What We Owe Our Troops, and a Few Things Trump Doesn’t Understand About it.
There’s a political essay below the line, but first a quick word about why I’m writing this:
The differences between my father’s life experiences and my own are pretty stark. He grew up poor in Mississippi. I grew up in Washington DC, the son of the wealthy man he became. He was of the Greatest Generation. I am part of Generation X. I recently voted for Bernie Sanders. My father was a lifelong Republican, a soldier, and in civilian life, a defense contractor. He was a war hero who served in multiple wars. When he was 19-years-old, he piloted a B-24 Liberator named “Twinkle Toes.” When I was 19, I could “shotgun” a beer by poking a whole in the can with the key to my dorm room. On one of the 35 missions he flew during World War 2, Dad’s plane was shot down over occupied Belgium. This happened before they had reached their target. He crash-landed the notoriously difficult-to-handle B-24 with its full bomb load. It didn’t blow up. His entire crew survived. And by the way, I never even knew any of that until after he died in 1990. He never brought it up. When he was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, the surviving members of his crew showed up for the funeral to tell the story. All loved him, all believed he had saved their lives.
Dad may have been a lifelong Republican, but you know the saying “I didn’t leave the party, the party left me?” Well, he’s not around any more to say that for himself. But I believe he would be appalled at much of what has happened to his party since he died. Lately, I’ve been wondering what my father would think of Donald Trump as a nominee for President of the United States. I can’t speak for him, but I wanted to say what I’ve written below anyway. While it’s really just what I think, and not necessarily anyone else, I am quite certain he would agree with it. But as a soldier himself, he probably would never have said it quite this way. But I imagine he is happy whenever somebody else does.
The first part is for my Dad and soldiers everywhere. The second part is for right now, and the soldiers who need the rest of us to do our part.
On What Trump Doesn’t Know and Our Responsibility to Our Troops:
US citizens have an obligation to do more than thank members of our military for their service. We owe them more than lapel pins and balloons and promises to improve the VA. We have a responsibility, as citizens of the country they defend, to have their backs as they have ours.
We have a responsibility to protect them. Soldiers will go where our leaders send them. They will do what is asked of them by the people we put in position to call the shots. They may fight. They may suffer grievous injury and hardship. They may die. And they may kill. All because of the plans and the ideas of the people we put in command of them.
They have our back. But no one has theirs, if not us. That is our part of the bargain. It’s not merely to supply them with the best tools, but to protect them from those who would see our young men and women as tools. To keep them safe from those who, through ignorance or malice, would do them harm. They can defend you from others, but they can not defend themselves from what we ask them to do. Only we can do that.
In a democracy, the leaders we select are an extension of ourselves — warts and all. We owe our military diligence in who we select to lead them. If you have sacred trusts in your life, vows to a spouse, hopes and dreams for your children… whatever they may be, if you are an American then your other sacred trusts are not bigger than the one you owe to anybody you ask to step into in harms way.
We don’t think enough about that responsibility. We don’t talk about it enough. To neglect this responsibility is obscene. And yet…
A nominee for President of the United States casually and repeatedly tells us he will order our troops to torture, to “go after families…” that he will command our soldiers to commit war crimes, and there has not been nearly enough outrage over it. From the generals and military leaders? Yes. They are outraged. And many have vowed to disobey such orders if it comes to that. Because they will not order 20 year-olds to commit war crimes. Take a moment to think about that. It’s unthinkable that they should even be put in a position to say such thing out loud.
It’s chilling. Shameful. And the shame is on us.
I don’t think we, as a people, understand our relationship with our military. That we can be so casual about what we ask them to do in our name, on our behalf, we don’t seem to get it. We must give a little more effort into understanding what we ask them to do. Where we send them and why. And we should really think for a few extra seconds before we declare support for man who clearly has no respect for them.
The information age is a marvelous enigma. It is a time when the sum total of the wisdom of the human race is literally in the palm of your hand. But it is also a time of ignorance and megaphones — a time when honesty is not considered a crucial component to ideas or messaging.
I joke a lot about Trump and his wanton buffoonary, but I want to talk for a moment about something that is not funny about him and his cynical circus.
I want to talk about his “ideas” on foreign policy and the dangers of terrorism. And I hope to talk specifically to anybody out there who is even remotely swayed by what Trump has to say about these thing. Because our military is counting on us all to be smarter than Trump.
When he speaks about ISIS and Islamic terrorism in general, Trump likes to say “We need to find out what the hell is going on!” This should be a clue.
First of all, we do know what is going on. With militant Islam, with ISIS, we do know. Trump may not. But anybody who can find an hour or so to do some research can know what is going on. It is not as simple as he would have us think, not is it so complex a problem to solve that we would need to use nuclear weapons as he also famously, irresponsibly, and very stupidly hinted when he said “I want them to think maybe we would use them.”
If you, as an American citizen, are truly concerned about ISIS, and think Trump is any kind of a solution, you owe it to the young men and women who have to fight them for you to learn more about ISIS and what they are really up to. At some point you will need to rely on sources of information outside of… wherever it is you are getting the idea that he is capable of being President of the United States. You also need to get over the idea that anyone who supports Hillary Clinton based on her policy ideas, expertise, and toughness is somehow on the take. A lot of people in government are sincere. Cynicism has its time and place, but that place is not everywhere and the time is not 24/7.
It is not a joke or political gamesmanship when our military leaders, leaders in his own party, and a former Director of the CIA tell you that Trump is not only unfit to be Commander-in-Chief, but is personally one of the best recruitment tools for ISIS. Everything he says about terrorism is a boost to terrorism.
