Monday, March 06, 2017
Trump, The Military And Humanity, Or: How Would You Describe Trump’s Humanity?
by Evert Cilliers aka Adam Ash
Here are some extracts I've gathered from various news sources (google a paragraph if you want to see source) and, in conclusion, some thoughts about our leader's humanity.
1. A Father Talks About The Death In Yemen Of His Son, Seal Team 6 Member Ryan Owens
Ryan Owens, a member of the military's elite SEAL Team 6, was killed in late January after his unit came under intense fire during an assault on a fortified terrorist compound in Yemen. The Pentagon said the SEALs killed at least 14 militants from al-Qaeda's Yemeni affiliate, but also acknowledged that at least 25 civilians — including the 8-year-old daughter of a militant who had been killed by a US drone years earlier — were killed in the fighting.
The deaths, and the fact that the SEALs didn't kill or capture the al-Qaeda leaders they were targeting, prompted immediate questions about why Trump had green-lit the operation, and about whether the intelligence gathered at the scene was worth the high human and financial cost (a $70 million US aircraft was also destroyed during the mission).
Owens' father, Bill, told the Miami Herald in a recent interview that he did not want to meet Trump when the president attended Owens' dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Feb. 1.
"I told them I didn't want to make a scene about it, but my conscience wouldn't let me talk to him," Bill Owens told the Florida newspaper on Friday.
Owens also called for an investigation into his son's death and additionally said he was troubled by Trump's treatment of the Khans, a Gold Star family of a Muslim soldier killed in Iraq.
Owens, also a military veteran, was troubled by Trump's harsh treatment of a Gold Star family during his presidential campaign. Now Owens was a Gold Star parent, and he said he had deep reservations about the way the decision was made to launch what would be his son's last mission.
[...] Bill Owens said he was assured that his son, who was shot, was killed early in the fight. It was the first military counter-terrorist operation approved by the new president, who signed the go-ahead Jan. 26 — six days into his term.
"Why at this time did there have to be this stupid mission when it wasn't even barely a week into his administration? Why? For two years prior, there were no boots on the ground in Yemen — everything was missiles and drones — because there was not a target worth one American life. Now, all of a sudden we had to make this grand display?''
The Pentagon has insisted that the raid produced "actionable intelligence," but offered no details to substantiate the claim. That assessment isn't universally shared: NBC News reported Tuesday that the raid had "so far yielded no significant intelligence."
2. The Political Fall-Out From The Yemen Raid
In its immediate aftermath, Trump officials said the raid had been planned during the waning weeks of the Obama administration and that they had accepted the military's recommendation to go forward with it. Obama administration officials countered that Trump was simply trying to pass the blame for the botched mission.
"In a nutshell, Trump and his team owns the process and the ultimate decision - and the consequences," Colin Kahl, a national security official in the Obama administration, said on Twitter after the raid.
Kahl wasn't the only one critical of the raid. Arizona Sen. John McCain, the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee and one of the GOP's most respected voices on national security issues, flatly labeled it a failure.
"When you lose a $75 million airplane and, more importantly, an American life is lost … I don't believe you can call it a success," McCain told NBC News in early February.
3. Trump Refuses To Take Responsibility For The Raid
The simmering controversy over the raid flared up again on Tuesday when Trump broke with decades of presidential precedent and blamed the military for the failed operation — and for Owens's death — rather than taking responsibility himself.
"This was a mission that was started before I got here. This was something they wanted to do," Trump said. "They came to me, they explained what they wanted to do ― the generals ― who are very respected, my generals are the most respected that we've had in many decades, I believe. And they lost Ryan."
As Phillip Carter wrote for Vox, most presidents of both parties have stepped up and accepted blame for failed military operations, regardless of whether they were their fault. Trump, Carter wrote, took a very different path:
"Still, Trump's blunt refusal to accept personal responsibility for the Yemen raid burns because it marks such an incredible betrayal of his office and the awesome responsibility that our president must shoulder, especially in the national security sphere. A president who passes the buck is not one we can trust to lead our military or keep us safe."
4. Trump Hails Ryan Owens In His Speech to Congress
Trump said in his speech to Congress: "We are blessed to be joined tonight by Carryn Owens, the widow of U.S. Navy special operator, Senior Chief William ‘Ryan' Owens. Ryan died as he lived, a warrior and a hero, battling against terrorism and securing our nation. (APPLAUSE) I just spoke to our great General [Jim] Mattis just now, who reconfirmed that, and I quote, ‘Ryan was a part of a highly successful raid that generated large amounts of vital intelligence that will lead to many more victories in the future against our enemy.' Ryan's legacy is etched into eternity. Thank you. (APPLAUSE) And Ryan is looking down right now. You know that. And he's very happy, because I think he just broke a record."
5. Tweets from vets
The president's decision to lavish so much attention on Carryn Owens, meanwhile, sparked a torrent of angry responses on Twitter, with critics arguing that he was trying to use her grief for political gain.
