2016 was Trump’s boast that “his” generals would follow his orders regardless of their legality; also his boast about torturing terrorists and seeking revenge on innocents within their families; his ignorance of nuclear weapons but also his total support of building more and more of them; and his lack of consistency and guts when it comes to trying to end America’s disaster-filled forever wars.

    Trump is a piss-poor commander-in-chief because he’s ignorant, lazy, vain, and lacks a backbone when it comes to challenging the national security state. Then again, that last reason might be exactly why he’ll be reelected.

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    1. Of course, Trump whines that he’s constantly in the crosshairs of “the Deep State”–the latter even planted operatives within the CDC to try to make him look bad in dealing with Covid-19, see?–and what is this “Deep State” if not the backbone of the National Security State?? Trump is deranged, but he’s figured out that to REALLY challenge the NSS would be far more dangerous to his health than “bone spurs”! And that, ladies and germs (rim shot!), is why the US is still mired in Afghanistan and having its vehicles in collisions with Russian ones inside Syrian territory.

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        1. It appears that Trump has advanced to a new stage of his dementia! You don’t openly pillory US Military leadership and, most shocking, make a truthful statement that wars are waged for the private profits of war contractors (!!) if you really want to remain as POTUS! The latest rambling verbal craziness makes me again suspect Trump just doesn’t want to be bothered with pretending to be a national leader for another four years. What on Earth does he have to do to guarantee his own defeat at the ballot box?! He seems to be trying like the Devil! If he keeps this up, some of his very ardent followers are going to become disillusioned. They cheer all his crude racism, xenophobia and misogyny, but attacking the US Military? Unacceptable!

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          1. On the other hand, the frenzied, snapping hysteria over every single thing he says only endears him to his base. How many hours of free publicity is he going to get over this latest outrage?

            The more it’s all him, 24/7, the more focus is trained on him, and the more we won’t be able to get rid of him. If everything he does and says was relegated to page 6, we wouldn’t have anything to worry about with this election.

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            1. I just saw an email in my queue from a “cause group” suggesting Biden only leads Trump in polls by 3%, making the Electoral College once again the focus of attention. I say again I would be an ex-pat by now if I had the funds to get me outta here with financial security for the future. One of the lines from Gil Scott-Heron’s “Winter in America” goes “And nobody’s fighting/’Cuz nobody knows what to save…” Is this country where I’ve spent my whole life even still salvageable???


              1. Ditto about the ex-pat sentiment. My husband and I have often discussed emigrating to Canada, as we love the Niagara-on-the-Lake area. But our house is paid off, and we have neither the means nor the desire to start over with another mortgage, aside from the fact that home values in our neighborhood are severely depressed, so we wouldn’t get much from selling it. We’re stuck, absent a lottery win. : )


                1. Denise, good luck with those lottery numbers! Myself, I never have had any luck with games of chance. I buy a PowerBall ticket once or twice a year, just for kicks.


          2. Trump, strangely, can get away with criticizing the military, especially the generals. It’s smart of him to do so — he recognizes you can both boast of having the greatest military while attacking worthless wars and mediocre (“loser”) leaders.

            I think many in Trump’s base are tired of all the military adulation; or, if not tired, they recognize its hyperbole. They see in Trump an honest man who’s willing to speak hard truths. If only it were so!

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            1. I think you’re mistaken on this, Bill. It’s all too easy to imagine the uproar if a Democrat had made such disparaging remarks about the military!! I think this will definitely cost Orange Man some votes. But there’s still the issue of that wretched hangover from slavery, the Electoral College.

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          3. Speaking of US presidents — and defeated candidates for President — who never served in uniform but yet who bad mouth our veterans, Michael Tracey quotes Glenn Greenwald who tweeted:

            “It’s utterly outrageous when someone who never bothered to serve but who sends them to war impugns the character and loyalty of those who risked their lives to do so. Honor Our Troops!”

            This in response to the CNN headline: Hillary Clinton suggests Russians are ‘grooming’ Tulsi Gabbard for third-party run.

            Zing! Such reverence for our “troops.” Oh, that awful President Donald Trump.