Why? How can that be so? After all, he’s such a tough guy who shoots from the hip, right?
I’ll tell why. People how shoot from the hip usually miss. People who shoot from the hip don’t know how to handle a gun in the first place. People who shoot from the hip often blow off their own toes. Barney Fife shoots from the hip. That’s why the Sheriff only let him have one bullet which he had to keep in his pocket.
When a public speaker “shoots from the hip” it means he doesn’t necessarily know what he’s talking about, who he’s talking to, and what he’s actually communicating. Barney Fife used to do that a lot, too.
It’s important to know what your enemy actually wants, what they are actually trying to accomplish. If you don’t believe me, ask Sun Tzu. Here are 3 tips from “The Art of War.” See if you notice a pattern.
“If you know the enemy and know yourself you need not fear the results of a hundred battles.”
“He who is prudent and lies in wait for an enemy who is not, will be victorious.”
And how about…
“Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.”
Did you see the pattern? With Trump in charge, the United States will be firmly on the wrong end of all three of those. Sun Tzu, he ain’t.
If you know what your enemy wants, you can figure out a better way to fight them. Trump has no idea who ISIS really is or what they want.
“We need to find out what the hell is going on!” Again, WE do know. He just doesn’t care enough to look.
So what do we, as citizens, need to know to stand up to our side of the bargain with our troops. What should we understand about ISIS so we can have our military’s back?
What ISIS wants, more than anything else in this world, is a massive regional war. On one side: the great western powers allied with wealthy arab oil dynasties (like the Saudis), and on the other side. ISIS’s warped version of “Islam.” I put Islam in quotes because they mean their extreme and violent interpretation of it. And make no mistake, while the vast majority of Muslims in the world do not subscribe to the ISIS interpretation of “Islam,” it is part of the ISIS plan to pull more and more people under its spell. As far as ISIS is concerned, most Muslims don’t believe it… yet. That’s where useful idiots like Donald Trump fit into their plan.
Just as innocent muslims are part of their plan, so are we in the West. They want to use us, maneuver us into helping their horrific vision come about. It’s not about making us too scared to go shopping. They want us to be frightened and outraged enough to kill innocent people in Muslim countries, which they hope will radicalize more and more people. They will bill the war they envision as their pure/orthodox/extreme version of Islam vs. “Evil.” The “Evil”in their plan will be supplied by us in the form of a world who hates and kills muslims.
Do you see that? ISIS literally WANTS YOU TO HATE INNOCENT MUSLIMS. They hide among innocent people (like the ones trying to flee the horror in Syria as you read this), and they want YOU to send our troops to kill these innocent people so they can create more outrage, more radicalization, and an ever widening circle of violence and hate.
They want you to declare all muslims to be the problem. That is to say, they want you to declare that ISIS is Islam. Of course, it is not. But think about the insidiously cunning nature of their scheme… there are well over a billion Muslims in the world. And a huge percentage of them are very young, impressionable, poorly educated and probably pretty nervous about now. How loudly and how forcefully do you want to tell them that there is no difference between them and ISIS?
That is what ISIS wants us to do. Trump talks a lot about how foreign powers are “laughing at us.” He’s too tone-deaf to know who’s laughing, and too ignorant to know that ISIS are laughing at him as he sends them recruit after recruit.
Back to what they want: The end goal for ISIS is to get rid of the rich Arab oil dynasties and replace them with a centralized religious government — a “Caliphate,” in theory, has leadership powers over the faithful that transcends all boarders, much the same as the powers of the Pope, but combined with the power of head of state. That’s what they are claiming to have established in Syria — a Caliphate — hence the name Islamic STATE of Syria). By claiming to have created a Caliphate, they are trying to send the message that all observant muslims must view the Caliphate as taking precedence and having authority over all the merely secular states in the Islamic world. It may sound ridiculous, but that’s also why people in Islamic countries generally don’t call them ISIS. Instead they call them Daesh. Or D.A.E.S.H (an interesting word with an interesting but convoluted etymology which you can learn about here.) They call them this, among other reasons, to delegitimize their claim of being a “state.” We in the west are actually doing them a favor every time we call them ISIS.
Anyway, they want to do all that or die trying.
And the “or die trying” is not a joke either. Their philosophy is truly apocalyptic. They are fine with dying, with killing millions of innocents in a hate fueled bloodbath with the West. Either way works for this plan. That’s why they love it when Trump makes blustery threats. It fills them with anticipation because each threat, each bit of posturing from the pretend “strong man” puts them one step closer to their goal. Of course, threats are nice, but if Trump actually did send our men and women over there with orders to commit war crimes? If we really did torture people and “go after their families” as he has said we must do? They would feast on the carnage, folks. They’d upload it all to Youtube in triumphant joy. It is what they want.
Every time Donald Trump threatens war crimes in the middle east, or discriminates against all muslims, or any of the other ill-considered dumbassary he gets up to, he’s working hand and hand with ISIS Daesh to make the entire world less safe. He’s helping them build their dream of World War 3. So if you have any concern whatsoever for innocent life, for peace, for those living in poverty who have to deal with ISIS as their “government,” or for our young men and women who could end up fighting in a meat grinder worse than Viet Nam, please don’t mistake Donald Trump for something other than a loudmouth fool.
Remember your responsibility to the young men and women who give up their lives when asked to by the people you put in power. You’ve got their back.