Twitter TL reaction to Ryan Owens moment:
Press: how powerful and moving
Veteran friends: this is gross and uncomfortable
Just imagine Lincoln exploiting a soldier's death so shamelessly for partisan end. Or Eisenhower, Reagan or either Bush.
Trump just spent 5 minutes telling the father of a fallen soldier to buzz off http://www.cnn.com/2017/02/26/politics/navy-seal-father-donald-trump/
6. Commentary by Ed Brayton on his blog:
I…I'm just…WTF? Hey Ryan, you're dead now and your family is weeping over it in front of the entire world, but I'm sure you're happy because I just got a long burst of applause by exploiting that death. That always makes people happy, doesn't it? Donald Trump is a buffoon, an absolute buffoon. It is humiliating to this country that we elected that dollar store Bond villain as president.
I can't even begin to express how repulsive this entire display was. And that otherwise intelligent people allowed themselves to get caught up in it and get all weepy and emotional should cause them a lifetime of embarrassment.
Van Jones said Trump's tribute to Navy SEAL Ryan Owens, who died in a raid in Yemen, was "one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics, period" and that it was the moment Trump "became president of the United States." He also said it's the kind of thing that could make Trump a two-term president.
Oh for crying out loud. Did you go soft in the head? Are you that easily manipulated emotionally? There was nothing the least bit extraordinary about it, it was business as usual — politicians using grieving widows and the deaths of soldiers as a cover for the horrors of war and their own decisions to send young people — not their kids, of course, they're much too valuable; other people's kids — to kill and die. It was nothing more than war propaganda, a sideshow to distract attention.
7. Colin Taylor writes:
For Trump to exploit Owens' grieving widow for a photo-op and then joke about applause duration is one of the more despicable things he's ever done – and it's a long list. If he really wanted to honor Owens' memory, he would take responsibility for giving the order and take responsibility for his death, instead of blaming first President Obama and then his generals for the disaster.
7. Michael Moore reacts (obviously)
Michael Moore accused Trump of inviting Owens' wife, widow Carryn Owens, to be present at the address so he could "use" her as a prop to distract from the fact that the mission that got Owens killed was 100% Trump's fault and was a massive failure. Moore said: "That's why she's there, as sort of an ‘f-you' to the people who are criticizing him for this. And this poor woman, this widow who has lost her husband, she is in desperate grief right now. To use that to put another notch on his belt — and what is he thinking about?" The filmmaker also trashed Trump for his complete lack of empathy: "To a malignant narcissist you're not ever thinking that you're insulting anybody because it's all about you. That would require empathy."
9. Daily Kos reacts (Daily Kos is an influential progressive blog):
What the nation witnessed last night was political pornography, noisome and revolting, courtesy of political pornographer-in-chief, Donald Trump.
I have never felt such hot hatred for anyone as I did last night for that lying and preening awful excuse of a human being. For this so-called president, this so-called "man" – to shamelessly exploit Ryan's widow and her raw grief as a tawdry national prop for his flaming narcissism, as a cowardly cover for his lies about what happened in Yemen, and as an emotion-milking smokescreen for his and the Republican Party's fascistic policies – is the most abusive and disgusting thing I have seen in over 50 years of following politics.
This was beyond the pale. This is irredeemable.
10. Final Thoughts
Two things need to be remembered about the Ryan Owens affair:
1. Trump refused to take responsibility for the mission and blamed his generals for the soldier's death ("and they lost Ryan"): something no president has ever done before.
2. Trump said, off-script, in a moment of supreme tastelessness: "Ryan is looking down right now. You know that. And he's very happy, because I think he just broke a record." As Amy Davidson wrote in The New Yorker: "With that last reference to the way measures of popularity can make a person happy, Trump did seem to remember who he was. And so might the rest of us."
You decide if these two instances show that Trump's humanity is the same as yours.
Listen, my questions about Trump's humanity is not necessarily driven by political disagreement. I think Bill Clinton is a jerk when it comes to women. Just like Trump. Maybe worse. I also think Bill was a bad president, what with instigating mass incarceration, signing the bills that enabled Wall Street fraud, doing welfare "reform," outsourcing jobs with NAFTA (which also destroyed much agriculture in Mexico), and doing nada about the genocide in Rwanda. But then, his post-presidential foundation has saved many, many lives in this world. He is redeeming himself.
I also recognize that there were folks who voted for Trump because they agreed with his economic message about NAFTA and jobs, even though they knew he was a jerk.
But answer me this: do you think Obama would have ducked responsibility or imagined a dead soldier being very happy because he established a record for applause?
And how about this:
What will happen to our morality and humanity under Trump? Is Trump creating an atmosphere in which it will be easy for us to forget our humanity? Already hate crimes and anti-Semitic acts have surged since his campaign. And what with talk of living in a post-truth world, Trump appears to be normalizing lying. The contrast with President Obama boggles the mind, it's so brutally stark.
This is the question that should disturb us to our very souls:
Will Trump make us normalize inhumanity?
Posted by Evert Cilliers at 12:42 AM | Permalink