            And as for all those votes that President Trump will ostensibly lose by criticizing our fuck-up-and-move-up US military “heroes” (Petraeus, Mattis, et al) I suspect that the departed shade of (noun+verb+POW) John McCain would caution otherwise.


          4. Matt Taibbi has his usual insightful commentary on this “bombshell” story. Here’s an excerpt, where he talks about one of the sources of Trump’s appeal:

            “With Trump the calculus was different. He was every bit the liar the other politicians were, but lacked the pretense of truth-telling. People felt Trump was at least saying what he actually thought, even if he was being vile. After all, who would contrive to shriek about Carly Fiorina’s face, “Would anyone vote for that?” Trump’s campaign was like one of those transparent man models, except you were looking into Trump’s id instead of his intestines.

            This was the obvious explanation why voters down the stretch of the 2016 race told pollsters they considered Trump more “honest” than Hillary Clinton, yet pundits refused to see it.”

            As Taibbi notes, Trump has made on-the-record comments about military “losers” before, and it hasn’t hurt him. His supporters don’t look for consistency; they look for someone with balls, to be blunt. Not being a “typical politician,” i.e. liars who are also sanctimonious about it, helps Trump.



  10. The tawdry tactic of “Waving the Bloody Shirt” or “Hiding Behind the Troops” — i.e., invoking the sacred (taboo) memory of fallen heroes in support of one’s political objectives — has a history so long that its beginnings have disappeared in the mists of prehistoric times. It obviously persists because something in human nature finds its emotional appeal almost impossible to resist. President Donald J. Trump, running for re-election, will shamelessly make use if it, as will his erstwhile opponents: the nation’s junior right-wing faction (or “Democrats”) who have decided once again — as they often do — to campaign as even more Republican than the actual Republicans.

    As this history applies to the current and latest tempest-in-a-teapot US presidential election, the right-wing junior-varsity Democrats think that — This time for sure! — they can get off the bench and into the governing game by imputing insufficient reverence for “the troops” on the part of (nominally) Republican candidate Donald Trump. The Biden/Goldberg campaign, however, has chosen a rather tepid vehicle for alleging this Trumpian blasphemy: namely, a few unkind words (not at all inaccurate when applied to many US Generals since 9/11/2001) that amount to, in effect, claiming that the dead trooper’s shirt has strawberry jam stains on it instead of blood. Something like that. Oh, how cruel.

    Meanwhile, out in the real world where (the unkindly characterized) US troops never withdraw from Empire but only “redeploy,” extending it’s tentacles even further:

    “Hundreds of US troops have arrived in Lithuania to take part in military drills near the border of Belarus, adding to the mounting tensions over the disputed Belarusian presidential election. On Saturday, about a dozen Abrams tanks crossed into Lithuania from neighboring Poland.” — antiwar.com

    It does not appear to me that US President Trump has any idea of what the US military establishment has planned for him and our country. Somebody looks like they really want to start a fight with Russia: one that the Adam Schiffs of the US Congress suppose will occur a long way from our home but right next door to Russia’s. This brain-dead brinksmanship could easily result in even more bloody US shirts for both of the American War Party’s two right-wing factions to reverently “talk nice about.”

    So, dear American consumer of credulous crap: which claque of generals and admirals (with a conspicuous lack of blood stains on their own immaculately tailored uniforms) do you prefer running the Global Corporate Empire for the next four years?

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    1. Over at the Moon of Alabama blog, I came across a perceptive comment from the dependably insightful “bevin,” who makes the following observation:

      The myth that Americans will never vote for socialist reforms or anti-imperialism has no basis whatever in US history. The DNC and their shrewd ruling class owners understand this very well which iswhy their primary political struggle is to keep any such candidates off the ballot and reduce them to the sorry role that Sanders is now disgracing himself by filling.” [emphasis added]

      “. . . whether Biden is less evil than Trump is entirely moot. My guess is that, in the next two months this will become increasingly evident as Trump, cynically no doubt, promises policies, foreign and domestic, designed to appeal to the masses. As he does so he can re-assure his backers that they can rely on Congressional Democrats to make sure that nothing comes of such promises. He could, for example, promise Medicare for All, knowing that Pelosi, Schumer and Biden will make sure that nothing comes of it.” [emphasis added]

      To this I would add that President Trump can promise — as he did four years ago — to end America’s ruinously expensive (to working class taxpayers) Imperial wars and begin normalizing relations with the Russian Federation, both sound and sensible policies. But whether he actually means to accomplish these things remains indeterminate, given that the US Corporate/Military/Congressional Conglomerate will not willingly allow him to do any such things. President Trump has less than two months now to actually deliver on something of obvious value to the country, like ENDING the two-decades-long Afghanistan drug-running debacle, for starters. This would require him to first gain mastery of his own administration, especially the careerist, war-profiteering “intelligence community” and Pentagram, which he has so far failed to do. He does, apparently, now recognize this “deep state” as his mortal enemies although it has taken him far too long to come to grips with their implacable determination to ruin him. Every attempt to appease them has just served to whet their appetite for more concessions.

      If only Nixon could go to China without Richard Nixon red-baiting him, then perhaps only a billionaire service-avoiding plutocrat like Donald Trump can run left — again — towards the wide-open center of the country without Donald Trump calling him a “socialist” and “radical anarchist.” Usually, the Peace-promising candidate wins. We shall soon see.

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      1. So far, Trump seems to be holding to “Biden/Harris are radical socialists who will take your guns and defund the police” mantra. But if this doesn’t gain traction, I can see Trump pivoting to “socialist” positions himself — he just won’t call them that.

        As usual, Trump is consuming nearly all the oxygen. Biden/Harris, when they can win attention, represent a return to “normalcy,” but when was “normal” good news for America’s workers? Maybe in the 1950s? Wages have been stagnant since the 1970s, even as the rich get vastly richer with help from guys like Joe Biden.


        1. Dems as raging, bomb-hurling extremists is the tune the Trump base devours. I see no need for Donald to change the music. Just heard on NPR yesterday that union membership in US is now down to about 10% (from maybe 15% a few years ago). Most of those are surely gov’t employees. The shrinkage got underway big-time during the Reagan years, of course. And it’s also common knowledge that in this New Gilded Age, the wealth gap is widest it’s ever been since calculations were initiated.


          1. Let’s not forget: many if not most firefighters and police are union members. Trump really plays to the police unions.


            1. If rank-and-file workers in this country had the solidarity that LEOs have, they might actually make some headway against the bosses! Cops even cross racial divides to defend their members against accusations of abusive conduct toward civilians.


  11. I have had people ‘thank me for my service’, which caused me to ask myself: service to what? Country & government are not the same thing, anymore than city council and city are the same thing. Because we have some expression in voting, it seems we would like to believe this is a government “of, by & for the people” despite the numerous indicators otherwise [‘the revolving door’, box-ticking bureaucrats, an at best “sketchy” monetary system, an imperialist foreign policy—‘they’ll just want us to get for them’, as CliffRobertson said in a 70s classic film, et cetera]. Most of us don’t seem to notice the difference, fewer still are willing to say it, and no one is comfortable with the idea, so the run continues until the real power in this country is willing to put the government (and all it’s employees) where it belongs…under our collective boot crafted by some commitment to what all of us can claim as “truth”, however illusory, momentary or flawed. BLM seemed to be on that, but if recent history is any indicator, it’s a rehashed hustle of the first order. Just as TheLeft largely released what commitment it had to peace, abandoned it’s objection to mass surveillance, and left Assange hanging like a pinata when TheOrangeMenace took the chair, the riots/protests/demonstrations could easily encourage TheRight to accept increased police & military powers, blanket gun confiscation, unConstitutional prosecution & excessive sentencing that could land us all in PunishmentPark. If true that the goal of PC culture is collective rights and the end of individualism (however distasteful), what most people consider “country” could be the last thing Americans would ever want, ie TheAllPowerful&EverPresentG, with every one of thankful to be safe on the couch rather than targets on the field.

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